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

The Best Beijing-Style Shredded Potato Salad

Beijing-style shredded potato salad is shredded potatoes, quickly par-fried in a hot wok until they're half-cooked, then tossed with many other ingredients, always including sesame oil, rice wine, vinegar, dried red chile, and horseradish powder. And, of course, some red carrot matchsticks for color, explains ipsedixit. It tastes sort of like soggy salt and vinegar potato chips, but better than what you're imagining.

After a survey of many such Beijing potato salads in town, ipsedixit crowns Canton Gourmet and Bakery for truly doing the dish justice. The potato comes out crunchy, still al dente, and tossed with a deft hand. "Best in show and class," says ipsedixit.

Canton Gourmet and Bakery [San Gabriel Valley]
846 E. Garvey Avenue, Monterey Park
626-288-3818

Discuss: Esoteric topic of the day: Roundup of SGV places for "Beijing Style Shredded Potato Salad"

Doughnuts Versus Sufganiyot

There is some debate over whether sufganiyot are exactly the same as American jelly doughnuts, or a significantly distinct Israeli variation.

"Growing up I think I looked forward to them even more than Chanukah presents," says earthbuilder. "No ordinary Jelly Doughnut can touch a Sufganiya. Sufganiyot are delightfully bready while still being fluffy and airy ... It is as if a challah or brioche was crossed with a doughnut and then filled with delicious jelly (or ideally preserves)."

Others think that sufganiyot are just jelly doughnuts. The difference, thinks Arthur, is that most examples of sufganiyot we have out here come from Israeli bakeries, not specialty doughnut shops, and tend toward the cakier side of things. "Sufganiyot are just jelly donuts, nothing more. If you don't believe this, try to find strongly conflicting recipes," says Arthur.

earthbuilder's personal favorite in the valley is at Sarah J Pastries and Cakes, with a fantastic seedy jam.

Sarah J Pastries and Cakes [Valley - West]
7307 Canoga Avenue, Canoga Park
818-347-6241

Discuss: Sufganiyot (Israeli Jelly Donuts for Chanukah)

Overheard on the Los Angeles Board

"Pad Thai Krua Thai is pad thai on steroids. It has the authentic flavor profile of traditional pad thai, but instead of letting you season to your own taste, they throw everything but the kitchen sink in for you. If you like strongly flavored pad thai, it's phenomenal ..." - Moomin on Krua Thai

"I dropped by last nite, and it just was not as good as Scoops on Heliotrope, the mouthfeel and creaminess and indescribable way station between ice cream, gelato, ice milk, and soft serve was just not there. At Scoops Westside, it was just ice cream with Tai's flavor profiles." - kevin on the new Scoops Westside

"Meat parts aside, the star of the show is the broth. Not the kind of delicate beef broth you get from 24+ hours of slow simmering. This stuff was fragrant and milky—the essence of the marrow just barely being released from the bones. A kind of warm you up from the inside goodness." - mrgreenbeenz on Han Bat Shul Lung Tang

Eggnog Treat Roundup

Play Video

This week's mission: a variety of nogs, in shake, latte, and straight-up form. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Holiday-Shop with a Drink and Tamale in Hand, This Friday in SF

Shopping for holiday gifts would be a lot less of a drag if, say, you could drink a beer, eat a tamale, browse products from nearly 40 local businesses, and benefit a great cause in one stop. If you are in San Francisco this Friday, make it happen at La Cocina's annual gift fair. The nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income and immigrant food entrepreneurs launch their own businesses has rounded up a bunch of vendors that will be selling everything from fancy chocolate truffles to Mexican kitchen items and cookware.

There will also be a gift-wrapping station and a bar selling beers from Magnolia and Trumer along with wine, both of which will benefit La Cocina, plus a raffle you can enter even if you don't have time to attend the fair.

Bonus: If you buy two or more items from the CHOW-sponsored Home Cook gift pack, you'll get a free, blazin'-red CHOW.com T-shirt with badass kitchen knife motif!

The vitals:
2010 La Cocina Gift Fair
Friday, December 10, 4 to 9 p.m.
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
2868 Mission Street, San Francisco, California

CHOW/Instructables Contest Winners Announced!

