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This profile of Tyler Cowen’s food criticism appeared in the Washington Post on June 20, 2001. Tyler Cowen scoots the saucer of smoky Chinese chicken over by the guo tie pot stickers, but the waitress still can’t find homes for the flaky thousand-layer pancake or the bowl of xue cai ro si mian — noodle soup with shredded pork and mustard greens. She could just squeeze the dim sum plates into the corner of Cowen’s little table at Annandale’s A&J Restaurant, except that’s where he stowed the shredded bean curd and gooey boiled peanuts when the cai ro wonton arrived five minutes ago. This is Tuesday night for Cowen, a 39-year-old economics professor at George Mason University who writes about ethnic cuisine for fun. “I’ll order something just to try a bite of it,” Cowen explains on his fourth trip to A&J in seven days. “Once I’ve been to a restaurant five times, I don’t try things as much.” Cowen will return to A&J (4316 Markham St., Annandale; 703-813-8181) for another dinner the next night after Colombian chicken in the afternoon. Thursday will be a Thai lunch and sushi dinner. Friday: Indian and Vietnamese. Then Indian again, Middle Eastern, Turkish, Chinese and Thai. All of which is taking Cowen away from his latest hot spot, a fish-and-chips restaurant near his Falls Church home that specializes in Persian. Cowen’s pace through Washington’s ethnic restaurants may seem frantic, even in a region enamored with foreign food. But his approach — analytical, methodical and often solitary — is distinctly academic. So is the goal: publication. Tucked into an obscure corner of the George Mason Web site, “Tyler Cowen’s Guide to Ethnic Dining” offers short, breezy and sometimes catty reviews of 231 area restaurants spanning 73 cuisines. “Exactly the sort of place you don’t expect to find in Northern Virginia. Real Wiener Schnitzel, for one thing,” Cowen writes of Alexandria’s Cafe Monti (3250 Duke St., Alexandria; 703-370-3632). “The food has a strongly European feel, yet the place looks like a bit of a dive.” For a decade, Cowen has quietly eaten his way through Washington’s rise to the top tiers of ethnic cuisine — employing his generous appetite and economist’s eye to follow the climb. “Restaurants manifest the spirit of capital multiculturalism,” he writes in the first line of his 14,000-word guide, which can be found at www.gmu.edu/jbc/Tyler/ethnic.html. “Entrepreneurship, international trade and migration, and… Read more…