Now that I’ve eaten my way through somebody else’s list (Time Out New York), I’m ready to compile my own 100 spectacular things I’ve tasted in 2012. Look for another five dishes every few days.

NUMBER 30: CHOCOLATE SNOWBALLS at ZUCKER BAKERY

Why are balls so fun to eat? Don’t answer that! I’m thinking you can fit lots of flavor and texture into a ball-shaped food item. Crisp and crunchy on the outside with a soft and tender interior is always a pleasant texture whether the ball is sweet or savory.

The pastries at Zucker Bakery, a new Israeli inspired bakery in the East Village, are mostly bite-sized cookies for $1. There are lots of date and spice cookies, including rugelach and alfajhores, but I fell in love with the orbs called chocolate snowballs. Laced with just a touch of espresso, these cakey fudge bombs will wake you right up. Your choice of shredded coconut or colored sprinkles are the perfect garnish for these sweet balls. Price: $1

ZUCKER BAKERY
433 East 9th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A),
East Village
(646) 559-8425
zuckerbakery.com

NUMBER 29: LAMB MEATBALL at EXTRA PLACE

I don’t know why more people are not talking about Extra Place. It’s a gem of a restaurant which is truly hidden (along with its sister restaurant Heidi) down a rarely traversed alley also known as Extra Place.

But the Mediterranean food is impressive, affordable and the service is exemplary. A large lamb meatball appetizer easily fell apart with an earthy gamey flavor. It lay on a bed of rich, creamy cous cous and was smothered in a toothsome lamb jus and pecorino cheese. This is a dish worth wandering down an alley for. Price: $7

EXTRA PLACE
8 Extra Place (near East 1st Street),
East Village
(212) 777-4252
extraplace.us

NUMBER 28: FROMAGE BLANC ISLAND “CHEESE CAKE” at CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR

The cheese cake is listed in quotation marks at my favorite dessert spot in the city because this is not your ordinary cheesecake. Nothing at Chikalicious is ordinary and that’s part of what makes everything here so special.

Fromage Blanc Island Cheesecake at CHIKALICIOUS

One of two desserts that is always present on the ever-changing dessert menu, this ball of wonder has got to be the fluffiest, lightest cheese cake known to man. It’s closer to a cheesecake-flavored whipped cream than a dense piece of cake. The fromage blanc island floats in a lovely pool of sweet cream – never yearning for a crust. Like all the desserts here, it’s delicate, complex, and full of surprises. No quotation marks needed. Price: $16 prix-fixe

CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR
203 East 10th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenue)
East Village
(212) 475-0929
chikalicious.com

NUMBER 27:  PÃO DE QUEIJO at O CAFÉ

There are so many fancy coffee shops in Manhattan that it’s difficult to keep track. I might have to do a search for the city’s best iced coffee one day. But the ones that stand out often have serious pastry options to pair with their caffeine.

O Café does have pretty great coffee, brewed from hand-selected Brazilian beans. But they have an even better little savory bite in the form a cheese ball. Pão de queijo are cheese buns made with yucca flour. The dense chewy shell gives way to a steamy, cheesy center. They’re so good that you’ll never forget this coffee shop. Price: $1.50

O CAFÉ
482 Sixth Avenue (at West 12th Street),
West Village
(212) 229-2233
ocafeny.com

NUMBER 26:  MOZZARELLA BALLS at SORRISO’S FINE FOODS

It’s reasons like this place that I miss Astoria! A very eclectic neighborhood, in addition to lots of Greek, Middle Eastern, and hipster food, Astoria is also blessed with some great Italian food shops like Sorriso.

Their mozzarella is all made in house and offered in a number of varieties (smoked, salted, etc.) I love the olive oil-marinated mozzarella balls with fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes. They’re fresh and endlessly addicting – just the way they should be. How I wish I could still walk across the street to pick up a container. Price: $7.99

SORRISO’S FINE FOODS
4416 30th Avenue (between 44th and 45th Street),
Astoria, Queens
(718) 728-4392
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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