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

Knife Skills: How to Make Julienne and Batonnet Cuts

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Cut thin like matchsticks, these aren't for the beginner. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Knife Skills: How to Dice

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This is the most common knife cut, so learn it well. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Knife Skills: How to Make a Bias Cut

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This cut decreases the cooking time of vegetables. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Knife Skills: How to Make a Roll Cut

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Do this with oblong-shaped vegetables. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Falafel With a Touch of Mango

You haven't had hummus if you haven't had it warm, "finished with a sprinkle of paprika, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of golden olive oil," says rworange. And maybe topped with mushrooms and onions, the way it is at Amba, a falafel restaurant new to Oakland that aims to use local and organic ingredients.

And yes, with your crisp-fried falafel you can get amba, the popular Israeli condiment that seems more like something out of India with ingredients such as mangoes, fenugreek, turmeric, vinegar, mustard, chile, and salt. There's also fresh green and red schug, a Yemeni hot sauce. Hot pitas and fresh salads make for a really satisfying meal.

Over at the kosher restaurant Holy Land, the mint lemonade is worthy of its own religion. Made to order, it's a frothy, lemony slushie with bits of pulp and mint. But that's not all.

"I find it hard not to order their humus, felafel, and schwarma combo when I go there," says BernalKC. "I adore the dolmas at Holy Land. They are super-lemony and so very good," says milklady, who also likes the vegetarian soups. escargot3 loves the yummy vegetable items like beet salad, spicy carrot salad, and hummus. "Their Yemenite hot sauce—‘zhug’—is the best I've had outside of the Middle East. And the babaganoush is perfect."

Although Holy Land makes its own malawach, a flaky pancake much like paratha, rworange prefers the version at Oakland Kosher Foods, which is nice and flaky even though she suspects it's the frozen Saba brand. The grocery/eatery is tiny and packed with kosher wines, hot dogs, cheese, baked goods, and all kinds of other stuff.

"Their matzo ball soup was amazing, as good as my late, beloved Jewish grandmother's," says rednails.

Amba [East Bay]
6464 Moraga Avenue, Oakland

Holy Land Restaurant [East Bay]
677 Rand Avenue, Oakland

Oakland Kosher Foods [East Bay]
3419 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland

Discuss: Oakland (Montclair): Amba Kosher organic vegetarian restaurant - Babka, warm hummus with mushrooms, Lebanese pitza, shuee't, masbacha, ful, schug and more
Oakland: Holy Land - The mint lemonade is magic
Oakland Kosher Food - Malawach, Green's chocolate babka and 700 bottles of Kosher wine on the wall

Download CHOW Wallpaper

Here's the first in a new series of downloadable wallpapers, all shot by our in-house photographer, Chris Rochelle.

This giant portobello was part of our mushroom chart, and Chris recalls about shooting it, "Working with the space that I had, the whole mushroom wouldn't fit in the promo, so I decided to halve it, and include the reflection off the table, which still provided an allusion to the whole mushroom."

Below are multiple size downloads based on your monitor resolution:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1680 x 1050 | 1920 x 1200

Michael Pollan’s Food Journal

Grub Street New York posted a peek at five days of Michael Pollan's meals. There's a lot of leftover cheese from New Year's and a surprising amount of sushi eating. But, overall, other than the fact that his diet is expensive (probably prohibitively for many), Pollan comes off as down to earth and not nearly as much of a zealot as one might think. When given a lobster and avocado dish at Nobu 57 as a treat from the kitchen, he seems to question whether or not the avocados are in violation of his ideas about only eating seasonally, but then says:

"But you know this was a gift from the chef and one of my principles is—in addition to eating sustainably—to be a good guest and not reject what is served to you. Social values count as much as environmental values with me."

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