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

Red-Sauce Italian Done Right

Cambridge's Basta Pasta has a new Quincy location that's been open for about six weeks—long enough to gather some intelligence about what's good and what's not on the menu of pasta, risotto, pizza, and panini. So, what's good?

• Fusilli, which is housemade and has great texture
• Arancini rice balls filled with fontina
• Sautéed calamari with garlic, capers, olives, and tomato sauce
• Housemade butternut squash ravioli with sage butter sauce
• Frutti di mare, with the aforementioned fusilli
• Chicken Parmesan
• Paninis, served on ciabatta instead of greasy focaccia

And not so good?

• The desserts—cannoli and tiramisu—are both average; walk elsewhere in the neighborhood
• Aglio olio is "way too garlicky, even for someone who loves tons of garlic," says winq
• There's no takeout after 5 p.m.

Basta Pasta [South Shore]
150 Hancock Street, Quincy
617-479-7979

Discuss: Basta Pasta Quincy Is Open

Tamales for the Holidays

Tamales for the Holidays

Start your own family tradition. READ MORE

Lord Hobo: Worth the Wait?

Lord Hobo, the Cambridge place that was in the works for so long that it spawned its own prank domain, is open at last. The hounds have duly visited and spoken.

The drinks are the main things making them drool. The beer list is a wonderland of hard-to-find Belgians and IPAs, with 40 beers on draft, priced between $6 and $10. Waiters are ready to guide your selection, but the menu could use more description, as only beer geeks will be able to identify some of the brands. Samples are freely offered, however. Cocktails are, as jajjguy puts it, "very good and possibly excellent": try the Wall St. (wheat whiskey, Lillet Rouge, and orange bitters) or the Rambler (rye, vermouth, amaro, and maraschino).

On the food side, the fries have won many a convert; they come in curried and truffled versions. The charcuterie plate and the deviled eggs (three on a plate with avocado, truffle, or chile fillings), are also worthy beer companions.

Mains include lobster mac ’n' cheese and shepherd's pie, and are expensive ($17 to $26), good, but heavy. Even the salads—one with duck confit, the other with lardons and cheese—aren't exactly light, zebedee points out. Kind of a gut-bomb of a selection, really. But the lines out the door speak loudly of a target hit.

Lord Hobo [Cambridge]
92 Hampshire Street, Cambridge
617-250-8454

Discuss: Lord Hobo
What is going on with the Lord Hobo?

Regal Beagle a Hit with Hounds

It's a good week for whimsically named new restaurants. The Regal Beagle is open in Coolidge Corner, and word is it's already turning out solid American food. Mac ’n' cheese ($12) was "cheesy crumbly goodness with lots of flavor," says Mr Bigglesworth, and the half roasted chicken with chard, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and polenta ($18) was "lovely."

Other high points: the herb butter brought out first thing you're seated, with sourdough bread and very thin with black and white sesame seeds; the burger ($13) is big and served on brioche with bread-and-butter pickles; and the pistachio-crusted scallops with butternut squash risotto and cherry glaze ($19) were the big hit of BobB's meal. In fact, no complaints have surfaced yet on the mains, all seem to be a hit.

The setting is much darker than the space's previous occupant. BobB's wife called the red flocked wallpaper "bordello," but the bar is cozy and servers are friendly enough to keep it from creeping customers out.

The Regal Beagle [South Shore]
308 Harvard Street, Brookline
617-739-5151

Discuss: The Regal Beagle
The Regal Beagle - opening night

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"You can sign up on their website and they email you on Thursdays with what the fresh beef, veggie, and seafood (all local) deliveries are."
-winecafe95

"Hmm, looks like ginger beer, smells like ginger beer ... It is! It is ginger beer! Delicious."
-almansa

"I have a few gray hairs, which is not uncommon at my age. I think of them as proof that I am experienced. Little scratches in my roasting pans prove that I have been using them."
-PinchOfSalt

Seasonal Lattes That Taste Good

Seasonal Lattes

Gingerbread, eggnog, pumpkin spice … whenever seasonal lattes roll out at national coffee chains, we feel strangely drawn to try them. But disappointment looms: The drinks are way too sweet, and the spices always seem off.

