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by: Andrew F. Smith
New York NY:
Oxford University Press 2015, $34.95, Paperback
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(2)
Subtitled: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City, this volume is huge and finds room for fish wriggling in Chinatown baskets and other ethnic foods. There are more than seven hundred pages written by more than one hundred seventy-five contributors. In this volume is also Weber’s Memory of a Chinese Restaurant and more to chow down on in Gotham, New York’s Big Apple. This banner volume is big and belongs on everyone’s shelf should they be living in or coming into the Big Apple!
Comprehensive, fascinating, and informative, it is a wonderful alphabetic guide to New York City’s rich culinary history. Included is considerable information about Chinese and other ethnic foods and ethnic eateries worth knowing about. Smith and his collaborators highlight foods and facts in this most extraordinary city. They span food, culture, history, geography, and its people. Read about them and savor the largest and most dense concentration of ethnic and regional foods in the world.
We have spent hours reading about them and learned a lot even though we grew up here. Read about the many tastes and treats on its many pages. Then wander and taste them, as we recently did. Dig in to the many Chinese, Asian, and other ethnic eateries worth hoofing to and enjoy. They are an ever-changing kaleidoscope of bodegas, chop suey shops, delis and diners, oyster palaces, and shacks, and the high-end restaurants, too.
We saw and savored Gotham’s fine food, even gulped lots of it down. We watched people filling themselves up and enjoying lots of its food, and we joined them at places that make this city what it is. We savored its pizza, paper-bags snacks, pasta, and its pockets of food. We gobbled up items from Greek, Halal, and Uckranian food trucks, downed drinks and delights at coffee shops and green markets, bit into buffets and other gastronomic biggies, and we also went to small ones where we relished and relied on what they had to offer.
When this book first arrived, we sat reading it for several hours until pangs of hunger moved us to get on the Long Island Railroad and try some of its offerings. We indulged in fast food dining and deluxe dinners before going back to its mesmerizing pages.
We read more about the chop suey carts, Chinese food in Five Points, Brooklyn, Queens, and Harlem, and we did chow down at places and on plates we knew not. Some were in Little Italy where we savored foods in grocery stores, others were in nearby dim sum parlors we never heard of. We went to restaurants we knew but not the one where folk were enjoying a Thanksgiving Day wedding dinner. We found commercial kitchens, cherished communities, and haute cuisine houses; we even signed up for a walking and tasting tour, but not one with David Chang or Andrew Coe. We wanted and did fill up on several occasions in several boroughs; and we are glad we did.
Treating ourselves to tasting the excitement and diversity of this great city, we know we need to return again and again, and very soon. We agree with Molly O’Neill who says on its rear cover: “I’ve never met an encyclopedia that I wanted to eat.” But from this one she did and we did as it made us hungry. We want to change her statement because it has more food information than most books. We are glad she said “Bravo.” We say “this is the best gastronomic guide ever” so rush out and get a copy and indulge in its many suggestions, caloric though some of them are!
Many have come, stayed, and increased foods in this gem of a city. They have increased the many delicious things to chow down on. This paperback deserves your culinary dollars and your time so you will learn about them all. Indulge in its delicious dietary diversity. Eat, dine, have dinners, and discover the many places in its culinary universe. Feed from the food facilities and share them with friends.
Andrew Smith and his crew found many to tell you about, and you will have many to tell others about. Enjoy them, fill your belly and brain from those that more than eight million folk go to to have food in its fifty thousand eateries. Put them at your fingertips, eat your fill and fill their coffers thanks to their wonderful food. Read and relish all Gotham has to offer dining on its magnum of delicious dietary; many are spectacular so indulge yourself!