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

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

Mail-Order Soup for Sickies

Mail-Order Soup for Sickies

This week's mission: someone else's chicken soup, your credit card. READ MORE

A Pizza Sinner Attempts Redemption

A Pizza Sinner Attempts Redemption

This week's mission: Domino's says, "We were bad, we've changed." READ MORE

Beef Stew with Soul

The correct cooking techniques and ingredients rich in umami will take a basic beef stew from simply hearty to deeply flavorful.

"The biggest key for me is browning the meat well," says alanbarnes. "Not just cooking it until it loses its reddish color, but subjecting it to very high heat (skillet, broiler, gas grill, blowtorch, whatever) until it has a really good mahogany-colored crust on the outside."

Seasoning is also vital. "Don't underestimate the role of salt in your stew," advises TorontoJo. "Salt and pepper the meat before browning it. Salt the stew while it's cooking, taste it after the salt has had a chance to blend in, add more salt if you think it needs it. I also like to use soy sauce to add saltiness and an extra boost of umami."

Richly flavored braising liquid helps. Hounds like to use good beef stock, especially in combination with fruity red wine or a stout or ale. "Guinness is a magical ingredient paired with beef," says kattyeyes, while joonjoon likes Chimay in stew.

Beef stew's flavor can be punched up with umami-rich ingredients. Try minced rehydrated dried mushrooms or powdered dried mushrooms, tomato paste, or Worcestershire sauce. "A few minced anchovies sautéed with the onions after browning the meat give a nice added dimension," says King of Northern Blvd.

For a different spin on the dish, Val recommends this recipe for mahogany beef stew with red wine and hoisin sauce, which she says is "utterly awesome with horseradish mashed potatoes." karykat says the hoisin "adds a sweet-sour-spicy note that is good." Both reduce the hoisin a bit to avoid making the dish too sweet.

Discuss: How to give beef stew more punch?

First Look: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has posted this clip of the new show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which starts airing on ABC in March. The premise: Jamie Oliver goes to Huntington, West Virginia, the unhealthiest town in America, to convince residents to change the way they eat. From the looks of the sobbing chef in the clip below, his mission to "start the biggest food revolution this country has ever seen" may have been harder than he expected.

Crazy for Eggplant

Eggplant is great as the base for a dip or spread. "Eggplant roasted into submission, minced garlic, mayo, salt, pepper" is the_MU's simple recipe. "That's it," says the_MU. "Serve with warm pita, or eat with spoon." eight_inch_pestle purées roasted eggplant with Parmesan, minced parsley, and garlic, and stirs in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Baba Ghanoush is karianne's favorite, "hands down."

Jetgirly likes eggplant-heavy Thai-style roasted vegetables (she uses yellow curry paste).
cheesemaestro loves a Northern Burmese recipe from the cookbook Hot Sour Salty Sweet titled the best eggplant dish ever (scroll down).

fearlessemily recommends Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. gourmet wife dresses steamed eggplant with a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, chile sauce or oil, vinegar, and cilantro.

Many hounds love eggplant Parmesan, either made the traditional way with fried eggplant, or with roasted or grilled eggplant, and fearlessemily likes Ina Garten's rich eggplant and tomato gratin.

TorontoJo is a fan of scuzzo's method of cooking eggplant on a waffle iron.

Discuss: Your favorite recipe for eggplant