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

When Booze Won’t Do

When Booze Won’t Do

There are times when alcohol is just not welcome or appropriate. Ten drinks stand in for the tipple. READ MORE

What Kind of Potato Chips Goes with Vanilla-Flavored Bourbon Ale?

In case you haven’t been in the beer section of your local ale purveyor in the last couple of days, let me be the first to alert you that the seasonal beers have arrived. And while rushing the season with early in-store holiday decorations (I’m talkin’ to you, Cost Plus) can get me a little homicidal, somehow seeing a nice Deschutes Jubelale or a Widmer Snowplow in October gives me a warm feeling inside.

That is, until I read that Miller and Anheuser-Busch are rolling out their own versions of holiday-themed beers. With flavors like pumpkin ale and vanilla-flavored bourbon ale (not to mention chocolate stout), it sounds like the beer-making elves at big brewers have been inspired by a trip to the ice cream shop.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to a flavored beer now and then (I developed an expensive passion for Lindemans Pêche this summer), but I worry that Miller’s and Anheuser-Busch’s move toward flavoring their beers is just another step down the road to the complete Starbucks-ization of our culture, as beverages get sweeter and sweeter until we all end up drinking pure high-fructose corn syrup.


The Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping fired up the crowd at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery last night, a crowd that had just gorged itself on arepas, dosas, tacos, and gyros. (And by “crowd,” we include certain members of the CHOW editorial team.) The event, produced by the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, brought together this year’s four nominees, their carts, and a couple of hundred people willing to pay $50 for all the street food they could eat. The lines were long, but Gothamist’s Laren Spirer appears to have stuck it out to the bitter end. The New York Daily News leads with a few choice puns in announcing the winner:

Samiul Haque Noor was sizzling with pride last night as he carted off New York’s top street food vendor award.

And Eater, while congratulating Sammy, throws its support behind one of the other nominees, the Vendley brothers of the Calexico taco cart. Of course, all the vendors are winners in our book—but we do agree with Top Chowhound Jim Leff that the Arepa Lady (scroll down for his podcast with her) really shines.

Melba’s: Soul-Satisfying Short Ribs in Harlem

The must order at Melba’s is beef short ribs, braised in wine and served over a cake of cheddar grits. It’s comforting, deeply delicious stuff, says Ora. Other dishes are up and down. Among the ups, says Uptownflavor, is Tres Macaroni and Cheese, made with cheddar, mozzarella, and pepper jack.

The rest of the slightly fancified soul food menu ranges from standards like buttermilk chicken and waffles to lightened or fusiony dishes like barbecued turkey meatloaf, spinach-cheese empanadas, and Melba’s Spring Roll: collards, yellow rice, and black-eyed peas in a crisp-fried spring wrap.

Melba’s [Harlem]
300 W. 114th St., at Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), Manhattan

Board Links
Baton Rouge (Harlem-145 St) Report (LONG)

Banh Mi Rundown

A rundown on some of the best Vietnamese sandwiches in town:

P. Punko’s favorite banh mi is at Cam Huong in Oakland. They serve flavorful pork and crunchy pickles on warm, crusty bread, with Japanese mayonnaise. Melanie Wong especially likes their pork belly banh mi, and zippo likes the baked curry tofu banh mi–soft on the inside, like a piece of baked brie cheese.

The pork at Kim’s Sandwiches has a nice burst of five-spice flavor, crunchy daikon in the pickle mix, and nice spicy dressing; P. Punko thinks the secret ingredient is kecap manis (soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar).

Baguette Express has nice, savory meat, a little saucy, with baguette that is crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

The San Jose branch of Huong Lan serves banh mi with tasty grilled pork in a fried shallot sauce, but it’s very fatty–if that’s not your style, beware.

Wrap Delight has good BBQ pork banh mi, but it’s particularly notable for its vegetarian options, says Pistou–like delicious, fresh-tasting fried tofu banh mi, and hard boiled egg banh mi.

Cam Huong Cafe [Chinatown]
920 Webster St., Oakland

Kim’s Sandwiches [South Bay]
1816 Tully Rd. # 182, San Jose

Baguette Express [Embarcadero]
668 Larkin Street, San Francisco

Huong Lan Sandwich [South Bay]
1655 Tully Rd., San Jose

Wrap Delight [Tenderloin]
426 Larkin St., San Francisco

Board Links
My personal Mother of All Banh Mi posts, and a note about papaya salad with dried beef

Squeaky Cheese Curds

Cheese curds. Most folks will recognize that they’re an early stage in the production of cheeses. Folks from, say, Wisconsin, will sigh longingly, because they’re a sort of regional dish, and because they’re tasty and unlike anything else. And the thing about cheese curds, as any aficionado will tell you, is that they’re supposed to squeak when you chew them.

