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California Sugarcane Rum here in LA (sorf of)

Saw this today...

St. George Spirits just announced the release of its "Agua Libre" Rum. Made from 100% California sugarcane, pressed fresh at the hangar (of Hangar One vodka fame) on the island of Alameda.

SGS is offering two versions: "Fresh-Squeezed" - unaged and distilled from newly cut cane ($36) and "Aged" which is still young for most rum, with two and a half years in French oak ($53).

They are a little pricy, but then there are less than 300 bottles of the aged rum and roughly 1,000 bottles of the Fresh-Squeezed.

For this first batch, it will only be available from a few Bay Area liquor stores, one of which, thankfully for those of us here in LA, is K&L.

For those who don't know, K&L will ship the bottle from its SF store to its Hollywood store for free if you pick "will call" as the shipping method when you order online. All you have to do is go to Hollywood and pick it up when it comes in.

At last count K&L only has 22 bottles of the fresh squeezed and 24 of the aged left.

(Note: I have no relationship with SGS, just been a fan of their products over the years. I will post back with my thoughts after I have had a chance to taste.)

Hatch Chile Roasting 2010

I bough a 28 pound box of the hot hatch chiles at Bristol Farms for $35 last year and they roasted them for free. Pretty good deal since it was only a few blocks from my house. But you are right, unless you are willing to buy a full box, BF charges $2 per pound.

I used the last bag of the frozen '09 chiles this week. Just in time.

Hatch Chile Roasting 2010

No. In my experience, the skins are easier to remove after they have been defrosted. They slip right off in a split second. And as DWB mentioned, they protect the chile until you are ready to eat.

Natas Malasadas

Wait, Carter, does that mean the former owner of Tex's Drive-In lives here in SoCal? Any chance of convincing him or her to open up a place here on the mainland?

Finn & Haddy (sp?)

This is a really old post, but in case the OP is still looking, the Highlands has Finnan Haddie Kedgerie on their Brunch menu now.

Mar 16, 2010
Hobsons Choice in Manhattan

Best gnocchi

I second those spinach gnocchi at Girasole. Amazing and light as a cloud.

South Kona Fruit Stand - Captain Cook Hawaii

Drive another few miles south on Route 11 from the Coffee Shack and you will reach one of my favorite food spots on the whole Big Island, the South Kona Fruit Stand. Started shortly after World War II by a Japanese family, the South Kona Fruit Stand showcases estate grown fruit from over 700 fruit trees planted on 6.5 acres of land.

The current owners thankfully share the same passion for perfect product as did the original family. The stand itself is only a couple hundred square feet in size, but it offers the best tropical fruit collection I have ever seen. Every piece of fruit had been grown with care, picked at the perfect time and generally sold the same day.

Mangoes, golden papayas, strawberry papayas, "Tahitian" limes, coconuts, egg fruit, avocados, white pineapple, golden pineapple, passion fruit, guavas, "ice cream" bananas, apple bananas, chayote, and on and on and on. The "ice cream" bananas were particularly fun. We were instructed to put them in the freezer for a few hours and then eat them with a spoon. The fruit was wonderfully sweet, tasting like a fresh made frozen banana custard.

For photos of the fruit stand's absolutely amazing fruit, click here:

Jan 27, 2010
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

JJ's Country Market (Hawaii's Big Island)

I don't. I am sorry. I am sure they will tell you if you call. They were always very helpful over the phone whenever I called them.

Jan 27, 2010
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

Hawaiian Style Cafe - Best Loco Moco on Big Island

Waimea is home to quite possibly my favorite restaurant on the whole island, the Hawaiian Style Cafe. Famous for their generous portions of hearty food, Hawaiian Style serves a mix of tourists, local families and blue collar workers looking for a good meal at a fair price.

The day we ate there, the place was filled with state road construction workers and a group of hands from a local cattle ranch. While the lunch plate with the Korean short ribs with stir-fried glass noodles looked delicious, we came for what many say is the best loco moco on the island.

Loco moco, for the uninitiated, is essentially your choice of breakfast meat served over steamed Japanese rice, smothered in brown gravy and then topped with a fried egg. it has been made famous in my hometown of Los Angeles by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo's foie gras version at Animal on Fairfax. At Hawaiian style, we tested two versions, one relatively healthy dish and one in search of a defibrillator.

