There are a few things that happen when you experience a truly perfect bite: eye-rolling, silence, and a head toss (as if you can’t believe what you’re tasting is actually what you’re tasting). Last night was one of those nights.
On the drive out to Groton, MA, for the Gibbet Hill Grill’s third annual “Farm to Fork Dinner,” my father reminded me of a few things: 1) to meet everyone and 2) to be last to pick up my fork. After all, we were about to dine with some of Boston’s best foodies. “Take the opportunity to simply watch how these people eat,” he said. “It’s like a scientific process. Most times, they’ll just taste the food and put their fork down. They won’t eat the whole plate.”
I thought about his comment throughout dinner as I desperately tried not to dive into my Long Island Duck with stewed mayflower plums, chard and potato mille feuille before everyone else. How is it even humanly possible to not eat this entire plate, I wondered. It was simply divine.
The only thing I managed to avoid throughout the entire evening was a lightly colored, sausage-like piece of what I presumed to be part of the duck on top of the potatoes. Its mysterious appearance caused a bit of a ruckus at the table, except for Sara Moulton, Executive Chef of Gourmet Magazine. “Well, for one thing, it’s full of fat,” she said. “It’s foie gras.” She was right.
After all, Table 2, as we proudly called ourselves, was not a crowd unused to high-class eats. Alongside Sara sat her family, as well as Annie Copps, Senior Food Editor of Yankee Magazine, and Betsy Block, a freelancer and cookbook author. Even the Adler kids, who grew up with one of Food Network’s first celebrity chefs, knew what constituted good food, and what it looked like.
It seemed like everyone, including the table next door, which was occupied by former Boston Globe Restaurant Critic, Alison Arnett, Naomi Kooker (Food Editor of Boston Common Magazine), Barbara Houle (Food Editor of the Worcester Telegram) and Kathleen Pierce (Food Editor/Critic of the Lowell Sun) was mesmerized by the food. Plates at our table went back clean, unlike ol’ Dad had said on the car ride over.
For me, this was a special experience. It had been Ruth Reichl’s book Garlic and Sapphires that first made me want to become a food critic or editor of a magazine. I pictured myself finding wacky clothing and disguising myself to remain unnoticed as I ate at the world’s top restaurants. I imagined the traveling, and anonymity that came with it – you weren’t a celebrity that would be followed my cameras, or a name that would be splashed in the tabloids. You were simply paid to eat and eat well.
This goes without saying that the title of “Restaurant Critic” or “Food Editor” is a highly powerful role for those who live and suffer in the restaurant business. You are the sole reason why a restaurant soars to fame or plummets into the abyss of mediocrity. Did I mention that you get to eat really, really, well?
I’ve decided that while Dad may be right about some food critics, true eaters don’t follow the taste and toss method. If you’re at the echelon of the food world, you sacrificed your size 2 waistline a long time ago. You are dedicated to eating well, and have a deep, unparalleled respect for ingredients and how they come together. You hold the chef who concocted them for you in high esteem, and have brought along people you love to engage in the experience with you.
A real foodie can’t be measured by what’s left on their plate – it would be unfair. Perhaps they were allergic to the shellfish, or hate the taste of asparagus. But they can be evaluated on one thing: character. And I assure you, Table 2 and friends were not only full of character, but didn’t leave a morsel of their Raspberry and Beet mousse on the plate.