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

Butter = Death?

Add this to the "Nanny State Mentality" file: A prominent British heart surgeon has publicly called for a ban on butter in order to "save thousands of lives."

The Daily Mail reports on the proposal, and the thankfully rapid response from a local voice of reason:

"A spokesman for Jamie Oliver, who has championed improved nutrition in schools, said: 'He is completely against a ban on butter. He uses butter in his recipes, for example for roasting potatoes in his Christmas programme.'"

Oliver's point: Everything in moderation. Also: Dairy products are good for you. But, uh, see point #1.

Creamy, Thick, Icelandic Yogurt

Siggi's, which has been making an Icelandic-style yogurt called skyr for a few years, is starting to appear at more markets thanks to an increase in distribution. The yogurt is similar to a Greek style like Fage: thick, strained, very creamy, and mildly tangy, despite being nonfat.

Siggi's makes its yogurt with hormone-free milk from grass-fed cows and barely sweetens it using agave nectar. It packs 16 grams of protein into each 6-ounce container. It's available in plain, pomegranate–passion fruit, blueberry, orange and ginger, grapefruit, açaí, and vanilla.

Siggi's skyr, about $3, check website for stores where it's available

A Regional Truck from Morelos, Mexico

The Tacos Cuernavaca truck may look like another one of the ultratrendy prettified trucks for a high-end market, but it's completely and totally legit, insists streetgourmetla. This truck serves up regional food from the Mexican state of Morelos.

They've got 16 tacos, including cecina (cured beef), a specialty of Morelos. The chorizo is another sure bet, says streetgourmetla: "reddish-orange, the color of deliciousness." There are six types of tortas, sincronizadas (ham and cheese in a tortilla), gringas (meat and cheese quesadilla), and mulitas, which is sort of like a taco sandwich.

There's salsa verde, cooked on-site and always fresh. "I watched as one of the taqueros manned a pot, boiling tomatillos, onions, and whole chiles that were then splashed in a blender," says streetgourmetla. The pickled vegetables and chiles are "Bugs Bunny garden huge, reminding you of the virtues of a thoughtful condiment selection. Natural flavors of the home kitchen brought to the pavement."

But the most important thing here is the picadita, a rare Mexican snack in Los Angeles. It's a huarache, a sandal-shaped hunk of masa, topped minimally with beans, salsa, crema, and Cotija cheese. It is reason enough to drive out to this truck, says streetgourmetla.

The truck shows up evenings at Whittier Boulevard near Eastmont. Look for the brightly colored truck with a cute cartoon torta as a mascot. It looks kind of like an urban assault vehicle.

Tacos Cuernavaca [East LA]
Whittier Boulevard at Eastmont, East Los Angeles
No phone available

Discuss: Tacos Cuernavaca, not Just Another Pretty Face

Nino’s Place for Peruvian

Nino's Place deserves some serious love for its excellent Peruvian food, which is a whole lot cheaper than at a lot of the other Peruvian joints around here. The folks are friendly, and the food is utterly delicious, says velozo155.

The suprema de pollo is tastily breaded chicken served with rice simmered in flavored broth. Another chickeny favorite, arroz con pollo, is very flavorful, with an herby spiciness. DiveFan is especially a sucker for the tallarines verdes, the famous Peruvian green spaghetti.

The menu is mostly Peruvian items, with a little Mexican thrown in. velozo155 hears that the Mexican stuff is good, too. Most specials and dinners run around $7. The place may look a little seedy, but it's awesome on the inside. "Good chow and better value is often found in humble looking joints," says DiveFan. "Corporate joints put much more $$$ into appearance + advertising than the food deserves." By the way: Nino's last health inspection score was a 91.

Nino's Place [South Bay]
16104 S. Vermont Avenue, 
Gardena
310-354-5925

Discuss: Nino's Place in Gardena (Comida Peruano y Mexicano)

A Tale of Three Megabargains

For all you aspiring actors, struggling writers, and impoverished graduate students (including your LA editor, Thi N.), now's the time to try out LA's high end. A bunch of the big-name places are offering special bargains.

First up: Mistral is doing a prix fixe dinner on Sunday nights. It's $34 a person, plus tax and tip. It's "been spectacular the three times my wife and I have gone... an outstanding dinner at an outstanding restaurant," says Hughlipton.

Campanile is now offering its Soup Kitchen menu on Wednesday nights to all, not just to Writers Guild members. It's $22 for soup, a choice of three entrees, and dessert. Wolfgang had heirloom carrot soup with cumin crème fraîche, flat iron steak with fries, and homemade vanilla ice cream. "It was a great meal in a great space for a really great price," says Wolfgang, who adds that the steak was perfectly cooked on the wood-fired grill, and perfectly seasoned too.

