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

Bus Stop Coffee Tease

This new bus shelter ad for McDonald's uses a steam machine that, when released, reveals the otherwise hidden text. While it's quite smart and probably effective for someone who's frantically moving his body around to keep warm, I could also easily see how this could be mistaken for a homeland security issue.

Via Direct Daily

Gin & Titonic: Offensive Yet Awesome

Too soon? In the eyes of some critics, including Titanic historian Brian Ticehurst, there's no excuse for a newly created ice cube tray that lets drinkers make a replica of the Titanic, plus four icebergs.

"How long will it be before this firm makes ice cubes of the Twin Towers to commemorate 9/11?" he asks in a Daily Mail article about the controversial party gadget.

Obviously, there are certain events that would be nothing short of revolting if rendered as kitschy ice trays. The Jonestown Massacre, for example (despite the Kool-Aid tie-in), or the Bloody Sunday killings would not be very good topics for cocktail conversation.

But the Titanic's sinking, while tragic, was accidental, and there's no denying that if you're going to render a historical event in a manner such that it cools your drink, an ice-based accident is one of the neatest fits you're going to stumble upon.

Crispy Cubes of Fried Pig’s Blood

Want good pig's blood rice cakes? Go to Happy Dolphin Bay in the Shun Fat supermarket plaza. You can get gloriously bloody rice cakes: little rectangular cubes, about an inch long and a 1/4 inch thick, with fried, crispy edges. "The flavor was right—tastes just like they do back in Taiwan," says Mr Taster. "The exterior texture was good too, nice and crispy-chewy."

The cubes are a little small compared to the huge cakes you get in Taiwan, so the version here doesn't quite have the softer chewy interior; these are more 90 percent crisp, 10 percent chew. But they scratch the crispy pork blood rice cake itch, sure nuff, says Mr Taster.

Happy Dolphin Bay [San Gabriel Valley]
18481 Colima Road, Rowland Heights

Discuss: Emergency! Best pigs blood rice cake in Rowland Heights area?

Leading Light of the Valley

carter's favorite restaurant in the Valley used to be the much-beloved and mourned Max. But carter has finally found a worthy successor in the brand-new Raphael, operated by Arnon and Anon Raphael.

"Anon and Arnon (son and father) really understand what wines and foods the public wants to eat in a standardized restaurant setting. And they do it very well," says carter. You can get rare lamb; you can even get their Moroccan-style Peking duck rare. Both lamb and duck are superb, says carter. "Food is good, the wine terrific," agrees Loradio. "They are looking to please and the place is homey."

Their mushroom soup is "probably as rich and tasty a version as you will have tasted in a long while," says carter. There's also tasty peanut butter ice cream for dessert, and good bread pudding, too.

Prices are in the mid-$20s for mains at dinner, but lamb and filet mignon bump up to the mid-$30s. "Definitely not the cheapest place in town, yet may be the best at many other attributes you deem appropriate to an evening out for dinner," says carter.

Raphael Restaurant [San Fernando Valley - East]
11616 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City

Discuss: Raphael – Studio City

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Unfortunately, I don't think you'll be able to buy Japanese saba locally, except maybe at a place like Mitsuwa that might have a small supply when they are in season, but expect to pay a premium. In the fall months, Mitsuwa does carry fresh sanma (pike mackerel) for sashimi." - E Eto

"The cook is right there in front, no secrets here. Be patient with him, the food is from scratch and made w/love."
- iheartjavier

"The ramen at Oki Doki uses their amazing chicken broth. They season it with salt, to not cloud the gorgeous golden color with soy or miso. ... If you want a clear soup for your ramen that'll make a Jewish grandmother proud, head here." - Professor Salt

Make Your Own Lox

People look at me like I'm crazy when I start making my New Year's resolutions in early December, but I just love thinking about all the ways I'm going to  better myself. Besides trying to smell less musty, climb Half Dome, and play electric guitar, here are my (cooking) resolutions:

1. Cure my own lox. Check out this great recipe from Heeb magazine. I'm going to cross-reference it with the tried-and-true version we did at CHOW. Maybe I'll even try to make bagels to go with it.

2. Make my own soft pretzels to dip in mustard and eat with beer.

3. Make Japanese hot pots from this book.

4. Make kinpira gobo, Japanese braised burdock root.

What do you want to make in 2010?

New Finds: Meat-Loving T-Shirts

If Italian cured meats make your heart beat faster (assuming that isn't a cardiac incident), perhaps you can get into Wooster Street Meats' line of lovely meat-centric shirts. The names of various meat products (prosciutto, brasciole, mortadella) are emblazoned across the chest, with simple line drawings to accompany them. What better way to proclaim your love of soppressata?

Wooster Street Meats T-Shirts, $19 to $35

Mixing It Up MexiRican Style

Coqui Mexicano is part Mexican, part Puerto Rican, and all Latin soul, says mayasuess. She loves the tacos (with great, lively salsas), squid salad, and guacamole "so fresh that it's still on the avocado pit." Desserts are a specialty; the flan boasts perfect sweetness and texture, maya says. narcisa singles out the guava cheesecake and piña colada pie.

Open since last year, Coqui Mexicano is a mom-and-pop shop (she's Puerto Rican, he's Mexican) with a small grocery section in addition to a café and lunch counter. Cubanos are served alongside tortas. A chayote salad can be ordered "MexiRican" style, as a quesadilla. Other quesadilla fillings include Puerto Rican–style pernil, or slow-cooked pork.

The vibe is warm and neighborly, and the owners are looking to create a cultural center of sorts for this corner of the South Bronx, with art, music, and a free book exchange. "It has a homey feel to it," narcisa observes, "like the roadside places in Puerto Rico."

Coqui Mexicano [Bronx]
871 Brook Avenue (at Third Avenue), Bronx

Discuss: Amazing home cooked goodness, and a neighborhood vibe
south bronx eats?
What about the Bronx?

Forget the Knish, Remember the Bagel

Chowhounds have been lamenting the decline of Yonah Schimmel's Knishes for years, though the Lower East Side landmark still has its defenders. Jetneo has two words for the critics: "Knish...shmish."

Try the cheese bagels instead, she urges; they're more like pretzels than bagels in shape, with blintz cheese squeezed into a thin layer of dough. "They keep, they freeze, they thaw, they re-bake, they do everything," says Jetneo, who schleps a fresh supply back to California every time she's in town. "I buy nothing else and I've been going there for 50 years."

Yonah Schimmel's Knishes [Lower East Side]
137 E. Houston Street (between Forsyth and Eldridge streets), Manhattan

Discuss: Yonah Schimmel is a disgrace

Y2K, Dot-com Party Sushi, and Vodka Luges

When the ball dropped on January 1, we entered a new decade. Isn't it funny to think that just 10 years ago we were eating sushi all the time, working at dot-coms, and wearing high-tech-looking shoes with wavy Space Age soles? Imagine if somebody had told us that beards, pickles, and backyard chickens would be cutting-edge, 2010 fashion. busted out the time capsule to investigate more of what we were eating and drinking in 1999, and how it's changed. Take a look...