An epic coal-fired cranberry sauce duked it out with a caramel-apple cornucopia and a bunch of other creative ideas in the CHOW/Instructables Thanksgiving Recipe Contest. The votes have been tallied; here are the winners! READ MORE

Rustic Italian Comforts at Ciano

The big wood-fired hearth at Ciano isn't just a comforting prop. It also turns out amazing bread, says owlwoman, "and you could make a whole meal out of it, especially with the ricotta spread that accompanies it." But don't do that. You'd miss out on excellent, rustic Italian cooking by Chef Shea Gallante, on the rebound from Cru (now the high-end Thai restaurant Lotus of Siam).

In a strong lineup of starters, roasted veal meatballs over polenta are a standout: "Rich, unctuous, perfect comfort food," comiendosiempre writes. Warm calamari salad (with shaved fennel, olives, and tomato-herb vinaigrette) is marvelously light and tasty, he adds. Among the entrées, the Lobster Pot (with corona beans, fingerlings, and porcini mushrooms) is a delicious highlight. And tender, perfectly cooked lemon-rosemary roasted chicken (with a ragu of chanterelles and farro) gets a thumbs-up from owlwoman; "I would go back just to have that, and I rarely order chicken out," she says.

Service is friendly and professional, even after just a few weeks in business, and prices are moderate; owlwoman's group of five spent $300 for dinner and found it well worth it. The setting is warm and welcoming, especially with the fireplace ablaze. With temperatures dipping below freezing, that sounds like a good place to be.

Ciano [Flatiron]
45 E. 22nd Street (between Park Avenue South and Broadway), Manhattan
212-982-8422

Discuss: Ciano - Excellent meal

Overheard on the New York Boards

"I went to WG last night and ordered the roast beef hash. What arrived was more like prime rib hash with a ratio of 4:1 meat to potatoes. The meat was charred on the outside and tender on the inside. It comes with hollandaise sauce and a poached egg on top. Such a delicious combination and the meat had an amazing flavor. This was the dish I will look back on and rank at the top of my list." – princeofpork on Wollensky's Grill

"I especially liked the shrimp wonton dumplings and cilantro w/black egg dumpling noodle soup my girlfriend got. The wontons were rather fatty with pork fat, and tasty – with fresh shrimp, unlike New York Noodletown. The dumplings were excellent, with little minced pieces of century egg that gave a good flavor." – Pan on Noodle Village

"The food at Cono's was consistently excellent, especially if you knew what to order. Fantastic seafood, stellar tomato sauce, tasty veal cutlets ... I can go on and on. Linguine alla Cono with fish sauce will now exist only in my memory." – JBinOC on Cono & Sons O'Pescatore in Brooklyn, closed this year

The 7 Worst Stocking Stuffer Ideas

The following items are not recommended for spreading holiday joy this season:

1. Fetus-shaped cookie cutter, $10. Some things just shouldn't be reproduced in buttery sugar cookie form. READ MORE

“Sexy” Brunch Sought in Theater District

Help a Lothario out? Chowhound bklneater seeks a pretheater option—a prematinee option, natch—for a "sexy" lunch or brunch. With his desire to find a place that’s "all that" featuring an "intimate atmosphere," so far he’s been stumping most fellow hounds. He also requires a banquette upon which he can sit next to his date. These things are tough to find in the west 40s.

Apparently the Upper West Side is an option, and since there is “no upper limit on the budget,” one reader smartly suggested the window seats at Per Se. As for us, Bar Boulud came to mind—but we’d almost hate to spring brunchtime canoodling on unsuspecting fellow diners! Perhaps there’s a dimly lit lunch place that hasn’t occurred to anyone, where everyone else has love on the brain ... before noon? Do weigh in.

Per Se [Midtown West]
10 Columbus Circle, Manhattan
212-823-9335

Bar Boulud [Upper West Side]
1900 Broadway, Manhattan
212-595-0303

Discuss: Mission impossible--a fantastic, sexy, intimate, hot, foodie pre theatre lunch or brunch?