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

Upmarket Tacos at Cascabel

Not far from East Harlem and its hole-in-the-wall taquerias is a slightly upscale newcomer, Cascabel. thew has room in his rotation for both high and low.

At $7.50 a pair these tacos are pricier than the competition downmarket and uptown, but they’re also “a cut above in concept.” thew loves the carne asada (achiote hanger steak with oyster mushroom) and roasted shrimp (with chile oil, black beans, garlic, and oregano), among other fillings. Yellowtail (with olive, onion, and heart of palm) is tasty if a touch underseasoned, but you can crank it up with an array of fresh table salsas—tomatillo, roasted tomato, and a couple of hotter choices.

Beyond tacos, check out pork belly gorditas (with chipotle-honey glaze), quinoa and black beans with queso fresco, or a jalapeño-spiked salad of Bibb lettuce and fingerling potatoes called the Luchador (yes, they’ve got a Mexican wrestling thing going on here). Little Cupcake would pass on the smallish, round churros, which brought to mind Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins, but would go back for the upbeat vibe and the amazing hot chocolate.

Cascabel [Yorkville]
1542 Second Avenue (between E. 80th and 81st streets), Manhattan
212-717-7800

Board Link: Cascabel Taqueria–UES

A Saloon Turns Back the Clock

Hounds are settling comfortably into Henry Public, a brand-new/old-school watering hole in Cobble Hill. jmh loves the hamburger, made from grass-fed beef ground in-house. EJC (who prefers Waterfront Ale House for burgers) thinks snackish small plates—marrow bone, radishes with salted butter, house-made juniper pickles—are the way to go. There’s also been tantalizing talk of aebleskivers, the Danish pancakes that are an occasional hound obsession, known here as Wilkinsons.

But Henry Public, like its sister bar Brooklyn Social, sounds as if it’s less about food and more about drinks, including cocktails like the Eagle’s Dream (gin, lemon, egg white, sugar, crème de violette). The owners turned back the clock, transforming a former TV repair shop into a 19th-century saloon, and it works. “You would think it had always been a pub,” says jmh.

Henry Public [Cobble Hill]
329 Henry Street (between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street), Brooklyn
718-852-8630

Board Link: Henry Public

One Lemon Per Yob, Please

Here is a portrait of modern Britain in a tiny, terrifying gastronomic nutshell served up by the Telegraph:

“Chris Pether, 70, was told by his local Asda superstore in Aberdeen that health and safety rules prevented the sale of more than one loose lemon, orange or grapefruit. A supervisor explained the policy had been introduced to protect the public because local youths had been throwing the fruit at people.”

There you have it: Old men can no longer buy fruit because of a prevailing public opinion that fruit is most typically used as a missile hurled by thugs at passersby. It’s not exactly clear what dystopia this comes straight out of, but a number of British science-fiction writers are increasingly looking prophetic instead of merely grouchy.

The Lowly Côtes du Rhône

The Lowly Côtes du Rhône

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, watch your back. READ MORE

Overheard on the San Francisco Bay Area Boards

“The turnover is like the best croissant ever, buttery, flakey, and crunchy.”
-rworange

“Pizza doesn’t get any simpler but more satisfying than this.”
-TNT Adventures

“This place puts the Burmese restaurants in SF to shame.”
- outrig8

Perfect Porchetta

“Funny how just a few years ago we were whining on this board about our unmet cravings for porchetta. Now it’s everywhere,” comments Melanie Wong.

So where should a lover of Italian roasted pork start?

Robert Lauriston says one of the best he’s had locally is at Sea Salt. It doesn’t seem to be a regular menu item, though. Great roasted pork can also be found at Oliveto, Camino, and Corso, he says.

jillyju reports enjoying “a quick but transcendant dinner” at Il Cane Rosso in the San Francisco Ferry Building, where the porchetta dinner is a way better deal than the $9 sandwich.

