Editor Hughes skims the cream off a year's worth of culinary journalism in the latest annual. As with previous editions, Hughes captures the gastronomic zeitgeist in a broad range of essays; she opens strong with Timothy Taylor's witty take on connoisseurs and gourmands, an examination of the slow and raw food movements, and a vendor's take on farmers' markets. Though some topics, like legendary steak houses and the neighborhood diner, have been done to death, they're carried by the quality of the writing. John DeLucie's sardonic account of his truffled macaroni and cheese, as well as Tim Carman's brilliant ""How Not to Hire a Chef,"" are the kind of slice-of-life tales that deserve a wider audience, and make up for the volume's misses (Margaret McArthur's take on cooking the perfect soft-boiled egg, Lettie Teague's piece on wine scams). Other crowd-pleasers include Calvin Trillin's quest for the best barbecue in Texas and Robb Walsh's all-too-short examination of a classic pairing: oysters with martinis. This is a sound reader for those looking to catch up on trends in the culinary world, but foodies already immersed in the culture are sure to find some overlooked gems.