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

God’s Own Flapjack

At the Prather Ranch stand at the Ferry Building farmer’s market, you can get big, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, topped with whiskey-laced maple syrup, served alongside a richly flavored sausage made from heritage pork. For $7 it’s enough food to feed two chowhounds. Really. The pancakes are tender and slightly tangy, some of the best Melanie Wong has had in a long time. And the sausage is satisfying and juicy.

These are the people who brought you pork from pigs fed on organic hops. They would not do you wrong.

Prather Ranch Meat Co [Embarcadero]
One Ferry Bldg, Shop #32, San Francisco

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Pancake Breakfast @ Prather Ranch (San Francisco)

Secret Garden

Pepito’s is one of the most boring-looking stores on the street. But be a true Chowhound like rworange and go inside, and you’ll discover that the little Mexican grocery store is actually mostly a restaurant–with a surprise secret garden patio in back, shaded by trees, complete with fountain and flowers.

The enchilada suiza is recommended–stewed chicken in a complex mole sauce, topped with a little cheese and crema. Chips are thin, crisp, and deliciously lardy. Carnitas tacos are great, too, full of juicy, crispy, porky carnitas. J T likes the caldo de pollo (but recommends against the caldo de mariscos).

And cough up an extra 35 cents for a piece of rich, golden pound cake full of plump raisins, from the pan dulce case.

Pepito’s Deli [East Bay]
1087 23rd St., Richmond

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Richmond–Pepito’s Deli – Sitting on the patio by the fountain eating the best enchilada Suiza & thin lardy chips ($2.50)
Richmond–Pepito’s Deli Mexicatessen – Mexican / Southwestern food & a patio

New Rochelle Mexican Update: Pork on Parade

New Rochelle, Westchester’s hot spot for Mexican chow, is loaded with rotisserie pork right now. “There seems to be a local mini-trend for tacos al pastor–I’m seeing the notices everywhere,” observes JSexton, whose favorite is the tender, peppery, brightly flavored version at Little Mexican Cafe. adamclyde loves its slight char, robust but not overpowering spicing, and touch of sweetness from the pineapple that crowns the rotating tower of meat.

But there’s lots more than al pastor at Little Mexican. Anything from the wood grill is a good bet–chorizo, carne asada, and cecina (dried salted beef) come out nice and smoky. Guacamole, mashed to order, is perfect. Their mole is deep and soulful–and not on the menu, but those in the know enjoy it with chicken or enchiladas. They’re on the top of their game right now; check ‘em out.

Around the corner at Taqueria El Chino Estilo Quitupan, look for above-average al pastor and standout carnitas, moist, rich, and flavorful. Pastelandya, a tiny tortilleria, draws crowds of locals for its al pastor tacos, which it bills as a specialty.

Some other Mexican notes from New Rochelle:

- At El Michoacano, don’t miss the carnitas. It’s a Michoacan specialty that you’d expect this past hound favorite to do at least competently, but adamclyde says their version absolutely kills–deep, moist, decadently rich, with unexpected sweetness from sauteed, almost caramelized onions and peppers.

- Mexican Corner Kitchen makes terrific chicken enchiladas with mole, generously sauced and stuffed with moist shredded chicken, reports cant talk…eating. Rice is better than average, cooked in chicken stock and sprinkled with cilantro. House-made horchata (made on premises) is worth a special trip. Carnitas and al pastor tacos are quite good but not great, says adamclyde. Past reports from this neighborly, diner-like joint praise pozole, tamales, and sopes.

- El Trigal bakes a lovely tres leches cake and corn muffins. Watch for the “Pan Caliente” sign that lights up when fresh stuff comes out of the oven.

- La Herradura: Mexican yeast bread pizzas are “strange but kinda good,” says JSexton. Also recommended: aguas frescas (including great horchata) and batidos (shakes). Other offerings are hit-or-miss.

