Category Archives: BRIAN’S 100 Best ’10

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2015…

Tiramisu-Mascarpone Mochii at THE DESSERT CLUB BY CHIKALICIOUS

Mochi is more common today than ever, but it’s usually inside of ice cream or on top of some frozen yogurt. For the uninitiated, mochi is a chewy, stretchy Japanese rice cake. Almost like a marshmallow, but not as fluffy and with a really unique texture.

Tiramisu-Mascarpone Mochii at THE DESSERT CLUB BY CHIKALICIOUS

My favorite dessert spot in the entire city, Chikalicious, has a West Village location now where they are filling a mochi ball with layers of tiramisu. What could be better? It’s a bite-sized, textured tiramisu ball where Japanese meets Italian pastries. Brilliant!! Price: $5

THE DESSERT CLUB BY CHIKALICIOUS
27 Bedford Street (between Downing and West Houston Street),
West Village
(212) 691-2426
204 10th Street (between First and Second Avenue),
East Village
(212) 475-0929
thedessertclub.com

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

5. TOMATO COURSE at THE KITCHEN AT BROOKLYN FARE

You can’t get this amazing tomato dish without making a reservation well in advance, paying the $135, and sitting through the fantastic eight-course meal at Brooklyn Fare (which is a kitchen attached to a high end grocery store). So in many ways, the entire meal should be on my Top 100. And it’s a spectacular meal, but early in the dinner something happened that really stood out from the rest of the food.

On the “menu” it’s labeled as the tomato course and we watched as the sous chefs all helped Chef César Ramirez compose the six-part dish that featured tomatoes every possible way you can imagine. Even the ways you can’t imagine, including my favorite: the tomato marshmallow. Each component was explosive with flavor. And you kept finding more components to the components, like the little gazpacho underneath the white tomato mousse. And of course, as almost an afterthought (or palate cleanser), we got a scoop of some sweet, spicy tomato sorbet. It was fantastic.

And it really stole the show that made the rest of the meal pale in comparison. And the rest of the meal was phenomenal. Explain that. Price: Available seasonally with the $135 prix-fixe

KITCHEN AT BROOKLYN FARE
212 Schermerhorn Street (between Hoyt Street and Bond Street)
Downtown Brooklyn
(718) 243-0050
brooklynfare.com

4. SMOKED MEAT SANDWICH at MILE END

Oh boy, Mile End! This is one of my favorite new restaurants in the city. The owners, Noah Bernamoff and his wife Rachel Cohen are both savvy business people, innovative foodies, and an important addition to the neighborhoods near Boerum Hill.

Mile End is the first Montreal style deli in the city and it’s much more modern and culinary focused than our typical New York delicatessens. And it’s the place I first discovered the Smoked Meat Sandwich. Smoked meat is very similar to what we think of as pastrami, but the seasonings are more aggressive (clove, fennel seed, and paprika). And unlike most delis in the city (Katz’s being the exception), the briskets are sliced to order so they break down for as long as possible in the steamer. That ensures perfect tenderness and meatiness. These are no cold cuts.

The sandwich has so much flavor and literally falls apart in your mouth. The small layer of fat is soft and not greasy or overwhelming at all. And the smoke and spices really light up your taste buds. It reminds me of both Jewish pastrami and Southern smoked brisket. Two of my favorite things in the world.

And unlike most of the corned beef/pastrami sandwiches in this city, this baby is more manageable and you can actually finish one all by yourself. And trust me, there’s no better feeling. Price: $9

MILE END
97A Hoyt Street (between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street)
Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
(718) 852-7510
mileendbrooklyn.com

3. KUMAMOTO TASTING at LE BERNARDIN

I was blessed to be invited to one of the most famous, well-respected restaurants in the city by a dear friend. Her boss had bought her an all-expense paid dinner to Le Bernardin. If you live in New York, you know that this seafood restaurant is one of the few NY Times four star restaurants, along with perfect scores in Zagat, and lots of respect from the Michelin people.

This dining experience is as good as it gets. And of course, it’s ridiculously expensive. And I’d like to say that the best part of the experience was that I didn’t have to reach for my wallet, but the truth is, the food was phenomenal.

