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

DB Wine Bar: For Forest Hills, a Taste of Something New

Before DB Wine Bar came along in summer, Forest Hills had nothing like it. So the place quickly got the attention of neighborhood hounds, who have taken to its clean and modern look, reasonably priced wines, and thoughtfully conceived menu of Mediterranean-ish small plates.

Early hits include polenta sandwiches, risotto cakes, chicken cooked under a brick, and well put-together cured meat and cheese plates (recent winning choices include a French blue, Humboldt Fog chevre, and ripe, earthy Brie). “A promising addition to the decidedly unambitious dining scene of Forest Hills,” says DaveS, who enjoyed a 2003 Chateau de Pez, fairly priced at $52. The kitchen has kinks to work out. Grilled calamari, well seasoned and done to a turn one night, can be overcooked the next. Serrano ham croquettes might be just fine or unpleasantly gooey inside.

DB Wine Bar replaces Dee’s Brick Oven Pizza, which has moved a few blocks down Metropolitan.

DB Wine Bar and Kitchen [Forest Hills]
formerly Dee’s Brick Oven Pizza
104-02 Metropolitan Ave., at 71st Dr., Forest Hills, Queens

Dee’s Brick Oven Pizza [Forest Hills]
107-23 Metropolitan Ave., between Ascan and 74th Aves., Forest Hills, Queens

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DB Wine Bar, Forest Hills?
Danny Brown “DB” Wine Bar in Forest Hills

Bondi Road: From the Land Down Under, Simple Seafood

Pick a fish, decide how you want it cooked, and add a side. That’s all there is to it at Bondi Road, a laid-back fish house opened in summer by the Aussie owner of the Sunburnt Cow. Named after a Sydney surfer mecca, Bondi Road (say “bond-eye”) brings in Down Under exotics like barramundi, mulloway, trevally, and saddle tail sea perch. It’s billed as a fish and chips shop, but if you don’t want your catch fried, no worries–fish can also be ordered grilled, sauteed, or breaded and broiled.

Fried grouper and grilled snapper and ocean trout all pass muster with hounds, who also dig the casual vibe, friendly service, decent beer and wine choices, and side dishes (e.g., chili relish, citrus salad, potato scallops, roasted corn and basmati rice, mushrooms and haricots verts). Rounding out the menu: oysters, seafood wraps or hot pots, and non-fishy fare like burgers, chicken schnitzel, steak Diane, and rolled ‘roo fillet.

Bondi Road [Lower East Side]
formerly Cafe Juanita
153 Rivington St., between Clinton and Suffolk, Manhattan

The Sunburnt Cow [East Village]
137 Ave. C, between 8th and 9th Sts., Manhattan

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Bondi Rd. on Rivington
Delighted by Bondi Road on the Lower East Side

Coke Is It

Coca-Cola would like you to believe that the answer to the U.S. obesity crisis is at hand: a sparking green tea beverage called Enviga that purports to kick up your metabolism so that if you drink three cans per day (!), you can burn between 60 and 100 extra calories.

But can we trust our weight loss to a company that many claim has contributed to the abovementioned crisis? Green tea almost certainly has health-enhancing properties. And when you up the caffeine content of a tea-based drink to about the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee (as Coke has done with Enviga), you’re bound to get a warm feeling.

But The Wall Street Journal is skeptical. In an article picked up by several dailies, writers Betsy McKay and Chad Terhune counter the theory that Enviga is a miracle weight-loss medicine. Even Coke itself, through its head scientist Dr. Rhona Applebaum, isn’t calling Enviga a weight-loss pill.

‘This is not a magic bullet,’ she says. Enviga should be consumed as part of a healthy diet and regular physical activity, she says. Enviga ‘gently invigorates your metabolism. It gives your body this extra boost.’

But the biggest flaw in Coke’s research may be that they tested the beverage for metabolism-enhancing properties only on normal-weight men and women. The Journal article mentions this more than once:

And while overweight people are the logical market for a drink that promises to burn calories, Coke says it hasn’t tested the drink’s effects on them.

Oh well, it looks like I’ll have to look into that hoodia stuff I keep getting email about if I want to lose 10 pounds by next Friday.

Super Stuffed Cabbage Prep Tip

Instead of blanching cabbage in boiling water to prepare it for stuffing, here are two simpler alternatives that work great. First: try wrapping and freezing the whole head of cabbage. Before using it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then separate the leaves. The cabbage will be cool to the touch and easy to handle. It’s ready to stuff.

Or: EllenMM’s fast approach is to microwave the whole head of cabbage for 7 to 8 minutes instead of blanching.

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Lazy Cabbage Rolls: Frozen & thawed ilo Boiled ?

Marinated Artichoke Hearts

What can you do with jarred marinated artichoke hearts beyond tossing them in a salad? They’re great on pizza and garlic cheese bread, on hamburgers, in casseroles, in pasta sauces, and added to all sorts of dips (clam, spinach, onion, shrimp, etc.).

Here are a few more ideas:

Blend them into a paste as a spread for sandwiches.

