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

Comfort-Food Crack

It doesn't seem like a great idea to open a bar named Geisha adjacent to Chinatown in Oakland—or anywhere, really—but there it is. Taste may be an issue, but not tastiness. The bar has added food to its lineup and so far, so good, says hilrock.

Four-cheese mac 'n' cheese has truffle oil and porcini mushrooms. "Better than heroin," says hilrock. The Kobe burger is meaty and flavorful, yet "not so greasy that it hurts your belly." And tempura salmon rolls star high-quality salmon, done sushi-rare, with a wasabi dipping sauce. Prices are $6 to $12.

hilrock also recommends the Dragonfly cocktail, with Bombay gin, fresh grapefruit and lime juices, and a splash of tonic for $7.

Geisha [East Bay]
316 14th Street, Oakland
[No phone available]

Discuss: Killer Mac and Cheese-Geisha Bar, Downtown Oakland

These Noodles Are Quite a Stretch

Barbecue may be in the name, but noodles hand-pulled to order are the game at San Dong House BBQ, a new place in the Inner Richmond.

"The noodles were perfection, just the right thickness, bite, and chewiness to my taste," says soupçon, who had the beef noodles. The beef itself was rather chewy; the broth beefy but monochromatic, and a bit salty. But the noodles steal the show, and there are 18 dishes featuring them.

The menu also boasted "a staggering 22 varieties of skewer sticks, including relatively exotic fare like duck gizzard, chicken heart, lamb kidney, and duck tongue skewers," says soupçon, plus eight kinds of boiled dumplings and several offal-based family-style dishes. But kairo notes that quite a few dishes, including most of the offal, have been dropped.

San Dong House BBQ [Inner Richmond]
3741 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
415-668-5888

Discuss: San Dong House — hand pulled noodles and more in the Inner Richmond

Overheard on the San Francisco Board

"I finally had a chance to try this odd hybrid model car racing track/Thai restaurant and was pleasantly surprised by the food." – daveena on Homeroom Racing Cafe

"Two words—bacon sampler! Yes, seven different types of bacon on one plate, including duck bacon, and wild boar. OM NOM NOM." – Indy_Foodie on Press

"Tru Gourmet makes some really delicious dim sum. The stuff we had was locally caught and sustainable fish, Marin Sun pork (I think), and all-around wonderful." – SteveG

HFCS Tries to Rebrand, Fish Die, Chang Is Awkward

Crazy Dead Fish Photos: Hundreds of thousands of dead fish blanketed the bayou in southern Louisiana, prompting people to wonder if the oil spill was to blame. Investigations are under way, but local authorities say this stuff used to happen even before the spill. Seriously? via the Washington Post READ MORE

Betty Draper’s Favorite Coffee Cup

So they wouldn't really have had cups like these back in Mad Men times, because in the early ’60s, coffee came in tiny little eight-ounce cups that were, by law, white. No one had ever thought of pouring an avalanche of cream and sugar into one's cup and calling it coffee; it was strong and hot and perked so bitter it could take the shine off a car's paint job. And they liked it that way, by golly! READ MORE

Tweet What You Eat and Win, Part Two!

This week's Tweet What You Eat sweepstakes starts NOW! Tweet what you're eating to @CHOW, include the #lexus hashtag, and five lucky tweetin' eaters will win $200. You have till midnight tonight (see the fine print). READ MORE

Fast Food Kills!

So says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit that operates much in the mold of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In this commercial, set to air in DC during the Daily Show on September 16, the PCRM urges, "Tonight, make it vegetarian." Well, I'm certainly not in the mood for a Big Mac after this.

Get Creative with Homemade Mustard

While there are dozens of varieties of mustard commercially available, when you make mustard from scratch, possible flavor combinations are limited only by your imagination. Choose what color mustard seeds to use; decide whether to include beer, wine, vinegar, or sweeteners (and what type); and flavor with herbs or fruit.

While Sara Moulton's Dijon-style mustard involves a number of ingredients, Krislady loves it. KevinPorter has made this recipe without the sugar and been happy with the result; he also finds that cooking it longer yields a milder mustard.

Querencia makes a grainy mustard that she says tastes like pricey Moutarde de Meaux Pommery: Soak 1/3 cup yellow or brown mustard seeds in 1 cup water overnight, then add 2 tablespoons wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and blend in a blender until the mixture looks creamy, about five minutes (a food processor does not yield the same result, says Querencia). Store in the refrigerator; the mustard will be very hot at first but will mellow with time.

LauraGrace has made a nice mustard from brown mustard seeds, apple cider vinegar, Belgian lambic, and rehydrated, puréed dried cranberries. "Dynamite with ham or leftover roast turkey, as you could imagine," she says. "I once made some with finely diced apricots," says nofunlatte. "Stone fruit and mustard are a pretty good combo."

Watch CHOW's video on making mustard for more tips, and try your hand at Sweet Hot Mustard.

Discuss: Making Mustard at home! Tips, tricks and general advice?
Mustard Recipe Ideas

What Meats to Braise

Certain cuts of meat are best for braising, or cooking slowly with moisture, while others will become dry and tough when braised. "What braises well are meats that are high in connective tissue and fat," says scubadoo97. Long, slow cooking breaks down the connective tissues of these tough cuts, making them tender, and their fat keeps them moist. "My handy simple rule is ... if it's cheap, it's good for braising. If it's expensive, do not braise," says aching.

scubadoo97 offers these tips on technique: "If you decide to brown the meat, brown quickly to develop color. A little flour can really help here. Don't overcook during the browning phase. Also for braising, don't use that much liquid. You are not making a soup or stew. Halfway up the side of the meat is fine."

"The best resource to learn about braising is Molly Stevens' wonderful book All About Braising," says GretchenS.

Also check out CHOW's step-by-step guide to braising.

Here meats and cuts that are good bets for braising:
–Beef chuck, brisket, short ribs, oxtails
–Lamb shoulder, shanks
–Pork shoulder, butt
–Poultry legs and thighs

Discuss: Best vs. Worst cuts for Braising? Anyone have a list?

Why Is the Bottled Water Market Crashing?

Bottled water sales

Recently a press release from the Beverage Marketing Corporation caught our eye, calling attention to a drop in bottled water's sales in the last two years after continuous growth all through the 2000s and a peak in 2007. Are the anti–bottled water/pro–tap water movements finally making a dent in bottled water's sales? Or do people just not have the cash to drop on it anymore due to the recession?

Statistic sources: Beverage Marketing Corporation; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics