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

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"I just discovered that Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge has started stocking ice cream from Jeni's of Columbus, Ohio. At $12/pint it's not cheap, but it's some of the best ice cream I've had anywhere." – Boston_Otter

"Arancini are fried rice balls, notoriously hard to do well, and they were not at all greasy or heavy and the cheese in the middle was melted perfectly. The chickpea fritters were perfect batons of puréed chickpea, slightly spicy, again fried to a light perfection ... sort of a marvel how they could have held together, but they did." – fesenjan on dinner at Sixty2 on Wharf

"Eastern Lamejun Bakers, right near the Star Market/Mt. Auburn Cemetery, has some terrific dishes for you vegetarians out there. After eating them for 25 years, I am still addicted to the spinach and cheese borek, big 6-inch crescents of yeast dough filled with a good amount of spinach and many-cheese filling." – opinionatedchef

This Beet Recipe Is Blowing My Mind

I love beets, but they're usually served the same way: quartered and somewhat slimy. Nuts in the Kitchen: More than 100 Recipes for Every Taste and Occasion, by Susan Herrmann Loomis, has an interesting alternative preparation. First a word about this cookbook: We get a lot of cookbooks around here, and this one excited me more than most. Why? Recipes like Sicilian sweet and sour rabbit with chopped almonds, and mushroom and walnut tarte Tatin. The author, Loomis, runs On Rue Tatin cooking school in Normandy, France.


Headbanging Carrots Are Funny

I don't really know where this video is going, but I like what Japanther has done so for on the soon-to-be-blockbuster "Rock N' Roll Ice Cream: A Story About Nutrition." What will happen with the mysterious professor orange? The angry headbanging carrot? The lemon sporting a sweat band?


Our Only Michoacan Restaurant

The only restaurant dedicated to the elusive cuisine of Michoacán in the L.A. area is in Pacoima, says streetgourmetla about the excellent Birrieria Apatzingan.

You might start with pork in tomatillo sauce, a hearty Michoacán specialty in a bowl with white rice, beans, and a topping of supple pork ribs in tangy salsa. Or you might lean toward ordering something with guajillo chile sauce, used to fry chicken and potatoes and to cover enchiladas. On the side, uchepos are the pure corn tamales of Michoacán. "Forget about the other corn tamale hypes in town, this is the real deal," says streetgourmetla. These uchepos are only available on weekends, and they run out fast. Go early, or call and reserve some in advance.

But at its heart, this is a birrieria, a goat joint. There's always a big pot of birria en caldo (goat soup) simmering away. "This is reason alone to come to Birrieria Apatzingan," says streetgourmetla. "The broth is slurp ’til the last drop good, the kind of soup that makes you cringe the each time a dot of the juice falls onto the table negotiating the journey from bowl to mouth."

Birrieria Apatzingan [San Fernando Valley – East]
10040 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Pacoima

Discuss: Birrieria Apatzingan, Pacoima,CA–The Pleasures of Birria and Regional Bites from Apatzingan, Michoacan

The Best Tonkatsu in the United States?

Kagura makes "by far the best tonkatsu I’ve had in the U.S.," says la2tokyo. "It would be a very good representation of tonkatsu even if it was in Japan."

Premium loin katsu gozen made with Kurobuta pork is "amazing," says la2tokyo. "Incredibly tender, juicy, and very rich. There was a rind of fat on one side of the cutlet about 3/4 of an inch thick, the way it would be served in Japan." For those not prepared to have this much fat, there's an option involving pork tenderloin.

"If I had to rate it, giving the best tonkatsu I’ve had in Japan (and I’ve had a lot) a 100, I could confidently give their tonkatsu a score in the 90s," says la2tokyo.

Kagura [South Bay]
1652 Cabrillo Avenue, Torrance

Discuss: Serious Tonkatsu in Torrance: Kagura

That’s No Moon, It’s a Collectible Plate!

Antique plates have gone from old-fashioned snooze-inducers to wondrous platters of nostalgia by the simple application of characters from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Etsy seller BeatUpCreations offers a simple, healing promise: Never again will you need to yearn impotently for a rose-embellished scalloped plate featuring a photo-quality reproduction of Chewbacca's grimacing face. Check out the rest of BeatUpCreations' shop for a lovely plate featuring R2-D2 on a Renaissance lady's lap, as well as a Little Yoda Blue Boy platter.

via Daddy Likey

New Top Burger Contender: Rustic Canyon

Hard-core Chowhound exilekiss went on an eating frenzy through all of Los Angeles's famed burger joints. There was a three-way tie for first among the dozen contenders. Two of those top placers are well-known: Father's Office and the Golden State. But the last is the obscure Rustic Canyon.

This is a $16 burger, with Meyer Ranch beef, sharp cheddar, onion fondue, and herb rémoulade. "A deep, beefy savoriness comes shining through! Wow. I can't resist the urge to inhale the rest of my burger," says exilekiss. "It has such a beautiful bovine essence." It isn't, says exilekiss, the "piercing funk" of Father's Office's dry-aged burger; this is a mellower magic.

They also use a Rockenwagner brioche bun, which is soft but holds up pretty well against the burger. The add-ons are tasty but never take center stage away from the burger.

Also excellent: burrata panzanella appetizer.

Father's Office [Westside – Beaches]
1018 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica

The Golden State [Fairfax Village]
426 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles

Rustic Canyon [Westside – Beaches]
1119 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica

Discuss: Total Carnage! Gourmet Burger Battle — 26 Beach vs. Umami vs. Father’s Office vs. Golden State vs. Morton’s vs. Anisette vs. Lucky Devils vs. 25 Degrees vs. 8 oz vs. Rustic Canyon! [Review] w/ Pics!

The Double Down by the Numbers

Statistics wonk Nate Silver (an unlikely breakout star during the 2008 election season) has put his massive brain to work on an even more vexing problem than determining how the electoral college will flop: calculating the unhealthiness of the new KFC chicken-on-chicken atrocity that is the Double Down.


Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"I received a tip today from Maricos Chente supporter WestSideGal that Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente on Centinela, permanently." – streetgourmetla on local gossip from Mariscos Chente

"Now, if you really want to impress him with a down-home, fearless, ghetto style offering I have to cast a vote for Omana’s in South El Monte (neighborhood alert–best to go during the day)." – degustateur on the best shrimp burritos and tacos

"You can get fresh gei dan jai at the food stands near the Hong Kong Superstore in Rowland Heights." – Das Ubergeek, on finding this waffle-like Hong Kong street-food snack

Revisiting Second-Rate Snacks

By Christine Gallary

Props to blog Second Rate Snacks, which burst upon the scene in 2008 (we covered it back then, along with many others) with clever side-by-side comparisons of commercial snack foods. Here's the update: THEY'RE STILL BLOGGING. The formula—head-to-head tastings of commercial snack foods like Cool Ranch vs. Chillin' Ranch tortilla chips, complete with photos and analysis—still works. And it provides a little junk-food validation: My beloved Cheez-Its were found to be far superior to Cheese Nips.