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

Geeky Beers and Stoner Snacks

PDX-ers, you have my dream neighborhood beer spot. How had I never heard of the Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern on Killingsworth Street before last week's trip to the IACP awards? While at first it looked like it might be trying a little too hard with its predictable deer-antler motif and "cool" beer schwag stuck up everywhere, the food, beer selection, and laid-back staff proved the place to be everything I want in a beer joint. READ MORE

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"I've eaten a lot of different foods over the past several years, but I really don't know if I've had anything as good as the sweet and spicy bacon at Scup's in East Boston." – hiddenboston

"IMHO the best gelato is from Caffe Paradiso on Hanover Street in the North End. They make it there every Tuesday, and if you can go on a Tuesday or Wednesday it is wonderful." – Pa amb Tomaquet

"I cannot go to Olde Magoun's without ordering their hummus. I just love it—I think they use sesame oil. I have tried to replicate it at home many times but mine is never as good. They also give you all sorts of veggies to build your own bites." – RGreenstein

Evoo’s Worthy Successor

Evoo had quite a following in the Somerville location it recently vacated for Cambridge. Bergamot, the new spot in the old Evoo space, had big shoes to fill. Looks like it's going to work out. The space is largely unchanged from the Evoo days and projects an upscale vibe. The emphasis is on new American food (seasonal, local, and so on) and craft cocktails.

From the sound of board chatter, there's hardly a clinker on the menu, but here are the dishes specifically called out:

• Roast lamb with trumpet mushrooms, farro risotto, and stinging nettle sauce
• Seared scallops with asparagus
• Guajillo chili chocolate pavé with stout ice cream
• Duck Duck Duck, a trio of duck with a paillard, cured duck, and duck cracklins
• Tuna carpaccio with mango, cashews, and green curry, which Small Plates calls "unreal"
• Pea greens salad with a deep-fried, soft-centered egg on top
• Sole escabeche, vinegary sole with bacon, egg salad, and fava beans

Prix fixe at Bergamot is $39 until 7 p.m. The wine list is reportedly wonderful, and talented bartenders are standing by with quality ingredients.

Bergamot [North of Boston]
118 Beacon Street, Somerville

Discuss: Bergamot Report

Spring Ingredient Shout-Out

Hounds on the hunt for spring-only ingredients are trading tips on where to find favorites. lgss has seen fiddlehead ferns at Whole Foods Fresh Pond (Cambridge), while BarmyFotheringayPhipps got his from Russo's: "Tomorrow evening, they'll be alongside a couple chicken-fried steaks and some mashed potatoes."

Fava beans are proving easier to track down, making an appearance at Whole Foods Fresh Pond, Arax, and, most intriguingly, Haymarket: "I got mine at a stall near the seafood area. They let me choose my own, and they were all nice and green looking, with few brown spots," says nsenada.

Whole Foods Fresh Pond [Cambridge]
200 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge

Russo's [MetroWest]
560 Pleasant Street, Watertown

Arax [MetroWest]
585 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown

Haymarket [Chinatown]
Blackstone Street, Boston
No phone available

Discuss: fiddleheads 2010
Looking for Fresh Fava Beans

Chocolate Company Seeking Beta Tasters

Tcho, a bean-to-bar chocolate company in San Francisco, has a unique program where you can help "beta taste" their new products. (The company was started by Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, the founders of Wired magazine—hence the techie lingo.) What it means is you can buy a sample online of the latest chocolates the company is testing (right now it's two milk versions), receive them in the mail, then give your feedback on the company's website. You rate the candy based on traits like "caramel notes," "overall sweetness," "creaminess," and "overall chocolateyness." Ostensibly, the company makes tweaks to the product based on consumer feedback, but I suspect they mainly use the comments to name the final versions. (Tcho chocolates are named based on their predominant taste, e.g., "Citrus" and "Nutty.") READ MORE

Pairing Beer and Pastries

Beer during the dessert course? Maybe so. I recently attended an unusual beer-and-pastry pairing event, put on by folks from San Francisco's Thorough Bread bakery, and the San Francisco Baking Institute. You don't often think about pairing beer with sweet pastry, so I was curious to see if there were any surprises or things to learn. With the exception of the first course, each dish was paired with two beers, but one of the beers would be poured again with the following dish. The idea was that you got to try each beer with two foods, too.


