Articles rss

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

Today’s Giada

First Rachael Ray gets her own talk show in September. Now we learn from Variety that Giada De Laurentiis, who hosts Everyday Italian and Behind the Bash on the must-eat TV channel, has inked a “continuing correspondent” deal with NBC’s Today.

Reactions to Giada’s cheflebrity states are wide and varying. Over at Television Without Pity, there’s a thread devoted to her called “Everyday Italian in Little Big Head’s Kitchen,” (a nod to her ginormous head), in which both fans and foes can post profane or drooling reactions to their snarky hearts’ content. Another television site, TVGasm, even has a “Giada Watch” where Giada’s head size is hysterically measured by a “Natalie Portman Index” or “NPI.”

The blog 15 Minute Lunch doesn’t mince words when reacting to the large-mouthed lass and even professes to have nightmares about Giada, adding, “I don’t know if it’s just her humongous insane-person grin that bugs me, or the fact that the cameraman sees fit to show us a close up of her uvula every time she speaks…”

If he can get the lambs to stop screaming, Giada could show him how to serve it with a little basil-mint pesto.

Eat this, nation!

Bruce Cole of Saute Wednesday launched a new blog this week called Edible Nation. The latest in the network of Edible Communities publications, which include various regional print quarterlies focusing on sustainable agriculture and the local food scene, EN looks so far like it’ll be both a fun read and a solid news source (though it has some kinks to work out in aligning itself with the overall mission of EC).

The bacon wallet is a great find, and I like Bruce’s personal notes about grass-fed beef. The graphics on “What the Duck?” and “Iowa to vote…” are also charming, and the latter post points to some really interesting articles and stats that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

But Bruce could have given the link to the Kerrymaid “happy cows” ad a little more context: Some cursory googling reveals that the Kerrymaid brand is actually part of a huge convenience-foods company that doesn’t seem to adhere to any special animal-husbandry standards or doesn’t mention them if it does —which makes the “happy cows” claim look pretty wack. The Happy Cows TV ads for the California dairy industry have always annoyed me for similar reasons. Those cows masquerade as cuddly little California Raisins-style mascots, but secretly they’re on a mission to quash any consumer concerns about how dairy cows are treated and capitalize on the growing demand for natural products. Point being, I’d love to see EN (which is in position to become the authoritative blog on sustainable farming) get to the bottom of some of these PR campaigns.

And then there’s the slightly odd choice of partnering with Given Edible Communities’ commitment to local, independent businesses (many of which despise the online giant), you’d think the EN blog would offer its users the choice of buying books from a different company. Why not use or, like many other progressive and socially responsible sites?

These quibbles aside, I’m excited to keep reading Bruce’s new project. (Let’s just hope he doesn’t totally ditch out on the lovely Saute Wednesday!)

Trading places

In Los Angeles, gastronomes are gorging on glorious pig fat, while on New York’s Lower East Side, they’re dining on dainty amuse-bouches. Has some kind of coastal culinary transplant taken place?

Writing in The New York Times, Melissa Clark reports that the amuse-bouche has trickled down from the rarified world of haute dining to find its way into casual restaurants and dinner parties in New York City.

Meanwhile, back in health- and figure-conscious Los Angeles–that bastion of the small plate movement–all manner of cured pork delicacies from prosciutto to jamon and even all-fat lardo are the rage. “Who could have predicted it? Southern California, where even great restaurants need to have a big green salad on the menu, has suddenly gone crazy for pork fat,” writes Russ Parsons in his mouthwatering Los Angeles Times article on L.A.’s new craze for salumi.

A Trip to FHM’s Cathouse

Much to the relief of lazy food commentators everywhere, Iron Chef America gladiator and cookbook authoress Cat Cora made her softcore pictorial debut in September’s edition of FHM.

Cora’s ever-so-slightly cheesecake photo series recalls Rachel Ray’s infamous appearance in the same magazine. (You can view Ray’s slightly racier pictorial, lovingly preserved in all its spoon-licking glory, right over here.)

The brief but frantic firestorm of comment we can expect these pictures to stir up hasn’t yet descended upon the Web, but we can probably expect it to break down into the following schools of thought:

Women’s Lib (Old-School): This photo spread is degrading to Cat Cora and career women everywhere. By displaying a generous helping of her tater-tots, she has cheapened her otherwise formidable professional achievements.

Women’s Lib (New-School): This photo spread is empowering to Cat Cora and career women everywhere. By displaying a generous helping of her tater-tots, she has enhanced her otherwise formidable professional achievements with grrrl power.

Judgmental male, positive: Wow, she is hawt. And a lesbian! Damn…I’ll be in my trailer. [Actual quote]

Judgmental male, negative: Cat Cora is really forcing it in her FHM pictorial; does not compare with the original Rachel Ray photo shoot…. [Another actual quote]

In the eyes of this humble commentator, the photos (which are no steamier than a typical visit to southern California) aren’t the concern here. The problem is the recipes. They’re too sophisticated for the mouth-breathing frat rats they’re clearly concocted for, yet too horrible seeming for anyone over the age of 20 to consider interacting with.

Bacon-wrapped grilled spam fillet? Why not just skip the Spam entirely? And did you seriously put a twist of orange on top of that thing?

Good lord, woman; have you no sense of decency?

Sprinkles Falls Lightly on Newport Beach

Sprinkles opened a spinoff of its Beverly Hills cupcake shop in Newport Beach. It’s all about the rich, tangy cream cheese frosting here, says Emily. While vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting is plain, dry and boring (and other flavors are bland), banana cake is moist and assertively banana-y under a layer of cream-cheesey goodness. Red velvet is the other winner, says Pei–it’s incredibly moist, not too sweet, and topped with the same frosting.

Sprinkles Cupcakes [OC Beaches]
in Corona del Mar Plaza
944 Avocado Ave., at MacArthur, Newport Beach

Sprinkles [Beverly Hills]
9635 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills

Board Links
Sprinkles in Newport Beach
Buttercake vs. Sprinkles

Petite Soo Chow: Shanghai Surprise in Cliffside Park, NJ

Chinese-challenged Cliffside Park now has the real deal in Petite Soo Chow, reports marachino. Shanghai specialties like xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and fish head clay pot are “easily the kind of stuff that would warrant a trip to Chinatown or Flushing.” Wu Xi spare ribs and red-cooked fish are also worth a try, says kNOwTASTE, who finds the food “a bit better than your average Chinese restaurants in Flushing or Chinatown, which makes it excellent in Bergen County.”

Service is cordial and attentive, and on weekends there’s northern-style Chinese breakfast–shaobing, steamed buns, soy milk and crullers, and the like.

Petite Soo Chow [Bergen County]
607 Gorge Rd., near Lincoln Ave., Cliffside Park, NJ

Board Links
Pettie (sic) Soo Chow in Cliffside Park–authentic Chinese

Cafe Riazor: Rewarding Old-School Tapas in Chelsea

Hounds have had little to say about Cafe Riazor, a downstairs Spanish hideaway that’s been around since the ‘70s, and jungirl thinks it deserves better. She reports a satisfying spread of tapas–stuffed piquillo peppers, chorizo asado (grilled sausage), patatas bravas (fried potatoes in tomato sauce), pulpo a la gallega (octopus in olive oil and paprika)–plus paella negra (with squid ink) and a couple pitchers of sangria. “I don’t think they’ve renovated in ages, but I like the old-school charm,” she adds. “I honestly don’t know why this place is so overlooked.”

Cafe Riazor [Chelsea]
245 W. 16th St. #1, between 7th and 8th Aves., Manhattan

Board Links
where is LA NACIONAL, the great tapas restaurant everyone speaks of?

Chowish Lamb Options

Chowhounds weigh in on their favorite moderately-priced lamb dishes in town.

david kaplan likes the lamb burger at Bocadillos; two of them with a garnish salad are only $8. The cumin lamb at Old Mandarin Islamic, peppery and strongly cumin-y, is also recommended.

Another option is Woodward’s Garden. The braised lamb shank with melted gypsy peppers, braised endive, couscous, and cilantro oil tastes amazing and is a great value at about $20, says chefinthecity.

Chez Nous, a small plates place on Fillmore, serves simply-prepared lamb chops served with rosemary salt, perfectly cooked, says laaronson.

Helmand has one of the best racks of lamb in the city for only about $18, says Joan Kureczka; stonefruit also likes their seekh kabab, cubes of lamb not served on skewers.

Morton the Mousse loves the stewed lamb with charred eggplant at Aziza for $19.

The barbacoa at La Gran Chiquita is very tasty if you’re a lamb fan, says jmarek.

Bocadillos [Financial District]
710 Montgomery St., Washington, San Francisco

Old Mandarin Islamic [Sunset]
3132 Vicente St., San Francisco

Woodward’s Garden [Mission]
1700 Mission St., San Francisco

Chez Nous [Fillmore]
1911 Fillmore St., San Francisco

Helmand Restaurant [North Beach]
430 Broadway, San Francisco

Aziza [Richmond]
5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

Taqueria La Gran Chiquita [Fruitvale]
3503 International Blvd., Oakland

Board Links
Best place to have some Lamb in SF, non-curry, non-expensive? POSSIBLE?

The Sweetest Thing

Rajjot Sweet & Snacks in Sunnyvale makes its own jalebi, a super-sweet Indian confection. They’re so fresh that they’re still crunchy, and the rosewater-perfumed soaking syrup is still liquid. Melanie Wong likes them very much. They also have a full chaat and snacks menu.

This place is Bengali, says howler, so try for Bengali specialties, like ras malai.

Rajjot Sweet & Snacks [South Bay]
1234 S Wolfe Rd., El Camino, Sunnyvale

Board Links
Jalebi from Rajjot Sweet & Snacks in Sunnyvale

Making Your Own Smoked Salt

Smoked sea salt is a delicious condiment, and it’s super-easy to make your own if you have a smoker. When you’re firing up your smoker for a long session, just pour sea salt into a foil pan and put it on a high rack, above any meat you’re smoking. You definitely don’t want any meat drippage in your salt. The longer you smoke it, the better, says ricepad. Six hours at minimum; ten hours is even better.

Here’s a money-saving tip from Pei: Korean markets sell 2.5-lb. bags of sea salt for just a few bucks, and it tastes just as good as pricier stuff.

Board Links
Smoked Sea Salt