One of the stand-outs that I will never forget was a bit unexpected. It was simply labeled kumamoto, which referred to a “progressive tasting of kumamoto oyster ‘en gelee’, from light and refreshing to complex and spicy.” I absolutely love oysters, but I find it hard to tell a kumamoto at one restaurant from that at another. So unless you do something special to it, it’s all about the freshness (which I always hope is the highest possible).

Well, celebrity chef Eric Ripert doesn’t just get the freshest, sweetest kumamotos possible, but he adds an extra flavor component to each one. There were eight raw oysters and each one had a special flavored gelee to bring out the natural flavors of the shellfish. I find flavored gelee one of the most unique and exciting additions to any meal. And the fact that they were all so unusual and sat above a pearly white oyster made my night.

The tasting started with a light green apple gelee that was tart and fruity and played off the briny richness of the oyster itself. Six oysters later the tasting ended with kimchi gelee that had a nice smoky, spicy quality that contrasted the natural flavors of the kumo. In between, we got to try everything from shiso gelee to dashi gelee.  It was a beautifully constructed start to an immaculate evening of feasting.

The only downside to this dish is I may never get to taste it again. And I’m not referring to the fact that Le Bernardin changes the menu every so often, I mean I can’t afford this stuff on my own!

LE BERNARDIN
155 West 51st Street (between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue)
Inside the Equitable Building
Midtown West
(212) 554-1515
le-bernardin.com

2. YUBA AND UNI YOSHINO-STYLE at KYO YA

Let me just say up front that I love Japanese food. Which is weird because the one really bad food experience I remember from childhood was eating at the casual Japan restaurant at EPCOT. There was some brewed flavor (soy perhaps?) in their soup that really turned me off to Japanese cuisine for many years.

Well, I’m glad I found it again. I love the clean, delicate, raw flavors. Sushi, tempura, ramen, yakitori, wasabi. You name it; I’ll eat it.

Since I love Japanese food, I was so excited to try Kyo Ya in the East Village. It’s a little hideaway below 7th Street and it opens up into a relaxed setting that feels both casual and fancy at the same time. The staff was welcoming and happy and just made us feel at home. I was ready to order everything on their menu and give them all my money. But since I need to pay my rent, I decided to be a little discerning.

I would have probably glossed over the Yuba and Uni Yoshino-style if Time Out hadn’t urged me to try it. I had never had anything like this before in my life, but after my first bite, I hoped I would have it again and again.

Yuba means tofu skin and uni is sea urchin. I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but I don’t mind it if it’s in a flavorful dish. The first time I tasted sea urchin was many years ago at a sushi restaurant in Pittsburgh. At the time, I remember it being the most disgusting thing I had ever put in my mouth.

Well, times have changed and either now I like disgusting things in my mouth (no comments, please) or this was a whole other level of sea urchin. It was so fresh and the texture was both creamy and chewy. The tofu skin was like cold wide noodles with a milky flavor and firm bite. All this was served cold in a clear broth with black seaweed and wasabi for a little texture and heat, respectively.

The sweet and briny flavors made me yearn to be both a sea creature and a vegetarian. Or a vegetarian sea creature. Price: $12

KYO YA
94 East 7th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A)
East Village
(212) 982-4140

1. RICOTTA GNOCCHI at UNION SQUARE CAFE

Here’s one of those dishes I discovered from my Time Out journey that was just heavenly. If I discovered nothing else on the list that was worthwhile, this would have been enough. And it easily became my favorite dish of the year.

The Ricotta Gnocchi at Union Square Cafe made me think of sleeping. I wanted to fall asleep right in the bowl. It would have been a mess and a bit of an embarrassment. But they were so light, delicious, pillowy (there’s the sleep again), and flavorful, that I just wanted to let them take over and let me dream. Dream about perfect food.

The little dumplings were served with a Meyer (Danny?) Lemon Butter and it was garnished with fresh herbs. And as light and tasty as the sauce was, I really don’t think it mattered what these were swimming in. They literally melt in your mouth and give way to a rich ricotta center that’s barely held together, yet there’s still that initial firmness. It’s just as much fun to pop them open with your teeth as it is to savor the flavor in your mouth.