Make an antipasto salad, with artichokes, some cubed cheese, salami, olives, beans, roasted peppers, and use the artichoke marinade as a dressing (sasha1).

Drain the artichokes, saute chicken in the marinade, throw in the artichokes and some mushrooms, thicken the marinade, and serve over rice (Janet).

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marinated artichokes

Cheese Rinds

Soft-ripened cheeses like Brie and Camembert develop a white bloom or rind as they mature. It’s not only edible, it’s delicious.

There’ll be a layer of cheesey paste just beneath the rind. Galleygirl makes the most of it by slicing off the rind and placing it, rind side up, on a slice of baguette, then broiling. “The rind will caramelize, and the cheese underneath becomes gooey. Add a dab of fig paste, or put it on a salad like a giant crouton.”

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Do You eat the SOFT Rind on Goat’s Cheese?

The Water Caltrop

The water caltrop (a.k.a. bull’s head, bull nut, buffalo nut, and bat nut) is an aquatic plant, native to Asia, that produces a starchy, hard fruit, with a distinctive shape, like a bull with horns. rworange says each side has a different little face.

Pei* loves them, and describes them as sort of a combination of chestnut and peanut. They have to be cooked–raw, they’re toxic. Boil them for about half an hour or more, with a few pieces of star anise. It’s actually quite hard to overcook these. They’re done when soft all the way through. Break them open, like roasted chestnuts, and consume.

More about the “bat nut”.

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Water Caltrop
Bat nuts roasting on an open fire (aka devil pod, bull’s head, bull nut, buffalo nut, water caltrop, trapa natans, Ling Jiao)

Grim Reaper in a Rice Krispies Box

Already depressed over the Wal-Martization of organic food, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford sees portends of doom in a new industrial-scale organic cereal line:

Kellogg’s Organic Rice Krispies. It’s sort of like saying ‘Lockheed Martin Granola Bars’ or ‘Exxon Bottled Spring Water.’

As he elaborates later in the piece, these Krispies are “industrial to the hilt.” That is, they are:

not the slightest bit locally grown, not the slightest bit sustainable, from the same company that poisons your kid with Pop-Tarts and Froot Loops and Scooby-Doo Berry Bones and cares about as much for the health of the planet as Dick Cheney cares about pheasants. And of course, they ship the crap all over the country in planes and trucks that burn enough oil to make Bush leer and the oil CEOs grin and it’s all just one big happy joke. On you.

Morford also raises the excellent point that the modern “organics” movement has become fixated on just one part of what the philosophy was originally about: “local, sustainable, ethical, connected to source, pesticide- and hormone-free.” These days, he writes, “the vast majority of organic product now flooding the market only gloms on to that last aspect,” the pesticide- and hormone-free part.

It’s interesting to think about it in those terms; big companies took the part of the organic concept that was easiest to commodify and ran with it. What if, instead, they had focused on the ethics and the connection to the source? Might we now have fresh local produce and minimally processed foods in Wal-Marts and cheap supermarkets nationwide, with a unique set of products at every store—and would that be a good thing, if big chain stores were still involved?

Stay Clear of the Spittoon

Tasting wine for a living sounds like a dream job, right? Wine writer Victoria Moore shares some of the occupational hazards.

Moore writes in the UK newspaper The Guardian that there are times when she “might need to swirl, spit and make a judgment on as many as 460 wines in a week.”

At this rate, there’s a serious risk of getting smashed while tasting, so she recommends eating a big breakfast. And, she always wears black for fear of wine spills, or worse, getting spat on:

This precaution is necessary not just because a glass repeatedly filled and emptied of red wine inevitably becomes sticky and drippy, or because when you get tired it’s not unusual to begin to dribble down your own top. A grave danger is posed by other tasters; more than once my body has intercepted a gargled plume of red wine as it left someone’s mouth en route for a sawdust-filled bin. Warning to men wearing beige slacks: my own aim isn’t too great either, so don’t think you’re safe loitering by the spittoons.

According to Moore, one of the more serious effects of swirling and spitting so much wine is the damage it does to one’s teeth—from leaving stains to destroying precious enamel: “This also explains why wine tasters, despite having one of the most envied jobs in existence, rarely smile.”

Great Beer, So-So Antelope, and the ParkingHounds’ Big Debut

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

I’d strafed Winston-Salem while heading eastward from the mountains a few days earlier (see installment #17), just hitting the town’s southern fringe. Now, heading west toward Tennessee, I stayed downtown to plumb what I’d heard described as a chowhounding desert.

Needless to say, top priority was another visit to Family Diner (7911 NC Highway 68 N, Stokesdale, North Carolina; 336-643-8853), about a half-hour from Winston-Salem. It wasn’t quite as transcendent this time, and I’m not sure if it’s because I ordered other stuff (i.e., chicken and dumplings is their sole masterpiece), or because a different chef (they have many) was on duty. I still loved it, though. Meatloaf was full of personality, turnip greens were as soulful as ever, and they managed to cram more flavor into lowly canned green beans than one would imagine possible. Ribs were baked (not smoked) but extremely tender—as you’d expect in this bastion of texturelessness. Fried okra had sat around for a while, but cornbread was fresher this time, and it packed depths of nuance beneath its ordinary exterior. Family Diner is all about the hidden depths of nuance.

