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

The Many Wonders of La Fiesta Super Mall

The La Fiesta Super Mall used to have an unspeakably depressing food court. But somewhere between 2007 and now, everything changed. "Gone are the mediocre stalls of yesteryear," says Das Ubergeek. "The old mediocre Mexican combo-plate place has turned into a small outpost of Metro Balderas," which is known for its wonderful carnitas. Das Ubergeek continues: "One of the closed stalls has now turned into La Perla del Pacifico, a restaurant specializing in the food of the Pacific coast of Colombia. Not the antioqueña food of La Maria, this is the food of the lands west of Cali and Medellín."

La Perla has surprising empanadas de carne: masa-based treats, with long-stewed, stringy beef inside. "The shell was slightly tough to crack open (think of a deep-fried sope that wraps around things), but in the mouth they weren't tough at all; they crumbled into an intensely corn-y front flavor that complemented stewed beef well."

There is encocado de piangua, ark clams in coconut sauce, with a heavy hit of citrus and garlic. But best of all is sancocho de pescado, a coconut-based soup, sort of like a Thai yellow curry. "You've got big pieces of perfectly fresh, moist, plump whitefish (black cod?) along with potatoes, yuca, plantains, and a thin coconutty sauce with tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic. These folks can cook, and they can cook well," says Das Ubergeek.

Then, another surprise: Remember Wat Thai, the Buddhist temple with a weekly Thai food festival? The festival that got banished for bizarre code reasons? Remember the stall that served bamboo shoot salad? Well, there's a stall for that here, too!

La Fiesta Super Mall Food Court [San Fernando Valley - East]
12727 Sherman Way, North Hollywood
805-349-2888

Discuss: The Wonders of North Hollywood's La Fiesta Super Mall

From Breed Street to Antojitos Carmen

As usual, streetgourmetla is the first to note a new development in L.A.'s Latin American food scene: One of the best trucks from the much-beloved and sadly-departed Breed Street Sunday night street food fair, Antojitos Carmen, has come back to us in full-on storefront form.

The lady in charge, Carmen, is known for her extended family of sope products: every form of masa disk filled with every possible thing you could want. Want a sandal-shaped huarache, topped with squash blossoms? You got it. Want a gordita with mushrooms and tinga? Done!

There's also stuff straight out of Carmen's home kitchen, like menudo, stewed chicharrones, and ribs in salsa.

Antojitos Carmen [East L.A.]
2510 East Cesar Chavez, 
Boyle Heights
323-264-1451

Discuss: Grand Opening: Antojitos Carmen, a Piece of Breed St. Finds a Permanent Home in Boyle Heights

The Slaw Dogs Take It Uptown

New hot dog shop The Slaw Dogs follows the Los Angeles mini-trend of upscale franks. Vienna Beef dogs are the base, firm and tasty, and the list of toppings is almost overwhelming, says inlikeflt. You get three free toppings with any dog, but you can order as many as you like if you're willing to pay extra.

The menu is quite ambitious, says Peripatetic, with toppings like kimchee, truffle oil, and Thai cole slaw. Slaw Dogs will also deep-fry or charbroil dogs on request.

Peripatetic went old-school with the Original Dog, with chili, cheese, mustard, onions, and cole slaw. "The chili was very good (made with Newcastle Ale), done in the perfect style for chili dogs and chili fries," says Peripatetic. "All around, a very welcome addition to the neighborhood."

The Slaw Dogs [San Gabriel Valley]
720 North Lake Avenue, Pasadena
626-808-9777


Discuss: The Slaw Dogs, Pasadena

SF Food Wars Bread Bake-Off

Sunday's SF Food Wars event was dubbed "Yeast Affliction." Indeed. I've never experienced a rougher carb and sugar crash than I did after sampling 20 different breads and a handful of craft beers. The latest incarnation of the popular food-nerd cookoff series centered around artisan bread (past battles have featured themes such as Mac ’n' Cheese, Holiday Fixins, and Mini Cupcakes). The contestants were chiefly amateur bakers who had never entered a food competition before, and their entries ranged from wild (all manner of nuts, berries, seeds, and alterna-flour) to classic. READ MORE

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Check out the menudo blanco at El Sinaloense in Huntington Park/South Gate. It has tendon in the mix, a serious menudo, and cool regional treat." - streetgourmetla

"This butcher shop just opened on Hillhurst and we picked up Flatiron steaks yesterday that were excellent. Everything in the case, in fact, looked awesome.... It's exactly what the neighborhood needed." - JPomer, on McCall's Meat and Fish Company in Los Feliz

"Noodles were very good—thick and chewy, and the meat and sauce were also quite delicious." - Chandvakl, on hand-made noodles at Flavor of Beijing, Rowland Heights.

