The CHOW Blog rss

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

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Brent's Deli - I don't know why their chili is so good, but it really is. Great in an omelette, on a chili dog and their chili size is amazing as well." - TimToyGreek

"This year, by the barest of margins, pastrami trumped lobster and Macarthur Park trumped Melrose." - maxzook

"A Mexican seafood restaurant that has broasted chicken, presumably with mashed potatoes and gravy? What do you get for an appetizer ... octopus cocktail?" - Harry Nile

Los Angeles 2009 Top 10 Roundup

1. Rare Discovery: Laotian Food!
2. The Secret Korean Dining Room of the Channel Islands
3. The Glories of Feijoada
4. The Great Gelato Tour
5. Spectacular Barbacoa at the Boyle Heights Street Fair
6. A New Barbecue Champion
7. Tierra Miguel's Vegetable Box of Lovin'
8. Irresistible Snack Cakes
9. Pork Rib Heaven
10. Cold Korean Noodle Soup

New York 2009 Top 10 Roundup

1. Northern Lights in Chinese Flushing
2. The Brunch-Lover's Bible
3. Fresh Indian, South to North, in Queens
4. Back Home in Harlem, Chicken Without Peer
5. In Forest Hills, a Lebanese Sleeper
6. Tamale Treasures Unearthed in Queens
7. Traditional, Creative Japanese at Katsuno
8. A Bread Master Takes On Pizza
9. Nepali Explorations in Jackson Heights
10. Bread and More in Italian Williamsburg

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Looking for cakes that are decadently rich not light and fluffy, not over spiced or over sugared, ... does not feature some kind of unique or inventive ingredient, so no bacon, no candied grasshoppers, and definitely no methycellulouse starfruit meringue with star anise longan fluid gel sphered center." - donnywarchild

"The broth tasted like salt and oil and sugar and that's about it. It's possible someone waved some star anise over the pot a few times, without letting it get too close." - small h

"I don't even like weakfish cooked but it was fantastic prepared by Yasuda. We both joked how some people call it sea trout but it is not trout, haha. ... [N]ext came a needlefish from japan. i watched him skin the needlefish and was happy when he gave me the skin freshly out of the deep fryer as a treat. Needlefish cracklin!" - Yaxpac

Authentic food, Intimate Space

Kappou Gomi is the kind of place you might find traveling around Japan, says CarrieWas218: "authentic, intimate, and unlike anything else we have here in the Bay Area."

No sushi, no combination plates; it's small plates, but not a pub-like izakaya. Instead, it's a cute little restaurant with attentive servers.

The menu is arranged by ingredient, with several options for how it can be prepared. "For example, gindara (black cod) has eight preparations: sakamushi (steamed with sake), oroshi-ni (simmered with grated daikon), teriyaki, yuan-grilled (soy sauce and sake marinade), sakekasu-grilled (sake lees marinade), butter grilled, and panko-fried."

Although it's not a sushi restaurant, raw fish can be found; toro sashimi with fresh wasabi is exceptional. Butter-grilled scallops are large and tender, intensely rich with a simple dressing of brown butter. And grilled oyster with egg yolk is carefully encased in an omelet that holds in the oyster liquor; the rich egg flavor is enhanced by a topping of toasted pine nuts and a sliced crisp lotus root.

Many of the dishes showcase a variety of textures as well as tastes, edging right up into gelatinousness, which the Japanese positively revel in. If goo isn't a turnoff, by all means get the uni with crab, agar agar, sliced chestnuts, shredded vegetables, and extra goo just for the hell of it. And sticky, vinegared wakame topped with a raw quail egg is "a mouthful of viscous goodness," Carrie says.

Some lovely Japanese sweets finish off the meal, including a couple of red-bean treats and a chilled gelatin with large golden raisins, orange peel, and a surprising hint of celery.

Kappou Gomi [Richmond District]
5524 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
415-221-5353

Discuss: Kappou Gomi

Excellent Chinese Off the Beaten Path

Though it's no secret in the Cantonese community for quality and value, Yum's Bistro is under the radar for most other folks, says K K. Chef Bosum Yum has an impressive resume, with serious crustacean skills: A crab or lobster dish is a must.

"The deep-fried salt & pepper crab is excellent," says foodlover, "close to the gold standard of R & G Lounge in San Francisco."

Salted egg yolk crab has a perfect, lightly salted thin layer of batter that sank into the shell, making the outside a savory contrast with the sweet crab meat within, K K says. Other highlights are "under the bridge" spicy crab, a Hong Kong classic, stir-fried with a ton of garlic flakes, red chiles, and possibly a hint of black bean sauce; it's less spicy than the menu advertises. Similarly, Jakarta-style crab is listed as spicy but had a mild curry flavor. And there's a tasty steamed pork hash with salted fish that's quite light and fluffy.

