Category Archives: BRIAN’S 100 Best ’11

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
(866) 429-7329
wafelsanddinges.com

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

HOSPODA
321 East 73rd Street (between Second Avenue and First Avenue),
Upper East Side
(212) 861-1038
hospodanyc.com

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

FU RUN
40-09 Prince Street (at Roosevelt Avenue)
Flushing, Queens
(718) 321-1363

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

DEL POSTO
85 Tenth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street)
Meatpacking District
(212) 497-8090
delposto.com

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
(718) 361-0085
johnbrownsmokehouse.org

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.

10. PORK MILANESE at ROMAN’S

At most restaurants you may never have the same meal twice, but at Roman’s in Fort Greene, it’s completely true. The menu is brand new every day and while some favorites, like the pork milanese from the Time Out list return, the restaurant seems to constantly re-invent itself. This might make for an inconsistent meal, as other bloggers have hinted at, but the one time we went, I was pretty impressed and satiated by the Italian influenced meal.

Everything was good, but Time Out hit the nail on the head with this pork cutlet. It took a few phone calls to confirm it would be on the daily menu, but it was well worth the wait. This is the Italian version of a pork schnitzel, pounded until very thin and then breaded and fried until tender. The one at Roman’s was rather greaseless and perfectly seasoned. It’s topped with some bitter greens for bite and garnished with a lemon for acidity. If you find it on the menu at Roman’s, I urge you to order it while you can. Price: $19

ROMAN’S
243 DeKalb Avenue (between Clermont Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue),
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
(718) 622-5300
romansnyc.com

9. CHICKEN BISCUIT at PIES ‘N’ THIGHS

At Williamsburg hangout Pies ‘n’ Thighs, the best things to order are the fried chicken and the dreamy rotating dessert pies. In many ways this chicken biscuit, which is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner brings both those worlds together.

It’s a brilliant combination of sweet and savory. The biscuit might be the best I’ve ever had with a firm, browned crust and a buttery, flaky middle. Sandwiched between those two gorgeous buns is a battered and fried chicken breast that’s slathered in honey butter and drizzled with hot sauce. The spicy and sweet flavors linger as you savor the rich butteriness of the chicken and the biscuit. It’s a match made in heaven, well more specifically, at Pies ‘N’ Thighs. Price: $6

PIES ‘N’ THIGHS
166 South 4th Street (at Driggs Avenue)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 529-6090
piesnthighs.com

8. JERK GRILLED CORN at MISS LILY’S

When you think grilled corn in this city, the one place that comes to mind is Cafe Habana. Their classic Mexican-style corn found its way a bit higher up on my list. But this year Miss Lily’s opened a few blocks away from Cafe Habana and they’re serving a version of grilled corn that is changing the game.

This place is so interesting – serving both homemade cakes and refined, hip takes on Jamaican food. The vibe is a cross between the lounge of a big music producer and an island luncheonette. Here they serve what they call jerk grilled corn. The cob is grilled and blackened playing up the sweet and smoky flavors of the corn kernels. It’s loaded with a spicy and garlicky jerk mayo and studded with crunchy toasted coconut. It’s an inventive flavor explosion that makes me re-question where I should go for my grilled corn cravings. Price: $4

MISS LILY’S
127 West Houston Street (between Sullivan and MacDougal Street)
Greenwich Village
(646) 588-5375
misslilysnyc.com

7. BUTCHER’S STEAK at ST. ANSELM

This turned out to be a beef heavy year for me. I ordered large ribeyes, bone-in strip steaks, and other cuts from some of the hotter new restaurants, like Red Farm, The Dutch, and Tertulia.  And I have to admit that they were all pretty flavorful and tender. It was a good meat year, but the best steak I tasted happened to be at newly re-designed grill restaurant St. Anselm.

