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

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

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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Use this cut for herbs, garlic, onions, or shallots. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Knife Skills: How to Chop

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Chopping ain't pretty, but it sure is useful. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

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