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

Mexican Street Bites at Calexico and Snack Dragon

Soho isn’t promising territory for Mexican street chow, but Calexico aims to change that. This cart operation, launched in July by three brothers from Southern California, offers border Mexican–tacos, burritos, and quesadillas with flavors described as “equal parts Mexican taqueria and American barbecue pit.”

Hounds are buying it. Chipotle pork–slow-cooked meat in smoky sauce–is heavenly in tacos ($3) or burritos ($7), with a shot of extra flavor from pickled onions and tomatillo sauce, says livetotravel. Also recommended: chicken tacos, carne asada (marinated skirt steak), and grilled corn (with cotija cheese, chile powder and lime). “Super fresh and flavorful,” declares NateV, “some of the best Cal-Mex in New York City–and to be honest, better than most of what you get on the Left Coast.” The carne asada is a signature dish, which you can buy by the pound to cook at home; order ahead by phone or e-mail ( Calexico is open weekdays from 11 a.m. till 3 or 4 p.m.–or whenever they run out of food.

In the East Village, a street stand called Snack Dragon has won a following among night owls with tacos made from unusually fresh ingredients–not south-of-the-border authentic, but more Southwestern style. Fish tacos ($4) are superb, says ningerma–grilled sole, delicious red cabbage-chipotle slaw, lime, and cilantro on a blue corn tortilla. Other taco fillings include chicken in salsa verde, quinoa, and tasty carne asada–all come with cheese, homemade salsa, cilantro, sour cream, and great black beans with an alluring floral undertone.

Snack Dragon, opened last year by a painter and onetime bartender, surfaced in its current location this summer after a few months’ hiatus (it originally occupied a shack around the corner, outside a deli-grocery on Avenue B). It gets going after 6 p.m. and stays open extra-late, till around 4 a.m., on Friday and Saturday nights.

Calexico [Soho]
Wooster and Prince Sts., NE corner, Manhattan

Snack Dragon Taco Shack [East Village]
199 E. 3rd St., at Ave. B, Manhattan

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Snack Dragon–Any daring souls?
Excellent Mexican Soft Tacos, Grilled Corn, Etc at cart on Wooster and Prince.
The search for great FISH TACOS continues…please help!

Fallen Biscuit Rises Again; and Other New York News

It’s lights out for Night and Day. The Park Slope restaurant and performance venue, which survived a rocky start and eventually won over hounds with hearty, comforting American chow, has closed its doors. Opening in its place is the reincarnation of Biscuit, a barbecue house that closed in 2005 a few blocks away. Hounds are less than thrilled at the return of an eatery they never much liked in its previous digs on Flatbush Avenue. But most seem willing to give it a chance, if only for the bar and promised live blues. “Hopefully they have a better recipes than before,” says lambretta76.

In Queens, change is afoot at Ploes, and it doesn’t sound good. The Greek seafood grill has new cooks, a drastically pared-down menu, and much higher prices. “I’m sad the old Ploes is gone–it was amazing,” laments Rover.

In New Jersey, hot dog destination Syd’s is on the move. Its lease ran out at Union’s Millburn Mall, so it will reopen in Springfield, where it will share space with a luncheonette called Tony’s, reports hotdoglover. Look for Syd’s to resume serving its fat all-beef dogs (grilled or boiled) sometime early in November.

Finally, there’s good news from the Jersey Shore, where the Keyport Fishery has gone from the fire back to the frying pan. Just two months after it burned down, the 70-year-old fish shack has reopened and is once again dishing up crowd-pleasing fried shrimp and scallops.

Biscuit [Park Slope]
230 5th Ave., at President St., Brooklyn

Ploes [Astoria]
33-04 Broadway, at 33rd St., Astoria, Queens 11106

Syd’s [Union County]
moving to…234 Morris Ave., in Tony’s Place, Springfield, NJ

Keyport Fishery [Monmouth County]
150 W. Front St., between Broadway and Beers St., Keyport, NJ

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Biscuit BBQ is opening tonight on 5th Ave. & President
Keyport Fishery Reopens
Night & Day closes–“Biscuit” is coming…
Syd’s New Jersey

Soulful Salt Cod at Kurio

When salt cod turns up as a special at Kurio, it’s worth a try. A recent dinner of Portuguese-style bacalhau was superb, reports Dave Feldman: funky, flavorful cod with huge hunks of sweet potato and just enough tomato to cut the sweetness and richness.