Hanger steak may be my favorite cut of beef since it’s thin, lean, and full of flavor. I quite enjoy the chewy tenderness of the cut when it’s done right. And here it’s done perfectly. Charred on the outside, rich and tender throughout, and bursting with seasoned and meaty flavors. The bright garlic butter melting on top puts this steak right up there with the best in the city. Price: $15

ST. ANSELM
355 Metropolitan Avenue (between 4th Street and Havemeyer Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(718) 384-5054

6. GOAT’S MILK ICE CREAM at VICTORY GARDEN

SADLY, VICTORY GARDEN IS NOW CLOSED.

That first fateful evening that I stepped inside the clean and bright shop known as Victory Garden was the night I begin my new obsession. This store sells any number of healthy and lactose free items, including soaps and sachets. But the main attraction is their soft-serve goat’s milk ice cream.

Not only is this ice cream healthier and cleaner than most soft serves, but Victory Garden offers it in exotic and cathartic flavors like Mastic (an anise-like plant resin that aids in digestion), Cinnamon Lemon, and Healing Powers of India (turmeric, carrot, nigella, and ginger). These flavors are balanced with sweet, spicy, herbal, and floral notes. It’s a wonderful combination and with some crunchy cocoa nibs or sweet honeycomb candy as toppings, you’ll certainly feel like you’re eating dessert. But won’t feel nearly as guilty about this new obsession. Price: $4-$5

VICTORY GARDEN
31 Carmine Street (between Bleecker Street and Bedford Street)
West Village
(212) 206-7273
victorygardennyc.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. 

15. MEATBALLS at RUBIROSA

Meatballs may have been the new cupcake this year. Could you imagine a meatball cupcake? They seemed to be everywhere – just meatballs, not meatball cupcakes. Not only did a second restaurant open specializing in different versions of the little guys, but they found themselves on the menu of many restaurants. And while some can be overly bready or too spicy or flat and dry, the ones at Rubirosa were none of those things. And quite a bit more.

Rubirosa, which comes from the owners of Joe & Pat’s out on Staten Island, is getting well-deserved praise for their thin crust pizzas. But everything (including the service and the music) was memorable, especially the homemade meatballs in a classic red sauce with parmesan and herbs. You can get them as a side, on a bruschetta, or with a plate of spaghetti. However you choose, you may finally understand the new meatball craze. Price: $8 (side), $3 (brushetta), $16/$26 (with spaghetti)

RUBIROSA
235 Mulberry Street (between Spring and Prince Street)
Nolita
(212) 965-0500
rubirosanyc.com

14. JALAPEÑO HUSH PUPPIES at DIRT CANDY

One of the most exciting meals I had this year was completely vegetarian. Amanda Cohen is a genius with vegetables (she calls them “dirty candy”) and could convert even the most stubborn carnivore. The best way to start that conversion is with an order of her beautiful jalapeño laced hush puppies.

These modestly sized irregular-shaped balls are fried golden. When you bite into the dough, in addition to plenty of warming steam, you also get crunchy jalapeño bits which give a healthy kick, along with sweet and yeasty flavors. And with a dip into the provided whipped maple butter, you understand why Amanda Cohen calls this place Dirt Candy and you’re now prepared for a consistently delicious meal. Of vegetables, no less. Price: $6

DIRT CANDY
430 East 9th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A)
East Village
(212) 228-7732
dirtcandynyc.com

13. KIMCHI ARANCINI at KIMCHI TACO TRUCK

This year we saw many food trucks popping up serving Korean tacos – a fusion of Mexican and Korean flavors. But only one truck attempted to combine Korean flavors with other cuisines. Kimchi Truck, which serves its fair share of Korean tacos, features a dish further down their menu that is a play on a classic Italian dish.

Arancini balls are breaded and fried rice balls usually stuffed with meat, tomato sauce, and cheese. Chef and founder Phillip Lee has the audacity to take this classic and spin it on its head with the addition of Korean flavors. And amazingly, it works wonders. These tender bites are stuffed with mild kimchi flecked rice, a generous helping of Oaxaca (keeping it Mexican) cheese, parmesan, garlic, and spices. They’re fried in Panko breading and are endlessly addicting. A dunk into the special hot sauce makes this rival the original version. Price: $3

KIMCHI TACO TRUCK
Locations Vary,
Follow on Twitter: @KimchiTruck
kimchitacotruck.com

12. CAPPELLETTI at OSTERIA MORINI

Michael White really took off this past year with three hot new restaurants: Marea (which technically opened in 2010), Ai Fiori (which I’m dying to go to once I save up some money), and this place. I already sang the praises of the tiramisu on this list, but now it’s time to focus on what Osteria Morini is all about: rich, decadent, delicious pastas.

These little balls of surprise packed so much flavor they practically knocked me off my seat. It’s an exercise in textures: the soft pillowy ravioli melt away to a sweet, creamy mascarpone center. Through it all are crispy, salty bits of fried prosciutto and the wonderful aroma of truffle. They’re perched in a rich butter sauce that makes this a dish you’re dying to order four more of, but you know you better save room (and arteries) for some of the other dishes. And you’ll be glad you did. Price: $20

OSTERIA MORINI
218 Lafayette Street (between Kenmare Street and Spring Street)
(212) 965-8777
Soho
osteriamorini.com

11. WILKINSONS at HENRY PUBLIC

These little balls were one of the most delicious things I tasted from Time Out’s 100 Best list this past year. We discovered them at Henry Public, a gastropub that underwhelmed us the previous year. But I don’t care what anything else at this restaurants tastes like, these alone are worth the trip.
Named after consulting chef Shannon Wilkinson, these are a hybrid between pancake and doughnut. They’re airy balls of sweet, rich batter that have been fried just long enough to develop a beautiful yeasty exterior. Inside they’re still creamy, eggy, and complexly flavored. At dinner, they’re served with an amazing rum caramel sauce that puts all maple syrup to shame. Sweet, sweet shame. Price: $9

HENRY PUBLIC
329 Henry Street (between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street)
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
(718) 852-8630
henrypublic.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. 

20. PICADITAS DE JAIBA at HECHO EN DUMBO

Hecho en Dumbo has nothing to do with a lovable little elephant, but in fact refers to the neighborhood where this Mexican gastropub was first created. They’ve since moved to the East Village, but their philosophy of refined, seasonal Mexican food in a drink-happy setting remains. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had a pretty memorable meal.

We started with these picaditas de jaiba, which are little corncakes of flavor. On top of the firm buttery patties, sits a delicious salad of fresh jumbo lump Dungeness crab meat tossed with a gently biting jalapeño oil and topped with ripe avocados. A squeeze of lime brings out the brightness and lightness. These small bites are too easy to gobble up regardless of the neighborhood. Price: $8

HECHO EN DUMBO
354 Bowery (between 3rd Street and Great Jones Street)
East Village
(212) 937-4245
hechoendumbo.com

19. PASTRAMI RUSS at RUSS & DAUGHTERS

You know I’m a big fan of the pastrami sandwich. I’ve spent months searching for the best version of the deli staple. That meaty, smoky goodness is a heart attack that’s more than worth it. But wait a minute, a pastrami sandwich minus the meat? Why would anybody do that?

If you’ve ever been to Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, you’ll understand. This is a classy old-time shop that specializes not in smoked meat, but rather smoked fish. If you want the hard stuff, you’ll have to go next door to Katz’s. But they make a pastrami sandwich here that rivals the classic version. You get to pick your bagel of choice for the Pastrami Russ, but trust me when I say you need to order it on pumpernickel. Not only will you get the approval of all the guys behind the counter, but these are the flavor combinations that make the most sense. With a generous schmear of mustard, crisp sauerkraut, and the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever taste, you won’t miss the actual meat for a minute. And you may live a little longer. Price: $10.45

RUSS & DAUGHTERS
179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street)
Lower East Side
(212) 475-4880
russanddaughters.com

18. CHIMBORI JALWA at TAMARIND TRIBECA

Crab cakes tend to be the same everywhere you go. Aside from the bread crumb to crab meat ratio, most versions are pan fried, served with citrus and an aioli of sorts. The chimbori jalwa appetizer at fancy Indian restaurant Tamarind Tribeca was unlike any crab cake experience I’ve had before.