The first, more healthful version had two grass fed beef hamburger patties, grilled and served over steamed brown rice, with grilled onions and a fried egg (no gravy). The fried egg was perfectly cooked and the grilled onions added a nice sweetness to the leaner, herbal qualities of the grass fed beef, but this dish was no match for the historically accurate cornucopia of meats served on "The Big Mok." For $7.75, the Big Mok comes with two pork sausage patties, two Portuguese linguiça rounds and two thick slices of Spam on top of steamed white rice, with brown gravy and the fried egg. I think the photo speaks for itself.

For photos of the dishes, click here:

Hawaiian Style Cafe
65-1290 Kawaihae Rd, Kamuela, HI 96743

Dec 07, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

Kekela Farm Stand - Waimea (Big Island) Hawaii

One of the leaders of Hawaii's local farm movement is Paul Johnston. Johnston, who along with his wife Susan Sanderson, and Susan’s sister Betsy Sanderson, runs the organic Kekela Farms. Johnston, a doctor in his previous life, migrated to the Big Island from the East Coast. When he first arrived on the island, he worked full time as an OB-GYN.

It was only about three years ago that they turned to farming full time. In an interview with Marin Magazine, given earlier this Fall, Johnston noted, "Growing food, and preparing food is an act of love. So for me [farming] is not too far from medicine.”

The produce grown at Kekela Farms is just spectacular. Johnston utilizes the windward side weather to grow a full spectrum of crops, from lettuces and other greens, to root vegetables, chile peppers, squash, beans, onions and herbs. Of the Waimea climate, Johnston told Marin Magazine, “[i]t’s like a perpetual New England fall, some days it’s September, and others it can be November. The key thing we do here in Hawaii that doesn’t happen in many other places [because of the weather] is succession planting, which keeps us busy 365 days a year.”

Most of the crops grown at Kekela make their way to the island's many restaurants. However, they do sell to the public at the Waimea Town Market on Saturday mornings and at their own permanent farm stand on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.

I must thank Leslie Hill, co-owner of the organic, sustainable, Wailea Agricultural Group, for introducing me to Kekela's farm stand. I originally contacted Leslie because I was searching for a source for fresh hearts of palm for the wedding and she told me that her product was sold at Kekela's stand. While Wailea Ag is the the largest fresh Hawaiian Heart of Palm grower in America, they consider stewardship of the earth one of their primary responsibilities and therefore grow their crops (hearts of palm, avocados, tropical fruits, spices) using methods of sustainable agriculture. For hearts of palm orders of 10 lbs or more, they will ship direct to you using FedEx.

For photos of Kekela's beautiful produce, click here:

Dec 02, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

JJ's Country Market (Hawaii's Big Island)

A few months ago, I asked for recs on where to find grass fed beef on the Big Island.

As many all noted, Hawaiian grass fed beef is available at pretty much large supermarket on the island and it is definitely worth searching out. Leaner and redder than the Midwestern cornfed beef, Hawaii's tender grass fed flavor is every bit as good, albeit very different.

After talking to a few friends, I learned that despite the massive size of the Big Island’s cattle ranches there are only two commercial beef processors on the island, one in Hilo and the other in Paauilo on the Hamakua Coast.

The Mattos family, which owns the Paauilo based Hawaii Beef Producers also owns JJ's Country Market in Honokaa. They turn out everything from ground beef to custom cuts -- full tenderloin strips, New York strips, ribeyes, flat irons and more. Ninety-nine percent of the meat they process comes from grass-fed cattle grown antibiotic and hormone free on the Island.

According to the local newspaper West Hawaii Today, Hawaii Beef Producers is "setup to handle primarily large 'market' animals (steers and heifers under 30 months of age that produce the top quality prime cuts)," but they do process a limited amount of grass fed Hawaiian lamb which is sold exclusively through JJ’s (hint hint, if you are looking to buy lamb on the island). In addition to large scale processing, Mattos told the paper that they provide custom processing for individual customers who bring in one cow or one lamb with a specific list of cuts they want.

For the retail consumer, JJ’s doesn’t offer much visually. It looks more like a corner liquor store than a top-notch butcher (there is no meat counter to speak of). But it does offer high quality grass fed beef to order. Just pick up the phone, tell them what you want and when you will be by to pick it up and they will have it ready for you.

The beef is cheap too. My 25 pounds of thick English-style short ribs cost little more than $30. And because the family controls the processor and the retail operation, there really isn’t any cut you can’t order. Considering the attention that modern butcher shops like New York’s Fleisher’s Meats (in the Hudson River Valley) and Dickson’s Meats (in NYC’s Chelsea Market) or roving San Francisco butcher Ryan Farr are getting for tackling whole animals, you realize the quality you are getting at JJ's knowing the Mattos family has been handling whole hormone free animals for over 100 years.

