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

Napa/Sonoma for Under $10

There’s good, cheap food in wine country if you know where to look. Carrie 218 recommends the corn dog guy on the corner of Napa Road and Eighth Street in Sonoma, who produces the most amazing corn dogs she has ever tasted. They’re entirely worth going out of your way for. Lakeside Grill at The Vintners golf course makes a mean burger for under $10, says djh.

The Michoacan taco truck on Salvador Avenue in Napa is a great option; Earl Grey goes two or three times a week. Especially good are the al pastor and the chile verde burrito, an indulgent treat with lots of crema.

The barbecue rig outside D’s Diner in Sebastopol does pork ribs, pork shoulder, chicken, and links in their smoker. The ribs are large and meaty, with a nice smoke ring and moderate smoke flavor; they’re falling-off-the-bone tender, for those who like that texture. The sauce is only okay, says Mick Ruthven, but the ribs are legit and some of the best in the San Francisco Bay area. And in Santa Rosa, Black Bean BBQ offers a hefty plate of food for $10, says Gerard.

Corn Dog Stand [Sonoma County]
Corner of Napa Rd. and Eighth St. E., Sonoma

Lakeside Grill [Napa County]
at The Vintners Golf Club
7901 Solano Ave., Yountville

Michoacan Taco Truck [Napa County]
Salvador Ave., Napa

Barbecue Rig [Sonoma County]
outside D’s Diner
7260 Healdsburg Ave. (Hwy. 116), Sebastopol

Black Bean BBQ [Sonoma County]
a.k.a. Stim’s Texas Bbq
557 Summerfield Rd., Santa Rosa

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Napa / Sonoma on the cheap – Eats for $10 and under?

Royal Kabab: Masterly Pakistani Meats in Huntington Station

Royal Kabab Grill excels at Pakistani-style grilled and pan-fried meats. sbp has eaten a swath through the menu. His favorites:

- Chapli kabab: minced beef in a powerfully seasoned, burger-shaped patty, pan-fried to a thick, caramelized crust. “Crunchy, gooey, savory, sweet, the crust alone had it all. Simply amazing.”

- Gola kabab: a sausage-like ground-beef kabab, also highly seasoned, with cumin and cinnamon notes, among many others.

- Bihari kabab: shredded beef in a spicy marinade of mustard oil, yogurt, and papaya (a natural meat tenderizer), grilled over charcoal. “Charred, crusty, sour, salty, but also mushy. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but I’ve acquired it.”

Also recommended: saag, tandoori shrimp, even plain rice, which gets a lift from an alluring touch of cinnamon. “Please go to this place; every time I’ve been there, it seems empty,” implores sbp. “The food is very good. Give them a pass on the somewhat confused service.”

Royal Kabab Grill [Suffolk County]
135-9 W. Jericho Tpke., near Pine Tree Rd., Huntington Station, NY

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Royal Kebab in Huntington, NY: Revisited

Quiche Tips

Chowhounds offer their tried-and-true tricks for avoiding soggy- or burnt-crusted quiche, and for achieving the most luscious filling.

Crust magic:

Even if you’re beginning with a frozen crust, blind baking (partially baking the crust before you fill it) is key to avoiding that soggy bottom. Line the crust with foil and fill it with rice or dry beans to keep it from puffing up, and bake it at 400F for 12 minutes.

To create a seal between the liquid filling and the crust to further ward off sogginess, brush egg white over the crust or sprinkle shredded cheese in the bottom right after you’ve blind baked it, while it’s still hot.

cheryl h says if you’ve got a pizza stone, baking your quiche on it will assure the bottom crust is baked through and not soggy.

Filling tips:

You can use almost any combination of vegetables, meats, cheeses, and seasonings to flavor your quiche, but all quiche filling begin with a custard base of eggs beaten with milk, half and half, or cream. Egg/dairy ratios vary greatly from recipe to recipe; for a 9-inch quiche, Chocolatechipkt likes a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of milk to 3 eggs. MollyGee notes that using low-fat milk, with its higher water content, can lead to a watery quiche or conversely, to a rubbery one, since a watery appearance may lead you to overbake.


Once you’ve blind baked your crust, it’s easy to accidentally overbake and even burn the edges when baking the filled quiche. You can avoid this by covering the rim of your crust with thin strips of foil after it’s been filled.

