Four Questions With Susan Austin, Owner of the Urban Lobster Shack

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Urban Lobster Shack

The Urban Lobster Shack opened its first food truck late last month. We caught up with Susan Austin, owner of the restaurant, to talk about her new business on wheels, the truck design, and the challenges on managing a seafood business.

There are tons of lobster shops in the city. What distinguishes yours?
We were the first ones to come out with the market-price lobster roll and to make it much more accessible to the public. I'm also not a big fan of cold-lobster-meat pieces. When I order a lobster roll, I want a whole lobster. I've been cooking all my life, and I like to think of myself as a self-taught chef. And to me, there is a lot of love and care that's done when we're making a roll. It should be the best, and it should be accessible. That's why we have our price point.

You guys are constantly serving lobster rolls. How do you keep the seafood fresh?
We never produce too much. Everything is done in very small batches, and we work really fast. I never have anything left over at the end of the day. And in terms of our fries, we cut our fries as we need them. I believe that every part of the production process needs to be fresh from point A to point B. Nothing should be sitting around. We produce in very small batches.

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Barflies Explain the Super Moon at Burp Castle

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Georges Méliès

It was a busy night for our bars what with Derby Day, Cinco de Mayo, and the less-toasted event of the evening: the super moon. I sort of learned about the super moon from the barflies at Burp Castle, where I spent a few quiet hours drinking excellent Belgian beer:

It's the closest the moon has been to Earth in, like, 100 years
Not true. It was 250 miles closer last April.

It's when you can't look at the moon unless you use special glasses

Also not true.

It's like you always get a 14-inch pizza but all of a sudden it's 16 inches *shrug*
My favorite explanation.

It's why I've been feeling so emotional

Well, OK.

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Joe Bastianich on Annoying Dining Trends

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"Sometimes I think that the scale has tipped (and it always does, the pendulum goes left and right) so we're at an extreme right now in ultra-casual, deconstructed restaurants and 'product' dining where you have the burgers, the pizzas--you know, the stuff that you guys put on the cover of the magazine...The mono-product restaurant, like the meatball restaurant or the slider restaurant? Its time will come soon enough, and we'll go back to more traditional menu plans...With four-appetizer, four-entree menus, it's like, give me a break. That's not a restaurant, that's a dinner party." --Joe Bastianich in an interview with Bon Appetit about his upcoming memoir Restaurant Man, published April 24, 2012 online.

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The USA Champion Barista on Her Signature Beverage

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Jeff Oien
The past weekend at the United States Barista Championship in Portland, Katie Carguilo of Counter Culture Coffee defeated 54 other contestants to become the first New Yorker ever to win the competition. This summer, she'll travel to Vienna to represent the United States in the World Barista Championship. She explained the idea behind her winning drink to the Times' Oliver Strand:

"My sig bev was inspired by the fermentation of coffee...I used a mash of nectarine, lemon, jasmine green tea and vinegar, and topped that with the Haru espresso and served it in a Riedel grappa glass. I chose that flute because Ethiopian coffees are, to me, the champagne of the coffee world: Coffee is only indigenous to Ethiopia -- it was carried by hand and planted everywhere else it now grows, so one could make the argument this is the only place true coffee exists."

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On Brooklyn's Food Artisans and Romantics

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Artisan pickles, one of many products under scrutiny
"Area code 718 romantics love to see their hometown's name every time they pull something out of the fridge, to pretend a borough of 2.5 million people is a small English village, to partake of a Shop Class As Soulcraft authenticity that's missing in their Twitter-addled, ­cubicle-drone lives, and to reassure themselves that Brooklyn is more 'real' than Manhattan and not just an annex with shorter buildings. Sightseers from 212 are equally avid buyers: salving their one percent class angst, signaling their membership in the elite tribe of ethical aesthetes, shoring up their idea of Brooklyn as that exotic but taxi-accessible place where all the kooky artists and kids live and create stuff for the adults in Manhattan who actually make the world go around." --From "The Twee Party," Benjamin Wallace's critique of the Brooklyn artisanal-food industry, published in New York on April 15, 2012.

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Chefs v. Yelpers: The Saga Continues

Have chefs finally had it with Yelpers? In Sacramento, the chef/owner of Formoli's Bistro wiled out on Facebook about a negative Yelp review of his restaurant:

"To Chriuh C. from the wonderful site yelp! please pay attention, every review you post involves dinner with mommy and daddy. Apparently, this is the only time you get to dine out, otherwise, you are at Old Spaghetti Factory and leave your palate there. Your parents should be ashamed you you were ever born and they have to take you out to dinner!!!!!!!"

From "Yelp revenge? A chef vents on Facebook," on The Sacramento Bee's Appetizers blog on April 9, 2012.

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV, or me, Alexia Nader, @lexi1602. 

Frank Bruni on Craig Claiborne's Rise to Fame

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"He went from hardscrabble boyhood in Mississippi to high-stepping celebrity in New York, kept a work calendar indistinguishable from a roundelay of indulgence, ate his way around the world while readers hung on every bite, published one best-selling cookbook after another, and made enough money and important contacts to host or be feted with
birthday parties of princely excess." --from "Contentment's Elusive Recipe," by Frank Bruni, published by The New York Times on April 9, 2012

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us on Twitter.

IHOP Bacon Smell Is Driving Some East Village Residents Crazy

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The Cookbook Man
Some East Village residents may never eat bacon again ...
Living near the IHOP on East 14th Street is not a good idea if you don't want your apartment to constantly reek of bacon grease. At least that's what the residents who live near the diner and have been writing to EV Grieve have been saying. One resident of a building behind the IHOP wrote this in an email sent to the website: "Several days will go by without much of a problem, and then the stench will begin again. Sometimes, like this morning, it will just be for an hour or two, but then there will be a couple of days when it is just never-ending. Right now, it's a low-level stale smell. My neighbors and I have repeatedly contacted CB6, the DEP, Rosie Mendez's office, you name it -- IHOP is still stinking up the neighborhood. Please, please don't go to IHOP."

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Civilian Foodie Claims Non-Foodie Status to NYMag

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Dovetail Lambs Tongue.png
Dovetail does lamb's tongue.
​"'I'm not a foodie, I just like what I like,' she says. 'Yes, I know, it's just like hipsters saying, "I'm not a hipster."' (The cliché cracks her up.) 'But it's like when my boss says, "Oh, you're such a foodie." I'm like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don't want to be lumped in with Yelp.'" --Diane Chang in New York magazine's "When Did Young People Start Spending 25% of Their Paychecks on Pickled Lambs Tongues," by Michael Idov

Joe Dobias on the Department of Health's Visit

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