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

Beware of Bagels

The Wall Street Journal has published an oddly in-depth look at "BRIs," a.k.a. "bagel-related injuries." Yes, it turns out that there are more bagel-related injuries rolling into the ER (1,979 in 2008, says the WSJ story) than many other food-related injuries such as pumpkin (1,195) or cheese (1,236). This has prompted quite a few bagel-slicing gadgets to hit the market, such as the Bagel Guillotine, which sells 80,000 units a year and is considered "history's most successful bagel-control device."

Now, according to the WSJ, there are other bagel-control-device entrepreneurs looking for a slice of the pie bagel. Dennis and Michael Moss, a father-son duo out of Rochester, New York, are the inventors of the Brooklyn Bagel Slicer, "a slender knife fitted inside a molded-plastic guard." The WSJ article makes it sound like people are maiming themselves fairly regularly in the name of bagel slicing. But are these gadgets really necessary?

A Gem in Red Hook: Kevin’s After Dark

Brooklyn Chowhounds were quick to embrace Kevin's for brunch, but slower to catch up with it for dinner. Day and night, it turns out, this place is "a gem," Steve R says: an assured, chef-driven restaurant with a flair for seafood.

Its cioppino (a seafood stew from southern Italy by way of San Francisco) is outstanding, scented with saffron and full of fresh fish and shellfish. Crab cakes are "dynamite," happily paired with greens. Crêpes are made to order with a fresh, delicious lobster filling. Pappardelle comes with big whole shrimp in an agreeably creamy sauce.

Steve, who admits he "went with high hopes and low expectations, given how many 'next best thing' places we've already been to (and been disappointed at) in Bklyn," says Kevin's is the real deal and a pleasant surprise. He faults only the overly bright lighting and wishes the dinner crowd were less sparse. "Just turn down the lights & fill it up," he writes. "We'll be back."

Kevin's [Red Hook]
277A Van Brunt Street (between Visitation Place and Pioneer Street), Brooklyn
718-596-8335

Discuss: Dinner at Kevin's: Red Hook

Groceries in Front, Terrific Tortas in Back

Behind Jalapeño Deli's unassuming storefront is a crack Mexican kitchen that turns out some of the best tortas in East Harlem, says JungMann. Chorizo is a highlight, its spicing beautifully balanced. Quesadillas, made with Cotija cheese and, if you ask, an off-menu option of very flavorful chicken, "threaten to be an addiction." Avoid carnitas, JungMann warns: "mostly flaccid pieces of fat."

One reason he was delighted to find this place was that El Paso Taqueria, an uptown minichain once heartily recommended by Chowhounds, wasn't doing it for him anymore: "Sadly it seems to have left the dynamic spicing and quality behind."

Jalapeño Deli [East Harlem]
1629 Lexington Avenue (between E. 102nd and 103rd streets), Manhattan
212-828-2803

Discuss: Help Me Love 97th & Lex

Simplehuman Sink Caddy

Simplehuman, the company that makes ridiculously high-end garbage cans, sent samples of its new sink caddy to the CHOW offices. It hooks on the side of your sink, and you can put your sponge inside. It's tasteful-looking brushed steel and black rubber instead of moldy clear plastic.

Simplehuman Sink Caddy, $16.99

In a Changing Staten Island, Refined Turkish

The Turkish food at Seaside is quite good and a notch more refined than average, BMartin suggests. Adana kebabs of hand-chopped lamb are a standout, as is a hot appetizer platter of falafel, grilled liver, fried calamari, and lamb-stuffed phyllo "cigars." "So good food. A little expensive," BMartin concludes. Flaco likes the lamb shawarma and Turkish bread, fresh out of an oven that also turns out pizza and calzones. "No complaints at all," he writes, "with some very nice touches."

Seaside replaced an old-timers' bar near the boardwalk in Staten Island's South Beach, and its uncertain pedigree speaks to a changing borough. BMartin hears Turkish music and Russian conversation in the air. Flaco describes the owners as "'Russian,' which could mean anything in South Beach, with kitchen staff ranging from Albania to Puebla." The Turkish beer Efes is on tap, he observes, "so someone is really trying to keep the Ottomans happy."

