A vivid portrait of a life lived in food, from renowned food writer and critic Colman Andrews, a founding editor of Saveur, James Beard award winner, and author of the classic cookbooks Catalan Cuisine and The Country Cooking of Ireland
For Colman Andrews, restaurants have been his playground, his theater, his university, his church, his refuge. From his Hollywood childhood through his days in the music business, his first forays into restaurant reviewing, and his ever-evolving career as a food writer and magazine editor--not to mention the course of his obsessive traveling and complicated personal life--he has seen the world mostly from the dining room. Now, in My Usual Table, Andrews interweaves his own story with intimate tales of the seminal restaurants and the great chefs and restaurateurs of our time who are emblematic of the revolutions large and small that have forever transformed the way we eat, cook, and feel about food.
In sixteen chapters, each anchored by the story of his love affair with a cherished restaurant, Andrews evokes the unforgettable meals he has eaten over a lifetime, and the remarkable people with whom he has shared them, tracing the evolution not just of our restaurants but our whole food culture. Beginning with a postwar childhood spent in the banquettes of Chasen's, the glamorous Old Hollywood hangout where studio heads and celebrities rubbed shoulders, Andrews charts a course through the psychedelic '60s, when both he and Americans at large fell for the novel "ethnic" food at spots like neo-Polynesian Trader Vic's or Mexican institution El Coyote. As Andrews began traveling for his burgeoning writing and magazine career in the '70s and '80s, he spent countless hours in the family-run cafes of Paris and trattorias of Rome. The timeless dishes so common on their menus, focused on local and seasonal ingredients, would not only come to profoundly influence Andrews's palate, but also transform the American foodscape forever. Andrews's unparalleled access to the world of food positioned him perfectly as an intimate witness to the rise of revolutionary restaurants like Spago and El Bulli.
From Andrews's usual table, he has watched the growth of nouvelle cuisine and fusion cuisine; the explosion of the organic and locavore movements; the rise of nose-to-tail eating; and so-called molecular gastronomy. The bistros, brasseries, and cafes 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. And all along the way, Andrews has been right there in the dining room, menu in one hand and notebook in the other.