In Praise of Diner Hamburgers

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The burger at Square Diner arrives disassembled--garnish it as you will.

One strange aspect of the Age of Foodism has been the fetishization of the humble hamburger. This has occurred for a variety of reasons: Cash-strapped restaurateurs have increasingly glamorized burgers because they're an asset to cash-flow, since a pound of burger is much cheaper than a pound of steak, and increasingly fewer of us can afford to eat steak in a restaurant. Also, our gourmet approach to feeding ourselves has led us to explore new and novel ways to make a more luxurious patty, so that now a hamburger made with plain supermarket ground beef is becoming a rarity. As is finding one that's been cooked much beyond an almost tartare-like state, oozing bloody juices and requiring several napkins to eat.

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What Can You Do About the Coming Cicada Invasion? Eat them! (With Recipes)

Wikipedia/Bruce Martin
The common cicada, as it looks just before you eat it

Unless you've been hiding underground for the last few months, you probably already know that New York City is due for a cicada invasion. Indeed, the cicadas themselves have been concealed deep in the dirt as they've undergone their 17-year life cycle, and are only emerging for the purpose of having sex with other cicadas - which might make the coming infestation seem even more gross. Imagine a sky darkened with flying pests, splooging indiscriminantly from the skies. What can you do besides hiding in your apartment and waiting for the cicadas to leave? Eat them!

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A Barbecue Run Through Three Boroughs With Texas Monthly's Daniel Vaughn

Categories: BBQ!, Sietsema

The beef rib at Mighty Quinn's is so big, it must be butchered with a plastic knife.

It's not uncommon in barbecue states to do an extreme barbecue run that includes three or four pits in an extended afternoon of gorging, driving, sightseeing, and breaks along the way for bursts of healthful exercise. Well, a group of barbecue enthusiasts, including myself and New York Times critic Pete Wells, set out on such a run in New York City yesterday, dubbed the Convince a Texan Tour, stopping at four barbecues over a period of seven hours and eating lots of pie and drinking the stray beer and cocktail along the way. The occasion was the release of Daniel Vaughn's new book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, which details his own barbecue excursions from one end of Texas to the other. The book is the first in a series of food volumes being published by Anthony Bourdain.

Daniel Vaughn and Anthony Bourdain will be discussing Vaughn's new book tonight at Barnes & Noble Union Square, 33 East 17th Street, at 7 p.m.

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It's Spring in Japan, Time for Sakura Matcha Kit Kat

This addictive, green-tinted candy bar is available only during cherry-blossom season, and only in Japan.

Japanese are inordinately fond of Kit Kat candy bars, partly because the name is similar to a Japanese phrase that means "You will win." To that end, Kit Kats are often given as presents on auspicious occasions, and the box shown above has a panel on the back that functions as a gift tag, allowing you to give it to a friend as a sort of encouragement for an upcoming event. But the most popular form of the candy is not the chocolate-coated bar Americans are familiar with, but a green-tea-flavored version based on white chocolate.

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Our 10 Best Restaurants in Elmhurst, Queens

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The southern Mexican food is fine at El Jalapeno, but maybe you'd rather go for the opulent nachos regulares, shaped like a sunflower.

To look at the neighborhood today, with its bustling commercial strips, tidy frame houses, apartment towers, and plentiful parks, you wouldn't know Elmhurst was founded in 1652, when it was named Newtown. By the 19th century, the wafting stink of Newtown Creek caused the town elders to rethink the name, and they came up with Elmhurst--a rather poetic moniker that stuck. The town became part of New York City when it was consolidated into the new borough of Queens in 1898.

Today, only the random twisting and abrupt turns of the streets of Elmhurst recall its colonial heritage. More important, the town became home to one of the broadest collection of ethnicities in New York, as immigrants from 111 foreign countries arrived in the 1980s, making Elmhurst one of city's best places to eat. So hop on the R train, and join us in a tour of the best and most interesting restaurants in the neighborhood.

