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

Pastry Perfection in Bernal Heights

The tiny Sandbox Bakery is a treasure trove for pastry-loving residents of Bernal Heights, says BernalKC. The beautiful, light-filled modern space has a bit of a Japanese inflection, as do the pastries.

But its straight French pastries could give Tartine a run for its money, like a pain au chocolat with Valrhona chocolate: "the chocolate was still soft and warm, and the buttery croissant was flaky and indulgent," BernalKC says. The plain croissant is sublime (much like Tartine's but not as huge), but an almond croissant is a bit overdone and dense, though still delicious and flaky.

The yuzu cheese Danish is "flawless." There's a great morning bun that's visually a dead ringer for the one at Tartine, and a chocolate cream in a spiral bread cone that's like "every kid's dream pastry."

BernalKC also loved the crystallized ginger orange scone, with a crisp sugared crust and a moist interior that's all "perfect scone crumb goodness." Calvinist recommends the scones, which include savory dill and cheddar versions.

Sandbox Bakery [Bernal Heights]
833 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco
415-642-8580

Discuss: Sandbox Bakery - good things come in small packages

Overheard on the San Francisco Bay Area Boards

"Of the handful of local Nepali restaurants I've tried, this rises way above them for both ambiance and food." - rworange

"I wish I ordered it with the bar's warm chocolate chip cookies—I think that would have been a killer pairing! A nice desserty beer for sure." - Roxanne Webber

"[I]t had been fried, too, but bathed in a lush ginger sauce that did infuse the [crab] meat wonderfully." - augustiner

On the Hunt for Ethical Food

Twin Cities Metro magazine runs an essay threading together the worlds of the hunters and locavores, pointing out something that's increasingly obvious to anyone with a foot in both: The two camps have a lot of common goals and shared opinions.

"Each wants nourishment from their surrounding lands," writes Chuck Terhark. "And each has much to gain from the other: The locavore needs the hunter’s age-old craft wisdom; the hunter covets the locavore’s popularity and book sales."

Terhark does a fine job of explaining the initial discomfort that hunting inspires among fancy city folk, and setting that up against the greater horror of the modern industrialized food distribution network:

"Increasingly the alternatives are harder to think about: factory farms that never allow their animals to see sunlight or grass; mountains of manure poisoning the watershed; the average meal guzzling 1,500 miles worth of fuel in transit to your mouth; a deer population so unmanaged that a stray doe recently happened into the lions’ den at the National Zoo in Washington DC (not to mention the pair seen wandering Nicollet Mall this summer)."

If you've ever bagged a deer or pheasant or calculated food miles before deciding what to order it's an essay worth pondering.

Image source: Flickr member John Beagle under Creative Commons

Big-Time Chefs with Slender Waistlines

How do chefs at the top of their game stay thin? Well, oftentimes they don't: There's a long, proud history of chunky chefs that's unlikely to end so long as butter and bacon make food taste delicious, and chefs are entrusted with their awesome powers.

The Hungry Beast looks to six working chefs who have maintained trim physiques to figure out how those in the business can beat the fat. Nibbling, exercise, stable routines, the occasional indulgence, a ban on stress eating, and never eating while standing up represent the cream that floated to the top of the interviews. But what it seems to boil down to is this: discipline. If you're not aware of what you're doing and you're a food-motivated person, you're going to plump up. If you work on it daily and keep hitting the gym, you've got a fighting chance. Not breaking news, but interesting when contextualized within the "all food, all the time" world of professional cookery.

Image source: Flickr member sylvar under Creative Commons

Go for Grower Champagnes

Go for Grower Champagnes

Good wines made by people who actually grow the grapes. READ MORE

WTF: Hot Chocolate Maker?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with superfluous appliances, and this one actually has a lot more potential uses than, say, a pair of Tater Mitts, but I could never bring myself to buy this $99.95 Bialetta hot chocolate maker from Williams-Sonoma. Because after that absolutely satisfying first cup on Christmas morning, it would inevitably sink to the bowels of my kitchen cupboard never to be seen again.