The colorful tower of meat was loaded with plenty of sweet lump crab meat and tinged with some Indian spices, ginger, and garlic. It had a restrained hint of curry with lots of balanced sweet (tamarind) and spicy (chile) flavors. Served on a bright spiced tomato sauce with scattered scallions and corn kernels, it was complex and delicious. And made for my new favorite crab cake in the city (just beating out Del Frisco’s baked version from last year’s list). Price: $15

TAMARIND TRIBECA
99 Hudson Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street)
Tribeca
(212) 775-9000
tamarinde22.com

17. PIKE QUENELLES at MILLESIME

Millesime really is a little gem: a hidden, French brasserie that can work as a relaxing cafe or a fine dining seafood restaurant. It’s located above the bar in the Carlton Hotel and it will transport you to Paris. And not just because of the ambiance, but because of the expertly prepared seafood and classic dishes. Take the pike quenelles, which are made in the style of Jean-Louis Dumonet. I don’t know much about this old French chef, but I do know he made some amazing quenelles.

You don’t see quenelles too often in New York, especially not like these. The delicate little dumplings are absolutely delectable, so soft and tender in a rich tomato lobster butter sauce that begged to be sopped up. Reminiscent of an airy seafood sausage, they fell apart like a buttery soft matzo ball of the sea. Très bien! Price: $14

MILLESIME
92 Madison Avenue (between 28th and 29th Street)
Inside the Carlton Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 889-7100
millesimerestaurant.com

16. TOSTA MATRIMONIO at TERTULIA

The new Spanish tapas hotspot Tertulia is more than just a bar for celebrity watching. It’s one of the best restaurants of the year. Truly any of the dishes I tried could have made my Top 100. The fried eggplant was spectacular, as was the sliced acorn-fed Iberico ham, and I haven’t even mentioned the tender as sin ribeye. But the one dish that blew everything out of the water were the little anchovies that inconspicously lay on heavenly toast points.

They’re referred to as both “tosta matrimonio” and “black and white anchovies.” The two meaty fish (the black are cured and the white are pickled) are simply halved and arranged on a toast-bed of sweet roasted tomatoes, creamy tangy sheep’s milk cheese, and a generous drizzle of aged balasamic. The dish is a perfect example of balance and brightness with the sweet cheese and tomato pairing perfectly with the salty, acidic anchovies. And amazingly, the delicate dish don’t even taste fishy. Maybe that’s why so many celebrities come here. Price: $9

TERTULIA
359 Sixth Avenue (between Washington Place and West 4th Street)
Greenwich Village,
(646) 559-9909
tertulianyc.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. 

25. TRES HOMBRES at DINOSAUR BARBEQUE

It’s quite a statement that we took this barbecue platter to go from the ultra-busy BBQ joint up in Harlem and by the time we found our picnic area on a holiday weekend, the meat was still so tender and full of flavor.

I can never decide what to eat at a BBQ joint (or anywhere for that matter) because I want a little taste of everything. The Tres Hombres combines my favorite smoked meat staples: pulled pork, beef brisket, and 1/4 rack of ribs. There’s more than enough food and all of the meat is incredibly tender and loaded with sweet, charred flavors. Served with sweet cornbread and a choice of sides, it’s a testament as to why Dinosaur BBQ is my favorite in the city. Price: $19.50

DINOSAUR BARBEQUE
700 West 125th Street (between 12th Avenue and West Riverside Drive)
Harlem
(212) 694-1777
dinosaurbarbeque.com

24. PORK CHOP at APIARY

SADLY, APIARY IS NOW CLOSED.

I’ve been working as a server at Apiary for about a year now and in that time, I’ve had the honor to learn of the culinary genius of Chef Scott Bryan. Many in the food industry know him (there’s even an entire chapter about him in one of Anthony Bourdain’s books), but he tends to fly under the radar. His food is simple, but with powerful, rich flavors that make you question whether something as plain as chicken should be allowed to taste this good.

