NY Times Restaurant Critic Sam Sifton’s Review: DeathbedFood for the Mind
From the minute NY Times‘ Restaurant Critic Sam Sifton announced on Sept. 13th that he would be leaving his post to become the National Editor there, I was glued to Twitter to try to find the “Breaking News” about where he chose to have his Last Meal as their Critic. Yesterday, that news came via his review in the NY Times: he chose Thomas Keller’s Per Se, saying,
I make the argument unreservedly. I have eaten in restaurants five or more nights a week for the last two years, always in search of the best and most delectable, the most interesting and important. And I have come back again and again to Per Se to find it.
Many people have asked me to define “DeathbedFood.” I’ve generally said that it’s “Last Meal Worthy Food and Wine Experiences” but, really I mean something much broader and deeper. “DeathbedFood” to me signifies the ultimate mark of excellence, as in doing whatever you do at the highest possible level, like it’s your last time on Earth, as if everything you’ve lived for is culminating in the moment. In terms of experiences for me, I find this concept resonating many times with extraordinary dining experiences. Now, I see it in Sam Sifton’s use of language in his Per Se review.
What struck me was his obvious mastery of his craft. He has taken it to the level that Thomas Keller has achieved with Per Se and The French Laundry. Maybe experiencing a meal of this caliber would make the lowest hack writer into a poet, or maybe Sifton is simply as talented and accomplished in his own way, as Chef Keller and the staff at Per Se are in theirs.
I find the “DeathbedFood” Effect often at work in non-culinary ways in the world. There is, for example, “Deathbed” level art (for me, a tranquil Rothko), music (Satie’s Gymnopedie, mesmerizing on the piano), customer service (Nordstrom).
Sam Sifton’s review was so satiating, that if I were to never read another restaurant review again, I’d be OK with that. This one will do just fine! In fact, I’m so confident now of his writing, if he were to write an essay about cardboard, I predict it would be as delicious as one of the treats below.
Why? Here, bite-sized gems from his Per Se review, where he relates his Per Se Meal to:
- A kaleidoscopic dream ending in a castle of chocolates & macarons, making you think of Nirvana.
- A Hopper painting made edible, seafood squared.
And where he points out that:
‘Clam Chowder’ was on the menu as ‘shiny glass’ may have advertised diamonds.
Finally, I’d like to end with a Shameless Plug …
Dear New York Times:
I realize that you will be naming a new Restaurant Critic later this year. I’d like you to know that I am readily available for such a position. Sure, I realize I’m a new blogger … who lives in LA … and is an “Unknown” … but, one thing I can assure you of is that no one would bring more food/wine/restaurant/chef passion to the job than me! What would be the advantage to you? Well, for one thing, if appointed, I would never, EVER leave the job translating to less turnover for you! So, if you decide to look at any outliers, keep me in mind PLEASE.
Diane (aka Your DeathbedFood Blogger)