The CHOW Blog rss

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

Fried Puffs of Heaven

Smart Coffee BR, in Richmond, is the best Brazilian snack shop in the Bay Area, says rworange, largely on the strength of its fried-to-order sweet and savory pastries with a range of 24 fillings: "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful."

You can mix and match fillings for these flaky pillows known as pasteles, or go with one of the six specialty versions. Chicken, corn, and catupiry (a mild, creamy Brazilian cheese) make a nice combo. Don't be deceived by the creamy pink sauce—that's the housemade habanero cream sauce, delish but hotter 'n' Hades. Other filling options include shrimp (camarao), beef, olives, ham, and palm; there are also dessert-y pasteles of guava, banana, dulce de leche, or pineapple.

There are other baked goods made in-house, like the moist and flavorful mané pelado, a yucca-coconut cake that's "like one of the best coconut macaroons I've ever had," rworange says. A sonho is a fat doughnut sliced in half and filled with dulce de leche that somehow it manages to avoid being cloyingly sweet.

There's also caldo verde and a rich, intensively flavored chicken soup; sandwiches and salads; and Brazilian shakes.

Smart Coffee BR [East Bay]
4820 Bissell Avenue, Richmond

Discuss: Richmond: Smart Coffee BR / A Taste of Brazil – Over 30 fabulous pasteles, outstanding soup, sonho (donut), x-tudos and more

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"The fresh corn tamales were wonderful. The masa had much more fresh corn than most examples giving the tamal a soft and light texture that was almost like a sweet corn soufflé." - Melanie Wong on the wares of a wandering tamale lady in the Mid-Peninsula area

"Y'all know what this means? I can roll out of bed late Sunday am, walk a couple blocks (bringing my orange juice etc), and dine on fresh oyster shooters for brunch. (!!!) I love Oakland." - gingersquid, on the news that Hog Island is going to have an oyster bar at the Temescal Sunday farmers' market

"The real star, though, was the hot sauce, which was flat-out amazing, maybe the best I've ever had." - abstractpoet, on Uncle Willie's BBQ

Mix ‘n’ Match Neo Hippie Tableware

The Siirtolapuutarha Dinner Plate from Finnish designer Marimekko is meant to look like the inside of a mushroom, and be mixed and matched with the other '60s-inspired pieces from the Oiva collection. All the other pieces are different, and depict vegetables, city and garden scenes, and geometric rug-like designs that are reminiscent of Danish modern stuff from arty grandparents' kitchen cabinets. It's not goddamn Melamine, either--it's durable, hand-downable, microwave- and dishwasher-safe ceramic.

The Siirtolapuutarha Dinner Plate, $34

A Chocolate Cake for Every Taste

There are many ways to make a great chocolate cake. Whether a recipe uses butter or oil, cocoa powder or chocolate, or includes ground nuts will affect its texture and flavor. Chowhounds have a variety of go-to recipes, depending on their taste in chocolate cake.

Do you prefer a dense and very moist cake? Try the Hershey's black magic cake, made with oil and cocoa. It's quick to make, too. "I can have the batter done before the oven is finished preheating," says chowser. This double chocolate layer cake is similar, but uses chocolate as well as cocoa. It's "the best chocolate layer cake I've ever made," says heidipie, "and about the best I've ever eaten." Val notes that it is a huge cake, and suggests baking it in three 9-inch pans instead of two 10-inch pans.

Some hounds go for traditional butter cakes. This one is "by far, the best chocolate cake I have ever had," says tall sarah, who finds the ganache filling recipe makes enough to cover the cake as well. chowser is a fan of Cook's Illustrated's master recipe, which she says is soft and intensely chocolaty, but sweet.

Some prefer flourless or almost-flourless European-style tortes with nuts, like Maida Heatter's queen mothers cake and Julia Child's reine de saba. MichaelB says the reine de saba is "quite spectacular--conversation came to an abrupt halt while we ate it. Almost like a flourless chocolate cake but not so intense and fudgy, more velvety, and with a delicate crunch from the pulverized almonds. Really great."

Discuss: Please share your favorite chocolate cake recipe!

