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Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

The halfway mark is always a bit of a turning point in these journeys. It means it’s officially too late to back out (that and the fact that I’ve been writing all these reviews for the world to see) and it’s a celebration of all I’ve accomplished thus far and the light at the end of the tunnel is now becoming visible.

Last year, I brought two of my good friends who had generously helped me edit my webisodes to my favorite new pizzeria, Kesté for the 50th list item. This year, I invited Jason Feirman and his girlfriend Michelle to join us at one of the hottest new restaurants in the city, ABC Kitchen. Jason is the founder of Pizza Club which has enabled me to keep up on my pizza excursions. He also pushed me into alerting Time Out to let them know about my journey. He knows who to contact when, which is obvious from the success of his two blogs, I Dream of Pizza and NYC Daily Deals.

The main reason we came here was to try the Bow Tie Pasta with Veal Meatballs. But there were so many other reasons we could have used: socializing with Jason, experiencing one of the hottest new restaurants in NY, and, of course, because we were hungry! I was excited we were able to grab a table for four on a Friday night (we had 90 minutes before they needed the table back) and we were taken all the way back to a little room that literally spills into ABC Carpet. The ambiance, while modern and fashionable, made me feel like I was inside a department store (and we more or less were).

Restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his executive chef Dan Kluger jumped on the locavore bandwagon and have now somehow defined the vegetable craze in New York. This is where you come when you want an elegant farm to table meal in a casual, non stuffy environment. The servers wear plaid, for chrissake!!

We all shared the much talked about roasted carrot and avocado salad. The kitchen was generous enough to split it onto four plates for us and I was impressed at the portion size. Everyone at the table gushed over this, but I took issue with the word “salad.” This was mostly warm and was closer to a plate of cooked and seasoned vegetables than your typical salad. The carrots have been glazed and roasted so they tasted more like crisp sweet potatoes, the avocado, crunchy seeds, and creamy goat cheese added texture, citrus juice added a little zest, and some spices made this an unusually picante starter. I didn’t love it like everybody else in the world seems to, but I appreciated the composition and the freshness.

We moved on to the famous crab toast, which was rich and sweet with a dollop of bright lemon aioli. Though fresh and tasty, the toast was a little too rich for me (especially since we were in a vegetable restaurant), as the butter dripped down my arm on each bite. The raw shrimp we ordered were a little too slimy, although sweet and tangy from the grated horseradish. The pretzel crusted fried calamari had a nice light crunch and a wonderful mustard dipping sauce, but the squid was a little overcooked and tough.

Since Jason and I first met over pizza, it was impossible not to try one of their whole wheat pies. The spinach, goat cheese, and herb pizza was very fresh and all the ingredients came together perfectly. I was impressed by the thin crust and the nice char on the amazingly not dry whole wheat dough. This seems to be the only pizza restaurant that doesn’t show off its oven, because I saw no sign of it behind all the bouquets of fresh produce and baked goods.

Finally, we come to the pastas. Michelle’s ricotta ravioli looked like nothing special, but inside was fresh, light ricotta cheese and an herbal lemony bite of basil. Really nice.

If there was a family recipe or the equivalent of Grandma’s Lasagna in my family, it would be the Kasha Varinshkas my father makes. It’s a staple of Eastern European Jewish cuisine – bow tie egg pasta are cooked with fried onions, beef stock and tossed with bits of buckwheat groats called kasha. We never had a holiday meal without them.

And I’ve seen the dish on a few Jewish deli menus around town, but never come across an interpretation of it at a fancy restaurant like this. So I was excited to finally try Time Out’s list item.

These were a lot different from my father’s recipe. The sauce was much darker than the one I was used to. I’m sure veal stock and red wine were involved because it has a very rich, earthy flavor. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the veal meatballs were a welcome addition – small orbs of moist, flavorful meat. A dollop of sour cream was a surprise giving the dish a nice creamy bite. But the best part for me were the fried, crispy kasha flecks. I always loved the round grainy texture in my family’s recipe, but these crunched like toffee bits in chocolate. Of course, not sweet, but just as pleasurable.

It was quite a meal, which is what I was hoping for in celebration of making it to the halfway point. I wasn’t blown away by ABC Kitchen like most journalists and restaurant critics, but I certainly enjoyed myself. I’m surprised I left so full – I expected to leave feeling light and clean like a vegetable focused restaurant. But as any good chef will tell you, vegetables are good and all that, but it’s the butter and animal fat that make things taste good. And now I look forward to 50 more delicious tasting dishes before my journey’s complete.

Would ABC Kitchen’s Bow Tie Pasta with Veal Meatballs make my Top 100? I loved trying a new, gourmet version of my family’s recipe and the fried kasha was a revelation giving this inventive dish an 8 out of 10.

ABC KITCHEN
35 East 18th Street (between Broadway and South Park Avenue)
Flatiron District
(212) 475-5829
abckitchennyc.com

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

Chef Dan Kluger has a way with vegetables. He garnered lots of praise for his vegetable mastery at ABC Kitchen, which has become one of the trendiest NYC veggie-centric restaurants. And now he has his own place in Greenwich Village called Loring Place.

And just to be clear, these are not vegetarian restaurants. In fact Loring Place gets as much attention for their burger and roasted short rib as they do for their brussels sprouts pizza and leek & pear salad.

But there’s on question when dining at Loring Place, you want to make sure you eat your vegetables.

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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

SADLY, ICHIMURA IS NOW CLOSED.

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

BRUSHSTROKE/ICHIMURA
30 Hudson Street (at Duane Street),
Tribeca

(212) 791-3771
davidbouley.com/brushstroke-main

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MY TOP 100 TASTES of 2013


Click on a link to see a review and photos….

100. CUCUMBER SALAD at MILE END SANDWICH

99. VEGETABLES at THE DAILY

98. SPICY SHROOM WRAP at BEYOND SUSHI

97. EASTERN PROMISE at THE BUTCHER’S DAUGHTER

96. AVOCADO SMASH at BLUESTONE LANE COFFEE

95. MAPLE BACON STICK at LANDHAUS

94. PORK KAKUNI at SHABU TATSU

93. SPICED PORK CHOP at THE HARRISON

92. E-SAN THAI SOUR SAUSAGE at CHAO THAI TOO

91. CHAR SIU at FLETCHER’S BROOKLYN BARBECUE

90. SCORCHER #366 from BROOKLYN BREWERY

89. JAN OLYMPIC LAGRRR from SIXPOINT BEERSMITHS

88. BLACK PALE ALE from BRONX BREWERY

87. MONEY IPA from BARRIER BREWING COMPANY

86. SRIRACHA BLONDE ALE at BARCADE

85. COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM at JE & JO

84. WHIPPED RICOTTA at BISTRO LA PROMENADE

83. YOGURT PARFAIT at PARADIS TO GO

82. BURRATA at ESTELA

81. YALDA YOGURT from THE WHITE MOUSTACHE

80. THE GODFATHER at GRAHAM AVENUE DELI & MEATS

79. BUFFALO CHEESE CURDS at MURRAY’S CHEESE BAR

78. PORKY MELT at PORK SLOPE

77. AJI SASHIMI at BLUE RIBBON SUSHI

76. ROCKET PIG SANDWICH at ROCKET PIG

75. SMOKED TROUT & WILD MUSHROOM SALAD at VAN HORN SANDWICH SHOP

74. 2ND STREET SALMON WAFFLE at WAFELS & DINGES

73. MUSSELS at PIG AND KHAO

72. TUNA TATAKI at SHALOM JAPAN

71. SEARED RED SNAPPER at APIARY

70. CONCORD GRAPE PALETA at LA NEWYORKINA

69. SMOOTHIE at YOUR HEALTHY KITCHEN

68. SOUR CREAM APPLE WALNUT PIE at LITTLE PIE COMPANY

67. MANGO POMELO SAGO SOUP at INDESSERT

66. CARAMELIZED PINEAPPLE at HU KITCHEN

65. THE ORIGINAL at UMAMI BURGER

64. CHEESEBURGER at SCHNIPPER’S QUALITY KITCHEN

63. “SAI OOR FARANG” THAI BURGER at NGAM

62. ORIGINAL FIVE NAPKIN BURGER at 5 NAPKIN BURGER

61. HAMBURGER WITH CHEESE at FRITZL’S LUNCH BOX

60. TABATA RAMEN at TABATA NOODLE

59. RIGATONI at PIORA

58. TALLARIN VERDE at URUBAMBA

57. RICOTTA DUMPLINGS at ESTELA

56. DAN DAN NOODLES at HAN DYNASTY

55. ISRAELI SCOTCH EGG at EASTWOOD

54. SMOKED SALMON MAZEMEN at DASSARA RAMEN

53. TACO CHIPS at THE CHIPPER TRUCK

52. CHICKEN CURRY at TRINI PAKI BOYS

51. DOUGH’SSANT at CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT CLUB

50. WHISKEY BREAD at GWYNETT ST.

49. MAPLE BACON CORNBREAD from JACK’S CHEDBREAD

48. PRETZEL at RUNNER & STONE

47. PASTRY BASKET at L’APICIO

