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    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
    *****
    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
    *****
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
    *****
    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
    ***
    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
    ***
    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
    ***
    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

Chinese Noodle Showdown

With K & I on extensive clothing and eating budgets, we’ve been trying to find the best food for the least amount of money. Chinatown is great for this because (beware – stereotype approaching!) Chinese people don’t care about things like ambiance, personal space and service. They care most about the food. More importantly, they care about the TASTE of food, not worrying so much about where the chicken came from, what it was fed and if it was shoved into a pen with a million other little chickens.

Hey, don’t cry fowl (get it? get it? *sigh*) for making such broad generalizations. This comes straight from my Shanghai born in-laws.

So with that in mind, we’ve recently been spending a great deal of our restaurant eating in places with names like Dumpling House, New Chao Chow, Big Wing Wong, Lan Zhou, Super Taste and Great NY Noodletown. At these places it is possible to get a big bowl of noodles with your choice of meat for between $3 and $5 and 10 dumplings for $2-$3. At a couple of them (Lan Zhou & Super Taste), the hand-pulled noodles are made right before your eyes.

And to be honest, they are all pretty good. I think Super Taste is the best with Lan Zhou at a close second, followed by Big Wing Wong, New Chao Chow and Dumpling House and at the end is Noodletown (though they have a much more extensive menu). I could eat many meals at any of these places. Sure, sometimes it feels like you’re in a shack (Lan Zhou) and you have to get used to the spirit of the service (which doesn’t bother me at all), but all in all they are some great values.

Compare this to the fancy Korean place I went to last night: Persimmon. $50/person for the four-course prix fixe menu, not including drinks. Sure, the food was good and the service was great but I almost prefer the simple and honest meal of noodles to the show and service of the four-star types.

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