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

Cannelloni Di Orsi

Ristorante Orsi, formerly located in Novato, is reborn after a two year hiatus in Santa Rosa, reports Melanie Wong. She enjoys the cannelloni di Orsi, the signature dish of the restaurant ($13.50). The proprietor’s father is credited with introducing cannelloni to San Francisco nearly 50 years ago. The tender crepe, fresh tomato sauce, and light besciamella are true to the glory of the old Orsi. The filling is coarser than the old Orsi’s, but that could be a batch difference. It’s still heavy on the nutmeg, though.

Also delicious is braised rabbit with olives and shiitake mushrooms over grilled polenta. Tender, meaty pieces of rabbit are simmered in a soulful yet light wine sauce; despite the mediocre olives and mushrooms, the stew’s gestalt is rustically beautiful.

The atmosphere is warm and intimate; customers visit with other patrons at neighboring tables. Prices are low; most entrees are in the $14 to $16 range.

Ristorante Orsi [Sonoma County]
formerly Caf

Chocopologie: Sweet and Savory Bites in Norwalk, CT

Chocopologie is a newish cafe and sweet shop from master chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt, so, naturally, the chocolate is quite fine. Try it four ways in their Chocolate Love, a delicious dessert sampler. Rich hot chocolate and a chocolate fondue with fruit and sponge cake–a lavish treat for two–are also standouts.

But savory food is no afterthought at this European-style hangout, which opened late last year. Breakfast (served all day) is a highlight, says Food for thought. Choices include omelettes, French toast, and poached eggs on cornbread. Sandwiches and salads are also good bets, suggests Elizzie. Also on the menu: quiches, buckwheat crepes, flat iron steak and other meat entrees, and daily specials that include coq au vin, wiener schnitzel, and bouillabaisse.

Chocopologie [Fairfield County]
12 S. Main St., between Washington and Haviland, South Norwalk, CT

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chocolate restaurant in Norwalk or SoNo??

Happy Joy: Malaysian Street Food, Cantonese Seafood and More

Happy Joy is delighting hounds with its unexpectedly ambitious menu of Malaysian and Cantonese food. This modest-looking joint on the eastern fringe of Chinatown–look for a red awning whose only English is the word “restaurant”–offers more than 300 choices, from cheap rice plates to pricier seafood dishes. “We really like it, both Malaysian and Chinese dishes,” says Wilfrid, who recommends barbecued pig.

The Malaysian stuff–roti canai, rice noodles with oyster sauce, nasi lemak (chicken coconut rice with anchovy, egg, etc.)–is first rate, reports Lau. Some other options on the long menu: young tau foo (stuffed bean curd), casseroles, congees, house-made bean curd, and noodles in various forms (handmade shrimp noodles, Malaysian-style lo mein, fried noodles, noodle soups).

Happy Joy Restaurant [Chinatown]
formerly Ipoh
25 Canal St., at Essex, Manhattan

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LES/chinatown border

Crabtacular in Chinatown

Ocean Seafood isn’t known for its dim sum, its service, or its circa-1985 d

Have it Hunan Style

Hunanese restaurants, never too common, are even more rare now that Shiang Garden and Crown Caf

Slow-Cooked Duck Legs

Michael Rodriguez has come up with a super-easy method for cooking duck legs perfectly, rendering out the fat and leaving lovely crunchy skin and luscious, moist meat. The best part: they roast low and slow in the oven, and need almost no attention from the cook.

The method: the day before cooking, trim all the excess fat and skin from duck legs. Rub them with salt and pepper (or go zingy, and use toasted Sichuan peppercorns) and refrigerate overnight. Roast them in a 250 degree oven, for 3 hours.

Bonus deliciousness: Michael grinds the trimmed skin and fat from the duck legs with some beef chuck to make awesome hamburgers.

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Slow Cooked Duck Legs

Super Cookware Innovation: Silicone Basting/Pastry Brushes

There’s been a silicone revolution in cooking implements in the past few years, and the newest super silicone helper is a brush for basting food and applying glazes. The old type of brush had nylon bristles, and since invariably, the brushing liquid–oil, BBQ sauce, preserves, and so on–is sticky, the brushes tended to stay dirty. The silicone brushes are easy to wash out, and they’re dishwasher safe. They can also withstand high heat, so no worries using them around the broiler or grill. And no loose bristles in your food, cheers Candy

Pei suggests looking for a brush with slightly stiff bristles. Some of the new silicone brushes have very soft bristles, which don’t give as much control as a traditional brush.

You can find silicone brushes for under $10 in many housewares stores. Upscale kitchenware shops carry fancier models, including ones with long handles appropriate for the grill.

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how to clean brushes

More on Preserving Berries in a Jar

To extend the life of fresh berries, put the unwashed berries in a glass jar, with the lid on, and pop them in the fridge. It works beautifully on strawberries; they’ll keep their fresh-from-the-farm taste for about two weeks. Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, which tend to be delicate and perishable, keep just as well this way; grapes may last even longer. Mushrooms, and jalapeno and serrano chiles benefit from the treatment, too. If your cherry tomatoes get to the point where they have to be refrigerated, the jar method will extend their a life a little more. Herbs seem to do quite well too. Wash them, blot them dry to prevent mold, and place them loosely in the jar.

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Grapes & greens in glass jars
Keeping Strawberries fresh for a week

Costco Hummus

Hummus–the thick Middle Eastern sauce made from mashed chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic–is nutritious, great as a dip for vegetables and with pita bread. One of the better sources for hummus is Costco. Their Hannah’s Classic hummus is $6 for a 32-oz tub, and it’s really good. There’s also Hannah’s Jalapeno hummus, with a bit of cumin. Drizzle a little olive oil over it before serving.

Some Costcos also carry Sabra hummus. It’s another tasty brand–smooth, with terrific flavor. Try the roasted garlic flavor.

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Hummus at Costco!

The Streak

Editor’s note: Jim’s second report shines some light onto his phenomenal 10-month food streak. Will it last through the CHOWTour? Check back daily to find out.

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The Streak
Heading upstate on the first leg of the CHOWTour, Jim describes “The Streak.”