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Saigon Cafe in Stamford

Saigon Cafe is closed, replaced by "The First Kitchen." Similar menu, so I hoped it was just the same folks, new name. Unfortunately, although I got very good banh mi at Saigon Cafe, this place is passing off very mediocre attempts. I've tried it twice, but no improvement.

Specifically, the bread is terrible -- generic squishy bread that kinda looks like a baguette but has no crust or texture. The sauce is absent, and I even saw some mayonaise! Also, gone are the great and essential pickled vegetables, replaced by some sad carrot shavings. All that's left is a sort of pretend-banh mi good enough for people who don't know what one is and aren't terribly picky.

So, so sorry to have lost our Stamford banh mi place!!

Dec 06, 2013
pixellle in Southern New England

Only two days in SF for the first time! How to choose???

Well, it's really a matter of finances. We can't afford the luxury, high-end places for every dinner. Plus the first night we'll be tired from the trip. (That wouldn't matter to me, actually, but I have to be mindful of my husband, who has less stamina for food than I do.) I am looking for casual, less expensive but still fanatastic places for that first night. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Jul 15, 2013
pixellle in San Francisco Bay Area

Only two days in SF for the first time! How to choose???

We land at 10:45 and see Berkeley in the afternoon. The next day is Saturday and we'll sight-see and dine at AQ. Then the next day we leave at 3 pm for Porland, OR to see Reed. I'll be looking for dining options there, too, but that's a discussion for another board... :)

Jul 15, 2013
pixellle in San Francisco Bay Area

Only two days in SF for the first time! How to choose???

OK, I decided that AQ will be our special meal. I've made a rez and requested the "chef's counter" or "chef's table" area. Thank you so much, all who responded!

Now I'm looking for a more casual, inexpensive but fantastic place for our first night, close to the hotel. We're staying at the Westin on Third Street; I guess it would be considered the Financial district. Any advice here? Again, thanks in advance!

Jul 15, 2013
pixellle in San Francisco Bay Area

Only two days in SF for the first time! How to choose???

We're from Connecticut, going to San Francisco for the first time. It's part of a colleges-visiting trip, so we only have time for two dinners. We're staying in the Financial District but don't mind a stroll or taxi ride. I love tasting menus, but my husband gets tired and bored, although he's a good sport. My 16-yr old daughter loves good food and special places. Love the local/seasonal thing. Love sushi, seafood, just about all ethnic food, and anything New American/Californian etc. that's creative/unusual and of course, delicious. I guess we all just love great food!

Price-wise, maybe one place for a splurge (up to $100, maybe $150 per person) and one more moderately-priced place. So far, I'm considering Boulevard, Coi, Jadinere, Sons and Daughters, Nopa, rich table, AQ, State Bird Provisions and Slanted Door.

I'm sure there are plenty of places to consider that I don't know about. How can I possibly choose from so many fantastic-sounding places?? Please help! Any guidance appreciated, either feedback on my tentative list or other suggestions. Thank you so much!

Jun 27, 2013
pixellle in San Francisco Bay Area

Baked Chinese New Year Cake

I thought this was quick, easy and delicious, and reminds me of Japanese treats. One question: I forgot to refrigerate it. Do you think it's still OK that I left it out all day and overnight??

Jan 24, 2012
pixellle in Recipes

Salted chocolate caramel tart -- serve cold or room temp?

OK, I served the tart at room temperature, and it was great. Well, maybe I used a little too much salt on top, but that's easy to pick off.

Now, here's my next question. I was so tired after coming home, I left the tart out overnight. Is it OK to be left out, do you think? It has a regular pastry crust with cocoa (should be fine), caramel (sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream and half-and-half), and chocolate ganache. I'm thinking it should be fine left out. Do you agree?


Dec 26, 2011
pixellle in Home Cooking

Uses for leftover caramel??

Oh, big mistake, pine time! I'm planning on not being anywhere near a scale until at least a week after New Year's. Maybe two....

Dec 26, 2011
pixellle in Home Cooking

Uses for leftover caramel??

I made a chocolate-caramel tart, and I had more of the caramel mixture than would fit, so now I have a nice little ramekin full of caramel. It's thicker than a syrup but softer than a caramel candy. Besides putting it in coffe or latte or hot milk, or over ice cream, anyone have any suggestions for using it? I don't want to find myself just eating it by the spoonful... I don't think...


Dec 26, 2011
pixellle in Home Cooking

Uses for some leftover homemade caramels

I just made a chocolate-caramel tart and I have some of the caramel left-over, too, so I'm looking for uses for it. I don't know if the caramel candies you made would work in a chocolate-caramel tart, but you could look up a recipe and see if your caramels were made in the same way. I'm guessing your caramel candies are a bit stiffer than the caramel mixture in the tart.

