The CHOW Blog rss

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

Potato Chips That Burn

Cheese Boy recently sampled some Cape Cod Jalapeño & Aged Cheddar potato chips and was very impressed. “The cheese and pepper flavors weren’t lacking like in some inferior brands,” says Cheese Boy, and the heat was certainly there too. “I had no complaints at all, except for the usual fact that most potato chip bags are filled half with air. Other than that, these were very good,” he says.

Board Link: “Jalapeño” and “Amen” for these potato chips

Order the Paprikash, Not the Dracula Burger

At Restaurant Transylvania, “the notion of being open when the customer is hungry takes second-fiddle to the notion of being open when the family wants to be open,” says lil mikey.

Even if you can find it open, the experience is a little awkward, says lil mikey. “First, I was the only customer in there. And when I arrived, they looked at me like I was the taxman…. First seemingly challenging my existence in their shop, then questioning me on what I want.” lil mikey was eventually shown a menu, but was told that nothing was available from it except the Dracula burger, chicken paprikash, and a sandwich.

And the big surprise at the end of this long, gloomy tunnel? The chicken paprikash is really excellent. It comes as a stew, ladled over fresh spätzle. “The spaetzle was tender and buttery, but it had a perfect firmness, and occasionally I’d get a crispy bite,” says lil mikey. The chicken is fresh and tender from hours of simmering; the sauce creamy, with a light flavor of paprika.

Restaurant Transylvania [Hollywood]
5615 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-466-2508

Board Link: Transylvania Restaurant–Hollywood

Your Carnitas Wonderland

Metro Balderas is a family operation with four locations in Los Angeles, each run by a different member of the family. exilekiss visited the Highland Park branch, run by Jasmine Guzman. Every Saturday and Sunday, Metro Balderas offers eight types of pork carnitas in the Distrito Federal style for a barrage of carnitas taco glory.

There’s buche carnitas—braised pork stomach—with a good, light chewiness and a bit of elasticity that gives way to a soft, braised quality. It’s the best buche taco exilekiss has had in LA.

The cuerito carnitas—braised pork skin—is satisfyingly salty and unctuous. Trompa carnitas—braised pig snout—is even juicier, showing off its four hours of braising time with “ultra juicy, fatty, sultry pieces of super tender pork goodness,” says exilekiss.

Costilla carnitas—braised pork ribs—is very fresh and lean. There’s a nice crunch from the cartilage, and a wonderful brightness and clarity to the flavor, says exilekiss. And then there’s nana carnitas—braised pork uterus. It is intense, thick, chewy, and amazingly earthy.

But the greatest thing here according to exilekiss is oreja carnitas, braised pig ear. It has just the right balance of fat and delicious cartilage crunchiness; it is “at once wonderfully porky, succulent and crunchy,” says exilekiss. It has the “moist, sexy fattiness” of pork belly or bacon, but it’s not quite so overwhelming.

Be aware: If you arrive late, you may find that all the carnitas has sold out.

Metro Balderas [Highland Park]
5305 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles
323-478-8383

Board Link: A Celebration of Succulent Pork–The 8 Types of Carnitas at Metro Balderas! [Review] w/ Pics

Perdue’s Secret ‘Cue

Perdue’s Q BBQ is a hidden gem, with pork spare ribs that are “dark, meaty, crusty, and delicious,” says Hershey Bomar. Rib tips are equally nice, but beef ribs not so much.

The ribs come with crunchy, garlicky Texas toast and the best red beans and rice Hershey Bomar has had in Los Angeles. The place is on the first floor of an unfortunate building seemingly designed to hide whatever’s in it.

Perdue’s Q BBQ [San Gabriel Valley]
456 E. Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena
626-229-0742

Board Link: Perdue’s BBQ is great — Pasadena

The “Fresh” Chicken That Traveled the World

Reporting from Sao Paulo and Great Britain, the Telegraph puts together a great story on a Pret a Manger “fresh” chicken sandwich. Why the reporting from Sao Paulo, you might reasonably wonder? The fresh chicken is, as it turns out, frozen chicken from Brazil.

