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

Filling Up on Baked Goods at a Gas Station in Brooklyn

Devotees of Ostrovitsky, the hound-endorsed bakery in Midwood, can fill up on kosher treats in Borough Park at a satellite outlet tucked into a Rio gas station. Selection is smaller than at the Avenue J flagship, but it passes the road test, reports Mike R. He rates the challah “high-test” and the hamantaschen “89 octane.” There’s also coffee and a steam table laden with pastas, potato kugel, kasha varnishke, and other hot foods.

Ostrovitsky Coffee Shop and Bakery [Borough Park]
3715 14th Ave., between 37th and 38th Sts., in Rio Service Station, Brooklyn

Ostrovitsky Bakery [Midwood]
1201 Ave. J, at E. 12th St., Brooklyn

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Great Challah in Brooklyn?

Turning Over a New Leaf

Leaf Cuisine, a (mostly) raw and vegan restaurant, is a good choice for anyone looking to eat light, says Poorwater, who likes their wraps and salads. You can build your own wraps and salads using nine kinds of filling.

For something more filling, go for the croquettes, “delicately dehydrated until crispy on the outside, soft and yummy on the inside,” as the menu says.

The croquettes are pretty tasty, and come with flavorful sauces. There’s veggie sunburger (vegetable-seed croquettes with sweet, tangy tomato sauce), Bombay burrito (lentil croquettes with coconut-curry sauce), and Mediterranean medley (sun-dried tomato and walnut croquettes with spinach pesto).

In salad form, these come topped with tomatoes, sprouts and greens. (The house dressing, a creamy ginger-shoyu, is delish.) In a wrap, they’re rolled up in a collard leaf (default) or a sprouted grain tortilla.

Wraps and salads average about $10. They also have appetizers, soups, and other entrees.

Also in the area is Leonor’s, a vegetarian Mexican place. The food is fresh, clean and satisfying, says Poorwater, though you’ll probably want to add salt and hot sauce. In addition to the usual Mexican fare, they also have pizza, burgers, and salads. Oh yes, “burgers.” They use fake meat and soy cheese–not like the real thing, but kind of tasty in its own way. Fake chicken, for example, is a lot like a salty matzoh ball.

Leaf Cuisine [East San Fernando Valley]
14318 Ventura Blvd., at Beverly Glen, Sherman Oaks

Leaf Cuisine [Culver City-ish]
11938 Washington Blvd., Culver City

Leonor’s Vegetarian Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
11403 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood

Leonor’s Vegetarian Mexican Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
12445 Moorpark St. # C, at Whitsett, Studio City

Leonor Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
5217 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village

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Leaf Cuisine in Sherman Oaks–Report (also, a Leonor’s Mexican Vegetarian mention)

Doughnuts for the Beverly Hills Set

With Fritelli

Fromage Fort

Fromage fort is an old French creation born of frugality, a means of using up all the odd–and old–bits of cheese that have accumulated in the pantry. It can be made from any mix of hard, semisoft, and soft cheeses, and all mixes seem to work, so long as they’re not too salty. You trim them of their rinds and any moldy spots, and combine them in a food processor with a clove or two of garlic and enough white wine (or cream, or vegetable stock) to make a rough paste, perfect for spreading on bread or toast. It’ll keep about a week in the fridge.

Several recommend Alton Brown’s recipe.

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Fromage Fort

Bagels by Mail

Bagels are serious business in New York. Happily enough, some favored New York delis will deliver their babies by mail. The cost of shipping perishable goods overnight is high, but if you really need a New York bagel:

For Ess-a-Bagel, call the 3rd. Ave. location, 212-980-1010

Janet from Richmond has had great success ordering H & H bagels.

L_W orders from Bagel Boss and says the bagels come fast and fresh.

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Mail order bagels

Things You Never Thought You’d Cook With: Pineapple Rinds

Never again must the thorny hide of the pineapple be relegated straight to the trash can or compost bin. You can make delicious stuff with it, like a fizzy, fermented Mexican beverage called tepache and a spicy-fruity condiment called pineapple vinagre.

Tepache is particularly common along the central west coast of Mexico and in Mexico City, says Eat Nopal, who describes his homemade batch as lightly fizzy like a spritzer, and refreshing, with hints of alcohol, pineapple, and woodsy flavors. It makes an exotic drink all on its own or a good cocktail mixer. Here’s the recipe he uses. Where the recipe says to let the mixture “simmer” for 48 hours, it means let it steep. Eat Nopal adds no ale and lets it steep for 72 hours; it will ferment without a boost, and the carbonation mostly occurs in the last 24 hours. He also says that all the English-language recipes for tepache he’s seen use the whole pineapple, but Mexican recipes tend to use only the rind, which is what he does; his tastes like the tepache he drank in Mexico.

Pineapple vinagre is a condiment made by boiling pineapple rinds to extract their flavor, then combining the boiling liquid with garlic, habanero chiles, herbs, and spices. It’s used for making ceviche, and for sprinkling on kebabs, beans, etc., says oakjoan.

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What to do with leftover pineapple rinds? Tepache

Tofu Skin

Tofu skin (a.k.a. yuba) is wonderful stuff. It’s a thin skin that forms on top of boiled soy milk. The skin is dried in sheets and used for all sorts of applications after it’s been rehydrated. You can occasionally find it frozen, too.

