Best of 2015

It was another crazy and amazing year that seemed to go by way too quickly as always.  Things got off to a great start with the return of Founders CBS one of my favorite beers of all time.  I really didn't think this would ever be brewed again so I spent the first two months drinking it as much as humanly possible.  Fried Chicken Sandwiches became all the rage; Fuku, Delaney BBQ and the Brooklyn Shake Shack continue to have epic lines for these crispy creations.  The Blue Hill pop up WastED was also a huge highlight of the year.  It was amazing to see the community of chefs, farmers and retailers come together to shine light on the extreme waste of food in the industry and celebrate these "leftovers" by incorporating them into incredible new dishes.  And as a personal success it only took me two full years but I finally got a Cronut!  

Of course as time passes the culinary landscape must change and this year was extra sad. My favorite restaurant of all time Matyson in Philadelphia, shut it's doors for good along with another fantastic gem in Jersey City Thirty Acres.  These small cozy restaurants held so many wonderful memories for Mr. T and I they will be incredibly missed.
Onto the Best of 2015:

Best Wings- Bar Goto

This Japanese cocktail den in LES churns out some fantastic yuzu drinks along with some serious Miso Wings topped with toasted black sesame and scallion delivering just the right balance of sweet and spicy flavor.

Best Eggplant Parmigiana- Le Verdue at Eataly

It's always hard to choose a dining spot at the mega-Italian superstore Eataly but Le Verdue is almost always the winner for their fresh veggie plates and seasonal specials.  This Fall they debuted a Panko Crusted Eggplant that somehow stayed crisp and juicy the entire meal.  Add on the creamy stracciatella cheese with fresh basil and this dish reached heavenly food status.

Best New Burger- Pizza Loves Emily

It's all about the burger at this Brooklyn pizza joint.  The Emmy Burger is made from dry aged beef that tastes much more like a rich hearty steak than a regular burger.  It's seared with clarified butter, topped with a thick layer of Grafton cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and a drizzling of house special red pepper aioli then sandwiched between a fluffy pretzel bun.  It's funky, spicy and's AMAZING.

Best Deviled Egg- Tuome

Panko crusted egg white fried to a golden buttery crisp then filled with a mixture of yolk, shallot, Dijon mustard and topped with a crunchy chili garlic sauce and herbs.  Don't ask questions...this is the deviled egg of your dreams.

Best Vegetarian Dish- Spicy Tempura Cauliflower at the Ritz Carlton

With so many vegetarian places opening this year like Superiority Burger, Wassail and By Chloe it may seem odd to choose a hotel dish but this really is a winner.  The Cauliflower is flash fried then served piping hot with a creamy chili pepper aioli.  It tastes exactly like Nobu's signature Creamy Spicy Shrimp but fish free and available in the comfy lounge of 2 West at the Battery Park Ritz Carlton.

Best Pizza (not NYC)- Parker Pie

We made quite a few trips to Vermont this year and each and every time the food was outstanding from Steak Tartare at Hen of the Woods to the simple Wedge Salad at Prohibition Pig.  However Parker Pie holds the number one spot in my heart for their Green Mountain Pie; crisp, bubbly dough topped with baby spinach, cheddar cheese, red onion, apple, bacon and garlic all drizzled with maple syrup.  It's like a big mash up of everything delicious about Vermont.

Best Happy Hour- Boilermaker

Mr. T and I had a rebirth of sorts into the cocktail world this year hitting up old standbys like Pravda and Temple Bar along with some brand new favorites like the cool speakeasy Mulberry Project with it's secret backyard.  But Boilermaker wins for it's incredible happy hour.  From 5-8 Monday thru Friday Boilermaker has a slew of $8 cocktails including Negronis, Rum Runners, Old Fashioned's and Mai Tai's along with $7 wine and $4 beers.  There's lots of curved booths perfect for a hanging with a group and some pretty fantastic burgers to help ensure you'll still get to work the next morning.

Best Lunch Deal- The Nomad

The Nomad debuted a brand new two course lunch menu this year.  For $29 expect signature options like the creamy Carrot Tartare, thick Tortelloni filled with black truffle in a Parmesan foam and Chicken Burger stuffed with foie gras. It's not as mind blowing as the Chicken for Two but it's a fraction of the cost and reservations are almost always available during the day.  This was my go-to spot for lunch this year.  That being said they just bumped the price from $29 to $34 on my visit last week and the burger was terribly overcooked.  I'm not so sure this will make the cut for 2016.

