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

Hospital Food Has Gotten Much Better

The days when hospital food equals bland, inedible mush or that old standby Jell-O may be behind us. OK, bland is still part of the equation. But a recent stay in a Northern California hospital had us eating a tofu stir-fry for dinner, and feeling overwhelmed at the plethora of menu choices. The breakfast menu alone was astonishing in its length and variety: It even included jook!

Of course this isn't haute cuisine we're talking about—the rice in our stir-fry was gummy, and at breakfast our scrambled eggs tasted like they might've started out as a powder—but it's certainly a heartening start. Though it almost seems a shame to put that much effort into improving the fare: Most stays in a hospital involve circumstances that pretty much guarantee a lack of appetite, so a lot of food probably goes to waste (we left several items untouched, and it had nothing to do with the kitchen's skill level). But frankly, any effort to make a hospital stay more comfortable is laudable.

Image: Earl Otsuka

Greens and Cornbread, North Indian Style

One of Peter Cherches's favorite Indian comfort foods is sarson ka saag, a Punjabi dish of spiced mustard greens, usually served with makki ki roti, a griddled cornbread. Raja in Jackson Heights makes the best version he's had. "The bread was perfect," he reports, "and the puréed mustard greens were more flavorful and spicy than others I've had, served with a bit of ghee on top." Minar in Manhattan offers decent sarson ka saag as a Tuesday special, Peter adds, but Raja's is better.

ebird, another Raja fan, loves those breads (always made to order) and home-style steam-table dishes. "When they have cabbage," she advises, "get it."

Raja [Jackson Heights]
72-31 37th Avenue (between 72nd and 73rd streets), Jackson Heights, Queens

Minar [Midtown]
138 W. 46th Street (between Sixth and Seventh avenues), Manhattan

Discuss: Fabulous Sarson ka Saag w/ Makki ki Roti @ Raja Sweets, Jackson Heights

Building a Better Oyster Po’ Boy

There's something about the New Orleans sandwich that New York sandwich shops don't get, and many say it's the bread. Cheeky Sandwiches solves this problem by going to the source for the French-by-way-of-Louisiana soft loaf from John Gendusa Bakery. It's a fine foundation for Cheeky's first-rate fried oyster po' boy, Westminstress reports: delicious, with a crackly crust and a light and fluffy interior. This well-proportioned sandwich features a generous portion of perfectly fried oysters judiciously "dressed"; that is, served with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle, and hot sauce. Westminstress declares it "awesome, if a little on the small side."

Cheeky, open since late last year, also makes a shrimp po' boy; chicken, pork, and beef short rib sandwiches; and a meatless muffuletta with pickled vegetables and melted Swiss on olive bread. And it pours coffee with chicory and brings in some snacks to satisfy New Orleans cravings, including Big Shot sodas and Zapp's potato chips.

Cheeky Sandwiches [Lower East Side]
35 Orchard Street (between Hester and Canal streets), Manhattan
No phone available

Discuss: Yummy oyster poboy at Cheeky Sandwiches
Zapp's Potato Chips

Meet the New Kid in Thai Town

Som tam, the tart/hot green papaya salad, is a Thai menu staple, but how many places do it crispy style? This was a new one on bigjeff, who spied it on the chalkboard at Thailand's Center Point in Woodside. It's "unique, delicious and genius," he says: slivers of papaya, battered and fried in bunches, amply seasoned with "great amounts of funk."

A clear soup with seafood, basil, and fresh vegetables is spicy, herbal, refreshing, and deeply flavorful, bigjeff adds. There's also great roast duck noodle soup, Joe MacBu reports, and several promising-sounding dishes on a Thai-only menu, including one with squid, shrimp, and salted egg.

Thailand's Center Point has been on Chow radar for some time, known to many as the grocery and takeout spot a block from hound mecca Sripraphai. In recent months it has expanded its dining area and gained new fans, some of whom were originally spillover from its famous neighbor. "We used to go there when Sri had a line," says Paulomet, "but we liked the food and family so much that we switched."

Thailand's Center Point [Woodside]
63-19 39th Avenue (at 63rd Street), Woodside, Queens

Discuss: thailand's center point – delicious

For the Love of Guts

Here is one so-called trend that seems likely to break against the implacable rocks of prejudice and immovable personal preference: the rise of tripe, as trumpeted in a story published by the Telegraph. The article seesaws between vividly unpleasant descriptions of the ingredient itself ("its often pungent smell combined with the distinctive honeycomb texture—both chewy and slimy") and faint praise endorsements of the dish such as this one:


Overheard on the New York Boards

"Favorite sweet crêpe is the country crêpe (strawberry, banana, nutella). Favorite savory crêpe is crêpe bonjour (scrambled eggs, ham or bacon, cheese). Favorite brunch cocktail is peach madras (peach vodka, OJ, and cranberry juice). Great bohemian atmosphere. Nicest staff on the planet." – YorkvilleLady on Yorkville Crêperie

"When you cut through it, you can hear the sound from a mile away—that is how crispy this skin is. Think pork skin crème brûlée ... So salty, so crunchy, so perfect. Oh yeah, and then of course you combine that with the succulent, fatty, mouthwatering perfectly cooked pork meat." – steakrules85 on maialino al forno (roast suckling pig) at Maialino

"Started with 'Christian'-style sausage (menu mistranslation: Russian words for 'peasant' and 'Christian' sound similar—former is krest'yan, latter khristianin) with blow-out-your-sinuses mustard; stolichniy salat (potato, chicken & veg) cloaked in horseradish mayo; pashtyet (chopped liver); Siberian pelmeni and mushroom/onion vareniki." – JP_nyc on Cafe Glechik

Dry Your Dishes with Scottish Flair

I am restraining myself from impulse-buying just about every tea towel from this British shop, I particularly am drawn to the line by Gillian Kyle that has Scottish import foods illustrations. See, you can get a Scottish breakfast emblazoned on your dishrag, or in this case, a Scottish tea cake.

If you haven't had a Tunnock's, you should seek one out: shortbread cookies covered with a glob of marshmallow-y business, and then enrobed in chocolate.

Tunnock's Tea Towel, £7.50.

Cheap Fast Strawberry Freezer Jam

By Leslie Jonath

Florida's strawberry harvest came late, causing it to bump up against California’s strawberry season, which means there's now a nationwide glut of strawberries. With so many cheap strawberries flooding the market, it is time to start putting up and putting out. READ MORE

Canal House Moves Into Spring

The third volume in the Canal House Cooking series of book-meets-quarterly-magazines is out with the same down-to-earth feel as the previous volumes. It's full of recipes perfect for the transition from winter into spring, like steamed fish with buttery sorrel sauce, lime curd tart, rhubarb roasted in red wine with vanilla bean for spooning over yogurt or pound cake, and focaccia topped with paper-thin slices of lemon. It would make a perfect host/hostess gift.

Canal House Cooking Volume 3, $19.95

Roasted Rhubarb
adapted from Canal House Cooking Vol. 3 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Thickly slice 2 pounds of rhubarb and put it into a deep oven-proof pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup red wine. Split open 1 or 2 vanilla beans and add them to the rhubarb. Roast the rhubarb until very tender, about 30 minutes.

The 29-Hour Drink

The 29-Hour Drink

A mixologists' guide to managing expectations. READ MORE