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

Are Dry-Farmed Wines Better?

Are Dry-Farmed Wines Better?

Those roots are reaching for water, nutrients, and terroir. READ MORE

Pass on the Pizza, Go for the Soul

2 Bros. Pizza Plus on Sixth Avenue sure isn't about the pizza, Jim Leff says, but that "Plus" comes as a deeply soulful surprise. This "dismal pizza mill," as he describes it, has brought in a talented, caring cook who makes wonderful homey chicken (baked or fried), yams, garlicky broccoli or string beans, and more.

"There's minimal service and ambiance," he says, "but the prideful cooking makes up for it with food that's much, much better than it needs to be." (No hound reports yet on the jerk chicken.) Prices are "insanely low," Jim reports; "it's hard to spend more than $5." The non-pizza fare is served till around 7, but the main action is at lunch, so go early.

2 Bros. Pizza Plus [Chelsea]
601 Sixth Avenue (between W. 17th and 18th streets), Manhattan
212-206-8656

Discuss: 2 Bros Pizza Plus: Best Manhattan $4 Lunch in Decades

Anella Changes Course

Anella in Greenpoint just went uptown, hiring a chef with a pedigree (Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe). Hounds are noticing.

This neighborhood spot, open less than a year, has shifted from straight Italian to a broader menu, still grounded in the Mediterranean, with an emphasis on seasonal flavors. sweetpickles recounts a dinner highlighted by beautifully tender, almost creamy beef short rib. It came in a couple of forms: chopped up in ravioli with scallions and lightly crisped hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, or in a big hunk with braised red cabbage, orange, and potatoes. Mussels were briny and delicious, steamed in white wine and butter and brought out in a Dutch oven. A starter of roasted carrots also hit the mark, sweet and tender and served with house-made ricotta that approached the lightness of crème fraîche.

Dessert was a near-miss: slightly spongy chocolate bread pudding, though the buttermilk ice cream that came with it was nicely semi-sweet. Still, sweetpickles is sold: "I hope more food-minded folk check it out. It would be a shame to see such noble efforts go to waste."

Anella [Greenpoint]
222 Franklin Street (between Green and Huron streets), Brooklyn
718-389-8100

Discuss: Anella in Greenpoint

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Recette in the old Jarnac space is treating razor clams like clam bellies — breading and deep frying. Nice finger food." - Wilfrid

"I've had it at 2 places, both very good. 1st at the rear of Shangri-la on 37th Rd. They scoop the noodles fresh into the wok in front of you. Also, yesterday I had it at the rear of Merit Farms. The broth was equally opaque, with lots of flavor, nice thick noodles, pieces of beef, I think brisket." - Jeffsayyes on thentuk, a Tibetan noodle soup

"The Côte de Boeuf was absolutely fantastic. I come from a long line of Luger's regulars, account #140. And this is a formidable opponent. I have never had a steak with such a complete and perfect char. Really perfect, on all sides. ... It's charred at 1900 degrees, no grill marks. A pure black crust all around." - 2slices on Minetta Tavern

When Sigg Battles Dasani

Capitalizing on Olympics fever, McDonald's offered a special promotion in Canada, selling an Olympic-themed custom aluminum water bottle with the purchase of a drink or meal. The funny part is the commercial featuring the bottles: Patrick Chan, the featured spokes-athlete, is shown drinking a Dasani bottled water, as if to say: "Yes, you can refill your Olympic-themed custom aluminum water bottle, little girl, but please don't forget to keep purchasing wonderful Dasani products such as Dasani bottled water."

Jerk Your Meat to Win

If you weren't already aware of our burgeoning national jerky craze, the Minneapolis-based restaurant Hell's Kitchen is ratcheting things up a notch by holding an event that it's proclaiming the first annual Jerky Competition on April 5.

Via the press release: "Pros as well as amateurs can enter, with a Grand Prize of $300 cash plus a chance for national recognition. Any type of homemade jerky is welcome, from traditional beef strips to Northwoods venison as well as outlandish varieties such as chocolate-dipped or peanut butter laced."

The Hell's Kitchen contest comes on the heels of the El Dorado, Arkansas, Homemade Jerky Contest, and, of course, Wisconsin's Great Northern Jerk-Off.

Details of the Hell's Kitchen event are available online. Inspired to make your own? Here's DIY jerky.

What Cookie Would Snooki Make?

To all our Bay Area readers: The Chocolate Cookie Situation is coming.

There are really very few cookoff events as entertaining as SF Food Wars. Not to mention nourishing. And I say that as a proud sponsor—CHOW has covered all four of the events so far, and from the first (Mac Battle Royale with Cheese) to the last (the Yeast Affliction bread bake-off), they have been uniformly awesome. And filling.

Next battle is the aforementioned Chocolate Cookie Situation, on March 21 at Mighty. Tickets will go on sale on March 5 (and they often sell out fast). The call for entries is up now, and only serious Jersey Shore–obsessed cookie-makers need apply. Or only serious chocolate-cookie makers who have a passing knowledge of what the phrase "The Situation" refers to. Or just people who make really good cookies who can figure out the theme at some point.

