Well, it’s that time of year. The leaves are falling, holiday decorations are appearing and the last month of the year is upon us.
About this time every year I open up my Outlook calendar and review exactly what I’ve done and where I’ve been. I’m always amazed by the amount of stuff I have checked off my list… and the amount of it I have forgotten about.
But one thing I love to do is reflect on the fun stuff… and compile a list of favorites.
In honor of the more popular award shows… I hereby present my 2006 “Forkies” … the very best (in my humble opinion) of New York spread over many different categories.
And the FORKIE goes to…..
SALAD OF THE YEAR
Parsley and Pancetta Salad, Lupa
It is tremendous in its composition… but when the waiter comes to the table with a rendered pot of hot bacon fat, well, it really doesn’t get any better. This dish rotates on and off the menu, so if you visit and it doesn’t appear… complain!
PASTA DISH OF THE YEAR
Black Tagliatelle with Roasted Corn, Babbo
Part of the pasta tasting menu, this amazing dish if simply the best pasta dish in NYC. The freshness of the corn with the light sauce and grated cheese are a work of art. Make a reservation… you’re gonna need it.
BEST STEAK HOUSE FOR 2006
I know, I know… Lugar’s. But the truth is as great as Peter Lugar’s is; the experience is old school NYC. I love it, but I truly love an evening at Quality Meats, an operation run by the Smith and Wollensky folks. Details?... how about tableside BBQ sauce and individual homemade pies for desert?
It’s situated in a busy Chelsea neighborhood, but don’t let its simple setting fool you. The room is hip, and the food is fresh and delicate… Nobu style. Except, the check is about half of what you might expect.
BEST EGG DISH
I know. It’s crowded. Touristy. But the steamed eggs with Brie are the best in the city, and the artisan breads are baked in house. I’d love to complain, but the food is too damn good.
BEST SCOTTISH BEER SELECTION
St. Andrews Pub
There is something about a bunch of guys wearing kilts. Not only are the bartenders authentic, the tap includes a selection of beer that draws a huge crowd of European alcoholics. For me, I belly up to the bar and drink as much Tennants Lager as I can muster.
BEST CUP CAKE…. REALLY.
Two Little Red Hens Bakery
The cup cake thing has really spiraled out of control, and mostly with hype. Having tried all of the “popular” spots, I finally had what is hands down the most amazing cupcake in NYC at Two Little Red Hens Bakery, on Second Ave on the Upper East Side. Sure their Brooklyn locale is well known, but the Manhattan spot is no less popular, and with decadent carrot cake cupcakes, I can see why.
BEST BARGIN BAR FOOD
I have been talking about it all year, so I won’t beat a dead horse. Just go. Order a martini. Order the steak tips (which are filet mignon heaped over a mound of homemade mashed potatoes). Call and thank me later.
BEST NEW FRENCH BISTRO
Top Notch food. Great wine. Superior setting. The folks who bring you Nice Matin bring you NY’s best new French hang, on the lovely Upper East. You’ll love this place.
BEST THROWBACK HOTEL BAR
Sir Harry’s, Waldorf Astoria
Ever find yourself wanting to hide in a dark mahogany bar at 2:30 in the afternoon? This is your place. You can hear the ghosts in here, and they still love the place. Splurge, you’re worth it.
BEST MUSIC VENUE
The Allen Room, Time Warner Center
Part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Complex, this is hands down the most remarkable setting in NYC to listen to live music. The view over Central Park through the glass-draped stage doesn’t hurt, either.
BEST HAMBURGER YOU CAN'T FIT INTO YOUR MOUTH AROUND
Sure, you think you can eat it. You pick it up, close your eyes and try and shove it in. But, trust me, it won’t fit. These are 4 inch tall patties, steam grilled to your liking… and delish. You can always find a better burger… but this one should be on your short list.
BEST SANDWICH, NOT FROM CARNAGIE, KATZ’S or ARTIES
This was a hard one, as I love classic deli sandwiches. But every time I eat a sandwich from Toasties I find myself saying… this may very well be the best sandwich in NYC. And now I am convinced, it is. The House Combo and Downtown Special are unreal… and why this place doesn’t have 5 locations in the city is a real headscratcher.
