By Meredith Brody
New York Magazine's 40th Anniversary issue (October 6, 2008) packed a lot of fun stuff into its 308 pages, including some with special interest for foodies, including Gael Greene's list of the 14 most important New York restaurants of the last 40 years (Greene being, as she likes to style herself, insatiable, she posted a longer list on her website) and a short piece by her titled The Single Best Meal I Ever Had: In 18,814 Tries (about a shockingly expensive prix-fixe $50 meal back in 1975 at the long-defunct Palace, featuring caviar, truffles, snails, côte de boeuf, éclairs, stuff like that).
But the most fun for food obsessives (you know who you are) is a double-page spread by Underground Gourmet stalwarts Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite titled Enter Edamame, a timeline which tracks the introduction of food trends in New York City from 1968 to 2008.
Interesting to compare and contrast NY-vs-SF experiences, or NY-vs-West Coast. For instance, I've never found a dish of cold sesame noodles in LA or SF to compare with the everyday Empire Szechuan version in NY, which the timeline places in 1970, and a quest for similar noodles here shows up as recently as a few months ago on Chowhound.
Pinkberry frozen yogurt, introduced to LA in 2005, made it to NYC in 2006 - there are now 13 branches there; our first Pinkberry is supposed to open in the Stanford Shopping Mall later this year. Still, barbecue only made it big in NYC around 2005 (issues with venting the smoke), whereas barbecue was sufficiently entrenched in California to merit a cover story in New West magazine in 1979.
(Quibbling: I remember eating ramps - and fiddlehead ferns - at Miss Ruby's in Chelsea in the mid-eighties, more than a decade before the 1997 date New York gives to it.)
Depending on your scholarly inclinations and willingness to Google, the timeline can provide hours of clicking-and-reading pleasure.