The Year That Was: New York in 2008
We continue our Year That Was retrospective with a look back at the trends that played out in New York City, for better or worse, as chronicled by Serious Eats New York. Here's 2008, in roughly chronological order.
The David Chang Religion / Movement / Momo(Cluster)fuku
David Chang, where do we begin with you. In March, you proved that only the speediest of typers could score online reservations to your brand-new 14-seater Momofuku Ko. Whether it was the restaurant's Ko-razy frozen foie gras dish, the controversial service style or photography ban, we couldn't stop jabbering about the place—right down to the bathroom decor. In November, you extended the Momofukination to Milk Bar, a bakery with a mess of creamy, salty, and buttery deliciousness. While you may be the king of pork buns and a lover of fried chicken, you should not be confused with doppelganger David Chan.
Red Hook Ball Fields Ups and Downs
As early as January, we were nervous about the fate of the Red Hook ball field vendors. Would the huaraches, ceviche, and grilled corn be safe? In March, we rested easier, as did Chuck Schumer. Once Ikea moved into the Red Hook neighborhood, the trek got easier, just in time for the re-opening day in July. We were there, carefully documenting the grilled corn station. Later that month, we got our Red Hook on with other Serious Eaters at our meet-up. Fast forward to December, we're already eager for the 2009 season, especially with designers drafting models for a more permanent Red Hook food court.
Trucks Selling Sweets
Sweets on wheels were big this year. The three main contenders scooting around town: Dessert Truck, Treats Truck, and the Van Leeuwan ice cream truck. Thanks to the Sugar Rush column, we had an excuse to try: basically everything from the Dessert Truck, including the seasonal pumpkin custard; Swirly Dots and peanut butter jamwiches from the Treats Truck; and espresso and ginger ice cream from Van Leeuwan. The three even inspired the first dessert category at the 2008 Vendys. In October, people swarmed Union Square, including our own Gordon Mark, to watch the Bobby Flay vs. Dessert Truck Throwdown.
The Ramen Obsession
Ramen is no longer just the thrifty sustenance of college dorms—it's a $15-ish bowl of fancy broth, noodles, and meat. In April, Ed went ramen hunting at Ramen Setagaya and Ippudo. We also tried Minca, home of the gut-busting mass of springy noodles bathed in a thick, salty broth. At Fukumatsu, the thick slabs of fatty pork seemed to be injected with more fat, which brought us closer to death. With so many ramen joints bustling, especially in the East Village, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto had to weigh in, and decided on Momofuku Noodle Bar. Eh? Did it have something to do with David Chang sitting right next to him during the tasting?
Kenny Shopsin Writes a Cookbook
We can't get enough Kenny. So of course we were overjoyed when the suspendered legend behind the institutional Shopsins published his first cookbook in September, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. He signed Ed's copy with a tender note of endearment, and taught Conan O'Brien how to make mac and cheese pancakes before a national audience. The same week, he added a Conan burger to his menu: a cheeseburger and pancakes with real maple syrup and hot sauce. Between his sliders, $19 breakfast combo, and state fair plate, we basically want to be eating whatever he's making, at all times. And we know better than to bring up nut allergies.
Goodbye Trans Fats, Hello Calorie Counts (and Eater's Remorse)
On July 1, New York's trans fat ban took full effect. Originally adopted in 2006, the law was now official. Restaurants, bakeries, delicatessens, cafeterias and other businesses classified as “food facilities” had to prepare foods with oils, margarine, and shortening that didn't contain trans fats. Led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the anti-trans-fat panel also passed a mandate on major chains to post calorie counts. Wait, that Nathan's chili cheese dog was 477 calories? Ignorance was bliss.
The First Trader Joe's Opens in Brooklyn
No more waiting in a 40-minute snake of a line for frozen dumplings and free Joe-Joe's samples at the Union Square location. The first Brooklyn Trader Joe's opened at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street in September inside a restored Independence Bank. With 18 registers and a scientific line protocol, it earned the title of least claustrophobic Joe's shopping experience. You won't leave wanting to kill someone! However, you might leave frustrated by the lack of Two-buck Chuck. (No vino here due to New York state liquor laws. Just beer.)
The 2008 Vendy Awards
Sometimes, we consider changing the blog to SeriousStreetEats. Grubbing from a mobile cart is very high on our list. So of course were were psyched to cover this year's Vendy Awards in October. Of the five nominees—Fauzia's Delights, Biryani Cart, Soler Dominican, Kwik Meal, and Calexico—Biryani Cart was a personal favorite. But despite our confident handicapping predictions, the hipster burrito brothers of Calexico went home with gold.
Tom Mylan, Brooklyn Butcher Royalty
Tom Mylan knows his way around a dead animal. The butcher for Brooklyn restaurants Diner, Bonita, and Marlow & Sons, was usually spotted in a blood-speckled apron. We took his lamb and pig butchering classes at the Brooklyn Kitchen, and watched him turn a roasted piggy into delicious tacos. In December, he opened Marlow & Daughters, the newest member of his growing Williamsburg meat mecca. On the new shop's inaugural day, they celebrated with meat cake.
Recession Prix-Fixe Menus
Prix-fixe used to be associated with schmancy multi-course dinners. Now it's a euphemism for restaurants desperately attempting to lure diners with meal deals. City Bakery created a "bad economy beer menu." Williamsburg pizzeria Motorino threw in pizza and soup or salad for a $10 lunch special. Rack & Soul in Morningside Heights will offer a soul food deal until January 20. Even Jean-Georges felt the penny-pinching movement, and decided to slash his restaurants' prices.