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

Birds of a Feather – Yakitori Totto Hatches Torys

If you like Totto, you’ll like Torys. New York’s favorite yakitori-ya has spawned an East Side twin, taking over the upstairs space briefly occupied by Tori-gen. “Essentially Totto East,” sums up kenito799, who reports a similar menu that showcases every imaginable part of the chicken, faultlessly seasoned and grilled, from the familiar (thigh, wing, breast with green onion) to the exotic (breast bone). The latter is worth a try–smoky and crunchy, with surprising complexity of flavor and play of textures.

Other winners, well known to Totto fans, include tsukune (skewered ground chicken), deeply chickeny rice porridge, and meaty eringi (king oyster) mushroom. Torys sets itself apart by offering more Okinawan-inspired dishes than its sister restaurant. It also features chicken sashimi–seasoned with sesame oil or Korean-style spices–which Totto no longer serves. At both restaurants, the setting is spare and comfortable. The vibe is unmistakably Japanese.

Yakitori Torys, a.k.a. Torys Japanese Grille [Midtown East]
formerly Tori-gen
248 E. 52nd St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., 2nd floor, Manhattan

Yakitori Totto [Clinton]
251 W. 55th St., between 8th Ave. and Broadway, 2nd floor, Manhattan

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Torys Yakitori on 52nd st
Best Yakitori

The Faux-Hostess With the Mostest

Cupcakes from Dainties knocked FoodieMcFood for a loop. Dark chocolate with ganache frosting and a shot of whipped cream inside and on top make them like the Hostess cakes of childhood, but so, so much better.

There are five options for the whipped cream flavor–vanilla bean, raspberry, chocolate, caramel, and coffee–but the cupcakes are all chocolate with ganache frosting. Chocophobes need not apply.

Although it’s more of a catering operation, the owner welcomes drop-ins. Don’t expect a cafe atmosphere, though.

cvc says there’s another good new cupcake place in Pasadena, Dots.

Dainties Cupcakes [Beaches]
11058 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

Dots Cupcakes [Pasadena-ish]
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
626-568-DOTS (3687)

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Ultra-chocolatey cupcakes.

Jewish Penicillin – It’s for All of Us

It’s cold season, just the right time for a hot bowl of deli soup.

Kreplach soup at Solley’s in Sherman Oaks has excellent dumplings of good thick dough filled with well-spiced beef, says bglicklich. The broth is also rich and tasty, with lots of noodles, chicken, and carrots. It costs $9…but such are the times we live in.

Matzo ball soup from Fromin’s is NAspy’s answer to the common cold. You can also get “chicken in a pot,” a soup that includes a matzo ball, a kreplach, half a chicken, and lots of noodles and carrots, plus half a loaf of rye on the side.

Canter’s also has chicken in the pot, and Hackenbush thinks it’s amazing–with a boiled potato and sometimes some kasha in the mix. The basic chicken soup here is a purist’s version: just broth and noodles or rice, no chicken or carrots.

Label’s Table, a real-deal deli, serves an excellent matzo ball soup with no chicken, says roastingjoe. Nate ‘n’ Al’s version, also very good, is similarly light on meat.

For those who like their matzo ball soup “loaded” with chicken, vegetables, and herbs, davinagr’s fave is Weilers. The one in Woodland Hills makes the other locations pale by comparison, she says.

Solley’s Restaurant & Deli [East San Fernando Valley]
4578 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks

Solley’s Restaurant & Deli [West San Fernando Valley]
16650 Ventura Blvd., Encino

Fromin’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1832 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

Fromin’s Restaurant [West San Fernando Valley]
17615 Ventura Blvd., Encino

Canter’s Fairfax Restaurant [Fairfax Village]
419 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

Label’s Table Delicatessen [West San Fernando Valley]
23311 Mulholland Dr., Woodland Hills

Weilers Deli [West San Fernando Valley]
21161 Victory Blvd., Canoga Park

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Matzo balls and kreplach

Keeping the Heat in Your Meat

Many recipes instruct you to remove meat from a pan and “keep it warm” while you deglaze the pan to make a sauce, or take other steps and add the meat back to the dish in progress. And when you roast or grill meat or poultry, you want to keep it warm while it rests before serving. The best way to keep meats warm without allowing them to overcook depends on the size of the cut and the way it’s cooked. If you’ll be adding meat back to a pan or plating within a few minutes, keeping it on a plate on top of the stove–which will be nice and warm from your cooking–will often do the job. Many tent meat with foil to help keep the heat in: drape foil loosely over the meat, don’t wrap it tightly. If you need to keep meat warm for longer than 10 minutes or so, put it an oven at the lowest possible setting (“keep warm” or at most 200F). The one case where you should not tent meat is when you’ve cooked something whose texture you want to keep crisp, such as skin-on roast chicken. Tenting will create a bit of steam and you’ll lose that delectable crispiness.

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How do you ‘keep meat warm’?

So Many Ways with Fresh Dill

Fresh dill works with any number of foods. It’s a great complement to fish, chicken, and potatoes, but also works well with many other vegetables.

