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

Going Global, Eating Local

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the high jinks going on at the recent Slow Food Terra Madre conference in Turin. OK, maybe the high jinks were few, but there’s no doubt that California’s sustainability stars—like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Berkeley prof Michael Pollan—were hotshots among the Slow Fooders munching lardo and discussing the superiority of prosciutto made from acorn-fed pigs. (And take a look at the CHOW digest, with food editor Aida Mollenkamp reporting from Turin.)

The conference’s own blog, featuring postings in French, Spanish, English, and Italian, offers a small window onto the diversity of cultural traditions and innovations celebrated at the conference, a five-day gathering of over 5,000 farmers, food artisans, chefs, and activists dedicated to sustainable, small-scale agricultural production.

Despite the surrounding Piedmont region’s reputation for culinary excellence (requires registration), though, some Californians were a little surprised at what they couldn’t get for dinner. Chronicle writer Carol Ness quotes Blong Lee, a representative of the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, on his Central Valley group’s quest for Italian food:

‘We went to a fancy restaurant last night,’ said Lee. ‘We tried to order pizza with pepperoni and they didn’t have it, and lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, but they didn’t have it. It’s not the type of Italian food we expected.’

If You Can’t Beat Them …

You can’t open the newspaper these days without reading some alarming new tidbit about the wages of fatness or childhood obesity.

Happily, tomorrow is Halloween, and we get to lay all that aside for one night and indulge in a bacchanalia of candy consumption only dreamed about on the other 364 days of the year.

Some people, of course, have a harder time laying aside their concerns about fat, calories, and tooth decay: nutritionists, dentists, spokespersons for nutritionally correct organizations. The L. A. Times has corralled a group of these professional healthy eaters to ask what they plan to pass out to the little witches, ghosts, and goblins who ring their doorbells.

The overwhelming favorite? Candy! Oh yes, they may offer toothbrushes or toys alongside the Snickers, but even the director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public interest is planning to go with the Halloween flow and pass out the sweet stuff. And while my personal hero Marion Nestle isn’t planning on passing out anything (she says no kids come to her Manhattan apartment), she does admit to an occasional candy apple jones:

“Especially ones with the worst red, hard candy on them.”

Items You Will Never Need

Items You Will Never Need

If only there were a battery-powered column reader to do this for you. READ MORE

Crushed Out

Crushed Out

CHOW visits Napa winery Clos Du Val and learns how wine is made. READ MORE

Discoveries in a Chow-Free Zone: Burbank

Das Ubergeek has finally found something worth eating in southeast Burbank–and it’s in a liquor store.

Inside this liquor store is a counter, and behind the counter is a man named Olvis, who’s long worked at Fish King, the excellent fish market in Glendale (where, incidentally, they also make fish and chips).

Six big fingers of cod and a double handful of steak fries come out, all cooked perfectly to order–fish nice and flaky, fries with that crunchy-chewy bite that only steak fries have. It all comes with half a lemon and a tub each of ketchup and tartar sauce.

All this costs $6.99 plus tax; a Diet Coke is $1.50.

Apparently the workers of Burbank are already in on the secret of this place, because even at 2:05 on one afternoon there were 15 people–guys in work boots with paint on their faces, Armenians in velour track suits, and one pale stockbroker type in an expensive suit–getting everything from fish and chips to pastrami sandwiches on rye to oven-roasted turkey on French rolls.

Just down the street is the home of a weirdly good BBQ sandwich, Pecos Bill’s, says ozzygee. Instead of being slathered in BBQ sauce, the meat comes au jus.

Clare K’s favorite place in Burbank is Granville, with lots of good options along the lines of sandwiches (with sweet potato or regular fries or house-made chips) and salad. Roasted turkey sandwich with avocado and caprese sandwich with prosciutto are good stuff, and the fries perfectly crispy. Check out the Uptown mac and cheese, which gets its name from a mix of Petit Basque, Gruyere, and Parmesan cheeses, grilled asparagus, sweet peas, and grilled chicken.

Willie’s Fish and Chips [East San Fernando Valley]
inside the Alameda Market
321 W. Alameda Ave., at Victory, Burbank

Pecos Bill’s BarBQ [East San Fernando Valley]
1551 Victory Blvd., Glendale

Granville [East San Fernando Valley]
121 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank

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Another good lunch at Granville in Burbank
FINALLY, something worth eating in SE Burbank

Pho Hanoi

ahong likes Pho Hanoi for its mild but delicious pho. Their pho is different from most restaurant pho in the area; the flavors of clove and anise are much less intense, and the broth has the rich mildness of boiled bones. The place is little-known outside San Jose Vietnamese circles, but it’s a real find. If you feel you can appreciate gentle pho, give it a try. Pho with rare tripe and meatballs is particularly recommended.

