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Bay Area Hounds’ Top Tastes of 2009

daveena kicked off a discussion of 2009's top tastes with an ode to Oakland, where Commis, Adesso, and Pizzaiolo all rocked her world. Twice.

Commis's egg yolk amuse-bouche managed to be cutting-edge yet familiar to the tongue, a custardy yolk matched with date purée, onion cream, and toasted steel-cut oatmeal. And the poached-and-seared chicken, well: "Fantastically silky meat, topped with crisped skin, this dish mocked my reluctance to order chicken in restaurants."

Adesso's arancini are just umami bombs with luscious centers of pork ragu. And the house-made salumi, especially the duck, is head and shoulders above the rest of the house-made salumi in the Bay Area, daveena says.

Pizzaiolo also brings on an ultra-refined pasta e fagioli, with "silky handkerchief pasta and gloriously creamy beans in a scant amount of flavorful broth," and a wonderful gin and tonic, using house-made tonic "spiked with a garden's worth of herbs."

This being Chowhound, of course other hounds jumped in with their lists, too long to sum up here. Check out the thread!

Commis [East Bay]
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

Adesso [East Bay]
4395 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

Pizzaiolo [East Bay]
5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

Discuss: Top 10 Tastes 2009

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Don Pistos is the Mexican restaurant that recently replaced El Raigon. The amazing thing is that the grill from El Raigon stayed, and as a result the pork chop al pastor with charred pineapple was full of smoky goodness." - felice

"I need to define 'rolled tacos,' because the NorCal equivalents, like flautas, are *not* rolled tacos." - belanger

"How does one make waffles so ethereal, so light? The chicken was perfectly crispy ..." - Breego

Chicken on a Stick

Yakitori Kokko is a breath of fresh air for lovers of authentic Japanese grilled chicken on the Peninsula, says K K.

 The owner, Keisuke Suga, also runs Kappo Nami Nami in Mountain View, and, like Nami Nami, Kokko has a classical minimalist design, with wood floors and ceilings, and sections divided by traditional-style curtains.

You order by the skewer, choosing the seasoning for each, like shio (salt) or tare (a soy-based sauce). Shio momo, or chicken thigh, "was dead-on perfect in all aspects. The standard must order," says K K. Chicken gizzard, or sunazuri, has good crunch. And chicken heart (kawa) is nice and juicy.

 Unfortunately, chicken meatballs with tare are way too salty; the version at Sumika is much better.

There are also some meat, seafood, and vegetable options, plus izakaya-type sides and fusion dishes. Bacon-wrapped asparagus is a nice one.

Kokko [Peninsula]

509 Second Avenue, San Mateo


Discuss: Great chick sticks at Yakitori KOKKO San Mateo

Behold the Hamocalypse

Poor Christmas sales and an interrelated economic crisis mean there's now a serious surplus of the pricey and very delicious Jamón Ibérico. The cost of these tasty, aged pieces of pig has dropped by 50 percent according to the Telegraph, which notes that: "Spain is groaning under a glut of ham after Christmas sales of one its most celebrated products plummeted with a crash in demand for traditional gift hampers."

The benefits extend to those of us in the United States, too: is selling bone-in Jamón Ibérico hams for half off, due to "a potential trade war that never materialized." Now a mere $400 is all that it takes to put 14 to 16 pounds of the good stuff on your kitchen counter.

Image source: Flickr member CytecK under Creative Commons

Knife Skills: How to Make a Chiffonade Cut

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It means "rags" in French, and that's what it looks like. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Knife Skills: How to Mince

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KFC Totally Didn’t Mean to Be Racist

A hilarious post by Dan Mitchell on Slate's Big Money website calls out the controversy sparked by an Australian KFC ad American viewers found racist. The TV commercial, which was discovered on YouTube, depicts a lilly white surfer-looking dude in the stands at a cricket match, with loudly cheering black people surrounding him, banging on steel drums, etc. He's annoyed by the noise, deeming it an "awkward" situation. So he breaks out a bucket of KFC, the black people eat it and calm down, and he remarks, "too easy."

KFC's response, says Mitchell, was that it wasn't intended for U.S. viewers, and that "It is a light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team."

In this clip, an Australian news show discusses the controversy, and hilarity ensues.

White lady host: "Let me speak for the West Indian community. I'm married to a West Indian. He's not a black West Indian ... It's actually a fact they love their fried chicken ... They eat chicken. That is what they enjoy to eat ... Would it be racist if it was a black man feeding a whole lot of Aussie guys a bunch of meat pies?"

New Finds: Porcelain Nuts

These little fake nuts from the Curiosity Shoppe would look gorgeous on a dark surface, perhaps displayed in a shallow, shiny, black dish. They'd be a nice side dish for a bowl of fake fruit as well. Maybe you can have a fake dinner party with fake friends, and serve the whole shebang with a bottle of air.

Porcelain Nuts, $50

Low-Cost, High-Flavor Meats

Canny home cooks know that many inexpensive cuts of meat have deep flavor. Depending on the cut, it might need long braising or only a quick sear to bring out its best qualities.

"Day in and day out," says fourunder, "pork cuts, in my opinion, are always the most flavorful value protein for my money." Pork shoulder "is tasty and very tender when treated to slow and moist cooking methods," says stilton, who adds, "It's often the least expensive cut of pork around in my neck of the woods." c oliver grinds it to make homemade pork sausage. Zeldog says pork cheeks work well in recipes calling for belly.

It is more difficult to find bargain cuts of beef, but they can be had. wallyz likes to grill chuck and 7-bone steaks to medium rare: "A little tougher," he says, "but lots of flavor." Flank and blade steaks take well to the same treatment, when sliced thin across the grain, and are also good for stir-frying. Chuck roasts are great for braising whole as pot roast or for stews; beef shin costs even less and is also good for braising. Oxtails aren't as inexpensive as they once were, but can often be found at a good price at ethnic markets, and make a good stand-in for beef short ribs.

Lamb neck is a bargain. emmee likes this 10-hour braised lamb neck. "The meat falls off the bone and is rich, flavorful, and delicious," she says.

EricMM buys well-priced duck legs at an Asian market and makes faux Peking duck by glazing them with soy sauce, sugar, and five-spice powder, and roasting them; he then shreds them and eats them with the traditional pancakes, scallions, and hoisin sauce. I use duck legs in this stovetop Chinese "roast" duck (as a bonus, it yields lots of rendered duck fat ).

And, of course, most offal is bargain priced. Many hounds are fans of chicken livers, hearts, and gizzards. cimui likes them grilled, yakitori style, or braised in soy sauce, five-spice, ginger, and sugar. ipsedixit soaks gizzards in buttermilk for 12 hours to tenderize, and then cooks them in a cast iron skillet with bacon fat, onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes.

For more clever ways to use underrated cuts like brisket and heart meat, see CHOW's Beyond the Porterhouse.

Discuss: Cheap yet good cuts of meat
Chicken Gizzards- How To Prepare And Your Favorite Recipes Please