NY Restaurant Reviewers Reveal the Foods They Just Can't Stand
I have a secreta dirty one that condemns me to the culinary hall of shame. A proud omnivore, I cannot admit it without blushing and avoiding eye contact.
I hate olives.
What kind of food critic abhors this beloved bar snack? Dont get me wrongIll eat the buggers. If you feed me the finest tapenade or pasta puttanesca, Ill devour every bite for politeness sake, but you wont be able to win me over with the fruits slightly acidic, briny flavor. Especially peculiar, I know, since I love capers.
This poses professional challenges. How can I critique an olive-laden dish fairly? Truthfully, I cant. Luckily, olives arent ubiquitous in dishes, and menus are usually large enough that I can skip over the Greek salad and dirty martini. If its a must-get specialty, Ill try it, hoping to be converted to the other side. But its unlikely to make it into my review, since my impartiality is clouded.
This prompted me to wonderNew Yorks other restaurant critics must harbor secret food dislikes, too. But what?
Definitely brains, reveals my colleague Robert Sietsema. Animal brains look like human brains. But he still orders them because he relishes the encounter. You dont go to a zombie movie because you like to see people killed. You go because it makes you squeamish. Other no-nos? Raw green peppers, cooked carrots, and the decidedly repulsive Scandinavian lutefisk. It tastes like butthole. Thats not even a good metaphor. Its like garbage mixed with death mixed with sewer in a Third World country.
Other critics shun more prosaic fare. I dont like Miracle Whip or Diet Coke, admits Sam Sifton, the New York Times restaurant critic. Luckily for me, I dont see much of either on the menus I face. Everything else, pretty much, is fair game, with the exception of farmed salmon, which I think tastes like mud. Jay Cheshes, Time Out New Yorks restaurant critic, largely concurred. I dont like processed foods or mayonnaise. Thats the big one. . . . I couldnt eat a tuna salad with mayonnaise or deviled eggs.
The only thing I really dont like is cottage cheese, says Gael Greene, formerly of New York and now running the website Insatiable Critic. The whole thing makes me cringe. Everything about it. But the wonderful thing is that you never see it anymore.
As a teenager in Russia, Bloomberg critic Ryan Sutton developed a visceral disgust for headcheese. Only years later, while dining at Le Cirque with his boss, did things change. My editor looked at me and said, Youre not allowed not to like anything. That was the end of the conversation. He put the headcheese in front of me, and I ate it, and it was life-changing. But Sutton still cant abide chicken cartilage, cupcakes, or okroshathe cold, tangy Russian mixed-vegetable soup thats often made with the fermented beverage kvass.
So whats a critic to do when faced with funky foods? Often, sheer willpower must prevail. I never liked ramps much, explains Sifton. But it is impossible not to eat ramps in Manhattan restaurants in the spring. If Manhattan chefs dont serve ramps in spring, the thought police come and take their farm-to-table badges away. . . . I have learned to enjoy the ramps. They taste to me of the season. They taste of duty.
Sietsema, though, doesnt believe in training oneself to love a food. I could eat 5,000 bushels of brains, and I still wouldnt like eating them.
Yet the good thing about taste is that it constantly evolves. As a child, says Greene, I didnt like beets or olives. Now, though, she adores both.
Olives! Maybe theres hope for me after all.
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