A Proper Po’ Boy

orythedog had a "near-perfect shrimp po' boy stuffed with fried shrimp for a mere $12.95" at New Orleans Cajun Cafe. "First, let's talk about the bread. [The owner] purchases her bread fresh daily from a Manhattan Beach bakery. This is about the closest I have had in L.A. to real New Orleans French baguettes. From there they are properly warmed in the oven and dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, a little green onion, and some Cajun spice. Then they load on the fried shrimp. I counted 13 shrimp on my sandwich. A couple squirts of Crystal Hot Sauce, squeeze that puppy together tight and BLISS!!!!!" There's also catfish, oysters, and hot-link dogs, and all the seafood is from New Orleans.

Also on the menu: excellent-looking gigantic bowls of seafood gumbo, huge blackened fish fillets, and crawfish. "Everything is cooked, chopped and served to order and it is the real deal," says orythedog.

New Orleans Cajun Cafe [Westside - Beaches]
140 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach

Discuss: A proper poboy and great cajun & creole cooking

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Mariscos Chente Edition

Sergio Penuelas has abandoned the Centinela branch of Chowhound-beloved Mariscos Chente permanently. Since Penuelas left, the cooking at the Centinela branch has gone way downhill, says Westsidegal. Dishes are overcooked, portions are smaller, sauces taste like dishwater. "Without Sergio there it's just not the same place at all," says Westsidegal. "I mean, they might hire a decent cook at some point, but it will not be the place that many of us have come to love."

But do not fear: Penuelas has simply moved over to the original Lennox branch of Mariscos Chente on Inglewood. Penuelas cooks Thursday through Sunday, and Vincente Cossio, the owner of the Chente restaurants, cooks the other days.

Westsidegal visited the Lennox branch when Penuelas was in the kitchen. The shrimp and octopus cocktail was "the Sergio-sublime-creation that I knew at Centinela. The seafood was PLENTIFUL, FRESH, and PERFECTLY cooked. The broth was the PERFECT, AMAZING, EXCELLENT broth that Sergio cooks."

And don't be afraid to try the Lennox branch when Vincente Cossio is in the kitchen, either. He's the guy that taught Penuelas in the first place. His hand is different, says streetgourmetla, but he's a great cook.

Mariscos Chente – Centinela [Westside – Beaches]
4532 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles

Mariscos Chente – Lennox [South L.A.]
10820 Inglewood Avenue, Lennox

Discuss: Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente
Mariscos Chente Lennox

Hotel Room Cuisine

The idea of hotel room cooking is not new (not to us, at least), but it's fun watching British comedian George Egg cooking English muffins and tortellini with garlic and spinach, using just the coffeepot and iron in his room. His method of getting the muffin dough warm enough to rise is particularly inspired. Thank you, Gideons!

A Great Bavarian Pretzel

The Swiss Chef Restaurant at San Remo is worth checking out. It's not a hot date sort of place, says radman123, but it's got enough quality Swiss action to keep radman123 comin' back.

The best thing here: The giant Bavarian pretzel, a "HUGE warm salty pretzel. better than any pretzel I have had in New York City or any ballpark," says radman123. Be sure you get the various mustards to go with the pretzel.

There's other nice stuff too, including gnocchi Piemontese—a generous portion of plump gnocchi in brown butter, and some really satisfying wienerschnitzel. "I have had wienerschnitzel in two places—Germany and here in North Sherman Oaks—the winning schnitzel would be the one I had tonight here in the Valley," says radman123.

The Swiss Chef Restaurant at San Remo [Valley - West]
13729 Victory Boulevard, Van Nuys

Discuss: Review: The Swiss Chef at San Remo Restaurant