Earl Grey Is In

Earl Grey tea has more of a "pinkies up" vibe than tattooed pastry chefs with gauged earrings, but the tea is being explored as a trendy dessert and cocktail flavoring by folks like Luis Villavelazquez, the executive pastry chef at Absinthe and Arlequin Café in San Francisco. At Absinthe, he's currently serving Earl Grey shortbread with honey Jell-O and mixed citrus sorbet. The tea's floral and citrus aromas make it work naturally with citrus desserts, as well as floral fruits such as quince, explains Villavelazquez. Instead of steeping the tea or making an infusion to flavor his pastries, Villavelazquez says he "spice-grinds it fine into a powder and either mixes it in with the dry ingredients, or the fat." He also digs the way the tea "brings a winter scent" to seasonal desserts.

Also spotted at: Sugar Cube, a new dessert truck in Philadelphia, where it flavors the crème anglaise served on chocolate bread pudding (another trend!); Rye in Williamsburg, in a desserty cockatil called the "hot buttered rye" made with tea, molasses, rye whiskey, and spiced butter; 2941 in Falls Church, Virginia in chocolate cake served with Earl Grey ice cream, almond nougatine, and blood orange segments.

This Jelly Is Cooler Than You

Toss your preconceptions about jelly and jam out the window, and get ready to have your mind blown. I sure did when I tried White Grapefruit and Vanilla Bean Jelly from Slow Jams (tag line: "Jam for the People") at the second installment of the San Francisco Underground Farmer's Market. The jelly is a genre-defying cross between a bittersweet marmalade (but smooth with no rind chunks) and a sophisticated dessert topping (it's liberally flecked with vanilla bean, and smells like a cupcake). I ate it on bread with almond butter for dinner, but I could see it edging out membrillo on a fancy cheese plate.

READ MORE

Teeny Trader Joe’s Cookbook

Trader Joe's is a godsend for time-pressed people like me, providing a nice middle ground between slow food and drive-throughs. But though we all love that mandarin orange chicken, sometimes you'd like something a bit less artery clogging for dinner, and don't want to swing by another store to get the rest of the ingredients.

The Trader Joe's Companion: A Portable Cookbook is small enough to throw into your purse, yet full of good, quick, healthy dishes made solely from products sold at TJ's. One-stop shopping! That's something even I can handle.

Download CHOW Wallpaper: Peppers

This week's wallpaper comes from our pepper chart, a visual guide to chiles. Our photographer, Chris, shot his first pepper when he was 12, trying to copy the famous photograph by Edward Weston. But for these shots, he said he wanted them to look bright and saturated, so he shot them with a single hard light. This enabled him to clearly show the surface of each pepper, and keep it real, not romanticized.

Choose a download based on your monitor resolution:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1680 x 1050 | 1920 x 1200

And check out other wallpapers from CHOW:
Beer, Mushrooms

Comfort in a Bowl of Korean Noodles

It's kalguksu weather, and E Eto's go-to spot for these warming Korean noodle soups is Jang Tur in Flushing. There's no English menu, but most diners come for the handmade wheat noodles in chicken, seafood, and other variations, so the Korean-challenged can order by pointing. Turn up the heat, if you like, with killer house-made chile sauce.

Jang Tur, which is not far from another hound-recommended kalguksu specialist, Arirang, also serves these noodles with sticky rice balls in patjuk (red bean soup), HLing reports. It's thick and hearty, she says, and some people like to sweeten it with sugar. Cabbage kimchee and crisp, juicy pickled radish come on the side.

Out in Auburndale, Tang specializes in a very different Korean soup: sullongtang, the spare, milky broth brewed from long-cooked beef bones. kenito799 says it hits the spot, beefy and rich; season it at the table with salt, pepper, and scallions. Also recommended is yukgaejang, a delicious, meaty, moderately spicy stew of beef, tripe, and vegetables.

Tang is, or was, connected with the K-town sullongtang specialist Gam Mee Ok. Like Gam Mee Ok it's open 24 hours, a smart policy for a restaurant that serves superb late-night post-drinking fare. Unlike Gam Mee Ok it has a counter that makes pan-fried savory pancakes, jeon, to order (though not around the clock). Try hot peppers stuffed with minced pork, perilla leaf with minced pork, or battered, griddled oysters. "These dishes are amazing," kenito promises. "Perfect place for a nighttime snack and a bottle of soju."

As long as the soju's flowing, here's news from Han Shin Pocha, a cozy and authentic Korean pub known to hounds for charcoal-grilled clam feasts, among other things. The previously unmentioned must-try dish here, joonjoon insists, is grilled eel. Order it half marinated, half salt grilled; both variations kill.

Jang Tur [Flushing]
35-38 Union Street (between 35th Avenue and Northern Boulevard), Flushing, Queens
718-461-7600

Tang [Flushing]
196-50 Northern Boulevard (at Francis Lewis Boulevard), Flushing, Queens
718-279-7080

Han Shin Pocha [Flushing]
40-03 149th Place (near Roosevelt Avenue), Flushing, Queens
718-886-1328

Discuss: Jang Tur Noodles - Korean noodle soup
Giant Kimchi Buns from the borders of China & Korea
Tang: 24-hour seolleongtang in Auburndale
Han Shin Pocha, Flushing