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

Messob Ethiopian

Messob is the most brightly lit of the Ethiopian restaurants around town–you may wonder if you’ve accidentally wandered into a Subway sandwich shop. But the waitstaff is warm and friendly, and the food is very good, according to daveena. Injera is thin and quite sour, kitfo is nicely spicy, and red lentils are delicious, if not as buttery as they might be in an ideal world. Dinner is about $16 including a beer, tax, and tip.

Messob is “not earth-shaking, genre-defining good, but I-plan-to-become-a-regular good,” says daveena.

Messob [Piedmont]
4301 Piedmont Ave., Oakland

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Messob–good Ethiopian on Piedmont

Tigerland: Stylish Southeast Asian in the East Village

Tigerland applies a dash of French technique to top-notch ingredients to make slightly upmarket Vietnamese and Thai food. Even some purists are impressed. “Not really a substitute for home-style Thai, but a lot of great dishes,” says Simon, who singles out shrimp sauteed with garlic and Berkshire bacon. “It’s not exactly fusion, but more like updated home cooking.”

A don’t-miss appetizer is Angel Wings (deboned chicken wings stuffed with seafood, noodles, and vegetables). Also recommended: tom ka gai (chicken coconut soup), papaya salad with Vietnamese sausage, banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe) with shrimp and pork, Shaking Beef (seared cubes of meat with garlic, black pepper, watercress). Meats are naturally raised, produce is mostly organic, and seafood is wild, not farmed.

Early diners can take advantage of an attractive prix fixe special: appetizer, entree, rice, and dessert for $22 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. “An amazing deal,” declares jungirl. “It is a ridiculous amount of food.”

Tigerland [East Village]
85 Ave. A, between E. 5th and 6th Sts., Manhattan

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angel wings
Heaven chicken wings
need great thai or french vietnemese restaurant
Excellent Thai in les—Ama ya
Hip Intimate Ethnic Restaurant? Please Help

In Jackson Heights, a Burmese Discovery

Lephet thoke, or tea leaf salad–a brightly seasoned party-on-a-plate of fermented green tea, nuts, bean sprouts, and more–is a must-try at Jackson Heights’ promising new Burmese Cafe. It’s crunchy/smooth, dry/oily, fresh, surprising, and irresistible, says Peter Cuce.

Other winners: sour pork curry, chile-spiked fish cake salad, crispy squash fritters with sprightly sambal, and a rich, gingery duck soup, punched up by tangy pickled greens. The menu also offers Burmese-style Chinese dishes that include a stir-fried fish curry authentically redolent of garlic, onion, and chile, reports marachino–but also undistinguished kung pao chicken.

Prices are gentle, service exceptionally friendly. “Everything had a unique, different taste. I’m so glad about this new addition to the neighborhood!” writes welle.

In a city where good Burmese food is scarce, this place could be big news if it fulfills its potential. Burmese hound juhlee, who approves of the tea salad and fish curry–but is unmoved by mohinga (fish noodle soup) and coconut chicken noodle soup–ranks Burmese Cafe slightly ahead of Manhattan’s Village Mingala. “It does seem promising, and I would return to try other dishes since the options for Burmese food in New York are limited.”

Burmese Cafe [Jackson Heights]
71-34 Roosevelt Ave., at 72nd St., Jackson Heights, Queens

Village Mingala [East Village]
21 E. 7th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan

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New ‘Burmese Cafe’ in Jackson Heights

Cronkite: Thin-Crust Bliss on the Lower East Side

First-class toppings on an uncommonly good thin-crust pie are the draw at Cronkite Pizzeria. Opened in November by the owner of Williamsburg’s Fornino, it shares its sister restaurant’s artisanal bent–home-grown herbs, house-made fennel sausage, carefully chosen wine list, imported Italian tomatoes and burrata.

“It’s the best thing I’ve eaten in a while,” raves Peter Cuce, who tried the Vongole (clams, mozzarella, Parmesan) and the Lombardi (arugula, mozzarella, prosciutto). ironfrank describes a nearly perfect crust, cracker crisp with just the right amount of char from the brick oven. “It’s no DiFara,” he adds, “but it’s quite good.” Beyond pizza, check out starters like the tomato-buffalo mozzarella salad or polenta with roasted wild mushrooms.

