From Publishers Weekly
Editor Hughes skims the cream off a year's worth of culinary journalism in the latest annual. As with previous editions, Hughes captures the gastronomic zeitgeist in a broad range of essays; she opens strong with Timothy Taylor's witty take on connoisseurs and gourmands, an examination of the slow and raw food movements, and a vendor's take on farmers' markets. Though some topics, like legendary steak houses and the neighborhood diner, have been done to death, they're carried by the quality of the writing. John DeLucie's sardonic account of his truffled macaroni and cheese, as well as Tim Carman's brilliant "How Not to Hire a Chef," are the kind of slice-of-life tales that deserve a wider audience, and make up for the volume's misses (Margaret McArthur's take on cooking the perfect soft-boiled egg, Lettie Teague's piece on wine scams). Other crowd-pleasers include Calvin Trillin's quest for the best barbecue in Texas and Robb Walsh's all-too-short examination of a classic pairing: oysters with martinis. This is a sound reader for those looking to catch up on trends in the culinary world, but foodies already immersed in the culture are sure to find some overlooked gems.
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Look past the tinge of hyperbole, and Timothy Taylor makes a good point in the opening essay to this culinary collection when he asks, Who in the Western world isn’t a foodie now? He’s not complaining about crowded elbow room in the clubhouse of the elitely palated but, rather, pointing out that perhaps more than ever the simple act of consuming fuel has become a pervasive cultural obsession, bursting forth from glossy magazines, chic cookbooks, and more TV shows than an entire network devoted to food can carry. In this collection, just about every level of culinary curiosity gets a chance to shine, from Rachel Hutton’s ode to Spam to Mark Caro’s infiltration of underground foie gras cults. It’s patently ludicrous to state, as Eric LeMay does in his piece lamenting the FDA’s death grip on pasteurization, that when you eat cheese, you mainline the uncut elixir of life, but damn if it doesn’t make you want to rush to your nearest fromager, or at least make you wish you had one to begin with. --Ian Chipman