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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Finally: All the Pro Forma Joy of Disney in a Cereal Bowl

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that, thanks to the selfless exertions of General Mills, you can now enjoy a whole new confluence of sugary cereal and content-free entertainment for young people.

Princess Fairytale Flakes are both pink and sugar-sweetened. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Berry Crunch contains no actual berries. And Little Einstein Fruity Stars, like most sweetened cereals, are likely to actually measurably drag down the IQ of children who make the mistake of consuming them.

The new Disney-tied cereals are a mere $1.99 a box, a suspiciously low price that suggests that Disney is subsidizing the consumption of “lightly sweetened” whole-grain corn cereals in order to capture the attention of kids with their moribund creative properties (when’s the last time Mickey Mouse made you laugh? And who’s actually psyched to see a straight-to-DVD re-remake of public-domain fairy tale Cinderella?)

Just to be absolutely clear that no fun will actually be had by anyone involved in the cereal-making and -consumption process, Snow White and Cinderella are referred to by General Mills as “strong equities that need no introduction.”

Sounds like a trip to the Magic Kingdom in a bowl. Wheee!

How I Learned to Stop Worry and Love the Can

jimzk initially suffered from feelings of shock and betrayal upon discovering that the luscious, perfectly-spiced baba ganoush at Haig’s Deli comes out of a can–at least, the foundation of eggplant puree does. That may be part of what gives the baba ganoush its unquestionable authenticity–the cans do come from Lebanon, and are of a very good brand. And, of course, the kitchen at Haig’s dresses up the canned base with their own spices. rworange notes that people love the clam chowder at Swan’s, even though it comes out of a can–it’s all about how the restaurant doctors it up. “There’s stuff lovingly made from scratch that is tasteless,” she says.

Haig’s Delicacies [Richmond]
642 Clement St., San Francisco

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The inconvenient truth about Haig’s Deli

Do Women Drink for Free?

Is it true that women never pay for their own drinks in bars—having their tabs picked up instead by obliging men? This is the latest question at Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Ask Your Bartender column on his blog.

“I was hoping you could settle a debate that has begun in my office,” writes reader Amy. “The men say that most women drink for free (men buy their drinks) and expect to drink free. The women (myself included) believe this is an old wives tale as we have not the experience of walking into a bar and having random men pick up our tabs.”

The reader response is mixed, falling—not surprisingly—mostly along gender lines. Can you guess the gender of the following commenters?

Today it’s an exception. When my generation was in their 20’s, men would send unsolicited drinks to trigger that ‘nice girl’ response we were all brainwashed with as children.

I would have to agree that most women do drink for free when they go to a bar. Most men are willing to pay for them … for some odd reason.

I have always tried to be conscientious when drinking at the bar. If someone buys me a round I return the favor. If I were to run up an expensive bar tab I would feel guilty if I allowed a stranger to pick up the tab.

What does the Bartender have to say on the topic?

I’ve tended bar in all sorts of places, from college partyhouses and over-the-tracks dive bars to upscale restaurants and lounges…. Sure, there’s the occasional woman who doesn’t pay for a thing (I fail to see how this is vastly different from prostitution), but it’s not the rule, it’s an exception.

What is your experience? Are women willing to pay for their own drinks, or do they expect to be paid for?

Fresh Duck Livers

Just a heads-up–G&G Supermarket sells fresh duck livers (and gizzards) at the reasonable price of $1.19 per pound. They only have them on Wednesdays, and they only have a small amount, says brocante, but they are of good quality.

Manila Market also carries duck livers at a reasonable price, says Zeldog.

G&G Supermarket [Sonoma County]
1211 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa

Manila Meat Market [Mission District]
987 Mission St., San Francisco

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Fresh Duck Livers @ G&G Market

Phoenix Garden – Winning Cantonese in Midtown

Phoenix Garden’s many fans declare its Cantonese food dependably first-rate–not just for Midtown Manhattan but for the entire city, including Chinatown. A recent runaway hit is a casserole of oysters, pork, and bean curd. “The clay pots were scraped bare in minutes,” reports eating me, who lovingly describes “huge, juicy fried oysters chillin’ out with fried tofu rectangles, fatty roasted pork and chopped cabbage in an addictive, not-too-sweet brown sauce.”