46. SAKE KASU CHALLAH at SHALOM JAPAN

45. SWEET TOMATO at BRUSHSTROKE/ICHIMURA

44. DR. DAVE’S ‘SCRIP PAD at ALDER

43. GINGER MARGARITA at ABC KITCHEN

42. WIDOW JANE AGED RUM from CACAO PRIETO

41. GARDEN VARIETY at THE WAYLAND

40. SHREDDED HUDSON VALLEY CHICKEN at NIGHTINGALE 9

39. CHICKEN N’ GRAVY WAFEL at WAFELS & DINGES

38. IKE’S VIETNAMESE FISH SAUCE WINGS at POK POK NY

37. THE REV. AL SHARPTON at AMY RUTH’S

36. CHICKEN at GWYNNETT ST.

35. PIGS IN A BLANKET at BROOKLYN PIGGIES

34. TRUFA SECA from CHARLITO’S COCINA

33. PABLO ESCOBAR at LOS PERROS LOCOS

32. TESTA at THE PINES

31. FRANKFURTER at EAGLE PROVISIONS

30. CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE at CHEZ NAPOLÉON

29. ESPUMILLA from CHOLITA CUENCANA

28. CARAMELIZED BANANA TART at THE HARRISON

27. BROWNIES at ROBICELLI’S

26. KEY LIME PIE at STEVE’S AUTHENTIC KEY LIME PIES

25. FIVE SPICE PORK at MOO SHU GRILL

24. KOREAN BRAISED BEEF at MULBERRY & VINE

23. BRISKET at BRISKETTOWN

22. SHORTRIB PASTRAMI TACOS at EMEPLLÓN COCINA

21. NIKU-UNI at TAKASHI

20. TOFU NOODLE SALAD at YUNNAN KITCHEN

19. MEE KROB at UNCLE BOONS

18. CHA CA “LA VONG” at POK POK NY

17. KHAO SOI at PIG & KHAO

16. SMOKED WHITEFISH DONBURI at IVAN RAMEN SLURP SHOP

15. HIRAME AND CUCUMBER at NETA

14. MATCHA CREPE WITH RED BEAN CREAM at TAKAHACHI

13. FRESH BOTAN SHRIMP & SEA URCHIN at KYO YA

12. SALMON AND CHEESE MAZEMEN at YUJI RAMEN

11. CHAWANMUSHI at BRUSHSTROKE

10. PIZZA at JULIANA’S

 9. BROWN BUTTER at ASKA

 8. GRILLED SCALLOP at NETA

 7. SWEET POTATO AND SAGE RAVIOLI at FRANKIE’S SPUNTINO

 6. KAZANDABI at HAZAR TURKISH KABAB

 5. STEWED BEEF TENDON at TAKASHI

 4. TAGLIATELLE WITH PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA at MARCO’S

 3. SPIT ROASTED SHORT RIBS at IL BUCO ALIMENTARI E VINERIA

 2. MARBELLA’S FULL MOON at MANZANILLA

 1. OMAKASE at ICHIMURA


Category:

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. These are in no particular order. 

NUMBER 50: BELGIAN MADNESS at WAFELS & DINGES

I bring people to the Wafels & Dinges truck almost every day on one of the Food Cart Tours. Their amazing liege waffles topped with nutty, rich speculoos spread is a perfect way to end the food crawl. That particular spread made my Top 100 last year (and look for another version of it further up on this list). But I assure you, Wafels & Dinges are not just a one trick pony.

In addition to the waffles, they make stellar hot cocoa, pulled pork, and this year they introduced ice cream! The flavors rotate from time to time and are created by former Jean Georges pastry chef Benoit Gerin. The first time I tasted what they call the Belgian Madness, I think I went a little mad myself. Mad because I couldn’t eat the entire tub. This beer is made with Hoegaarden beer, honey, and just a touch of lemon. The beer flavor immediately comes through, but doesn’t stick around long enough for it to be bitter or boozy. The honey and lemon mellow it out to make this a refreshing and well-balanced creamy delight. Price: $3

WAFELS & DINGES
Multiple Truck and Cart Locations,
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
(866) 429-7329
wafelsanddinges.com

NUMBER 49: PEACH BERET YOGURT from WHITE COW DAIRY

In New York, there are so many artisanal food goods available at any number of food-centric stores. I very rarely buy these, not because I don’t want to support local small businesses (I do, I do) but because I don’t keep many groceries in my apartment. I can’t remember the last time I went shopping to purchase anything other than an item I needed for cooking.