This year I’ve been pretty obsessed with his pork chop. It’s a thick cut of Berkshire pork that’s pan roasted to a soft, tender texture. On its own, it’s full of deep, moist flavors but the chef pairs it with a rotating group of accompaniments. Currently, the hearty mascarpone polenta, sweet braised escarole. Price: $26

APIARY
60 Third Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
East Village
(212) 254-0888
apiarynyc.com

23. STEAK TARTARE at BRINDLE ROOM

Our first trip to Brindle Room was sort of lackluster. Nothing was bad, but nothing blew me away. That changed on the second visit when I got some tastes of amazingly flavorful dishes and was taken care of like I was part of the family.

The dishes this time around, including a nice kale salad and a thick juicy pork chop, were much more memorable, but it was their version of steak tartare that really got me excited. It’s served with housemade potato chip crisps which are much preferable to a limp baguette. Chef Jeremy Spector’s raw chopped meat is fresh, flavorful, and kissed with some special hot sauce that gives it a surprisingly tangy, mustardy kick. Price: $9

BRINDLE ROOM
277 East 10th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A)
East Village
(212) 529-9702
brindleroom.com

22. OXTAIL TERRINE at SALT & FAT

I was frightened about eating at Salt & Fat. All the reviews, while raves, talked about how rich and fatty the dishes were. The “Crack and Cheese” (which was no longer on the menu when I finally made it out to Sunnyside) sounded like a heart attack. But I am pleased to announce I did not suffer a heart attack at Salt & Fat and I discovered dish after dish of deliciousness.

The Oxtail Terrine was my favorite dish. The presentation is rather dark and rough – it looks like a big, black brick. If this was dessert, I might have been more eager to dig into what looked like a brownie. Once I touched my fork to the terrine, it generously fell apart and revealed itself to be a meaty, umami delight. It’s been braised in a dashi and shiitake mushroom broth before being assembled and perched on some exotic mushrooms with a spread of  sweet, rich caramelized onion puree. Price: $10

SALT & FAT
41-16 Queens Boulevard (between 41st and 42nd Street)
Sunnyside, Queens
(718) 433-3702
saltandfatny.com

21. LECHON ASADO at EL NUEVO BOHIO

“Lechon asado” simply translates to roasted pig, but the version at old-time Puerto Rican restaurant El Nuevo Bohio is so much more than that. And the always crowded dining room is proof. I don’t know if I ever would have discovered this place if not for a summertime visit to the Bronx Zoo.

The chopped pork is a moist, meaty mess of flavors with crispy pork skin shards for texture. A wonderfully intense mojo sauce gives the meat an extra garlicky kick, while the side of tostones (fried green plantains) provide a sweet. starchiness that complements the meat. And even though it’s simply roasted pork, this dish makes the trip to the Bronx worthwhile. Price: $7

EL NUEVO BOHIO
791 East Tremont Avenue (between Prospect Avenue and Mapes Avenue)
East Tremont, Bronx
(718) 294-3905

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. 

30. LEMON BAR from THE TREATS TRUCK

I miss The Treats Truck so much. Ever since Kim Ima stopped parking in Midtown due to the ban on food trucks, my treats intake has shrunk dramatically. And while my doctor might be happy with that, my tastebuds certainly are not.

One of the treats I miss most is the Lemon Bar. I’m not even a fan of lemon desserts, but this one which premiered last winter as a way to reminisce about the bright days of summer could turn even the biggest lemon snubber into a fan. The shortbread crust gives the gooey dessert an extra buttery crunch, while the sweet and tart filling is fresh and succulent. And Kim always asks you which piece you want, giving you the option of getting the crunchy end piece. She still parks at a few locations in Manhattan, so she’s just a subway ride away from wherever you are. And even though they wouldn’t be the same, maybe I’ll have to buy her new cookbook and attempt to make them myself. Just don’t tell my doctor. Price: $2.50

TREATS TRUCK
Locations Vary
Check Twitter: @TheTreatsTruck
(212) 691-5226
treatstruck.com

29. COCONUT CHAI at BONOBO’S

This was a true New York discovery. I was just thirsty one afternoon and wandered into what looked like a generic deli across from Madison Square Park. In fact, it’s Bonobo’s, a casual vegetarian restaurant. And on display, I stumbled upon a very intriguing drink, which turned out to be one of the most delicious things I had tasted in my life!

