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 10: AREPA DE QUESO at THE AREPA LADY
Up until now, there has not really been a rhyme or reason as to why one dish got ranked as a specific number on this list. I can’t say with any certainty that something was the 73rd best dish I’ve eaten this year. So I stuck with categories to help me organize my food thoughts. However, now we’re at the top ten and these dishes were definitely my favorite this year. So here goes…
It had been a long while since I got a taste of the sainted Arepa Lady’s Colombian treats. It’s difficult for me since she doesn’t appear with her cart until after 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Now that I’m well into my 30’s, I’m not usually roaming the streets of Queens at that hour. Thanks to my friend Jeff Orlick, I got to try her food at a reasonable hour. He got Maria Piedad Cano to emerge for the Viva La Comida festival, where she grilled up her two varieties of corn patties. I prefer the Arepa de Queso, a soft, buttery white disc filled with melted mozzarella and topped with some salty queso blanco. These arepas are certainly among the best street food in the entire city. Price: $3
|THE AREPA LADY|
|Roosevelt Avenue and 79th Street,
Jackson Heights, Queens
NUMBER 9: GOAT CHEESE BREAD PUDDING at HUNDRED ACRES
I’ve never been a big fan of brunch. Besides the often massive lines to get into the best restaurants, I’m never that impressed with the food. There’s not that much you can do with bacon, eggs, and pancakes. You either do them well or you don’t.
Well, Hundred Acres (one of those overly crowded brunch staples) showed me with this unusual brunch dish. Perfectly poached eggs really sing because of the savory bread pudding underneath. Full of goat cheese and thyme, the soft bread melts in your mouth. With some peppery spinach and bright lemon butter, the dish pops with earthy rich deliciousness. Price: $15
|38 MacDougal Street (between Prince Street and West Houston Street),
NUMBER 8: UNI WITH YUBA at YUBA
Aside from the Japanese, who would have thought to combine briny sea urchin with milky tofu skin? But uni and yuba is a classic pairing in Japanese cuisine. I’ve had it many times and it works so well. Of course, a place named Yuba would be nuts not to try their hand at it.
And this underrated sushi gem in the East Village does wonders with the combination. The ingredients worked in harmony, layered together – both creamy (one briny and salty, the other soothing and silky). Grated horseradish adds a kick, while a sweet and vinegary tosazu sauce seals the deal on the perfect marriage. Price: $16
|105 East 9th Street (between Third and Fourth Avenue),
NUMBER 7: BERENJA CON MIEL at LA VARA
On the Neighborhood Eats tour, I walk the group by La Vara and always get “oohs” and “aahs” when I tell them they’re serving Spanish tapas with a Sephardic Jewish influence. The sound of the food is certainly provocative, but I can now assure them that it tastes just as good as it sounds.
The team behind Txikitio and El Quinto Pino opened their first Brooklyn restaurant this year and have received rave reviews. I tend to agree across the board and if I have to single out one small plate, it would be these lightly fried eggplant fritters drizzled with honey, melted cheese, and nigella seeds. The crispy exterior and soft meat of the greaseless eggplant are a wondrous vehicle for all these sweet, salty, and heavenly flavors. Ooh and aah indeeed! Price: $8
|268 Clinton Street (between Congress Street and Verandah Place),
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
NUMBER 6: DINNER at BROOKLYN FARE
I live such a crazy life! I got to go to Brooklyn Fare in 2010, before they were reviewed by the NY Times and raised their prices to $225 per person. I never thought I’d be able to go again. Well, fate saw it differently because after giving a Food Cart Tour to a high end group from Taiwan, in place of a tip, they invited me to join them for dinner that night. So here I was once again at Brooklyn Fare.
And I had another mindblowing meal – in fact this time it felt even more complete (the desserts have been re-focused and mastered). Since Chef Cesar Ramirez is notorious for not allowing photos or notes, I won’t be able to provide much food porn (aside from the above squab with foie gras). And my memory is a little hazy since this was back in June (and there must have been over 20 courses all told), but the delicate and decadent dinner came together with the freshest seasonal ingredients and the most innovative preparations. Now I can only hope that fate finds a way for me to dine here again in 2013.
|CHEF’S TABLE AT BROOKLYN FARE|
|212 Schermerhorn Street (between Hoyt Street and Bond Street)