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
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.
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.