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Monday: Our 10 Best Restaurants in Elmhurst, Queens

Categories: Featured, Sietsema

This do-it-yourself cold rice noodle dish from Ayada provides you with pickled mustard greens, sprouts, fried pig skin, dried chiles, and an incendiary soup for pouring and dipping. It's great, but will it be great enough to catapult the restaurant into our top 10 for the neighborhood?

As one of five Chinatowns in NYC, Elmhurst is perhaps the most diverse, with not only Cantonese, Hong Kong, Sichuan, Taiwanese, and Mandarin hot-pot places, but with all sorts of other Asian restaurants, too, including Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese, and Korean. But that's not all. The region also boasts plenty of Southern Mexican places, as well as Argentine, Colombian, and Dominican cafes. We've spent the last three weeks eating our way through the neighborhood to make sure our list is solid, but don't hesitate to throw in your two cents if you disagree with our ranking.

So please tune in bright and early Monday morning for Our 10 Best Restaurants in Elmhurst, Queens. In the meantime, check out our index of neighborhood 10 Best lists.

Il Cantuccio Debuts Killer Porchetta Sandwich

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Il Cantuccio's porchetta sandwich, served on focaccia made in-house

Christopher Street's Il Cantuccio bakery is the first American branch of a venerable Florentine institution, an oven specializing in the salt-free bread of Tuscany. Tasting wonderfully bland on its own, this bread is of infinite utility in making bread salads and bread soups, but it also works well with crostini and bruschetti -- in which the toppings are so salty that the salt-free product makes complete sense. In addition to this extraordinary bread, an array of biscotti, bakery pizzas, and unusual breakfast pastries (some containing giant chunks of dark chocolate) also fly out of the oven.

Now, among the small collection of simple sandwiches offered on homemade focaccia, one featuring porchetta is the latest and most delicious.

[Update: This sandwich will be regularly available on Saturdays and Sundays from here on.]

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Second Annual Momo Crawl Launches in Jackson Heights

Nepalese momo of the type known as kothey, at Lali Guras

Momo are Himalayan dumplings, usually round and puckered, but sometimes oblong with a ridge on top. They can be either steamed or fried, and can be stuffed with a variety of substances, often including lamb and onions. Over the last decade, the number of Tibetan, Nepalaese, and other Himalayan eateries has skyrocketed in Jackson Heights, in an area long dominated by Indian restaurants. In celebration of the humble-but-extraordinarily-tasty dumpling, a momo crawl will be held Sunday, May 19, at 1:30 p.m.

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Don't Miss the $22 Cypriot Tasting Menu at Kopiaste Taverna

Sweep up the stairs and into the spacious dining room to begin your tasting menu of short plates from Cyprus.

Astoria newcomer Kopiaste ("Come in and sit down") Taverna presents the Greek cooking of the island of Cyprus, which is much closer to Turkey and Syria than to the other Greek islands. You won't be surprised to hear that the cuisine has all sorts of Turkish and Middle Eastern elements, making it one of the most interesting in the Mediterranean. The best way to experience it is with Cyprus Meze, a tasting menu that presents 17 dishes for the incredible price of $22 per person, along with toasted pitas and French bread. Here is the selection on a recent evening--you won't go away hungry.

Read the entire Counter Culture review of Kopiaste Taverna here.

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Introducing the Chinger

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Believe it or not, this chinger is vegetarian.

The idea was popularized by Momofuku Ssam Bar and by Xi'an Famous Foods--sandwiches featuring lamb or pork in a steamed or baked bao with pickled vegetables and a thick, sweet soy sauce. The idea might have occurred spontaneously in several places, because Taiwanese do something similar. Now, a new Taiwanese restaurant called Chinger--an offshoot of a next-door hot-pot place--is debuting a bao burger joint in the shadow of Elmhurst's LIRR tracks.

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