Union Square Cafe is a bit on the pricey side (although they do offer cheaper, smaller portions of their pasta – the gnocchi included), but it is worth the splurge. The dishes are not overly complicated, yet the flavors are balanced and well-executed. Looking at the menu, it seems like you’ve had all this before (lasagna, roasted chicken, gnocchi). And you may have, but here you’ll have them cooked to perfection. Price: $15/$25

UNION SQUARE CAFE
21 East 16th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Union Square West)
Flatiron District
(212) 243-4020
unionsquarecafe.com

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

10. CHENNAI KATI ROLL at BIRYANI CART

Giving the Food Cart walking tours for Urban Oyster this year has not only been fulfilling (because I get to use my food knowledge to show people great places to eat), but also filling (because I get to sample lots and lots of street food).

My most exciting discovery from a food cart this year was a dish New York foodies have been talking about for years. Meru Sikder from Biryani Cart has even won the People’s Choice Vendy Award two years in a row. And I can only imagine it has quite a lot to do with his kati rolls.

Kati rolls are often referred to as Indian burritos. Chicken, lamb, or vegetables are marinated and grilled with any number of seasonings. Then it’s wrapped up in a handmade chapati bread that is pan-fried on the cart. They come in any number of sauce and spice options, including an Indian-spicy that’s not on the visible menu.

The chennai chicken roll is made with a sweet chili sauce that has the right amount of heat for an American palate and all the perfect soft and crunchy textures and rich and buttery flavors as all the kati roll options. Meru is opening a second cart in 2011 called Juicy Wings, where he will be spinning a take on american chicken wings. I can only imagine what will make my Top 100 list next year from the new cart.

I’m never surprised when the tour attendees “ooh” and “aah” over our kati roll tastings. They’re truly something special. And if you want to hear more about these wonderful little wraps (not to mention taste them), you’ll have to sign up for the tour. Price: $6

BIRYANI CART
46th Street and Sixth Avenue
Midtown West
biryanicart.com

9. ARROZ DE PATO at ALDEA

I don’t hear about Aldea as much as I used to. Maybe it’s been overshadowed by newer nuevo Latin restaurants like Nuela and Casabe. But if there were any justice, George Mendes would get constant praise for his innovative and delicious Portugeuese menu.

His most famous dish is the Arroz de Pato (Duck Rice), which is a brilliant play on a paella. The rice is made with saffron (as any good paella dish would be) and features three different parts of the duck (the rich confit, the gamey breast, and the crispy skin), but it’s well-dispersed and light enough that only Daffy would take offense.

Also mixed in with this classy paella are bits of chorizo and surprising bites of black olives. There’s also dots of apricot puree on the side that give the richness of the duck the perfect sweet contrast.

It’s an amazing complex dish that was so enjoyable to eat. I really could have eaten three orders of this and would have gladly. The only problem would have been my empty wallet and my growing waistline. Dios mío! Price: $25

ALDEA
31 West 17th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas)
Flatiron District
(212) 675-7223
aldearestaurant.com

8. ICE CREAM CAKES at QUALITY MEATS

One of the biggest treats of the summer was when Quality Meats (a high end steakhouse in Midtown) started acting like a little kid. For just a few months, they transformed their charcuterie bar into a brilliant Willy Wonka-esque candy counter. Pork carcasses and cleavers were replaced by gigantic gummy bears and ice cream scoopers. They sound like they’d be out of place in the middle of a high end steakhouse, but they somehow worked perfectly. It’s every businessmanchild’s fantasy!

The star of the summer were the personal ice cream cakes. It was like a brain freeze trying to decide between the flavors they offered. Over the course of a few visits, I managed to try all three: the Pie Smash (blueberry cake with lemon meringue ice cream and raspberry frosting), the Cherry Monkey (banana cake with cherry-pistachio ice cream and vanilla frosting), or the Monster Mash (peanut butter cake with chocolate cookie monster ice cream and caramel frosting).

The cakes were all a little too beautiful to eat. But I didn’t feel that bad digging in and discovering some perfect and interesting ice cream and cake combinations. I’m a sucker for caramel and peanut butter, so I think the Monster Mash was my favorite. But the other two were amazing. The pistachio, cherry, and banana are an amazing threesome (none are too sweet but together make a perfect ice cream combo) in the Cherry Monkey. And the Pie Smash was surprisingly light, tart, and sweet all at the same time.

