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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Wing Lee is Awesome

Wing Lee Bakery might have some of the best har gow in town, says niki rothman. They’re really big, with thick, tender, lovely rice dough–and they let you taste before ordering. Siu mai is also excellent, bigger than you usually see, with a clean, subtle sweetness. Chunks of rehydrated straw mushrooms add a nice smokiness. Custard tarts are top-notch, and pot stickers are large and delectable. Prices are extremely reasonable–siu mai are 3 for $1.40 and $28 will buy you more than you can carry.

Wing Lee Bakery [Richmond]
503 Clement St., San Francisco

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Superior Take-Out on Inner Clement

Top Class Sicilian Chow at Mezzo Mezzo

rworange is so impressed with Mezzo Mezzo that after only one visit, it’s firmly among her top five restaurants in the Bay Area. This place is a gem, and the food is extraordinary, displaying not only attention to quality but soul.

The name of the restaurant translates as something like “half and half,” and the half-cream of spinach, half-cream of tomato soup is a work of art. Neither soup is assertively flavored, but there is a richness to them that is very soulful and satisfying, especially accompanied by the wonderful bread. Dense yet light, soft, flour-dusted slices of bread are so good rworange wishes they’d open a bakery.

Panini with speck, roasted eggplant, and cheese is outstanding. “I haven’t had a better sandwich even on my trips to Italy,” says rworange. Surprisingly, the vegetarian panini is even better, with pesto, greens, and softly smoky provolone. House-made cannoli are also a standout, thick shells filled with ricotta and the suggestion of candied fruit.

ItaloChick rates the food as truly spectacular, and praises the warm, inviting atmosphere. rworange gives extra points in that area, too, noting that she got great service while inadvertently doing her worst impression of a bag lady.

Mezzo Mezzo Ristorante
1025 C St., San Rafael

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MAJOR Marin gem–Nothing half & half about San Rafael’s Mezzo Mezzo … Top-class Sicilian ciao
Mezzo Mezzo in San Rafael?

Liuzzi’s – Cheese Lovers’ Destination in North Haven

For the best cheese at Liuzzi’s, Louis is your guy. “Ask him about anything in the case,” urges gardencub. “He loves folks who love good cheese and are willing to try.” Ricotta, mozzarella, caciocavallo and basket cheese, among others, are produced in house. Ravioli made with Liuzzi’s smoked ricotta flat out kills, gardencub adds. Alongside the house cheeses is a wide selection of imports. And beyond the cheese department, hounds recommend olives and house-cured meats.

Liuzzi Cheese [New Haven County]
322 State St., between School Ln. and Sackett Point Rd., North Haven, CT

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Good cheese east-of-the-river?

Porridge to the Max

Get top-notch Korean porridge at Bonjuk, says rameniac, who experienced their juk recently for lunch.

The quality of the rice and other ingredients make this place stand out. There’s a mind-boggling selection–we’re not talking about Quaker Oats here. Most are savory porridges filled with generous chunks of abalone and mushroom; or octopus and kimchi, surprisingly delicious; or beef and mushroom. You get a few kinds of kimchi, including water kimchi, with each bowl, and some salty shredded beef.

Make sure to get the Korean plum juice for dessert–flavorful and unusual.

Premium porridge ain’t cheap, however. The least expensive bowl is $8, the most expensive $30–that’s the special abalone, as distinct from the regular abalone, which is a mere $16.

Parking note: Go ahead and park in the “medical plaza” lot behind the building. The restaurant validates.

A completely different school of juk is at San, a beloved dive where the rice porridge is thick and spartan, the abalone’s authenticity a little shady, and you get a (raw) egg to break into the whole thing.

Bonjuk [Koreatown]
3551 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

San/Mountain Cafe [Koreatown]
3064 W. 8th St., Los Angeles 90005

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Oh so genteel porridge

A Chicken in Every Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie at Daily Grill is one of the best around. Wonderfully flaky crust, plenty of white meat, some veg and a rich, rich gravy. They also do a damn good lobster pot pie, with big hunks of lobster in bechamel sauce. Chicken pot pie is $16; lobster is about $19. Look for their promotional fliers, which offer good deals on these dishes.

