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

Mayhem in the Kitchen

The New York City Wine & Food Festival went off last weekend, and the Hungry Beast took the opportunity to pry some hysterical stories of kitchen mishaps from the famous chefs at the party.

Ex-Top Chef-er Sam Talbot was in the midst of opening his Surf Lodge when the propane tanks ran out. He undertook a dangerous mission to borrow a tank from a friend of a friend: “we jumped in a 1967 Pinzgauer, which is a European, Humvee-like military vehicle, and sped over. Actually, we left one guy to make cold salads. Lots of cold salads. And the servers poured as much Champagne as they could. The nine of us loaded the propane tank into the back, and then lurched our way back to the restaurant across bumpy roads. Those things are highly explosive—it had to be the most dangerous thing I’d ever done.”

Matthew Weingarten of Inside Park at St. Bart’s had a tale from his younger days:

“When I was a young cook, Julia Child came in to eat at the restaurant that I was working at. She ordered roast chicken and I ended up cooking her nine roast chickens. The first was probably fine, but it wasn’t good enough to me, so I put it aside. The next three I burned, the second two were undercooked. So it ended being nine before one went out.”

Image source: Flickr member rubber bullets under Creative Commons

He Really Wanted Tacos

It’s well known that working in fast food is a thankless task. Between the hours, the pay, the sizzling-hot grease, and the often cranky attitudes of supervisors and customers alike, it’s not surprising that when the choice is between working at Burger King or an entry-level position with the Gangster Disciples, many opt for the latter.

But a pistol-packing would-be customer at a Taco Bell in Miami took “unpleasant workplace environment” to the next level last week. A local Fox affiliate reported:

“The gunman, who remains at large, ambushed several employees as they stepped out of the Taco Bell at 630 NE 79th St. at closing time, at about 3:30 a.m., Tuesday. He fired several shots, and Rebecca Bouie took a bullet to her leg, before he fled the scene. ... Bouie took the bullet, according to Miami Police, because some guy was upset the store had closed and he could not buy any food.”

Holy. Hell. We’re all sensitive to the importance of the Fourthmeal, but shooting a single mother who’s already working the graveyard shift at the Bell is absolutely beyond the pale.

Image source: Flickr member greenmelinda under Creative Commons

Eggcellence on a Toasted Baguette

Sometimes a really basic dish can be something special. Like the egg salad sandwich at Kefa Coffee, which is “delicious,” says Cheesy Oysters. It “has a mayo Dijon dressing and it’s served on a toasted baguette with romaine and three lovely strips of bacon.” It’s treated with care, too; when ordered to go, both halves of the sandwich are wrapped separately for neatness.

This place deserves more buzz than it gets on the board, agrees abstractpoet, who likes the inclusion of green olives in the egg salad sandwich, and also recommends the breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

Kefa Coffee [East Bay]
422 29th Avenue, Oakland
510-261-3400

Board Link: A lovely egg salad sandwich at Kefa Coffee

Down-Home Mexican Flavor, Organic Meats

Rocky free-range chicken? Check. Niman Ranch pork? Check. Homemade tortillas? Yeah, those too.

Taco Grill gets praise from hounds for its fresh, authentic, down-home Mexican cooking and superior ingredients. “It’s nice to be able to get good Mexican food without having to close one’s eyes to the quality of the meat,” comments lexdevil, who says the red pork posole is “super.”

Chicken posole “was the best I’ve ever had AND it was made with Rocky free-range chicken,” marvels fruti.

Among the tacos, chicken and carnitas are standouts; fruti also really enjoyed the chile relleno. Tacos are $5.95 for three, a reasonable price for the quality, says betterbeheaven.

Taco Grill [East Bay]
3340 E. 12th Street, Oakland
510-534-3752

Board Link: Rave for Taco Grill - E. Oakland

Northern Chinese in San Mateo

The newly opened Sun’s Chinese Cuisine in San Mateo has a Northern Chinese menu, and the highlights are the dumplings and noodles, says Chandavkl. The fish dumplings, a rare find in these parts, and shrimp and cucumber dumplings are both tasty. Chandavkl says the jia jiang (black bean sauce) noodles were “very good, the noodles having a firm, crinkly chewiness that you usually don’t see for this dish.” The tofu and fish hotpot and cold appetizer of cold cucumber both bode well for future meals here. Sitka loves the orange beef and pork with garlic sauce.

Speaking of fish dumplings, Sun Tung and Everyday Beijing make excellent ones, says JoyM. Sun Tung also has fantastic pork and dill dumplings, JoyM says, although K K thinks the pork and cabbage ones are overly seasoned. Everyday Beijing’s fish dumplings are made with rock cod and chives, K K says.

Also recommended for fish dumplings: Cafe Yulong, Noodle Shop,
China Stix, and Hi Chiang Dumpling House (a.k.a. HC Dumpling).