You can watch a video of it in action from Williams-Sonoma here but, if you're going to watch one hot chocolate gadget demo video, I'd go with this one instead:

Spiced Nuts They’ll Gobble Up

Whether you serve them as cocktail nibbles or wrap them up to give as gifts, spiced nuts are a snack that people just can't stop eating.

Many hounds love Union Square Cafe's bar nuts recipe, with brown sugar, cayenne, and rosemary. "Union Square nuts are quite simply the best!" raves katecm. They're terrific served warm, but good room temperature as well. cinnamon girl notes that they get crunchier once they've cooled.

amyzan says David Lebovitz's candied peanuts are fantastic warm or cool, and will be "gobbled down astoundingly fast." The recipe works well with almonds, too, she says, adding, "They're crunchy and sweet and super easy because it's all stove top."

karykat loves spiced nuts with sugared bacon, and says, "People just snarf them down." Val is a fan of sweet and spicy candied pecans, and hounds sing the praises of CHOW's Honeyed Cashews with Kosher Salt and Roasted Rosemary Walnuts.

Discuss: What's your best holiday nut recipe?
’Tis the Season--To Go To a Party

The Whole World Loves Spinach

Spinach is a staple green that lends itself to an international roster of cuisines.

Paula76 likes spinach and basil pesto on pasta; just add chopped spinach to your basil pesto recipe. shanagain thinks it's awesome cold on sandwiches, too. "It's like bargain pesto, but SO good," she says. For a fast weeknight dinner, ginnyhw drains a pot of cooked tortellini over a colander of baby spinach leaves; toss together, and the spinach wilts as the boiling water drains. Top with your favorite sauce.

"If you are craving something Japanese," says Yukari, "quickly blanch the spinach and top with soy sauce and sesame oil. If you have some toasted sesame seeds, toss them on top after crushing." thursday fries pancetta until almost crispy, drains off most of the fat, adds chopped garlic and spinach and sautés, before topping with toasted pine nuts, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and salt.

alkapal loves Lebanese spinach turnovers, and agopal says this spinach dal is easy to make.

LindaWhit makes spinach cabrini, a rich pasta casserole, and coll loves Creamed Spinach. bear thinks baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms are delicious.

Discuss: Spinach ideas

Dinner Party Pork Tenderloin

Most dinner hosts want to keep it simple in the kitchen, but still wow guests with an elegant and delicious dish. The answer? Pork tenderloin.

mariacarmen simply salts and peppers a tenderloin, then rolls it in crushed toasted cumin seeds, sears it on all sides, places it in a shallow roasting pan filled with chicken stock or white wine to half the depth of the pork, and braises it for 20 to 30 minutes. It's "very tender and juicy," she says. sparkareno wraps pork tenderloins in pancetta, brushes with a mixture of apricot jam, orange juice, hot mustard, and garlic, and grills.

jmullen1251 stuffs pork tenderloin with spinach and goat cheese, or with sun-dried tomato pesto, Gruyère, and prosciutto. goodhealthgourmet recommends grilled pork tenderloin with mustard, rosemary, and apple marinade and pork tenderloin with roasted grape sauce. They're delicious, and very easy, she says.

CHOW's take: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with apples.

Discuss: Easy yet elegant pork tenderloin ideas

A Different Kind of Big Mac

Here's the rundown on a brilliant slightly-larger-than-quarter-sized hamburger-themed French macaron over at Eat Me Daily:

"The buns: cocoa-tinted macarons.
The burger: a slice of dried plum.
The cheese: coffee buttercream.
The lettuce (the pickles?): green decorating sugar.
The mustard: a slice of dried apricot.
The ketchup: raspberry jam.
No tomatoes—they're unforgivably redundant with ketchup, even on a cookie."

As fast-food-themed art goes, this little confection will inevitably make you hungry: for a burger, or macaron, or both.