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

Fauxtisanal Food Truck Alert

A Belgian waffle truck parked near CHOW, believed by employees to be an artisanal food truck, was revealed through investigative reporting to be a franchise operation. Although the truck is operated by a legit Belgian dude, the tasty, yeasty waffles are in fact baked from premeasured dough supplied by Belgian company So Good Belgian Waffles in egg carton-esque containers.

The truck never claimed to be peddling handmade treats. It basked, quietly, in the warm interest of those who assumed it to be a humble start-up operation in the spirit of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. This is surely not the last fauxtisanal scheme. Is it?

Elegant Artisanal Chocolates

Christopher Michael Chocolates is a lovely little artisanal chocolate maker that really impressed OC Mutt, "this despite the fact that our bar has been set extremely high after a recent chocolate tour of Paris and London."

Christopher Michael's chocolates are "luxurious and silky," and the flavors are "surprisingly, elegantly understated," says OC Mutt. There are a few wilder flavors though, including the really wonderful peanut butter and banana chocolate, which has, says OC Mutt, brilliant flavors, lovely crunchiness, and a nice hint of salt.

This is truly a small artisan's shop. The chocolate maker is always there; when you get chocolates, you talk to him. "And this guy, aside from being a gregarious host, knows his chocolates and knows the culinary world. Check it out, and give your support to a local guy who is bringing artistry to southern CA," says OC Mutt.

Christopher Michael Chocolates [Orange County]
2346 Newport Boulevard, Suite A3, Costa Mesa
949-566-9810

Discuss: Artisan Chocolates – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa

The Truffle Egg: Too Much Truffle?

Jwsel's single favorite dish in this entire city is the truffle egg at Melisse: "$85 for the dish, but it is probably the best thing I have ever eaten."

It's unlike any other egg Jwsel has ever tried. The menu describes it as a "melting organic egg," and the description is quite apt. It's poached. "[T]he white is incredibly light and airy, like the lightest omelet I've ever tried," says Jwsel. There is a light truffle foam, and the egg sits on a bed of truffle sauce, which is earthy, but not heavy, "and everyone at the table tried to sop up every drop." That alone would make it one of the best dishes Jwsel has ever had, "but then they brought out a large black truffle and shaved close to half of it over the top of the egg. I swear they put so much truffle on it that I almost wanted to tell them to stop."

Melisse [Westside - Beaches]
1104 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
310-395-0881

Discuss: Your single favorite dish in LA

Back to the Olive Garden

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Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"The most fabulous item on the menu is a Juarenze tamal. They are huge, and should become legendary." - bentonhs, about Mami's Tacos, Long Beach

"Shakes at Milk are superb, my favorite in the area." - QualityMart

"With the advent of Liang's, this particular unnamed strip mall, with the help of the ancient Yi Mei bakery, is suddenly the Taiwanese hot spot of Monterey Park." - TonyC on the new branch of Liang's Kitchen

Chinese Food and Doughnuts: Why?

Classic American doughnuts and Chinese steam-table food are sold side-by-side in endless locations in California. How did these odd-bedfellow combo shops come to be? The Atlantic delves into the mystery, and finds an economic reason:

"Henry Trang, the owner of Mom's Donuts and Chinese Food to Go, a tiny hut-shaped restaurant in LA's Silverlake neighborhood, told me that when he took over the shop in 1995 it was known as California Donuts, and he focused only on the sweet stuff. Recently, though, 'a lot of [doughnut] places have been closing,' he explained while cleaning up for the night. Not wanting to see his business suffer a similar fate, he expanded his offerings. 'We have to make both. If I don't have food, maybe I don't survive.'

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How to Blog a Firing

Washington CityPaper's excellent Young and Hungry blog has been covering Chef Enzo Fargione’s sacking from the restaurant Teatro Goldoni with the kind of verve and thoughtfulness that is all too rare in the hit-and-run world of online media.

In two bright short posts, both of which are engaging reads whether you live in DC, plan to visit, or will never go there in your life, the author manages to explain why the firing is important and the disputed points swirling around the sacking, and then round up opinion from disparate observers, culminating in a pithy, seemingly dispassionate summary of the whole affair that is eventually even endorsed by the chef. What's the Web good for? Quick hit reporting, sure, but also weaving a clickable, transparent narrative out of many scattered bits of information.

Image source: Flickr member Tracy Hunter under Creative Commons

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.

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