Seaside [Staten Island]
124 Ocean Avenue (near Robin Road), Staten Island
718-727-9000

Discuss: Finally went to new Staten Island Turkish Restaurant
Seaside Turkish South Beach SI

Tree of Life Serving Dish

We've used this space to fawn over the gorgeous wares of designer Michael Aram before, and the Tree of Life Serving Plate is equally worthy of your attention. Part of Aram's Fairy Tale Collection, which uses imagery from, well, you know, the platter is made from stainless steel with a nickel-plate tree in the center. It's got just the right amount of holiday sparkle, and the tree motif is a subtle shout-out to the season. Is it a Christmas tree? An overgrown Hanukkah bush? A yule tree for pagans? Who cares? Put it on your table and shine.

Tree of Life Serving Plate
, $125

Bullish on Bucatini at Sandro’s

In New York on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 22.75 points to close at 10,388.90, advances led declines on volume of 460 million shares, and Sandro's sold its splendid bucatini amatriciana for just under $10.40. That's more than $12 below what the menu says, thanks to an early-evening promotion that pegs pasta prices at one-thousandth of each day's closing Dow, points to dollars. For this uptown trattoria, the deal paid a publicity dividend upon its initial public offering in February, though until now Chowhounds haven't had much to say about it.

While it's no longer the bargain it was—the Dow was languishing between 7,000 and 8,000 when the deal was introduced—ml77 issues a strong buy recommendation: "Basically, it's about $10 for a pasta that typically goes for about $20. And what pasta!" That amatriciana, with pancetta and onion in tomato sauce, is "addictive," he adds. MMRuth is sold on Sandro's spaghetti al limone ($19.50 on the menu; for today's price, call your broker).

This deal is offered only from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and it'll end when the Dow breaks 11,000. An optimist, that Sandro.

Sandro's [Upper East Side]
306 E. 81st Street (between First and Second avenues), Manhattan
212-288-7374

Discuss: Where is Chef Sandro cooking

Overheard on the New York Boards

"It had the perfect balance between vinegary and hot, pungent yet DEEP rich flavor. The dish is often far less than subtle, and often suffers from being heavy handed. But these guys understand vindaloo on a whole other level."
-NYJewboy

"I'm a fan of their hotdogs, but I know they do fried chicken too. They also have some healthy options—carrots, string beans etc. that you can order along with your artery clogging food."
-mr_seabass

"I was wrong. I just couldn't turn down a place named 'Donut House', and then my impulsive pizza-craving got the best of me."
-Bone Thug n Hominy

NYC Guts a Cow

Perhaps second only to cheese in general, Wisconsinites love their Spotted Cow, a cask-conditioned farmhouse ale from New Glarus Brewing Company. It's the kind of beer that's accessible to the Miller Lite crowd without alienating beer geeks: quaffable but satisfying.

So when Mad River Bar & Grill, a Manhattan sports bar popular with Wisconsin exiles, starting serving Spotted Cow, it was a natural way to connect with the bar's clientele. The only problem: Spotted Cow is only distributed in Wisconsin. New York bars can only sell beers handled by wholesale distributors, and thus: 50 cases of the beer were seized from the bar and two fines totaling $20,000 were handed down. Ouch. Gotta sell a lot of bottles to make up for that.

Image source: Flickr member Russ Neumeier under Creative Commons

Don’t Spit on This Cake

The food issue of the New Yorker, which came out last week, has a great article on spit cake a.k.a. baumkuchen a.k.a. senkacz (depending on which of the myriad of European cultures is making it). Baumkuchen (which translates to "tree cake" in German) seems to have a few variations, but is most often made up of thin concentric rings of cake, created by lowering a spit into batter, raising it to the open flame or heating element on a special oven, and repeating the process 10–20 times. Though originally from Europe, it also seems to be extremely popular in Japan, introduced, oddly enough, by a German WWI prisoner of war.
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