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My Usual Table: A Life in Restaurantsby Colman Andrews
Synopses & Reviews
A vivid portrait of a life lived in food, from renowned food writer and critic Colman Andrews, a founding editor of Saveur, James Beard award winner, and author of the classic cookbooks Catalan Cuisine and The Country Cooking of Ireland
For Colman Andrews, restaurants have been his playground, his theater, his university, his church, his refuge. From his Hollywood childhood through his days in the music business, his first forays into restaurant reviewing, and his ever-evolving career as a food writer and magazine editor—not to mention the course of his obsessive traveling and complicated personal life—he has seen the world mostly from the dining room. Now, in My Usual Table, Andrews interweaves his own story with intimate tales of the seminal restaurants and the great chefs and restaurateurs of our time who are emblematic of the revolutions large and small that have forever transformed the way we eat, cook, and feel about food.
In sixteen chapters, each anchored by the story of his love affair with a cherished restaurant, Andrews evokes the unforgettable meals he has eaten over a lifetime, and the remarkable people with whom he has shared them, tracing the evolution not just of our restaurants but our whole food culture. Beginning with a postwar childhood spent in the banquettes of Chasen's, the glamorous Old Hollywood hangout where studio heads and celebrities rubbed shoulders, Andrews charts a course through the psychedelic '60s, when both he and Americans at large fell for the novel "ethnic" food at spots like neo-Polynesian Trader Vic's or Mexican institution El Coyote. As Andrews began traveling for his burgeoning writing and magazine career in the '70s and '80s, he spent countless hours in the family-run cafés of Paris and trattorias of Rome. The timeless dishes so common on their menus, focused on local and seasonal ingredients, would not only come to profoundly influence Andrews's palate, but also transform the American foodscape forever. Andrews's unparalleled access to the world of food positioned him perfectly as an intimate witness to the rise of revolutionary restaurants like Spago and El Bulli.
From Andrews's usual table, he has watched the growth of nouvelle cuisine and fusion cuisine; the explosion of the organic and locavore movements; the rise of nose-to-tail eating; and so-called molecular gastronomy. The bistros, brasseries, and cafés he has loved have not only influenced culinary trends at home and abroad, but represent the changing history and culture of food in America and Western Europe. And all along the way, Andrews has been right there in the dining room, menu in one hand and notebook in the other.
"A fond salute to many of his favorite culinary haunts marks this charming autobiographical omnibus by accomplished cookbook author, longtime reviewer, and cofounder of Saveur, Andrews (The Taste of America; The Country Cooking of Italy). In his lively, frank prose, Andrews unfurls a lifetime of intuitive restaurant searching, from being introduced to the West Hollywood 'hobo' chic of Chasen's by his parents when he was growing up in L.A. in the late 1940s and '50s — where he first got the idea that a table in a restaurant could 'belong' to somebody — to his New York City power 'canteen' next to his Saveur office, Eleven Madison Park, to various far-flung legendary spots in Rome (Piccolo Mondo), Paris (Aux Amis du Beaujolais), even Nenagh, Ireland (Country Choice). Over the decades these establishments imparted to the evolving critic and cook a sense of the exotic occasion (the original Beverly Hills Trader Vic's), as well introduction to the exciting new flavors of Mexican food, banned in his childhood home (El Coyote CafÃ© in L.A.), or where the then-long-haired 'hippie' author first discovered he loved herring and other grown-up tastes (Scandia, in West Hollywood). At CafÃ© Swiss in Beverly Hills he learned to get serious about wines, and as a fledgling freelance critic in the 1970s and '80s ventured overseas for rapturous epiphanies in Venice or Barcelona, among other locales. Andrews is warmly generous to former colleagues like Ruth Reichl and Saveur cofounders Dorothy Kalins and Christopher Hirsheimer, as they all began to make their culinary and journalist mark. Since many of these restaurants have vanished in the fumes of time, Andrews offers no less than a veritable historical trove." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
My Usual Table is a love letter to the great restaurants that have changed the way we eat—from Trader Vics to Chez Panisse and Spago to elBulli—and a vivid memoir of a life lived in food, from a founding editor of Saveur and James Beard Award-winning writer Colman Andrews.
For reviewer, writer, and editor Colman Andrews, restaurants have been his playground, his theater, his university, his church, his refuge. The establishments he has loved have not only influenced culinary trends at home and abroad, but represent the changing history and culture of food in America and Western Europe. From his usual table, he has watched the growth of Nouvelle Cuisine and fusion cuisine; the organic and locavore movements; nose-to-tail eating; and so-called “molecular gastronomy.”
In My Usual Table, Andrews interweaves his own story—from growing up in the sunset years of Hollywoods golden age to traveling the world in pursuit of great food—with tales of the restaurants, chefs, and restaurateurs who are emblematic of the revolutions great and small that have forever changed the way we eat, cook, and think about food.
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