Eating After the New York Times

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On the week after I stopped visiting restaurants for the sake of reviews, I had roast chicken four nights in a row.

I had it on the first of those nights, at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, because it was the most straightforward of the half dozen entrees, because the price was right, and because it seemed to me that both of those attributes made it the perfect pivot away from five and a half years of approaching dinners out in a much more intricate and grandiose fashion.

I had it on the second of those nights, at the restaurant Flatbush Farm in Brooklyn, because I could do that now: eat a great many bites of one kind of thing rather than a few bites of a great many things. When I'd been a restaurant critic, variety was obligatory, and I'd dined in groups of four so that we could order four different entrees, four different appetizers and four different desserts, each sampled rather than devoured. I'd too seldom dwelled on one dish. But now, fresh out of the job, I decided to do some dwelling.

It's clear to me, just a month since I published my last review as the New York Times restaurant critic, that the job will shadow me--and, in particular, the way I eat--for a while.

And so, on the third night, at the Half King in Manhattan, it was roast chicken once more. This was the most economical and least satisfying of the roast chickens to this point, but I relished it as much as the others, because it was only with this chicken that my experiment in newly monochromatic dining began to take on a satisfying perversity. Two consecutive nights of roasted chicken can be chalked up to a fluke. Three nights has meaning.

And four nights has even more. The climax of my poultry pageant was home delivery, from Chirping Chicken, a small, humble Manhattan chain whose birds deserve a slightly better reputation than they have. Chirping's Buffalo wings are a disappointment, and their ribs unremarkable. But their chickens have glistening, lavishly seasoned skin and tender flesh. I ordered a half bird. And while some out there might deem that a rut, it felt to me like a rebellion--and a happy one at that.

It's clear to me, just a month since I published my last review as the New York Times restaurant critic, that the job will shadow me--and, in particular, the way I eat--for a while.

I get asked frequently about that: about whether I approach meals differently as a result of my tenure. Do I have changed tastes? More exacting standards? Am I still drawn to restaurants--still in love with them? Has my yearning for food intensified or lessened? How much am I eating?

The last question stems in part from the recent publication of a book, Born Round, in which I document my funny, painful mishaps with food and my funny, painful struggle to develop a healthier, steadier approach to eating.

In Born Round I describe the job of restaurant critic as a sort of structure that actually served me well, stabilizing the rhythms of my eating, steering me clear of the feast-famine, binge-purge cycles that were a problem for me in the past. So a few of the people who've read the book or interviewed me about it want to know if the dismantling of that structure has left me unhinged.

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Frank Bruni was the restaurant critic for The New York Times from June 2004 to September 2009. He is the author of Born Round: A Story of Family, Food, and a Ferocious Appetite. Learn more at bornround.com. More

Frank Bruni was named restaurant critic for The New York Times in April 2004. Before that, he was the newspaper's Rome bureau chief, a White House reporter, the lead correspondent covering George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. His latest book, Born Round: A Story of Family, Food, and a Ferocious Appetite, is now out in paperback. To learn more about Born Round and ask questions about the book, click here.

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