I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days.
5. SPEKULOOS ICE CREAM at WAFELS & DINGES
Wow! Thomas DeGeest and his trusty waffle crew can do no wrong it seems. Last year I gushed over the amazing spekuloos spread, which is made from spiced Belgian Christmas cookies (sort of a gingerbread meets a graham cracker) and is a must have as a topping to one of their dense, sweet liege waffles.
Then, this year they hit home runs with not one, but two amazing ice cream flavors. You can find their Belgian Madness further up on my list, but when I tasted the ice cream version of spekuloos, I knew it would be in my Top Ten. The ice cream is spicy and toasty with the perfect amount of sweetness. It works on a summer day or a winter day. And if you top it on a waffle with a drizzle of chocolate sauce, you will no doubt understand my high praise for this friendly yellow truck. Price: $3
|WAFELS & DINGES|
|Multiple Truck and Cart Locations,
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
4. SLOW BAKED LAMB LEG at HOSPODA
SADLY, HOSPODA IS NOW CLOSED.
When the waitress brought us an amuse bouche of foamy, creamy Pilsner Urquell even before we ordered our food, I knew we were in for a really special meal at the newly opened Hospoda. But it wasn’t until I began tasting their inventive, refined takes on Eastern European dishes that I fully understood just how special.
We came to try the smoked beef tongue (at Time Out’s recommendation), but it was their slow baked lamb leg that left a lasting impression. The meat is served two ways: roasted pink slices and braised shreds. Both reminded me of my grandmother’s house, even though my grandmother could never cook anything as tender and delicious as this (sorry, Grandma!) It was served with a sweet carrot purée, tender roasted carrots, slivers of brussels sprout leafs, and a beautiful bright thyme glacé that brought the stew-like meat to life. Amazing! Price: Part of a $32 tasting menu
|321 East 73rd Street (between Second Avenue and First Avenue),
Upper East Side
3. BA SI at FU RUN
This may just be the most unusual dessert I’ve ever had. I first heard about it when I opened up Time Out’s most recent 100 Best issue. There was nothing in the description that really made me want to rush out and try it. And even after having a wonderful meal at Fu Run in Flushing, I still only ordered dessert because it was on the list. And now I’m sadly imagining that if I didn’t order it then, I may never have tried this wonder.
The way Ba Si (or “pulling thread”) works is like this: you get a plate of caramelized fried starch chunks (taro, apple, and sweet potato) and a bowl of water. Then you pull up a bit with your chopstick (leaving sugary threads behind), dunk it in the water where the sugars cool and begin to solidify forming a creme brulée-like crust. Then you pop it in your mouth and enjoy the textures, temperature contrasts, and sweet deliciousness. This is by far the best dessert I’ve ever had from a Chinese restaurant and it makes me never want to question Time Out again. Price: $12
|40-09 Prince Street (at Roosevelt Avenue)
2. YESTERDAY’S 100 LAYER LASAGNA at DEL POSTO
Del Posto received four stars in the NY Times this year, which was quite a surprise. When one of their dishes (a fancy chocolate lollipop) found its way on Time Out’s list, I thought there was no way I’d be able to taste it. Not only because the restaurant is mightily expensive, but because the four stars ensured a very difficult time getting a reservation. Well, we found ourselves at Del Posto on a whim during a snow storm and had no problem getting a table for lunch. We also learned why it deserved all four of those stars.
The highlight for me was not that after dinner bite of chocolate, but instead the lasagna I had been waiting all winter to taste (I just didn’t know it). I didn’t quite understand what a 100 layer lasagna would look like, but it made sense when I saw the slices of 50 (I didn’t count) perfectly thin and browned pasta sheets layered between 50 spoonfuls of the most decadent old school pasta meat sauce (combo of marinara, bechamel, and bolognese) resting atop a bright red dollop of tomato sauce. It had all the rich, cheesy, meaty flavors along with the charred and soft textures of a perfect lasagna while retaining the elegant refined presentation you’d expect at a place of Del Posto’s reputation. It was awe inspiring. And four star worthy! Available as Part of Prix Fixe
|85 Tenth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street)
1. BURNT ENDS at JOHN BROWN SMOKEHOUSE
My favorite dish of the year? Amazingly, it was a modest few bites at a brand new, off-the-beaten path barbecue joint. I was shocked myself when pitmaster Josh Bowen handed me a free sample of his prized burnt ends. This Kansas City specialty is rather hard to find in this city and now that Josh has perfected them, I can’t imagine anybody else doing them justice.
John Brown Smokehouse is on a quiet residential street on the outskirts of Astoria with a casual setting and wonderful smoke aromas (the good kind) emerging from the storefront. There’s a wide variety of options on the menu (including some damn tasty side orders), but once I got a bite of the fatty, smoky, melt-a-rific burnt ends, I really desired nothing else. The large chunks of charred, smoky meat are marbled with soft, tender fat and the strong BBQ flavor comes from Josh’s expert dry rub of salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, and allspice. He sells them as a sandwich or by the pound. Keep the bread and the sauce, just give me some more of that fantastic meat. This is now my new favorite BBQ haunt in town. Price: $10.50 (sandwich), $13.50 (platter), $20 (per pound)
|JOHN BROWN SMOKEHOUSE|
|25-08 37th Avenue (between 27th Street and Crescent Street),
Long Island City, Queens