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

Easy-Bake Oven Isn’t as Much Fun as It Was

My daughter turned five a few weeks ago and, since I'm trying to turn her into a little Chowhound, I bought her an Easy-Bake Oven. The thing is festooned with warnings not to use if  you're under age 8, not to touch it here or there, not to fling it into a bathtub, not to use it in a canoe on a lake, etc. etc., so I thought it might have gotten more dangerous than when I was a wee thing. Nay. It's gotten even more wimpy. Now you don't use a hook to pull out the hot pan, you use a forked plastic stick to push it into a cooling area. No burnt fingers, no burnt tongue from repeatedly trying hot, liquid cake mix, no need to use oven mitts = half the fun of the Olden Days.


Food, Inc., Hits the Web

If you've been kicking yourself over not getting out to the theater to watch Food, Inc., well, huzzah: The whole thing can now be watched online at

The movie's an epic downer, but it's also one of the most succinct and articulate summaries of what's wrong with the modern American industrial food production system, a system that subsidizes cheap, inhumanely produced meat, depends overwhelmingly on corn, is heading toward corporate-controlled agricultural monocultures, and, of course, regularly puts shareholder value ahead of anything resembling the welfare of people, animals, or the ecosystem in general.


Ratty Blankets, Scraggly Beards, & Fancy Cheese's design team was having quite a laugh over this photo shoot from the New York Times' Style magazine, which depicted the guests at a "men's tea party" in ratty gray cloaks with scraggly beards in Brooklyn. The look, with credits for both food and prop styling (prop styling??), was described by one commenter as "pseudo-hobo." I find it somewhere between "hobbity" and "Fairport Convention Circa 1969." Yes, the tea men ate fine blue cheese in their fingerless gloves and also enjoyed some loose leaf tea, seed cake, and artisanal chocolate, while working on their knitting—that's right, knitting. One photo showed the Donald Sutherland-ish one with the long mustache working on a mustard-colored sweater. READ MORE

The Ultimate Pig Roast

Run, don't walk to the Chop Bar in Oakland for its new Sunday pig roast, says abstractpoet.

"My God, these guys know how to roast a pig," abstractpoet says. "Unbelievably tender meat with just the right amount of fatty, gelatinous goodness and smoky, beautifully charred and crispy skin."

Your $10 plate comes with "a reasonably generous helping of pig," arugula salad, potato salad with capers, flatbread, and grilled farmers' market vegetables. And don't overlook the house-made salsas and sauces, which are a highlight in themselves, especially the tangy red one that might be pimento aioli and the spicy habanero salsa.

Here's what you need to know to navigate the system: Buy tickets at the window outside for your food and drinks, get your grub, then take it to a table or the bar to dig in. Oh, and get there early. The line starts to look long shortly after 6 p.m.

Chop Bar [East Bay]
247 Fourth Street, #111, Oakland

Discuss: Chop Bar: Sunday pig roasts

Can California Grenache Beat Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Can California Grenache Beat Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Randall Grahm thinks so. READ MORE

Taking Bar Food to a New Level

Kitchenette's new venture, Heart, is "more of a wine bar with serious food than a restaurant," says Robert Lauriston, but that's all right. It is, after all, a wine bar. And concoctions like Fibrillation really elevate the bar snack: salty fried Monterey sardines with peanuts, green onions, jalapeños, and lime.

Goat tacos with goat cheese are excellent, says mariacarmen, "succulent, crispy, and not too goaty." Pork belly sliders and Rancho Gordo heirloom stew are also good, and you can't go wrong with charcuterie and farmstead cheeses. As for desserts, the sticky pudding with bourbon sauce and crème fraîche is "a heavenly bite."

"A fun place, and I'm dying to go back and try the rest of the menu," mariacarmen concludes. And what more can a three-month-old restaurant (sorry, wine bar) want?

Heart Wine Bar [Mission]
1270 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Discuss: Heart — SF Mission — food by Kitchenette

Ramen Spring Specials

"If you like a robust and big style of ramen, Ramen Halu has knocked one out of the park with this special miso ramen," says Melanie Wong. It's available through the end of April.

It's not just miso that gives this soup its flavor. There's some apple mixed in there, lightening the rich, porky broth. But make no mistake, this is still a gut-buster. Cha shu, here made with Kurobuta bacon cut, is fabulous. Marinated in miso, it's roasted and griddled instead of the usual braise, making it nicely browned and extra flavorful. Then there's the nutty roasted garlic oil, adding yet another level of flavor.

And heads up, ramen fans: Halu's special anniversary lobster ramen is returning next month.

Ramen Halu [South Bay]
375 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose

Discuss: Spring Special Miso Ramen @ Ramen Halu, San Jose

The Top Four Worst Coffeehouse Faux Pas

Etiquette gaffes are worse before caffeine. READ MORE

Kuala Lumpur’s Finest

Langkawi Malaysia doesn't get the attention it deserves on the Chowhound boards, says Thomas Nash. The rojak "brought back memories of an all too brief visit to KL for me." It's refreshing and funky all at once: ice-cold chunks of jicama, mango, pineapple, and cucumber in a sweet soy sauce spiked with shrimp paste and sprinkled with peanuts.

Roti murtabak
with beef is a well-done version of the stuffed pancake, with a curry dip. And the crispy candied squid in a sweet soy sauce is a great appetizer for a group. The rice dish nasi lemak is good too, says Mr_Happy. K K likes the Malaysian iced tea, which is a bit earthier than its Hong Kong counterpart.

Langkawi Malaysia Cuisine [Peninsula]
2946 S. Norfolk Street, San Mateo

Discuss: Authentic and good Malaysian at Langkawi in San Mateo

Too Fat to Fight

Is eating a few KFC Double Downs a day the modern alternative to fleeing to Canada to escape the draft? The military has come to the really-not-new conclusion that America's children are fat. They're not just a little pudgy but "too fat to fight." Stats say 27 percent of youngsters in the crucial military recruitment age (17 to 24 years old) cannot pass the military weight standards, and obesity is ironically leading to shrinkage of the American armed forces. READ MORE