But something about the packaging or the ingredients of White Cow Dairy’s yogurts made me want to buy a jar. It was an impulse buy at Murray’s Cheese in the West Village and I’m thrilled I decided to support this Buffalo-based dairy operation. Deciding which flavor was a tough decision, but the Peach Beret was intriguing. The ingredients sound are all over the place: peaches, cranberries, maple sugar, lemon, ginger, and spices. Do those flavors go together? I assure you they do and this creamy, chunky fresh tasting yogurt is some of the best I’ve ever had. You can bet the next time I’m in Murray’s, I’ll be stocking up. And coming from me, that says a lot. 

WHITE COW DAIRY
Available at Murray’s Cheese Shop,
254 Bleecker Street (between Leroy and Cornelia Street)
West Village
(212) 243-3289
whitecowdairy.com

NUMBER 48: CHEESE CURDS at BEECHER’S HANDMADE CHEESE

I’m so sorry Beecher’s. Aside from some drinks and a few lunches, I have yet to actually purchase anything from the new cheese palace near Union Square. Beecher’s came to us via Seattle’s Pike Place Market earlier this year and they brought with them their Flagship cheeses, their world famous mac and cheese, a new wacky grilled cheese martini, and their fresh curds. And the most amazing thing about all this is that you can get free samples of any of them every day right in the store (except for that martini, of course).

If you’re here at the right time, you can watch the cheese being made and read about the curds. These squeaky bites of soured cheese are salty, creamy, and just a bit sweet. Beecher’s is smart to offer free samples because it’s pretty difficult to eat just one. I’ve thought about buying these suckers on a few occasions and will soon cave in, but I know how addicting they are and decided for my own best interest to resist. You, however, should buy a package immediately. Price: $5.75/$9

BEECHER’S HANDMADE CHEESE
900 Broadway (at East 20th Street)
Flatiron District
(212) 466-3340
beechershandmadecheese.com

NUMBER 47: FROZEN YOGURT at CULTURE YOGURT

The frozen yogurt phenomenon took this city by storm a few years ago and has left sad, generic dairy chains like 16 Handles and Red Mango in its wake. The dairy dish got a much needed boost this year with the opening of Culture in Park Slope. When I first read about this place, I thought, “Oh no, not another pathetic fro yo wannabe.” But I was wrong, oh so wrong.

When I finally worked up the courage to head to Park Slope to give this a try, I kicked myself for waiting this long. The yogurt is made in house (take that, Pinkberry!) without any antibiotics and is sold both fresh and frozen. The flavors vary from day to day and everything I tried tastes like the flavor’s supposed to with a clean, smooth, slightly tart backing. If you really want to taste what they do best, order one of their speciality sundaes (like strawberry balsamic, key lime pie, or Vermont maple). Culture came at just the right time and saved the day for frozen yogurt! Price: Varies

CULTURE: AN AMERICAN YOGURT COMPANY
331 5th Avenue (between 3rd Street and 4th Street)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
(718) 499-0207

NUMBER 46: STILL WARM FRESH MOZZARELLA at ABC KITCHEN

ABC Kitchen is a restaurant focused on local, seasonal vegetables, but they also do a fine job on pizzas, pastas, and desserts. And now we can add making their own mozzarella to that list. 

The circular mound of cheese comes out looking like Greek saganaki (without the flames of course), floating in quality olive oil, seasoned generously with salt and pepper, and wearing a lemon garnish. It’s soft and chewy with a rich, sweet milky flavor. I was a little upset I had to share this creamy sensation with the rest of the people at my table, but that was the deal. The cheese is expertly made in house and served “still warm,” which sounds as if it just came out of the cow. It doesn’t get more local than that! Price: $14

ABC KITCHEN
35 East 18th Street (between Broadway and South Park Avenue)
Flatiron District
(212) 475-5829
abckitchennyc.com

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. These are in no particular order. 

NUMBER 60: DUMPLINGS at WHITE BEAR

All the dumplings I tasted out in Flushing (the Chinatown of Queens) were stellar, but the best version I had was at an unassuming little storefront that used to be an ice cream shop (and still has signs for it!). White Bear serves up my favorite dumplings in the city.

