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

Festival de Fluff

If you’ve ever wondered what’s wrong with the greater Boston metro area—and plenty of us have—consider that the suburban community of Somerville has a festival dedicated to Marshmallow Fluff, the sweet white goop that has somehow become a symbol of regional pride. Fluff is a Massachusetts staple and the source of not a little bit of controversy after Fluffernutter sandwiches on school menus led to a subsequent fight to either limit the amount of Fluff that could be served or celebrate the Fluffernutter as the official state sandwich.

Image source: Flickr member atomicjeep under Creative Commons

Taiwanese Revival in Flushing

Temple Snacks has been a wandering ministry for devotees of Taiwanese street food, starting a few years back at the Flushing Mall food court. Last year it decamped for a new place a couple of blocks east, a Chowhound favorite that was sadly short-lived.

Now it’s back where it started. Among other things, it makes superior versions of the thick, comforting soups beloved in Taiwan, including one with pork intestine that FattyDumplin considers the best in Flushing—which would most likely make it the best in New York. Overall, he adds, the food is “very simple but yummy,” including a fine Taiwanese-style sausage. Past reports praise Temple Snacks’ gua bao, a snackish sandwich of stewed pork belly and pickled vegetables in a steamed bun, commonly called a Taiwanese burger.

That’s not to be confused with the delicious cumin-scented lamb burger from Xian Famous Foods at Golden Mall on Main Street. These days you can also get one at Flushing Mall, at the newish Xian Famous Foods outpost one stall over from Temple Snacks. Try the lamb noodles, FattyDumplin suggests.

A block away, Jim Leff has struck gold at Golden Szechuan. Beef shank with garlic is supertender stewed meat in succulent brown sauce, a brilliant union of Sichuan, Shanghai, and even old-school Jewish cooking, with an “ultra-slow building burn that was so unexpected and so wonderful.” Fish in hot bean paste sauce is spicy and sublimely cooked, and tea-smoked pork boasts perfect, elegant smokiness. All three dishes are “worth a trip from anywhere,” Jim says. He does fault a lack of numbing/spicy Sichuan peppercorn in his initial order, an omission he ascribes to “gringo displeasure concerns” on the part of the staff. But they came around after he complained. Chalk it up to miscommunication.

No such communication problems these days at M&T, a recent hound discovery that offers dishes from Qingdao in Shandong Province, north of Shanghai. The real-deal specialties, once listed only in Chinese, have now been translated into English, scoopG reports. Some recent hits: pork belly stewed in kelp; fried prawns with dried chile and Sichuan peppercorn; sea worms (a critter something like sea cucumber) stir-fried with Chinese chives; salt-and-pepper Bombay duck (dried lizardfish), rehydrated, battered, fried, and served with basil; and, for dessert, fried pumpkin fritters, crisp, light, and not too sweet. Polecat sums it up: This is “simple food with some subtle and unique flavors. Highly recommended.”

Temple Snacks [Flushing]
In the Flushing Mall food court
133-31 39th Avenue (between College Point Boulevard and Prince Street), Flushing, Queens

Xian Famous Foods [Flushing]
In the Flushing Mall food court
133-31 39th Avenue (between College Point Boulevard and Prince Street), Flushing, Queens
No phone available

Golden Szechuan [Flushing]
133-47 Roosevelt Avenue (between Prince Street and College Point Boulevard), Flushing, Queens

M&T Restaurant [Flushing]
44-09 Kissena Boulevard (between Cherry and 45th avenues), Flushing, Queens

Board Links: Flushing Mall Update
Golden Sichuan in Flushing
New in Flushing: M&T Restaurant–A Taste of Qingdao

Sweetness on a Stick in the Garment District

What they call “sugar doughnuts” at Fuji Bakery, a Midtown breakfast and lunch joint with a Chinese steam table, are really balls of dough on a stick, four of them, lightly fried and covered in sugar. They’re “incredibly delicious,” swears iluvcookies, and “they get the outside right.”

Fuji Bakery [Garment District]
224 W. 35th Street (between Seventh and Eighth avenues), Manhattan

Board Link: Nice Old-School Bakery Jelly Doughnuts

Street-Smart Tamales in Mott Haven

Of the two cart vendors on bigjeff’s go-to block for tamales in the Bronx, pick the mom-and-son team to the west. The tamales oaxaqueños are the best: chicken in red sauce or mole, or pork in spicy green sauce, all steamed in banana leaf—$2 for “a monster,” jeff promises.

Also on offer: sweet tamales with raisin and cinnamon, and terrific non-Oaxacan tamales with a variety of fillings, including a nice spicy cheese one. The cart is there on the weekends and maybe other days, too.

Tamale vendor [Bronx]
E. 138th Street (between Willis and Third avenues), Bronx
No phone available

Board Link: McCarren Park Quimbolitos

Dancing to Protest Whole Foods’ John Mackey

More proof that political protests are always best expressed through dance and song:

This tuneful Saturday evening protest at an Oakland, California, Whole Foods was intended to smite Whole Foods CEO John Mackey for his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed opposing healthcare reform. Some are calling for a boycott of Whole Foods in retaliation.

The Case Against Farmed Shrimp

Eaten shrimp recently? Planning on eating it soon? Ever hope to eat it again? Then you may want to avoid the antishrimp stemwinder on La Vida Locavore. After a lengthy windup, the blog presents a list of “nasty stuff that goes into [farmed] shrimp,” which includes:

Diesel oil
Piscicides (Chlorine, Rotenone)
More Piscicides
Antibiotics (including Chloramphenicol and Nitrofurans)
Antibiotic resistant bacteria
Sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP)
Caustic soda”

Delightful. And if it’s even 50 percent true, it’s a good case for seeking out wild-caught shrimp … or skipping the crustaceans entirely.

Can You Get Mad Cow Disease from Eating Bone Marrow?

Can You Get Mad Cow Disease from Eating Bone Marrow?

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Italian Hops, Not Grapes

Italian Hops, Not Grapes

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Uni, Rich in Possibilities

There’s more than one way to eat uni, those delicious, golden sea urchin gonads. CarrieWas218 has on her to-try list: uni and avocado on toast at Bar Crudo; uni with lemon beurre blanc and crab at Anchor & Hope; uni pasta at Tanuki; and “spoonfuls of happiness” at Koo sushi restaurant.

La Ciccia was once a go-to for great uni pasta specials, but twocents was told on a recent visit that it has discontinued its high-content uni dishes. “On that visit we had a tomato-uni pasta which was very good too, but less profoundly uni-tasting.”

Spaghetti with sea urchin at Two gets votes from david kaplan and mariacarmen. “If Ame offers their chawan-mushi with uni (savory steamed egg custard), get it,” advises sairuh. And if you want to keep it straight-up simple and as fresh as can be, Live Sushi Bar regularly offers, no surprise, live uni from the shell.

But for the ultimate experience go to the French Laundry and ask for the uni to be laid on. “Our last time there we had four in one meal,” says lizziee, including ensui uni from Japan with almond panna cotta, diced apple, black truffle, and gold leaf; Mendocino uni with green apple granita; uni with uni emulsion and potato gnocchi with Australian black truffle; and the star of the evening, hen egg omelet with Santa Barbara uni, red ribbon sorrel, white sturgeon caviar, and crème fraîche.

Bar Crudo [Western Addition]
655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco

Anchor & Hope [SOMA]
83 Minna Street, San Francisco

Tanuki [Richmond District]
4419 California Street, San Francisco

Koo [Inner Sunset]
408 Irving Street, San Francisco

La Ciccia [Noe Valley]
291 30th Street, San Francisco

Two [SOMA]
22 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco

Ame [SOMA]
689 Mission Street, San Francisco

Live Sushi Bar [Potrero]
2001 17th Street, San Francisco

The French Laundry [Napa Valley]
6640 Washington Street, Yountville

Board Link: Kick-Butt Uni Dishes

Untraditional Chinese Moon Cakes

The Chinese moon festival falls in early October this year, and some places are offering interesting variations on the bean-paste-stuffed moon cake.

The Marina Food supermarkets have interesting cakes imported from Hong Kong, says K K, in “wacky flavors like green tea, fruity flavors and something REALLY HK … Yeung Chi Gum Loe … which is a mango based dessert with pomelo skin, sago, evaporated milk, and coconut juice.”

Eastern Bakery is yimster’s source for winter melon–filled moon cakes and something like Chinese fruitcake, studded with nuts and fruit.

And Koi Palace is advertising a style that’s definitely newfangled, says vulber: chocolate moon cakes.

Marina Food [Peninsula]
2992 S. Norfolk Street, San Mateo

Marina Food [South Bay]
10122 Bandley Drive, Cupertino

Marina Food [East Bay]
1791 Decoto Road, Union City

Eastern Bakery [Chinatown]
720 Grant Avenue, San Francisco

Koi Palace Restaurant [Peninsula]
365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City

Board Link: Chocolate moon cakes?