For more info and photos, click here:

Dec 02, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

Cocktails and Quality Food

Thanks for responding. I have some thinking to do. I will report back.

Oct 30, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Manhattan

Cocktails and Quality Food

I am looking for suggestions on places that have Milk n Honey/Little Branch quality cocktails that also serve good food.

I know you can get some fun hot dogs while drinking at PDT, but I am also looking for a few other ideas.

Any thoughts for me?

Oct 18, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Manhattan

Hawaiian Grass Fed Beef (Big Island)

Somebody offline suggested:

JJ Meat Market
45-3490 Mamane St, Honokaa, HI

Anybody have any thoughts/experiences?

Sep 07, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

Hawaiian Grass Fed Beef (Big Island)


Sep 07, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

Bakeries like Tartine [split from SF Bay]


This should probably be on the LA board, but since I haven't checked back on this post in a while I thought I would post here in case you checked back. I would suggest Huckleberry in Santa Monica. The baked goods are wonderful and the food menu is even a little more extensive than Tartine.

Hawaiian Grass Fed Beef (Big Island)

Hello all,

I am coming to Hawaii and have been tasked with cooking a dinner for 25. I am looking for a great butcher/rancher/retailer who sells grass fed Hawaiian beef to the public.

The closer to Kona the better, but I can go anywhere on the Big Island if need be.


Sep 06, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Hawaii

Tamale Po' Boys in Covington

Hello again NOLA.

You may not know it, because I can't find much mention of it online, but Covington is home to the tamale po' boy, a wonderfully delicious cross-cultural, carbo-loaded phenomenon of a sandwich. The proud creator of the tamale po' boy is the owner/operator of Mo's Hot Tamale Cafe. Mo's is located inside of a small home near the center of town. The front rooms, which could have easily been a living room and family room at some other time, have been converted into casual dining areas. Customers place their orders at a small counter at the back of the house near the kitchen, take a seat and wait for the fun to begin.

For those of you not from the South and looking to visit New Orleans, the Southern tamale differs slightly from the tamales sold in the Southwestern United States. The Southern tamale is much slimmer than its Western counterpart, shaped more like a robusto cigar. As a result, they are usually tied in packs of threes and sold as "bunches" or "bundles." Wrapped in either corn husks or parchment, these tamales are generally simmered, rather than steamed, standing straight up in seasoned oil and water. This "juice" adds a depth of flavor and moisture and allows for the tamales to be served "wet." Its bright orange color reminds me of the oily, annatto-spiked broth that accompanies a proper plate of cochinita pibil.

While they have a more extensive menu, including a daily "plate lunch," Mo's specializes in "New Orleans Style Hot Tamales." Served in Mo's po' boy format, the delicious chili powder and paprika spiked juices soak into the bun, moistening the sandwich and negating the need for the traditional po' boy "dressing" of lettuce, tomato and mayo. Instead, Mo's cooks cover the sandwich with shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack and pickled jalapeños. Toss in a Barq's red creme soda and some Fritos and you have yourself one hell of a meal.

For a photo of the glorious sandwich, click here:

Jun 07, 2009
Hobsons Choice in New Orleans

Cochon Restaurant

Hello NOLA.

This post obviously won't be breaking any news, but I still wanted to put it up to support Donald Link and his wonderful Cajun restaurant, Cochon.

My favorite aspect of Cochon is Link's skill with butchering whole pigs. He and the other chefs oversee an in-house Boucherie, creating boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese. The menu also features handmade crawfish pies, rabbit & dumplings, and spoon bread with okra & tomatoes as well as specialties from a wood-burning oven such as roasted oysters, suckling pig, and beef brisket.

Link has dedicated time and resources to finding the best local ingredients Louisiana has to offer. If it isn't made on-site, it is likely to be sourced locally. His shrimp comes from one local shrimper and no seafood is sourced beyond the gulf. Even the restaurant's specialty pork comes from Louisiana legend RM Holliday (which is now is owned by Maveric Farm in South Dakota, whose mission includes trying to save heritage breeds from extinction).

Not wanting to come to Cochon and skip out on the Boucherie offerings, I ordered the hogshead cheese with crispy pig ear salad as an appetizer. The pig's ear was deliciously tender and crispy as advertised, a lot like a porky fried clam strip. The green salad provided a nice freshness and acidity that cut through the richness of the pork. The star was, of course, the head cheese.

