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NYT Articles on Food, Drink, Cooking, and Culinary Culture (2005–2011)


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I liked his writing as well but man, he got Bar Basque completely wrong. That place is a mess.

Well, he only one-starred it. I had some wonderful food at Bar Basque, but it was never somewhere I even considered going back to.

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I liked his writing as well but man, he got Bar Basque completely wrong. That place is a mess.

Well, he only one-starred it. I had some wonderful food at Bar Basque, but it was never somewhere I even considered going back to.

Agreed on Bar Basque. Also, the experience there varied hugely, depending on the time of dining, and day of the week. Since the place decided fairly early on to pursue being a bit of a douchestination/lounge rather than focus on being a serious restaurant, that strategy impacted the experience of dining there. Those lucky enough to go before they essentially gave up on being a real dining destination and who ate at an hour when the lounge business and B&T crush didn't affect the experience were far more likely to have had a good meal there. I experienced both sides of the Bar Basque coin.

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Sifton wasn't exactly blessed with a wondrous moment in NY restaurant openings. A recession sucks for food, and so that sucked for Sifton.

This is entirely true, but there are a few things Sifton could have done in spite of that.

First, he could have called a spade a spade. A recession is no reason to write in praise of mediocrity, even if mediocrity is the best we have at the moment.

Second, he could at least have distinguished excellence where it was available: Colicchio & Sons is better than SHO Shaun Hergatt?? I don't think so.

And finally, he could have used his discretionary reviews (i.e., the reviews not compelled by external events) much more judiciously. I mean, did we really need to be told that Chin Chin is a one-star restaurant? Novita?? Palm and Palm Too???

There are those who would say that some of the seeming errors in his judgment (e.g. appearing to find Colicchio & Sons better than SHO Shaun, or giving Annisa lower or equivalent marks to many clearly inferior restaurants) could be explained by the previously mentioned desire to seem hip, cool or with it. In some cases, it seemed like he hadn't even paid attention to the food (or understood it), and had formed his opinions independent of the actual dining experience, and based on how he wanted the public (or his editors) to see him. In many such cases, the reviews could be explained by the relative image of the restaurant in question, even if it didn't match anyone else's experience with the actual food.

Very good point, Marc, about the questionable use of his discretionary reviews. There were certainly some bizarre choices in that area, and they spoke to a certain degree of laziness or at least odd decision making. Again, that is more easily explained when you ask whether he was actually interested in reviewing restaurants, or whether the whole thing was just an exercise in showing off his writing, and food reviewing just happened to be the area where he temporarily found a place to do that. It appears that he got his wish with this promotion, and that may have been what he was after all along.

Though history doesn't suggest it's likely, it would be nice to have a Times restaurant reviewer with a history that suggests a real passion for (or at least a real interest in and understanding of) food and dining. Writing skill is certainly important, but I'd feel better served if his replacement was consistent, had a real food background, and wrote based on palate more than ego.

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Though history doesn't suggest it's likely, it would be nice to have a Times restaurant reviewer with a history that suggests a real passion for (or at least a real interest in and understanding of) food and dining. Writing skill is certainly important, but I'd feel better served if his replacement was consistent, had a real food background, and wrote based on palate more than ego.

One can only hope, but I agree it is not likely.

After Ruth Reichl left in January 1999, the paper changed its approach considerably. Up to and including Reichl, most NYT restaurant critics (aside from a few with short tenures) were career-long food-writing professionals, of one kind or other.

Starting with Grimes, the position was used as a kind of mid-career sabbatical, with the apparent intention that the position was temporary, and that the incumbent would eventually be doing something else altogether.

When Reichl left the post, she went to Gourmet. When Grimes left, he started doing book reviews and obituaries.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I think pretty much everything Sifton ever wrote was better than his restaurant reviews, though it seems to me his reviews were trending better over time (at least based on the occasional sample, as I didn't read all or even most of them).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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I'm one who, historically, read the NYT restaurant reviews religiously. During Bruni's tenure, I'd go to the NYT website Tuesday nights starting at 8PM and look for the next day's review.

With Sifton, I have found myself not only not reading his reviews but no longer caring.

I'm actually kind of glad to see him go.

 

 

 

 

This discussion continues in the NYT Articles on Food, Drink, Cooking, and Culinary Culture (2011– ) topic.

Edited by Mjx
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