The CHOW Blog rss

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

Bailing Before the Host Notices

Bailing Before the Host Notices

The infamous "French leave." READ MORE

New Finds: Hotlips Fruit Sodas

We've blogged in the past about the delicious blackberry soda from Hotlips Pizza in Portland, Oregon. It's got real pulp in it, and you feel like you're actually drinking something made from fruit, not chemicals. Now, that drink and a bevvy of other Hotlips flavors, including apple, pear, raspberry, and boysenberry, are spreading into more locations. Besides Oregon, you can now buy the sodas online for the first time, including in a mixed variety pack. We're hoping this is a sign that Hotlips will go nationwide soon, so we can pick it up at gas stations and janky corner stores everywhere. That'd sure be nice.

Market Highs and Lows

Market by Jean-Georges opened in the W Boston on October 29, and is receiving reviews that vary from thrilled to underwhelmed. On the positive side, the tasting menu is a good value at $58 for six courses and some of the dishes are choice. But some others are terribly oversalted, a fact which more then one hound has conveyed to the servers. Oh, and everyone at the table has to order the tasting menu or it's à la carte city.

Order:

• Fois gras brûlée: a thin disk of fois gras served cold on a round of brioche with a caramelized sugar coating and spicy fig jam on the side. This one sent the hounds into paroxysms of joy.
• Cheesecake with Concord grape sorbet.
• Seared shrimp with pumpkin, ginger, and basil sauce, plus pumpkin seeds.
• The grilled lamb chop, which comes cooked perfectly rare with a gorgeous smoked chile glaze, and served on a bed of king oyster mushrooms and broccoli rabe.

Avoid:

• The somewhat bland lobster with lemon spätzle.
• Overly peppery black pepper crab fritters.
• Strip steak, which is perfectly done, but unforgivably salty.

Despite the hit-and-miss food, hounds report throngs of diners packing the place, particularly before and after theater showtimes.

Market by Jean-Georges [Back Bay]
100 Stuart Street, Boston
617-310-6790

Board Links: Market at the W Hotel-Jean-Georges in Boston
Any other experiences at Market?

Spicy Sichuan at Thailand Cafe

Hoping to kick a head cold with some spicy chow, capeanne asks what to order at Mary Chung. Don't go there for spicy, says Luther. Go two blocks east instead, "to the Sichuan restaurant inside Thailand Cafe." Luther does not jest: Sometime this summer, Thailand Cafe, a barely passable Thai place, acquired a new chef rumored to be connected with the hound-beloved Sichuan Gourmet.

There are Sichuan dishes now to be found on the paper menus (look under "chef's specials"), on a Chinese-language menu posted on the wall inside the restaurant, and on a whiteboard. It's a little confusing. If the place isn't too busy, the friendly owner will translate for you. Be sure to seek out:

• Saliva chicken: "It makes you salivate!" says fredid.
Ziran niurou or cumin beef, with lightly fried beef, peppercorns, scallions, cumin, and star anise.
• Chengdu dry hot chicken, which features fried chunks of chicken with dry, spicy peppers.
• Cold noodles with chile-sesame vinaigrette.
• Double-cooked pork belly with spicy capsicum. The thin slices of pork belly come with green onions, and damneddemand says it's "awesome" and "spicy but not overpowering."

And don't even think about ordering from the Thai side of the menu. Even the MIT students won't touch it. And that's saying something.

Thailand Cafe [Cambridge]
302 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
617-492-2494

Board Links: Mary Chung tonight - Help
Sichuan Cuisine at Thailand Cafe near MIT

Something Nice to Drink With Dinner

Home wine drinkers, listen up: bombaybeauty has found the wine store of your dreams. The brand-new Central Bottle has a smallish selection that's "thoughtfully original and priced right," with interesting bottles at affordable price points.

The shop also has a well-chosen selection of cheeses from around the world and "a young, enthusiastic cheesemonger happy to advise you," says bombaybeauty. Every Tuesday there is a $25 tasting, with three wines paired with three small amuse-bouches prepared by a guest chef.

"I'm no wine snob," says bombaybeauty. "Here I found myself paying less for better wine—now that's a move in the right direction."

Central Bottle [Central Square]
196 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston
617-225-0040

Board Link: Central Bottle: Fantastic Wine & Cheese Store Central Square

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"I was just reflecting on how the licorice-y, beefy broth makes you feel amazingly healthy, when a 2-watt bulb went off in my head: I recently saw that star anise is a key ingredient in Tamiflu."
-nsenada

"Be careful of the clearly-marked roast date on the beans sold at Crema—doesn 't appear there is a lot of turnover—and the dates vary WIDELY."
-rlh

"I made do with some things from Christina's, but when I went in the staff was kind of surly ... went back this morning and lo, they were surly again. I'm too old for surly."
-gimlis1mum

Sweet Treats for Tea-Lovers

Sweet Treats for Tea-Lovers

This week's mission: hard candies that don't suck. READ MORE

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

“The problem with any Milanese-style meat, whether it’s pork, veal, chicken or whatever is that you never get exactly the amount of breading you want.”
-lil mikey

“After the tour, we walked over to the covered patio for lunch which started with a tapas plate of cured meats, cheeses and olives.”

-pleasurepalate

“Thick, hand-made tortillas, super-fresh ingredients (open kitchen), spotless dining room, and a welcome alternative to a lot of the grubby/uncomfortable places farther east on Whittier Blvd.”
-cant talk…eating

Fried Shrimp Balls

The best fried shrimp in town, says Al Bondigas, is found at the Original Shrimp Place. There are other things on the menu, but what you want are the fried shrimp fritters, which are like “doughball soft tempura shrimp balls,” says Cinnabon. They’re a real treat, particularly with the nice homemade salsa with dried chiles and black pepper that comes on the side.

The place is in the downtown Foodcourt, mixed in with some other food stalls. The clientele can be a little rough around the edges, warns Al Bondigas.

Original Shrimp Place [Downtown]
327 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
213-687-8565

Board Link: The Original Shrimp Place- Best Fried Shrimp Around

Even Real Cooks Cheat Sometimes

Even Real Cooks Cheat Sometimes

This week's mission: frozen food with highfalutin notions. READ MORE