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

Advanced Studies in Dim Sum

"Tai Wu in Daly City is expanding my horizon," says Cynsa after enjoying a dim sum tutorial-cum-meal there, noting that "every dish was a pleasure to taste."

Not that you have to go exotic to appreciate what Tai Wu's doing. The siu mai dumplings are a textbook example of a simple dish done really, really well, says pilinut. "Usually a pedestrian staple, these were perfectly executed with just the right balance of meat, fat, and shrimp." Plus they were "removed from the steamer at just the right moment."

Har gow are among the best of their kind, pilinut adds. "The har gow skins were a shade thinner than elsewhere, and the filling was a toothsome ball of shrimp mince." A great off-menu item is the special chicken salad, with creamy preserved egg and crispy noodles. Not the usual excuse to serve leftover bird; this was "fresh, tender morsels of meat mixed with the jellyfish, vegetables, and century egg," says pilinut, topped with squares of crisped skin.

Beef meatballs get more flavorful with each bite, says charliemyboy, "starting slowly with mild flavor that increased in intensity as I chewed." You get the same effect with the shark's fin dumplings. But the show-stopper may be the whole lobster meat dumpling. "Delicious tender juicy meat, both in the dumplings and in the lobster pieces cooked in batter," charliemyboy says.

Speaking of dim sum that goes above and beyond, K K was impressed by the offerings at Asian Pearl in Millbrae. And on a weekday, no less.

Take the mixed mushrooms roll: "These juicy mushrooms, paired with an excellent cheung fun sweet soy sauce, rolled in well steamed thin and smooth cheung fun skins, made for an unforgettable experience," K K says. The crowd-pleasing veggie tofu skin roll has diced veggies (including more mushrooms) rolled up in tofu skin (yuba) and deep-fried to an unbelievably crisp exterior while leaving the inside juicy and delicate.

Special stations by the fish tanks are busy cooking up some of the more exotic dim sum specials, from curry fishball with pork rinds to "an insanely fragrant daikon beef tripe."

Checking in at Koi Palace, the crab xiao long bao with whole fried crab are as good as ever. Finger-lickin' goodness, as Cynsa says. And charliemyboy declares that "the crisp egg custard tart was the best of its kind I have had in a long time."

Shrimp in crispy tofu wrap is a nice combo of flavors and textures; chicken feet in black bean sauce are tender and meaty "with a little something extra in the spicing that pleased me," says charliemyboy. But as for the coffee-glazed pork spareribs, "the novelty has worn off and I find it cloyingly annoying," Cynsa says.

Tai Wu/Mr. Fong [Peninsula]
950 King Plaza, Daly City

Peninsula Asian Pearl [Peninsula]
1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae

Koi Palace [Peninsula]
365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City

Discuss: Great Dim Sum Experience at Tai Wu, Daly City
Dim sum at Asian Pearl Peninsula Millbrae
More Dim Sum at Koi Palace, Daly City

Craft Beer Labels Too Macho

Fewer women drink beer than men, particularly in the U.K. Which is why Molsen/Coors is launching a new “beer” for females. It will be clear, and may be flavored with dragonfruit and green tea. In any case, it will prominently make issue of its low calorie count. Because, apparently research has shown that women don’t like beer because they think it is fattening. READ MORE

Hunting for Taiwanese “Small Eats”

"Grand Harbor is probably the best Taiwanese snack food in the Bay Area," says ricegeek. It's a casual, family-friendly kind of place with Taiwanese news on the television, notes abstractpoet.

What is Taiwanese snack food? It's stuff like popcorn chicken and fried stinky tofu, both of which are very good here (although the best stinky tofu in the area, abstractpoet says, is at Joy, a solid Taiwanese-run restaurant). Grand Harbor's chefs fry well, and the fried pork chop rice plate, a sort of bento with rice, tofu, veggies, and a soy sauce–braised egg, is a nice rendition of a typical Taiwanese lunch.

Grand Harbor also has decent versions of oyster pancake and intestine stuffed with Chinese sausage and rice. A surprisingly good option is the chef's special intestine, stir-fried with ginger, preserved mustard greens, and bamboo shoots. It's pleasantly sour, and lighter than you'd expect.

Over in Santa Clara, Mama Chen is more like home-style Taiwanese food. Yes, "Mama" is actually doing the cooking. "The oyster pancake there was one of the more authentic ones I've had in the Bay Area," says luckytomato. There's a shrimp version, too. Here the pork chop is nicely seasoned, and the green onion pancake is thin and crisp. They do tend to run out of things, though.

Grand Harbor [East Bay]
46577 Mission Boulevard #415, Fremont

Joy Restaurant [Peninsula]
1489 Beach Park Boulevard, Foster City

Mama Chen [South Bay]
5075 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Santa Clara

Discuss: Grand Harbor: pretty authentic Taiwanese "small eats" in Fremont
Visiting from Austin, Looking for Cheap, Authentic Taiwanese Street Food

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Crixa Cakes' whole wheat honey nut roll (vegan! how is that possible?) is, I have to say, absolutely stunning. Might be the best bread item in the East Bay." – scorpsjl

"The beef larb was freshly made with lime, mint, pepper, and chili and had wonderfully large, tender slices of tripe (very unfunky)." – sfbing, on one of the best offerings at the Lao New Year festival on April 10

"I loved the grassy flavor and richness of Sonoma spring lamb with chorizo spices." – Melanie Wong on lamb chorizo hash on a bed of braised and pickled greens topped with fried duck egg at Mateo Granados

Pulitzers, Hexane-Laced Veggie Burgers, and Whining About Free Beers at Lunch

Sam Adams' Fauxtisanal Campaign: Sam Adams tries to make itself seem puny in new advertisements, because it’s cool now to be a craft brewery. Then some stats came out showing it’s in the top five breweries behind D.G. Yuengling and Pabst. Whoops. via Slate's The Big Money

Draft Wine Goes Big: A number of San Francisco and LA restaurants, and at least one (DBGB) in New York, are offering wine on tap, as a greener alternative to bottles. via Ethicurean


London’s Renegade ABC-Gum Artist

Ben Wilson has been making mini masterpieces on London sidewalks for several years by painting old globs of gum. Each tiny painting tells a site-specific story: here's where someone was kissed for the first time; here's where he was knocked down and hurt. Wilson has had many encounters with the police, but since there's no law against defacing litter he always skates by, free to paint another day. Here's a good repository of images of his work, and here's an even larger Ben Wilson gallery.

Image source: Flickr member judepics under Creative Commons

via Metafilter

Ballad of The Last Sardine

After 135 years, the last U.S. sardine cannery is shutting down in Maine. Why, since few Americans eat sardines at this point, does it matter that Stinson Seafood of Prospect Harbor is closing down?

1. Sardines are damned healthy. The last sputtering end of their heyday (production peaked at 384 million cans in 1950 according to the ABC News story) is a sad footnote to the fatass book of ways modern Americans eat too much bad food.


An Unsavory Take on Ritz

An Unsavory Take on Ritz

This week's mission: a sweet incarnation of an old American cracker favorite. READ MORE

Perfect Seared Scallops

Searing scallops is a simple matter that requires only a few techniques; after they're done perfectly, you can get creative with sauces.

Before you sear scallops, make sure they are very dry by patting off any moisture with paper towels. "Obviously, dry-packed scallops are the best," says LindaWhit, but if using injected or thawed scallops, "I've found that using lots of paper towels and letting the scallops sit to allow the moisture to leach out as well as it can also works."

Season the scallops with salt and pepper, or dredge lightly in seasoned flour. Heat a pan well, and sear in oil or clarified butter over medium-high heat until they're nicely browned, then turn. It's important not to overcook them or they will become rubbery; they only need a few minutes on each side and should be just opaque in the middle.

bushwickgirl offers a formula for a rich and tasty pan sauce that can "be altered to suit your taste; spicy, tangy, tart, whatever you like. Scallops are very flavor-friendly and go with many things." Here's how: After searing, remove scallops from pan, add wine or liquor of choice (she likes Pernod), a splash of heavy cream, herbs, a little spritz of citrus juice, and cold butter; reduce for a few minutes; serve. For a variation, CHOW's Seared Scallops with Lemon and Vodka ditches the Pernod in favor of vodka.

normalheightsfoodie reduces a combination of one cup each orange juice and pomegranate juice, a bit of sugar, and a bit of balsamic vinegar to a syrup. She places seared scallops atop wilted spinach and drizzles it on.

Discuss: Suggestions for Pan Searing Scallops?

Delicious Dunking for Artichokes

Melted butter is the classic dip for artichoke leaves, and some like straight mayonnaise or mayo mixed with Dijon mustard. But spend just a minute or two more, and you can add lots of new flavors. Try adding lemon juice or garlic to either melted butter or mayo, suggest hounds.

"My favorite is a gribiche sauce," says Boswell, "like a mayonnaise made with the yolks of hard-boiled eggs pushed through a sieve, then mixed with the diced egg whites, capers, and dill." sparkareno mixes mayo with roasted garlic, orange zest, orange juice, and some chipotle in adobo sauce. "People flip out—it is so good," she says.

More ideas: Lemon vinaigrette; Greek yogurt with minced garlic or shallot and salt and pepper; a dressing of blue cheese, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil; remoulade; or tartar sauce.

For the cooking part, use CHOW's tutorial on steaming artichokes.

Discuss: What do you eat with artichokes?