Anyway, I'm thinking of drizzling my caramel mixture -- it's thicker than a syrup but softer than a candy -- into coffee/lattes/hot milk or over vanilla ice cream. I'll bet you could make a dandy hot toddy-type alcohol drink with it, too. Again, I don't know if this use works for your candies.

I'm actually posting this question separately, so maybe there'll be some responses that work for both of us. Good luck!

Dec 26, 2011
pixellle in Home Cooking

Salted chocolate caramel tart -- serve cold or room temp?

My husband was watching something on TV where famous chefs talked about their favorite food treats, most of them mail-order stuff but a few local specialities. One was a salted chocolate caramel tart -- I don't remember where it was from. I couldn't find it to order online, but it looked so good, I figured I'd just make it.

I googled around, and found lots of recipes. I used one from Saveur, and it looks great so far. I've just done the ganache and it's setting in the fridge.

I've never done a caramel tart before, and my question is this: Do I need to keep it refrigerated until the very last minute, or can it be served at room temperature? I google photos of this dish, and they show the caramel oozing from the slices -- looks great! But will it ooze and "spill" too much if it's at room temp? Or will serving it cold dull the flavors?

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated! Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah!

Dec 25, 2011
pixellle in Home Cooking

"True" schmaltz vs. fat from chicken soup?

As I understand it, "true" schmaltz is made from saving all the little pieces of chicken fat and skin you can, then cooking them down to render the fat. The liquid fat, which will become solid when chilled, is the schmaltz, and the crispy bits that are left are the gribbens. Right?

Although I've never done that, I do make homemade chicken soup often, and I always refrigerate it then take off the solidified fat at the top and save it for my matzo balls, etc. Is this the same as schmaltz which has been rendered? Or does rendered fat have more flavor because of being essentially fried rather than boiled? I think that sometimes, when people render schmaltz, they put onions in for extra flavor, too. So, I've always wondered -- Is my chicken soup fat schmaltz? Or not really? Can I use it the same way as schmaltz?

Mar 31, 2010
pixellle in Kosher

"True" schmaltz vs chicken soup fat?

As I understand it, "true" schmaltz is made from saving all the little pieces of chicken fat and skin you can, then cooking them down to render the fat. The liquid fat, which will harden, is the schmaltz, and the crispy bits that are left are the gribbens. Right?

Although I've never done that, I do make homemade chicken soup often, and I always refrigerate it then take off the solidified fat at the top and save it for my matzo balls, etc. Is this the same as schmaltz which has been rendered? Or does rendered fat have more flavor because of being essentially fried rather than boiled? I think that sometimes, when people render schmaltz, they put onions in for extra flavor, too. So, I've always wondered -- Is my chicken soup fat schmaltz?

Mar 31, 2010
pixellle in Home Cooking

Matzo Brittle

I adore matzo brittle and make it every year. It's great.

I burst out laughing when I read the tag line under the prompt for the recipe: "Matzo brittle. Tastier than you'd imagine." LOL! Someone's being pretty negative here. "Matzo brittle. Really, it's not so bad." (Actually, it's fantastic.)

Mar 29, 2010
pixellle in Recipes

Knaidlach (Matzoh Balls)

... and, by the way, what's with the line at the end of the recipe that says "this recipe was part of our Hannukah recipe photo gallery"??? Hannukah is one of the only holidays that I've never, ever had matzo ball soup for. Passover, of course. Rosh Hashana, yes. But not Hannukah. Too busy doing latkes. Unless you *fried* your matzo balls. [shudder]

Mar 29, 2010
pixellle in Recipes

Knaidlach (Matzoh Balls)

"Kosher for Passover" baking powder? I had the same reaction. Yesterday one of the morning shows had the guys from the Second Avenue Deli in NYC demonstrating their matzo ball recipe. I couldn't believe it when they used baking powder!

I looked it up online and found this:

Basically, it says that you *can* buy "kosher-for-Passover" baking powder and baking sode that omits the cornstarch that is usually in these ingredients. It goes on to say the the prohibition against levening is technically against fermentation leveling, like yeast. But, the author continues, her grandmother "would have had a cat" if she had seen "kosher for Passover" baking soda/powder, and she, too, believes it violates the spirit of the holiday.

But... to get matzo balls really fluffy...??? Do I find the so-called kosher stuff and sneak it in...? Ah, now I see: It's a test. I guess I have to stand firm with tradition. I can't even bring myself to use so-called kosher-for-Passover pasta. Not that I'm so orthodox, not in the least, but what's the point of Passover with pasta?