For the uninitiated, this low-key neighborhood gem is not a Portuguese restaurant, but serves an eclectic, often-changing menu with flavors from all over the map–the Mediterranean, Asia, Latin America. “Kurio is one of my favorite places to eat or drink on the East Side,” Dave writes, “not the least because of the quiet, relaxed vibe, the interesting folks in the neighborhood, the excellent drinks, and the wonderful family that runs it.”

Kurio [Upper East Side]
338 E. 92nd St., between 1st and 2nd Aves.
Manhattan, NY

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Bacalau at Kurio on 92nd St. on Between 1/2nd Ave.

Best Pumpkin Bread

rworange’s favorite pumpkin bread in the area is at Semifreddi’s Bakery, moist with lots of raisins. Bakesale Betty makes a great version, too, without raisins. It’s moist with a nice ginger flavor.

Sophia C. likes the moist, raisinless pumpkin bread at Virginia Bakery.

The versions at Fat Apples and House of Bread are dry and lacking in pumpkin flavor, says rworange, although the white bread is excellent at both establishments.

Semifreddi’s Bakery [East Bay]
372 Colusa Ave., Kensington

Bakesale Betty [Temescal]
5098 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

Virginia Bakery [East Bay]
1690 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley

Fatapple’s Restaurant [East Bay]
1346 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Berkeley

Fatapple’s Restaurant [East Bay]
7525 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito

House of Bread [East Bay]
841 San Pablo Avenue, Albany

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Best pumpkin bread?

Turkey to Go

If you don’t feel like preparing a turkey this year, you can get one from Mollie Stone’s, all prepared and ready to pop in the oven for about an hour before serving. A turkey weighing 12-14 pounds will run you about $50, says OnceUponABite. Sebby likes their prepared turkey–it’s not dry at all. You can also buy stuffing and gravy to go with it.

Or you could go to Chinatown, where the barbecue stands usually roast a couple of turkeys along with all the ducks and chickens. Reserve one ahead of time to be sure they don’t sell out. Melanie Wong has seen them sell quarter and half turkeys, too.

Mollie Stone’s [Areawide]

Chinatown Barbecue Stands [Chinatown]

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Prepared Turkey for Thanksgiving?

Ceviche With a Splash of Lima

Of the Peruvian restaurants around town, Los Balcones del Peru still seems to be the front-runner. Go for anything with seafood, especially the sparkling fresh ceviche (the house blend of calamari–both fried and raw–fish, and shrimp is outstanding). They also do pretty tasty anticuchos (Peruvian kebabs).

Saltados (stir-fries made with French fries) aren’t Balcones’ strong suit, though–you’ll find better stuff at Mario’s or El Rocoto, where modernist loves the seafood rice and other fish dishes. Hounds report mixed experiences, though.

The venerable Don Felix is known among Peruvian expats as the place to go for Peruvian breakfast before church. Warning: it ends early.

Chubbypanda’s default stop for Peruvian eats is Peruvian Kitchen, where they do a fine aguadito de pollo–a long-simmered chicken soup that’s green with parsley.

El Pollo Inka in Lawndale, the superior branch in this local chain, also has delicious aguadita de pollo, says elmomonster.

