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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Extremely Japanese Summer Cold Noodles

Ramen Halu, favorite ramen-ya of Melanie Wong, *wchane, and chowhounds everywhere, is serving an excellent summer cold noodle dish, tsuke-men. The thick, firm, cold noodles are served on the side, with cold spinach, roast pork, black tree ears, and an intensely salty, piping-hot dipping stock. The stock is so salty that sometimes it limps over on its wooden leg and calls you Matey. It’s dusky and appealingly briny, tasty and complex, with garlic sweetness, bonito fishiness, and porky richness. And did we mention it’s salty? Just have plenty of cold jasmine tea to go with it.

Ramen Halu [South Bay]
375-M South Saratoga Ave., San Jose

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Tsuke-men at Ramen Halu, San Jose

Marrow Bones

Bar Tartine has excellent roasted marrow bones, says Malik. They serve two good-sized bones, perfectly cooked, with parsley salt, toasts, and some greens. They’re served beautifully plain, with no distracting sweet sauces to dilute the marrow experience.

AmySherman recommends the marrow bones at Coco500. And the ones at Bix are great, too, says foodfan.

Bar Tartine [Mission]
561 Valencia St., San Francisco

Coco500 [SOMA]
formerly Bizou
500 Brannan St., San Francisco

Bix [Jackson Square]
56 Gold St., San Francisco

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Great roasted marrow bones at Bar Tartine

Different Ideas for Bell Peppers

Chowhounds offer up some delicious and different recipes using sweet bell peppers.

Here’s a unique roasted red pepper vinaigrette that includes spinach, courtesy of Kitchenaid:

2 sweet red peppers, roasted, seeded, and peeled
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 tsps. honey
fresh ground black pepper

In a food processor, combine the peppers, onion, and lemon and lime juices and pulse until smooth. While the processor is running, add the oil slowly until well mixed in. Add the spinach and blend until smooth. Add the honey and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Store in a resealable container in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving, and shake well before using.

Das Ubergeek offers a pasta sauce recipe called pebronata: saute 1 chopped onion, 4 minced cloves garlic and 2 Italian eggplant cut in chunks in olive oil, remove from pan and reserve. Take two of each red, yellow, and orange bell peppers and cut each pepper in half. Dice half of each, and cut the other halves into thin strips. Cook all the peppers in the same pan in a little more olive oil. Return the eggplant mixture to the pan, add a can of diced tomatoes, a big splash of sherry vinegar, some basil and oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with long pasta, such as fettuccine, and press a little dollop of goat cheese in the center of each serving, so it melts a bit.

cheryl h loves Paula Wolfert’s recipe for the Middle Eastern red bell pepper spread muhamarra, flavored with walnuts and pomegranate molasses.

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Tons of colored peppers, Help!!!!

Tangy Chocolate Yogurt Treat

Try mixing yogurt with cocoa and sweetener; it’s as tangy and chocolaty and as low or high in fat as the yogurt you choose to use. It’s great as a dip for fruit, or just to spoon up for a snack. Just whisk cocoa and sugar (or Splenda or another sweetener) into yogurt to taste and chill for a bit before eating, says piccola. A bit of vanilla perks up the flavor. Or use a few drops of any extract or liqueur that complements chocolate to flavor it, like almond extract or Kahlua, recommends Caitlin McGrath.

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By request: Chocolate yogurt dip

Schweppes Bitter Lemon

Schweppes Bitter Lemon drink is an import from the U.K. It’s really refreshing, with just the right balance of bitter and sweet. Finding a supplier in the U.S. can be challenging, but try the “mixer” section of larger liquor stores and supermarkets. JMF reports regularly finding Canada Dry’s version of Bitter Lemon at A&P/Food Emporium stores in Westchester County, NY.

Soda Pop Stop will ship it.

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Schweppes Bitter Lemon

Animal Crackers

Animal crackers are really more cookie than cracker–a slightly sweet, vanilla animal-shaped cookie. They’re popular with children and grown-ups alike. (Ipsedixit eats them in a bowl with milk, like cereal!)

You can also find some that are frosted and decorated with sprinkles, like Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies

Nabisco still packages theirs in cute little circus cage boxes with a string handle; they come in other sizes, as well.

Keebler calls theirs Animal Cookies.

Stauffer’s Original animal crackers have been around a very long time. The company’s been in business since 1871. Some of the Sam’s Club stores have this brand, and you can order them straight from the source..

Costco and Trader Joe’s carry animal crackers, and McDonald’s has a version depicting their characters.

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Youth Culture

Youth Culture

Unaged tequila is considered by many aficionados to be the best way to enjoy the spirit because the longer tequila sits in a barrel, the more it tastes like oak or charcoal and the less it tastes like the agave plant it was made from. READ MORE

Mixto Is for Losers

Mixto Is for Losers

With flavors that vary widely from bright and citrusy to aged and smoky, tequila is fun to taste-test, to discover which you like best. But there are a few things you should know before you get started. READ MORE

Nectar of the Tequila Gods

Nectar of the Tequila Gods

Agave nectar, long used as a sweetener, is now being put to use in its most natural setting: cocktails. READ MORE

Secrets of the Perfect Salsa

Secrets of the Perfect Salsa

They wouldn't give us the recipe, but that didn't stop us. READ MORE