Tasty tamales; Shore talk; Paula Deen

Purple macarons with chocolate ganache from the Painted Pie in Stone Harbor. CRAIG LABAN / Staff
Purple macarons with chocolate ganache from the Painted Pie in Stone Harbor. CRAIG LABAN / Staff
Posted: June 27, 2013

Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of June 25, 2013:

 Craig LaBan: Good afternoon! I've been down the Shore the last two weeks checking out what's new (not as much as usual this year) and circling back to old favorites to see what's left post-Sandy (more than expected). I'll have plenty to tell you on that subject the next two weekends, beginning Sunday.

One tasty tidbit from my Shore visit: these vivid purple macarons filled with creamy chocolate ganache from the Painted Pie in Stone Harbor . . . the perfect midday sweet.

Reader: Did you get to Steve & Cookie's? Talk about our favorite rest from Philly to the Shore!!

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!

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