I have begun counting the days until next summer to taste these all over again. And again and again and again. Price: $8

QUALITY MEATS
57 West 58th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue)
Midtown West
(212) 371-7777
qualitymeatsnyc.com

7. PIZZA DEL PAPA at KESTÉ

I tried lots of pizzas this year, but one stood out as being so unique and traditional that I’ve been back many times since to share it with friends.

I’m talking about the Pizza del Papa (pizza for the Pope) at Kesté. Of course, I visited this traditional Neapolitan pizzeria on my pizza video over a year ago. So I’ve written on and on about their perfect tender, charred dough and their fresh flavorful toppings. But it bears repeating,

My favorite pie features the colors of the Vatican flag and the flavors of heaven. The toppings are butternut squash cream, artichokes, blistered red and yellow pepper, and a special smoked mozzarella cheese. This pizza was like taking a bite out of a campfire, but with gooey cheesy goodness. And without the actual burning sensation of a fire in your mouth. The only burning sensation I had was the desire to eat it all over again. Price: $16

KESTE
271 Bleecker Street (between Morton and Jones Street)
West Village
(212) 243-1500
kestepizzeria.com

6. CAULIFLOWER SALAD at TANOREEN

If you were to ask me about my least favorite vegetable, odds are the word “cauliflower” would come to mind. I’ve always found it colorless, bland, and overly chewy. Broccoli’s sad albino brother.

So if somebody could make me forget my issues for a spell and re-consider the flowered vegetable, it would have to be pretty spectacular. And that’s what happened with the caulfilower salad at Tanoreen, a popular Middle Eastern neighborhood restaurant in Bay Ridge in the far reaches of Brooklyn.

The cauliflower is sauteed and browned until the florets are incredibly crispy and exhibit a smoky flavor. Then the monster vegetables are drizzled with fresh and earthy tahini sauce, a sweet and tart pomegranate molasses, plenty of lemon for bright acidity, and some crunchy parsley springs. It’s an experiment in balanced textures and flavors. And it’s a success.

Every menu item I tasted was phenomenal. Chef Rawia Bishara has a brilliant way of making Middle Eastern dishes taste livelier and fresher than I’ve ever experienced. In fact all the food was so good, we ordered some extra helpings to go just so we could re-live them without making the trip to Bay Ridge again so soon. And now that those leftovers are long gone, it’s time to find a reason (and a mode of transportation) to get out there again. For cauliflower no less! Price: $6.50

TANOREEN
7523 3rd Avenue (between Bay Ridge Parkway and 76th Street)
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
(718) 748-5600
tanoreen.com

Photo Courtesy of: flickr.com


If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

15. AMBROSIA COOKIE at RUBYZAAR

I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of savory cookies. Aren’t cookies by definition supposed to be sweet? Well, what if I could told you that you could have all the usual vanilla, buttery sweetness with hints of savory fruits and spices? All for the price of one cookie?

Rubyzaar is a pop-up stand at the Union Square Holiday Market that specializes in fair-trade clothing and crafts from around the world. Strangely enough they also sell their own cookies (baked in Brooklyn) that were inspired by the flavors of the regions that their goods come from. They have a wide range of interesting flavors from Kashmir (earl grey tea, smoked almonds, chocolate) to Hoi An (Vietnamese coffee, cream, dark chocolate) to Savannah (sun-dried peach, pecans, chocolate).

The first one I tried was the one that made me fall in love with this concept. It’s called the Ambrosia and it features fig, dried pear, sage, roasted walnut, and creamed honey. It was an unusual mix of sweet and savory with an herbal note, lots of creamy and crunchy textures, and a delicious surprise.

The cookies are only available until Christmas Eve, so I would hurry up and get as many as you can. Otherwise, you may have to wait until next year. Price: $2

RUBYZAAR
Union Square Holiday Market, Booth #33
Union Square East (across from 15th Street)
rubyzaar.com

14. WARM CHOCOLATE TART WITH PINK PEPPERCORN ICE CREAM at CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR

My first encounter with pink peppercorns was at a restaurant I used to work at called Cafe Joul. The chef would often make a citrusy butter sauce containing the little pink guys. I recognized all the other flavors in the sauce, but the crunchy floral berries (not actual peppers) were a taste I had never experienced before. And I loved it.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my favorite spot in all the city, Chikalicious Dessert Bar, makes pink peppercorn ice cream. I learned about it years ago, but I’m constantly coming back to discover pastry chef Chika’s inventive three-course desserts. Fortunately for me, one of her two never changing menu items is the chocolate tart with the pink peppercorn ice cream

And the tart itself, like everything else here, is delectable. It’s refined and full of balanced flavors and textures. The pastry containing the chocolate is crisp, light and buttery. The chocolate inside is decadent but not too rich. The red wine sauce adds some nice complex acidity and the pink peppercorn ice cream puts the whole thing over the edge.