Use yuba like wonton wrappers. Or slice the stuff into noodles, or deep fry it.

Dim sum parlors will sometimes have items using tofu skin; just ask.

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Tofu Skin

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?

Much of the world sees horse as a delicacy. Much of the world gets its horsemeat from America. Yet Americans won't touch it. READ MORE

Winter 2006 Gift Guide

Winter 2006 Gift Guide

Give like you've never given before. READ MORE

Bourbon Redux

Bardstown, Kentucky

Bourbon fans may have been disappointed by the lack of serious bourbon talk in these last few reports. The following podcast—long but informative—is for them. JB and I ramble on and on, running down what we’ve drunk and what we’ve learned, while puffing on icky Maker’s Mark cigars (which, apparently, have bourbon in them).

If you’re not a bourbon geek, don’t even think of clicking on podcast #1: MP3

Quick advice on how to drink bourbon … in podcast #2: MP3

Tips for those considering attending next year’s Bourbon Festival, plus a final appreciation of Officer Bill, in podcast #3: MP3

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I ought to be banned from renting cars. I’m not referring to the vehicle I smashed up back in Mt. Vernon—I mean my complete inability to remember to fill the tank before returning. Driving into Louisville Airport, I grimaced, made a hasty U-turn, and went off searching for gas.

And thank goodness for this, because in my meanderings I found exceptional Vietnamese pho at Pho Binh Minh (6709 Strawberry Lane, Louisville, Kentucky; 502-375-9249).

I only had time to gulp down half a bowl of meaty broth—I was in and out of there like a meteor—but this is the sort of serious homey grandma Vietnamese place I’d been looking for for years, and I’m sorry I didn’t have time to really check it out.

I also regret lacking time to plunge into the issue of hot-water cornbread, which confused me greatly. I ate so many startlingly different renditions of cornbread (in general) and hot-water cornbread (specifically) that I feel like I need to sit down somewhere and get seriously calibrated on this food. Little greasy fried corn pancakes are cornbread? Huh?

Here’s a recipe JB found.

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Some bourbon links:

The message boards at are a good place to discuss bourbon with serious enthusiasts. That said, don’t forget that Chowhound, too, has a spirits discussion board!

I haven’t had time to actually read through an issue, but I love just the idea of The Bourbon Country Reader!

The Bourbon Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide, by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan, is highly regarded. It’s out of print, but used copies are easily found.

Malt Advocate sometimes covers bourbon.

Bourbon aficionados will want to bookmark the price lists I linked to in report #29 (I keep them all on my PDA so that I have a handy price reference).

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And now, a message from our CEO (who doesn’t know I’m printing this, so I may well be fired) ...

Neil Ashe, CNET’s CEO, has fine taste in obscure bourbon. He hipped me (not that we’re constantly hobnobbing … it’s just that what else am I going to talk to the guy about when I pass him in the hall? Physical-plant depreciation?) to Vintage Wine & Spirits, a great store for bourbon in Mill Valley, California. His recomendations are: A.J. Hirsch 19-year-old (extremely rare, no longer produced) and George T. Stagg unfiltered. I’ve had the Stagg, and it’s great—though, as with any barrel-strength, high-proof spirit, you need to really water that sucker down. I’ve never tried Hirsh, which JB has been stalking for years. Does anyone know where to find a bottle? If so, please leave a comment beneath this article!

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To close the chapter on Kentucky, JB sent me the following email after returning home:

It took a few days, but I am really appreciating the mashed potatoes at Stephen Foster Restaurant. I’m getting your whole ‘this is where they got the idea for 1000’s of pounds of soulless mashed potatoes’ jive. It’s something I’ll tuck away as part of my chowhound education.

Speaking of soulless, I have to admit that I went to Talbott’s Tavern for lunch Sunday. Dagwood’s sandwich place and the lunch counter place were closed, and I didn’t think my nieces could make it to the taco guy. I could not get served a bourbon with lunch because it was before 2p on Sunday! Had the pot roast—awful potatoes, nice vegetables, soulless pot roast. I ordered corn fritters and pecan/chocolate pie for desert. You would have warned me off the pie, with good reason. It wasn’t awful, after all it’s pecans, sugar & chocolate, but that’s about it. The corn fritters were like corn malasadas (which, I assume you know, is a Hawaiian donut). They were well fried, warm on the inside, not too crispy on the outside, better corn flavor than Berea’s sad little tin of spoonbread. They would have been a lot better without an inch of powdered sugar. Definitely the best thing on the menu, which isn’t saying much. My sister-in-law had the fried catfish, which was a sad cornmeal crusted affair that looked and tasted baked and not fried. My nieces enjoyed the grilled cheese and green beans, and of course the powdered sugar! It was strange sitting down to a meal in a restaurant without a camera and microphone in my face. I may never sit down at a restaurant again without hearing your voice.

I’m drinking Blanton’s because I want to finish the bottle to make room for Elmer T. Lee and the Van Winkle rye. Also, I was wrong, you can get Wathen’s in CA.

Thanks for a great trip!


PS—I just listened to your podcast about The Streak. You’re right, I wouldn’t believe it if we hadn’t found Derby City Truck Stop. I have gazed at the picture of the fried fish three times, couldn’t help myself.