Wow 2016 is almost over and what crazy year it was. If I was to look simply at the year in American culture I would have to use the word devastating. So many incredible artists passed away, the political state of the nation was a non-stop roller coaster ride of shock, disgust, anger, frustration and for the first time in a while the future feels incredibly uncertain. Of course the NYC dining scene took a huge hit this year with the closing of classic restaurants like The Four Seasons, Les Halles and most recently Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen. I was saddened most by the closing of my two favorite cocktail bars; underground vodka great Pravda and the gorgeous Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal. We also lost the fabulous Juni, my go-to spot for a fancy lunch from Shaun Hergatt.
But I'm always one to look on the positive side and 2016 was actually a good year on a personal level. Mr. T and I had some great East Coast trips to Boston, Vermont and Philadelphia all of which included fun times with family and friends. I actually got to see the play Hamilton with the entire original cast and followed up the matinee with a fantastic dinner at David Chang's newcomer Momofuku Nishi, which made this list as having one of my top dishes. Danny Meyer's classic Union Square Cafe came back to life in a new spot even closer to my apartment (review to come in 2017) and Mr. T learned to love brunch. Well maybe not love it but love a brunch dish which is a step in the right direction :) Oh and the Cubs won the World Series. Which gives a bit of hope for other sports teams who are trying to end that long championship drought. (Bwahaha!! I couldn't get through that last sentence with a straight face) Here are my picks for the best of food and drink in 2016.
Hi-Collar has been around for years but it took me until 2016 to discover its magic. Cafe by day, sake bar by night with the most amazing Japanese pancakes in town served with maple syrup, yuzu butter and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Best Brunch Dish- The Llama Inn
Two pasta dishes making the list... maybe my taste buds are changing or maybe David Chang just knows what I love in life. His incredible Ceci e Pepe (now known as Butter Noodles) with chickpea hozen and black pepper creates a subtly sweet, buttery flavor that is simply outstanding especially since there is no actual Parmesan used in this cheesy dish.
Best Rainbow Cookies- Madonia Bakery
These cookies may look like those rock hard tri-colored squares scattered around the city but the similarities stop there. This cake is actually light and spongy with the strong flavor of almond paste and fresh raspberry jam balanced by a topping of creamy chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles. Just one bite of these makes a rainbow cookie believer forever.
Best New Restaurant- Row 34 (Boston)
It's so wonderful to find a restaurant while traveling that just feels like home. In Copenhagen it was Manfred's and Vin, London J. Sheekey, Philadelphia the sadly departed Matyson and now Row 34 in Boston. As soon as I saw their mantra I was in love "If we could eat oysters and drink beer for every meal period, we probably would." Well of course! Fresh plump oysters, a fantastic scallop crudo, smoked uni and buttery lobster rolls paired with a stunning menu of craft beer. `
Best of the Rest
Best New Sushi Spot- Sugarfish
Best New Craft Beer Restaurant- Lupulo
Best Breakfast Sandwich- Milk Bar
Best Vegetarian Sandwich- Cinnamon Snail at The Pennsy
Best Mac & Cheese- Hometown BBQ
Best Sweetbreads- Pumpkin BYOB (Philly)