That might sound weird, but try them and you will see EXACTLY what this means. Luckily, you can get them here–the Oakdale Cheese Stand at the Sunday Oakland farmer’s market sells gouda cheese curds, and they have a beautiful squeak to them, says Ruth Lafler. Allowing them to warm up a bit only enhances the squeakiness.

Oakdale Cheese [Stanislaus County]
10040 State Hwy. 120, Oakdale

Jack London Square Farmers’ Market [Jack London Square]
Broadway and Embarcadero, Oakland

Board Links
found: squeaky cheese curds!

Amelia: Italian Pleasures at a Bay Ridge Hideaway

Amelia’s rich, upscale Italian food and inviting, secluded setting are winning fans in Bay Ridge. Recommended: grilled New York strip steak with Madeira sauce, grilled veal chops (with garlicky broccoli rabe), veal Frangelico (with porcini in hazelnut-cream sauce), cheese-stuffed figs over prosciutto and arugula, flourless chocolate cake.

Also on the menu from chef-owner Ken Deiner: house-made mozzarella, sauteed or in Caprese salad; tagliatelle Bolognese, lobster ravioli, linguine with Manila clams, and other pastas; seafood from the raw bar (oysters, clams) or the grill (octopus, soft-shell crabs); a Caesar salad with an unexpected accent from balsamic vinegar.

Open since August 2005, Amelia has a tiny dining room, plus a pleasant backyard and raw bar. Service and staff are warm and attentive, and the outdoor seating offers a lovely escape from city life. says giftergirl. She warns, however, that they can have trouble handling larger parties.

Amelia Ristorante [Bay Ridge]
formerly Tarantella
8305 3rd Ave., near 83rd St., Brooklyn

Board Links
Amelia’s in Bay Ridge
Amelia’s in Bay Ridge Brooklyn

Hawaiian Horizons in Santa Monica

A branch of the Hawaiian chain L&L has opened in Santa Monica to satisfy those plate-lunch cravings. Some people love it for the macaroni salad (an essential component of a plate lunch, although you CAN leave it off) alone. It may not be the best Hawaiian in town (your best bet for that is Bruddah’s in Gardena), but L&L satisfies with food like egg sandwiches with Spam or Portuguese sausage. Garlic shrimp and kalbi are particularly tasty; Spam musubi is pretty much foolproof. Kalua pork is solid, although the pork can be too salty–try getting it stir-fried with cabbage. BBQ chicken, though, is not their forte–it’s really the unhealthy food that’s the best here.

L&L Hawaiian BBQ [Beaches]
1916 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica

Bruddah’s Hawaiian Foods [South Bay]
1033 W. Gardena Blvd., between Vermont and Normandie, Gardena

Board Links
L&L Hawaiian BBQ now in Santa Monica

At Blue Coral, Lobsters Gone Wild

Fashion Island now has yet another reason to spend money: Blue Coral. Almost everything on the menu looks tempting, says MEalcentric, although naturally it’s seafood-centric.

The bread basket holds tender, Southern-style biscuits–a great surprise. Yellowtail crudo is a Matsuhisa-esque appetizer of high-quality fish with blood orange vinaigrette and sliced jalapenos. Seared albacore medallions with ponzu sauce, a special one night, are drizzled with a delicate sauce–tender and flavorful.

For main courses, the menu offers diners the choice of any fish available prepared in any style (with suggestions for the indecisive). A simple preparation of tuna grilled with tomato tapenade is perfectly executed; on the opposite end of the spectrum, the dramatic lobster en fuego (presented in the shell, on a big pile of hous-emade chips) is recommended too. Everyone seems to love the ultra-decadent lobster macaroni and cheese.

There’s a lengthy wine and cocktails list, and service is very professional.

The restaurant has a really nice ambience and a good mix of booths and tables. It’s pretty lively, with a crowd of young and older professionals, with a few couples on dates.

Dinner might run about $100 per person, including tip.

Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits [OC Beaches]
in Fashion Island
451 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach

Board Links
Blue Coral in NB?
Blue Coral NB -REVIEW (long)
Ambrosia or Blue Coral???

Neatly Dicing Softer Cheese

If you need to cut cheeses like cheddar or Monterey jack into small dice, or reduce butter to small bits for incorporating into pastry, here’s a good tip to prevent an excercise in sticky frustration: very cold cheese and butter slice neatly. Stick your cheese in the freezer until it firms up a bit for easiest cutting, and cut butter when almost frozen.

Board Links
Dicing cheese or butter