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

The Non-Anonymous Mob

Alex Salkever, writing on DailyFinance, proposes a novel solution to the Yelp blackmail fuss that's swirling around the courts and the Web: take away the anonymity of Yelp users.

Commenters would have to register with a system like Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect: "Doing so would ensure, to a great degree, that commenters use their real identities and could be held accountable for their comments."

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A New Chef’s Flair at Mr. Pollo

The Mission dive Mr. Pollo has long been a standby for great Venezuelan arepas, but now a real chef, Manny Torres Giminez, is running the place. Giminez has cooked at top restaurants around San Francisco and around the country, and now he's doing prix-fixe dinners of the food he cares about most—doing all the prep, serving, and even dishwashing himself.

For starters, you might get a trio of arepas. The first, of course, is Venezuelan: a silver-dollar-sized disk of white cornmeal, split and sandwiched with a slice of kiwi. "The crisp browned crust on the outside of the arepa and the creamy interior were a surprisingly delicious contrast with the cool, sweet-tangy kiwi," says Ruth Lafler. The Colombian version is bigger, more deeply browned and oozing with cheese, caramelized by a touch of sugarcane on the outside that also brings out the corn flavor. Venezuelan chachapas round out the selection—pancakes of fresh corn purée, not masa, folded around melting cheese.

The chicken and potato-filled Colombian empanada that comes next was too bland for Ruth Lafler, but it was LikeFrogButOOOH's favorite of the night. The aji dipping sauce with scallions and cilantro adds a kind of Chinese flavor.

The main dish is a duo of tender, deliciously simple braised lamb on achiote rice, based on a recipe by the chef's grandmother, and a grilled baby Australian goat rib, cooked perfectly medium rare. The sauce on top is insanely complex, Ruth says, with jasmine, lavender, and other herbs.

Although the menu states that the tasting menu is $15, hounds found the actual price to be $20. This didn't leave a good impression with kare_raisu, who also found the food lacking in soul and artfulness, and says, "I only appreciated really his ability to finesse the cornmeal into different guises." There's no doubt, though, about the chef's passion for the foods of his homeland.

Mr. Pollo [Mission]
2823 Mission Street, San Francisco
415-374-5546

Discuss: Chef's tasting menu at Mr. Pollo

Tweet! I’m Inspired!

I was --I'll admit it --rather offended to receive a Tweet today from one of my favorite local brew pubs, 21st Amendment, advertising a beer they'd made called Spring Tweet. "Our 'Twitter inspired' seasonal Spring ale beer brewed for friends and neighbors at Twitter.com," it said. OK, they are down the street from Twitter's offices, but still. Beer can be inspired by a lot of things: the smell of Spring perhaps, or even Hunter S. Thompson. But Twitter? READ MORE

The Thrill of the Skillet

Y & Y Vietnamese Deli is a hole in the wall that's worth your while, says mariacarmen. The goi cuong thit nuong, otherwise known as barbecue pork rolls, have nothing to do with barbecue. They aren't even grilled. Instead, they're pan-fried to order, which gives them a delicious smoky flavor that bodes well for the barbecue pork banh mi.

The bread that Y & Y uses is exceptionally good in a different way than other Vietnamese delis here or in Southern California's Little Saigon. "It was toasted and served hot, roughly crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside," mariacarmen says. Meatball (xiu mai) banh mi is good, but could use a bit more seasoning. There are maybe nine other kinds of banh mi on the menu, plus pho, bun, rice dishes, snacks, and desserts.

Speaking of unusual Vietnamese meals with bread, if you've ever wondered what a Vietnamese curry sandwich might taste like, BT Sandwich Deli is a great place to try it, says rworange. OK, it's not really a sandwich—just a soupy curry with fall-off-the-bone tender chicken leg, served with a couple of fresh French rolls. With carrots, fresh basil, lime, and spicy red chile paste, "I can't begin to tell you how good that is," rworange says.

Y & Y Vietnamese Deli [Richmond District]
661 Clement Street, San Francisco
415-221-5722

BT Sandwich Deli [East Bay]
1279 San Pablo Ave, Pinole
510-741-8250

Discuss: Y & Y Vietnamese Deli on Clement
Pinole: BT Sandwich Deli – Vietnamese chicken curry sandwich

Felt Bread Basket in Spring Colors

These classy wool felt bread baskets seem like they'd be perfect for bringing along a small loaf of bread on a spring hike or picnic, and fold flat when not in use. They hold about "four bagels" worth of bread and will stay assembled even when you open a flap to pull out your bread.

Avva Breadbasket, available in 2-3 weeks, $62

Get Stuffed

"It is difficult to dislike a dumpling stuffed with something," comments rworange, who's had a lot of mediocre pelmeni, Siberian dumplings. But the pelmeni at Katia's Russian Tea Room are exceptional: plump dumplings bursting with beefy goodness in a rich, flavorful broth and a dollop of sour cream.

Katia's also boasts delicate blini with excellent smoked salmon, herring, and salmon roe; tender lamb shashlik with big slices of marinated lamb served with rice; and top-notch meringue pavlova, the light meringue filled with whipped cream and topped with house-made berry sauce.

And now is the time to check out the Easter specialties of kulich, a Russian Easter bread studded with raisins and pineapple, and pascha, a sweetened, vanilla'd creamy cheese. These two great tastes really do taste great together.

Katia's Russian Tea Room [Inner Richmond]
600 Fifth Avenue, San Francisco
415-668-9292

Discuss: SF: Katia's Russian Tea Room – the best pel'meni I've ever had

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"From now on, I'm stocking up every time I'm within detour distance of Bud's Custom Meats." - Robert Lauriston on sausages at Bud's Custom Meats

"I wouldn't go every day or if I was very hungry, but it was still a seriously delicious snack." - Frosty Melon on two of Local Mission Eatery's sandwiches: skirt steak with garlic confit, and asparagus with poached egg on brioche

"Two bites and I'm hooked on the green chile apple pie. The first bite was a shocker; then with the next bite of spicy-then-sweet, I wanted more... and more." - Cynsa on the signature treat at Chile Pies & Ice Cream

Standwiches, Hegans, Chile Grenades

Let's Eat Snow Leopard, Too: The Atlantic bluefin tuna got no reprieve when a trade ban proposed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora failed to pass. via Scientific American

HFCS Leads to Fat Guts: Adding more fuel to the high fructose corn syrup debate, a Princeton University study found that the sweetener is not just like sugar as the Corn Refiner's Association advertisements claim, and leads to considerably more weight gain. via Care2

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Grandma Makes Her Kimchee with Equal!

While I can't help but think this is a gentle nod to CHOW's own Cooking with Grandma series, this video by Cool Hunting has a style (and soundtrack!) all its own. And the recipe, shown by New York grandma Yu Um Chon, must be good as she says she claims to have made it 10,000 times!

See what Chowhounds have to say about Kimchee.

Grow Your Own Cocktails

Grow Your Own Cocktails

Bartenders counsel which garden plants make for great cocktail ingredients. READ MORE