Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes Hardcover – Nov 1 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Chapters on New York Citys massive ethnic influences ("The Jews," "The Italians," "The Chinese") mingle with ones on various kinds of eating establishments ("Grand Hotel Dining," "Steakhouses," "Hot Dogs") and with sections on "The Corner Bakery" and "The Golden Age of Cocktails" in this sumptuous celebration of Gothams cuisine. Schwartz, a native New Yorker, has been dishing about the citys food for years on the radio, and here he catalogs dishes that are known the world over as well as ones that are nearly extinct. He reveals, for example, that only one bakeryin Brooklynstill makes Nesselrode Pie, a "glorious mound of chocolate-curl-covered rum-, chestnut-, and candied-fruit-flavored Bavarian cream," and that New York Cheesecake is a descendent of the cheesecakes of Eastern Europe. He also includes concise profiles of famous New York foodies, like New York Times critic Craig Claiborne and Lutèce chef-proprietor André Soltner. Scintillating photographs of culinary delights such as Lobster Newberg (created at Delmonicos in the mid-1870s) and Biscuit Tortoni (which, before "the tiramisu explosion," was one of the citys most popular Italian-American desserts) complete this delightful volume.
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About the Author
Chris Callis has been a professional photographer for more than 30 years. He is the photographer of Maury Rubin’s Book of Tarts and Stewart Tabori and Chang’s Alvin Ailey Dance Moves, among other titles.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In 21 chapters, Arthur Schwartz covers NYC's food history. For example, a whole chapter is devoted to Delmonico's, which brought us such well-known dishes as the Delmonico steak, Delmonico potatoes, eggs benedict,and lobster newburg; the restaurant introduced the upper crust to such newfangled ingredients as eggplant and artichokes. The restaurant was important as a see-and-be-seen destination, but its less obvious influences are longer-lasting: it was the first successful a la carte restaurant in the U.S.
Five chapters are devoted to the food and influences of the major (and many) immigrants who came to New York City: the Germans (from delicatessens to Luchows), the Jews (the interview with Sol Kaplan, the original owner of Guss' Pickles, may make the book worth the purchase price), Italians, Irish, Chinese -- you get the idea. Other chapters focus on something historical or quintessentially New York: hot dogs, the glamour years (including the 21 Club), the golden age of cocktails.
Schwartz gives plenty of fun history -- at least it's fun if you have your own memories of Dinty Moore's, or remember your Mom wishing she could go to the Rainbow Room -- as well as a wonderful business and social context (such as the low regard with which the Irish were held in the 1800s, or why Diamond Jim was such a major figure in the City).
Even better, he provides recipes for many of the dishes that make New Yorkers most nostalgic. Everything from the original Thousand Island Dressing (introduced at the Waldorf) to a good knish. I haven't tried any of these, but they do make me swoon. (NYC has a reputation for pizza and bagels; the truth is you can get good versions of these in most major cities. Pickles and knishes, though -- that's another matter.)
All in all, it's entertaining and interesting -- and a lovely way to bring yourself back to childhood. It'll be a likely present for one of my sisters, who lives in California now; it's probably a good present for any of your ex-NYer friends, too.
Would it be as useful for a non-New Yorker? Not quite as much so. My husband grew up on a midwestern farm. Although he lived in NY for a couple of years, and he likes _New York City Food_, this book isn't quite as compelling for him.
The author delves deeply into the history of NYC, and then works his way forwards to the present era - but he spends most of his time and energy covering the topic from the gilded age of the 1890's through the late 1980's. Between those dates he overviews all the most well known and influential restaurants of the day, along with information on who the movers and shakers were, what was served, and how they influenced the trends of the day. The author also includes about 100 classic recipes, from a wide variety of sources, directly relating to the names that he covers.
The author does the job credit - the historical information is meticulous, the recipes authentic (and he even included a recipe index in the back), and the book is well organized and well packed with classic photos and anecdotes, and plenty of New Vork verve and originality.
Want to know the origins of Steak Diane" ? Porterhouse Steak ? Lobster Newberg ? NYC Pizza ? It's all in there.
Just a few minor nits, in no particular (there are really just my own notes, to serve as a memory jog for eventually writing a letter of feedback to the author).
* Seafood (chapt 2): This chapter was already obsolete at the time it was first published. There are no photos of the Fulton Fish Market (gasp), nor is there any significant coverage of it's recent relocation to uptown. That section DEFINITELY needs update and expansion, both text, photos, and recipes.
* Porterhouse: very interesting and nicely done, but it could be expanded a tad to better clarify the distinction (in modern usage) between the Porterhouse, T-Bone, and Sirloin steaks. Many people are confused by those terms, and usage varies from region to region & country to country, so it's important to clarify the New York usage of those terms. The first two (as I'm sure you already know) are cut from opposite ends of the same "short loin" primal, and the third is from the sirloin primal just behind (rumpward) of that.
* Pictures: the pic of a bagel with lox & cream cheese in the front matter should have been repeated on p.119.
* Italian: the Italian section, at 24 pgs, is only given half the page count as the section on Jewish, at 44 pgs. Understandable I suppose, given that the author is Jewish, but it could use some expansion in a future edition ... the section on pizza, for instance, lacks a recipe, and sausage & peppers is given short shrift. Both can be made easily at home, from scratch, either with or without fancy tools & casings.
* Other nations: the sections on more recent contributions by immigrants from other nations could all be expanded by at least a page each, and include a recipe or two ... Japanese (ex: Nobu), Korean (the name of a top restaurant I went to in Queens escapes me ATM), etc.
* Restaurants: Loved all the historial info, but a few of the blurbs end a bit abruptly, without mention of whether or not they were still open at the time of this book's publication.
* Recipe Index: I wish that more authors remembered to include them. Minor editorial nit - it should have started on a new page, and been clearly differentiated from the main index with a header of some sort.