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

You Smell Good Enough to Eat

Everyone’s familiar with Philosophy’s ridiculously rich and tempting bath products. Well, everyone girly, anyway. I’m particularly partial to their Eggnog Bath Gel and Gingerbread Man Hot Salt Scrub at this time of year, and I walk around smelling like a plate of Christmas cookies.

This holiday season, Bath & Body Works proves just how familiar they are with Philosophy’s products as they release their own line of Crazy Caramel Corn, Spicy Gingerbread, Wickedly Hot Chocolate, and Twisted Peppermint. Not only are the flavors shockingly familiar, but some of the packaging also seems to recall Philosophy’s.

Gael at Pop Culture Junk Mail gives a thumbs up to the seasonal unguents, but she also loves another seasonal Bath & Body Works lotion:

It’s also the season for Vanilla Bean Noel body lotion, which is the only lotion I’ll use after a workout, and which is so yummy that if I run out during the year, I will buy it on eBay rather than use another product.

I might have to do some extensive bath testing.

Mutton Khandari at Masala

Masala Indian Fusion is actually an excellent choice for classic, non-fusion Indian dishes, like the mutton khandari–a dish Ozumo pronounces the Best Indian Dish Ever. Order it “incredibly” spicy and they’ll actually bring it to you that way–they won’t gringo you. It’s painful and beautiful, and comes with saffron-tinged basmati rice and piping-hot naan.

This place serves food with fresh, complex flavors, and even the lunch buffet is great. Water pitchers are filled with citrus and mint and the mango lassi is garnished with saffron threads–details that hint at the overall quality of everything they serve. Stick to the traditional menu, and you won’t be disappointed.

Masala Indian Fusion [East Bay]
499 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville

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Authentic Indian food in East Bay?

Mr. Pollo

vinchar likes the chicken and arepas at the newly-opened Mr. Pollo. Arepas are kind of like discs of cornbread with cheese inside. The arepas here are huge and terrific, with medium-sweet masa; they go for $1 each. The chicken is reasonably moist and pleasantly garlicky, even if you get there late and take the last chicken. A new place worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Mr. Pollo [Mission]
2823 Mission Street, at 24th St., San Francisco

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Mr. Pollo (?) ; new at 24th and Mission

Devin Tavern: All-American Comforts in Tribeca

Hearty American chow and creative cocktails are drawing downtown hounds to Devin Tavern, opened in summer by the owners of nearby steakhouse Dylan Prime. Crowd-pleasers include pan-roasted duck, corn souffle with lobster bisque, a Gruyere burger with pork belly, and grilled Arctic char (with broccoli rabe, white bean puree, and veal reduction). Some dishes are too rich for their own good; nice briny Wellfleet oysters are nearly overpowered by the accompanying lardons and Hollandaise.

Mixology is first-rate. Good bets on the cocktail menu include the pepper basil caipirinha, Raleigh Collins (silver tequila, lemon juice, house-made limoncello), and Blue Tomato (vodka with a blue cheese-stuffed pickled cherry tomato).

Hounds also love the handsome brick-and-beam space. But some find the food too pricey, with most entrees in the mid-$20s and topping out near $40. “For a place that bills itself as a tavern, it’s on the high side,” advises Phil E. “We were extremely happy with our meal, but someone coming in expecting something more casual (the environment is, the food isn’t) might be surprised.”

Devin Tavern [Tribeca]
363 Greenwich St., near Franklin, Manhattan

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Where to go to dinner tonight….anywhere south of 14th
Help! Need a dinner spot in Tribeca (or near the 1) Tonight…
Devin Tavern–Review (Long)

Lucali’s: Masterly Brick-Oven Pizza in Carroll Gardens

New York’s hottest new pizzeria is an old-school kind of joint with deep Brooklyn roots. Lucali’s in Carroll Gardens has equipment from the departed Leonardo’s, sausage from Esposito Pork Store, and an owner whose pizza god is Domenico DeMarco of hound mecca DiFara. ” I think we have a winner here!” exults bobjbkln.

The pie at Lucali’s, which opened in October and is already drawing crowds, is thin but not super-thin, made with care and attention to craft, and baked in a wood-and-gas-fired brick oven. “The crust is the perfect combo of chew and char, the ingredients first rate,” says missmasala. CTownFeedR reports a flavorful crust, tasty sauce, a stellar cheese combination of fresh mozzarella and grated grana padano, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil at the end.

Although chef-owner Mark Iacono is inspired by DeMarco, his pie has its own personality. “The pizza is not like DiFara’s,” observes bobjbkln. “It’s brick oven, and the crust is somewhat thicker. The cheese is more chewy than DiFara’s. In all, the pizza reminded me more of Totonno’s than DiFara’s, but it was certainly very good.”