Fresh Flavors of Hakka Chinese

Fresh, light, subtle, delicious—this is what the cooking of the Hakka, an ethnic people in southeast China, is like. Authentic, delicate, and skillful—this is how Chowhounds describe the new Hakka Restaurant, run by the former chef of the well-regarded Golden Mountain in Hayward.

Golden crab with salted egg yolk is a knockout dish, the rich saltiness of the yolk a wonderful contrast with the sweetness of Dungeness crab. And homestyle frog legs with basil does right by these amphibians, says wanderlust21: "The meat was mild and succulent with a sauce flavorful yet subtle enough that it did not overwhelm the meat."

Arrowroot bulb with roasted pork, a new year's dish that hopefully will stick around, pairs the velvety, starchy arrowroot with plenty of roast pork "in a savory almost caramelized gravy would keep any meat and potatoes eater happy." Melanie Wong says.

For a classic Hakka dish, the restaurant's salt-baked chicken doesn't disappoint: the roasted heritage bird with juicy, tender meat goes perfectly with ginger-scallion sauce and its own flavorful pan drippings, Melanie says. She was also impressed by another Hakka classic, meltingly tender pork bacon with preserved greens in a well-balanced master sauce that she predicts will only get better as time goes on.

Bamboo pith with pea sprouts is incredibly tender, the vegetables soaked in a delicious broth, says asianstamp.

Hakka Restaurant [Outer Richmond District]
4401-A Cabrillo Street, San Francisco
415-876-6898

Discuss: Chowdown Report: Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco

Golden Fried Tacos and Asada Like Bacon

Taqueria Reynoso is an odd little sit-down place with all the ambiance of a taco truck. "And yet, I keep coming back—even odder, I keep coming back for things I don’t ordinarily order," says daveena.

The taco dorado de barbacoa isn't something you see very often—a crisp-fried taco, a little larger than the usual, with a barbacoa filling that's velvety soft. Carne asada "has bits of beef that are fried hard, so that they hit a magical texture between jerky and bacon. Delicious." Tacos campechano combine the asada with chorizo—"on good days, there's an extra sprinkling of crispy bits on top," daveena notes.

And burritos al pastor are a perfect collage of ingredients: "the rice is fluffy and firm, the beans tender and flavorful (but not mushy), the al pastor savory with the stain of chorizo fat." Don't get carried away and order the super burrito version: "with the super, all the extra components drowned out the simple, perfect execution that makes this burrito so remarkable."

"I've only tried a few things here because the torta ahogada is so delicious," says Constant Velocity. That's a sandwich with meat (their carnitas are the bomb) and beans, "drowned" in one chile-hot sauce and another, limey one.

The chilaquiles are also quite good.

Taqueria Reynoso [East Bay]
3329 Foothill Boulevard, Oakland
510-261-7568

Discuss: Taqueria Reynoso – my new Fruitvale favorite – tacos campechano, tacos dorado de barbacoa, and the best bare-bones burrito

Sumiya Rises From the Flames

It's been about a year since a fire ravaged the yakitori house Sumiya and it decamped from San Jose to Santa Clara. It's still one of the top places in the Bay Area to get charcoal-grilled Japanese food, although it can be inconsistent—ideally, your skewered meats should be a bit charred and smoky tasting.

Definitely start off with the crispy chicken skin dip, which is sort of like a version of chips-and-salsa, with pieces of golden-brown fried chicken skin and a dipping sauce studded with chewy bits of octopus. When it's skewer time, there are various flavoring options such as the usual salt (shio) and soy, plus yuzu, ume, and wasabi. The light, fluffy, housemade chicken meatballs (tsukune) are perfect with the house sauce, while the minimalism of teba (chicken wings) shio shows off the flavor of the chicken and the skill of the griller.

The magic of the grill isn't limited to chicken, either—the grilled rice balls have "a wonderful smoky char," says ChewChew. Sweet, tender Monterey squid is also delicious with that edge of char.

Kurobuta pork sausage may not be what you'd expect in a Japanese house of chicken, but it's "deliciously complex," Melanie Wong says. "I loved the sauerkraut and mustard accompaniments and would gladly take these Kurobuta sausages over a Top Dog any day."

Sumiya recently started serving lunch, and while the yakitori items aren't available, there's an expanded ramen menu that includes "two well-crafted, pork-free ramen offerings," the chicken-based miso and shio, Melanie Wong says.

The tori miso ramen is amped up with cashew, ground chicken and "a couple slices of psychedelic fish cake," Melanie says. "The soup's flavor spectrum ranged from roast chicken to salty miso richness, then toasted nuts and garlic, and circled back to minerally chicken bones, shoyu, and roasted vegetables. While a pork-based stock might be deeper, this intensely umami, lighter version should satisfy any ramen craving."

Shio ramen is a more delicate affair of "crystalline clean flavors," Melanie says. It's perfect if you've been gorging on the salty, smoky goodness that is Sumiya's other offerings, but if you want a little more richness, add some of the butter that's served on the side.

Sumiya [South Bay]
2634 Homestead Road, Santa Clara
408-973-0604

Discuss: (Porkless) Chicken Ramen, Chicharron and Yakitori at Sumiya in Santa Clara
Chowdown Report: Sumiya in Santa Clara