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

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

“Best of all were the rendered pieces of chicken skin (shatteringly crunchy and paper thin) that they added to the sandwich. It added a component similar to a potato chip, but chicken flavored!”
-sfpizzalover

“Perfect crust, fresh apples, good sweetness (some will find it too sweet)... did I mention the crust?”
-telebear

“The burrata at A16 is still on my to-try list. The best I’ve had was from Ubuntu. This is better than that…. Since mine was just made it was nothing but sweet, fresh creaminess and so very delicate.”
-rworange

Gamine Seduces a French-Food Skeptic

“I have always been deeply skeptical about all aspects of French cuisine,” begins SushiMonster. “So many other great places to eat without the unordered side dish of attitude, no? Well, brothers and sisters, I got over it tonight at Gamine. Oh boy did I ever get over.”

Things start out well with excellent thin fries with garlic aioli; delicious Prince Edward Island mussels in wine, garlic, and butter; and calamari with spicy aioli. Better than well. “Three home runs and we’re just getting warmed up.”

The basic burger with blue cheese, served on a baguette, is positively orgasmic. Beyond basic, options include fish or vegetarian burgers, four cheeses, bacon, and even a poached egg. Marinated lamb, heavy on the garlic and thyme, is just about perfect.

“There is no great secret to what these folks are doing right. It’s called a cow. There is cream. There is butter. There is a LOT of cream and butter in everything. Not rocket science. This stuff makes you feel good. Duh. Have another glass of wine. It’s excellent, too.”

If there’s any room left for dessert, the crème brûlée is top-notch.

The restaurant itself is small, about “the size of your average suburban living room,” and “loud as bombs.”

“Once you’re inside, you’re in very good hands and there’s nothing to do but roll up your sleeves, loosen your tie, tip back in your chair, drink a glass of beautiful wine and thank God you live in a city that could support a little restaurant that’s this good. Everything is going to work out just fine.”

Gamine [Cow Hollow]
2223 Union Street, San Francisco

415-771-7771

Board Link: Gamine: Or, how I finally learned to trust the French

Chettinad and Indian-Chinese

In a sea of South Indian restaurants, Sri Muniyandi Vilas focuses on dishes from Chettinad, where, unlike much of South India, the cuisine is heavily nonvegetarian. The restaurant also specializes in Indian-Chinese cooking.

Chicken kothu paratha is a big winner, says zartemis. It’s a very large portion of well-spiced dark meat, served with curry sauce. “We’ll be getting this again frequently.” Pepper chicken is whole dark-meat pieces—most of the chicken here is dark meat—cooked in lots of onions and spices. There’s also complexly flavored chicken chettinad.

“Regular” biryani is actually Chettinad style, with egg, well-browned rice, and long-cooked spices. Meat (mutton or chicken) is served on the side, as is raita and curry sauce.

“I haven’t enjoyed the Indian Chinese dishes I’ve had elsewhere, but I like the all the ones we’ve tried at Muniyandi so far,” says zartemis. Maybe the best is the simple chili gobi, featuring cauliflower with a nicely fried crust and good heat. Sichuan chicken noodles, too, are surprisingly good. And if all else fails, there’s a wide range of the South Indian staples idli, dosa, and uttapam.

Sri Muniyandi Vilas [South Bay]
3064 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
408-829-5339

Board Link: Good Chettinadu and Indian Chinese dishes at Muniyandi Vilas (Santa Clara)

Everything Thanksgiving 2009

For the cheapest halal or Diestel turkeys hounds have seen, where to get a turkey with gluten-free stuffing, and a list of Bay Area restaurants open for Thanksgiving, check out this thread: Everything Thanksgiving 2009. Wine country has its own version.

Board Links: Everything Thanksgiving 2009
Thanksgiving 2009–Wine Country

Enough with the Workplace Candy!

Enough with the Workplace Candy!