“For only $12.95 I was given a generous pile of the meat, with lots of crispy pieces of skin scattered on top and a juicy quality that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced in a piece of pork. I don’t know that I have ever had such delicious pork, anywhere. It was incredibly well-seasoned, every bite was tender, and the skin was a decadent, crispy, fatty delight.” It comes with a small salad of microgreens in a lemony dressing and roasted Mariquita Farm potatoes with whole cloves of roasted garlic.

Several hounds recommend the porchetta at Napa’s Fatted Calf, and Robert Lauriston says, “I’ve had his roast pig at events, he’s a master.” But Melanie Wong disagrees: “I liked the flavor, but the piece of meat was quite dry and lean on the cut we tasted.” She also dings the tough skin, but thinks maybe a slice from a different part might’ve been better.

Melanie’s favorite is RoliRoti, the rotisserie truck that can be found at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (they also have a storefront, Rotisario, at the Oxbow Market in Napa).

“I love Kitchenette’s porchetta sandwich,” says carfeng.

Sea Salt [East Bay]
2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
510-883-1720

Oliveto [East Bay]
5655 College Avenue, Oakland
510-547-5356

Camino [East Bay]
3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland
510-547-5035

Corso [East Bay]
1788 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
510-704-8004

Il Cane Rosso [Embarcadero]
1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco
415-391-7599

Fatted Calf [Napa County]
644-C First Street, Napa
707-256-3684

RoliRoti [Embarcadero]
1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco
510-780-0300

Rotisario [Napa County]
610 First Street, Napa
510-780-0300

Kitchenette [Dogpatch/Potrero Hill]
958 Illinois Street, San Francisco
No phone available

Board Links: Where’s your fave porchetta?
Il Canne Rosso at the Ferry Building, SF

Ghosts of Piroshkis Past

At the Golden Orb in San Rafael, the family of a beloved piroshki maker is using her recipe to make delicious piroshki in five flavors: beef spiked with dill and chopped egg, Italian sausage with mushrooms and peppers, chicken pot pie, spinach Parmesan, and cabbage vermicelli, says Cynsa.

The piroshki progenitor is Caroline, of the now-closed Moosetta’s Russian Piroshki in Sonoma. (“Moosetta’s had the only piroshki that I considered even close to the quality of the long-closed House of Piroshki in SF,” says Mick Ruthven.) Caroline’s son, his daughter, and the daughter’s fiancé are collaborating on Golden Orb; it’s a real family business.

Golden Orb [Marin County]
811 Fourth Street, San Rafael
415-454-8692

Board Link: Piroshki at the Golden Orb in San Rafael?

Gilding a Gold Rush Classic

The Gold Rush–era dish hangtown fry is taken to another level at Serpentine, says SteveG. Perfectly browned diced pancetta, briny Hama Hama oysters, and tender scrambled eggs contribute to the intense, balanced flavors. The home fries stand up too: crisp on the outside and fluffy and delicate inside. Hangtown fry is on the weekend brunch menu.

Serpentine [Dogpatch]
2495 Third Street, San Francisco
415-252-2000

Board Link: Amazing Hangtown Fry at Serpentine, San Francisco

As Seen on TV!

As Seen on TV!

Roxanne Webber's Thanksgiving tips on timing out your dinner, what to do with the leftovers, and more. READ MORE

Why Can’t I Find My Favorite Wine?

Consumers tend to imagine wine being produced at a bucolic Napa vineyard by a guy in an apron, but that’s not necessarily so, says the Hungry Beast in “How Wine Became Like Fast Food.” Wine and spirits stores like Total Wine and BevMo! are making and marketing their own private-label wines now. “Such brands are highly lucrative,” writes Keith Wallace, “with profit margins often 20% higher than comparable wines.”

The trend isn’t limited to dedicated booze stores: “Trader Joe’s has its ‘Two Buck Chuck,’ Wal-Mart has its Alcott Ridge, and 7-Eleven has its Thousand Oaks Vineyards.” Retail chains love the private-label wines because Joe Glug-a-bottle starts to associate this wonderful grape beverage with the company that introduced him to it—and is tempted to stop by more often to get more.