I’d come in just for a cone of the ice cream (they don’t offer cones). And I love it so much I even tried to re-create it at home. Which worked, but not nearly as well as when Chika creates it. Price: Part of the $14 Prix-Fixe

CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR
203 East 10th Street (between First and Second Avenue)
East Village
(212) 995-9511
chikalicious.com

Photo Courtesy of: commons.wikimedia.org

13. CHOCOLATE STOUT SYLLABUB at THE BRESLIN

“What the hell is a syllabub?” we asked our bartender. Strangely enough, he didn’t know and had to ask the other bartender. Either this guy was new or The Breslin has created a dessert so unique that it baffles even the staff.

Upon looking it up on my trust Iphone, I learned that a syllabub is an old traditional English dessert (The Breslin focuses on British pub food) that is made up of whipped milk or cream, sugar, and a touch of wine to curdle the liquid. I was still confused so I took the second bartender’s word when he said it was like a mousse.

I’m so glad we took the leap of faith because this was an amazing dessert. It was sort of reminiscent of a chocolate mousse and had a sweet, bitter flavor (probably from the beer) which worked perfectly together. The best part was the garnish on top. They looked like chocolate caviar but the menu called them bubbled caramel. They were these crunchy beads of sweetness. There was also a layer of white foam on top (creme fraiche?) that was caramelized or curdled or something. But it was also crunchy, reminiscent of creme brulee, and tasting vaguely of marshamallows.

Now I have an answer to my initial question. I’ll tell you what a syllabub is (besides an awkward thing to say): it’s pure deliciousness. Price: $9

THE BRESLIN
16 West 29th Street (between Broadway and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Ace Hotel
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939
thebreslin.com

12. COOKIES from DOWNTOWN COOKIE COMPANY

Downtown Cookie Company is an internet based company that makes cookies to order via their website or over the phone. They’ll ship anywhere in the U.S., but it’s also possible to pick up the cookies outside their commercial kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen.

I called the day before and the cookies were ready in less than 24 hours. You can order a dozen of any of their cookies or a variety box of three different types. It was a no-brainer for me, the guy who wants to try as much as possible.

It was incredibly exciting when the girl came down with my box of cookies. I handed her the $24 (I chose to go the exact cash route rather than give my credit card number over the phone) and she handed me box of cookies.

I literally couldn’t wait until I got home to try the cookies, so we cut open the box and undid the neatly presented bags that held the three different cookie varieties. The chocolate chip with walnuts was the first I tried. They were soft and chewy with the right amount of both chocolate chips and walnuts. Amazingly fresh. I’m not a big fan of raspberry jam cookies (they make me think of those lackluster butter cookie tins), but these were the real deal. The jam was clearly made from real preserved fruit and the almond cookie was buttery and had crispy pieces of almonds crushed around the edge. And the peanut butter cookie continued the deliciousness. They were rich and chewy, but not too much peanut butter (which tends to dry the cookies out for me). These were anything but dry.

The cookies all tasted homemade (I guess that’s obvious) and they were all so soft and fresh that I felt like they were made just for me. Wait a minute…

But the other amazing thing is that these cookies retained that fresh delicious sweet taste and softness when I continued eating them for days afterwards. They have four more cookie varieties (Ginger, Oatmeal Raisin, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip) and I’m afraid I’m going to have to find some special occasion to order another round. Price: $24 for a dozen

DOWNTOWN COOKIE COMPANY
(646) 486-3585
downtowncookieco.com

11. HAZELNUT DACQUOISE at THE MODERN

When I worked at The Modern, I would sometimes have to close the restaurant, which meant I’d be the last waiter there. And often, as any restaurant worker knows, there’s leftover food. So it would get thrown away or some lucky employee would get to it.

The hazelnut dacquoise was one that would be offered up for charity (meaning to me) and I would eventually have to resist because these little desserts were so darn addicting.

