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

Cheap Fast Strawberry Freezer Jam

By Leslie Jonath

Florida's strawberry harvest came late, causing it to bump up against California’s strawberry season, which means there's now a nationwide glut of strawberries. With so many cheap strawberries flooding the market, it is time to start putting up and putting out. READ MORE

Canal House Moves Into Spring

The third volume in the Canal House Cooking series of book-meets-quarterly-magazines is out with the same down-to-earth feel as the previous volumes. It's full of recipes perfect for the transition from winter into spring, like steamed fish with buttery sorrel sauce, lime curd tart, rhubarb roasted in red wine with vanilla bean for spooning over yogurt or pound cake, and focaccia topped with paper-thin slices of lemon. It would make a perfect host/hostess gift.

Canal House Cooking Volume 3, $19.95

Roasted Rhubarb
adapted from Canal House Cooking Vol. 3 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Thickly slice 2 pounds of rhubarb and put it into a deep oven-proof pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup red wine. Split open 1 or 2 vanilla beans and add them to the rhubarb. Roast the rhubarb until very tender, about 30 minutes.


The 29-Hour Drink

The 29-Hour Drink

A mixologists' guide to managing expectations. READ MORE

Red (and White) Gold

It's worth noting that a general wine index outperformed the market over the course of the past 13 years, an interesting stretch of time which includes the dot-com boom and bust, the housing bubble, and a major recession. But it's particularly interesting what happens when your wine investing gets specialized, according to the Telegraph:

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Right on the Money

The former Quince locale has been transformed into Baker & Banker, a darkly elegant and only slightly cramped space, reports CarrieWas218, where the fresh, intelligently conceived fare is amplified by excellent wine pairings.

To start, spicy ahi tuna with Vietnamese slaw, crispy shallots, and peanuts has "just enough light creamy dressing on the bright fresh ahi to complement the crunchy goodness of the slaw and shallots," CarrieWas218 says. Rich house-smoked trout is matched with concentrated beet sauce and a marvelous celery-root latke. And then there's a simple, properly prepared torchon of foie gras that becomes fresh and exciting with its accompaniments of pickled rhubarb and watercress. "The tangy goodness made the foie that much creamier and also emphasized the exquisite nature of the kumquat tones in the wine [a 2007 Domaine Belliviere l'Effraie Chenin Blanc]."

Black pepper pappardelle is handkerchief-thin, served with braised short ribs, wild mushrooms, and a little truffle oil, plus English peas for a touch of spring freshness. But save room for dessert: The doughnut course could set off a serious addiction. A riff on PB&J, these are light, spongy cake doughnuts oozing house-made strawberry jam, with a creamy peanut butter dipping sauce. They're elegant yet comforting.

Baker & Banker [Pacific Heights]
1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco
415-351-2500

Discuss: Baker & Banker

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
650-878-8833

Peninsula Asian Pearl [Peninsula]
1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae
650-616-8288

Koi Palace [Peninsula]
365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City
650-992-9000

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
510-656-9688

Joy Restaurant [Peninsula]
1489 Beach Park Boulevard, Foster City
650-345-1762

Mama Chen [South Bay]
5075 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Santa Clara
408-249-9888

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

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