Best Pop-Up Restaurant- WastED at Blue Hill

I loved absolutely everything about this restaurant; the thick nutty bread made of leftover grain mash from Kelso Brewing, the candles of beef tallow used as both a light source and a bread topping, the incredible list of chef's creating new dishes each night and of course the very important message that food waste doesn't have to happen- we can change.  

Best Brunch- Elan

A good neighborhood brunch spot is a thing of beauty and Elan is definitely a top contender.  The $20 two course menu includes fabulous appetizers like Mushroom Truffle Croquette's and Smoked Trout Salad along with a hearty Lamb Burger and seasonal omelette's.  The drinks are unlimited but if your looking for a rowdy morning stay away.  This is a serene Sunday spot much more about gentle elegance than party time.

Best Dessert #1- First Time Living on Your Own at U.P.

This year Dominique Ansel opened his brand new dessert tasting restaurant Unlimited Possibilities.  Mr. T and I were lucky enough to dine on opening night where the entire menu was based around "Firsts".  There was the First Kiss, a mound of fresh mint panna cotta that left a lingering sensation on the tip of my tongue; the First Heartbreak, chocolate,marshmallow and almond flower that burned like wildfire when lit and my favorite The First Time Living on Your Own.  These brown butter crepes with sweet corn were made to look like bacon and eggs; the classic cheap anytime meal.  It was insanely delicious and proved once again how insanely creative that Dominique Ansel can be.

Best Dessert #2- Churros at Huertas

I'm a bit obsessed with finding the best churro and I honestly think I finally have.  Huerta's have the perfect balance of soft, chewy interior, crisp warm exterior dusted liberally with cinnamon sugar and served with a decadent chocolate sauce.  These are so incredible...the only problem I have is sharing them.

Best Dessert #3- Coconut Pie at Matyson

As I mentioned earlier this will be the last time Matyson makes the "Best of" list.  The doors closed for good this Summer but we had one last wonderful dinner there celebrating the engagement of my best friend.  Matyson brought out a slice of their amazing, heart stopping, "It doesn't get any better than this dessert ever"  Coconut Cream pie to celebrate. I'm so glad I got to have it one last time and to share it with some of my favorite people in the world.

Best New Restaurant- Contra

There were a lot of great new restaurants this year but the one that stood out most was Contra.  I loved the small minimalist space, the ever changing menu based on seasonal ingredients, the eclectic wine list that challenged me to think outside the box and of course the creative dishes coming out of the kitchen. This restaurant just makes me excited about food in a way I haven't felt in a while and I can't wait to see what they do in 2016.

Best Beers 2015

Lawson's Triple Sunshine

The aroma of this beer was just glorious.  It reminded me of being on a tropical island filled with fresh mango, papaya and oranges that have all just been peeled open.  The flavor was more juicy tropical fruits; peach, mango and pineapple with a touch of honey and pine.  The super creamy mouthfeel hides the booze and makes this 10.5% beer ridiculously drinkable.  This was easily the best triple IPA I've ever had and nothing comes even close to touching it.

No Rules Vietnamese Porter

No Rules never made New Brew Friday but it certainly deserves a top spot for this year. With just a faint swirl of the glass this beer exudes aromas of sweet bourbon, coconut, vanilla and roasted malts.  The flavor follows with lots of bourbon, maple, vanilla, toasted coconut and red cinnamon candy.  It clocks in at a shocking 15% but one would never know from the taste alone.  It's so so smooth...I only wish I had more.

Other Half began canning its beer this year kicking off with a session pale ale Super Fun and double IPA Green Diamonds.  They now have regular can releases just about every two weeks and although I haven't loved everything (Equinox) I have enjoyed MOST of their offerings so much (Amarillo, All Green, Citra) I don't even think about buying other IPA's anymore unless they're local.  There's just nothing better than having an endless supply of fresh hoppy beer in the fridge.  Cheers to 2015!

Best of the Rest 2015

Best Pasta- Busiate at Il Buco Almenteri
Best Oysters- The Musket Room
Best Buffalo Opening- Ballyhoo
Best Hot Dog- Spicy Okra from the Rock Barn
Best Ice Cream- Ample Hills Sweet as Honey