Los Balcones Del Peru [Hollywood]
formerly Toi on Vine
1360 Vine St., Los Angeles

Mario’s Peruvian [Hollywood]
5786 Melrose Ave., Vine, Los Angeles

El Rocoto Restaurant [Artesia-ish]
11433 South St., Cerritos

El Rocoto [South Bay]
1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena

Don Felix Restaurant [East Hollywood]
4435 Fountain Ave., Virgil, Los Angeles

Don Felix Restaurant [East Hollywood]
305 N. Virgil Ave., Beverly, Los Angeles

Peruvian Kitchen [South OC]
8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley

El Pollo Inka [South Bay]
15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale

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Los Balcones del Peru–PK’s Review w/pics
Peruvian soup

For the Filipina Soul, it’s Mami

Mami is a fusion dish from a nation that’s full of them. And for a Chinese-Filipino invention, it’s basically chicken noodle soup.

The mami at Asian Noodles meets the Filipina mom test, says pleasurepalate, with flavorful broth perked up by a few scallions, noodles cooked just right and tender meat (you can get chicken and/or pork). It’s pretty mild stuff, but classic comfort food. Note that you can get mami with wontons, too–they’re tasty, but weirdly hard, like compressed Spam.

Siopao (bao, or steamed bun) is mami’s traditional partner–try bola bola siopao, filled with chicken, pork, sausage, and salted egg. The salted egg cuts the sweetness of the other ingredients.

The Glendale location of Asian Noodles is significantly grimier (C rated) and smaller than the downtown location.

Asian Noodles [Chinatown]
643 N. Spring St., Los Angeles

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Caramelized Baked Chicken Thighs

Marsha says people fight over the “yummies” created by the caramelizing juices in her simple baked chicken recipe, which become crisp and very dark as the chicken cooks:

Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it with nonstick spray. Place skinless chicken thighs on it, sprinkle lavishly with garlic salt and grind some pepper over them. Flip each piece, and season the other side. Put about 2-3 tsp. brown sugar on each piece, using your fingers to mound it a little so it doesn’t fall off and patting it out to cover the meat. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or more, depending on the size of the thighs.

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chicken thighs–quick recipe?

Who Put Squash in My Oatmeal?

Pei makes a serendipitously delicious marriage of two cool-weather staples; she purees a thick wedge of roasted winter squash and adds it to her pot of oatmeal toward the end of cooking. A sprinkle of cinnamon, and she has a nice, warming breakfast. This stuff doesn’t need any extra sugar–the squash itself sweet enough. debbiel got great results doing the same thing with cornmeal mush. Any kind of winter squash would work here, or even roasted sweet potato. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.

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Kabocha Oatmeal

Eating the Low-Carb Way

A low-carb regimen can get monotonous. Creative hounds have some tips that will make it less boring and more delicious.

Nuts are nutritious and a great snack or topping. Blanched almonds, deep fried, are heavenly, says Candy. Watch them closely, and remove from the oil as soon as they begin to color. Any kind of nut can be blanched and fried or toasted. Toss them with spices or herbs, for a very satisfying treat. And try substituting sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for croutons to give your salad a nice crunch.

Tofu can be used in many preparations, from a main dish stir-fry to slicing firm tofu for little finger sandwiches.

Spaghetti squash, and zucchini sliced into long, thin ribbons both make a nice pasta substitute.Dreamfields makes a low carb pasta (5 grams of carbohydrategrams vs. 35 in regular pasta, says isabellaflynn).

Pureed cauliflower really tastes like mashed potatoes, says Petitpois.

You can indulge yourself with thick Greek full fat yogurt. It has fewer carbs than low fat.

And, try making a few things. Make flourless crepes with egg batter, and use them like wonton wrappers to enclose finely chopped raw or sauteed vegetables. Or, make yourself some parmesan crisps; they’re a delicate cracker-like snack, and very easy to make. Grate some parmesan; grease a cookie sheet, and spread a couple of tablespoons of the cheese into a thin circle for each crisp. Broil until golden and bubbly. Let cool.

Dark chocolate, with a high percentage of cacao, is lower in carbs than regular chocolate. Lindt dark chocolate bars are good ones to check out, and available in many grocery stores.

This recipe for doughnut holes uses Splenda and protein powder. Really good, says Cinnamon:

Here’s a good website, with recipes, an active message board, and lots of related links.

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Eating Low Carb