Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Fifteenth Birthday, Chowhound



Bob(TM) and I opened on July 1, 1997. To honor the anniversary, we prepared this look back, including links to the first two Chowhound discussion threads (dated July 2, 1997, because it took an extra day to get the message boards up and running): eating on I-78, and Congratulations.

And, from July 1, here's the first installment of "What Jim Had For Dinner":

Pheww...what a day (Tuesday July 1)

Breakfast pork sandwiches at Astoria's Stick To Your Ribs BBQ (5-16 51 ave 718-937-3030 and going WAY downhill--I've got to remember to add it to the Downhill List) with a ravenous friend, then out to the Javits Center (ironic: the most corrupt building in NYC named after one of the most honest, idealistic politicians in NY history...) for the Fancy Food Show.

Lots of good bites (but also plenty of silly Nutella knock-offs and low fat EVERYTHING--Lord, how I despise low fat), but then over to Cupcake Cafe (522 9 Ave @39 St 465-1530). Everything evoked the same adjective: homey. If you rolled your eyes at that word, forget this place. But it feels like a Missouri kitchen, the food tastes grandma, and I liked the lumpy yellow split pea soup, the amazingly unsweet buttermilk doughnuts (widely acknowledged to be the city's best cakey doughnuts), course-grained apple coffee cake and whole-wheat crust pizza.

Then to Mocca Restaurant (1588 2nd Ave, 734-6470), NYC's only Hungarian. Way-charming; like an Eastern European cafe, with all manner of characters stocking the place. Food's very authentic--if not particularly subtle-- and the peaks are lofty. Stuffed cabbage was unbelievably satisfying (even better: Szekely gulyas, an off-menu version served with sour cream--mix it in--and with meat and cabbage prepared separately). This dish is transporting, evocative cooking; I dare people to keep their eyes open while tasting it.

Chicken paprikash was only fair; ultra satisfying in an elemental way, but not prepared with the canny skill and balance of the paprikash I tried at the UN's Hungarian Food week.

A bean soup was full of paprika and pork flavor...what could be bad?

They heated the strudel (cherry) in a microwave (the scourge of my existence) so the pastry was ultra mushy, but the crepes (darn... forgot the Hungarian name) were just WONDERFUL.

It was a three Tums For The Tummy day (I can't go on like this much longer, yet I have a book due in October). Tomorrow, back to the Fancy Food Show, then Greek for dinner (we're going to an ultra-secret place...I've got to withhold the address from y'all, but I will give hints). Stop by tomorrow for the story


sku said...

Congratulations! It's so great to see the old format again. So many taste memories.

Elliot said...

Wow, 15 years... trying to remember what life was like before Chowhound; there were some food threads that worked their way into the old Wine Forum, but half of those were of the Jim G*** variety ("I've eaten Foie Gras 16 days in a row..") and there was no place that celebrated the passion of food without the pomp...

Jim Leff said...

Elliot, thanks, but you forget that I ran the food section of Compuserve's wine forum!!

In fact, that's where we met (shortly before I perpetrated the pranks of "Garlic Forum" and "Jim Leff Forum"; pranks which, btw, can absolutely not be appreciated by anyone in the world at this point (the latter was maybe the first-ever "personal web site", though it was only up for three days!)

Dave said...

Happy Birthday, Chowhound! To celebrate, let's have no one call you Jeff for a week.

Leslie said...

The fact that Chowhound is still going strong at 15 years shows how valuable it is. Many other websites consumed hundreds of millions of dollars, then disappeared; no one misses them.

Val in Seattle said...

Congrats and Thanks to Jim and Bob! I've been a Chowhound participant since 1999. I still have my old "Chow News" issues in an email archive. I loved the most when I lived in central NJ and there was a lively group of posters. We traded tips, argued, and occasionally met for meals.

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