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9 Devastating Quotes From New York's Most Viciously Clever Food Critic

“I was having my second Frogasm of the night when dinner got weird”

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For anyone who enjoys eating food and getting paid, being a food critic probably sounds like the best job on Earth. Such is the case with New York Times food critic Pete Wells, though as Ian Parker recently pointed out in an exhaustive piece for The New Yorker, the job of a lifetime does come with its own unique set of challenges. The first food critic for the Times, Craig Claiborne, expressed guilt for having the power to make or break restaurants, saying that it “burdened [his] conscience.”

Wells seems to at least attempt to wield his power gracefully, giving many eateries credit when it is due and slaying others when the food crimes mount beyond what’s forgivable. His delicate balance between praise and condemnation have not only earned the trust of readers, but grabbed their attention as well.

Pete Wells’ has certainly had some zingers over his career so far; here are some of his best lines from his most revered and controversial restaurant reviews.

On Living The Life We All Wish We Had (from the Señor Frog review)

“All the mixed drinks seemed tame, and the shot that a server squirted into my open mouth when I hopped by in the conga line tasted like orange Gatorade.”

In a close second place comes the opening line: “I was having my second Frogasm of the night when dinner got weird.”

On Pretentious New Yorkers And Their Overpriced Cheese Plates (from the Per Se review)

“It’s a bit of a mystery what pickled carrots, peanuts and a date wrapped in a soft crepe were supposed to do for a slab of Dorset cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, but a good first step would have been allowing the washed-rind cow’s milk cheese to warm up to a buttery softness; served cold, it was rubbery and flavorless.”

On High-Level Questioning For Guy Fieri (from the Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar review)

“When you saw the burger described as ‘Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,’ did your mind touch the void for a minute?”

On The Glory Days Of A Bygone Era (from the Carbone review)

“Carbone’s captains are character actors who have mastered the jokey, swaggering, slightly bossy style that was a New York specialty before waiters began to have the blandly pleasant manners of the young people who carry Bibles and ring doorbells on Saturday mornings.”

On Holding Parent (Companies) Accountable (from the Vaucluse review)

“A critic could run out of new ways to express disappointment in Altamarea Group restaurants if Altamarea didn’t keep coming up with new ways to disappoint.”

On Pork And Emily Dickinson, In A Single Sentence (from the Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar review)

“Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret—a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers—called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?”

On A Particularly Depressing Serving Of Raw Meat (from the Le Cirque review)

“Beef carpaccio, the chilly maroon flesh stretched out below a scattershot application of radish and celery slices that had started to curl, tasted of refrigeration and surrender.”

On The Beauty Of Eating Still-Live Fish (from the review of Sushi Nakazawa)

“Yuzukosho, a paste of bright yuzu peel and burning chiles, bites playfully into the cool sweetness of a sea scallop lopped from its shell just a minute before it’s served, its edges still fluttering.”

On The Philosophical Implications Of Meringue (from the only review you need to read before you die)

“Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?”

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