I would describe it as a little sandwich. It was a hazelnut wafer topped with milk chocolate chantilly (mousse) and layered between two chocolate slivers. It tasted like the most decadent, refined, delicious Kit Kat Bar you’d ever taste. I’m sure Pastry Chef Marc Aumont would love that I described it that way. But I mean it as the most sincerest compliment possible. Price: $11

THE MODERN
9 West 53rd Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art
Midtown West
(212) 333-1220
themodernnyc.com
Photo Courtesy of: thewanderingeater.com

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

20. ROASTED ORGANIC CHICKEN at APIARY

Unless it has some really interesting preparation, comes on top of a salad, or it’s on Time Out’s list, I won’t usually order chicken at a nice restaurant. It just seems like the boring choice and it’s like an overplayed record. How many times do I need to taste chicken?

I get the same incredulous reaction at my new restaurant, Apiary, when customers ask me for a recommendation and I tell them the chicken. But I assure them (and you) that this is no ordinary chicken.

Chef Scott Bryan’s techniques seem quite simple, but you realize his mastery when tasting the food. The chicken has a well-seasoned skin that tastes like its been battered and fried (without the actual oil), the meat inside is incredibly moist, juicy, and plump. It may be the most tender chicken I’ve ever tasted. And where do all those flavors come from?

The gigantic portion, rich and silky mascarpone polenta, peas and carrots, and a touch of thyme jus seal the deal. And make this homey, rustic chicken well worth ordering. Price: $22

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

19. CHICKEN PITA SANDWICH from TONY “THE DRAGON” DRAGONAS

I’ve eaten lots of chicken from street carts. Late night post-drinking binges, quick cheap lunches on the go, and as research for the Food Cart Tours I’ve been giving with Urban Oyster. That’s how I discovered the legendary Tony “the Dragon” Dragonas cart.

It’s parked on 62nd Street near Madison Avenue, which is a little off the path of our food cart tours. But you know me, I’m pretty thorough when it comes to food research. I had read about how juicy his chicken was, but I never expected anything quite like this.

The first clue that this is something special is that it actually looks like pieces of chicken breast. He doesn’t chop it up into indistinguishable meat chunks. It also must be marinated in some special crack sauce with garlic and peppers. It takes a few minutes for him to slice it up, plop it on a toasted pita or on top of some yellow rice, and before you know it, you’re experiencing the freshest, most tender, and delicious chicken you could possibly find on the street.

With its wonderful smoky, chargrilled flavor and succulent plump texture, it’s no wonder that local chefs have tried to get his recipe.  A squirt of tzatziki sauce and some crunchy onions and lettuce round out this perfect iconic New York food: the street meat. Price: $5

TONY “THE DRAGON” DRAGONAS
SW Corner of 62nd Street and Madison Avenue
Upper East Side

18. RAVIOLO AL UOVO at MAIALINO

Although I think he needs to slow down with the whole Shake Shack expansion, Danny Meyer continues to open wonderful restaurants with warm ambience, gracious service, and expertly prepared food. Maialino was a big opening this year and it was Danny’s first foreray into Italian food. And along with Chef Nick Anderer, he’s created a very comfortable and inviting Roman-style trattoria.

The word rustic is an understatement here and most of the food is really good. The most interesting and memorable dish I tasted is called the Raviolo al Uovo. And it basically means egg ravioli. And while we’ve all heard about egg pasta, this egg is stuffed inside one big ravioli.

The dish comes out and the first thing you want to do is break it open like a soup dumpling, let the yolk seep out the sides, and then soak up the perfectly tender ravioli with your newly made sauce. If that wasn’t enough, the plate (pre-egg explosion) features a rich brown butter ricotta sauce that brings out a bit of sweetness. The garnish of sage is perfect and shows some restraint. I however did not show any restraint when served this handsome and delicious appetizer. My apologies, Mr. Meyer. Price: $15

MAIALINO
2 Lexington Avenue (between North Gramercy Park and 22nd Street)
Inside the Gramercy Park Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 777-2410
maialinonyc.com

Photo Courtesy of: toastnjams.wordpress.com

17. DEVILED EGGS at FORT DEFIANCE

There’s a very funny moment on my Bar Mitzvah video where the camera catches me discovering an hors d’oeuvre that looks creamy and sweet. It was my first experience with deviled eggs and for whatever reason, at 13, I decided that they were gross.