“This place rocks,” agrees AKR, whose dinner was highlighted by snow pea leaves with garlic, braised duck with mushrooms in brown sauce, peppery/oniony scallops in five-pepper sauce, and sweet, succulent honey ribs. Others recommend sauteed watercress, seafood fried noodles, steamed flounder in black bean sauce, and crab stir-fried with ginger and scallions.

Peter Cherches, who advances the controversial thesis that Midtown has eclipsed Chinatown for Chinese food, ranks Phoenix Garden with Wu Liang Ye, Szechuan Gourmet and Evergreen Shanghai as four of Manhattan’s top Chinese restaurants. This is also the only restaurant in Manhattan that serves young stir-fried ginger with chicken.

Servers are friendly, knowledgeable and not above the occasional upsell. The place is BYOB; good matches include Rieslings, Alsatians, and other wines on the sweet side, AKR advises.

Phoenix Garden Restaurant [Turtle Bay]
242 E. 40th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan

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Review–Phoenix Garden

Betty Bakery – Sweetness and Light in Brooklyn

Betty bakes some nice things: cupcakes, cookies, tea breads, fruit pastries, cinnamon challah twists, to name a few. iwantcake reports taking home a superior apple pie–very fresh, not too sweet–that made a lasting impression over the holidays. This bright little shop–opened in fall by the owners of wedding-cake specialists Cheryl Kleinman Cakes and Bijoux Doux–sticks to the sweet stuff. Its breads reportedly come from hound favorite Amy’s.

Betty Bakery [Boerum Hill]
448 Atlantic Ave., between Nevins and Bond Sts., Brooklyn

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Cute new bakery on Atlantic near Nevins
Newish bakery on Atlantic Avenue

How Do Laser Thermometers Work Without Touching the Food?

How Do Laser Thermometers Work Without Touching the Food?

Clue: The light is only there for show. READ MORE

Home-Style Jamaican Cookin’

Formerly a branch of the meat-patty bakery Golden Krust, Jamaica Cafe offers straightforward, unpretentious Jamaican fare that tastes like it came straight from an auntie’s kitchen, says SoCalMuncher.

Curry goat is flavorful and tender, more than a match for the strong, high-masala West Indian curry. In true island style, though, you’ll have to use your fingers to get all the meat–there’s a lot of bone in there.

On the side, deep-fried plantains, red beans and rice, and yams are good, but nothing spectacular.

Meat patties are good enough for the West Coast, but could use some real, good pepper sauce for kick. They have chicken and vegetable patties, too.

Jamaica Cafe [South Bay]
formerly Golden Krust
321 E. Willow St, Long Beach

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Props to Jamaica Cafe

Northern Delights at Spicy BBQ

Spicy BBQ has a minor specialty in northern Thai dishes (think Chiang Mai), with about a dozen on their menu. Khao soi is well worth it, says cant talk…eating.

It’s a dark curry-coconut milk broth with chicken thigh or beef, thin, flat noodles and spicy preserved greens, plus a garnish of cilantro, red onion and lime. The broth has really complex flavor, but be warned: this dish doesn’t really travel well. Eat in.

Spicy BBQ Restaurant/Khun Nong [Thai Town]
5101 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

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Khao soi at Spicy BBQ

Fab Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

These unorthodox, super-peanutty peanut butter cookies, made without butter or flour, are perfect for those who must avoid dairy or wheat. But they’re great for for dairy-and-wheat eaters, too; these cookies are terrific by any standard (and even better with the addition of chocolate chips). Dizzied notes that they hold together better if you use standard-issue peanut butter rather than all-natural. The recipe is easily doubled.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder

1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together well and chill dough. Preheat oven to 350F. Roll dough into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Use a sugared fork to press a criss-cross pattern into the dough; bake for 9-11 minutes. Let rest on sheet for a few minutes to let firm up, then very carefully remove to rack (they are very delicate until completely cool).

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Twin treats–one flourless, one not