Agnolotti Al Sugo D'Arrosto from Perla
(And Orecchiette with Sweet Italian sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pesto.) Perla chef-partner Michael Toscano is not yet thirty, but the man understands food on a level that many of his much older brethren don't. He makes the above-mentioned simple plates of pasta swing so hard, and his ricotta pancakes with maple syrup and quince at brunch with a foie gras kicker sound weird, but aren't. And when I'm feeling flush, I will definitely try the dry aged rib-eye on the bone that he cooks in his wood-burning oven. A brief note: Perla is noisy. Try to score one of the tables right near the kitchen for maximum communication potential. Read the full review »
Chocolate Bread from Bien Cuit
The best chocolate bread I've had in New York was the loaf Erin Zimmer brought back from her first visit to Bien Cuit's new West Village location. Wonderfully chocolatey, this bread needs no toasting, no jam, no butter, no french Toast preparation (though all would work just fine). No, all this bread needs is your hand to rip off a piece and pop in your mouth.
Soba at Cocoron
When I need a restorative lunch, I head over to the new-ish Cocoron branch on Kenmare Street for a killer bowl of soba noodles. I like the ones with scallions, chicken meatballs, mushrooms, and pork. Beware: sometimes they go a little creative at Cocoron with Mexican soba combinations. Alas, tradition rules the roost at Cocoron.
Porchetta and Mozzarella from DiPalo
Every day around 1 p.m. the porchetta comes out of the oven at DiPalo Dairy across the street from SE World HQ. In one sense the store is aptly named, because housemade Italian cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, stracciatella) are all insanely good, best-in-show and -city good. But the porchetta, crunchy and crispy on the outside, beautifully marbled on the inside, is so delicious they should consider naming it DiPalo Dairy and Pork Store. This will never happen, as Louie DiPalo is more bound to tradition than just anybody else on the planet.
Montanara Pizza at Don Antonio
A beautiful round of pizza dough is fried before being finished in the wood-burning oven with high quality toppings. What more must be said? Read the full review »
Bialys from Hot Bread Kitchen
I've been singing the praises of these bialys for a while now, but if you want to know what a bialy is supposed to taste like, namely an English Muffin's first cousin with sautéed onions in the middle, these are the only bialys that fit the bill. These bialys are so good you can eat one on the spot where you buy it without toasting it. Try doing that with a Kossar's bialy.
Short Rib Sandwich from Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
I don't know which sandwich I love more at Il Buco Alimentari: the roast porchetta, served with salsa verde and arugula, or the short rib. It's like someone asking which child you love the most. I guess I'm going to go with the Short Rib, because it's the more unusual of the two. Moist beef short rib meat, perfectly charred and crisp on the outside, tender and moist on the inside, is kept company by gorgonzola cheese and a sweet onion agrodolce in this sandwich that easily serves two. It may not look like it, but this sandwich is richer than Warren Buffett (and just as modest looking). Read the full review »
Bread from Maison Kayser
Master bread baker and patissier Eric Kayser came to New York with world domination on his mind. That ain't easy to do, so while they work out the kinks on the non-bread and pastry items, we can content ourselves with his killer loaves. We are partial to his baguette, of course, his crusty sourdough Rustica, and his turmeric-laced boule. Read more »
Brisket or Pork with a Side Order of Beans at Mighty Quinn
It's entirely possible that the best thing I ate in 2012 was the Mighty Quinn's barbecue brisket at Smorgasburg, which he is now making and selling at his storefront barbecue joint in New York's East Village. Hugh Mangum, aka the Mighty Quinn, smokes whole briskets using just wood in his J&R Smoker. That would be cause enough for celebration, but when you add in the facts that Mangum really knows what he's doing, slices the meat for his sandwiches to order, and throws on just enough sea salt on each sandwich before he serves it to you, you get a barbecue sandwich that is not just great for NYC, it's seriously great barbecue anywhere you slice (and eat and smoke) it. Look out, Texas and Kansas City. Here comes the Mighty Quinn. P.S.: Mangum's beans with burnt ends are serious. They're really burnt ends with an equal amount of tender beans.
Lamb on Naan at Salvation Taco
Moroccan lamb breast on naan. What do you get when you cross an old Salvation Army outpost, April Bloomfield, and consulting chef Roberto Santibez? Well, you get something that so delicious, so rich, so Bloomfield-esque, you fantasize about ordering another one right after you finish the one that just came to the table. The lamb breast is crispy, just fatty enough, and has just the right amount of lamb-y flavor. Why is it on naan, you might ask, given that Salvation is supposed to be a taqueria? Because in Bloomfield's wonderfully creative yet grounded culinary point of view, it just made a helluva lot of sense. Keep an eye out for our First Look soon.
Slice at Williamsburg Pizza
Williamsburg Pizza owner Nino Coniglio is one of those pizza crazies I have met and chronicled over the many years I have been writing about pizza. But like many of his eccentric brethren, he makes a mean slice of pizza, square or round, traditional toppings or creative ones like gorgonzola cheese and apples and bacon that makes perfect sense. His hero sandwiches are also paradigms of the pizzeria hero genre. You may think they're too small until you bite into one of them. Then you'll think they're perfect. Read the full review »
Pastas and Sorbets at Osteria Morini
Every pasta at Osteria Morini is better than the last (Michael White and his crew cook pasta as good or better than anyone else around). But I often gravitate to either Creste shrimp & seppie ragu, brussels sprout leaves, the tagliatelle with ragu antica and parmigiano, or if I'm feeling truly decadent, the Cappelletti truffle ricotta ravioli with melted butter and proscuitto. To feel virtuous for dessert, a threesome of Robert Truitt's fantastic, intense, and creamy sorbettos are must-haves. Spiced cherry, apricot, and concord grape are my favorites at the moment.
Burger at Roberta's
I know Roberta's is more famous for its pizza and for the intimate multi-course tasting menu extravaganza chef partner Carlos Miarchi serves at Blanca, but if you like beefy, juicy burgers made with prime, dry-aged meat, Roberta's may serve the best-value cheffy version in the city. It's $12 at lunch and it comes with an addictive side of irregularly shaped fried chunks of new potatoes. Read the review »