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Sam Sifton's sign-off includes love notes to Bushwick's Roberta's and Carroll Gardens' Frankies

Former New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton officially bid adieu to his post yesterday with a typically numinous reflection on his tenure as the city’s most-feared diner.

While some mocked his poetic flights, accused him of being too easy on his quarry, or too into Brooklyn, for those of us limited in our ability to dine like he did, his reviews were a gift.

By teaching us something about the beauty and theater of dining – of food prepared, presented and shared on its grandest stage – Sifton reminded us to appreciate the beauty of our city, our world. We have never lived vicariously, so well.

So while we waded into his final farewell with a touch of mourning,  as always, we found rich rewards.

After two years of relentless dining, the one piece of advice offered by the sage? Ask the sommelier:

“…Speaking of, here is a fruit of eating 700 or more meals in restaurants that generally have extensive wine lists put together by people who know about 700 times more about wine than you do: When considering what to order, ask for the sommelier.”


The farewell wouldn’t be complete without a paen to some of Brooklyn’s brightest stars:

“…the meals I had at Roberta’s were probably the most fascinating, thought-provoking experiences of my professional dining career. Most notable: an aged duck I had as part of a tasting menu that the restaurant’s chef, Carlo Mirarchi, offers at the restaurant two nights a week. It was as close to cheese as fowl, rich and unctuous and tangy, and it captivated my senses in such a way as to neatly encompass both art and vice, risk and reward. It looked like an abscess, frankly. It tasted like godhead.”

And the big question – The master’s favorite meal? The last lingering kiss goes to Frankies, arguably the mothership of Brooklyn restaurant culture:

“But the best meal I had on the job? 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.”

Thank you Sam Sifton. You killed it. Write to us once in a while, won’t you? Even if it’s just a note about lunch…

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