Pho Hanoi [South Bay]
1759 E. Capitol Expy., San Jose

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Pho Hanoi, San Jose

Continental Breakfast in Sonoma

For coffee and pastries in Sonoma, check out Artisan Bakers, the most chowish of the Sonoma bakeries, says Sam B. You’ll find real fruit in the Danish, good quality chocolate in the pain au chocolat, and strong, good coffee. The only place in town to order an espresso drink is Barking Dog Coffee–they roast their own, and it’s pretty good.

Across the street is Fiorini, which features some good Italian specialties, like torta di riso and torta della nonna. The regular pastries and the coffee are weak. Homegrown Bagels serves great, totally respectable bagels and coffee flavored with cinnamon, which is kind of a local acquired taste. Basque Boulangerie has the widest selection of lame pastry, featuring canned filling. They also serve miserable coffee.

Artisan Bakers [Sonoma County]
750 W. Napa St., Sonoma

Barking Dog Roasters [Sonoma County]
18133 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma

Fiorini Cakes & Cookies [Sonoma County]
248 W. Napa St., Sonoma

Homegrown Bagels [Sonoma County]
201 W. Napa St., Sonoma

Basque Boulangerie Cafe [Sonoma County]
460 1st St., Santa Rosa

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The Minotaur(e) Arrives, Bringing Tapas

Minotaure, a new place in Playa del Rey, is a nice spot offering hot and cold tapas every night till midnight.

Cinnamon loves the seafood paella; it’s rich, tasty, and moist. Another winner: chorizo and red pepper. Bread comes with a tasty garlic butter, and there’s perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon, and fabulous homemade bread pudding drizzled with dark chocolate.

The wine list is decent; service is gracious.

Review by Merrill Shindler in the Daily Breeze

Minotaure [Beaches]
333 Culver Blvd., Playa Del Rey

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Nice experience at The Minotaure, the tapas place in Playa del Rey

Joyce Bakeshop: Fresh Treats in Prospect Heights

Prospect Heights has an inviting new sweet spot in Joyce Bakeshop. Scones, muffins, macarons, pain au chocolate, and Russian tea cookies all win praise. Fans also appreciate the well-brewed coffee and well-mannered staff. “Cozy, busy, yummy, and baby friendly,” reports colette_ingrid, who’s fallen for the plum and blueberry cobbler with cornbread crumb topping.

Joyce has its skeptics. “Decent, not extraordinary,” concludes chocokitty, who faults dry scones and thickish macarons.

Joyce Bakeshop [Prospect Heights]
646 Vanderbilt Ave., between Park and Prospect Pl., Brooklyn

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Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights
Great bakeries/patisseries in Brooklyn

Beyond Bao at Chatham; and Other Chinatown Bites

Chinatown’s diner-like Chatham Restaurant has long been a go-to spot for fresh, cheap bao, buns, dim sum, and other daytime bites. But hounds have been largely silent about the rest of the sprawling Cantonese menu, which offers rice plates, noodles, casseroles, meat and seafood entrees, and homey steamed dishes like minced pork with salted fish. Do not fear that menu! There’s good stuff in there, says Brian S, like fish head casserole that’s better than average (and bigger than average) for just $7.

As for the scene, well, that’s not what draws crowds of happy Chinese families. “It is a dump,” Brian concedes, “but a really nice dump, the kind a Hollywood set designer would come up with if the director said, ‘I want a place that looks like the REAL Chinatown.’”

A few blocks north, popular Shanghai specialist New Green Bo does a delicious version of Dongpo pork, says mrnyc. This version of the Hangzhou classic is simmered for hours in rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, and spice, and served with sauteed bok choy and an unconventional accompaniment: sweet steamed buns. You are encouraged to make little sandwiches, Peking duck style. The meat is sweet, luxurious, and meltingly tender, says mrnyc, but the sandwich thing doesn’t quite work: “After two messy attempts I just ate the rest separately. Afterwards you take a nap. Highly recommended.” Dissenters find New Green Bo’s version overly sweet and inconsistent in texture.

In other Chinatown news, a hound-endorsed sidewalk cart has gone brick-and-mortar on Chrystie Street. The best-known snack from this vendor, whose old turf was on Hester near Bowery, was fried vegetables–taro, tofu, eggplant, green pepper–in a light, tasty batter that incorporated ground fish. It’s still available toward the back of the new shop, Wah Fung, advises misora. Closer to the front, look for roast pork and poultry, fried noodles, and Fujian-leaning steam table dishes.

Chatham Restaurant [Chinatown]
9 Chatham Sq., between E. Broadway and Doyers St., Manhattan

New Green Bo [Chinatown]
66 Bayard St., between Mott and Elizabeth, Manhattan

Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food [Chinatown]
79 Chrystie St., between Hester and Grand, Manhattan

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Street Cart, formerly at Hester and Elizabeth
tong po pork meat attack at NEW GREEN BO
Cantonese in Chinatown, had to let you know