In his latest farewell to The New York Times' food critic beat, Sam Sifton shares some of the details we would have asked him about if we had ever had the chance to dine out with him on the job. Before he moves to the post of national editor Sifton, has done a few of these looks back at his two-year stint, including his final review, in which he crowned Per Se the best restaurant in New York City. But in his Critic's Notebook post on Tuesday, Sifton said his favorite singular meal on the job wasn't at Per Se, but at the still excellent though far more downscale Frankie's 457 in Brooklyn:
It was in the garden of Frankies 457, on Court Street in Carroll Gardens, on a summer evening with my wife, my children and my brother. We had what everyone always has at Frankies: crostini and some romaine hearts, beets, cold rib-eye salad, cavatelli and sausage and brown butter, meatballs, braciola marinara. The kids hovered while the adults talked family over cold red wine, and a little breeze moved through the trees, and around us other people did the same.
There was bread as we needed it, water, more wine. The food was simple and elegant. The children behaved as they do when they are starving, and in love with what they are eating. Nothing was wrong. Everything was right. It would have been nice if it could have gone on forever.
Beyond that little gem, there are some funny stories about good and bad dinners, otherwise memorable meals, and the times restaurateurs or servers recognized our intrepid reviewer -- including once when he had just spit out a mouthful of food. The best of these happened at the Four Seasons:
Once, at the Four Seasons, a diner pointed me out to Julian Niccolini, who is one of the restaurant’s owners and its voluble host. Mr. Niccolini gaped as if he were a character in a Dickens novel, then appeared to turn into Groucho Marx, then disappeared from view. Within seconds he was at my shoulder, complimenting the women at the table, insulting some Daily News reporters across the dining room, and showering my pasta with shavings of truffle, unbidden. It began to grow thick, as snow does on the sidewalk. Some may have fallen on my shoulder. Oh, how he laughed.
It's clear Sifton is going to dearly miss his job dining out professionally. As he says in his piece, "For those who choose to eat in restaurants, there is no city with a greater diversity of culinary excellence than New York."