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

Alba Opens a Deli

SeaSide Tomato screeched to a halt—in the rain, no less—when she saw the brand-spanking-new Alba Deli Express in Quincy, owned by Leo Keka, the same guy who runs the well-regarded Alba Restaurant. It's so new it was advertising for help on Craigslist last week. But it's already hitting its stride in some areas. SeaSide bought a big square of good eggplant lasagne and some "chicken liver salad," which turned out to be chicken liver pâté with egg and onions. "So yummy," she sighs.

There are specialty groceries and deli stuff as well; the meat for the turkey sandwich is cut right off the bone, but KaitlynBarry complained that it was dry. goose tried the "crackstrami" instead, house-made pastrami on light, dark, or marble rye. The whole shebang was the "best I've had in the area," says goose. "I'm equally excited to try the brisket next time, as it looked amazing."

Alba Deli Express [South Shore]
1085 Hancock Street, Quincy

Discuss: Quincy folks and Alba Lovers: Alba Deli Express

A Worthy Mediterranean Lunch Contender

Hounds are yapping that Yella Grille, a Lebanese spot in Andover that took over the space formerly occupied by Cassis, is a worthy lunch contender. Yella is run by a husband-and-wife couple; at lunch she serves the tables and he cooks the food. And it's good food: "Almost everything on the menu we've tried has been well prepared and seasoned well," says jeff Turton. He likes the meze plate, the chicken and beef kebabs, and the lamb rib chops.

amljml speaks up for the baba ghanoush wrap and a perk: "While looking at the menu they give you complementary homemade pita chips and hummus."

Yella Grille [Merrimack Valley]
16 Post Office Avenue, Andover

Discuss: Middle eastern in Andover where Cassis used to be?

Acting Like a Celeb Chef in LA

By Iso Rabins

Iso Rabins of forageSF is guest blogging for us every once in a while. Read his last post on his underground restaurant. Follow him on Twitter @forageSF.

LA is a different kind of place. That’s not just my San Francisco love/elitism talking (both of which I have in spades), but a true fact. I recently went down to LA to guest chef at a kind of hipster bakery/restaurant called BreadBar. Once a month, they bring in a guest chef who creates a menu of eight small dishes for eight dollars each: six savory, two sweet. He or she plans and prepares the food, along with a posse of his own cooks (a fact I was a bit confused on, but more on that later), then gets a cut of the night's take. It’s actually a lot like my local Mission Street Food, but fancier—mostly a PR stunt for LA chefs who own restaurants in other parts of town, or Food Network celebs looking for something new. Past chefs have included (this is from their website) The Next Food Network Star Debbie Lee and Top Chef's Michael Rottaggio and Marcel Vigneron.

Now let me back up a bit and level with you. I did not belong here. I was asked to do it because of my underground restaurant, The Wild Kitchen. But running underground dinners (even though they're eight course affairs serving 60 people), and running a professional kitchen is very different.


Overheard on the Boston Boards

"I'm surprised by how few people know about Symphony Café, located in Symphony Hall. The food is catered by Jules Catering (currently) and is served buffet style. Compared to what's proximitous to the hall, food is decent and can't beat convenience." - PainterGirl on where to eat before a symphony performance

"The coconut cream pie at Myers + Chang is perhaps the best I've ever had- wonderful essence of coconut with a zing of lime, with chantilly cream on top. And even though it's served at a restaurant, I often get pieces to go. It's that good." - Scruffy The Cat

"Highlight for me was the dessert ... a salty caramel cheesecake that was preposterous. Big crystals of salt (Maldon Sea Salt?) cut the sweetness and the creaminess of the cheesecake and pulled the whole thing together for me. I never rave about dessert but this was outstanding. The pastry chef was enjoying a post-shift beverage and I raved at him like the complete nutter I am." - yumyum on dessert at Gargoyles on the Square

How to Raise a Non-Drunk

Let's raise a glass of whatever to BBC star Oz Clarke, who has publicly gone on record suggesting that drinking responsibly is fun, and that teens need practice.

"Learning how to do it is part of growing up," he's quoted as saying in the Telegraph. "Growing up is about risk."


Kogi Parks It

If you don't know Chef Roy Choi's name, you probably have heard of Kogi, his Korean taco truck empire in Los Angeles that has inspired many people to get into Korean food and flavors. In April, Choi will be opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant called Chego in West Los Angeles, but his signature tacos will not be on the menu. Instead, he will be spooning up another comfort food: the rice bowl. We spoke with Choi about his new restaurant, his passion for making good food accessible to everyone, how he's walking a fine line to not piss off the rest of the restaurant industry, and why there will be no uni or lemongrass foam on his menu. He also shared a recipe for a Sweet Chile Chicken Rice Bowl (pictured), which may change your mind about rice bowls if all you've ever eaten is the microwave kind covered in syrupy teriyaki sauce.

What's on the menu at Chego?

Very simple, like Kogi, with five to seven items, and like Kogi, it will grow weekly with the people. A few appetizers like Korean meatballs, a couple salads, and four rice bowls: a Korean lacquered pork belly, a chicken, a veggie kimchee fried rice, and steak and egg. And one dessert: I'm going to try and reinvent the Rocky Road with marshmallow cream, spicy peanut brittle, and broken-up cookies inside.


Funnel Cake, Hot Out of the Oil

klyeoh found a truly perfect funnel cake at Funnel House. "Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, beats a freshly-made funnel cake," says klyeoh. Funnel House's version is "perfectly-crisp on the outside, eggy-buttery-hot on the inside, topped with good vanilla ice-cream, and the most luscious strawberry jam ever."

"This place is a GEM!!" says klyeoh.

Funnel House [South Bay]
425 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach

Discuss: Found – the perfect funnel cake at Funnel House

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

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

Discuss: Your single favorite dish in LA