BEST COZY WINE BAR
Is it the food? The great beers? The superb wine list? Well, yes… I guess it is. If only I can get a seat at the damn bar. The Upper West Side never had it so good.
BEST CHEESE PLATE
Come on, you know it’s true. Mario gets it, and he delivers at Otto with a selection of cheese accompanied by three dipping opportunities for the stuff… including honey and truffles. I think I have stolen more stuff off of his menu for my own home entertaining than any place in NYC.
BEST STREET MEAT
Halal Cart, 53rd and 6th
So we all know about this place now, and the line down the block is legendary… but for good reason. The chicken and rice is the best deal in town… and the tangy white garlic/tahini/yogurt sauce they squirt across the top is downright illegal.
BEST CRAM INTO YOUR MOUTH SUGAR FIX
Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good creampuff? Beard Pap’s popped up early in the year, and now boast and UWS locale as well. The puffs are baked hot and fresh, and the cream squirted inside the thing while you wait. Unfortunately, I have problems getting these home.
BEST PULLED PORK SANDWICH
It’s a funky spot you need to visit for the hell of it anyway, but don’t be fooled… some of the grub here is quality stuff, and the pulled pork qualifies as best in it’s category. It’s slow roasted tender, and with their tangy and slightly spicy sauce and pickles, is a throwback to a sandwich you might find in South Carolina….
BEST UNIQUE DUMPLINGS
Wu Liang Ye
They have terrific dishes… including great noodles… but lets not beat around the bush. The Sichuan Pork Dumplings with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette are worth a cab ride across town.
BEST BUDGET PLATE
Neptune Polish Diner
Sure they have diner food here, but why would you eat it when you can order a plate of sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies with sour cream for $5.85? By the way, their red borsht is the best you’ll ever eat.
BEST BLOW OUT DINNER
Alain Ducasse at the Essex House
OK, so I didn’t pay the bill here… but if I would have had too, I would be working a second job rather than writing this blog. It’s snobby, pretentious and frilly… but remarkable in everyway. Note: Alain is moving this spot downtown as we speak….
BEST SUNDAY AFTERNOON MALL HANG
Bouchon Bakery, Time Warner Center
As much as I love Chelsea Market, I love the specialty sandwiches and wines by the glass. And oh yea, other than something out of the deli at Whole Foods (in the basement), it’s the only place I actually afford to eat while shopping in the Time Warner Center.
BEST CRUSTY BAGEL
We all have our favorite bagel joints, and this one is mine. They are everything you would expect from a perfect Manhattan bagel… warm and chewy on the inside… crusty on the outside. Add their amazing flat bagels (sesame for me) and you get the perfect breakfast. Or lunch. Or whenever.
BEST HOT CHOCOLATE
It’s no secret that one of the best chocolate makers in the world resides in NYC… but what many don’t know is that he also makes the best Hot Chocolate known to man. The powered mix, lumped full of chunks of gourmet chocolate should be a required addition to every New York kitchen.
BEST SCOTCH AND CIGAR
Hudson Bar and Books
I know… it’s the size of my closet… but where else in the city can you sip a scotch older than your brother while enjoying a Romeo and Juliet? Skip the food here… this place is meant to smoke.
BEST PASTA AND CIGAR
I still don’t understand how Florio’s can legally allow folks in the bar to smoke, drink and eat… but they do. I don’t ask questions. Recommended: anything in their vodka sauce.
BEST BUBBLE TEA
Ten Ren Café, Chinatown
You can get bubble tea almost anywhere these days… but this location of Ten Ren offers a frozen variety with giant gooey bubbles. Yum.
BEST FAST FOOD
Yes, the novelty is beginning to wear off… but the truth remains that Chipotle offers fresh, hot food for very few $$.
So….. there you have it! The 2006 FORKIES. Grab the Pepto and get going!