I’ve tried them many times since and they’re still not my favorite. But after tasting the ones at Fort Defiance, I can safely say that they’re the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had. These were spicy and sweet with a delicious tangy bite and a fun poppy texture from mustard seeds. Each bite revealed something else. I loved discovering all the other ingredients: celery salt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and greek yogurt (which I think makes these the smoothest, creamiest deviled eggs ever).

Fort Defiance in Red Hook is a colorful and warm neighborhood spot and they have converted a once discerning 13 year-old Bar Mitzvah boy into a deviled egg lover. Price: $3

FORT DEFIANCE
365 Van Brunt Street (between Sullivan Street and Wolcott Street)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(347) 453-6672
fortdefiancebrooklyn.com

16. SLOW POACHED FARM EGG IN A JAR at THE MODERN

I used to work in the Bar Room at The Modern (the high end restaurant attached to the MoMA). And I truly loved the food there. I’ve never worked in a place where I could honestly say to customers, “Everything is good.” I think people are still skeptical of that response when asked for a waiter’s favorites, but here it’s really hard to choose favorites. Everything is great.

But one dish that I really could never get enough of was the slow poached farm egg in a jar. Now I’m not a huge fan of eggs (yolks especially) to begin with, but when you add butter poached lobster, sea urchin froth, and any number of rotating crunchy root vegetables (currently, it’s crosnes), you’ve made me a convert. And bonus points for presentation: the whole thing is served in a mason jar that made all the tables look over when somebody had it delivered.

I used to guarantee people that if they like eggs and lobster. there’s no way they wouldn’t like this. Only one person ever challenged me and it was because she was scared that the egg wasn’t scrambled. Here it’s slow poached and runny so it has a soup-like consistency (that’s why we always served it with a spoon), but better than any egg drop soup you could ever dream up. Price: $20

THE MODERN
9 West 53rd Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art
Midtown West
(212) 333-1220
themodernnyc.com

Photo Courtesy of: crumbs-nyc.blogspot.com


If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

25. LONG ISLAND CORN from ELLINIKI AGORA

I was walking home from the subway one day in July and I passed by Elliniki Agora, my favorite 24 hour produce stand (yes, there is more than one), and I saw a crowd gathering as the lady who works there was handing out pieces of raw corn. Right on the cob.

I’m never one to pass up free food so I inquired about what this was all about. She said the Long Island corn had just arrived and we should all buy it while we can. She offered me a taste and I felt strange about eating raw corn right off the cob, but as I saw other people trying it and then immediately buying it, I took the leap.

From the moment I took that first crunchy bite, I was hooked. I had never eaten corn raw like this but if it’s all this sweet and juicy, I’ll never eat it cooked again.

There’s something primitive about eating it right off the cob like that. And there’s something delicious. For the next month or so (the corn was only available in July and August), I bought heads upon heads and substituted my usual potato chips for this quick, healthy, and raw snack. I’m counting the days until next July.

ELLINIKI AGORA
32-12 30th Avenue (between 32nd and 33rd Street)
Astoria, Queens
(718) 726-4501

24. KALE CHIPS from NEW YORK NATURALS

If ever a specific vegetable were to be having a moment, I think it would be this moment for kale. Somehow kale has managed to find itself on just about every respectable menu around the city this year. It’s unusual not to see a kale salad, side of sauteed kale, or some other creative preparation of the leafy green on a menu. I imagine it has lots to do with the health benefits and the flexibility of kale.

So it was only a matter of time before somebody would think to put it into chip form. And sure, you could probably fry it up, dress it up with salt and make a crunchy delicious snack. But where is the integrity and nutrition in that?

I was a bit skeptical when I discovered New York Naturals, a new company out of Brooklyn that was started specifically to make these crispy snacks. The price was a bit steep for a package of chips. I also read that they’re raw, vegan, and all-natural. How can you make a chip that’s raw and vegan and still tastes good?

Well, somehow Amy Hamberry (the owner of the company) has figured it out. The kale is air-dried until crispy (15 hours!) and they come in a variety of flavors (like any self-respecting potato chip), from spicy miso to bombay ranch to vegan cheese. The spicy ones have quite a kick to them and the cheesy ones (which are made from cashews) really bring up thoughts of Doritos, but not the heartburn.

