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

Pizza from Silver Lake to Echo Park

Masa makes a great Chicago style pizza, says dgonzale80. For something lighter, Pizza Buona is a respectable NY-style slice spot.

For her NY-style fix, Suebee leaves the nabe and heads for Village Pizza, owned by a Brooklyn transplant who knows how to make some seriously good pies, she raves, possibly the best pizza in town.

Nicky D’s is a cozy spot that bakes delicious wood-fired pies, and there’s a nice patio outside too. Delicious red sauce clam pie, says dgonzale80.

Michelangelo’s excellent crust is appropriately thin and crispy. Their pies come both in personal and larger family-sized portions.

Louisa’s is a good delivery option, even for a chain, Silverlaker remarks; check out their veggie pizza.

Masa-Echo Park Bakery & Cafe [Echo Park]
1800 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Pizza Buona [Echo Park]
2100 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Village Pizzeria [Larchmont Village]
131 N Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles

Nicky D’s Wood-Fired Pizza [Silver Lake]
2764 Rowena Ave., Los Angeles

Michelangelo Pizzeria [Silverlake]
1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

Louise’s Trattoria [Los Feliz]
4500 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles

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Echo Park/Silver Lake pizza spots

Life is Sweet in Laguna Niguel

Dolce Vita is a multiple threat, with good-quality gelato, cupcakes and cookies, plus Italian olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Their gelato has a sensationally smooth texture and comes in a variety of flavors

Pumpkin Cookies

Fall is pumpkin season–time for jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cookies. Most pumpkin cookies are like little pumpkin cakes in texture, and somehow not as satifying as you think they’d be. Not these two: one is a chocolate chip cookie, but, you know, pumpkin! The other’s a chewy, toothsome oatmeal dealie.

pamd shares her recipe for chocolate chip-pumpkin cookies:

1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together sugar, pumpkin, shortening and orange peel. Stir in flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, until light brown, and remove right away from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

wowimadog offers this recipe for pumpkin oatmeal cookies, saying they’re especially great made with dried cherries:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 organic rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin, or cooked pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
scant 2/3 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup raisins or chopped dried Bing cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, sugar, oil, molasses, vanilla, and flax seeds until very well combined. Add dry ingredients to wet in 3 batches, folding to combine. fold in walnuts and raisins or dried cherries. Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets about an inch apart, and flatten the tops with a fork your fingers. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back on the oven racks halfway through for even baking. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

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Pumpkin Cookie Recipe?

Fried Coke!

Fried coke is a quirky fried treat that may displace funnel cakes at state and county fairs. It’s deep-fried balls of batter that have been flavored with coke. Fried coke showed up at a state fair in Texas, and won a prize!

The dough balls are presented in glasses, topped with Coke syrup, whipped cream, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and, of course, topped with a cherry.

Read a little more about it.

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Anyone Heard of “Fried Coke”?

Transforming Takeout Tidbits

Some hounds can’t wait to dive into the dregs of last night’s takeout meal straight from the carton, standing in front of the fridge. But others don’t want another meal of goulash, or can’t can’t quite imagine what they might do with a half cup of massaman curry or a lonely carton of plain rice. Hounds piccola and Adrienne have perfected the art of using up every tidbit of takeout, maximizing their investments in deliciousness.

Here are some great ways to use up takeout, beyond reheating:

Plain rice: make congee or fried rice (you can use other leftover meats or veggies in either, if the flavors will work).

Rice or pasta/noodle dishes: use as the base of a frittata (add eggs and cheese or whatever else you like).

Curries, patties, meats: use to top salads or fill sandwiches, slicing or chopping meat as necessary.

Tofu and/or grains can be made into veggie burgers or patties and sauteed, with the addition of a binder.

Finely chopped leftovers of all kinds make great omelette fillings.

Most leftovers can become the basis for or an ingredient in a soup; Adrienne even admits she occasionally rinses the sauce off leftovers so she can start fresh and flavor the soup however she wants!

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Takeout leftover magic

Green and Black’s Chocolate Bars

The chocolate bars made by Green and Black’s are organic and very good; they’re available at Target stores and Whole Foods. Especially nice is their white chocolate. You needn’t be a white chocolate lover to enjoy it.

Their Maya Gold bar is flavored with orange; there’s also a mint chocolate, a 70% dark chocolate, and more–twelve flavors, in all. The holy grail of Green and Black’s bars is the butterscotch flavor, which isn’t available in the States. You can find them in the UK and Toronto.

The chocolate bars.

Search for a retailer near you.

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Green and Blacks Butterscotch bar and white chocolate bar

Consider the Source

Last week’s news that the New York City Health Department wants to ban trans fats in restaurants atrracted lots of support.

But its detractors are legion, and the food-industry lobbying group Center for Consumer Freedom is fighting back. The organization (which is the polar opposite of the nutrition watchdog organization Center for Science in the Public Interest) is this week airing a television ad that is an over-the-top attempt to win sympathy for its side (and, presumably, the organization’s funders, a coalition of food, fast food, and tobacco corporations). In the ad, a little boy gets a delicious-looking ice cream cone literally ripped from his hands by the food police. He cries.

Of course, since the food industry has developed many substitutes for trans fats (although they might not be as convenient or cheap), no one will actually be ripping food from anyone’s hands. Even french fries can be produced using healthier fats than partially hydrogenated soybean oil. In the end, if the trans fat ban goes through, it probably won’t be little kids who are crying, but executives of fast food corporations.

Found, Not Farmed

The days are getting shorter. The light is fading to winter gray. And in forests all over the Western Hemisphere, mushrooms are popping up beneath burned-out pines and spreading oaks. It’s gotten so that all I can think about is going out and hunting. And I’m not the only one. The BBC News has an excellent video primer on how to forage for wild food (which they charmingly call “hedgerow food”), especially edible fungi. Similar mass-media guides for American would-be mushroom hunters are rare; Yanks tend to be so spooked by the dangers of wild ‘shrooms that no respectable publication would dare run a how-to feature on foraging.

Yet interest in foraging is starting to grow stateside, pushed along by the fresh/seasonal/organic movement. Michael Pollan’s seminal book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a whole chapter on foraging that awoke a hunter-gatherer longing in many. But an interview with a Seattle-area forager in food blog the Ethicurean and an entry from personal blog Hoarded Ordinaries illustrate the problem with learning how to forage: You just can’t do it with books. In the Old World, you learned from your uncle or your mom what could be eaten and what couldn’t. In our supermarket age, there aren’t many people around to show you how and where to pick. Is the chanterelle you’ve found the real deal, or the false chanterelle that’ll kill you dead? Are those huckleberries or nightshade? It takes a lot of nerve to trust a picture in a field guide. Probably best to restrict your foraging to organized trips with experienced guides.

If you do manage to get your hands on some wild mushrooms, Sunset magazine has a great compendium of mushroom recipes. The morel-sherry gratin is to die for.

Edward Behr Rocks the Jura

The new quarterly installment of The Art of Eating is out, and it features a synapse-searing profile of wines from France’s Jura vineyards.

The feature rolls on for nearly 30 pages, detailing the region’s viticultural history, the area’s chief winemakers, the best food to pair with Jura wines, the “method versus soil” argument about what makes the wines distinctive, the unique flavor profile of the Jura’s famous vin jaune (“yellow wine”), and the best places to eat and shop the next time you find yourself hanging around Arbois.

The wine itself sounds like something best loved by connoisseurs; the writer, Edward Behr, builds up steam for several hundred words before confessing that the main flavor of vin jaune is often described as “rancid walnut,” albeit with some non-rancid nut undertones accompanied by notes of caramel and curry.

Specific sensory details aside, “Wines of the Jura” is everything a slightly unhinged oenophile could possibly want from a piece of writing. It’s elegant and well researched. It’s as sprawlingly detailed as the Manhattan Yellow Pages. And it’s mind-bendingly complete. This isn’t an article you browse or surf. It’s a story that you go and live in for a few days. And in an era when 300-word fluff features and … uh … food blogs define the way most edibles and potables get written about, it’s paradoxically refreshing.

Now, if we could just get Edward Behr to turn his Borgesian talents to the commercial history and cultural implications of the Hardee’s Monster Thickburger, we’d have some food writing that would really richochet around the blogosphere.

Great ‘Cue with Bob Garner, Two Pillars of Mexican Cooking, and a Deafening Honduran Pool Hall

Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina

What a thrill to meet Bob Garner, author of one of my favorite guidebooks—Bob Garner’s Guide to North Carolina Barbecue.

Bob was generous enough to meet me and some friends for lunch at one of his favorite places: Allen & Son (6203 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; 919-942-7576). It was great to hear Bob’s barbecue wisdom in person, and I’ll share some audio highlights with you.

Podcast 1 —MP3 file:
We join in as Bob’s offering his thoughts on the places I hit yesterday.

Podcast 2 —MP3 file:
Bob weighs in on the delicate issue of “outside brown.”

Podcast 3 —MP3 file:
Bob offers a neophyte in our party a quick tutorial in North Carolina ‘cue:

Podcast 4 —MP3 file:
Background info on the incredible personal touch and energy applied by Allen & Son’s chef/owner, Keith Allen.

Podcast 5 —MP3 file:
Discussion and analysis of the hush puppies.

Podcast 6 —MP3 file:
Bob (who’s never visited our site) eloquently expresses the chowhounding ethos.

Podcast 7 —MP3 file: Bob’s further ponderings on the outside brown issue, left on my voicemail later that day.

I loved just about everything about Allen & Son. It’s truly benchmark barbecue, and sides and desserts are terrific, too. But one thing: Why on earth would chef/owner Keith Allen go to the trouble of whipping up great fresh desserts daily if he’s going to allow waiters to tragically destroy them by nuking before serving? Superb piecrust is rendered sodden; cobbler has its soul sucked out. It’s pure blasphemy.

Allen & Son.

Bob Garner addresses his rapt admirers.

Bob takes us around back.

Chopped barbecue sandwich.

Hush puppies.

Brunswick stew.

Pound cake and (homemade) ice cream.

Banana pudding.

Chocolate pie.

Coconut pie.

Peanut butter pie.

Chowhounding Durham

Chapel Hill is intensely charming and tightly zoned. It’s not the sort of place where one finds finds. But upon hearing that nearby Durham is more sprawling and less explored, I made a beeline and within minutes came upon the astonishing Taqueria El Paraiso (111 South Alston Avenue, Durham, North Carolina, 919-680-4728).

Paraiso means “paradise” in Spanish, but that’s not the half of it. This is a major point of culinary light. The best stuff here is vastly better than anything I had in Mexico (and companions with more Mexico experience than I were inclined to agree). Their menudo rocked my world. It was intensely garlicky, spiced to perfect balance, and layered as deftly as a top-tier fireworks display. The tripe was clean-tasting and tender. The secret ingredient? Ham hocks!

Their posole was even better. Food this good is hard to describe, but let me just say that whereas other posoles taste like soup, this one tasted like a symphony or a novel or a torrid romance. The sensation is too much for one avenue of perception alone, so the bliss overflows into synesthesia. I’m so glad to have had my camera along, because for some reason the Casio Exilim 750 has the magical ability to convey soul. Take a look!

Humble exterior belies greatness within.

The blessed menudo.

I forget what they call this, but it amounts to beef fajitas. The beef is insanely tender and bursting with soulful flavor, and it yearns (insofar as meat yearns) to soak up the garlicky sludge of black beans served alongside. Oh, and the rice alone is worth a trip to North Carolina.

Freshly handmade tortillas!

Tostadas for the posole are utterly greaseless and gushing with earthy corn flavor.

Tacos on great fresh tortillas. The salsa verde is the best I’ve ever tasted (the rojo is merely stunning).

The previous tacos were terrific, but the cabeza tacos (beef head —mostly cheek meat, I believe) are life-changing. Sure, the pool of oozing oil is a bit intimidating. But … gawd …

These guys are Oaxacan, by the way. They make a few customary moles, but everything’s from scratch in small quantities, so unless you arrive quite early, the specialty items will have run out. El Paraiso makes several varieties of tamales, and I was crushed not to get any in two visits (next time I’ll go at 9 a.m.). The wistful look in the eye of the counter guy indicated to me that they are magnificent.

I had a late-night supper in a Honduran pool hall, just on impulse upon driving by. Mi Pequeño Honduras (2201 North Roxboro Road, Durham, North Carolina; 919-220-3702) is quite a good venue for a pretty rare cuisine. But jaded by the superlativeness of earlier discoveries—plus the fact that I was pretty damned full—I failed to get as excited as I probably should have. In any normal day of chowhounding, this would have been quite a find indeed.

Baleada, a huge tortilla wrapped around curdy cheese and beans, was both interesting and delicious. Pupusas are more Salvadoran than Honduran, but I loved the kitchen’s take on them. They had a lively, sexy freshness, and the curtido (akin to cole slaw, the traditional pupusa accompaniment) was unusually spritely. Even in my delicate state, it took much self-discipline not to polish off the plate. I was less tempted by the tajadas con pollo frito, though. This was a perfectly OK deep-fried half bird strewn with perfectly fine fried green plantains and curtido. Not something to especially transport gringo food-lovers to Honduras, but good stuff for homesick immigrants.

Another factor in my underappreciation: The music was nothing short of bone-shattering. Get the idea from this short podcast. MP3 file

I didn’t want to stop again, being achingly full and exhausted, but I sensed grandeur and so ducked in for one last very-late-night check-out at a place right near Mi Pequeño Honduras, Taqueria Y Birreria Los Comales (2103 North Roxboro Road, Durham, North Carolina; 919-220-1614). I’ve seen restaurants like this before: a gleaming, bracingly efficient Mexican eatery clearly run by a very strict perfectionist owner who keeps an extremely tight ship. Hours are late, prices are fair, and service is brusque (the efficiency ethic irons out all the sweetness).

Every inch of the place is sparklingly clean—even the toppings/condiments bar at 1:30 a.m. They’ve earned a 98 out of 100 health rating, which is the best I’d seen in North Carolina. No corners are cut in the cooking, either. Everything’s done just right—both delicious and authentic enough to impress anyone. What more can you ask?

Well … soul! Buche (pork stomach) and birria de chivo (stewed goat) tacos were technically perfect and extraordinarily enjoyable, but lacked that loving feeling. As at Paraiso, tortillas are made fresh, but these are a tad cold-spirited (if these tortillas and the ones at Paraiso ever touched, the matter/antimatter reaction would implode the galaxy).

But it doesn’t matter. It’s just another sort of greatness. I wish I had time to stick around and work through the whole menu; there are things to learn, and everything is prepared so deftly that I could establish baselines on foods I’m less familiar with. I’ve never drunk such pristinely ricey horchata.

The menu at Los Comales includes a smattering of Salvadoran items, and I’d particularly like to try their pupusas. Maybe the Salvadoran chef has more warmth.

I don’t know any other Mexican eatery currently operating on the East Coast that can even begin to rival El Paraiso or Los Comales. And I need to get earplugs and return to Mi Pequeño Honduras sometime for more thorough checking. All in all, it was a rewarding day of free-form chowhounding. My streak remains intact!