Muskrat's Profile

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Which Trader Joe's Holiday Items do you wish they had year-round?

The frozen stuffed turkey breast. If I had enough room in the freezer, I'd buy at least a dozen. heat it up, use it as an entree, for sandwiches, etc.

Jan 31, 2014
Muskrat in Chains

Is Safeway changing?

We don't have Safeway here -- Vons is the same thing -- but stores will occasionally shift items around: potato chips used to be on Aisle 6; now they're on Aisle 3, and so on. Also, some will simply not stock items that are available in other branches of the same chain,

As for relatively obscure items, if they don't ring a bell with a clerk, I'd ask for something similar: "Where's the barbecue sauce, then?"

Dec 12, 2013
Muskrat in San Francisco Bay Area

How do you top your french fries?

I need a little liquid of some sort. When a waitress suggested ranch dressing long ago, it was a real revelation. After a visit to Rhode Island (where there's a bottle on every table), I started using malt vinegar when available. Ketchup would be my third choice.

Sep 30, 2013
Muskrat in General Topics

Malt Vinegar - how do you use it?

When I was in Rhode Island some years ago (from California, so there was a big cultural gap), I was happily surprised to find a bottle of malt vinegar on tables or counters alongside the ketchup and other condiments wherever french fries were served -- makes sense, as it's used in fish & chips -- but it had never occurred to me. And it sure is good.

Somebody suggested popcorn upthread; that sounds worth trying.

Jun 22, 2013
Muskrat in Home Cooking

Suckling Pig Dinner in Ventura

Just in case anybody reads this and gets a hankeri' for suckling pig, the Sidecar went out of business in May -- the owner/chef says (as I recall) that the owners wouldn't return his calls regarding a lease renewal. In any event, something's up, but suckling pig (and grilled-cheese night) isn't it.

Jun 03, 2013
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Looking for a market that sells marinated carne asada

Fresh & Easy has it. But in smallish (couple pounds, maybe) packages.

May 02, 2013
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Adios Papaya King

Lasted longer than I'd expected. I wonder if they'd asked ANYBODY who lives in the area before leasing the location. I went there once; couldn't find a seat, and drove home with my dog. Hardly worth the trouble.

Also: nobody cares about New York City cachet (constant L.A. Tines notwithstanding).

I'd hoped the Cuban restaurant in the same location would have fared better.

Mar 03, 2013
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Cocktail for BBQ suggestions?

Never thought of anything hard other than beer with BBQ. I'll be interested if anybody comes up with something that's traditional in some circles (as opposed to the random "how abut a grasshopper? " or "Have you thought of appletinis?")

Jun 22, 2011
Muskrat in Spirits

How do people become food critics?

Having been a "critic" (I prefer "reviewer") in another field, I'll tell you how; it applies in pretty much any field: get somebody to publish your work. Convince an editor that you know what you're talking about and can express yourself in an interesting manner. That's pretty much it.

Now, how you're going to convince the editor? That's something else. I'd write a couple of sample reviews, and turn 'em in, if you can get anybody's attention. And the best way to get some editors' attention (well, publishers, but that's picking nits) is to work cheap. Most of us started out working for little or nothing; or, as the editors put it, "exposure." After you get some clips to prove yourself, with luck you can move on up the ladder.

It's changed a bit in the age of the Internet; you can just start a blog. Of course, anybody can start a blog, but that's another matter. Figure out some way to stand out from the competition.
Maybe a niche: French restaurants, food trucks, chain restaurants, whatever. A good hint is to find an area that nobody else is covering, but where there's an audience.

Note: it's strictly bush league to come up to a restaurant, announce yourself as a reviewer, and expect to get comped. People do it all the time (you may have read them, probably without knowing it), but word gets around the restaurants.

Good luck.

Apr 30, 2011
Muskrat in Food Media & News

"Two eggs cooked any style"

I try to make it easy on the kitchen; don't have much regard for those who play "stump the cook.."

Mar 21, 2011
Muskrat in General Topics

Killer Shrimp

I thought Killer Shrimp was owned by Lee Michaels, for '70s rock star. Maybe he was just fronting it?

Feb 22, 2011
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Defunct Restaurants ......are these all long gone ?

"The Olympic Pioneers used to regularly put up a fried chicken liver special on the windows whenever I drove by."

-- How'd they know you were coming?

Jan 27, 2011
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Great food and Music?

If Studio City is within your range, Vitello's might fill the bill

Vitello's Restaurant
4349 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, CA 91604

Jan 25, 2011
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Casual quiet lunch place near Cedar Sinai?

There are a number of places right across 3rd Street from Cedars; I'd just look for one that looked appealing and not too crowded. Of course there's a cafeteria in the hospital (east office wing; third floor) that's...not very fancy, but right there.

Jan 23, 2011
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Boston Creme Pie Please help

I have no reason to doubt your accuracy -- on the other hand, rejecting sponge cake (if the cook likes sponge cake) because it isn't "authentic" kind like dissing Panda Express Orange Chicken because that isn't how it's cooked in China? Personally, I'd go with what I like if it differs from what it's "supposed" to be.

On the third hand. it's good to know what the original BCP was/is.

Jan 17, 2011
Muskrat in Home Cooking

A kitchen nightmare in the S.F. Valley?

A friend says he saw the truck unloading at La Frite. Any reports from out there?

Jan 05, 2011
Muskrat in Food Media & News

Red Medicine Boots S. Irene Virbila Out of Restaurant

I didn't make my point clear. Would you place more value in the opinion of someone with a limited background, or someone who's (say) eaten a lot of pho, in many places, and describe why s/he prefers one over another. What one person finds "yummy," another person might find too salty...or not salty enough.

That we're on Chowhound in the first place shows that we're taking advice from total strangers; in some cases those who post something on the order of "the best waffles are at Sam's Place in Bakersfield", with little or no other qualification.

One of my favorite S. Irene pieces had her admitting (this is several years ago) that she didn't even know what chili cheese fries were; then she went on about the ones in the relatively high end place* she was reviewing.

* as if she reviewed anything else

Dec 25, 2010
Muskrat in Food Media & News

Red Medicine Boots S. Irene Virbila Out of Restaurant

Well, speaking as a former reviewer (not food; let's call it books), my opinion is just my opinion. Still, (and presumably others) come with more experience than most folks, and if I'm halfway good at what I do, can put my observations in a context that my readers (or listeners, or viewers) can be guided by.

If I say, for instance, the new Cleopatra biography is worth reading, I should be able to back it up by comparing it to other biographies in terms of historical accuracy, readability, and other factors (would more pictures make it a better book?)

In San Francisco once, looking for something to do at night. I read a review of a show that the reviewer detested -- offensive, bad taste, too broad, whatever. From what this person said, I decided that the show (which I'd never heard of) was right up my alley. I went and enjoyed it tremendously. Was I "right" and he "wrong"? Of course not; our tastes are different, and he was good enough at what he did to guide people both toward and away from it.

I could never review food -- allergies prevent me from eating sea food. But on the rare occasions I read food reviews. I try to read almost between the lines. Is the bad service the result of an "off" night or the owner's policy? Are portions "small plates"? I'll stay away. And so on.

Oh -- I should mention that the show was "El Grande de Coca-Cola," which went on to have a long life, with companies touring the world. But it certainly wasn't (and isn't) for everybody.

Dec 25, 2010
Muskrat in Food Media & News

Red Medicine Boots S. Irene Virbila Out of Restaurant

I find her hilarious, and could never pinpoint why "something my mother would write" is close, though, plus her desperate attempts to be seen on top of things (I chug a virtual Jell-O shot every time the word "hip" or "hipster" appears in one of her reviews) She likes to swoop in early; always kind of unfair. And she usually appears to me more interested in running up a big expense account than covering where real people actually eat. .(One meal for her could feed Jonathan Gold for a week).

That said, if she actually was able to preserve her anonymity, I must sincerely applaud her for that. It's easy enough to find what many food critics look like -- hell, Elmer Dills used to give reports on TV -- and some bush-leaguers even make arrangements in advance, to be comp'd on their meals.

Dec 23, 2010
Muskrat in Food Media & News

McConnell's Egg Nog & Peppermint Ice Creams at Ralph's

Yeah, the McConnell's I see is at the Mayfair/Gelson's in Hollywood where I can't usually afford to shop. Can't remember what flavors I've seen in Ralphs..

Dec 22, 2010
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

McConnell's Egg Nog & Peppermint Ice Creams at Ralph's

Peppermint used to be a standard, year-round flavor for McConnells; I'd be surprised if it still isn't.

Of course back in my day, peppermint was pretty standard year-round everywhere. As was...anybody remember raspberry revel?

Dec 21, 2010
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Lunch ideas within walking distance of Paramount Studios on Melrose Ave.

I concur with Lucy's. It's not terrible, a lot of atmosphere, and -- as sfgirl122 said, a real institution. Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt used to hang there when they were dating, and it's been around forever. And it's pretty much right across the street from Paramount, People on Chowhound tend to dismiss people's desire to eat in a certain area, and send 'em all over creation. Which may be OK for a local, but your logic makes perfect sense for someone passing through.

Koo Koo Roo is a yuppie Col. Sanders. But if you don't mind driving, Larchmont is only a few blocks west of Paramount, and there are all kinds of places to eat there; you can pretty much drive down the street (the commercial section is just a couple of blocks long) and find something that looks interesting. And is it a nice little area, a virtual small town just on the outskirts of Hollywood. Parking can be iffy.

Dec 18, 2010
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Awkward situation - when is the correct time to put the money/credit card in the bill holder?

I put the payment in the holder (or ask for the check) as soon as I'm sure I'm not going to order anything more that (unlike, say, coffee refills) will be paid for. That way, with any luck, I'll be all paid up by the time I'm finished eating, and don't have to wait around, hoping to catch the server's attention then waiting for the payment to be processed.

Dec 16, 2010
Muskrat in Not About Food

What Is the National Dish of New Mexico?

I agree with sopapillas, stuffed or nada.

Dec 14, 2010
Muskrat in Southwest

Grill Marks on Steaks at General Consumer Restaurants

I'd follow this link and start investigating from the hints there (calling Sysco, for instance). Remember: Google is your friend!


Dec 14, 2010
Muskrat in General Topics

Christmas Food Traditions

Many years ago -- late '50s or early '60s -- my father bought a customer, as sort of a business, a Mission Pak (sugared, dried fruit). Before he'd had a chance to give it, my father discovered that the customer was diabetic. So we wound up with it, under the tree, with the card reading "from a dear, dear friend."

Mission Pak is long gone, as is my father. But to this day, every year there's a gift platter of dried fruit under the tree..."from a dear, dear friend."

Dec 12, 2010
Muskrat in General Topics

Booth for One?

Back in the old days, I used to sit at the counter -- didn't want to take a whole booth (or table) to myself. * Service was often more attentive; but I'd have to put with all the recovering alcoholics puffing on cigarettes and drinking endless cups of coffee.

The cigarettes aren't a factor anymore (at least not where I live), but some places are taking out their counters entirely and putting tables in their place. Ho-kay, then; but I at least tried to be considerate.

* also: far less chance of sitting near a couple of screaming kids

Dec 12, 2010
Muskrat in Not About Food

Pre-cooked dinners by mail?

My sister gave me a few dinners from Home Bistro. They're shipped in dry ice; then you put 'em in your freezer. You don't. however, microwave them; you drop the plastic bag in boiling water for several minutes. http://www.homebistro.com/

Dec 11, 2010
Muskrat in General Topics

looking for good breakfast in moorpark area

You'd probably do better in Simi Valley or Thousand Oaks, both of which are a couple of minutes away from Moorpark and offer a lot more choice. That said, it's been so long since I've been in that area, I'll leave this question back in the capable hands of the 'Hounds.

Dec 02, 2010
Muskrat in Los Angeles Area

Pumpkin Ice Cream is BACK at Trader Joe's!!!

The flyer made some reference to the supplier being "one of the most colorful" or something such, which I took as a reference to Double Rainbow. It may have been formulated to the Trader's specs, though. Personally, I love it.

Dec 02, 2010
Muskrat in Chains