And Mori, sushi joint extraordinaire, now has a weekday bento box lunch priced between $12 and $23.

Mistral [San Fernando Valley - East]
13422 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
818-981-6650

Campanile [Mid-City]
624 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
323-938-1447

Mori [Westside - Inland]
11500 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles
310-479-3939

Discuss: Mistral Bargain
Campanile Soup Kitchen Menu
FYI - Mori (of all places!) has a bargain of a lunch. The Bento Box.

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Joey's is on the bad side of terrible. The baby back ribs are not even smoked, much less trimmed of fat and gristle. The sauce is mostly high fructose corn syrup." - aizan, dissing Joey's Smokin' BBQ

"Terrific old style Italian American food from childhood. Yummy garlic bread just like I remembered, homey meatballs (very dense with meat, not a lot of breadcumbs going on)."
- noshie, on Boccali's

"Surprised to see that she is still around after 5 years selling just homemade brittle, but there you have it. The dark chocolate-covered stuff is PRIMO!" - jackattack on Pauline's Pecan Brittle

All Your Taco Death News in One Place

Business Wire salutes Taco Bell founder Glen Bell, who passed away last weekend at the age of 86. In addition to bringing the world the 7-Layer Burrito, the Volcano Taco, and countless bouts with post-bean digestion issues, Bell was "a fervent supporter of 4-H" and built Bell Gardens, a 115-acre model produce farm that he opened to the public. (Sadly, Bell Gardens appears to be defunct.)

Also: Without Bell, we wouldn't get to enjoy this video footage of a dog eating a Taco Bell bean burrito in less than a second. [Via Gawker]

And, as part of today's Deadly Taco Twofer, the story of a woman who stabbed her husband to death in part because of a fight spurred by her dumping soda on his tacos.

Download CHOW Wallpaper: Beer

This week's downloadable wallpaper is an up close and personal photo of one of our favorite hometown beers, Anchor Steam. Chris (our photographer) shot many different beers, but said Anchor had the nicest bubbles by far. "I shot this using the MP-5 Canon Macro lens," he says, "and that allowed me to get as close as I wanted, almost bordering on abstraction."

Below are multiple-size downloads based on your monitor resolution:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1680 x 1050 | 1920 x 1200

Vegan Cassoulet

I love this Emile Henry cassoulet pot from Sur La Table, pictured at right in the "Fig" color. Cassoulet, a French dish of braised white beans, is usually loaded with duck confit and/or sausage. But when I had a great vegan version in a San Francisco restaurant, I decided to re-create it at home. How hard could it be? I put together the version below, which turned out great. The breadcrumbs are of massive importance, kind of what makes the dish, and making your own fresh ones is the way to go.

Vegan Cassoulet
Mirepoix: 2 leeks, 1 celery rib, 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
Olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
3 cups cooked white or whitish beans (I used green flageolet, cooked them myself in the trimmings from the mirepoix, and used the bean broth for the vegetable broth)
1 can diced tomatoes (the normal-sized can, not the big one)
Vegetable broth (make your own from boiling water with the vegetable trimmings, a bay leaf, and salt)
Some white bread that is stale or toasted, made into crumbs, then sautéed in some olive oil with salt and pepper
Parsley (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In an oven-safe braising dish or pot, sauté the mirepoix in olive oil on the stovetop until soft.

3. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, stir, then add the beans, tomatoes, and 2 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer.

4. Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes without a lid.

5. Remove from the oven and top with breadcrumbs. Increase the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and return the pot to the oven to brown the breadcrumbs, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired.

Not Your Average Hydroponic Garden

Window Farms is a group that's developing and cultivating a DIY system of edible hydroponic gardens which use recycled materials and are built with urban window spaces in mind. Created by New York artists Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray, it's not so much a product, but an ongoing collaborative experiment. People can go to their site and get all the information they need to build their own window farm, interact with other builders, and share what's worked and what needs improvement. So far, there are nearly 1,300 people registered. Window farms are mostly being built by New Yorkers, and the group has had installations at both the Whitney and Eyebeam, but they're also gaining traction in other areas, and have even been installed in art galleries in Hong Kong and Helsinki.

And though the art community has embraced it (no surprise there, as they do look cool), the underlying idea is really about creating a hyper-local supply of food. Maya Nayak of Window Farms says the things that grow best are bok choy, lettuce, and herbs like basil, chives, and thyme. Root vegetables won't really work, but she said that people have successfully grown heirloom tomatoes and even squash.

Kits are in the works for non-DIYers, but to get the full experience it seems like building it yourself is what it's all about. I'm rallying the CHOW staff to see if we can't install one in our test kitchen.

Check out Cool Hunting's recent video on the group: