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

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

Yelp and the Art of Ferreting Out Fake Reviews

In a hardball interview in today’s New York Times business section, writer Kermit Pattison grills Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman about his company’s alleged “extortion” schemes. The issue, of course, is the national class action lawsuit against Yelp from local business owners who claim Yelp manipulated their reviews to get them to advertise, moving bad ones to the top if they didn’t, and good ones to the top if they did. (For more in-depth reading on the allegations, Oakland, California alternative newsweekly the East Bay Express published a fascinating story last year)

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Sorting Out Salt

Many hounds use sea salt or kosher salt in cooking, preferring it to iodized table salt, and use still other salts to finish dishes. Most cooks salt to taste, but it is important to note that the same volumes of fine sea salt and kosher salt don't impart the same level of saltiness, due to the large size of kosher salt's grains. Also, different brands of kosher salt measure differently.

Specialty salts, with unique flavors, textures, or colors, are meant to be added to finished dishes, where those qualities can be appreciated. "That's usually, IMO, half the reason for trying a fancy-smancy salt, that its flaky or crunchy texture adds to your dish," says Mandymac.

"I absolutely love fleur de sel," says foiegras. "I use it at the table only. My preference used to be to get the salt perfect while cooking, as I didn't like the texture of added table salt. But with fleur de sel, the texture is a plus. It's lovely on boiled eggs—or anything else."

Scott D likes smoked salts, and uses different smoked salts on eggs, grilled meats, and fish and vegetables, depending on their flavors. "A few grains go a long, long way," he says. "You do really get a hit of smoke."

Discuss: What are the uses for specialty salts? And what are the differences between common salts?

Paneer Goes Global

Paneer, the fresh Indian cheese, which can be bought fresh or frozen or easily made at home, is great in many non-Indian guises, according to hounds.

Great ideas for using paneer:

• Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar and serve with pita as an Arab-style mezze.

• Marinate cubes in vinaigrette and add to salad, add to vegetable soup at serving time, or mash and use in a sandwich.

• Cut into thin slices, pan fry, and use in a sandwich.

• Thread cubes on skewers with vegetables, marinate, and grill.

• Use in place of Mexican queso blanco.

If you make your own paneer, "you can add all kinds of seasonings to the curds as you lift them from the whey, says fromagina, "just gently fork them into the hot curd before twisting the cloth and pressing." She adds dried onion and garlic and hot pepper flakes, and uses the cheese for Mexican dishes; or small pieces of dried fruit, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and crumbles the cheese to serve atop waffles.

Discuss: Non-Indian uses for paneer?

The Tacoshed Project

If you've ever wondered where all the component parts of your taco come from, a group of California College of the Arts architecture students have you covered. The Tacoshed Project, born from the intersection of a taco cart taco and a discussion of food and wastesheds, breaks down where all the various bits of the beloved street food come from: the cheese, the rice, the aluminum foil. The resulting chart tells a story that starts at a taco cart and stretches out into Mexico, the Midwest, Australia, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Graphic courtesy CCA Architecture Faculty David Fletcher (Fletcher Studio), John Bela (Rebar Group), and California College of the Arts architecture students

Don’t Lose Your Whey

If you strain yogurt to make thick Greek-style yogurt or yogurt cheese, don't toss the liquid that's left over. This whey is full of nutrients and can be incorporated into many dishes, say hounds. It is not as tart as yogurt, so makes a more neutral ingredient. Use whey as part of the liquid in bread dough, pancake or waffle batter, or other baked goods, add it to soups or smoothies, or use it to cook oatmeal or other hot cereals.

Oh, and it's a beauty product too: ipsedixit shares her mom's secret for great skin:

• Stay out of the sun
• Facials with whey mixture
• Eat plenty of almonds and walnuts

Discuss: What to do with the liquid strained off yogurt?