Crop Mobs, Rose Gray, and Jonathan Safran Foer

Welcome to the CHOW Crib Sheet, your weekly recap of recent food news and events. Now, a look at our top stories:

Hot News Feed

Farm Party
Twentysomethings in North Carolina spontaneously amass to clear rocks and haul mulch in “Crop Mob,” a farming version of Flash Mob. What, were pillow fights and zombie bar crawls not doin’ it for them? via New York Times

Smart Shoppers
In an experiment at SUNY Buffalo, mothers shopping in a fake grocery store bought less junk food when the prices were jacked up with taxes. When healthy food was discounted, they bought more of it, however they used the savings to buy more junk food. So the idea of subsidizing healthy food isn’t a great idea, apparently, in a world where 10-cent mini peanut butter cups exist. via Grist


Bake Yourself a Fifty Dollar Pie

Are you dying to try the famous Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar, but blanch at the idea of paying $44, plus overnight shipping, to have one shipped to you? Good news: you can make it yourself. The Los Angeles Times has the recipe, and several hounds have tested it.

Crack Pie has a crumb crust made from homemade oatmeal cookies and a filling that "tastes just like a pecan pie without the nuts," says bluemoon4515. Made with egg yolks, heavy cream, and lots of sugar, it's "REALLY, REALLY, REALLY rich, sweet and buttery," says housewolf. "The cookie seemed weird when I made it," confesses Tom P, "the cookie crumble crust seemed like it would not support the pie, and it looked pretty ugly. But man oh man, did it taste amazing."

There is disagreement about whether the pie is best hot out of the oven or chilled, as the recipe specifies. Tom P thinks that, while it is good both ways, it is best warm; butterscotchtoki feels it's much better cold.

Discuss: Crack Pie Recipe

Waffles Go Savory

Fried chicken and waffles is one popular way to serve waffles in a savory meal, but why not incorporate savory flavors into the waffles themselves instead?

jvanderh loves these white bean waffles, which he tops with Hollandaise sauce. runwestierun recommends Bobby Flay's savory wild rice waffles.

bushwickgirl makes cornmeal waffles with creamed corn and chopped canned green chiles in the batter, and serves them with chili or chicken a la king. silverhawk makes waffles savory by steeping fresh herbs in the milk for an hour before making the batter. "One can add all sorts of flavors to the waffles by infusing the milk," he notes.

scuzzo says Dorie Greenspan's Waffles: From Morning to Midnight "is a great cookbook with lots of savory ideas." gimlis1mum concurs, and recommends the curried couscous waffles with red bell pepper dip from the book.

Discuss: looking for savory waffle recipes

Groovy Winery Alert!

The tasting room of four-month old winery Mercury Geyserville, in the Alexander Valley, has an urban-in-the-country feel. White walls, a vintage record player playing Johnny Cash, and shelves with homemade pickles and pear preserves in jars. The wine (three Pinots, three Bordeaux blends, a table wine) is delicious, and sold in non-traditional bottles. The Messenger, one of the Bordeaux blends, comes in an elegant brandy-style bottle (pictured.) The table wine is sold in mini-jugs. I predict fun parties at this tasting room, and fun parties at my house with the wine.

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"[P]lace all ingredients, including the oil, in a hand immersion blender cylinder and blend. Perfect, easy mayo every time. People often don't believe that this method is possible until I show them." - Sam Fujisaka

"Another 'trick' is to boil the egg for 1 minute, break it by cracking on a flat surface, gently pour it back into the water which should be on a gentle simmer. It holds its shape better." - Paulustrious, on poaching eggs

"The other sure-fire way to get anybody to eat them is to toss them in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and maple syrup and then roast. The sweetness of the maple syrup and the bitterness of the sprouts make for a perfect match." - montrealwaitress, on Brussels sprouts

Hardee’s: Down and Out

CKE, the owner of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., is going private after taking a beating in the marketplace. The always reliably observant Dan Mitchell, writing over at The Big Money, takes a look at the management attitudes that allowed Hardee's and Carl's Jr. to lose ground while selling hamburgers in a recession. He roundly pastes the company for its sophomoric ads, and limns the main failing of the company: the failure of not figuring out how to sell cheap food to the masses in an era when the masses are clamoring for cheap food. At any rate, about those ads: