City Cuisine

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken are two Midwestern chefs who have served apprenticeships in Michelin-starred restaurants in France. They met while working at the restaurant Le Perroquet in Chicago. Their first project together in Los Angeles was the City Cafe, now called the Border Grill. It is at their City Restaurant, however, that their culinary style has taken definitive shape.

The recipes in CITY CUISINE, developed at City Restaurant, range from the luscious, yet simple-to-make, Chocolate Chip Cheesecake to their many health-conscious vegetable and grilled meat recipes. Feniger and Milliken take old standards and redesign them with a fillip that is purely City: For example, potato chips are replaced by slightly sweeter and more distinctively flavored parsnip chips. Instead of chocolate mousse, there is an elegant, relatively quick chocolate pate simply called City Chocolate. The most ingenious example of this talent for turning the everyday into the gourmet is the recipe for Cupcakes Hostess Style--even better than childhood memories hold them to be.

The body of recipes is divided by traditional cookbook categories (Starters, Entrees, Desserts) and then subdivided with a precision that exemplifies the chefs’ concern with new flavors (one example is the pair of categories entitled “Cool Greens” and “Hot Greens” in the Accompaniments chapter). Feniger and Milliken have also included a helpful glossary of ingredients and techniques and a few mail-order sources for the more exotic ingredients.

There are some drawbacks to CITY CUISINE as a cookbook. One distraction is the murky blue-green color of the book’s paper. While some photographs are included, the book is under-illustrated; for the more complex recipes, a glimpse of the finished product would have been helpful. A few of the recipes also suffer from a lack of clarity in their wording; the Sweet Potato Flan recipe, for example, leaves the cook in doubt as to when the sweet potatoes actually enter into the dish.

All in all, though, CITY CUISINE is a valuable guide to producing attractive and tasty food. Feniger and Milliken are at the forefront of American cuisine, and the recipes in CITY CUISINE are an excellent example of their diverse creativity.