Henry Moffett’s is a chicken pie place, but the dine-in experience really isn’t worth it. Get a pie to go–they’ve got very tasty chicken, nice gravy and a good, firm crust. The food served at table, on the other hand, seems like it’s been sitting around waiting for a sucker like you. Mashed potatoes are a tiny cloud of starch, and bread a tasteless cottony puff. Biscuits, on the other hand, are top-notch–you can get those to go, too. Chicken pie is about $5.

Clementine, a great spot for baked goods and homestyle take-home entrees for the kitchen-averse gourmet, also offers a chicken pot pie for $9.

Daily Grill [Multiple locations]

Henry Moffetts LA-ish]
16506 Lakewood Blvd., Bellflower

Clementine [Century City]
1751 Ensley Ave., Los Angeles

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Chicken pie challenge
Opinions on lobster pot pie
Lobster pot pie report

Getting the Most from Dried Mushrooms

When you soak dried mushrooms in hot water to rehydrate them, never discard the water, which will be a wonderful mushroomy elixir. Strain it through a sieve lined with dampened paper towels or a coffee filter, and add it to your dish if there’s a liquid component (e.g., in soup or risotto). If you can’t use it right away, the soaking liquid is worth freezing for later use.

If your dried shiitakes (Chinese black mushrooms) have stems attached, cut them off after the mushrooms are rehydrated, but don’t toss them, either. They’re too tough and fibrous to eat, but they have lots of flavor and can be used, along with strained soaking liquid, to flavor a stock or broth.

CindyJ uses marsala, madeira or sherry to reconstitute dried porcini, then strains it and uses it in her recipe. Chicken stock is another makes another double-duty mushroom soaking medium.

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dried mushrooms

Minestrone Secrets

Chowhounds share their favorite ways to add extra deliciousness to a pot of minestrone:

Barilla brand mini penne are the perfect pasta to use, because if you’ve got leftovers, it doesn’t expand in the soup overnight like most do, says coll.

Jazz up your minestrone by adding crushed red pepper flakes and/or worcestershire sauce. Or drizzle a bit of truffle oil over the individual bowls at serving time.

Save rinds from Parmesan cheese in your freezer and throw them in your pot of minestrone–they add an amazing depth of flavor.

C70 makes a paste of garlic, chopped parsley, parmesan, and olive oil and adds a spoonful to each portion when serving.

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Olives from the Deli Bar – Good Tip

Lots of markets have nice selections of olives in brine in the deli area. Since they’re priced by weight, drain off the brine; you can make your own to keep the olives in. A scant tablespoon of non-iodized salt to a pint of water should do the trick. They’ll keep well in the fridge in this solution.

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Storing Olives from a Market’s Olive Bar

Popped Amaranth Seeds

Amaranth seeds can be popped much like popcorn. The seeds are much smaller than popping corn, and make a delightful crunchy topping. It’s highly nutritious, gluten free, and contains lots of protein. Health food stores carry the seeds. grocerytrekker says they taste a bit like Rice Krispies, but more delicious. In Mexico, they make a popped amaranth treat called “alegrias.” The popped seeds are bound together with a sweet solution, like Rice Krispies treats.

All you need to pop your own amaranth seeds is a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Get the pan very hot, add a few tablespoons of seeds, clap the lid on, and keep shaking the pan until the popping stops. Some will be “duds,” but they’re good to eat too.

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popcorn vs. popamaranth

Let’s Get Small

Nanotechnology, the creation of “machines” on a very, very small scale, like the size of a molecule, has ramifications for the foods you eat.

Michael Pollan must be spinning in his … office chair at the thought of some of the enhancements that scientists are coming up with for familiar foods An article titled “Future Foods: Friend or Foe?” on the BBC website quotes researchers who “promise to promote better eating by designing innovative products, such as milk that uses nanoparticles to make it taste just like cola.”

‘By adding these sensations, children will start drinking it who don’t like normal milk,’ he promises.

Other scientists are working on boosting the nutritional value of food ingredients, and on droplets that consist of fat on the outside and water on the inside for making products like mayonnaise lower in fat.

Some researchers are sounding the alarm on nanotech foods, noting that nano-sized chunks of stuff could penetrate human cells. Not surprisingly, the article also notes that foods made with nanoscience are already on sale in the U.S.