Gallery: Erin's Best New York Bites of 2012

Harvest Focaccia with Housemade Coppa and Stracciatella from Union Square Cafe
Harvest Focaccia with Housemade Coppa and Stracciatella from Union Square Cafe
Does it get much better than a plate—or in this case, marble slab—of bread, cheese, and cured meats? For me, no. This was on Union Square Cafe's brunch menu in the fall when the fluffy focaccia was studded with peak-season concord grapes. And that stracciatella? You'll want to smother it on everything. Read more »

Union Square Cafe: 21 East 16th Street New York, NY 10003 (map); 212-243-4020; unionsquarecafe.com

[Photograph: Alice Gao]

Catfish A La Sichuan from Mission Chinese Food
Catfish A La Sichuan from Mission Chinese Food
Oh, Mission Chinese. It's really tough to pick just one highlight here, but I'll never forget drinking the catfish broth from this bowl. I wouldn't let our server take it away; I was even considering a to-go cup for any leftover slurps. The vinegary broth develops flavors from the catfish boiling in it along with fresh and pickled greens, chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, and Old Bay. Read more »

Mission Chinese: 154 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002 (b/n Stanton and Rivington; map); 212-529-8800; missionchinesefood.com

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Kale Salad from Hopeland
Kale Salad from Hopeland
Kale salads are everywhere. And kale ubiquity is something I don't really have a problem with, but what this means is that if you are a kale salad (any kale salads reading?), you really have to do something special to stand out—and this one does. Crisp, leafy Tuscan kale is chopped into thin strips and tossed with ripe avocado, toasted almonds, salty ricotta salata, and the best part, the pickled egg to bring a bit of brine. Pickled eggs should really be on more salads.

Hopeland: 320 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (map); 718-467-3526; foodinknyc.com

[Photograph: Andrew Strenio]

Uni and Scallops from Neta
Uni and Scallops from Neta
My birthday meal in October was at Neta, and this was the plate (and by plate I mean seashell) that I'll remember most. Rich, tender sea urchin with sweet scallop cubes. Like candy of the sea. Read more »

Neta: 61 West 8th Street, New York, 10011 (b/n 6th Avenue and MacDougal St.; map); ‪212-505-2605; ‬netanyc.com

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Dorie Greenspan's Cookies at Beurre and Sel
Dorie Greenspan's Cookies at Beurre and Sel
Dorie makes the cookie a transcendent experience. One of the best things that happened for sweet-toothers in New York City this year was the opening of Beurre & Sel, her mini cookie shop in the Essex Street Market. Read more »

Essex Street Market: 120 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002 (map); beurreandsel.com

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Oysters from Maison Premiere
Oysters from Maison Premiere
When Niki and I set out to find the best $1 oyster happy hours in the city (perhaps my favorite mission of 2012) this was far and away the winner. Get to Maison Premiere before 7 p.m. to experience the best in buck-a-shuck. They have nearly 20 oyster varieties on the $1 deal menu, including Cuttyhunks (best name), Block Islands, and New England's plump and brightly metallic Cotuits. Read more »

Maison Premiere: 298 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (map); 347-335-0446; maisonpremiere.com

[Photograph: Niki Achitoff-Gray]

Tamarind Leaf Salad from Pok Pok
Tamarind Leaf Salad from Pok Pok
Thank you for opening in Brooklyn, Pok Pok. You taught me, among other things, that a) tamarind leaves exist and b) I should be eating more of them. They're somewhere between spinach and crunchy watercress, and here they get tossed in a tart fish saucy vinaigrette with lots of fried shallots. Read more »

Pok Pok: 127 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (between Kane and DeGraw; map); 718-923-9322; pokpokny.com

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Yeti from Bien Cuit
Yeti from Bien Cuit
I've never met a starch from Bien Cuit that I didn't like. While I usually stick to the almond croissants, once upon a morning I made a new friend. Meet the Yeti. This pointy-cornered buttery pastry is baked until golden-brown, then gets dolloped with mascarpone on top. But that's not just any mascarpone—it's whipped with aleppo pepper, giving it a sweet heat, so smear it all around real good. Some crunchy cocoa nibs are hanging out up there too.