I’m still trying to figure this place out. The servers sit around swapping bawdy jokes, and the restaurant is open all night on weekends … yet there’s that hovering “No Profanity” sign, which I find incredibly intimidating (not to mention impossible to obey, given the God’s-name-in-vain-invoking quality of much of the food). Perhaps the sign is nothing more than a campy goof, and I’m just not hip enough to get the joke. But gosh darn it to heck, I’d never dare test the issue.

Foothills Brewing (638 West Fourth Street, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; 336-777-3348) is a standard brewpub, with a variable lineup of beers, a number of them poorly crafted. Best are the lighter lager styles. Salem Gold—what beer geeks refer to as a “girlfriend beer”—has a nice snap and assertive bitterness. Torch Pils is drinkable, as well, with an admirably long finish. But the IPA, ESP, and Stout were flatline beers, made with little skill or care.

Double IPA is their featured special brew, with no free samples allowed. Dismayed by the rest of the lineup, I nearly skipped it. Thank goodness I didn’t. This is a great beer, with an aroma of stone fruit and mango, full body, and a complex, beautiful flavor. The sweetness perfectly counterbalances the searing bitterness and stratospheric alcohol level.

Here’s what blew my mind: This double IPA is actually one of Foothills’ most popular beers. Given that other brewpubs despair of selling the masses on anything but the lightest and most insipid styles, it’s dumbfounding that a beer this heavy, this flavorful, this weird, this … unbeery could be a hit in a football town with no craft-beer culture at all.

The food menu is equally surprising. Among all the usual pub-fare suspects were a number of game meats.

I found myself enjoying a plate of boar chops (12 o’clock in the photo), sliced antelope (3 o’clock), and venison (6 o’clock). None were prepared with great skill (potatoes and vegetables were downright icky), but it was certainly a more interesting dinner than I’d expected. The boar chops were more lamby than porcine, and not nearly as intense as the wild boar I had once in Spain. Antelope was my favorite, rich but not terribly gamey. Venison is more familiar, but this wasn’t a very good example. Not bad either, though.

Foothills had been recommended by the parking guys at my hotel, whom I invited for a late-night beer and who turned out to be so bright, articulate, and insightful that someone just has to give them their own radio show. Take it away, Daniel and Jonathan:

MP3 file:
1. Tales of eating antelope, aardvark, monkey brains, elephant, and rhinoceros.

MP3 file:
2. Exotic eating in the South (possum, squirrel, asiago bagels, etc.).

MP3 file:
3. Chitlins and dumplings (and the mysterious “sea loaf”).

MP3 file:
4. Daniel’s chow faves in St. Louis (tips to file away!).

MP3 file:
5. Jonathan’s trip to Alaska.

MP3 file:
6. What’s “hot-water cornbread”? And why do you never see spoonbread on menus in NC? Mystery solved!

MP3 file:
7. Daniel’s intriguing and unusual recipe for garlic soup.

MP3 file:
8. Your quest, son, is to find catfish in Tennessee.

There’s not much great barbecue right here, as Lexington, North Carolina, is such a mecca so nearby (in fact, the best places in Winston-Salem all advertise themselves as “Lexington Barbecue,” much like pizzerias anywhere near New Haven tend to market their product as “New Haven-Style”).

The purist choice for those put off by the kooky sauces at Hill’s and at Short Sugar’s (see installment #17) is Little Richard’s Lexington BBQ (best location: 4885 Country Club Road, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; 336-760-3457). Daniel and Jonathan urged me there.

It’s unexceptional, but only in the sense that it didn’t awe me after I had visited the towering giants of North Carolina barbecuedom. If Little Richard’s were to be magically transported to my block in Queens, New York, I’d swoon with joy.

The picture tells the story: nice coarse by-hand chop, and that’s outside brown you’re seeing mixed in there, son. Which leads to the next photo:

Check out the notation “some osb.” God, I love that. I told the waitress I wanted “some outside brown,” a subtle statement rife with meaning. And she faithfully transmitted my wishes. Sure enough, my plate was mostly regular barbecue, but studded with some brown crunchy highlights. Nice.

The hush puppies were real good. But the hush puppies are always real good. It’s like beer in Belgium: Grandeur is assumed.

That bottom sign’s a hoot.

Daniel and Jonathan also like Jimmy the Greek’s (2806 University Parkway, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; 336-722-0184) for Southern breakfast. My order was decent. Those guys insisted you can find hot-water cornbread (a.k.a. spoonbread) there, but I’m dubious.

A friend said, in an earlier podcast, that there were no good late-night music clubs in Winston-Salem. Nope, there’s a real good one, with a pretty good beer list, too. RubberSoul Bar (1148 Burke Street, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; 336-721-0570) is a fun joint for listening to live groups. I caught a great local party band called Solos, with a NYC-caliber bassist and frontmen who sing and rap with equal aplomb.