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

Yucatán, Mi Amor

Where can you get Yucatecan specialties little known outside the region, including a special mole sent over by the chef's mother-in-law? Why, Santa Rosa! El Rinconcito Yucateco has been open for about six months now, and it offers a delicious taste of home-style cooking from the Yucatán.

The number one must-try is relleno negro. Note: It has absolutely no relation to chiles rellenos or mole negro. It's a chicken soup flavored with a Yucatecan mole (this is where the chef's MIL comes in) that contains chicken and a giant meatball that includes hard-boiled egg. "That dark broth was rich-tasting and delicious and got hotter toward the bottom of the bowl," says Mick Ruthven. "The addition of habaneros that we discovered on the bottom of the bowl releasing their floral verve and heat to the broth as it steeped took this one over the top," adds Melanie Wong, who says this was her favorite dish of the meal.

For perspective, El Rinconcito Yucateco offers home-style fare rather than the alta cocina of San Francisco's Poc Chuc, Melanie says. "El Rinconcito Yucateco’s cooking is bolder with the flavors turned up a notch using more habanero chiles (yay!), salt, fat, and other seasonings for a bigger and more robust palate impression." Also, the antojitos (three for $6.95) are 30 to 50 percent larger than in SF, Melanie estimates, and a platillo costs only $9.95.

Cochinita pibil is melt-in-your-mouth porky goodness, says Jeni Bean. "The achiote seasoning is just so smoky and slightly sweet it really lends this slowly cooked pork a wonderful flavor." The "soft, almost jelly-like skin" also soaks up the seasonings and the scent of the banana leaves that the meat is cooked in, Melanie notes.

Escabeche, another chicken soup, is also fantastic. "This, ladies and gentleman, is what all chicken soups aspire to be," declares Jeni Bean. Poc chuc, charbroiled pork, is kind of dry but elevated by a vibrant, habanero-spiked slaw.

The antojitos are good, especially the empanadas with cheese, panuchos, and tamales. And the house-made chips are great, especially with the roasted-tomato salsa. The owner makes a fabulous habanero salsa fresh daily, says snarkygirl. Plus, pretty much any Yucatecan specialty can be whipped up if you request it in advance.

El Rinconcito Yucateco [Sonoma County]
3935 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
No phone available

Discuss: El Rinconcito Yucateco - Santa Rosa
Yucatán Chowdown Report: El Rinconcito Yucateco in Santa Rosa

Pulled Pork Hits the Road

The Southern Sandwich Co., run by two guys from Texas, just started serving the Redwood City area out of a black truck. At first bite, it’s a welcome addition to the local scene, says dhoffman1421. The Carolina pulled pork sandwich is excellent, with "a good size portion of tender, smoky and spicy pulled pork, pickles, onions and coleslaw on a toasted sesame seed bun." The mustard-spiked potato salad and sweet (but not cloyingly sweet) iced tea are good too. SSC just launched, so the menu is limited to a couple of sandwiches to start.

Southern Sandwich Co. [Peninsula]
Location information available on their website
Redwood City
415-990-4571

Discuss: New Sandwich Truck in Redwood City!

Eat, Drink, and Watch Soccer

Bay Area hounds have plenty of tips to offer on where to watch World Cup matches in the company of nationalistic fans. Some places are only showing their country's matches; others are screening ’em all. Recommendations include Underdogs, where the kitchen is helmed by Nick of Nick's Crispy Tacos; Public House/Mijita Tacos des Jardin, the upscale pub at AT&T Park and its taco annex; the family-friendly Brennan's; Saul's Deli, with its house-made soda; and Ricky's Sports Theatre & Grill for nice early-morning omelets and coffee. And here are a couple more recommendations from CHOW.com, including places beyond SF. The Taco Shop @ Underdogs [Sunset] 1824 Irving Street, San Francisco 415-566-8700 Public House [Embarcadero] 24 Willie Mays Plaza (in AT&T Park), San Francisco 415-644-0240 Mijita Tacos des Jardin [Embarcadero] 24 Willie Mays Plaza (in AT&T Park), San Francisco 415-644-0240 Brennan's [East Bay] 700 University Avenue, Berkeley 510-841-0960 Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen [East Bay] 1475 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley 510-848-3354 Ricky's Sports Theatre & Grill [East Bay] 15028 Hesperian Boulevard, San Leandro 510-352-0200 Discuss: World Cup 2010 Watching and Eating Venues?

