Where to start? This book definitely had some interesting points to make about the application of basic economic principles to the goal of finding a good place to eat, especially when you're in an unfamiliar area and don't have access to or don't want to rely on technology (online reviews, for instance)to guide you. The author also talks about how to consume food in a way that's better for the environment...
However, Cowen's ideas about environmentalism seem to be based more on his instincts than serious scientific study, and his economic approach to food has a distinctly overly rational approach that borders, at least for me personally, on the unethical. For instance, he says that plastic is better for the environment than anything else because compost piles release methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere...I'm not even sure how to critique that statement because it makes so little sense to me, considering what goes into the production of plastic and the fact that, although it is recyclable, most people don't recycle plastic, and when it does break down it has extremely damaging environmental consequences (see also, pacific garbage patch, whereas compost can keep so much waste out of landfills and can, in fact be almost immediately reused (or at least within a reasonable period of time) to contribute to the production of more food. Cowen also complains that good French restaurants (in France) are too expensive because France has these crazy ideas about paying their workers a fair wage and giving them benefits. He suggests finding places to eat where the labor costs are low because it'll be cheaper for the consumer. So, you know, wage slavery is totally fine as long as your burger costs less.
Another one of Cowen's complaints is that buying local is terrible for the environment since the fuel a small farmer uses to take products to market makes more of an environmental impact than a bunch of food shipped over from South America by boat...even if that were accurate, the fact that 1)the low cost of a lot of imported foods is also based on the blatant exploitation of workers from 2)countries that can no longer produce their own food because they are too busy growing food for more affluent Western consumers is already problematic enough that I would rather buy local from a farmer that either does the work him/herself or pays someone a fair wage and treats them ethically. Furthermore, I prefer to spend what little money I do have supporting my local economy, even if that farmer has to make multiple trips in his/her truck.
Finally, even if local food is not grown organically (something else I remember Cowen being critical of)it is generally grown more sustainably and is more likely to be a non-modified variety (depends on your farmers, of course). He does make the point that not everyone lives in a climate where it's possible to eat locally, but...I'm fairly certain indigenous people in climates we might find uncomfortable have been eating locally for centuries. His pitiful defense of GMO crops being helpful because now farmers don't have to use as much fertilizer and pesticide was particularly galling. Right, of course they don't have to use as much external pesticides because toxic chemicals are now part of the genetic make-up of what we're eating! Delicious!