With creamy, sweet coconut flavors on the front and spicy, sweet chai masala spices on the finish, this drink may as well have been dessert and a nutritious one at that. It’s made with fresh young coconut and the only extra sweetener is the healthier agave nectar. My only complaint is how small the bottle is and how addicting the stuff inside is. There’s not even close to enough to give me a satisfying fill of my new favorite discovery. I guess that just means I’ll have to buy another bottle.

BONOBO’S
18 East 23rd Street (between Madison Avenue and Broadway)
Flatiron District
(212) 505-1200
bonobosrestaurant.com

28. GO FIG YOURSELF PIZZA at PAULIE GEE’S

Good ol’ Paulie Gee! I’ve written about his amazing contributions to the pizza world and have been a fan of his since the first day I tasted his wood-fired creations. Last year, the Cherry Jones made my list. And this year, a seasonal pie with similar ingredients made my list. That’s right, this is another fruit pizza!

Usually the thought of fruit on pizza (pineapple?) earns gasps in the serious pizza world. But Paulie is a master of flavor combinations and discovering fresh ingredients. The Go Fig Yourself (the name alone should make a Top 100 list) uses fresh black mission figs (hence the seasonality of the pie). The rich bite of gorgonzola and salty earthiness of prosciutto di parma keep the sweetness of the figs and fior fi latte in check. All good chefs know every dish should have some sort of acidity. Paulie takes care of that with a sprinkling of orange blossom honey. Brilliant! Price: $17

PAULIE GEE’S
60 Greenpoint Avenue (between West Street and Franklin Street)
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
(347) 987-3747
pauliegee.com

27. STRAWBERRY CINNAMON RIBS at TRAIF

I’ve always been a bad Jew. I used go out every year for my birthday to get a big slab of BBQ pork ribs. They really were my favorite. And I would tend to agree with most of Brooklyn that pig is the tastiest of all the meats.

Traif is a perfect place for me in many ways. The name itself hints at things only a bad Jew (or a non-Jew) would eat and the food here is stupendous (and affordable). The second dish to make my list this year (there were two on last year’s list as well) are the glazed baby back ribs. This is a throwback to my youth, but I never experienced any as uniquely flavorful and tender as these. The glaze is quite complex with a good level of sweetness from the strawberries and a mild spiciness from the cinnamon. Maybe this could convince more Jews to finally come over to the dark side. Price: $9

TRAIF
229 South 4th Street (between Havemeyer Street and Roebling Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 844-9578
traifny.com

26. GRAPEFRUIT GIVRE at BOULUD SUD

The Grapefruit Givre was perhaps the strangest dessert I’ve ever tasted. And yes, I’ve had beet ice cream and celery sorbet, but this takes the cake. Not because of the strange flavor combinations, but because there are so many things going on in this visually striking, slightly avant garde, playful dish. 

I probably wouldn’t have tasted this if it wasn’t listed on Time Out’s list for 2011, so I’m eternally grateful. Pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira, who hails from Tunisia, uses a hollowed out frozen grapefruit as the bowl. Inside are layers upon layers of delicious treasures, including a tart grapefruit sorbet, creamy sesame foam, and chewy pieces of floral rose candy. The interactive dish is sealed up with a brittle sugary caramel tuille and beautiful cotton candy-like halvah shreds. The fruit is garnished with sesame seeds. And like an enthralling piece of art, at first I didn’t know what to make of it, but eventually I let the experience overtake me and I reveled in its glory. Price: $13

BOULUD SUD
20 West 64th Street (between Central Park West and Broadway)
Upper West Side
(212) 595-1313
danielnyc.com/boulud_sud.html

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