Dissenters say delivery orders can fall flat and suggest that some combos on the ambitious, two-dozen-plus topping list don’t quite work.

Cronkite Pizzeria and Wine Bar [Lower East Side]
133 Norfolk St., at Rivington, Manhattan

Fornino [Williamsburg]
187 Bedford Ave., at N. 7th St., Brooklyn

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Cronkite Pizza–Over Budget but NOT out of this world
Cronkite Pizzeria?

Rockenwagner’s Bakery Rises a Second Time: 3 Square

The folks of Rockenwagner have opened up another bakery-café: Three Square. Those who love their bacon-cheese twists and pretzel twists: be psyched. Cinnamon rolls, scones, and the like run $3 apiece. They also have sandwiches–brie with caramelized pears and figs on walnut bread is great, says sharkgirl88.

Decor is design-y, with cool retractable tables; the crowd, though, is more like “yuppies who think they’re Dogtowners,” says bulavinka.

Three Square Cafe + Bakery [Beaches]
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

Rockenwagner Bakery [Beaches]
12835 Washington Blvd., Mar Vista

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Rockenwagner bakery is open
Checking out 3 Square bakery

The How-Tos of Browning Meat

Recipes often begin by ordering you to brown meat or poultry, before any braising or roasting or suchlike. Browning meat improves its flavor, and the bits left in the pan when you brown meat, called the fond, add flavor to sauces.

There are a few rules for successfully browning meat without having it stick to the pan. First, pat your meat dry with paper towels before you season and cook it. Heat your empty pan, and when it’s hot, add oil; with a good pan, it should get plenty hot over medium heat on a gas stove. When the oil is hot, add the meat. The next step is the most important: Leave the meat alone. All meat will stick initially when it hits the pan, but it will release when it has formed a crust. If you try to turn it too soon, it will stick. Wait a few minutes, then slide a spatula under your meat and see if it releases easily. If not, be patient and allow it to go a little longer. When it has browned, it will release; turn it over with a spatula or tongs and brown the other side the same way.

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Why do my meats stick when I try to brown them?

Smoked Mackerel

Mackerel is high in healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and smoked mackerel is delicious, on its own or used in recipes. It’s sold in vacuum-sealed packages, like smoked salmon, and can be found in specialty food stores, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.

Here are some ideas for using it:

Scramble with eggs and sauteed onions.

Put in a hash with potatoes and onions (add the mackerel late, when the potatoes are almost done).

Add it to green salads with a citrus vinaigrette, or with citrus segments and a mustardy vinaigrette.

Make a smoked mackerel stew: use a recipe for Manhattan clam chowder, replacing the clams with mackerel.

Make a pate by pureeing with cream, lemon juice, and melted butter.

Combine with cream cheese, sliced green onions, and a dash of lemon juice, and eat on crackers.

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Smoked Mackerel

Monkey Bread

Monkey bread, a.k.a. bubble bread, is usually a sweet yeast bread on the order of sticky buns. The bread dough is rolled into balls, which are dipped into melted butter and nestled side-by-side in the baking pan, then coated with a sugary glaze. The balls bake up all stuck together, and to eat it, everyone plucks a ball from the monkey mass. It was big back in the 50’s, but it’s just as fun to eat now.

Here’s some monkey bread trivia from the Food Timeline.

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Why is monkey bread called that?

Grazing in the Garden

Using fresh flowers as a garnish is a very effective (and delicious!) way to gussy up a dish. Some flowers, like violets, can be candied and used to decorate baked goods. This web site has lots of good tips on edible flowers and how to use them:

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help! ate some delicious flowers, don’t know their names…

Those Cephalopods

Octopus, squid, and cuttlefish get a bum rap from a lot of folks, but that’s only because a lot of folks don’t know how to cook ‘em. They should never be tough like “rubber bands.” The rule to follow when cooking cephalopods is to cook them very, very quickly (grilling works well), or over a long time in a braising liquid. Anything in between will yield those rubber bands.

Their flavor is mild and sweet. The body of the squid is a perfect shape for stuffing, too.

Buy the freshest you can find; they should smell good, and as with buying any fish, their eyes should be clear.

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Is there any real reason to eat squid or octopus?