Mar 29, 2010
pixellle in Recipes

Favorite food for cold days - Curry soups

I crave the Japanese noodle soups and the Thai curry soups I used to have when I lived in New York. I always mean to make them at home with the umpteen specialty cookbooks I have, but I never take the time to do them right. But it's bitterly cold, so today I just decided to make up a quick and easy curry soup, borrowing from all my favorite sources. Usually, you're supposed to only paint from the same palate, so to speak, but I just decided to mix it all up. I thought it came out great! Here's my new recipe:

Mixed-up, Lazy Curry Soup for Cold, Cold Days

Scallion, leek or onion, sliced thin
Red bell pepper, juillienned
Indian curry powder of your choice, or garam masala
Red Thai curry paste
Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese red pepper mix for noodle soup), optional
Green beans/string beans [small dice on diagonal], snap peas or snow peas
Daishi stock or instant daishi and water if you want, but chicken, fish or vegetable broth is fine (I just used chicken broth)
Red miso paste
Sirimi or kani, or shrimp
tamago if you want, or raw egg (optional)
mushrooms would be great
udon or ramen noodles (but not instant ramen!), or any kind of noodles or pasta (I didn't use noodles this time)
anything else you can think of

In a large sauce pan or deep saute pan/skillet, saute sliced scallions/leeks/onions in oil. Add bell pepper. Add about 1 tsp of curry powder. Cook and allow the vegetables to soften slightly, then add about 1 tsp (or more) of Thai red curry paste. Stir in with aromatics and allow to cook a bit. Sprinkle a bit of the noodle soup pepper mix as you stir. Add green beans.

Add about 1-2 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer. Spoon off some broth and in a small bowl, mix in about 1 Tbsp of miso paste. Stir or whisk until dissolved, then mix into soup.

Add whatever else you want. Sirimi or shrimp is good. Kani is good, or you could stir a raw egg in like egg drop soup. Mushrooms would be ideal (I didn't have any today). Add noodles if you want to. Check your refrigerator for anything that needs to be used up.

Taste soup. Ramp up the heat with more Thai curry paste or Japanese pepper mix if needed. Dilute with more broth if it’s too spicy.

Enjoy, and try not to think about what a mish-mash this is. Just notice that it’s really, really good. Realize you didn’t even use ginger. Wonder if adding a bit of coconut milk and galangal would be too much. Plan your next batch.

Jan 06, 2010
pixellle in Home Cooking

"Chef Troy's Demi Glace Sauce" - anyone try this?

I came across Chef Troy's Demi Glace Sauce in my local Japanese market. Chef Troy is Chef Troy Thompson of The Kress and others in California. (I guess. I'd never heard of him, but then I don't follow celebrity chefs much, and I live on the East Coast.).

I guess he cooks a fusion/World cuisine style, which sounds right up my alley.

Anyway, this is a jar in the Japanese market, just called "Demi Glace." Looking at the ingredients, I guess it's a beef demi-glace.

Has anyone heard of it or tried it? It's always useful to have a demiglace on hand, but I'm wondering if I can use this like a "standard" french demiglace. Also, commercial demiglaces vary quite a bit in quality.

So, has anyone used this? Any good? How'd you use it?

Jan 05, 2010
pixellle in General Topics

Cream and yogurt mixture - how long unfrigerated??

I'm making a layered panna cotta. It consists of a layer of vanilla panna cotta, a layer of cranberry or grape gelatin, and another layer of the panna cotta. (Here's the recipe:


To make the layers, you first pour in a layer of the panna cotta and then refrigerate for 3 hours. The recipe doesn't say anything about what to do with the remaining panna cotta mixure while you're waiting for the first and second layers to set.

If you were to refrigerate the leftover panna cotta mixture, (which consists of heavy cream and yogurt), it would set. Is it OK to leave it out for almost four hours (it was left out 45 minutes to cool immediately after making it) at room temperature? Or should you refrigerate it and then gently heat it up to re-liquify it?

The recipe doesn't address this, much to my frustration, so I'm turning to you! What do you advise?


Sep 27, 2009
pixellle in Home Cooking

Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah - How far ahead?

So, I'm sure this has been discussed before... in fact, I think I wonder about this every year... but here goes:

How far ahead of time can I make my apple cake for Rosh Hashanah? (If it matters, I'm making the Joan Nathan recipe that appears in both The Jewish Holiday Baker and The Jewish Holiday Kitchen.) I know it can sit for a day or two, but what if I want to make it three days ahead? What about four? Would I be better off making it and freezing it? Or will it be perfectly happy for four days? Do I wrap it in plastic and keep it in the fridge? I'm also going to make the chocolate-lovers cake -- yum!)

I'm assigned to host on Sunday evening, but I'll be tied up with, oh, that's right, the holiday, ahead of time, so I'd like to get as much done as early as possible.


(By the way, here's my not-very-traditional menu:

apples and honey, of course
challah (the 1976 recipe)
chicken soup w/matzo balls
mashed potatoes
roasted butternut squash, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
beets with hazelnuts and goat cheese
leek and swiss chard tart (quiche-like)
wheatberry salad

and maybe, a half-and-half risotto made with with pureed butternut squash on one side, chunked beets on the other, to make an orange-and-red colorful thing... although I already have those ingredients elsewhere. But they're seasonal, and I think it would look cool...)

Anyway, thanks for your help, and L'Shana Tova!

Sep 16, 2009
pixellle in Home Cooking

Freeze recipe with coconut milk?

I made a Mulligatawny soup yesterday. Simple recipe - garlic, onions, typical Indian spices, lentils, chicken broth, then pureed to a smooth consistency and finished with some coconut milk and lemon juice. (One cup of coconut milk vs. 8 cups of broth, if it matters.)

Do you think this can be successfully frozen? I've never tried to freeze anything with coconut millk before.

Part 2 - How long do you think the soup can keep in the fridge? A week? Four days? How about the left-over coconut milk (which has been transfered to a glass container)?


Oct 30, 2008
pixellle in Home Cooking

Favorite Chocolate Bar

The Vosges with almond and sea salt is my fave, too -- or at least, one of my faves. The combination of salt and deep milk chocolate is incredible. (I wish they made it in a dark chocolate.) They also make a truffle with parmesan cheese. Other, less pricey, favorites are Lindt's dark chocolate with orange rind and plain Ghirardelli dark chocolate. Oh, and ChocoLove with Ginger. And, of course, I'm not above a Reese's bar on Halloween...

Sep 27, 2008
pixellle in General Topics

Party for 50-60 in Stamford/Westchester area

Other thoughts... Silvermine Tavern, Stonehenge, Cobbs Mills Inn, Le Chateau... these were always the old stand-bys...are they getting too stuffy these days, or are they still relevant?

Beth, replying to myself

Jan 24, 2008
pixellle in General Tristate Archive

Party for 50-60 in Stamford/Westchester area

I'm planning a party for 50-60 in the Stamford/Westchester region. It's for my dad's 80th birthday. I'd like something special, somewhat elegant, but hopefully not stuffy. Atmosphere is important, but so is food -- we all love excellent food. It would be for a Saturday night dinner. My budget is roughly $100 per person, maybe a little more. It would be a cocktail hour with drinks and hors d'/pass-arounds, then a seated dinner.

Here are the places that I'm considering:

Blue Lemon, in Westport
Ocean 211, in Stamford
La Cremaillere, in Bedford
Valbella, in Riverside
Barcelona, in SoNo
Bistro 22, in Bedford

I've thought of, but eliminated, Blue Hill (too expensive), Dressing Room (ditto), Dragonfly Lounge (buffet only), La Bretagne (no Saturdays available), and Thomas Henklemann (needs either 35 for private room or 100 to take over).

I heard that Emily Shaw's has re-opened, but I think I also heard that it's now more of a pub-type of place.

Does anyone have any opinions about these options? Or are there any good ones, with private party rooms, that I've overlooked? I'd greatly appreciate the expert feedback from my fellow Chowhounds!


Jan 24, 2008
pixellle in General Tristate Archive

Party for 50-60 people?

I'm planning an 80th birthday party for my dad, expecting 50-60 people. I'm trying to do some research on a nice Manhattan restaurant. The obvious question -- what can you recommend? I'd like something nice, more on the elegant than casual side, but it doesn't have to be five-star, and I can't say that price is no consideration. Say, I don't know, $100 per person?

Are there private rooms that can accomodate this number of people? Or good restaurants small enough to take over? I think I should keep it to Italian, Continental, New American, you know -- although I love various ethnic food, I don't think this is the time for that -- need to please a big group. Suggestions? Thanks so much!!

Jan 13, 2008
pixellle in Manhattan

South American Christmas - anyone making cola de mono?

I used to have a recipe from long ago, I think it was from the NY Times, but I can't find it, so I'm just using a recipe I found by searching online.