So we asked chefs from a handful of our favorite restaurants to create better versions, with quality ingredients. Here are their interpretations. READ MORE

Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag Doesn’t Suffer Fools Gladly

In 1969, Fritz Maytag became the sole owner of Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. Over the next 10 years, the brewery would prove to be a beacon of hope for good beer in America, as regional breweries were driven out of business by consolidation and macro swill ruled the supermarket shelves. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, when craft beer was being revived in America, Maytag had an open-door policy for new entrepreneurs and gave many of them advice on how to get their own breweries off the ground. Among them was Ken Grossman, the cofounder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. I interviewed Maytag while working on a feature about Sierra Nevada, and he had a lot to say about the industry. Some of the interesting bits that didn't make it into the Sierra story—about why he's no showboater and how he rebuffed brewing poseurs—is below.

READ MORE

Puff Pastry, Confit, Sweetbreads

Anisette Brasserie is a wonderful bit of Paris in Los Angeles, says exilekiss.

The dinner menu has a particularly enticing selection of daily specials, says exilekiss. There are sweetbreads stuffed in pastry on Tuesday, and long-stewed monkfish on Friday. If the specials don't thrill you, the daily menu is a feast of French classics like onion soup with aged Gruyère and roasted sweetbreads. Provençal fish soup with saffron pearl pasta and rouille is "a wonderful, extremely complex soup, really showcasing the essence of the fish," says exilekiss. And the beef tartare, made with freshly chopped hanger steak, is très Parisian.

Duck confit is wonderful, but the real dinner show-stopper is what it's served on top of, says exilekiss: potatoes Lyonnaise, a classic French dish of potatoes and onions baked into a pie. It "looks so simple and plain, but Anisette's version is truly stellar!" says exilekiss. "While it fell short of my favorite place in Paris, it exceeded all the others that I've had there."

There's more: black cod and chorizo, beautifully tender stewed beef cheeks.

Breakfast and brunch are just as exciting. Belgian waffles are "a beautiful presentation in decadence," says exilekiss: waffles topped with fresh bananas, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and dulce de leche, and served with sides of Nutella, maple syrup, and crème fraîche. The house-made pastries are also choice, like the amazing feuillete of scrambled eggs and white crab claw meat, stuffed inside a puff pastry. "I took a bite and literally had to shut down all my other brain activity," says exilekiss.

"Anisette Brasserie is one of the few restaurants in L.A. offering breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner that excels in each of those categories," says exilekiss.

Anisette Brasserie [Westside - Beaches]
225 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica
310-395-3200

Board Link: A Wonderful Bit of Paris in L.A.: Anisette Brasserie (Dinner, Brunch & Breakfast) [Review] w/ Pics!

Sweet, Porky Chile Rellenos

pleasurepalate had some pleasant surprises at Cafe Antigua Guatemala. Pickled cabbage, beets, and carrots? It seems almost Eastern European. And mayonnaise-based bean, carrot, and potato salad? But, assures streetgourmetla, it is perfectly Guatemalan. "Potato salad is very much a part of, well, I believe just about every cuisine," he says.

But whatever you think about where the dishes come from, they're all delicious. Cafe Antigua Guatemala is a wonderful find, says pleasurepalate. "I absolutely fell in love with the side of black beans," she says. "The best way I could describe it is that the texture was silky smooth and it had a sweet-earthiness to it that I really enjoyed."

Chile rellenos are killer. They might be a little surprising if you're used to the Mexican version; these are built inside a soft, sweet red pepper, filled with ground pork, beans, and carrots, and deep fried.

Cafe Antigua Guatemala [Mid-City]
5421 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-465-0755

Board Link: REVIEW w/ pics: Making a U Turn for Cafe Antigua Guatemala

Japanese Flavors, European Techniques

Cafe Hiro is sort of a neighborhood fusion place. It's a tiny restaurant in a tiny strip mall, says attran99, and it mixes Japanese flavors with French and Italian techniques: ahi tuna tartare with avocado and wasabi cream, wonton chips and a drizzle of shoyu. There's beef tataki—well-marbled, and barely seared, with shoyu-ponzu gelée, and even seafood carbonara, with scallops, clams, mussels, and shrimp, all perfectly cooked.

Cafe Hiro put on a good lunch, too, says ToroTaku, with good curries and pastas, and kindly service. It's affordable too, for all its high-class stylings: a meal for two with tax and tip was under $50.

Cafe Hiro [Orange County]
10509 Valley View Street, Cypress
714-527-6090

Board Link: Review – Cafe Hiro (Cypress, CA)