If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.
80. SCHIACCIATA CON L’UVA at SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY
For a limited time at Sullivan Street Bakery (in Hell’s Kitchen, nowhere near Sullivan Street), Jim Lahey offers what’s called Schiacciata con L’uva. I probably would have normally glossed over the heavy Italian title, but I read about it in the Village Voice and it sounded delicious. And it was.
The Schiacciata (which means squashed) is only made during the harvest when grapes are the ripest. The flatbread is baked with two unusual toppings – champagne grapes and anise seeds. It’s like a sweet grape juice on a piece of bread.
Except it’s perfectly balanced. There’s definitely some dense, rich sweetness from the tiny purple grapes (and perhaps a brush of honey?), but it is complemented with earthy, spicy anise seeds. The combination is a classic Italian duo and one that is not often exploited enough in this country.
|SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY|
|533 West 47th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenue)
79. SWEDISH MEATBALLS at SMORGAS CHEF
There are a few Smorgas Chef across the city and they’re a strange little haven from the hip, slightly desperate restaurants we all tend to frequent. These guys are turning out modest and well-prepared Scandinavian food at decent prices.
I took my parents here when they were in town (they’re very picky eaters) because I knew they’d be safe with this home-style familiar food. And I was right.
The stand-out dish is the Swedish meatballs which are mild enough to please the folks, but flavorful enough to get the approval of this self-proclaimed food snob (that would be me). The sweet lingonberry sauce plays nicely off the meat’s rich earthy flavors. And the homemade fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes would make anybody (conservative parents or food bloggers) weak in the knees. Price: $16-$19, depending on location
|283 West 12th Street (between 4th Street and 8th Avenue)
|53 Stone Street (between Coenties Alley and Mill Lane)
|58 Park Avenue (between 37th and 38th Street) inside Scandinavian House
Photo Courtesy of: freshlocalandbest.blogspot.com
78. TEA SMOKED DUCK at GRAND SICHUAN INTERNATIONAL
It’s surprising that the place that served my least favorite Time Out list item also served a dish that makes my Top 100. See, there’s a bright side to every bad meal.
And this wasn’t a bad meal at all. In fact, everything was good except for the TONY list item (the greasy, bland Sliced Fish with Chili Sauce). But the one dish that stood out was the Tea Smoked Duck.
This is one of the few traditional Szechuan dishes that isn’t overwhelmingly spicy. In fact, it’s not spicy at all (which is why I’m guessing it didn’t make TONY’s list). Instead, it’s delicately smoked over tea leaves so it has a light smoky earthy flavor rather than an aggressive smoky woody flavor like most American BBQ. The duck is perfectly succulent with a nice layer of crispy fat that grips the sweet hoisin sauce (served on the side).
And as disappointed as I was in the awful fish dish, I found an even better one for myself. Price $16.95
|GRAND SICHUAN INTERNATIONAL|
|229 Ninth Avenue (between 24th and 25th Street)
Photo Courtesy of: appetiteforchina.com
77. YO-YOS at CARACAS AREPA BAR
I never thought I’d eat something called a yoyo. But there they were at the top of the Caracas menu, above the main attraction of their delicious Venezuelan arepas (grilled stuffed cornmeal patties). And you know how adventurous I am. I’ll eat yoyos, slinkees, and kazoos. Whatever it is, I’ll try it
Fortunately, these were a whole lot more appealing than the name implies. Yo-yos sort of resemble the child’s toy (I kind of miss those now that I think of it). They’re two round plantain balls that are sandwiched with salty white cheese and deep fried. They’re served with a side of sweet honey sauce. You dunk them and then revel in their sweet greasiness. They work brilliantly as either a starter or a dessert. They’re addicting and filling, so make sure you save room for the arepas. Price: $5.50
|CARACAS AREPA BAR|
|93 1/2 East 7th Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)
|291 Grand Street (between Roebling and Havemeyer Street)
Photo courtesy of: epicurejenn.wordpress.com
76. MIXED MEZE PLATTER at KABAB CAFE
I love places where you don’t have to look at a menu and decide what to order. At Kabab Cafe in Astoria (probably my favorite Astoria restaurant), the Chef, Ali el Sayed, comes out himself to tell you what’s available. And whatever he cooks is going to be lovingly prepared and delicious.
One thing that is always available is the Mixed Meze Platter as an appetizer. It’s a must-have to start off this incredible meal.
It’s a combination of creamy hummus, smoky baba ghanouj, tender falafel balls, and a citrusy fava bean mash. Sounds typical enough (although I assure you his flavors are not), but then he puts his final touches on it with some fresh crisp apple slices, za’atar spices, and fried chicory leaves.
After you taste this spread of starters, you’ve given over your trust to Chef Ali and will go wherever he takes you, menus be damned! Price: $10
|2512 Steinway Street (between 25th Avenue and 28th Avenue)
Photo courtesy of: reallygoodfood.com