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Cioppino - love the dish, the pronunciation is driving me nuts

There are regional differences in Italian, as has been tossed around on various CH boards for years, but in "standard" Italian – Tuscan, actually – an I after C or G serves only to soften the consonant UNLESS it's the only vowel before the next consonant, in which case it still softens but is pronounced. Cioppino is therefore cho-PEE-no, cima (breast, as in ribcage) is CHEE-ma.

Sep 23, 2014
Will Owen in Not About Food

A top tent list of sorts of beef dishes for an ultimate bang bang bang, etc etc etc etc session, if you will.

Pann's patty melt – on sourdough!

For the rest I'm digging all the other suggestions … but as long as we're fantasizing a bit here, where could I get THE porterhouse, the one that would make me weep with joy?

If you could go to one restaurant on your birthday, what restaurant would it be ??????

In my dreams I'd go to Café Europa on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence. In reality I WILL go to Crossings in South Pas, unless I find a better one between now and the end of January!

Sep 23, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Those "Weird" Biscuits at S&W

nosh, I'm with you on the hash. I grew up eating and loving the canned stuff – like chili, sometimes canned hash is just better. I've made CB hash from scratch that I thought was really good, and my then-carnivorous wife agreed, but that's a lot of work. And like you I think S&W's home-made is not as good as their canned.

If I lived a lot closer to Culver City I might drop into that place a few times a year, but it would never be a destination for me.

Sep 23, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

List of Fruit Hybrids?

After the stepdad of a good friend died, we were helping out with the estate sale, which was happening just as his collection of mostly citrus trees had ripening fruit by the carload, along with loads of fresh blooms. One of the trees was a tangelo that was next to a blood orange, and the first thing we noticed was the large number of active bees visiting both. I started opening up some tangelos, especially the ones that hadn't developed the usual hump, and sure enough – streaks of red in some, deep blush in others, some amazingly sweet but all with a great fragrance and lovely tanginess.

Sep 22, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics
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What is scrapple?

Love this ancient thread … and if it ever gets chilly and damp again in this parched land of SoCal I'm going to try making scrapple again. My idea of melting down headcheese and blending it with cornmeal mush was a good one, but the headcheese I got was from a local Russian pork-products company that uses the same spice blend for everything, so my scrapple came out tasting like bologna! I've found some more traditional-American headcheese now, so I'm waiting my chance to make another run at it.

Sep 22, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

I'm Going Deaf Eating Out in LA

We decided never to go to Bistro de la Gare in South Pas again after trying to enjoy a frankly mediocre dinner in a room full of people shouting at each other, and we were told the owner liked it that way. Then a few years later we learned that the place had changed hands, and on the revised website I noticed that some of the interior walls had been either removed or had large openings cut through them. Just on a hunch I took a chance one night when Mrs. O was having a girls-only dinner and went over there, and was very pleasantly surprised at not only the great difference between the old staff and menu and the new, but that the rooms were populated by people talking in normal tones. I had a deeply satisfying meal, and a month or two later took Mrs. O there too. I'm delighted that the place seems to be doing much better under the new regime.

Those "Weird" Biscuits at S&W

I searched in vain – or rather this Board's search function did – for any of the conversation I remember very well about S&W Country Diner in Culver City … so in the absence of any results I'll just bring this up myself: One of the recurring topics on the thread or threads was how weird and strange their biscuits are, baked packed into a pan instead of being spaced out on a cookie sheet. I was thinking it was odd too, and certainly something I'd never seen. And then last week I was back in my eastern Illinois hometown for a class reunion, which included a morning-after breakfast at a little restaurant out in the country owned and operated by a classmate, featuring her very traditional (and totally good) brand of rural Illinois cooking … including pans of biscuits! So all the time I was growing up in town, eating those refrigerator "biscuits" Mom bought at the store, the women out on the farms were baking pans of the real thing!

Sep 22, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

First Visit: Crossings in South Pasadena

I have every intention of trying just about everything sooner or later. Those guys clearly know what they're doing, and everyone working there seems to enjoy doing it too.

Sep 22, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

First Visit: Crossings in South Pasadena

Our curiosity about this place had been tempered by its price range, a bit beyond our comfort level, but last night Mrs. O asked me to find a new place for after our movie and I said, "How about Crossings?" After a few seconds' pause she said, "Uuuhhh … sure!" By then 7:30 and 9:00 were the only reservations available, so we took the later one and shopped in the interim (as long as we're throwing money around anyway).

Showing up fifteen minutes early, we were seated immediately upstairs by the back wall of the room adjacent to the large, welcoming bar. Water, menus and a cocktail/beer list arrived in quick succession; the cocktails took a bit longer but not much, an Aviation and a rye Manhattan, both perfect. Our server was cheerful, polite and efficient, as were all the staff we encountered. There was a happy clamor going, never so loud as to stress my elderly ears, and we had no problem conversing normally. A young man with a flair for the dramatic appeared with a tray of several different breads and a pot of butter; my large slice of the rosemary bread went nicely with that Manhattan.

Mrs. O has modified her vegetarianism to forbid the consumption of anything with a face, and as bivalves have nothing of the sort she allowed herself the cockles & mussels with tomato and garlic over linguini. As for me, I'd never gotten around to eating sturgeon, only their eggs, and the sturgeon on a celery-root purée with a sort of grapefruit compote sounded pretty good. I asked for a Pinot noir to go with it, a High Time from I think Sonoma, which came as a generous pour in a big glass for $10. The bread guy made another appearance right on cue when the food arrived. The sturgeon was as I'd expected from hearing descriptions from friends, a somewhat bland but pleasantly meaty fish that had been given a nice crusty top, sitting on the rich, creamy celery root and topped with about a quarter-cup of lightly cooked and sweetened grapefruit flesh, with several roasted baby tomatoes scattered around the fish. It was a delightful dish, and exactly the right amount of food. That was Mrs. O's verdict for her dish, too; she'd had plenty of mussels over the years but never cockles, and her only disappointment was that they were quite small and tasted exactly like mussels. But she considered it a pretty tasty way to find that out. And then of course, having had just enough food, we had to split a dessert. In this case it was a fruit crumble, served hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (Fosselman's!) on top, a lovely homey kind of thing to cap a fine meal.

The tab for all of this, with tax but before tip, was $111 plus change, or about what a dinner over at Bistro de la Gare runs us; the entrée prices there are a good bit lower, but I tend to spend more on wine and can't avoid the escargot. So now we have two favorite SoPas indulgences. We're looking forward to exploring them further.

Do you have a favorite fruit juice?

Our favorite porch-sitting cocktail in Nashville was Greyhounds: grapefruit juice and vodka in tall glasses of ice. I'd still drink those if I could …

Sep 19, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?

About 100 miles straight downstate from Chicago, in the 1940s and '50s, the Owen family rule was that mustard went on burgers, ketchup on hot dogs. We knew people who did it the other way around, but that was as perverse as, well, making potato salad with Miracle Whip. If we were going to spend the day at the local creekside beach, we packed hot dogs, buns and ketchup. Maybe sweet relish.

Sep 19, 2014
Will Owen in Features

Corn Poblano Chowder Questions

Your instincts here look to be pretty good, but I'd not use a compounded chili powder AND cumin, since all the ones I've tried have plenty of that already. My choice would be just the cumin. If you want some extra heat you could put two or three dried red pepper pods in there and remove them before serving. I would not use the fennel in the chowder, but if it's tender enough I'd slice it thin and incorporate it into that green salad I think is called for. Some chopped scallions, both white and some green, would be a good addition to your garnish. And yes to crumbled cheese – queso fresco would be my choice as opposed to a melty one.

I always want a salad with a creamy soup, as fresh and colorful as possible. Sliced radish, that fennel if it'll work; some red onion sliced thin, salted and then soaked in cold water about half an hour cuts the sharpness and leaves it sweet. Crunchy greens, like chopped iceberg and maybe Boston or butter lettuce.

Bread Knife for Crusty Breads

I had to go look and measure, because I like ours just fine, both for bread and things like tomatoes. It's an 8" Zanger that Mrs. O had long before she had me, serrated with scalloping along the starboard edge, flat along the other. Never found it to be too short – in fact, I thought it was a lot longer.

Sep 18, 2014
Will Owen in Cookware

Do you have a favorite fruit juice?

Fresh-squoze OJ for me, or something equally fresh made from some local fruit on Kauai. I do love grapefruit juice and have all my life, but I'm taking a statin and am supposed to avoid grapefruit period. Dammit.

Sep 18, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Salt and Straw

Vulgar word for naughty bits. Not hipster so much as kids talking dirty.

Sep 17, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Trader Joe's YAY/MEY/NAY - September 2014 [OLD]

That was a major disappointment to me as well. I found the seasoning all wrong for fish, and what's worse it hung in my mouth all day. It was not cheap, either.

Sep 10, 2014
Will Owen in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEY/NAY - September 2014 [OLD]

It DOES make a great chili! I've been using the Carroll Shelby chili "kit" for years with hand-cut or ground beef, and had to switch to the beefless stuff so Mrs. O could eat it … and we both liked it better than the meat version. Just don't forget to fry the chili powder along with the "meat" until it's fairly dark and fragrant, then add liquid.

Sep 10, 2014
Will Owen in Chains

Who do you follow on the Los Angeles board, and why?

Now that is funny … he's been a Facebook friend for a couple of years, I've read his blog several times as well, and I never caught on that he was DU!!

Who do you follow on the Los Angeles board, and why?

I was confused about that myself until we were seen together in public … !

WildSwede, ipsedixit, Dommy! and Mr. Taster (in no particular order) are always most welcome on my screen, as were Ubergeek and especially the late Sam. Sooner or later we all disagree on something or other, but that's what friends are for.

Do I have to peel and seed tomatoes to make marinara sauce from scratch?

I don't think anything is easier than the magic plastic machine I use. Cut'em up, drop 'em in, turn the crank and let the pulp and juice go this way and the seeds and skin go that.

Sep 09, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking

If refrigerating tomatoes is supposed to be verboten, then what of gazpacho?

I make a salade de tomates with the heirloom fruits I get at the local Farmer's markets here in SoCal, just chunks of tomato with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. While I agree that chilling leftover cut-up modern varieties lessens their flavor, the Brandywines, Cherokee Blacks and similar breeds retain their flavor very well, and are not as funky when had for lunch the next day.

Sep 09, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

What is "real food"?

Someone (not me) suggested it's what your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Since I had a couple of those while I was growing up I'm inclined to buy that.

Sep 09, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Where to buy harissa?

I use harissa paste, the French Le Cabanon brand in tubes, of which I last bought six on Amazon (to save on shipping costs per tube). As I found to my sorrow they need to be refrigerated for long-term storage. I have found in stores (I'm in California) for about $5/tube; I think I saved quite a bit going the Amazon way.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Some Attitude at Nick's

Four of us had a mostly satisfactory late lunch at Nick's Cafe yesterday, ruffled only by some weirdness with the waitress. She was quite prompt to take our drink orders, one iced tea and four waters, which she brought immediately, but then … we just sorta dropped off her radar. A few other folks came in, ordered, were eventually served, while we had figured out what we wanted and put the menus back in their clips and then sat. Whenever her face was turned our way she wore a distracted frown, but quite skillfully avoided eye contact. Finally we asked the young man who was acting as the runner if we could order; he said, "Oh, she'll be with you in a minute," and went over to her. I heard him ask, "Are you going to take those people's order?" and she never looked up, just frowned and shook her head. So he took the orders and brought the food as it came out. Mrs. O and I were going to a catered party a couple of hours later, so she'd ordered just a side of coleslaw and I had the basic burger (former very good, latter just okay), and we left the kid a good 20% plus. Then, as were were getting up to leave, she looked up and smiled at us, saying, "Thank you so much, and enjoy your day." Needless to say, we had some puzzled conversation on the way out to our cars.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Taylor's Steakhouse dinner tonight

I'm assuming you went to the original in Koreatown. I've been only to the La Cañada outpost, twice for lunch and once (on someone else's dime) for dinner, and service was okay if a bit overworked – they were pretty busy at lunch – and quite professional. I was curious about the downtown one, but I think I shan't bother.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

What do we call ...

Well, Tonny's in Pasadena is definitely a Mexican restaurant, but they offer both fine Mexican breakfast dishes – very good huevos rancheros and chilaquiles con huevo – and equally good American-style breakfast plates, including one of fried catfish and eggs. They also offer burgers, which I've never tried. I think in this case I'd simply call it a neighborhood restaurant, because it offers the sort of food the neighbors want. Nothing I've had there, though, has been at all what I'd call greasy.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Do you think wheat is "the root of all evil" or staff of life?

It's both. Cultivation of grain made us stop moving, hunting and foraging and nailed us to one parcel of land. It stripped us of an egalitarian culture and made some of us landowners, some of us serfs. I think this is what the story of Cain and Abel was meant to convey. That said, we made that bed and have lain in it for thousands of years, so hand me the baguette and the butter and let's talk about something else …

Simple carbs are more of an enemy of good health and weight control than fats, as I think has been well demonstrated. Recent studies have come out against the Diabetes Ass'n's recommendations favoring carbs over fats, and in fact have found that whole grains aren't that much better at glucose control than refined ones. However, that butter on my bread will slow the starch-to-sugar process a bit, as I understand it, and somehow that makes me very happy.

Quick and easy

Pasta with shallot, halved cherry tomatoes and bottled marinated artichokes, all usually from Trader Joe's. Cook the pasta and drain it. Drain the artichokes and keep the marinade, then chop them into smallish bite-size and set aside. Mince the shallot, cook it a while in some oil, then throw in the tomatoes and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes start getting soft sort of smash them down, cooking until there's plenty of juice. Stir in the artichokes, then add the marinade. When all that is simmering toss in the pasta and toss it all together. Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino. You can also make this ahead and spread it into an oven dish or gratin pan and top with plenty of cheese, then run into a 350º oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on whether it's cold or warm. This is a good ploy for when you'll have drinks and stuff for a while before dinner – you'll get the cooking done before anyone arrives, and get to party a bit instead of cooking.

I should say that I've made this with spaghetti, angel hair and ravioli, all good.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking
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Keeping ravioli fresh before dinner

Any pasta can be precooked, drained and then kept in cold water until service, then put into simmering water before draining and saucing. The only danger with a filled pasta is if any of the envelope gets torn the filling can ooze out or become soggy. If you're using wonton wrappers you just need to make sure they're watertight, but you'd do that anyway. Will the ground beef be cooked before wrapping? If not you'll need to boil them enough to cook your filling, but don't let the wrappers get overcooked, and a wire-mesh dipper or similar implement would be best for removing them to cold water.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking