It’s the end of December, and you know what that means — newspapers and magazines are breaking out their “Top Ten” lists: top movies, books, news stories, etc. So like a writing lemming following the editorial M.O., I’m going to do my own version of the list. During a year of eating, ten random food moments/ thoughts stuck out from the rest. In no particular order:
#10: Favorite Spot for Unplanned Cheese Sampling
Is there any doubt? This goes to Mint in Tarrytown. Why bother eating before visiting Mint? Hassan will fill you up with samples of exquisite gourmet cheeses, plus whatever other treats he has on hand that day. Bring a bottle of wine and a blanket and you could have a cheese and wine picnic right in the store.
#9: The Right Soup at the Right Time
The date: January 1, 2008. The place: Westchester Diner, Peekskill. If I remember correctly, the previous night involved a fair amount of wine consumption. Let’s just say I was dragging on Jan. 1. Pretty much anything in my stomach would have perked me up, but on this day I beelined for the mother of restorative foods, matzo ball soup. At that particular moment in time, it was just about the best thing I’d ever tasted.
#8: Alec Baldwin Would Love This Dessert
The bombolini at Mima Vinoteca in Irvington. These marvels of fried dough had the whole table oohing and aahing — they were warm and light with a hint of sweetness. If I could have eaten just one dessert all year, this would have been it.
#7: I’m Not a Delivery Person, But I Play One at Summerfield Suites
Maybe my most bizarre food moment of 2008: walking through the lobby of Summerfield Suites in White Plains and being chased down the hall (and yelled at) by the front desk clerk because he mistook me for a Chinese delivery person. That was strange along the lines of once being told, “You speak English very well.” Uhh, thanks?
#5: Best Use of Goat Cheese
The goat cheese tartlet at Velo in Nyack. I always laugh when food critics describe food as “sexy” or “sensuous”, but Velo’s silky, rich thyme-sprinkled goat cheese sitting in a flaky crust and drizzled with honey is well, frankly, it’s hot. Who needs wet clay and a pottery wheel? Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze should have stoked their passion with a goat cheese tartlet.
#4: The When Harry Met Sally “I’ll have what she’s having” Award
To the “Mr. Lange” at Lange’s Deli in Scarsdale, a sandwich that also qualifies for the “Best Use of Goat Cheese” award, and would have sent Meg Ryan into the throes of ecstasy without having to fake it. Taken separately there was nothing remarkable about the ingredients — chicken, fried eggplant, pesto — but pressed together on a roll with a thin layer of goat cheese and this sandwich was transformed into something spectacular.
#3: Most Painful Food Moment
There’s hot, there’s very hot, and then there’s the atomically spicy Mala broth at Little Q Hotpot in Quincy, MA. I was sipping the broth when, gaak!, it went down the wrong pipe; I coughed, and suddenly I was in agony like John Hurt in Alien when the little alien bugger burst out of him. It was as if someone took a lighter to my throat and chest… from the inside. Can you actually die from spicy hotpot broth? I don’t know, but that sure felt close. Great broth though, can’t wait to go back.
#2: Biggest Wish for 2009
Frank Pepe is coming to Yonkers in ’09, so that might solve the pizza dilemma. But there are still two small issues — we need an Ethiopian restaurant and a Vietnamese restaurant. Come on Westchester, it’s time. Bring us injera and banh mi and we will wolf them down like a pack of hungry wild dogs. Let’s make this happen.
#1: Most Memorable Meal
(tie) Morimoto in NYC/ La Camelia in Mt. Kisco
I had lunch at Morimoto during NYC’s Restaurant Week (You might know Masaharu Morimoto from Iron Chef fame). When I wasn’t gawking at Morimoto working in the open-view kitchen (the man is too cool for words), I was completely blown away by the black miso cod and sushi platter — fish so delicate and fresh, it literally melted in your mouth. In the words of Linda Richman, it was “like butter.”
On Valentine’s Day 2008, this restaurant knocked it out of the park. Okay, so a vein almost popped out of my neck during the more than 45 minute wait (we had a reservation), and it took our server about 15 minutes to swing by with menus, but then the charm of the place took over. The coziness of the fireplace-lit dining room made us feel as though we were dining in someone’s home. The servers were warm and friendly, like family. And the parade of lovingly prepared tapas made us swoon. We ate leisurely and drank wine until we were the last ones in the restaurant. If there was a more romantic or memorable meal this year, I can’t think of it.
What food moments stuck out for you?
I hope you all had as good a time eating in 2008 as I did. And whatever you’re doing tonight, here’s wishing you a very happy New Year! Have fun and be safe.