For the fourth year in a row, I present the 100 most exciting dishes I’ve consumed during my food adventures around the five boroughs. Look for another five dishes every few days.
Liquid diets in the nutrition world might be a positive thing when you’re blending kale, bananas, and the like. But a liquid diet of liquor, we can all agree is probably not a good idea. Yet balance it with some nutritious food and ingest it in moderation, there’s nothing like a little good old fashioned booze. Especially when it’s artfully combined with other libations for a smooth, flavorful cocktail. Here are five intoxicating favorites of mine.
NUMBER 45: SWEET TOMATO at BRUSHSTROKE/ICHIMURA
I’ve never understood the appeal of Bloody Marys. Perhaps to nurse a bad hangover, but it always seemed like drinking spiked tomato sauce. Add some pasta and I’m on board. No carbs were needed in this surprising seasonal drink at David Bouley’s two-in-one restaurants Brushstroke and Ichimura. Much lighter and sweeter than a traditional Bloody Mary, this cocktail features muddled fresh tomatoes (with the seeds), rice vodka, lemon juice, and a salted rim. If all Bloody Marys had this lightness with a complex sweet/salty/umami finish, then I’d be its biggest advocate. Price: $15
|30 Hudson Street (at Duane Street),
NUMBER 44: DR. DAVE’S ‘SCRIP PAD at ALDER
This year molecular gastronomy master Wylie Dufresne opened a slightly more casual and approachable gastropub in the East Village called Alder. Just like his flagship WD-50, this restaurant is serving traditional dishes re-imagined with unexpected flavors, textures, and science. And that philosophy spills over into the cocktails. Dr. Dave’s ‘Scrip Pad was my favorite of the bunch (some available in half sizes) combining Old Overholt rye, amaro, yuzu juice, and smoked maple syrup. It had deep warming flavors with some mellow bitterness, bright citrus acidity, and a prescription of sweet smoke. Price: $12/$6
|157 Second Avenue (between East 9th and East 10th Street),
NUMBER 43: GINGER MARGARITA at ABC KITCHEN
Jean-Georges’ ABC Kitchen is all about freshness. You see it in the seasonal appetizers and salads, along with the pizzas and the desserts. And of course, the bartenders are trained to strive for the same quality. They succeed with the very simple, but potent Ginger Margarita. Using a base of Sauza Tres Añejo tequila, the cocktail is shaken with a sweet/spicy ginger-lime syrup, a dash of Cointreau, and a salted rim. It’s refreshing, light, bright, and pairs very well with the fresh, seasonal food. Price: $15
|35 East 18th Street (between Broadway and South Park Avenue)
NUMBER 42: WIDOW JANE AGED RUM from CACO PRIETO
Cacao Prieto is a magical little place. They’re a large facility in the middle of post-industrial Red Hook that manufactures both exceptional chocolate and a wide range of liquor. We visit them on our Waterfront Tour and recently I discovered a brand new special batch rum that they had just rolled out. Widow Jane is their label that mostly sells whiskeys, but here they distilled a potent rum with sugarcane juice and molasses and then aged it in their rye barrels. The sipping liquid is mildly sweet with a smooth, complex whiskey-like finish. It’s a truly magical little potion.
|218 Conover Street (between Coffey and Dikeman Street),
Red Hook, Brooklyn
NUMBER 41: GARDEN VARIETY at THE WAYLAND
Kale juice has been hot in NYC for a few years now. But The Wayland is the first bar I discovered to add the trendy green into a cocktail. And amazingly, it works. They mix the kale juice with some ginger, lime, blue agave blanco tequila, and a touch of agave nectar. Brushed on the rim is some smoked sea salt that brings out the spicy, vegetal, and slightly sweet cocktail. It looks like (and mostly) tastes like a margarita, but is much healthier than any I’ve encountered before. Price: $11
|700 East 9th Street (at Avenue C),