For my main, I ordered the restaurant's signature lunch sandwich; a fried oyster and bacon deal served on toasted while bread. The tomatoes were a little mealy, but that is understandable since it was almost November. They were easily pulled aside and the sandwich wasn't left dry or wanting. The fried oysters, which were plump, juicy and crispy, were a perfect complement to the thick smokey bacon. A housemade pickle and creole-style coleslaw was served on the side.

Oh, and I had on of the best Bloody Mary's even. I will certainly return next time I am in NOLA.

For photos of the meal, click here:

Jun 07, 2009
Hobsons Choice in New Orleans

Where to eat in Ferry Terminal?

I second Hog Island. Their oysters have always been great, but I had their clam chowder for the first time and it was delicious too.

See photos here:

Savory Brioche Bread Pudding with Pancetta

I had let an untouched loaf brioche turn hard as a rock. Not wanting it to go to waste and comforted by the fact that the following day was a Sunday in desperate need of a brunch idea, I set out to make my first savory bread pudding. It turned out much better than expected. After baking, the previously rock hard brioche cubes, having soaked overnight in the custard mixture, were now light, airy, buttery and toasty. The creamy tang of the Gruyère and the salty deliciousness of the pancetta added enough richness to the dish that a simple green salad was all that was needed on the side. Toss in a glass of rose and you had a meal.

Jun 02, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Home Cooking

Fra'Mani Meatloaf at Venice Costco

I know. It seems cruel right. But I sat on it for a month because, at that time, I bought the last box. I waited until I saw another shipment before posting on Chowhound.

Along those lines, was just there the other day. The meatloaf is still in stock. Looks like it will be an ongoing item.

My understanding is that Paul Bertolli is looking to make more of these mass market products to supplement revenue growth re: the more limited items.

May 31, 2009
Hobsons Choice in General Topics

Fra'Mani Meatloaf at Venice Costco

Yes, that's right. Paul Bertolli, artisan pork master, has slowly moved his company that much closer toward humanely-raised, hormone-free mass market food.

For $15 you get two 1 1/2 pound portions of heat-n-serve meatloaf. Well worth it.

Get it while you can.

Apr 19, 2009
Hobsons Choice in General Topics

Eastside/Westside Maple Bacon Standoff?

I think your second question is partly right. But my understanding is that the Historic Core is north and west of Skid Row. I would say that the Nickel is right on the border between the two. Go one or two block east and one block south from the Nickel and you are close to the heart of Skid Row. Go one block north and one or two block west and you are on Broadway right next to the Grand Central Market.

Eastside/Westside Maple Bacon Standoff?

A trip to the Santa Monica farmers' market this weekend provided an excuse to drop by the Santa Monica breakfast spot of the moment, Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe. Huckleberry is the new venture from husband and wife team Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb. Other Chowhounders on this board have noted that the Rustic Canyon brunch became so popular, they jumped at the chance to open a nearby breakfast joint when the right property became available.

Now, I plan on writing a longer post on Huckleberry in the next day or two, but I wanted to write up something ASAP on the a emerging Westside/Eastside maple bacon battle.

As many have noted, the Nickel Diner in downtown LA has garnered a lot of well deserved attention for a delicious maple bacon doughnut.

Well, Zoe (the pastry chef half of the Huckleberry team) has thrown down the gauntlet with the maple bacon biscuit.

Whereas the Nickel's doughnut is in-your-face sweet, smokey and salty all at the same time, Huckleberry's biscuit is much more nuanced and refined. The biscuit, despite its maple-y promises, is really a savory breakfast treat with only a hint of bacon.

Could it have something to do with these two restaurants respective neighborhoods? We all know that the Historic Core runs up against Skid Row. Santa Monica, especially the North of Montana set, is well quite the opposite.

The Nickel was tailor-made for its neighborhood and Huckleberry fits in perfectly at its location. Maybe the doughnut and the biscuit are just natural extensions of their respective identities.

But that doesn't solve the initial dilemma. Whose pastry is better? I am curious LA, what do you think? Maple bacon doughnut or maple bacon biscuit? Downtown or Santa Monica?

If you are a visual person and need photos of each product to help you make your decision, click here:

Ramps coming soon to SM Sat. Farmers' Market

I trekked out to the Santa Monica farmer's market this Saturday to see if Spring has, well, sprung (at least food wise). I had the highest hopes given what was going in yards around Los Angeles. Wisteria and jasmine are blooming all over LA and the flowers (both the sights and the scents) are absolutely incredible.

