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

It’s Not a Bong, It’s a Vegetable!

Here's the kind of food story that warms the cockles of your heart: When a guy at the newly opened Target Field in Minneapolis decided to fire up a delicious batch of marijuana (or "oregano," as he later described it to security guards) he chose to do so in a red pepper hollowed out into an improvised pipe.

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A Kinder, Gentler Yelp?

On the heels of a rash of lawsuits accusing the site of extortion, Yelp.com CEO Jeremy Stoppelman posted to the Yelp blog about the new ways the site would up its transparency by adding a link for users to see reviews that were automatically filtered off a business's page, and eliminating the "Favorite Review" feature from its advertising package, which had previously allowed an advertiser to select a review that would appear at the top of its listing. READ MORE

Is It Cleaner? Is It Tastier? The Story of Bottled Water

While they may have gone a step too far when they equate drinking bottled water to smoking while pregnant, the creators of "The Story of Bottled Water" make it pretty clear that there is really no reason to be buying and throwing away countless plastic bottles a year. READ MORE

The Tres Leches Horchata Chili Mango Cupcake!

Hotcakes Bakes has a truly unique cupcake, says bulavinaka. "The cake portion is based on the popular tres leches cake; it's moist, flavorful, and slightly spongy, and has a tres leches-like filling piped in the middle," explains bulavinaka. "This is topped with a horchata frosting, then garnished with fresh slices of mango that have been adorned with chili powder. It really is the little package that sums up some yummy sweets found in Mexican cuisine and beyond." The horchata frosting is nice and cinnamon-y, and the mango is fresh. The whole shebang is moist; quite unlike the dry cupcakes peddled at some other bakeries.

Hotcakes Bakes [Westside - Inland]
4119 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles
310-397-2324

Discuss: Hotcakes Bakes in Culver City/Mar Vista: Tres leches, horchata and chili mango all in one cupcake!

Westside Lebanese Winner

"Everything we ordered hit high on the taste meter," says bulavinaka about the new, slightly dressy Westside Lebanese restaurant Mezza Grill. Fried cauliflower by itself justifies a visit. The seasoning highlights the cauliflower's natural nuttiness, and the cauliflower is cooked "just enough to give a slightly crispy texture on the outside" but leave it "still steamy and fragrant on the inside."

Falafels are perfectly fried, with a soft inner warmth, says bulavinaka. The accompanying tahini is excellently lemony, and balances well with the falafel.

Succulent, sweet shrimp kabobs come perfectly cooked, with a nice char on the outside. They are served with creamy garlic condiment. "Creamy garlic and shrimp, what a perfect match," says bulavinaka. "I can't say enough about the kitchen's chef. His name is difficult for me to even think about pronouncing but he is a magician."

Mezza Grill [Westside - Inland]
9901 Washington Boulevard, Culver City
310-202-7888

Discuss: Mezza – Chow Alert for Excellent Lebanese Cuisine in the Southern Hemisphere of the Westside

The Funniest Man in Cheese

A memoir of a guy who sells cheese at a cooperative grocery store doesn’t seem like it would be a total page turner, but Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar most certainly is. Edgar, aka “Gordonzola," is the cheese buyer at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery, the largest worker-owned retail store in the country, and an amazing melting pot of everyone from dread locked trance dancers to blue tooth-wearin’ dot-commers stocking up on sustainably-sourced quinoa. With a dry wit that often had me laughing out loud on public transportation, Edgar tells the at times paradoxical story of growing up punk in the Reagan era, then turning to a career in fancy cheese. CHOW.com sat down with Edgar to follow up. READ MORE

Rhubarbarians at the Gates

Behold the power of celebrity. The tart, stalky garden-dweller known as rhubarb is unglamorous, old-fashioned, plentiful, and undersung. But when English cook and TV presenter Delia Smith appeared in an ad extolling her rhubarb and ginger brulée, all havoc broke out. Quoth the Telegraph:

"That caused a particularly marked example of the 'Delia effect', with Waitrose selling enough of the plant for 61,000 desserts in four days alone, or the same quantity as it usually sells in 12 weeks."

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“Chili Dog Nirvana”

SecretAsianMan thinks he's found a candidate for "chili dog nirvana" at Union Bagel, which uses Nathan's Famous dogs, for you sticklers.

The experience took SecretAsianMan off guard: "the dog itself extends past the bun, the raw red onions are finely chopped and the chili smells like, REAL chili! My heart starts to race. I don't have the courage to pick the thing up, so I use the fork."

It sure looks good. How's it taste? Damn good, says SecretAsianMan. "The meaty, even slightly gamy, taste of the Nathan's Famous is a memory blast from my childhood when real butchers, who made their own frankfurters, would give me a free sample." The chili is also flavorful and substantial, "chunks of ground meat in a savory cumin-tomato bath."

Union Bagel [Downtown]
512 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles
213-623-4580

Discuss: Awesome Chili Dog at Union Bagel

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"It's unlike any egg salad sandwich I've had before; it's lush, silky, delicate, with accents of chives and black pepper with their homemade mayonnaise. This is a celebration of wonderfully cooked, soft, succulent eggs." - exilekiss on one great thing at Euro Pane Bakery

"I must give post-seder props to Whisk LA for their positively insane coconut macaroons. These pyramids of chewy coconut perfection were gleefully devoured by a group of people that were already stuffed to the gills." - pinpei

"[A] dark golden glaze of a sweet mocha nature is covering the bun. It's crunchy too!" - GenevieveCa, on the sweet buns at PappaRich

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner, Part 2: That Crazy Guar Gum

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner is an ongoing series where we talk with Meg Hilgartner and Siri Skelton, owners of a fledgling mobile soft-serve ice cream business called Twirl and Dip. In last week's installment, Siri and Meg committed to the idea of opening up a soft serve ice cream shop and bought a soft serve machine. With the 500-pound machine installed at a relative's house, the partners started trying to work out the recipes.

Making soft serve is hard. We wanted to make high-end, all-natural, really good tasting soft serve, but there are some real challenges. The main one: You can't put chunks through the machine. So strawberry with chunks of berry? Forget it.

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