On the meatier side, hhc liked the flavorful dry braised string beans w/ spicy meat sauce (pork). And word is that Chef Yum makes a killer Hong Kong-style curry beef brisket clay pot. Advance ordering is required, as this is a slow-cooked dish, K K adds.

Yum's Bistro [East Bay]
4906 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
510-745-8866

Discuss: Excellent off the beaten path affordable Cantonese at Yum's Bistro in Fremont

On Basque Night, It’s All In the Family

"This is my restaurant find of my life. I doubt I will ever equal it," says rworange at the end of a review of Vineyards Inn, an "unknown, unsung place, oozing charm where the food is top-notch, plentiful, inexpensive and served by a warm, welcoming staff."

The second Thursday of each month brings a six-course Basque dinner, served family-style with unlimited wine for $40.

The menu draws from Chef Steve's family recipes, and the deceptively simple descriptions don't do justice to their deliciousness. The ingredients are all organic and many of them are grown by the restaurant. "Steve talked about each dish as someone who really enjoyed the whole process from growing the produce, selecting top-notch vendors and cooking the meals," rworange says.

Garlicky chard with chopped egg whites. Roasted chicken with rich jus. Tender lamb shanks with greaseless French fries that had roasted-potato flavor. Basque chicken soup with chicken from the farm, elevated by some just-picked rosemary. "I love simple, rustic food that relies on top-notch flavorful ingredients. This meal was one of the best examples of that," rworange says.

The chef's mother-in-law contributed a buttery pound cake drizzled with chocolate sauce, served with a rich, deep coffee from Tom and Dave's, a San Rafael roaster.

While not high-profile, these dinners are really popular and booked months in advance. Parties of 12 or more can book their own Basque dinners at other times. But the communal dinners are great fun and very welcoming.

Vineyards Inn [Sonoma County]
8445 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood
707-833-4500

Discuss: Kenwood: Vineyards Inn All-Organic Basque dinner – One of the ten best meals of my life … good for the planet, palate and soul

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"The food is still among the best we've had on Bernal, and we both appreciated the mellow vibe." - Absonot

"Last night we tried the arancini (very flavorful), the burrata (crazy good and melted in your mouth), the salumi (amazing - housemade boar was the best) and octopus (very tender and had some great pancetta with it)." - teejaymoore

"I think at least half a pound of meat was piled on two griddled tortillas and it was delicious!" - Kmanlove

Nagging Unsanitary Cooks

Nagging Unsanitary Cooks

How to handle hygiene issues in the kitchen. READ MORE

Food for Getting Warm and Cozy

What do you eat or drink to get the most enjoyment out of cold, stormy weather? Some foods seem to maximize coziness, like brooklynkoshereater's favorite "thick beef stew or mushroom barley soup—a big pot, simmering on the stove for hours." dagwood likes "homemade eggnog with bourbon, and lots of freshly ground nutmeg and whipped cream." Comfort foods from childhood are especially welcome during a dark, cold blizzard. KayceeK has some favorites from this category: "Grilled cheese sandwiches. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. Oatmeal with cream and brown sugar. Pita bread stuffed with banana, peanut butter, and honey and baked in the oven."

"I make stock on snowy days," says shaogo. "Oxtail stock makes the house smell good all day. Then I make 'French Onion Soup' with plenty of cheese (yeah, I know, 'French Onion Soup' is a cheesy, old-fashioned idea but we love it!)." Indeed, warm and cozy nights are no time to be a food snob. This is the time for macaroni and cheese, creamed chipped beef on toast, and fudge. amanda3571 wants "Fondue! From a box! Yeah I said it ..."

Snow can also be a great excuse for time-consuming cooking. "When snowbound, I like to bake things like sticky buns—the kinds of baking that requires three rises to be good," says dct. Or get out your tiny marrow spoons and make osso buco with a gremolata like DallasDude. aces551 likes anything in a crock pot. "I like to fill the house with cooking smells all day long. It's so welcoming and comforting to do so. You can do a hearty beef stew, a chili, any stew or soup, and top it off with a crunchy crusted roll or french bread."

Cold weather food is all about the emotional context. soupkitten most wants "a baked potato or hand-pie slipped into a coat pocket, a mug of split peas and just-baked bread after shoveling," and "buttered popcorn and roast tree nuts, hearth and fire."

Discuss: Favorite Snow-bound foods?
favorite cozy snowstorm food