My Usual Table

My Usual Table

A Life in Restaurants

Book - 2014
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My Usual Table is a love letter to the great restaurants that have changed the way we eat--from Trader Vic's 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 Hollywood's 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.

Publisher: New York : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.
ISBN: 9780062136473
Branch Call Number: 647.95092 ANDRE
Characteristics: 322 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Life in restaurants

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ksoles Jul 18, 2014

Restaurant critic, journalist, co-founder of Saveur and cookbook author Colman Andrews has dominated the food-and-drink scene for four decades. His newest book, "My Usual Table," reads like a stroll down memory lane with stops at the small eateries, fancy establishments and places in between that have most profoundly influenced him.

The memoir begins in a lighthearted style with the author recalling his childhood in Los Angeles, inauspicious for someone who would become a serious connoisseur. He did eat out often with his family though home fare included “Franco-American spaghetti with meatballs, and Chef Boyardee beef ravioli….We also had a lot of Spam." There follows a sweet and promising chapter on Chasen’s, the Los Angeles restaurant where Andrews discovered mid-20th-century upscale American cooking and, moving forward in time, the author gives warm, readable salutes to a number of friends and food places: the Ranch House, El Coyote (aka "a Chuck E. Cheese for adults”) and the Adriatic.

Unfortunately, as Andrews's status in the food world rises, so does his sense of entitlement. His writing becomes tedious as he replaces the fun both with “the challenge of reconciling sensual pleasure with political belief” and with celebrity worship. Even more irritatingly, Andrews gets loud about his romantic office relationships, which he ironically kept mum in real life: “we had become a couple, though we made sure that nobody at the office knew.”

By the end of the book, Andrews's self-pity inspires no sympathy. “My problem, of course, was that I was a decade or so ahead of the times” he writes. Such forward thinking proves to be the least of his problems.

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