Here’s the gemstone at the core of this story:

“Pret a Manger, the sandwich chain which boasts of using only ‘fresh, natural ingredients,’ rears its chickens in small farms around Marau, in the south east of Brazil, and then sends them to Perdigao for processing and freezing. The frozen, raw meat is then shipped thousands of miles across the Atlantic to be defrosted, cooked and put in sandwiches. Until Pret changed its website this week, consumers were not told of the food’s origins.”

Also to the story’s credit, it investigates working and farming conditions in Brazil, and reports that they’re not a horror show: Workers make a small but not appalling wage, often suffer from repetitive stress injuries, and work in cold, wet processing plants that lead to ill health … well, maybe it’s a bit of a horror show. The piece is a good read for anyone who ever considers believing anything told to him by a large food company, under just about any circumstances.

How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Clean Food author Terry Walters weighs in. READ MORE

For a Fall Feast, Matsutake Five Ways

For lovers of Japanese food, autumn means matsutake, the prized (and pricey) pine mushroom. Takesushi, whose simmered dishes and skewered bites have gotten hounds’ attention, is offering matsutake in five preparations in a kaiseki (traditional Japanese multicourse) meal, quite reasonably priced at $35, E Eto reports.

After a modest sashimi plate highlighted by tai (snapper), the matsutake arrived in a dobinmushi (soup brewed in a teapot), in chawan mushi (savory steamed custard), then grilled, in seasoned rice, and finally in a suimono (clear soup). A simple fruit dessert concludes the meal. It’s all “really enjoyable,” E Eto says, and a great bargain, too.

This fall feast isn’t on the regular menu but appears only on an insert in the Japanese menu, so you might have to ask for it. Ask soon; the matsutake season is short.

Takesushi [Midtown East]
1026 Second Avenue (between E. 54th and 55th streets), Manhattan
212-355-3557

Board Link: Takesushi, Midtown East

Three Reasons to Come to Williamsburg

C Elise was stopped in her tracks by the Car Bomb, a dessert at the newish Saltie in Williamsburg. It’s a scoop of salted caramel ice cream drowned in Guinness. “How perfect is that?” she muses. That same caramel ice cream might also turn up between two dark-chocolate cookies in a winning sweet/salty sandwich, says tabs.

Saltie, opened in September by Caroline Fidanza (Diner, Marlow & Sons) and two other Diner alumnae, also makes a few simple but out-of-the-ordinary sandwiches. Try the Captain’s Daughter: sardines, pickled egg, and salsa verde on focaccia.

Williamsburg seems to be quite the sweet spot these days. A few blocks from Saltie is Bakeri, opened this summer by the owners of Sweetwater. tabs singles out the lavender shortbread: “So delicate and wonderful.”

Saltie [Williamsburg]
378 Metropolitan Avenue (near Havemeyer Street), Brooklyn
718-387-4777

Bakeri [Williamsburg]
150 Wythe Avenue (at N. Eighth Street), Brooklyn
718-388-8037

Board Links: The Car Bomb will change your life
Bakeri–Extremely Charming and Tasty in Williamsburg

A Singapore Surprise at Noodletown

There’s a sleeper on the well-thumbed menus at Great New York Noodletown. The previously unsung Singapore-style chow fun happens to be the best in town, swears FrankieLymon. “The Cantonese artists in the kitchen produce a truly memorable rendition of this comfort food classic,” he says.

stuartlafonda is sold. He describes a delicious dish of rice noodles with a nice char from the wok, kicking curry heat, and a heap of shrimp, chicken, roasted pork, green pepper, scallions, and other stuff. “I have been going to GNYNT for twenty years,” stuart writes, “and as much as I love the roast meat (particularly the baby pig) and salt baked items, this dish was a revelation.”

Great New York Noodletown [Chinatown]
28 Bowery (at Bayard Street), Manhattan
212-349-0923

Board Link: The Finest Singapore Chow Fun in NYC

New Finds: Maple Bitters from Vermont

Vermont-based Urban Moonshine makes maple bitters using organic botanicals. Imbibe has a nice cocktail idea on its blog for using them, courtesy of John Gertsen of Drink in Boston. We think they’d be a delicious addition to our Log Cabin cocktail recipe: apple brandy, maple liqueur, sparkling apple cider, and lemon juice.

If you want to try your hand at making your own bitters, we also have easy recipes for grapefruit, saffron-cardamom, and cherry-vanilla, among others.

Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters, $10.99