Bien Cuit: 120 Smith Street, Brooklyn NY 11201; 718-852-0200; biencuit.com

[Photograph: Kathy YL Chan]

Soba from Cocoron
Soba from Cocoron
One of the smartest decisions I made this year was walking over to the newest location of Cocoron right after our Cookie Swap party. Cookies for dinner always sounds like a good idea, until your body hates you for it. This soothing bowl of soba hit all the right spots. The noodles are springy with a deep, warm buckwheat flavor. And Cocoron's comic book menus are amazing. Read more »

Cocoron: 37 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-925-5220; cocoron-soba.com

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Fried Things from La Vara
Fried Things from La Vara
The menu at La Vara is filled with many delicious-sounding things, but don't skip over the fried snacks. Fried chickpeas, yes you need a ramekin of these. Crunchy little guys seasoned with pimentón and cumin. Also, the Berenjena Con Miel, or fried eggplant served on a melty bed of warm tetilla (cow's milk cheese) with honey and nigella seeds. If there was a big-plate option for these fried things, I'd order that. Read more »

La Vara: 268 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (map); 718-422-0065

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Figs and Gorgonzola Oatmeal from Oatmeals
Figs and Gorgonzola Oatmeal from Oatmeals
Like a warm fleece blanket, the oatmeal at Oatmeals (finally, the world's first all-oatmeal bar!) is soft, comforting, and good for the soul. The steel-cut oats are slow-cooked with milk and then topped with anything you want. Really, they have about a bazillion topping options here. My favorite is the figs and gorgonzola combo with jammy fig bits, gorgonzola crumbles, and a tangy-sweet balsamic vinegar glaze. Oatmeals is a place that just makes me really happy. Read more »

Oatmeals: 120 West 3rd Street, New York, NY 10012 (map); 646-360-3570; oatmealsny.com

[Photograph: Andrew Strenio]

Lard Bread Sandwich Hack
Lard Bread Sandwich Hack
Max, you are an evil genius. You created this ridiculous sandwich and forever it will live in my canon of best sandwiches ever eaten at SEHQ. It starts with a loaf of peppery lard bread (ours came from Parisi Bakery in Little Italy), which gets warmed in the toaster oven and filled with fresh mozzarella and briny, oily antipasto salad (from DiPalo's). Max, you really deserve a MacArthur Genius award for this one. Read more »

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Calamari Platter from Taboonette
Calamari Platter from Taboonette
There was a day when we sent an intern to pick up some sandwiches from Taboonette. We inhaled them so fast, we were all canceling our dinner plans to go there straightaway after work for more. In addition to the awesome vegetarian sandwiches (get the Sabich and the Shakshuka!), there was this calamari platter. Now, I'm not a big fried calamari person, but these little rings were tender and sautéed with cilantro, jalapeño, parsley, and plenty of olive oil. Since Taboonette is a fast-casual-type place, the calamari is just piled in a paper platter, on a bed of spiced jasmine rice with plops of hummus and yogurt. This makes me wish there was a calamari and rice vendor outside with all the chicken and rice guys. Read more »

Taboonette: 30 East 13th Street, New York, NY 10003 (map); 212-510-7881; taboonette.com

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Dutch Pancake with Fried Oysters from Potlikker
Dutch Pancake with Fried Oysters from Potlikker
I'd order pancakes more often if they came with plump fried oysters, like this dish does at Potlikker in Williamsburg. The oysters add a touch of briny-ness to the crisp-edged Dutch Baby pancake, which also comes with smoky pepper jelly, bright goat cheese, and lardons of Benton's bacon. Read more »

Potlikker: 338 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (b/n 4th and 3rd Streets; map); 718-388-9808; potlikkerbrooklyn.com

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]