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

Acasa: Hearty, Homey Romanian in Sunnyside

Acasa, a newish Romanian restaurant in Sunnyside, sounds like a winner. “Everything we tried was very good,” reports RedVelvet, who on several visits has enjoyed tripe and bean soups, grilled sweetbreads, eggplant and Greek salads, mici (small, casing-less sausages) and, especially, first-rate saramura (pickled fish in vegetable stew). mickyme loves homey cabbage with smoked hocks. Stews, schnitzel, grilled meats and offal, and fish dishes round out the menu.

Acasa’s chef (and a co-owner) is a fellow named Mitica who worked the grill at nearby Romanian Garden. Local Romanians seem clued in to the new place, drawn by the chow plus live music and satellite TV from the old country, so the smallish dining room promises to become a lively hangout for expats.

Acasa [Sunnyside]
48-06 Skillman Ave., between 48th and 49th Sts., Sunnyside, Queens

Romanian Garden [Sunnyside]
46-04 Skillman Ave., at 46th St., Sunnyside, Queens

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Acasa, in Sunnyside
Woodside/Sunnyside suggestions? (eating out AND delivery)

Ramsay’s Revelations

With the publication of Gordon Ramsay’s new autobiography, Humble Pie, a spate of revelations about the celebrity chef have recently emerged. Maybe too many.

In the book, Ramsay reveals that he paid for heroin for his drug-addicted brother and contemplates the source of his infamous kitchen rage. What’s more, following Humble Pie’s publication, a secret sister has come out of the woodwork (she has a temper, too, by the way).

But now comes another revelation, which may just surpass the T.M.I. tipping point. London’s Daily Mirror reports that Ramsay’s first restaurant, Aubergine, was named not for the vegetable, but for, well, the angle of his dangle:

Quaffing champagne in London’s Claridge’s Hotel, Gord, 39, told us: “It’s because my nether regions always hang to the left, like an aubergine.”

Chinese Fake Beef Noodle Soup That’s the Real Deal

Despite its vegetarian pedigree, beef flavor noodle soup at Bean Sprouts looks and tastes as real as anything you’d get at any beef noodle place in the San Gabriel Valley, says Chandavkl. It’s studded with tiny chunky of mock beef, and even some mock gristle, but without that oily beef flavor. Crispy soy chicken with white pepper is almost a dead ringer for the pressed almond duck of Paul’s Kitchen. This is a small caf

Bing Bam Boom! More Bites from Roll and Dough

Hounds just can’t stop talking about Roll and Dough, the two-month-old Greenwich Village shop that specializes in the Chinese stuffed breads called bing. Early favorites among the fillings are spicy pork, spicy beef, and hot-and-sour vegetable. But they’re all pretty tasty, so the insider strategy is to ask the counter staff which one’s freshest and go with it. “I got bings right out of the oven, and they were amazing,” testifies scrawford.

Recent reports endorse the straight vegetable bing (which piccola likens to spring roll filling stuffed into chewy, crispy sesame-studded wheat dough) as well as the classic pork-and-chive. The latter “totally kicks ass,” raves ghbrooklyn, balancing fatty richness and vinegary bite. And if you luck out and they’ve just made some of the spicy meat bing, go for it. Freshly baked spicy beef bing is so delicious, marvels rose water.

Service remains uncommonly good. The staff is friendly, quick, and goofily endearing, says gsw. And they continue to pass out free samples just as they did in the opening days. Beyond bing and buns, the menu offers dumplings, fried chicken ($1 a piece), wonton or noodle soups, and an intriguing lineup of “traditional old fashion steamed soups” made with pork, chicken, oxtail, and other meat on the bone.

In Flushing, Roll and Dough’s mother shop, Unique Pastry, is no longer open to the public, though it’s still in business making stuff for other locations. The owners say it may reopen in time. In the meantime, a small selection of its wares is available for Flushing hounds a few blocks south on Main Street at J & L Mall. There’s little English signage in this bare-bones, uncompromisingly authentic food court. Just look for bing on the right side of the narrow corridor that runs west from Main Street.

Roll and Dough [Greenwich Village]
a.k.a. Bing
135 W. 3rd St., between 6th Ave. and MacDougal St., Manhattan

Unique Pastry [Flushing]
135-23 40th Rd., between Main and Prince Sts., Flushing, Queens

J & L Mall [Flushing]
41-82 Main St., between Sanford and Maple Aves., Flushing, Queens

Board Links
The Flushing Bing Lady comes to Manhattan!
Cheap lunch in the West Village?
Unique BING in Flushing

For Great Tacos, Head to the Table

The best tacos these days aren’t from taco trucks, they’re at taco tables, says Dommy. She recently stopped by a taco table conveniently sandwiched between the 101 and 10 and 5 freeways, where the specialties the separate the hardcore from the weak: cabeza and lengua.

The head and tongue meat are served in tissue-thin, handmade tortillas that are warmed in the steam from the grill. Cabeza comes in big, thin slices, with not much seasoning, just its own strong flavor. Lengua is chopped into big chunks, also without much seasoning. It’s nice and soft, and flavorful without being as funky as the cabeza. Salsa burns enough to numb your lips.

Taco table [East LA-ish]
4th St. and Boyle Ave, next to the 76 station, Los Angeles

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East Side Adventures: The Tacos that made me cry….

Dragon Fruit

The exotic and beautiful dragon fruit is also called pitahaya. Some of them are a bright, hot pink color. They’re in season now. rworange says to select those with a shiny, thin skin. A ripe one will have a little give, like a slightly ripe avocado, adds chocolatetartguy.

When ripe, they’re wonderfully sweet. Just peel them and eat.

Here’s more info, with a good picture.

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How to eat dragon fruit?

Baked Brie

Baked brie is a surefire hit at parties, and very easy to put together. Many chowhounds favor sweet additions to the cheese, but there are delicious savory versions, too. Most place toppings on a wheel of brie, wrap the whole in prepared puff pastry, bake until the puff pastry turns golden, and serve warm.

Favorite sweet toppings include fresh berries, apricot preserves, cranberry sauce, fig jam, mango chutney, and brown sugar and sliced almonds. Savory favorites include pesto, ham and roasted red peppers, blue cheese and port reduction, caramelized onions, and lox.

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Baked brie?

Customized M&M’s

What a literally sweet idea for a gift! M&M’s will print your own sentiment or special date on two color candies of your choice. As Caitlin McGrath explains, you choose two colors from a range of eighteen, and you can have a different message printed on each color. You get two lines of text, with eight characters/spaces per line, printed in black. The standard ‘M’ is printed on the reverse side. And you get a preview of how your M&M’s will look on the web site.

They’re not cheap. The minimum order is four 7-oz. bags, at $11.25 per bag, plus shipping,; the total for their minimum four bag order is $58, including shipping.
Artemis has received several bags of these, and reports that the printing is very clear, and the colors are vibrant.

Order here. Use the promotion code EVERYDAY7 and get a free bag with every order, through November 7, 2006.

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Custom-Printed M&M’s

Wine Cellars of the Rich and Fictional

After bagging on Food & Wine in a previous post, it seems only fair to point out their highly entertaining “Three Inspiring Cellars” feature from this month’s issue.

While it can be argued that the downside of Gourmet and Food & Wine is that they’re basically choking on $100 bills, this weakness can also be a strength. For example: when they do stuff like having three chic design firms create fantasy wine cellars.

Now that’s a good use of buckets of wealth. Paying $4,000 for a dress in order to look trendy for an overpriced restaurant? That’s the kind of “I done won me the Powerball!” fantasy that gives America’s elite a bad name. But spending $400,000 for a wine storage unit that Spock would probably find “fascinating”? This is where money-porn gets interesting.

The best of the three models featured is by David Rockwell, who designed Nobu and Country in New York City. It’s a straight-from-Twin Peaks “cabin” designed to sit outdoors, featuring—wait for it— fireplaces on both the interior and the exterior of the wine vault. Also, dig this:

The 30-by-20-foot cabin is constructed from wine-related materials—oak for the exterior, cork for the floor and ceiling, and glass for displaying the stored bottles.

Now, they never quite go into the purpose of the outdoor fireplace (for roasting marshmallows? a gathering place for chilly squirrels?), but it’s the kind of nutty flair that brightens your day, whether or not you—or your entire extended family—can afford it.

Lobstah Impostah

First, animal-rights groups got the little red lobster dropped from the Maine license plate. Now, a cheap shrimplike crab is muscling out the real deal. An Associated Press wire story about the use of “imposter lobster” got plenty of play this week, showing up on the websites of The Washington Post, CNN, the Guardian UK, The Sacramento Bee, and elsewhere.

Seems the regally named Maine senator Olympia Snowe is ready to throw a few thunderbolts to protect her state’s most iconic and lucrative industry. Turns out fast-food outlets like Red Lobster, Long John Silver’s, and Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill are using a small South American crab dubbed “langostino lobster” (from the Spanish word for “prawn”) as a stand-in for the more expensive Homarus Americanus.

Snowe’s goal? To get the FDA to reverse its decision to allow the term “langostino lobster” on restaurant menus, assuming that most Americans, unfamiliar with the term “langostino,” will simply zero in on the word “lobster” and assume they’re getting the real thing. Or, as Snowe insists, “Use of this term is misleading to consumers and unfairly affiliates langostino with actual lobster to the detriment of the lobster industry in Maine.”

The FDA’s agreement came as part of an out-of-court settlement last year with Rubio’s, which got busted for using langostino, not lobster, in its highly touted but too-cheap-to-be-true lobster burrito.

But Down Easters aren’t the only ones seeing red over lobsters. Down in Boston, Globe columnist Brian McGrory is insulted by the new campaign by the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, which implies that only Maine-caught lobsters are “real” lobsters. Writes McGrory,

So what they’re saying is that the men and women who work out of Cohasset, Scituate, Rockport, Hingham, Gloucester, people who go out in cold and heat, sun and rain, on seas that are calm and rough, that they’re hauling up pretend lobsters?

McGrory goes on to conduct a blind taste test with three top Boston chefs, offering up side-by-side forkfuls from each state. Amazingly, all three chefs can tell which is the Maine product and which the Massachusetts. The verdict? Maine is saltier, Massachusetts is sweeter. But they’re both real lobster.