This one’s a given: it’s the moment of tasting. Now, I don’t mean when you’re eating, mechanically moving food from plate to mouth, chewing, or swallowing. I mean the moment that your tastebuds register a sensation, send a nerve impulse to your brain, and it registers as delicious: the moment that you taste your food.
I think this is where the difference between “pretty good” and “exquisite” comes in. Generally speaking, I expect my food to be cooked properly and to be served at the optimum temperature. But beyond that, some people have the amazing talent of crafting a flavour profile. Similar to how wine develops on your palate, food should do the same thing.
I’ve already mentioned Thomas Haas’s now-discontinued pink-grapefruit campari truffles for their perfect flavour profile, and the meal I had at Cioppino’s really demonstrated Pino Posteraro’s talent at crafting a perfect dish.