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

Navel grazing

In our experience, plowing through a box of chocolate truffles gets our kundalini energy whipped up just fine. But a Kansas City blogger out there turned us onto Vosges Chocolates’ new Yoga + Chocolate Chakra Box: seven handmade truffles in flavors like curry and balsamic vinegar, each with an assigned yoga pose and a description of its chakra-aligning (or opening, or whatever’s supposed to be happening to your chakras when you’re lying on the couch eating truffles) possibilities.

This is the same Chicago-based company that once offered a chocolate collection inspired by skankmeister actor Vincent Gallo, and filled its “Rooster” truffle with taleggio cheese. But you’ll have to hit the Vegas store for freebies; after sampling giveaways from the “mystery box” of seconds in Sin City, a poster on user-review site Yelp lamented, ” The staff [in the New York store] looked at me as if I was insane when I asked if they gave out samples.” Not enough? The company also runs chocolate-and-yoga workshops around the country, as well as week-long deluxe retreats in Oaxaca, Mexico—conveniently, also the home of the famous chocolate-based mole sauce.

Make mine a double

Celeb pastry chef David Lebovitz has just invented Shallot, Beer, Prune, and Cocoa Nib Jam, a recipe articulated in delicious detail. I couldn’t agree more with his glowing assessment of the beer-chocolate flavor combo, which has been a favorite of mine since I had my first beer milkshake circa 2004.

Among other useful jam-making tips, Lebovitz offers this word of caution: “In general, don’t double recipes. Better to make two small batches, since each will take less time to cook, preserving the appealing flavors of your ingredients.” Makes sense, but also makes me remember the times I was led astray by doubling, producing soggy-in-the-middle loaves of bread or texturally schizophrenic quiches. So what kinds of recipes were meant to stay single or hang out in batches?

For starters, some things that need to reduce or set, like your jams and your jellies, plus various kinds of candy and some sauces. But it gets more complicated: Beware doubling the salt when you double a recipe.

In dough recipes, getting the amount of yeast right can be tricky. And sometimes doubling the amount of liquids like milk in a doubled-up recipe will get you into trouble. And, though savvy cooks can double many recipes using a few simple guidelines messing with most cake recipes guarantees a dud.

Do you have any tips on doubling?

The Great Chorizo Caper

The great, noble rworange is still eating her way through every chorizo she can find from Richmond to Pinole. She’s finding hidden artisans–folks without PR, without hype, putting their souls into excellent chorizo. Each market typically makes at least two types of chorizo–dry and fresh–in-house. The best time to hit most of these places is the weekend, when there are all sorts of extra goodies available.

Her very favorite chorizo so far is at Carneceria en Valle, inside Valley Produce. Their chorizo maker is truly an artisan, turning out lots of different and unique sausages, including jalapeno, Central American, all-beef, mild, and hot chorizo. The chorizo is medium grind, with very little fat. There’s fresh chorizo only.

In second place, a tie between La Guarecita and Carnecieria Mi Tierra. La Guarecita makes beautiful fresh chorizo–an elegant, delicate brick-red, fine-grind chorizo in a micro-casing, with just enough spice to give it flavor and color. Carnecieria Mi Tierra has gorgeous chorizo. Their fresh chorizo is fat, juicy, and mouth-tinglingly spicy. It’s medium grind, and it oozes half an inch of red oil while frying. Their dry chorizo is medium grind, and packed with porky pleasure. It’s deep red with a respectable level of heat, a touch of cinnamon, and some pepper seeds. It’s not as oily as their fresh chorizo, but it’s just oily enough to fry an egg. Carneceria Mi Terria also has top-notch meat, lovingly cut to your specification.

El Porvenir is in third place. Their fresh chorizo is majorly hot–habanero hot. It’s a very fine grind with a strong vinegar taste. It’s not too oily, with a nice dark brick-red color. Their dry chorizo is fine grind, with a texture like dry sawdust. There’s no complex spicing, just heat and a strong vinegar flavor.

Carneceria en Valle [East Bay]
in Valley Produce Market
1588 San Pablo Ave., Pinole
Amazon Locater

La Guarecita [East Bay]
1848 23rd St., San Pablo

Carniceria Mi Tierra [East Bay]
516 23rd St., Richmond

El Porvenir Produce Market [East Bay]
1537 Rumrill Blvd., San Pablo

Board Links
Chorizo Crawl Recap – What’s your favorite chorizo?
Chorizo crawl–Mi Tierra Supermercado (Richmond)
Chorizo crawl–La Guarecita (San Pablo) & homage to a chile verde burrito
Chorizo Crawl–Valley Produce (Pinole) – jalepeno, Central American, all-beef, mild & hot chorizo
Chorizo Crawl–El Porvenir Produce Market, Carniceria & Panedria

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

Board Links
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

Board Links
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.

Board Links
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.

Board Links
how to clean brushes