Little Mexican Cafe [Westchester County]
581 Main St., near Centre Ave., New Rochelle, NY

Taqueria El Chino Estilo Quitupan [Westchester County]
72 Centre Ave., between Main St. and Westchester Pl., New Rochelle, NY

Pastelandya [Westchester County]
220 Union Ave., between 2nd and 3rd Sts., New Rochelle, NY

El Michoacano [Westchester County]
485 Main St., between Lawton St. and North Ave., New Rochelle, NY

Mexican Corner Kitchen [Westchester County]
497 Main St., at Lawton, New Rochelle, NY

El Trigal Mexican Bakery [Westchester County]
216 Union Ave., near 2nd St., New Rochelle, NY

La Herradura Mexican Restaurant [Westchester County]
563 Main St., between Centre Ave. and Division St., New Rochelle, NY

Board Links
New Rochelle Mexican–a report (finally)
Cheap Mexican, Peruvian, Columbian, Ecuadorian in Port Chester
Tacos al pastor in New Rochelle, Little Mexican Cafe
Mexican Roundup in New Rochelle

A Meatless, Frankless Surprise at Dash Dogs

At Dash Dogs, even those who shun hot dogs and meat can find a worthwhile bite. Vegetarian sliders–made in-house from portobellos, squash, bread crumbs, and eggs–come with the same eclectic choice of toppings that come with dogs. “Tasty isn’t even the word for them. Amazing!” sighs foodluv, whose favorite toppings include avocado salsa, cilantro aioli, corn relish, and wasabi mayonnaise. Veggie dogs also rock, adds wleatherette.

Dash Dogs [Lower East Side]
127 Rivington St., between Essex and Norfolk, Manhattan

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Looking for a good veggie patty in the Lower East Side

Home-Style Cantonese Food

At Tasty Garden, henrychan888 finally found hearty home cooking like Grandma used to make. For example, the salty fish with steamed ground pork–a lot of places just don’t serve it because of the strong smell. Tasty Garden serves it alone or with a rice hot pot.

The same dish is served at Phoenix in Alhambra, says cfylong, where they also have minced squab on lettuce leaves, another home-style dish. Phoenix Inn in downtown Chinatown is the original location of Phoenix restaurant, notes monku, and still has the same owner. The must-try dish there is the boneless salted chicken.

Chinese restaurant scout Chandavkl points out a hot spot of four very good Cantonese restaurants within walking distance of one another in Monterey Park: NYC Seafood, Seafood Village, LYL Garden and Lucky City. Most of these have lunch specials and fill up quickly, especially on weekends.

Tin Tin has reopened after remodeling, says kure–they have good specials up until 6 p.m.

Har Lam Kee is a good Cantonese joint, says Will Owen, and cheap too.

And at Embassy, Ciao Bob reports having had many a fine meal.

Tasty Garden Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
288 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine [San Gabriel Valley]
208 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine [Chinatown]
301 Ord St., Los Angeles

Har Lam Kee Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
150 E. Garvey Ave., Garfield, Monterey Park

Tin Tin Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
7621 Garvey Ave., Rosemead

Embassy Chinese Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
a.k.a. Embassy Kitchen
218 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel

NYC Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
715 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

Seafood Village Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
684 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

LYL Garden [San Gabriel Valley]
500 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

Lucky City [San Gabriel Valley]
415 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

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Authentic home cooked Cantonese joints/restaurants in L.A.?

Lubricating Rice for Flavor and Texture

Many hounds like to toast long-grain rice, especially basmati, in oil or butter for a few minutes before adding water or stock to enhance its flavor. Whether you choose a neutral oil, olive oil, or butter depends on your taste and the dishes you’ll be serving the rice with. DanaB says she sometimes sautees rice in lightly browned butter, which gives the rice a nutty, extra-buttery taste. You can saute until the rice turns tranluscent or until it’s golden, again depending on taste. Fleur uses the method for texture as well as flavor, saying it comes out perfect, with the grains always fluffy, but separate.

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Do you pan-toast your rice before cooking?

$3.99 Lunch Specials at Thai Patio, and Beef Jerky for Dessert

Thai Patio has replaced the old strip-mall Palms Thai. The $3.99 lunch special is, of course, a deal–pad kra pao, fried tofu with basil, peppers and onions, is nicely spiced and tasty, but the straight-from-the-bag salad and fried wonton wrappers on the side are forgettable, and it comes with anemic white rice–not jasmine.

Lad nah chicken ($6) has a good gravy-noodle ratio, and the noodles carry the elusive char flavor of wok hay. The chicken is sliced white meat, and the gravy is nice and garlicky and rich with soy sauce.

Chowpatty checked out Thai Patio for dinner and enjoyed some of the more expensive dishes, like red curry with shrimp (about $18). It’s great, with a strong but pleasant flavor of kaffir lime. Steamed trout comes in a pungent sour broth that’s light and flavorful. The only caveat, she notes, is that you need to explain carefully if you want your food spicy–they seem to be catering to a clientele, shall we say, not that familiar with Thai spicing. But once that was accomplished, she had an excellent, assertively flavored meal.

