Saturday, May 18, 2013

Turns of Phrase

So much food writing is actually dreadfully repetitive. There are only so many ways to describe a cooked piece of meat, only so many synonyms for "delicious" (though there are a potentially infinite variety of ways to describe a terrible dining experience; it's like a variation on the Tolstoy quote: "Great meals are all alike; every lousy meal is lousy in its own way."). Still, often when I read a  good review, there is a sentence, a phrase, a description that resonates; it captures the ear, the mind, the appetite, maybe even all three.

With talented, dedicated, gainfully employed restaurant critics becoming an increasingly scarce commodity (yesterday Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice was "shit-canned," to use his own words; in the past month or so Michael Nagrant of the Chicago Sun Times and Hanna Raskin of Seattle Weekly were let go; locally, Miami New Times let Lee Klein go last year), I'm increasingly grateful for those who still provide a unique, perceptive, captivating voice.

Here are a few turns of phrase that recently caught my attention:

"This is food at its simplest and most elegant, food that doesn't want to slap your face. This is food that is simply good, and defines a sort of normalcy in eating that no longer exists."

- Robert Sietsema on the diner burger, in his last post at Village Voice.

"Two Guys Walk Into a Bar ..." (just this whole damn piece, as good an ode to Sietsema as there could possibly be, by none other than ...)

- Jonathan Gold in LA Weekly.

"There isn't a plate he won't paint with limp berries or kumquats, smears of pastel-colored sauces, or nests of spun sugar—dishes that look as if they shot through a wormhole from 1993."

- Mike Sula on Vu Sua in Chicago Reader

"Caravaggio is defiantly elegant in an age that sees white tablecloths as a medieval relic whose sadistic power to stand in the way of a good time is second only to that of the chastity belt."

- Pete Wells on Caravaggio in the New York Times.

"For those who have yet to do so: eating these pigs was like seeing an old friend from high school who had lost a lot of weight and now dresses well. You can still recognize them; they are just better now."

- Joshua David Stein on the "pigs in a blanket" at Alder in New York Observer.

"The Caesar salad, the golden retriever of restaurants (friendly, good with kids, dumb), is smartly redone as Caesar nigiri."

- Joshua David Stein again on Alder.

"You might get to thinking that DeLucie is a bit of a carpetbagger, who hasn’t rescued the memory of Bill’s so much as co-opted it—lopped off its balls and sold it back to you at a staggering markup."

- Jordana Rothman on Bill's Food & Drink in Time Out New York (Rothman, the TONY food and drinks editor, is filling in as the restaurant critic on an interim basis after Jay Cheshes, who held the post for five years, recently left).


  1. I look forward to every Pete Wells review for things like this: "Like a flustered person who isn’t sure what to say, the dish rambled on without coming to the point. Order unwisely and the table can be overcome by this kind of nervous chatter."

  2. I loved what Pete Wells said about Carravagio – I never minded spilling something on the tablecloth; that’s what it’s there for, and I can read between his lines – he agrees! Great posts, I love the blurbs you choose to go in these!