Use it in shrimp, tuna, chicken, and potato salads, made either with oil- or mayonnaise-based dressings. It’s great in a lemony vinaigrette, or in a salad dressing made from cream and lemon juice. Add it to fresh green salads for a bright flavor. Steam carrots with dill or saute mushrooms in butter with dill. Add it to beet borscht, potato-leek soup, or lentil soup. Fill omelets with dill and feta cheese. Add it to bread dough, with or without chopped olives.

carswell likes a versatile sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice, blanched green olives, capers, and snipped dill fronds heated until warm.

spades’s favorite way to use dill is in a creamy cucumber salad: Peel and slice thin an English cucumber and toss it thoroughly with salt. Chill for an hour to allow the salt to draw the water out, then drain the water off and add sour cream, dill, pepper, and salt if you think it needs more. SuzMiCo makes a similar salad with hearts of palm. For a lighter version, use plain yogurt in place of the sour cream.

mermaidsd makes dilly rice: Saute garlic, turmeric, cumin, and salt in some olive oil until the spices are fragrant. Stir in finely chopped dill and saute for another minute, being careful not to overcook. Add rinsed basmati rice and mix until coated with spices and herbs. Add appropriate amount of water and cook until rice is done.

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Dill–wonder herb.
Ideas for using up dill?

Cornish Game Hen

The true Cornish game hen is a crossbreed that results in a small-sized chicken. But it’s hard to know if the little single-serving bird labelled “Cornish game hen” you bought at your supermarket is actually of the Cornish variety. The USDA requires that chickens sold as Cornish game hens must weigh no more than 2 pounds, ready to cook. And nothing more. It might not even be a “hen.”

In any case, they make a nice presentation. They can be stuffed, or seasoned as you would a normal-sized chicken, and they’re perfect for a single serving. carswell describes the flavor as bland and best cooked with fruit and other flavorful ingredients. They are succulent and juicy.

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Cornish Game Hens

Elusive Altoids

Chocolate Altoids seem to appear and disappear from the stores. KJC got hooked on them…until they disappeared.

kerokaeru says they taste like Junior Mints, but crunchy, and the “curiously strong” Altoid punch is lost.

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Chocolate Altoids

The UK’s Tummy Troubles

Almost half of UK residents have some form of food intolerance, the Independent reports. According to a just-published study by the nonprofit Allergy UK, such intolerances—non-life-threatening reactions to foods (most commonly certain components of milk and wheat)—are the root of many seemingly minor ailments like exhaustion, migraines, colds, and flus. The group is PO’d that the government hasn’t helped sufferers bypass long waiting lists for medical specialists, claiming that this inaction drives patients to seek out quacky alternative medicine. As the head of Allergy UK tells the paper:

People can get weird and wacky diets which are very damaging to their health. They start off with one problem and this is compounded by bad dietary advice.

The group urges traditional doctors to bone up on their understanding of food intolerance so that people don’t have to go the “wacky” route.

UK doctors counter that while they’ve seen a recent spike in patients claiming to have food intolerances, most of the reports were “in the mind.” Some blame this rash of self-diagnosis ailment on a handful of recently diagnosed British celebrities, including Rachel Weisz and Victoria Beckham.

But to hear the account of anyone who’s actually been diagnosed with a food intolerance, doctors’ skepticism is a major problem. Has anyone here gone through it? What was it like to have to give up a whole class of potentially yummy foods?

Killing Our Dreams

It turns out that owning your own craft brewery is a great way to have job satisfaction but a lousy way to make a buck.

There’s been an explosion of interest in delightful craft-brewed beers, and you would think that those small craft breweries are reaping the benefits. You’d be wrong

A thorough article in the business section of Inside Bay Area uses the story of Pleasanton, California’s HopTown Brewery to illustrate the challenges facing small-production brewers.

Just staying on the shelves is the biggest hurdle; most craft brewers aren’t big enough to go through a distributor, meaning that they have to market and deliver the product themselves, an expensive proposition.

And the craft-beer explosion hasn’t escaped the notice of corporate brewers, either:

Molson Coors, according to industry sources, was expected to have sold more than 400,000 barrels of a craft-style wheat beer, Blue Moon Belgian White Ale, in 2006. That would put Blue Moon alone as the No. 3 craft brewer, behind only Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada.

Remember, people, just because the label looks rustic doesn’t mean it’s a true craft beer. Drink local!

Is That a T-Bone in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Who can resist the siren call of the rib-eye steak? Says reporter Brendon I. Koerner in Slate, not many. Meat topped the list of items shoplifted from supermarkets last year, just above painkillers, razors, and baby formula. (Cough medicines that could be rejiggered into crystal meth used to top the list, until the meds got shelved behind secure counters.)

According a 2005 University of Florida study, desperation isn’t the driving force behind this five-finger discounting. The most common meat-lifter is an employed woman between the ages of 35 and 54 who’s adding a little luxury to the weekly grocery haul. (Men, by contrast, are more likely to steal stuff that can be sold again for cash, like Tylenol and batteries.) Supermarket detectives say these shoplifters go for the fancy stuff—rib-eye steak, lamb chops, filet mignon—as a reward worth the risk, slipped into a purse or coat pocket before they head to the check-out line to pay for the Tide and Cheerios.

And even as supermarkets get savvy with security tags on meat packages, the rise in popularity of automated checkout lines means that stealing some steaks could get even easier. (Many supermarket staffers just assume a malfunction if an alarm sounds as a shopper is leaving with an already-paid-for sack of groceries.) The options for cutting back on such crimes? Says Slate,

Meat-sniffing dogs pop to mind, though some shoppers might object to having a Doberman nosing around their crotches in search of stolen steaks. But you know what they say about civil liberties in a time of crisis.