Sun’s Chinese Cuisine [Peninsula]
251 S. B Street, San Mateo
650-558-0069

Sun Tung [Peninsula]
153 S. B Street, San Mateo
650-342-5330

Everyday Beijing [Peninsula]
637 S. B Street, San Mateo
650-373-7878

Cafe Yulong [Peninsula]
743 W. Dana Street, Mountain View
650-960-1677

Noodle Shop [Peninsula]
164 W. 25th Avenue, San Mateo
650-345-1277

China Stix [South Bay]
2110 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
408-244-1684

Hi Chiang Dumpling House [South Bay]
10877 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino
408-873-8328

Board Link: Fish Dumplings At Sun Chinese Restaurant in San Mateo

How Do You Like Your Khao Soi?

People often come back from visiting northern Thailand with a yen for the creamy, curried noodle soup dish khao soi. It turns out that Laos has its own distinct version of khao soi, although both versions are derived from Burmese cuisine.

Vientian Cafe does a spectacular rendition of Laotian khao soi, says cagliostro: “The broth is built around fermented soy bean paste, with finely ground pork, shallots, chili paste, cilantro, bean sprouts, and wide rice noodles.” Make sure to top it with crispy pork rinds, adds yummyrice.

For the Thai version, Chai Thai Noodles offers the most authentic version, cagliostro says.

Vientian Cafe [East Bay]
3801 Allendale Avenue, Oakland
510-535-2218

Chai Thai Noodles [East Bay]
545-B International Boulevard, Oakland
510-832-2500

Board Link: Thai Khao soy in the bay area?

Bike of the Year 2009

Wired has an absorbing item about the instantly legendary Hopworksfiets bike:

“The Hopworksfiets party bike was built in, where else, bike- and beer-mad Portland, Oregon, by the bike builders Metrofiets. All you really need to know in order to fall in love with this bike is that it carries not one, but two beer kegs along with a pair of taps to serve the suds.”

While the bike-and-beer oriented PedalPub of Minneapolis has a great deal of charm, the amp and a speaker attachment on the Hopworksfiets bike gives it a distinctive edge in a throwdown. And the rack configured to carry a stack of pizza boxes is all the Portland bike needs to win the contest.

Image source: Flickr member Elly Blue under Creative Commons

Coconut Milk Adds a Tropical Twist

Coconut milk is wonderful combined with many foods both savory and sweet.

“I use it for baking all the time,” says vorpal. “It makes a great substitute for milk, or mix it up and use 50 percent milk, 50 percent coconut milk. I’ve tried it in waffles, pancakes, muffins, and banana bread (YUM) with excellent results.” He also adds it to the custard base for ice cream.

4Snisl makes coconut-chocolate panna cotta by whisking sugar and cocoa powder into heated coconut milk to taste, along with a dash of salt and some vanilla, then adding 2 teaspoons of powdered gelatin per cup of coconut milk, bloomed in a bit of cold coconut milk, and chilling until set. cimui agrees that the richness of coconut milk works well for panna cotta.

bear loves this coconut milk sticky rice with mangoes, while LauraGrace replaces half the water for cooking jasmine rice with coconut milk for a savory side dish. She likes it with Caribbean-style black beans, Thai-style curries, lechon, or kalua pork.

Emmmily tosses chunks of butternut squash with coconut milk, salt, and pepper, and roasts at 375°F for an hour. Coconut milk is also great in smoothies and cocktails, and stirred into oatmeal, say hounds.

Coconut milk adds a twist to a classic dish in CHOW’s Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Board Link: what do do with leftover coconut milk

Garlic Bread for Perfectionists

Making garlic bread can be as simple as mixing garlic with softened butter, spreading it on bread and broiling, but hounds have developed their own special techniques for this treat.

chowser sautés chopped garlic in olive oil, adds butter until it melts, and brushes this mixture on a horizontally sliced loaf of French bread. She then covers the whole thing with aluminum foil and bakes until hot, then uncovers, adds Parmesan, and broils. Butterguy mixes crushed garlic, Italian dressing, shredded Parmesan, and clarified butter, and spreads it on bread before heating.

Some hounds add secret ingredients for extra flavor. shanagain sautés garlic in a mixture of butter and olive oil, before adding a bit of anchovy paste and some crushed red pepper flakes, and cooking it all a bit longer. sparkareno mixes a bit of mayo with softened butter, roasted garlic, Parmesan, and oregano or basil. “I like the little bit of tang the mayo gives,” he says.

Board Link: Garlic Bread recipes?

What to Do with All Those Apples

“Oh, please make Scandinavian sour cream apple pie,” implores kookiegoddess. “I made it last week and am still upset that I gave away the last two pieces. It tastes divine and needs no accompaniment except a big ole spoon.”

NYchowcook loves this apple cake. “It’s very moist,” she says. “There’s a caramel sauce that goes with it, which I think is gilding the lily. I make in a Bundt pan and just sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on top and call it done.”

newfoodie loves Ina Garten’s old-fashioned apple crisp. And if you like your apples in the presence of maple flavor, check out CHOW’s Spiced Apple Cupcakes.

Board Link: went apple picking, now need a way to use them up