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

An Illustrated History of Fast Food Agony

The picture-worth-a-thousand-words thing has been beaten into the ground, but there's something to it. In 80 tiny panels, cartoonist KC Green manages to capture almost every aspect of the fast-food worker experience: the terror, the humiliation, the constant struggle to remember to include the straws. Green's minimalist but highly accurate strip depicts a new trainee worker at a McSomething Or Other dealing with the pressure of customers, his boss, and the "Skull of Regret," a wall-mounted screaming skull that points out whenever he forgets a particular item in an order.

Meanwhile, if that's too heavy for you, the strip Wondermark has a tremendous brainstorm about the best way to eat Cheetos.

Perbacco’s Little Sister Debuts

At Barbacco, you're spoiled for choice—and probably pretty confused, looking at the 10-section menu (plus desserts and drinks) and trying to decipher Italian terms such as latte stagionato (that's "aged milk," i.e., cheese). But with delectable small plates and interesting wines available as a taste or enough to share, you'll enjoy testing the options, hounds say. It's more casual than its older sibling, Perbacco, but the stylishly renovated space is plenty nice enough for an informal night out.

"Barbacco falls in the same food-ecology niche as Pizzeria Delfina: informal, counter seating, slightly more expensive, no pizzas, but a good change of pace, young financial district types instead of Mission techy gentry," observes Thomas Nash.

Here you'll find what Robert Lauriston says are "the best Brussels sprouts ever," fried in duck fat with anchovies and capers. "More like chips than a vegetable," comments ourswimmer, who still agrees they're spectacular.

A selection of the house-made salumi is available in two sizes; its contents vary but if you're lucky you'll get ciccioli, which is like Sicilian rillettes. The duck liver pâté bruschetta also gets top marks. If you like head cheese, the testa here is awesome, says Robert Lauriston. And for a fun starter, check out the pork-stuffed olives.

Robert also was wowed by the luscious quick-braised squid, while RichInMV loved the homey comfort of the polpette (meatballs) and the mussels with njuda, chile, and garlic. Sopping up the sauce on that one with toast is really the best part, he says. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and anchovy is first-class, says Thomas Nash.

Lunch is a good time to go for the fennel-crusted porchetta with grape agrodolce. "As a sandwich it was as incredible as Roli Roti's," Thomas Nash says. Another hound reported the dinner version being dry; according to DezzerSF's inside source, that may be because it's roasted in the morning.

The wine list offers great value (Robert Lauriston recommends the $33 Becker-Landgraf 2007 Pinot Noir) and drinking options from a 3-ounce taste to a 6-ounce glass to 250-milliliter or 500-milliliter carafes.

Incidentally, Ruth Lafler observes that rather than being distracted by running Barbacco, Perbacco is "firing on all cylinders these days.... there seems to be some kind of synergy going on."

Barbacco [Financial District]
230 California Street, San Francisco

Discuss: Barbacco
My weekend trip in review. Thanks so much for the great advice and suggestions!

Gaga Sandwich with Beyonce on the Side

Some fine sandwich-making tips to be found in Lady Gaga and Beyonce's most recent video, for "Telephone." Also notable: smokin' sunglasses, half-naked prison dancing, and the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill.

Green Wine Is Good (or Can Be)

Green Wine Is Good (or Can Be)

Herbaceous and leafy does not have to mean underripe. READ MORE

French Food from a Truck? Oui!

All rightie, the early reports last year on Spencer on the Go, a mobile truck from the Chez Spencer folks, were dubious. How are you going to eat frog legs off a paper plate while standing in a parking lot? It turns out the key is to grab your food and retreat to the wine bar across the street, "a very popular activity," notes Paul H.

Some of the food is still not so mobile friendly, but one brilliant invention is the escargot lollipop: escargot encased in puff pastry with garlic butter, on a stick. "Puffy, light, yet also delicious and filling," says vulber. You get two for $2, a more impressive deal than the $12 foie gras torchon. It's good stuff—“what can I say, Chez Spencer knows how to make foie," Robert Lauriston says—but not a great value in terms of portion size.

Although Robert has had issues with soggy crusts, SteveG had amazing white prawns on beautifully browned puff pastry and "delicious subtle spicing to the prawns, cooked perfectly." vulber's favorite was the port-braised lamb cheek sandwich, "by far the best sandwich I've ever had, and one of the best pieces of lamb." It's bursting with flavor, and just $10.

The "warm pudding" is underwhelming, vulber says, but "I still had an incredible 3-course French meal for $17," and you sure can't beat that.

Spencer on the Go [SOMA]
300 Seventh Street, San Francisco
No phone available

Discuss: Spencer on the Go – some of the best French food around
Spencer on the Go truck

Kimchee by the Bay

Stone Korean Kitchen seems to have gotten over its early-days kinks and is now a reliable place for good Korean food, says liamettocs, who's eaten there several times. Soondubu stew is wonderful, liamettocs says, with silken tofu and a generous amount of seafood (shrimp, clams, and squid). Bibimbap is excellent (the house specialty version is served in a hot stone bowl), and the Korean fried chicken wings with a tasty sauce get a thumbs-up.

david de berkeley, who tried Stone shortly after it opened late last fall, also liked the soondubu and noted that while portions are smaller than at your average East Bay Korean joint, Stone uses good-quality ingredients. He likes the kim bap, which are like sushi rolls with beef instead of fish. The kimchee is good, david says, but you only get three kinds of banchan (side dishes) with your meal. Endless refills, though.

Stone Korean Kitchen [Embarcadero]
Four Embarcadero Center, San Francisco

Discuss: Stone Korean Kitchen
Stone Korean Kitchen (Four Embarcadero Ctr, Street Level), SF - any reports?

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"After a month eating in China, Chef Liu was the first place I ate that brought back the memories." - bbulkow

"When we walked through the door at 9:30 am, I could float on the aromas of falling-off-the-bone porkiness." - Cynsa on the posole at El Delfin

"Velvety chunks of white and dark boneless chicken meat, precise little cubes of carrots and potatoes with an intensely chicken cream gravy with a luxurious mouthfeel..." - Melanie Wong on the biscuit-topped chicken pot pie at P/30

Breast Cheese, Famine-Based Marketing, and Biggie Smalls

Breast Practices: NY chef Daniel Angerer starts making cheese from his wife’s breast milk, and serving it as a part of a canapé with figs at his Chelsea restaurant, Klee Brasserie.  Kinda gives the expression “know thy producer” a whole new meaning. via New York Post

Operation Snake Oil Salesman: The FDA sends warning letters to several food makers for having “misleading” healthy claims on their labels, including Diamond nuts, Drumsticks, and POM.  Some wonder if the feds went overboard: who really thinks Drumsticks are healthy? via MedicineNet READ MORE

Making Italian Gnocchi with Grandma Paola

Play Video

Granddaughter Isabella helps Nonna Paola Bagnatori make potato gnocchi with tomato-porcini sauce. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Friskies Cat Food Makes Your Cat Have Visions

Um. I'm not sure what to say to introduce this, but apparently the Friskies cat food company would have us believe that popping open a can of their animal-based protein slurry sends your cat into a sensory wonderland with floating cloud windmills, golden fish-shaped sailboats, dancing turkeys, and cows with bangs.