The Westchester Food Oscars

Another year — and decade! — of eating has come to an end, and with it, I have a few 2009 food honors to hand out.  This is movie award season after all, and being a huge movie nut (Avatar is mind-blowing and Up in the Air fantastic, by the way), it’s only fitting to present these awards in the style of the Oscars.

(Note: By no means is this a fair and comprehensive list; because my pool of contenders were limited to places where I’d been, there are undoubtedly dozens of worthy restaurants and dishes left out of the mix.  A man can only make it to so many eateries in a year.)

Without further ado, let’s hand out some awards…

CINEMATOGRAPHY (aka Most Scenic)

Nominees: X2O, Blu, 42, Half Moon

Winner: 42

The Hudson River/Palisades views are breathtaking, but 42 takes top prize for its striking decor and stunning, panoramic 360-degree view — from 42 floors up.  Is this Westchester or Manhattan?

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FOOD

Nominees: Khan’s Indian Kitchen, Juarez Restaurant, MED Empanadas, Pablo’s Deli, Turkish Cuisine Westchester

Winner: Pablo’s Deli

It’s not so much that the food at Pablo’s Deli was better than the rest — though I quite enjoyed my churrasco — but that I’d stumbled in by accident, expected nothing, and walked out smiling.  Plus, Pablo was darn nice, and took obvious pride in his Chilean offerings.

BEST SUPPORTING FOOD

Nominees: Lefteris’s gigandes, Spadaro’s peas, Via Vanti!’s gelato, Outhouse Orchard’s cider donuts, June & Ho’s latkes

Winner: Lefteris’s gigandes

A murderer’s row of side dishes and snacks that I’d gladly devour any time, any day. But the gigandes at Lefteris — giant white beans in tomato sauce — are so good, so soft and creamy, they could be a meal all on their own.  Who needs souvlaki and gyros? Bring me a salad and a bowl of gigandes.

BEST DISH IN A LEADING ROLE

Nominees: Umami Cafe’s pork and peas, Bakery at Four Corners’s Cuban sandwich, X2O’s roasted venison, The Cookery’s pork osso buco, Johnny’s Pizzeria’s plain pie

Winner: The Cookery’s pork osso buco

A dish that makes diners a little verklempt.  According to Liz Johnson’s video on The Cookery, the Berkshire pork shank is deep fried, rendering it unimaginably tender and sheathed in a crispy skin.  Take an extra Lipitor if you must — it’s worth it.

BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: 42′s Anthony Goncalves, The Cookery’s David DiBari, Tarry Lodge’s Nusser/Batali/Bastianich, X2O’s Peter Kelly

Winner: Peter Kelly

Kelly is simply the man: wildly successful restaurateur, Iron Chef winner, participant of numerous charitable causes.  Eating at X2O was special, and meeting him at the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week kickoff, a privilege.  I lost out on my cheese wheel, but gladly took the chance to shake Kelly’s hand.

BEST PICTURE (or restaurant)

Nominees: 42, The Cookery, Bird & Bottle Inn, X2O, Tarry Lodge

Winner: The Cookery

I know, I know, ho hum, everyone loves The Cookery.  But really, with its moderate prices, rustic coziness and big-flavored Italian comfort food, The Cookery demands a visit, bringing together all the elements of a great restaurant.  And the osso buco… oh, the osso buco.

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