2013: a foodie year in review!

Describing 2013 as a foodie roller coaster would be a bit extreme. While I have had some highs and lows in my personal life, including some “interesting” medical issues in the fall, the New York City restaurant scene has been thriving for all intensive purposes. For those of you who know me well, it will come as no surprise that I choose to focus mostly on the wonderful positive aspects of this year, because if nothing else, I am an eternal optimist, (even if that means illogical conclusions about the future of my beloved Yankees).

Great new restaurants:

Thanks to obsessively reading twitter headlines about all things related to food, I easily discovered some of this year’s best new restaurants. At Lafayette, you can find not only a great bakery but also one of the city’s best hamburgers with the nice addition of melted Raclette cheese. One of the hottest restaurants of the year was Carbone, which essentially requires reservations one month in advance. I was immediately impressed by their 1950’s decor, music, free appetizers of Parmesan cheese and garlic bread, and outstanding Italian food. However, due to the exorbitant pricing featured on Carbone’s menu, it is important to know what to order here: I highly recommend trying what I consider to be one of the best versions of Chicken Scarpariello, and a fantastic blending of flavors and textures of mushrooms in their Funghi Trifolati.
One of my favorite new restaurants this year, or just in general, is
Harlem Shake
There is ambiance here for days: great soul music, decor including signed pictures of Harlem celebrities, and very friendly staff. The Pat Lafrieda burgers are ranked in my top five and their fries and shakes can truly give Shake Shack a run for their money. Finally, I was invited to an event to celebrate the opening of
Teavana: Starbucks’ genius tea bar
With an eager staff, a great selection of teas, and creative concoctions, Teavana is a winner to be sure. As I said, 2013 is definitely the year of excellent new restaurants!

A year of hidden gems:

There is something incredibly rewarding about finding a fantastic restaurant of which many people are not necessarily aware. One of my favorite examples is
Little Owl
This amazing restaurant with only about 30 seats creates some of the finest American/Mediterranean fair in the city. Standouts include their crispy chicken, (baked under a brick) and their Blind Food Critic approved bacon cheddar burger, which is
number one on my top burgers list.
Another embodiment of what a hidden gem should be is
Levain’s!
Besides being an awesome bakery in general with a very friendly staff, Levain’s stands out for making the world’s greatest cookies: they may be huge, but the texture and wonderful gooey chocolate is the star here! Finally, although I have not finished this review yet, it is time to give credit to a restaurant hidden in a New York City department store. Its name is Stella, and if you ever find yourself on the sixth floor of Macy’s, I strongly encourage you to give this one a try. Their wonderful Italian cuisine was equally impressive as the food I have tasted at other highly Zagat rated eateries at a reasonable price. Who knew?

Foodie events galore:

I have had the privilege to attend some mind-blowing food related events this year. In February, I was fortunate enough to receive the opportunity to attend
a chocolate tasting at Maison du Chocolat
This is a pricy event, but one which I very much feel is worth your time and money. It is a guided tour through the history and flavors of chocolate, from bean to butter to finished product! In March, I found a last minute ticket to
the 2013 Village Voice Choice Eats
This hectic event featured over 50 local restaurants, bakeries, wineries, and liquor brands. The space was packed to the gills, yet the food and atmosphere made this experience entertaining and worthwhile. Finally, I received a press pass in may to check out an event with a plethora of food trucks:
Choice Streets!
This event was one of the best, with over 20 food trucks to sample and great music. Here’s hoping 2014 brings more incredible foodie events!

My trip to the Basque country!

In January, I traveled to San Sebastian, a small wonderful town in the Basque region of Spain. While there, I had the opportunity to be a part of some incredible experiences. First, I was invited to an outstanding Dinner at
a traditional Basque ciderhouse
This multi-course meal featured local ingredients such as cod, t-bone steak, and Basque cheeses. Furthermore, I tried Basque cider for the first time and it was truly delicious: the flavor of their apples stood out and the sparkling aspect of the beverage was remarkably refreshing.
During my time in San Sebastian, I learned firsthand about a unique part of their food culture called Pintxos. Simply describing them as mini appetizers does absolutely no justice, here is my explanation of what I call
The Pintxos experience
As if the ciderhouse and pintxos were not enough, allow me to describe what occurs during the yearly San Sebastian day. The streets echo with the sounds of 24 hours of continuous parades, and the restaurants also step their game up to serve fantastic meals! Therefore, join me to learn about another awesome experience that starts with food and goes way beyond:
Tamborrada!

An ode to food delivery:

I regret to inform all of you that despite many foodie successes this year, 2013 represents the downfall of something which is near and dear to my heart. Like most true New Yorkers, I have been spoiled for eons by the sheer convenience of food delivery, an action which I have undertaken more frequently due to awesome sites like seamless.com and delivery.com. However, after a huge amount of orders with items missing, more than one delivery person who does not speak a word of English, iceberg cold food, and/or more, I am deeply saddened to report that the state of delivery has changed for the worse. In addition, the quality of Chinese food in my neighborhood has also declined, which of course signifies a bigger issue since this type of cuisine is a true staple of New York City delivery. I am not articulating these sentiments in the pursuit of a solution; instead, this situation has inspired me to cook more often! I have been perfecting a paella valenciana and various forms of pasta Bolognese, and hope to learn the recipe of some of my mother’s excellent dishes including chicken marsala and classic ratatouille!

Thanks for joining me on a review of 2013’s highlights. I truly hope all of you have a happy and healthy new year, and remember:

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

– Helen Keller

Dan

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