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

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"They make these little pastries to order and they are AWESOME. Pale golden flaky discs covered in white sesame seeds and stuffed with steaming hot black sesame paste." - sfbing, on the sesame cake at King of Noodles

"[T]he real winner of the day was the delicate almond tuile. Very thin and delicately crisp, yet rich with butter and toasted almond flavor." - Melanie Wong, on the almond tuiles at Nora's Patisserie

"If a full house at seven o'clock on a Wednesday evening is an indication of approval, then one can conclude that the ’hood welcomes this new restaurant with great enthusiasm and curiosity." - Cynsa, on Bistro Central Parc

That Charming Microbrewer Named Costco

If you've ever wondered (morbidly, perhaps) about Costco's Kirkland Signature brand of beer (featuring varieties including German lager, amber ale, hefeweizen, and pale ale), wonder no longer. Ann Arbor blog Epic Portions reviewed a $19 variety pack featuring six of each sort of beer. (At $4.75 a six-pack, this is a pretty dang low-cost beer, as you might hope from a Costco product.)

The verdict: The beer's a real bargain at the price, and "each one is a legitimate effort that deserves praise."

More details at Epic Portions, plus the intriguing link between Costco beer and Trader Joe's beer.

All That and a Bag of Chips

Jeremy Selwyn tries every snack he can find so you don't have to. In a profile of Selwyn and his long-running snack review blog,, the Hungry Beast digs out the facts on how the site got its start: to kill hours at a monotonous newspaper job where Selwyn would "pass time by buying creative-sounding snacks at a local convenience store."

Selwyn's best finds come from other countries (particularly England, where he recently tried Cajun squirrel-flavored potato chips), and from Asian markets, where anything that can be flavored with seafood, will be. Selwyn is also sent complimentary cases of snacks from companies hoping to garner a review. Hey, Selwyn, don't forget the little people who still have to buy their swill from the grocery store.

On Servers Forgetting Orders

On Servers Forgetting Orders

Is there a mnemonic device for "dressing on the side"? READ MORE

Special Dishes, Secret Prices

Special Dishes, Secret Prices

Why won't my server tell me how much the special costs? READ MORE

How to Cook Pasta Without Boiling Water

Does pasta really need to be cooked in boiling water? While the conventional wisdom says yes, some hounds contend that it makes sense to cook pasta in a more flavorful liquid, such as stock or even the sauce you plan to serve with the pasta. "By cooking in sauce or stock," says bushwickgirl, "you're enhancing the flavor of a rather bland product."

Many hounds use regular dried noodles in lasagne without pre-cooking, and find it works fine as long as they add a bit more sauce than usual. Cooking pasta in sauce on the stovetop takes a bit more finesse in order to ensure it cooks evenly and the sauce doesn't stick. You'll need to dilute your sauce a bit so it doesn't get too thick as the pasta absorbs liquid, and you must stir often. The method works best with short and small pasta shapes, according to bushwickgirl. cinnamon girl has made skillet lasagne this way with good results.

Another approach is to cook pasta as you would risotto, gradually adding small amounts of liquid and allowing the pasta to absorb it, as in this absorption pasta and Alain Ducasse's olive mill pasta. "You can do it equally well with a tomato-based sauce" as with stock, says rainey. "It's a unique method and works quite well."

Discuss: Why cook pasta in water and not the sauce?

The Smooth Indulgence of Chicken Liver

Chicken liver pâté is a rich, elegant appetizer that's perfect for a cocktail party or celebration meal.

This recipe from BLT Steak restaurant, in which the livers are cooked in duck fat and combined with a port reduction, is "truly decadent," says goodhealthgourmet. Emeril Lagasse's version is "relatively simple and very good," thinks caiatransplant. She suggests adding jarred truffles for an extra touch of luxe.

bizkat recommends Jacques Pépin's recipe, but uses only one stick of butter, which he thinks gives a liver-to-butter ratio that's "just right." nomadchowwoman likes this bourbon chicken liver pâté; she doubles the allspice and adds a bit more salt.

Most pâté recipes call for sautéing the livers before combining them with the other ingredients, but aggiecat prefers to poach them gently in dry white wine, to avoid overcooking. nomadchowwoman notes that, while most pâtés will only last a few days in the fridge, they can be frozen and later thawed with excellent results.

Discuss: favorite chicken liver pate recipes?

Tangerines Brighten Winter Dishes

Tangerines that quite aren't sweet enough to eat out of hand are terrific roasted with duck, chicken, or pork, says chefathome. "Roasted citrus is more flavourful than raw and adds a new dimension," he notes. Slice a tangerine paper thin and place the slices atop the meat before roasting, and "the tangerine cooks down into a lovely mass of flavour." Halve a second tangerine and roast the halves, flesh side down, in the pan with the meat, then squeeze the juice onto the finished meat.

Tangerine peels can be dried and used as an aromatic seasoning. Pare them in large pieces, allow to air dry, and use in Chinese soups and braises, suggests fourunder. Dried tangerine zest mixed with sea salt and dried rosemary makes a blend that's great on many things, but is especially wonderful on delicate white fish, says chefathome.

Ottolenghi's orange polenta cake is delicious made with tangerines, according to jen kalb. Or use them in this flourless clementine cake, made with almonds.

Discuss: what to do with about a pound of tangerines

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"The way to salt a burger is to put about a half teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a preheated cast iron pan and then put the unsalted patty into the pan on top of the salt." - KaimukiMan

"Just for a variation here, add a cup of creamy peanut butter and 1/4 cup butterscotch to any of the finished hot fudge recipes and you'll have an awesome peanut butter fudge sauce for ice cream." - morwen

"The greatest error I'm aware of when using liquid smoke is that it's quite easy to use too much and allow the smoky flavor to overpower the dish. Start with small amounts, add a very little at a time until you achieve the level of smokiness you want." - todao

Dipping While Driving

In the most momentous fast food development since McDonald's debuted an ad campaign featuring a guy who wanted to have sex with his $1 double cheeseburger, Heinz is changing up its game and introducing a brand new style of ketchup packet.

Farewell to the messy, tiny, plastic-y little bags you need to tear with your teeth; hello to a new dunk-friendly model that holds three times as much ketchup (i.e., enough for at least part of an order of fries.)