Man’s Best Dining Buddy

Here's something that's likely to be both the saddest and sweetest thing you read all week: a farewell from a food critic to his faithful canine sidekick.
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Overheard on the San Francisco Bay Area Board

"… a giant bowl of Gulf crawdads in an elegant fish broth with small potatoes, hunk of corn on the cob, house-made sausage, and a shrimp and tofu-based dumpling on the bottom." - CarrieWas218 on Chef Nick's version of a crawfish boil at izakaya restaurant Nombe

"Thin as crepes and very tender, these richly eggy pancakes just melt in the mouth. I understand they’re made from scratch from a family recipe." - Melanie Wong on Swedish pancakes at Zini's Diner

"The bass was incredible, perfectly cooked, ultra-sweet, and perfumed with floral muskiness of the finely minced cuttlefish and zucchini." - daveena on the stuffed black bass at Oliveto's recent Oceanic Dinner

CHOW.com Ingredient Substitution List

A list of ingredients followed by possible substitutions. READ MORE

Virtual (Noodle-Based) Insanity

Perhaps you remember Jamiroquai, the techno/acid/jazz/funk band best known for their 1997 hit video Virtual Insanity. Not ringing a bell? It's the one shot in a white room with furniture sliding disconcertingly all over the place. The video's lead singer, Jay Kay, is wearing a crazy black hat and sliding around with the aforementioned unnerving furniture. If you haven't seen it, watch it now. It's pretty good.
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Beyond the Sesame Seed Bun

Chowhounds don't stick to traditional burger buns for their homemade creations. They do, of course, gravitate to other buns and rolls, such as kaiser or ciabatta rolls or brioche buns. Toasted English muffins are a classic, and many use other kinds of bread as well.

Several hounds are fans of griddled Texas toast, which is extra-thick-cut white bread. Here's a special method one developed: First FoodFuser trims the crusts, then coats one side thinly with mayonnaise, sprinkles on sesame seeds, and toasts in a cast iron pan. The other side gets toasted dry and used as the inside of the souped-up bun. Texas toast freezes well, FoodFuser says, "where regular buns lose their upper surface texture. You can get full use of the entire loaf."

Rye bread is traditional for patty melts, but hounds like all kinds of burgers on toasted rye. iluvtennis recommends buttered, broiled jalapeño-cheese bread, and onceadaylily says, "Garlic bread burgers are amazing, and so sinful." newfie29 likes chili burgers in pita, saying it "keeps everything in one gooey place--divine."

Discuss: bun alternative for a superb burger?

Grilled Tofu with Loads of Flavor

Grilling lends great flavor to tofu, especially when the tofu is marinated in and basted with a flavorful sauce.

diesel recommends these grilled veggie and tofu stacks with balsamic and mint, which are "really easy and really tasty" and make great sandwich filling, he says.

goodhealthgourmet marinates tofu in a combination of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, scallions, and ginger, and brushes it with a glaze of sesame oil, wasabi, and honey before grilling. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. cheesecake17 likes a marinade of lemon juice, fresh chopped herbs, a splash of red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

More ideas for marinating and basting include pesto, ponzu sauce, and peanut sauce.

Discuss: Looking for more grilled tofu ideas

Green Enchilada Sauce Two Ways

There are two general types of green enchilada sauce, says alanbarnes. The New Mexico style is made with green New Mexico chiles (Anaheims are an acceptable substitute), while most sauces from the interior of Mexico are based on tomatillos.

alanbarnes, who hails from New Mexico, makes green chile sauce by sautéing onion and garlic in a bit of oil, then adding green chiles that have been roasted, peeled, and chopped, and optionally Mexican oregano and cumin. Add chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes, then purée (alanbarnes uses an immersion blender). Start by making it too thick, alanbarnes advises, then thin it to your desired consistency with more stock, which is easier than reducing it. "This sauce is not just for enchiladas," he notes. "Cook meat in it, use it to top eggs, ladle a bit onto a cheeseburger—the sky's the limit."

Tomatillo-based enchilada sauces tend to include onion, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro. tecatefil makes sauce by boiling a pound of husked tomatillos in 4 cups of water until soft, and puréeing them with 2 cups of the cooking liquid, half a large onion, 4 cloves of garlic, half a bunch of cilantro, and jalapeño to taste. Heat a couple of tablespoons of lard or neutral oil, add the puréed mixture, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

chef chicklet uses chicken stock to simmer the tomatillos, sautés the other ingredients, and adds them to the simmering tomatillos, puréeing it all with an immersion blender. Others prefer to roast or broil the tomatillos instead of simmering for an extra layer of flavor.

Discuss: Anyone have a good green enchiladas sauce recipe?