6 cups milk
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup instant coffee or instant espresso
2 cups tequila (actually, you should use aguardiente, a Chilean brandy-like liquor, but it's hard to find here)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the milk, sugar and cinnamon to a boil.
Dissolve the coffee in the hot milk mixture.
Put in the fridge to cool.
Once cold, add the tequila.
Pour into capped bottles and return to the fridge.
Serve very cold.
This keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks

Dec 22, 2007
pixellle in Home Cooking

Halloween party ideas

Here is what I did for our Halloween party:

Cold eyes – plum tomatoes, halved and hollowed; mini-mozzerella ball inside; iris from green olives, pupils from black olives. Use drinking straw to punch out pupils. Can put pesto in tomato halves if desired.

Hot eyes – Sweet-n-sour mini-meatballs. Cut circles from sliced mozzarella; pupils from olives. Put under broiler or oven until melted.

Snake – refrigerated dough, rolled out; line with salami and ham and grated cheese; roll up. Make S shape; 2 egg washes, one with green food coloring, one with yellow. Can use blue too. Bake 350 for 25-30 min.

Butternut squash ghosts – paint white then paint eyes and mouths black. (Decoration only.)

Black pasta (squid ink) with orange (vodka) sauce.

Butternut squash and pumpkin ravioli.

Worms – sliced hot dogs with blood (ketchup)

Here are some photos of how they came out:

Nov 05, 2007
pixellle in General Topics

Authentic Mexican in Fairfield or Westchester Counties

I'm surprised no one's mentioned this yet, but a new quality Mexican restaurant just opened in Greenwich. It's called Avenida, and I think it opened in October 07. I went there once with my husband who's not a big Mexican fan. It was hip and very noisy, which annoyed him but didn't bother me. I thought the food was fantastic, but since I didn't have an enthusiastic partner, I couldn't sample that much on my own. Here's a sampling of the menu taken from my notes on the newspaper's review:

Lunch entrees $13-26
Dinner - appetizers $8 - 16
Dinner entrees $18-38

appetizers -
tacos with brised pork with chilis and poblano peppers on homemade corn tortillas
Tacos with grilled mahi-mahi with field greens and lime vinegrette
Quesadillas with wild mushrooms; lime-marinated chicken; roasted chilis and cheese
Empanada w/roasted plantains, black beans and cheese
Grape gazpacho
Sliced tuna ceviche with coconut, pineapple and chiles
Scallop ceviche in citrus

Entrees -
Grilled shrimp w/garlic, avocado and tomato over green rice
Chicken-stuffed chili rellenos
Grilled salmon over field greens w/charred tomato vinegrette
Pan-roasted red snapper with salsa
Atun a la plancha - search yellowfin tuna
Pollo al carbon - marinated chicken with cirtus salsita and rice and beans
Huachinango a la Veracruzana - pan-roasted red snapper
Camarones y callos al ajillo - grilled shrimp and scallops

Desserts -
Brilliantly-flavored sorbets
Warm chocolate cake

I had mini-char-grilled beef tacos, tuna serviche and the red snapper. Oh, and the guacamole, which they offer as soon as you sit down. (It's not made table-side, though.) I'd definitely go back.

Nov 02, 2007
pixellle in Southern New England

Best apples for cake, bread?

It's fall -- at least it says so on the calendar -- and I want to bake with apples. I don't want to make a pie, though -- I want to make a bread, cake or tea-cake. I've got a recipe from King Arthur's Whole Grains cooking, but it doesn't specify what kind of apples to use.

Usually, when people speak of the best apples for baking, they mean pies, so they're talking about apples that keep their shape. What about when keeping the shape doesn't matter? In a cake or bread, does it matter as much what type of apple to use? Any thoughts on this? Thanks for your help!


Oct 05, 2007
pixellle in Home Cooking

What are you making for Rosh Hashanah?

I'm trying to go lighter and healthier for Rosh Hashana, too. Here's my menu:

Hors D'oeuvres: Hummus, babaganoush, tabouli, chopped liver, crudities and cheese (well, it's not *all* light and healthy!)

At Table: Apples and honey (of course!)

Chicken soup with matzo balls (but it's not Passover! I say. I want matzo balls anyway, my husband replies.)

Standing Rib Roast (for first night. Turkey and brisket the next night)
Poached Salmon
Roasted beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts
Swiss chard with raisins and pine nuts
Roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin with onions, bell peppers and rosemary
Roasted new potatoes
Stuffed zucchini boats with feta cheese
My Mother-in-law's carrot ring
Honeycake and apple cake
Cookies and mandelbread

Sep 11, 2007
pixellle in Home Cooking