Oh, and there are Thai dance performances on weekend evenings (at about 9 p.m.).

After dinner, the natural place to go for dessert is just a couple of doors down, Ban Khanom Thai. pandapenny describes some favorites:

Sakoo sai moo–tapioca balls filled with ground pork/peanut/radish eaten with bird chili, cilantro, and lettuce

Khanom sai sai–toasted coconut ball surrounded by salty coconut cream

Khao tung–Thai rice cracker flavored with dried shrimp, green onion, cilantro

Khanom tien–garlicky, white pepper center surrounded by a chewy glutinous rice flour goo

Klong kang–fried dough of rice flour/coconut milk tossed in a sweet syrup flavored with white pepper and green onion

Galamah–coconut/rice flour candy (sometimes flavored with Pandan)

Cotton Cake–colorful steamed cupcakes that smell of flowers

Thai beef jerky–dried and fried with coriander seeds

Thai Patio [Thai Town]
formerly Palms Thai
5273 Hollywood Blvd., at Hobart, Los Angeles

Bhan Kanom Thai [Thai Town]
5271 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

Bhan Kanom Thai [East San Fernando Valley]
12714 Sherman Way, North Hollywood

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Thai Patio in Thai Town

Great Carrots, Braised and Glazed

Chowhounds rave about Marcella Hazan’s braised carrots with Parmesan, even though the recipe takes two hours of hanging around near the stove. “I’m a lifelong carrot hater but these would convert anyone,” says cheryl_h. “The caramelized, concentrated flavors are just superb. I would never have thought carrots could taste this good.” Not content to fuss over carrots on the stove for a couple of hours, miss louella successfully adapted the recipe for the oven; she explains how here.

HillJ braises sliced carrots in white wine and chicken stock until fork tender, then sautees them in butter with nutmeg and black pepper.

Procrastibaker boils carrots until they’re tender, then sautees in butter, glazes in honey, and seasons with paprika.

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Looking for best glazed carrots recipe.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Vegetable and Salad Recipe Reviews
How have you changed/simplified Marcella Hazen recipes (with great results)?

When in Rome…or Oaxaca

Sometimes, traveling or living abroad, you see the locals eating something really cool, or eating the same old thing in an exciting way. In Oaxaca, spigot learned to put a little chile pepper and lime on fresh fruit–it sharpens the flavor and undercuts the sweetness. In Italy, piccola learned to toss a chunk of Parmesan rind into soup to add flavor. BobB likes to serve quince paste with sharp cheese, as he learned in Madrid. (Other Madrid fare: fried whole anchovies.) And lots of chowhounds like to rub ripe tomatoes on crusty bread, with or without a pinch of salt, as they do in Barcelona.

In Melbourne, oakjoan learned to love the combination of yogurt, stewed rhubarb, and meusli for breakfast. In Ecuador, Dave MP learned to add a cut-up banana to arroz con pollo, and to put bits of sharp, hard Andean cheese in hot chocolate. Taralli learned to love Greek breakfast offerings, like octopus marinated in olive oil, lemon, and oregano. In Uganda, Hoosierland learned that fried grasshoppers make a fantastic snack with beer.

And do not limit your fries to a ketchup bath. Malt vinegar, mayonnaise, and bearnaise sauce all make great international condiments for french fries.

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Favourite tips you picked up while travelling ? [Moved from Home Cooking]

Chowhound Gift-Giving Tips

What presents of food are most welcomed during the holidays? Anything homemade gets automatic points with chowhounds–surprisingly, even if it’s not that good. The effort put into it and the warmth of the gesture makes up for a lot, and the recipient gets to try something unique. Unusual things that come from a special place (and aren’t available at the local supermarket of the recipient) are especially appreciated, like a special bottle of vanilla extract from Mexico, chocolate from South America, pecans from Georgia, or saffron from Spain. Any food that the giver actually smuggled through customs is looked on with special favor. A bacon-of-the-month-club subscription is appreciated, but make sure the recipient is not a vegetarian.

Almost universally reviled: fruit. Whether in fresh fruit baskets or attractive arrangements of dried fruit, chowhounds put the gift of fruit right up there with coal in the stocking.

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What food item do you love/hate to receive as a gift?