They’re available in many health food stores across the city – and even in other states along the East Coast. And they’re just as addicting as any bag of chips, just as hip as any restaurant in New York, and better for you than both. Price: Varies, but around $7.95

NEW YORK NATURAL
Available at Multiple Locations
nynaturals.com

23. BOURBON WINGS at STILLWATER BAR & GRILL

My big food discovery has still yet to be fully discovered. I hope that changes with this posting. Because the bourbon wings at the divey bar Stillwater Bar & Grill are really something that should be tasted.

I discovered them years back when we randomly stumbled into Stillwater for a beer and some socializing. We ordered wings on a whim and my mind has since been blown. And every so often, I’ll bring somebody else into this bar to sit in the back and have a truly revelatory bar food experience.

The chicken wings are baked, not fried. They’re glazed with a spicy tangy bourbon sauce and served with the requisite vegetables and blue cheese. There’s a nice dark charred flavor and color on the skin and then you discover the meat is rich and plump. As soon as you pick one up, the meat falls right off the bone. It’s a little frustrating because it takes extra work to get the chicken in your gullet, but it means that these wings are tender, juicy, and full of flavor. Those are not the words I’d use to describe your standard buffalo wings from any other corner bar.

I’ve read that another bar in the West Village, Daddy-O’s, also serves baked wings. I’ll have to get over and taste those for a possible inclusion on next year’s list. But until then, you have to stop by Stillwater and see the amazing ones that I’ve discovered. Price: $8

STILLWATER BAR & GRILL
78 East 4th Street (between 2nd Avenue and Bowery)
East Village
(212) 253-2237
stillwaternyc.com

22. BEER CROUTONS at DRAFT BARN

Maybe Draft Barn is a hot spot, but it was hard to tell when I arrived on a weekday at 6:30. If this place has not been discovered yet, it’s a blessing for the locals who have this massive bar all to themselves. Besides a comprehensive beer list, they also offer Hungarian pub food. And the most delicious bar snack I’ve ever had.

The Beer Croutons are not on the printed menu, so you have to ask for them. They’re cubes of brown (rye? pumpernickel?) bread that have been soaked in beer and then deep fried and garnished with a generous amount of salt.  They were the most addicting thing I have eaten in a long time.

First off, I was amazed at how hot the croutons were considering how quickly they came out.  They must have literally come right out of the fryer (there was no time for any other option).  They were crispy, but not overly so, so they still had a soft tender bite to them.  The salt was not overwhelming but brought out the flavors of rye, yeast, and grease.  They were amazing.

It was the perfect complement to our rich warming beers.  I had to actually remind myself to drink because my hands and mouth were too busy dealing with these addicting little nuggets.  I’m glad I got to experience them, I just hope on a more lively night, plenty of other people get to enjoy the Draft Barn. Price: $3

DRAFT BARN
530 Third Avenue (between 12th Street and 7th Avenue)
Gowanus, Brooklyn
(718) 768-0515

22. BITTERBALLEN at VANDAAG

Vandaag opened earlier this year in a cursed space (this corner spot in the East Village has undergone many many tenants in just a few years). However, it seems like they’re on to something. The reviews have been mostly raves and from my one meal here, I can tell they’re making quality unique food, with great service in a relaxed and sophisticated ambiance.

The food is sort of a Scandinavian hodgepodge with influences from many European locales. One of the most authentically Scandinavian dishes is the bitterballen. I’d probably heard the word before my experience here but don’t think I’d ever tasted them. If they’re always this delicious, I imagine I would have remembered.

The exterior of these little balls are golden crispy breadcrumbs and since I have a mainly American palette, I expected cheese or potato inside. It was a wonderful surprise (not really, because I had read the menu) to discover perfectly tender braised oxtail meat. It tasted like a rich Eastern European stew with great textures and warming flavors, but all in one bite. The garnish of mustard relish brought out some sweet notes and rounded out the round-shaped croquettes.

These would fit in as passed hors d’ourves at a formal affair. And if that was the tradition in this country, I’d seriously consider becoming a full-time wedding crasher. Price: $10

VANDAAG
103 2nd Avenue (at East 6th Street)
East Village
(212) 253-0470
vandaagnyc.com

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