Is it OK to tell people to stop bringing in sweets? READ MORE

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

“Toasting spices can be useful, but it’s just one way of bringing out their flavour.”
-Channa

“I actually quit using a rack several years ago, and instead roast my turkey on a bed of vegetables.”
-dmd_kc

“My first time eating fennel pollen was dusted over pizza, and it was absolutely divine.”
-vorpal

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Guy Fieri

The Hungry Beast has a revealing interview with Guy Fieri this week that unearths some interesting nuggets. To wit:

1. He owns a T-shirt cannon.

2. He is going on a national tour “in a bus stocked with Pabst Blue Ribbon and painted with flames.”

3., 4., and 5. “He now travels with a bodyguard to events, has bras and underwear thrown at him during cooking demos, and counts Sammy Hagar and members of AC/DC as close friends—no wonder he speaks about himself in rock-star language.”

Whoa. Visit the Hungry Beast to learn about Fieri’s other quirks, such as naming dishes things like No Can Beato This Taquito and Mac-Daddi-Roni Salad.

Mascarpone Makes Everything Better

Mascarpone, the rich Italian cream cheese, is handy for both sweet and savory dishes. “Marscapone makes everything better,” enthuses normalheightsfoodie.

TorontoJo mixes mascarpone with homemade or jarred caramel and uses it to fill a baked pastry shell, then tops with sliced bananas. “One of my easiest, yummiest desserts,” she says. Paula76 recommends mascarpone cheesecake with candied pecans and dulce de leche sauce.

jeniyo likes these sesame-mascarpone cookie and lemon-ginger ice cream sandwiches. “The cookies are very tasty, even without the ice cream,” she says, and they keep for a long time. Full tummy loves room-temperature mascarpone on scones with jam. “Please don’t anyone accuse me of sacrilege,” she begs, “but the flavour of mascarpone reminds me somewhat of Devon cream.”

4Snisl makes a pasta sauce by combining mascarpone with some pasta cooking water, lemon juice and zest, and blanched broccoli rabe or spinach. Occasionally, she tops the whole shebang with a poached egg.

More ideas for mascarpone:
• Add it to cooked polenta or mashed potatoes.
• Mix it with herbs and goat or blue cheese and use as a spread.
• Use it to fill the cavities of halved poached pears.
• Stir it into scrambled eggs.

CHOW.com’s Chocolate Icebox Cake with Mascarpone and Blackberries gives a sophisticated spin to a classic.

Board Link: leftover mascarpone–what to do?

How to Keep Tortillas Hot for the Table

Tortillas, whether used to make tacos or as an accompaniment to an entrée, should be served hot. Chowhounds have some creative solutions for keeping them hot on a buffet table or taco bar.

hoosfoos likes the La Tortilla Loca Microwave Tortilla Warmer, which holds up to a dozen and keeps them warm for at least an hour. Bryan Pepperseed wraps tortillas in a damp cloth and puts the whole bundle in a slow cooker on the low setting.

HillJ has developed a technique that she says keeps tortillas “moist and warm for hours”: Wrap an electric heating pad in a bath towel, place it on the serving table, and plug it in. Park a platter of tortillas on the towel-wrapped heating pad, keeping the tortillas covered with a paper towel or napkin. HillJ uses the same setup for brunch buffets, and says it works equally well for waffles, French toast, and pancakes.

Board Link: Keeping tortillas warm

Waiter, Get Your Hands Off Me!

Bruce Buschel is opening a restaurant. And he has some ideas about what he’d like his staff to do and not do. So many ideas, in fact, that he was able to supply the New York Times with a list of “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do.” Buschel is on the ball; witness some of the picks of his list:

“8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.”

“20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.”

“32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.”

Buschel was on NPR a few days later, and he had more to say. Here he is on servers touching customers:

“I think it’s not a polite thing to do. I think a lot of people can take it the wrong way. The study that’s being quoted doesn’t mention genders. I’m sure a lot of women think that if they touch a customer on the shoulder, their tip goes up. It may or may not be true. I just think that, again, you’re invading somebody’s space. I know recently, I was standing in a restaurant waiting at the bar and somebody came over from behind and actually physically moved me, grabbed my two shoulders and moved me. And I turned around and he said, the waiter has to get past. So there are all degrees of touching. And some people may get excited and some people may be offended. So I think the best thing is just to not do it.”

Yeah, keep your paws off me!