It took veteran food writer and former Times restaurant critic and New York contributor Mimi Sheraton a decade to write her characteristically authoritative culinary guidebook, 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die (Workman; $25), which, as you’d expect, reads like the bucket list to end all bucket lists for food obsessives. But what if your time on Earth (and, specifically, in New York) was limited, say, to the end of next week? “I probably wouldn’t have much of an appetite,” says Sheraton. Still, at our request, she managed to narrow down her highly opinionated 914-page tome to five favorites with some select runners-up. Working your way through the book is undoubtedly a lifelong project, but since you never know what the future holds, you might want to knock these off first.
Double-Rib Lamb Chops at the Palm
Sheraton wrote for this magazine in the 1970s, back when the office was located on Second Avenue and editorial meetings were sometimes held, incredibly enough, in the Palm’s upstairs dining room. She gave the restaurant a four-star review shortly after she became the Times critic in 1976, and still loves the place, but not for the obvious reason. “Lamb is my favorite red meat,” she says, “and the double-rib lamb chops at the Palm are pure heaven. I like them very rare with creamed spinach and hash-brown potatoes. I pick them up and gnaw at the bone.” What does she think of the restaurant’s recently installed calorie counts right there on the menu? “It’s obscene!”
837 Second Ave., nr. 45th St.; 212-687-2953.
Chakchouka at Mémé
Sheraton considers the food of the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa as very much up-and-coming, owing in no small part to the influential Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi. “It’s sort of the next step from Italy, Greece, and Spain,” she says. Chakchouka (also spelled shakshuka), or eggs cooked in a sauce of tomato and peppers, is especially popular in Israel and one of Sheraton’s favorite representative dishes. She had her first taste at a restaurant called Dr. Shakshuka in Old Jaffa outside Tel Aviv and says the version at Mémé in the West Village is just as good. “It’s seething. It’s spicy. If it isn’t hot enough, they can give you some harissa,” she says. “You can have it with merguez, but I don’t. They serve it for some strange, happy reason with three eggs. I always say I want the egg whites set and the yolks runny.”
581 Hudson St., nr. Bank St.; 646-692-8450.
Caviar and Blini at Petrossian
A grand old-fashioned caviar tasting with buckwheat crêpes is at the top of Sheraton’s list of things you should do before it’s too late. Beluga caviar is illegal in the U.S., but Petrossian’s farmed American and Chinese alternatives suffice. And while the best caviar requires little more than a thin slice of toast and a squeeze of lemon, Sheraton makes an exception for blini. “They have a nice cushiony effect, a nice neutrality that carries the roe’s saltiness and the slightly musty flavor that good caviar has.” Nothing wrong with enjoying a tin of caviar and a bottle of ice-cold vodka at home. But according to our expert, to partake of this exceptional treat in an elegant café or restaurant is “something out of Gigi or the Belle Époque.”
182 W. 58th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-245-2214.
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