Frank Bruni’s Last Steak


Frank Bruni has always been a steak enthusiast, so it would be fitting for him to go out on a meaty note. The New York Times critic doesn’t specify where the beef would originate, or where he would be eating it, though it’s safe to assume there would be no swords dangling overhead. In fact, as he writes below, there would be no fuss whatsoever in his last meal—just a short succession of simple and robust flavors:

“On the subject of a last meal, I should have a much better answer than this.

I should have thought about it. In fact, on the New York Times Dining blog I started a year ago, there’s a feature called Chef Q & A, and the last question every chef is asked is what his or her last meal would be if he or she were sentenced to die.

And yet every time I ask myself the question, I find myself crippled by indecision and I move on to the next thought.

Maybe because I’ve visited a number of steak houses recently, I find myself back in love—for the thousandth time—with steak. There’s something so primal about eating a great, big, meaty steak. Something so elemental and comforting. I think the centerpiece, main course, whatever of my final meal wouldn’t be a fussy labor of extraordinary technique—it would be a thick porterhouse, grilled or broiled, so that it had a nice char. It would be on the rare side of medium rare. It would be beef that had been properly aged. It would have just the right amount of fat on it.

And before that? And after?

You know: I love toro. Adore it. Its texture, its degree of fattiness, its lusciousness. And I remember back in late 2004, when I had the incredibly good (which is to say newspaper-funded) fortune to eat a number of times at Masa in the Time Warner Center, the meal typically ended with these toro-stuffed maki rolls that were really toro-jammed maki rolls. Lots and lots and lots of toro, framed by the crisp exterior of the roll, cushioned by warm rice. Heaven. And while the appearance of the rolls late in the meal made sense, given what a wallop they were, I’d love to have them at the beginning of a meal, on an emptier, hungrier stomach. So that’s the start of my last meal: toro-jammed maki rolls, of the quality you get at Masa.

I spend most of my dinners tasting a lot of different dishes, so for my last meal I think I’d want to keep it to a very, very few favorite things. No dozen-course extravaganza. But I would like to sneak in, as a mid-course, as a side, as whatever you want to call it, some buttery taglierini with heart-of-season white truffles shaved over it. Just like you’d get in the Piedmont region of Italy, which is one of my favorite areas in the world for eating.

And so maybe that’s where I’d have this meal. On the terrace of a tiny hotel set high on a summit somewhere near Alba, with the mountains and vineyards of Piedmont spread out before me. I’d have a big, old Barolo with the pasta and the steak—but not with the toro.

I can’t imagine I’d have room for dessert. So maybe I’d just have a glass of the finest bourbon or rye that money could buy, with a few big, fat cubes of ice but nothing else to dilute it.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2007

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