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

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Egg and avocado, it turns out, are wonderful bedmates." - plumpdumpling on an innovative ravioli dish at WD-50

"[T]he pièce de résistance for us was the brioche dessert. With pink peppercorn ice cream and a blood orange glaze. It was the most heavenly piece of French toast ever. I will dream about this dessert tonight!" - RawTunaFan on Aldea

"To explain why it took 34 years to get married I now remember eating the onion buns with sweet butter and raw onion. No wonder I couldn't get a date." - foodismylife on Isaac's Bake Shop

A Child’s Garden of Controversy

America's gone gaga over the idea of using gardens and small-scale farming to teach children, particularly those in disadvantaged school districts. What many parents assume is that this must have an incredibly positive educational effect, because it seems so damned wholesome and thoughtful. An Atlantic article by "I'm just an old-fashioned stay-at-home mom (with a full-time domestic staff)" Caitlin Flanagan takes aim at this theory. You can kind of get a sense of her point via the tone of her introduction:

"The galvanizing force behind this ideology is Alice Waters, the dowager queen of the grown-locally movement. Her goal is that children might become 'eco-gastronomes' and discover 'how food grows'—a lesson, if ever there was one, that our farm worker’s son might have learned at his father’s knee—leaving the Emerson and Euclid to the professionals over at the schoolhouse."

More an op-ed attack on left-wing elitism (actual and perceived) than a thoughtful analysis of educational policy, the article does do one valuable thing: It points out that measurement of education-via-gardening is difficult to do, and that it should be done more rigorously. But flatly writing the movement off because it fails to directly prepare students for standardized tests is about as blinkered a perspective as one can have on education. The whole article is, in fact, like a game of left-wing label pinball, where the aim is to hit as many loaded terms as you can in as few words as possible.

Moreover: There's no fresh-food crisis in urban America, because Flanagan once saw a Ralph's in Compton with all sorts of great veggies.

But the most irritating part of the article may be her description of Chez Panisse as: "an eatery where the right-on, 'yes we can,' ACORN-loving, public-option-supporting man or woman of the people can tuck into a nice table d’hôte menu of scallops, guinea hen, and tarte tatin for a modest 95 clams—wine, tax, and oppressively sanctimonious and relentlessly conversation-busting service not included."

That's a load. You can eat at Chez Panisse for $60 on Monday nights; $75 on other weeknights. And based on first-hand experience, the service was impeccable—and nobody is more irritated by sanctimonious left-wing crap than this writer, a Madison, Wisconsin native who was forced to relive the 1960s four or five times before graduating high school. Service at Chez Panisse was elegant, minimalist, warm, and welcoming.

Image source: Flickr member Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons

Attack of the Anti-Meat Crusaders!

Meat eating is under attack! And yet you may not have noticed all the noise—new, shocking reports from the World Bank, United Nations, and more—because you were too busy mawing on that delicious artisanal bacon.


Chicago Beef, Dripping Down Your Arms

After bringing Chicago-style hot dogs to the Bay Area, Little Gino's has followed up with another Chi-town classic, the Italian beef sandwich.

"This is the real thing, not some lame imitation," says Agent 510. "The bun is huge, the beef tender, and the dip has that meaty flavor it's supposed to have." Giardiniera, the pickled vegetable relish, is available on the side. The owner apparently wants to expand the menu to even more Chicago foods. Can you make deep-dish pizza at a stand?

Little Gino's Hot Dogs [East Bay]
2109 Milvia Street, Berkeley

Discuss: Little Gino's in Berkeley now has a "real" Italian Beef sandwich

Deep-Fried Goodness at Taiwan Restaurant

"It is my personal goal to try everything on that little pink menu," declares PorktoPurslane after a meal "full of intense, deep-fried goodness" at Taiwan Restaurant. The wonton soup "with extra vegetables" and Shandong vegetable buns filled with juicy ground pork are particularly good, she says.

"They have the best Chinese doughnut in the whole city," MaryD says. Her favorite dinner dish is the Taiwan country spareribs and the mustard greens with shredded pork noodle soup is wonderful, too.

cakebaker thinks the food used to be better before the restaurant changed hands, but still loves the boiled dumplings with pork and ginger and all the soup noodles.

Taiwan Restaurant [Inner Richmond]

445 Clement Street, San Francisco

Discuss: Taiwan Restaurant on Clement - Fantastic Wonton Soup, Doughnuts + More!

Meat Sliced With a Smile

These days, even many butcher shops sell pre-cut meat from boxes, but Wayland's Meat, run by a husband and wife in Oakland, is a wonderful throwback, says Kayde.

"Wayland buys whole pork, lamb, and sides of beef, and cuts to order. They will split and slice marrow bones and short ribs, quarter rabbit, and debone that pork shoulder." It makes some sausages in-house, including a polish-your-plate, slightly spicy pork sausage, and also carries Italian-style, chicken-apple, and lamb sausages. The shop is small, and the selection varies. "Last week they had fresh rabbit, free range chicken, ground lamb, and oxtails, aside from the standards," says Kayde. Don't see what you want? Ask anyway, as it could be in the back. Wayland's also handles special orders promptly, part of the all-around great service you can find here.

Wayland's Meat [East Bay]
3421 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland

Discuss: Wayland's Meat - Outstanding Service in Oakland's Dimond District

So You Think You Know Reuben?

Like many products of genius, Della Fattoria's Reuben sandwich is brilliant but a tad eccentric: It has fatty Niman pastrami instead of corned beef, tangy Thousand Island dressing instead of Russian, and levain bread instead of rye. The Alexander Valley sauerkraut, on the other hand, is textbook.

"This was one of the best Reubens I've ever had," says Robert Lauriston.

Della Fattoria [Sonoma County]
141 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma

Discuss: Della Fattoria's Reuben

Food Aid for Haiti

The White House blog has posted some quick ways to donate to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti (which include food). If you want to make a contribution, here are its recommendations:

• Donate $10 to the Red Cross to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999."
Contribute online to the Red Cross
Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.

Restaurants are stepping in as well. Eater is keeping tabs on benefit dinners being held in New York and San Francisco.

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Hands-down the most creative tempura I have ever been served. Besides being delicious (think of Japanese/Maryland crab cakes) it was a great presentation." - Paul H, on the crab tofu-skin tempura at Kappou Gomi

"Keep in mind I only tried one dish, but I gotta say, this is the best German food I've had in SF (been here 20 years now)." - pauliface, after trying the Rinderroulade at Walzwerk

"I second and third À Côté, where [mussels] are cooked in a wood-fired oven, in a creamy Pernod-based broth. I do not overstate when I say that I would be content to eat them daily." - jillyju, on her favorite Oakland restaurant for mussels

Mexican Wine, No Joke

Mexican Wine, No Joke

Deep, dry reds from Valle de Guadalupe. READ MORE