Here are two tricks for getting a panful of liquid filling in to bake without making a mess of your oven: 1) Place the filled quiche on a sheet pan lined with foil and put the whole sheet pan in the oven. 2) Pull the oven rack out, place the unfilled pan on it, and pour the filling in, preferably from a bowl or measuring cup with a spout.

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First-time quiche tips?

Margon Revisited: Deep, Homey Latin Flavors in Midtown

There are plenty of reasons people keep going back to Margon, the homey Cuban-Dominican lunch counter on 46th Street, but the yellow rice is as good an explanation as any. lawrence was expecting neutral, starchy stomach fodder, but their’s serious flavor in those grains. “It tastes like they’re using stew broth from their chicken dishes to cook the rice, it’s so flavorful and hearty.”

His second thought is probably the hound-endorsed octopus salad, with refreshingly chewy bites of sliced octopus. Chew a while, and you’ll get hit with briny ocean energy, tart lime, and the sweetness of the octopus itself. There’s a beautiful textural contrast too: crunchy onions and chile peppers against soft, acidic tomatoes. Another winner: red snapper stew, a hearty and well-balanced melange of fish, tomato, green pepper, and spices.

Margon is a great, great option, agrees david sprague. Cuban sandwiches are the big favorite, but just about any plate meal with rice and beans will do you fine. Some say that their Cuban sandwiches are only decent. Their chicken sandwich, however, is superior, says E Eto.

Margon [Rockefeller Center]
136 W. 46th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan

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Diamond District lunch places
margon report

Fruit Leather from Your Oven

Homemade fruit leather is easy to make in your oven, and keeps well for a long time. In fact, says Infomaniac, it’s an ancient way to preserve fruit. Here’s his recipe:

For 1 sheet of fruit leather, about 12×17”:

2 cups fruit
2 tablespoons sweetener, or to taste (optional)
Flavoring extract to taste (optional)

Cut fruit into chunks and puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Put through a strainer to remove any skin or seeds. Stir in sweetener and flavoring, if desired. Preheat oven to lowest possible temperature. Line a 12×17” baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Pour the pureed fruit onto the baking sheet and spread it almost to the edges by tilting the pan or using an offset spatula. Bake for 4 to 6 hours, until the fruit sheet is dry enough not to stick to your fingers, but still moist enough to roll; it is done when you can touch the fruit and your finger leaves no indentation. Test the sheet in the center of the pan. If the edges are a little crisp, don’t worry–they’ll absorb moisture as the fruit leather cools and become pliable. Allow the fruit sheet to cool completely, then cut or tear into pieces without removing the parchment paper. Roll each piece up, parchment paper side out. It will keep, stored in an airtight container, for 30 days at room temperature or for up to a year frozen.

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Concord Grapes–Bunches!

Drinking Antioxidants

Eating blueberries and pomegranate seeds is a great way to get antioxidants into your system. When you’re tired of just chowing down on raw fruits, try juicing! It’s fairly easy to combine them into a palatable, healthful drink: whiz them up in a blender, and strain out the pulp.

Even easier: buy the ready-made juice at the store. Be sure to check the label to verify that there’s actual blueberry and pomegranate in there. Naked Juices, available at Whole Foods, is a very good brand for this sort of thing. Their blueberry stuff has a true blueberry flavor. Sadaf brand pomegranate juice is also nice; their stuff is 100% fruit juice, and it’s not made from concentrate. Good prices, too. Check it out at Sadaf.

RW Knudsen makes good 100% pomegranate juice.

POM Wonderful has 100% pomegranate juice, plus four other flavors. It’s available in most supermarkets and makes a nice cocktail mixer, too.

Trader Joe’s has blueberry/pomegranate juice, made from concentrate.

Middle Eastern markets will have pomegranate juice at good prices. And don’t forget pomegranate wine!

SF Chronicle recently did a taste test.

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POM= that pomegranate juice

Nabisco’s Royal Milk Cracker Bites the Dust

Royal Lunch has been on the shelves since 1902, says Nabisco, but they’re discontinuing production as of now. Once their current stock is gone, that’s it for the Royal Lunch. They’re on shelves right now, but that won’t last that long. Royal Lunch fans: buy them while you can.

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Nabisco’s Royal Lunch Milk Crackers have been discontinued

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.