Iacono is still getting to know his oven and its quirks. Some complain of overly charred pizzas, others of soggy, underdone ones–but if it doesn’t come out right, he’ll cheerfully make a new one.

Besides the pizza, hounds dig the vibe: low lighting, Caruso on the jukebox, and intoxicating wood smoke aromas. “Still working out the kinks, true, but all the elements are there,” writes sadie. “This place should succeed. He’s got the passion and the pizza–the rest is up to us.”

Lucali’s Pizza [Carroll Gardens]
575 Henry St., between Carroll and 1st Pl., Brooklyn

DiFara Pizzeria [Midwood]
1424 Ave. J, at E. 14th St., Brooklyn

Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano [Coney Island]
1524 Neptune Ave., between W. 15th and 16th Sts., Brooklyn

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Loucallie’s: Wood-fired Brick Oven Pizza in Carroll Gardens
New Restaurant–Henry btw Carroll and 1st

Chicken Pho – the Good, the Bad, the Gristly

The world of pho eaters can probably be divided between those who love it no-holds-barred funky (bring on the tendon, the tripe, what have you) and those who prefer not to find any funny stuff in their bowls.

If you’re looking for chicken pho without the ick factor, russkar gives major props to Pho Thanh, where the broth is solidly good and there’s nothing but boneless, skinless white meat in addition to the noodles.

On the other end of the spectrum is Pho Bolsa, where a bowl of pho ga means deeply flavored broth, chicken meat, guts, and maybe even ovaries. Not for the faint of heart, but it’s fantastic, says kingkong5.

Pho Thanh [Little Saigon]
13055 Euclid St., Garden Grove

Pho Bolsa Restaurant [Little Saigon]
14092 Magnolia St., Westminster

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Pho’ Thanh- Perfect Chicken Pho’

Delicata Squash

Delicata is sweeter than most varieties of winter squash, and denser in texture. It’s difficult to peel, but the peel is edible. You can use it in recipes as you would butternut squash; or cut it in half, seed it, and roast it with 1 Tbsp. each butter and brown sugar in each half, then scoop and eat.

wyf slices it into rings, tosses with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts on a sheet pan at about 375F until it’s tender. pitu does the same, but adds fried sage leaves and shallots.

oakjoan loves this treatment for delicata squash: combine coarsely ground whole spices (she likes fennel, cumin, coriander, and black peppercorns), crumbled oregano, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, and salt, and mix with olive oil. Brush on quartered squash and bake at 400F for about 15 minutes; test for doneness continue baking if necessary.

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Delicata squash

Fire Up the Hot Pot

Hot Pot City is sort of a do-it-yourself place–each table has a cast iron griddle at its center, with a hot pot in the middle. You serve yourself ingredients from the refrigerated case in the back of the restaurant, and you can cook up hot pot soup and sizzling meat at the same time. You’re charged per plate for the ingredients: $2-5.

Vegetables, tofu, and shrimp are amazingly fresh, but the beef, lamb, and venison get a bit dry from standing uncovered in the refrigerator. The meats are also trimmed of their fat, so it’s a good thing that butter for cooking is complimentary. Steamed rice also comes free.

Dinner for two runs about $30.

Hot Pot City [Little Saigon]
15606 Brookhurst St. Suite E, Westminster

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Hot Pot City mini-review

Peanut Milk

“Peanut milk” has recently emerged as a possible item of consumption in many of our communities. What’s it like?

ipsedixit was “not really blown away,” which is a much more diplomatic response than that of other chowhounds. Pei says “it tastes like the water after you boil a lot of shelled peanuts for hours and hours, but grittier.”

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Anyone ever try PEANUT MILK?

Decadent Country Ham Spread

Country ham, a bit of bourbon, and a lot of butter. That’s all there is in this rich spread pikawicca calls addictive. A southern specialty, country ham can be hard to find outside the south except via mail order, but coconutz notes that many Chinese markets carry Smithfield country ham. It’s often possible to buy slices of country ham, cooked or uncooked, so you don’t have to commit to a whole one.

If your ham is already cooked, skip the initial part of the recipe, courtesy of Candy:

12 oz. raw cured country ham
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. good bourbon
1/4 cup water
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350F. Soak ham in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain ham and place in baking dish; add 1/4 cup bourbon, water, and some pepper, and bake for 30 minutes. Discard liquid and set ham aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Remove any fat and chop the ham roughly; put in a food processor and grind. Add butter and remaining bourbon, and process until well combined. Pack into containers and refrigerate; let warm slightly before serving. Serve with warm toast points, biscuits, or crackers.

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Country Ham Spread, make this!