Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


REVIEW by Melinda Armstrong

Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York
by William Grimes
North Point Press, September 2010
Paperback 384 pp., ISBN: 978-0374532499

I want to eat fresh New York Harbor oysters from an 1830s street vendor, attend a meal in 1873 so lavish I’m dining on horseback or seated at a table built around a thirty-foot artificial lake, then take an after dinner stroll through a rooftop garden during the summer of 1882. Reading William Grimes’ Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York, I want to experience multiple time periods of New York cuisine. All at once.

Grimes' gastronomical record begins in the early nineteenth century—an era Grimes refers to as a “culinary desert”—when dining out was limited to boarding houses and the occasional tavern. It ends in the present day with popular cooking show celebrities like Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali, and Eric Ripert. And although such a thorough history could easily become dry, Appetite City is a riveting tale with the New York City culinary world as its hero. I cheered the city on at its low points—in 1930 when the Great Depression devastated the dining world, wiping out over thirty percent of Manhattan’s restaurants—and I celebrated each time it reinvented itself, like in the 1960s when a young Alice Waters “translated French values into American terms” by introducing California cuisine.

Grimes explains how social changes such as prohibition and war rationing determined what New Yorkers ate. After the Volstead Act outlawed the sale of alcohol, New Yorkers discovered that “it is possible—just—to enjoy a French dinner without wine, but it is impossible to make one.” The book also highlights the individuals that brought each new culinary wave to New York: the financiers who funded a new style of restaurant, the maître d’hôtel who seated the social elite according to rank, and the immigrants who “did not simply change New York’s taste in dining” but “set the stage, and the tone, for the grand, ongoing spectacle known as Bohem.” The Germans introduced their family-friendly beer gardens, the Italians the revolutionary spaghetti, and in Chinatown, “beyond chop suey, strange marvels awaited.”

Appetite City also tells the true story of a New York that has inspired many fictitious New Yorks. The dinners for the Four Hundred at Delmonico’s were the real-life versions of the social snobbery Edith Wharton’s characters encountered: Mrs. William Astor’s ballroom held four hundred guests, and it was said “if you go outside that number you strike people who are either not at ease in a ballroom or else make other people not at ease.” Grimes’ segment on the 1920s clears up how by patronizing speakeasies, Bertram Wooster was able to drink so much alcohol when he and Jeeves made their odyssey through prohibition America. The book also describes the automats—waiterless restaurants that used the latest in technology to dispense food and drink via vending machines—made famous in Marilyn Monroe’s song about “a girl’s best friend.”

Though Grimes tells his history chronologically, the book divines its strength from his capacity to illuminate each era of food as its own amazing adventure, each with its own lively anecdotes about colorful characters and cutting edge cuisine. No matter where I was in the book, I found myself longing to eat my way across New York City. Now if there were only a way to choose which moment in time to visit.

November 22, 2010