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

Pickle Your Cocktails

Pickled things have been going strong on the trend-o-meter for a while, and now they are hitting the bar, going a few steps beyond the dirty martini. Grub Street has been a tireless picklespotter, noting that New York City's The Breslin is serving "off-the-menu pickle backs" (a shot of pickle juice to go with whisky) and Chicago's The Drawing Room is making a Chicago Dog Caipirinha, made with cachaca, sport peppers, and a celery-salt rim (there are no actual hot dogs involved).

Also spotted at 10 Downing Food & Wine in New York City, where a cocktail called the Pickle is made by muddling dill and cucumbers with salt and simple syrup; and in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the Black Forest Inn makes a Krautini with sauerkraut juice, Steinhäger (a mild German gin), and a touch of Kümmel, a German caraway seed liqueur. "I've heard more often than not 'I'm surprised how much I like it'," says Erica Christ, the bar manager at the Black Forest Inn. "People who would get a dirty martini really do like that pickley, sour, salty taste...Still we do get about one in five that is like BLECH!"

Make your own pickle-enhanced cocktail using our Martinowitz recipe (pictured).

Image source: Christopher Rochelle, CHOW.com

How to Roast Squash Seeds

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Chicken and Waffles in the City

Conventional wisdom says you've gotta head across the Bay Bridge to Oakland (to Lois the Pie Queen, for example) for great fried chicken and waffles. But that's not necessarily the case, SF hounds say.

On a good day, the chicken and waffles at Little Skillet "is as good as it gets," says sugartoof. "The waffle is a small, a mini Belgian type—the chicken is free range, and cooked perfectly." But take note—Little Skillet just lost its chef.

alina555 is a fan of Auntie April's Chicken and Waffles, where the neighborhood is kind of rough, but the C&W is cooked to order and delicious.

Farmerbrown's Little Skillet [AT&T Park]
330 Ritch Street, San Francisco
415-777-2777

Auntie April's Chicken 'n' Waffles [Bayview]
4618 Third Street, San Francisco
415-643-4983

Discuss: Chicken & Waffles in SF

The Next St-Germain?

At a recent spirits exhibition, I got a peek at a new French liqueur launching soon in the U.S. called Esprit de June. It is similar to St-Germain's Elderflower liqueur, but instead of being infused with elderflowers, this liqueur is made from grape blossoms. The result is tropical and floral, but not cloying in any way. It will be good in spring and summer cocktails.

Esprit de June, showing up on shelves any day, around $30-40

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
510-237-1778

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

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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