Things were looking good upon arrival. The farmer's market flower vendors were selling buckets of cherry blossom branches and one of the first farmer's tables I stopped by had English peas. They weren't as sweet as could be, but they were very fresh - not starchy at all.

A few tables farther in and we ran up against some huge globe artichokes and beautiful thin asparagus. Asparagus, like peas, deteriorate quickly after picking, which is why Spring at the farmer's markets in California is such a special time.

Harry's Berries is going strong. Their strawberry season starts in late February and really starts to peak in April. We are almost there. Harry's prices have always been the highest in the market but they generally deliver the most consistent quality for lesson known, sweeter varietals like the Gaviota strawberry. If you go, however, be sure to ask to taste one of the strawberries to make sure you like them. There are some other strong strawberry vendors at the Santa Monica farmer's market that have a cheaper product and you just might like their strawberries better.

We haven't hit the total jackpot yet. I stopped by the mushroom vendor across from the Arizona Ave. Röckenwagner because he sells ramps every year. No luck. There were only two tables selling either English peas or sugar snap peas and only a few more selling asparagus. And the really big guns, like green garlic, baby fennel and the ramps, were still missing. These true harbingers of Spring have a few weeks, or more, to go.

"A couple weeks for the ramps" the mushroom vendor promised. Let's hope nature let's him keep his word.

For a bunch of photos of the different fruits and veggies, click here:

Praise for Michael Chiarello's Tomato Braised Chicken

If you have a pot that is big enough I am sure you could do it. You would need to extend the cooking time some, but that timing issue could easily be solved with an instant read thermometer.

I think I have the 9-quart Le Creuset dutch oven and it fills it pretty close to the top as you can see from the photo on my link above. If you have a 15-20 quart stock pot it just might work, but you would want to make sure that it fits in your oven before you get it all the way filled up and simmering. I don't think a 20-quart pot would fit in mine.

Mar 16, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Home Cooking

Praise for Michael Chiarello's Tomato Braised Chicken

For me, a once yearly must-have recipe is my version of Michael Chiarello's long-cooked hen in tomato sauce. I have had this dish at least once for each of the past 7-8 years now. It takes a bit of work, but the recipe is almost foolproof and I am always impressed with the great flavor. The following is my take on his wonderful creation.

Serves 4, with sauce for days

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
4 minced garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
4 tbls kosher salt
2 cups dry red wine
6 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, pulsed in a blender or Cuisinart
5 tbls freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Preheat your oven to 325ºF. At the same time, preheat a large Dutch oven on the stove top over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves) and 1 tbls salt.

Saute the aromatics, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are caramelized. This caramelization process is an important step as it contributes a great depth of flavor. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any flavorful stuck-on bits. Let the wine simmer for 3 minutes.

Add all of the tomatoes, the rest of the salt and the pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. It is important to add enough salt and pepper now, so that the chicken seasons as it cooks. You won't be able to taste the sauce once the chicken goes in the pot.

Place the chicken, breast side down, in the sauce, and bring the sauce to a simmer on the stove top. Transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about 2 hours, spooning the sauce over the chicken from time to time.

Remove the pot from the oven and let the chicken cool a little in the sauce for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, carefully as it is still very hot, and place on a cutting board. Stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and allow to cook in the sauce while you carve the chicken.

Generally I serve the chicken and a few spoonfuls of the sauce over a bowl of creamy polenta, but I had some fregola in the pantry so I used that instead. The nuttiness of the small pasta worked well. And the best part, there were about two quarts of that delicious pasta sauce left over.

The pasta can be frozen into different containers for easy dinners on other nights. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.

Note: I have always used a standard supermarket bird for this recipe, but I want to try an actual stewing hen the next time I try it. According to Chiarello, his grandmother's used her own homegrown hens. "They were tough and sinewy," he says, "but they had excellent flavor, and the slow cooking in tomato sauce tenderized them."

For photos and more, click here:

Mar 14, 2009
Hobsons Choice in Home Cooking

SFV alert-Regional Mexican in No.Hollywood

Just wanted to add my thanks to Street Gourmet LA for finding this place. The from scratch cooking being put out at this place is delicious. They are serving the best huaraches I have ever had.

Pics of my trip to Don Huarache here:

A Visit to Manzke's New Church & State w/ pics

One thing I didn't mention in my original post... the timing out of the kitchen, at least during our lunch, was still a little slow. Don't expect to get in and out quickly.

Of course it was likely because we ordered right after a large 12 top having a holiday office lunch.