C.L.: Yes!! Steve & Cookie's in Margate is one of many places really hit by the storm that has made a roaring comeback. You'll be reading about them Sunday. One of the best meals at the Shore. Love their bouillabaisse. And a killer Manhattan list, too.
Reader: I had a great meal at Chifa, including a tamale. Where can I find the best tamales here?
C.L.: I love tamales! But . . . there aren't many that stick in my mind. I recall some served by street vendors around the Italian Market - a tamale lady who sometimes sets up with a steamer full of them on the east side of Ninth Street in the Italian Market - they are very good. In Hammonton, La Rosa de Oro made one of the best I've had. And I've always been a big fan of the larger Colombian-style tamales they make over at Tierra Colombiana.
Reader: I often choose mom & pop shops over big-box stores. When it comes to restaurants I've often found places with local, fresh ingredients are better. Is that my bias or do you find that to be true?
C.L.: I think it's a good guideline, but it is hardly the rule. Chefs can order the finest, local ingredients - but someone still needs to cook it with skill and imagination. I've found more than a few so-called farm-to-table restaurants that use the sourcing as their calling card, then stop shy of artfully fulfilling the rest of their task.
Reader: Best tamales = that little corner grocery on 9th Street. The pork with green sauce is my personal fave, though all are good (they make a different assortment every day).
C.L.: I'm definitely thinking 9th Street for tamales. All the stores seem to have a big can of tamales steaming on the weekends-usually simple green- or red-salsa varieties with chicken or pork inside. Can't go wrong.
Reader: If I remember correctly, the tamale joint is on the NE corner of 9th and Montrose.
C.L.: That's about right.
Reader: What are your thoughts on Paula Deen? As an African American I was offended by her comments, but in no way do I think one comment (or mistake) defines who you are. Isn't it a bit much that she ended up losing her job over this? There are far worse people employed by Food Network (like Guy Fieri, but that is a story for another day!)
C.L.: I can't condone Paula's behavior and the racially charged comments that supposedly led to her boot from the Food Network. But I was even more offended by the hypocrisy of her shilling diabetes drugs after years of pushing deep-fried, mayo-slathered comforts. All of these TV food celebs are tiresome to me, and the up-and-down cycle of their career is inevitable. This one just skidded to a trashy thud much more quickly than most expected. No tears here!