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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Pies ‘n’ Thighs Alive and Kicking

Pies 'n' Thighs, the Chowhound-certified barbecue and bakery wedged into a Williamsburg bar, closed two years ago and found new, larger digs not far away. Then hungry fans waited. And waited. Finally the place is back in business, and evidently no worse for its prolonged hiatus.

"The cozy charm is still intact," reports CalJack, "as are the crisp, flavorful pieces of chicken, the buttery biscuits, and the reasonable prices." Porky collard greens are a standout side; so are cold black-eyed peas, smoky and zesty with a touch of spice. The expanded menu includes a burger (made with beef from Brooklyn's Meat Hook); a crisp, tasty "Big Salad" of beet, carrot, avocado, and hard-cooked egg over lettuce; and a few once-occasional specials now promoted to the daily lineup, including the popular brisket sandwich.

Hounds approve of the house-baked bread, including a nutty, hearty multigrain; the new space, especially the inviting back room; and the short but well-chosen list of beers (two recent pours: India Pale Ale from Captain Lawrence in Westchester and the Belgian-style White Rascal from Avery in Colorado). No word yet on the signature pies, but sam1 has sampled the trail mix cookie and pronounces it "pretty damn excellent."

Pies 'n' Thighs [Williamsburg]
166 S. Fourth Street (at Driggs Avenue), Brooklyn
347-529-6090

Discuss: Pies-N-Thighs reopens

Coming Round to the Meatball Shop

At The Meatball Shop, this is how they roll: There are six kinds of meatballs, four sauces, and several ways to eat them: in a hero, in sliders, "naked," with focaccia and sauce on the side, or atop pasta or other side dishes.

guttergourmet proclaims the beef meatball hero with spicy meat sauce the best in town. Another hound-favored combination at this month-old restaurant is spicy pork with mushroom gravy. Beef, chicken, and a weekly special of lamb all deliver great taste and texture, cubeoccupant says. First-timers might want to go with a slider "flight" to sample three different meat-and-sauce combos.

To counter all the carnivorism, there's a vegetable "meatball" choice and an array of meatless sides, including an arugula salad with apple, a seasonal "market salad," roasted vegetables, assorted greens, white beans, and polenta. cubeoccupant advises going in a small group and sharing a table full of dishes: "it may be a good destination for post-drinking grub and an cheaper alternative to 'inoteca."

The Meatball Shop [Lower East Side]
84 Stanton Street (near Allen Street), Manhattan
212-982-8895

Discuss: The Meatball Shop – recommendations?
Meatball Parm Nirvana
Meatball Shop...Anyone?

50 Things to Do with Sriracha

No other hot sauce seems to have as much street cred or as much of a cult following as Huy Fong Foods' Sriracha sauce, a.k.a. Rooster Sauce. The bottle with the green top is found all over the country, from grocery shelves in Asian markets and Walmart, to restaurants ranging from the neighborhood pho joint to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Perry St.

While the label has a few suggestions for what to do with the sauce, we wanted more. The following list of ideas, many culled from our Chowhound boards, will help you use more of the "crack" condiment in your cooking.

1. Use as a marinade for grilled chicken or short ribs.

2. Toss with diced firm tofu, then bake.

3. Add to aioli and use as a dip for sweet potato fries.

4. Squirt on ground meat for seasoning burritos and tacos.

5. Spread on fish, then grill.

6. Stir into mashed potatoes.

7. Drizzle it on your scrambled eggs instead of Tabasco.

8. Combine with sour cream to make a spicy potato chip dip.

9. Add to lentil soup for extra kick.

READ MORE

Little House on the Yuppie Prairie

A story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine called out the trend of upper middle class stay-at-home moms in Berkeley and Oakland raising chickens and growing gardens. Writer Peggy Orenstein dubs it "femivorism," opining that growing crops and producing eggs relieves the "malaise ... [of] middle-class housewives trapped in a life of schlepping and shopping." Goin' back to the land gives them a purpose and makes them feel less depressed about quitting their jobs and having no life outside of the kids.

These were jobs that were, of course, traditionally women's work. And for some reason I feel an inward shudder at the idea of my sex turning back the clock. On the other hand, raising chickens is great, and the kids probably will appreciate growing up around nature. It's gotta be better than taking your kid to a Mommy & Me Mani. Are there any other readers out here, though, that feel slightly queasy at the idea of femivorism?

Image source: Tom Sicurella, CHOW.com

The Bronx Is Baking

The banana-walnut muffins at Ann Clair's in Morris Park earn an ardent ″omg″ from muffin lover MikiLovesSugar. Coffee-cake muffins are quite good too, adds iluvcookies. And there’s more: ″apple pie!!!!″ raves terithecook. ″I wish they had a restaurant!″

A better-known Bronx dessert destination is S&S Cheesecake in Kingsbridge. But alongside its celebrated cherry, strawberry, classic New York and other varieties, it also makes a little-mentioned chocolate mousse version. LNG212 describes a rich, dense cake with deep chocolate flavor and bit of a tang. ″I had no idea!″ she says. ″It's pretty darn good.″

Ann Clair's Salumeria [Bronx]
1130 Morris Park Avenue (near Tomlinson Avenue), Bronx
718-409-1171

S&S Cheesecake [Bronx]
222 W. 238th Street (near Review Place), Bronx
718-549-3888

Discuss: Ann Clair's Morris Park, Bronx- MUFFINS!
Did you know that S&S makes a chocolate mousse cake?!