And while most reviewers and eaters go ga-ga over the #6 (the wontons with hot sauce), I preferred the simplicity of the #19. The moist filling was full of complex, diverse flavors and textures: crunchy Chinese cabbage, meaty pork, and spicy ginger. The wrappers were the softest and most tender I had sampled. It almost didn’t even need the soy vinegar that they’re served with. The #6 were also pretty darn tasty, but I recommend coming here with some friends and trying as many different varieties as possible.

WHITE BEAR
135-02 Roosevelt Avenue (entrance on Prince Street between Roosevelt and 40th Road)
Flushing, Queens
(718) 961-2322

NUMBER 59: PIEROGIES at LOMZYNIANKA

You can get pierogies from almost any corner in Greenpoint. While the young hipsters are moving in, the Polish community is not going anywhere. My favorite of these Polish restaurants (I’ve not been to all of them) is Lomzynianka, which resides on the main drag of Manhattan Avenue. The food is affordable, hearty, and authentic.

I liked this place so much that I brought a tour group by one Saturday. I was hired to customize a food tour of Brooklyn and this was a must-stop. We got a tasting of their pierogies and all the different stuffings (including potato, mushroom and sauerkraut, and beef) are delicious, but I really love the Farmer’s Cheese. This is not made from the milk of a farmer, but instead a sweet cow’s milk not too dissimilar to cottage cheese. The rich sweetness of the stuffing is cut by the crunchy, greasy dough wrapper which is topped with beautifully caramelized onions. A side of sour cream adds some cooling tang. Price: $5.50

LOMZYNIANKA
646 Manhattan Avenue (between Bedford Avenue and Norman Avenue)
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
(718) 389-9439
lomzynianka.com

NUMBER 58: HOUSEMADE RICOTTA RAVIOLI at ABC KITCHEN

Of all the things I tasted at ABC Kitchen, I’m sort of shocked that the dish I keep coming back to were the ravioli. I only had a taste of them since somebody else at the table ordered them, but I was surprised at the brightness and sweetness to this rather ordinary sounding dish.

The plump ravioli were stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese and topped with parmesan and herb oil. Underneath was a complex, but light tomato sauce. These flavors are rather obvious and traditional, but here they were elevated to something fresh and delicious. And that’s why I can’t stop thinking about a bite of someone else’s dish. Price: $15 (appetizer)/$23 (entree)

ABC KITCHEN
35 East 18th Street (between Broadway and South Park Avenue)
Flatiron District
(212) 475-5829
abckitchennyc.com

NUMBER 57: BUREKA at GAZALA PLACE

Ever heard of Druze food? I hadn’t either until my first visit to Gazala Place some years ago. Druze is actually a religious group that primarily reside in the Middle East, with Israeli, Syrian, and Lebanese influences. The food is easier to classify as Middle Eastern. And the only place I know of that serves this speciality cuisine in the city is Gazala Place, which now has two locations.

The rotating list of fillings is always encased by a rich, buttery bun made of browned flaky phyllo dough. The sesame seed crusted pie falls apart in tender delicious bites. I’m partial to the sundried tomato and goat cheese stuffed boureka which has a savory sweetness that makes me want to learn more about Druze food.

GAZALA PLACE
709 Ninth Avenue (between 48th and 49th Street)
Hell’s Kitchen
(212) 245-0709
380 Columbus Avenue (between 77th and 78th Street)
Upper West Side
(212) 873-8880
gazalaplace.com

NUMBER 56: VARENIKI “KUBAN” at CAFE GLECHIK

Whenever I travel anywhere, I make it worth my stomach’s while. So when I took the trip out to Coney Island one afternoon, I figured I’d better get in all the eating I could. And since the Russian-Ukranian neighborhood of Brighton Beach was just a few blocks away, I knew I’d be having a taste of Eastern Europe. But I’m never content just sampling one thing, so before the main course of a gutbomb chicken tabka at Kebeer, I visited nearby Cafe Glechik for an appetizer of Russian dumplings.

This place is known for the varniki, which are smaller and more delicate than pierogies. I chose the Kuban, which houses mozzarella cheese and is topped with a gorgeous amount of my favorite herb, dill. They knew how to win me over. An order comes with about 20 of these almost bite-sized dumplings. They were so tender and pleasant that it was practically impossible to not finish the entire plate. Price: $8.50

CAFE GLECHIK
3159 Coney Island Avenue (between Brighton Beach Avenue and Brighton 10th Street)
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
(718) 616-0766
1655 Sheepshead Bay Road (between Jerome Avenue and Voorhies Avenue)
Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn
(718) 332-2414
glechik.com

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