If comics are a newcomer to the food-narrative scene, memoirs and other books certainly are not — and it just so happens two NYC food critics have recently joined the confessional narrative fray. Danyelle Freeman, a.k.a. Restaurant Girl, recently released Try This: Travel the Globe Without Leaving the Table, which is part memoir and mostly a primer on the most commonly found cuisines around these parts, from Chinese to Mexican to British to Vietnamese. Meanwhile, Village Voice restaurant critic Lauren Shockey released her book just last week: Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris is an account of the year she spent cooking around the world. The two are different, but with their global focus there was some overlap. To give you a taste of each read, we’ve stacked the authors up against each other where they weighed in on similar topics.
Who wrote it?
Try This: Danyelle Freeman, Restaurant Girl, former Daily News restaurant critic
Four Kitchens: Lauren Shockey, current Village Voice restaurant critic
Does the author rhapsodize about the roasted meats at Great NY Noodletown?:
Try This: Yes. "Noodletown’s roast duck is excellent, especially the shredded duck with pea shoots, but the roast pork is riveting. When this toothsome, tender meat is on the table, I can focus on nothing else. Fortunately for me there’s many ways to get a fix: I like it sliced over rice, or skimming the surface of a voluptuous noodle soup."
Four Kitchens: More or less. "Soon the table was loaded with a plate of juicy roast pork and roast chicken with ginger-scallion sauce, along with wonton soup with plump shrimp dumplings."
Is a visit to Nha Trang as good as a trip to Vietnam?
Try This: Almost. "My first trip [to Vietnam] was by way of Nha Trang in downtown Manhattan. … I had no idea a restaurant like Nha Trang existed in New York … "
Four Kitchens: Nope. "Nha Trang was our go-to spot for Vietnamese food, and although I loved it, I knew it wouldn’t be the same as actually being in Vietnam."
How many flavors are there in Vietnamese cooking?
Try This: Four. "Vietnamese seasonings fall into four categories: sweet, sour, spicy, or all of the above."
Four Kitchens: Five, according to chef Didier Corlou. "’Sweet, salty, sour, bitter … Fade,’ he said, referring to the French word for blandness."
Is there a sabich shout-out?
Try This: Yep. "Most of the time [at Taim], I just order the sabich, a classic Israeli sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, a hard-boiled egg, and tahini sauce."
Four Kitchens: You bet. "Sabich, one of my favorite dishes … was traditionally eaten for Shabbat breakfast because all the ingredients were cold and prepared the day before."
What about a halvah epiphany?
Try This: Yes. "It’s a many-splendored confection … Miriam used to whip this sweet sesame paste into a satiny mousse."
Four Kitchens: Also yes, but it’s Shockey’s mother. "This is so good, but I normally hate halvah. At least in America, halvah is so thick and chalky. I never would have chosen this, but it’s really delicious … "
Is the French way of eating scorned or embraced?
Try This: Scorned. "I don’t understand why the French aren’t fat. It defies all logic. These people eat cheese, bread, and creamy sauces all day — and don’t even get me started on the inordinate amount of wine they drink. It’s annoying."
Four Kitchens: Embraced. "’Yes, pastries and wine and cheese and bread. I’ll embrace the French paradox of eating lots of fattening foods without gaining weight. And to that, cheers,’ I said, raising my glass of red wine."
Does the author romanticize French breakfast?
Try This: Oui! "I’d pretend I lived in Paris and it was breakfast time. … Not long after I first moved to New York, I dated a man who lived just down the street from Balthazar."
Four Kitchens: Sorta. “I used to [believe] that I’d end up living happily ever after … madly in love with a Frenchman named Jean-Francois or something equally stereotypical … sipping café au lait and reading Le Monde at the nearest café."