Overheard on the New York Boards

"[T]he gado gado was really good, one of the better that I've had; nice veg, sauce was thick and concentrated, and not a blanket [of] goop." - bigjeff on Upi Jaya

"I do not love barbecue. I often find the ribs too smoky and the meat too dry. However, the ribs at Dinosaur made me a believer. They were full, meaty and non-smoky. They use good quality meat here and treat it with respect." - TrishUntrapped on Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

"The German style beef and pork dogs we have here are as good as (or better in my opinion) than anywhere else in the country. Upstate New York has quality brands such as Zweigle's, Sahlen's, and Hofmann's, but we in Jersey have Schickhaus, Thumann's, and a myriad of great dogs made by small European butcher shops. The difference is that these franks are made from whole cuts of quality beef and pork, or beef/pork/veal. ... There is no better beef/pork dog than Thumann's from N.J." - hotdoglover

Vending Machines: Neanderthal Style

It's raining today in San Francisco, and this short created by Jason Figliozzi was just the pick-me-up I needed.

Twitter Prank Madness

It was only a matter of time before people started to prank the big-name food Tweeters. This week, there was a minor frenzy in Tweetsville over the mash-up entity Ruth Bourdain (ruthbourdain), as well as the surfacing of Tweets by a mysterious Jasper Slobrushe (JasperSlobrushe), who mocks prominent SF-weird-ice-cream-flavorist Humphry Slocombe. Could it have been Humphry Slocombe's 300k Twitter followers that sent Jasper over the edge? READ MORE

An Illustrated History of Fast Food Agony

The picture-worth-a-thousand-words thing has been beaten into the ground, but there's something to it. In 80 tiny panels, cartoonist KC Green manages to capture almost every aspect of the fast-food worker experience: the terror, the humiliation, the constant struggle to remember to include the straws. Green's minimalist but highly accurate strip depicts a new trainee worker at a McSomething Or Other dealing with the pressure of customers, his boss, and the "Skull of Regret," a wall-mounted screaming skull that points out whenever he forgets a particular item in an order.

Meanwhile, if that's too heavy for you, the strip Wondermark has a tremendous brainstorm about the best way to eat Cheetos.

Perbacco’s Little Sister Debuts

At Barbacco, you're spoiled for choice—and probably pretty confused, looking at the 10-section menu (plus desserts and drinks) and trying to decipher Italian terms such as latte stagionato (that's "aged milk," i.e., cheese). But with delectable small plates and interesting wines available as a taste or enough to share, you'll enjoy testing the options, hounds say. It's more casual than its older sibling, Perbacco, but the stylishly renovated space is plenty nice enough for an informal night out.

"Barbacco falls in the same food-ecology niche as Pizzeria Delfina: informal, counter seating, slightly more expensive, no pizzas, but a good change of pace, young financial district types instead of Mission techy gentry," observes Thomas Nash.

Here you'll find what Robert Lauriston says are "the best Brussels sprouts ever," fried in duck fat with anchovies and capers. "More like chips than a vegetable," comments ourswimmer, who still agrees they're spectacular.

A selection of the house-made salumi is available in two sizes; its contents vary but if you're lucky you'll get ciccioli, which is like Sicilian rillettes. The duck liver pâté bruschetta also gets top marks. If you like head cheese, the testa here is awesome, says Robert Lauriston. And for a fun starter, check out the pork-stuffed olives.

Robert also was wowed by the luscious quick-braised squid, while RichInMV loved the homey comfort of the polpette (meatballs) and the mussels with njuda, chile, and garlic. Sopping up the sauce on that one with toast is really the best part, he says. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and anchovy is first-class, says Thomas Nash.

Lunch is a good time to go for the fennel-crusted porchetta with grape agrodolce. "As a sandwich it was as incredible as Roli Roti's," Thomas Nash says. Another hound reported the dinner version being dry; according to DezzerSF's inside source, that may be because it's roasted in the morning.

The wine list offers great value (Robert Lauriston recommends the $33 Becker-Landgraf 2007 Pinot Noir) and drinking options from a 3-ounce taste to a 6-ounce glass to 250-milliliter or 500-milliliter carafes.

Incidentally, Ruth Lafler observes that rather than being distracted by running Barbacco, Perbacco is "firing on all cylinders these days.... there seems to be some kind of synergy going on."

Barbacco [Financial District]
230 California Street, San Francisco
415-955-1960

Discuss: Barbacco
Barbacco
My weekend trip in review. Thanks so much for the great advice and suggestions!