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

Radio Africa Doesn’t Phone It In

Radio Africa & Kitchen, perhaps the grandaddy of pop-up restaurants in the Bay Area, as a February New York Times piece pointed out, dishes out Mediterranean-Northeast African fusion cuisine on Thursday and Friday nights at Coffee Bar. The tasting menu is a great deal that gets you everything on the short menu for $40, says Melanie Wong.

In this case, starters included a velvety edamame hummus ("delicious slathered on Tartine's bread") and parsnip-leek soup with just the right amount of smoked paprika for warmth and a jolt of salty Spanish ham. Yellowfin tuna kitfo crostini is an Ethiopian take on tartare, with just a light touch of spices; it also comes with a sea urchin créme fraîche mingled with microgreens. Chiffon-like wisps of butter lettuce, barely dressed, make up an exquisite salad with juicy tangerines, radishes, and creamy goat cheese. "So striking in its quiet simplicity and perfect balance," Melanie says. The house-smoked trout and shrimp bacala, on the other hand, was on the salty side.

The mains (after an intermezzo of blood orange slices) didn't disappoint, either. Melanie's favorite was the sautéed striped bass with Ethiopian mixed vegetable alicha and roasted chestnut salsa. Sounds like a culinary mishmosh, but somehow it worked—super-fresh fish, exotically spiced collards and root vegetables, plus the sweet-and-savory chestnuts made for many an exciting mouthful. Roasted leg of lamb is great: "beautiful, medium-rare slabs of lamb rubbed with North African spices," served with couscous, green beans, and chermoula. There's a lighter version of the puff-pastry dish bastilla that uses mashed butternut squash and rainbow chard instead of the usual chicken or pigeon. Crunchy and light pastry gives way to the sweet and buttery filling that gets more complexity from citron raita and more of that roasted chestnut salsa.

For dessert, "chocolate decadence" pretty much lives up to its name, but is nicely balanced by the acidity of Meyer lemon whipped cream and hibiscus sauce.

The wine list is small but well-chosen, especially the whites and lighter reds, Melanie notes, with nearly all under $35.

Radio Africa & Kitchen [Mission]
1890 Bryant Street, San Francisco
415-420-2486

Discuss: Radio Africa Thursday and Friday Dinners @ Coffee Bar in San Francisco

A Pop-Up Japanese Sandwich Counter

Mondays at Cafe Yulong bring "Monday"—weird, no?—a pop-up lunch operation run by the son of the house. The concept is something like fast-food Japanese sandwiches with flair, and eatzalot, who went on the first day, describes it as "interesting and delicious."

The initial menu featured sandwiches of fried cutlets—chicken, tonkatsu (pork cutlet), and ebikatsu (shrimp patty) for $7-$8. All come on an Acme torpedo roll that's layered with vegetable salad and aioli. On the side: a "varied, unusual, and also delicious" selection of pickled vegetables.

There are also a couple of sides: Spicy "popcorn" cauliflower is a hit, and bistro-style French fries are pretty good.

There's minimal service for Monday—utensils and beverages (soft drinks on ice) are self-serve. Cash only.

Cafe Yulong [Peninsula]
743 W. Dana Street, Mountain View
650-960-1677

Discuss: New Japanese-style sandwiches, MONDAYS, downtown Mountain View

Will Travel for Chilaquiles

When putting together a tour of the Bay Area's best chilaquiles, it's a good idea to tackle San Francisco and the East Bay separately, Fig Newton thinks.

"The chilaquiles at Pastores are the best I've found in SF and should be at the top of anyone's list," says susancinsf. Calvinist prefers them with eggs, while Windy goes for carne asada and tomatillo salsa on top.

At the Alemany farmers' market on Saturday and flea market Sunday, El Huarache Loco makes great chilaquiles, says mlutsky. Cynsa recommends the chilaquiles at El Delfin. And grayelf reported having some mighty tasty chilaquiles with green sauce at La Oaxaquena.

Across the Bay Bridge, 3 Hermanas in Richmond is totally worth a drive, says calalilly. nerdigirrl likes the ones at El Grullense Restaurant in Oakland. "They're wet but not runny." Also in Oakland, myst has heard good things about the ones at El Taco Zamorano, and thinks that the quality of their chile verde is a positive sign.

And one final outlier: "After many years of trying this dish every chance I get, my favorite restaurant version in the Bay Area is at Chez Shea in Half Moon Bay." Have it your way: red or green sauce, with or without chicken or two fried eggs on top.

Pastores [Bernal Heights]
3486 Mission Street, San Francisco
415-642-5385

El Huarache Loco [Bernal Heights]
100 Alemany Boulevard, San Francisco
415-647-9423

El Delfin [Mission]
3066 24th Street, San Francisco
415-643-7955

La Oaxaquena [Mission]
2128 Mission Street, San Francisco
415-621-5446

3 Hermanas [East Bay]
12622 San Pablo Avenue, Richmond
510-237-1094

El Grullense [East Bay]
1457 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland
510-261-3325

El Taco Zamorano [East Bay]
4032 Foothill Boulevard, Oakland
510-536-3146

Chez Shea [Peninsula]
408 Main Street, Half Moon Bay
650-560-9234

Discuss: Chilaquile Tour --> SF and East Bay.
On a Mission: day 3 and 4 of grayelf's Nov 2009 Bay area trip

Cheesy Thoughts

In the early 90s, Culture magazine co-founder Kate Arding was a ripped jeans-and-baseball-hat wearing 20-something working for her family’s condiments company in the UK. She’d get the stink-eye when she’d show up in fancy gourmet shops to peddle mustard. Her life changed when she visited the still newish storefront of Neal's Yard Dairy. Although Neal's Yard would nearly single-handedly revive the dying tradition of farmstead cheeses in the UK over the next 20 years, at that time, Arding just saw a bunch of young unsnobby people cutting samples for anybody who walked through the door. READ MORE

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Fried cod, light as air, jack cheese, dill, and nori chips on a sweet brioche bun.... A tower of fried goodness." - mariacarmen on Mission Burger's fried fish sandwich at Duc Loi Supermarket

"The crunch, the veggies, the shredded American cheese and beef is just plain Mexican-American goodness." - rworange on the hard-shell tacos at La Perla

"The halibut tiradito at Mochica is excellent, as good as what you find at fine restaurants in Lima." - wanderlust21 on the delights of Mochica

Peep Shows, De-Snootinizing French Food, Hello Kitty Wine

Clown College: McDonald's opened a "Hamburger University" in Shanghai, China, to train managers for its expected thousand-store expansion in the country over the next six years. via Nation's Restaurant News

EPA Actually Does Something: The EPA joined the FDA in investigating bisphenol A's effects on the environment and human health. via CHOW.com

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Candy Machines Dispense “Seed Bombs”

Project Greenaid looks like it's going to bring new competition to the vending machine market cornered by bouncy balls, cheap plastic jewelry, and sparkly Pokémon stickers with these nifty vintage-looking candy machines that dispense "seed bombs," a mixture of clay, compost, and seeds. The seed bombs can then be "thrown anonymously into derelict urban sites to temporarily reclaim and transform them into places worth looking at and caring for." Sounds at least as fun as getting a sticky hand.

Update 4/5/10: We received word from Daniel Phillips, co-founder of Commonstudio, the company behind Project Greenaid. He tells us that there is currently an active machine in Los Angeles at the 6th Floor Gallery in Chinatown, and there are ten more in the works that should be up and running around greater Los Angeles by May. Expect to pay about $0.50 for three or four seed bombs and an envelope with instructions that include a map of "strategic sites" to toss 'em. If you are dying to get your very own machine, they are about $400, and Commonstudio will work with you to develop a custom seed mix for your bombs that is optimized for the native environment where the machine will live.

Organic: What’s in a Name?

Should a pest control product sold by Walmart and labeled both "organic" and "USDA organic" contain organically produced ingredients? The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit public interest group "promoting economic justice for family scale farming," is taking the following radical stance: Yes, it probably should.

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Download CHOW Wallpaper: Pasta

This week's wallpaper comes from our pasta chart, a visual guide of our favorite kind of carbs and the sauces that work with them. Readers commented that they hadn't seen many of these varieties since childhood in Italy. Most of my childhood pasta memories revolve around Kraft mac 'n' cheese.

Our photographer Chris, was interested in showing the relative depths between each of the noodles, so chose to back-light them, which helped to visually describe the differences in thickness.

Choose a download based on your monitor resolution:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1680 x 1050 | 1920 x 1200

Mobile:
Nexus One | iPhone

And check out other wallpapers from CHOW:
Peppers, Beer, Mushrooms

EPA Scrutinizes BPA

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency released a "BPA action plan" to look at the environmental impact of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics that's been hotly debated in the last few years due to studies linking it with health ailments from cancer to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This comes on the heels of the FDA's January announcement that it was concerned about BPA's impact on on human health and would take steps to investigate the chemical, which has shown up in everything from baby bottles to the lining inside cans of food.
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