2015: A Retrospective of Bites

Well, we’re here in 2016, and before I post about my trip to India and other general musings on life, snacks, kale, Gisele and Tom’s (non) eating habits, and the like, I thought it best to review some of the tastiest things I ate in 2015. Without further ado and in no particular order…

1. Rice Salad at Thip Khao (Washington, DC)I’ve rhapsodized about this before–the crunchy slivers of pig’s ear, and the freshness of herbs, and spiciness that provided a gentle burn throughout. Truly so fantastic. Review here.

2. Pizza at Di Fara (New York)

Excuse the atrocious picture BUT, few things will drag one to the depths of Midwood, Brooklyn–this expertly made pizza will do it. The sauce (with tomatoes imported from Italy, of course) is probably the most incredible part of it, not to mention the owner who is in his 80s (above) and still touches almost every pie.

3. Beef & Bone Marrow Pie at Chi Spacca (Los Angeles)
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I kept hearing about this pie from my brother, and once I finally tried it, every expectation was fulfilled. It’s unctuous and flaky and super-savory all at once. Go get it, if you can.

4. Corn Arepas with an Egg (Medellín, Colombia)

I vividly remember saying, aloud, at the breakfast table “these are a revelation.” The sweet, slightly charred corn flavor and the rich egg yolk are just next level delicious. More here.

5. Fried Chicken “Coq Au Vin” at Convivial (Washington, DC)
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So, the picture doesn’t adequately display how fantastically tasty this dish was, but believe me it was. The rich winey sauce coated the fried chicken, it was so sinful and…now I’m ravenous.

6. Suckling Pig with Orange Sauce at Belcanto (Lisbon, Portugal)

The orange sauce (with a clove of roasted black garlic) and slightly ever so charred cabbage were perfect counterpoints to the crispy, caramelized pork. But, I also must mention that the potato chips seen in the top right corner were inside an edible bag. So yes, I just bit into the whole thing. Magical. Full Lisbon eating guide here.

7. Smothered Shrimp and Grits at Narobia’s Grits and Gravy (Savannah, GA)

I wish I could say we stumbled across this down home Savannah spot, but the truth is I’d been dying to try it for a few months, and the moment I knew we’d be heading to this Southern town, I insisted on going there. The smoky, smothered shrimp were so unbelievably fresh and sweet over luscious, creamy grits. Read more here.

8. Red Wine Braised Artichokes and Parmesan Custard at Vernick Food & Drink (Philadelphia)

Every year, I make at least one trip to Philly, and each time I’m wowed by the food. This dish, one of many at Vernick Food & Drink was so ideal to spoon up on a cold winter evening. Parmesan and red wine go together so well, of course, and I loved the interesting combination here. Full Philly writeup here.

9. Khmer Pancake at Ithaca Farmer’s Market (Ithaca, NY)IMG_9445Back for my college reunion, I made sure to re-live the massive amounts of eating I did in my four years. On weekends at Ithaca’s famed Farmers Market, I almost always ordered a Khmer pancake at the Cambodian stall. Filled with pork, sliced vegetables and vermicelli noodles, it’s absolutely one of my favorite bites this year, and perhaps ever. More here.

10. Pork Sausage with Coconut-Chile Sauce and Lychees at Rose’s Luxury (Washington, DC)pork-sausage-with-coconut-chile-sauce-and-lychees-940x600I’ve been wanting to try the notoriously impossible-to-get-into DC restaurant Rose’s Luxury for a year or two at this point, and on a rainy December night we got lucky. This dish was transcendental. Stirring all the ingredients together, you got the pungent red onion, ever so slightly spongy lychees, coconut froth, and meaty thai sausage. Want to make it? Here’s the recipe.

[Rose’s Luxury Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit]

Top 5 East Village Asian Eats

Since moving back to Manhattan’s East Village, I’ve quickly remembered the foodcentric convenience that I’d grown accustomed to in my earlier years in the neighborhood. Essentially any cuisine, at any time, is available–and often for delivery. Although my heritage is Indian, I tend to prefer the Asian cuisines found farther East, like Malaysian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. The East Village boasts some of the tastiest (and most affordable) options in this culinary realm, and here are my Top 5 Asian East Village Eats organized by cuisine in no particular order:

Szechuan Chinese: Han Dynastydandan1
I first experienced the spicy glory that is Han Dynasty in Philadelphia, and when they opened a branch in New York, I knew that my Dan Dan noodle consumption was going to quadruple. Initially, the extremely long lines and two hour wait times kept me away, but now I’m there whenever the Chinese craving presents itself. Intoxicating Szechuan peppercorns rule supreme in the concoctions, which can be ordered according to a number system of spiciness.cukes
What to Order: Dan Dan Noodles (get them on the milder side unless imminent death is your thing), Dumplings in Chili Oil, Spicy Crispy Cucumber, Sesame Noodles, Chicken “Double Cooked Style”
90 3rd Ave (between 12th and 13th streets)
[photos courtesy of Han Dynasty]

Northern Thai: Zabb Elee
Zabb Elee

 

 

 

                                  If you’re looking for the usual cloying Pad Thai and wimpy papaya salad offensively popularized by Thai restaurants in the area, you’re at the wrong place. But, if you seek an explosion of sweet-sour-spicy Northern Thai flavors, then Zabb Elee is pretty close to nirvana. Yes, there are pork ears and snake head fish (whatever that is) on the menu, but there are also myriad less esoteric choices which will leave you panting with a burning tongue and a happy (and very full) tummy.

What To Order: Som Tum Thai (non-wimpy Papaya salad), Pad Ped Moo Krob (crispy pork, thai eggplant with a spicy sauce–DON’T MISS THIS!), Kana Moo Krob (Chinese broccoli with crispy pork), many varieties of Larb
75 2nd Avenue (between 4th and 5th streets)
[photo courtesy of the New York Times]

Sushi: Kanoyamakanoyama
The East Village, and New York City in general, abounds with sushi eateries, but as a diner, one is often tasked with choosing between subpar fish (and the possibility of gastrointestinal illness) and a cheque of astronomical proportions. Thus, it is important to locate a somewhat affordable locale where the fish is identifiably fresh and of good quality. In Kanoyama, I have found it. Will the sushi be an otherwordly experience? Nope. But it’s delicious, fresh, and isn’t too bougie to shy away from Western inventions like the “volcano roll.”

What To Order: Your fave raw fish creations and Japanese entrées.
175 2nd Ave (between 11th and 12th streets)
[photo courtesy of Trip Advisor]

Vietnamese: Sao MaiSao Mai - Special Pho
The Asian food I crave the most frequently is Vietnamese–with its fresh, vegetable- heavy dishes, thin luscious noodles, and grilled meat and fish. Pho is restorative and comforting, bun (noodle salad) provides all the major food groups (to my mind, anyway), and who doesn’t love banh mi sandwiches?! After being recently featured on New York Magazine’s Cheap Eats List Sao Mai has gained popularity and is (sadly) no longer my secret spot. The service is, well, brusque to say the least, and not particularly quick, but the food more than makes up for it.

What To Order: Goi Xoai Song (Mango Salad topped with Soft Shell Crab), Pho Chin Nam (Beef brisket noodle soup), Bun Bo Nuong (Grilled Beef with Vermicelli Noodles)   203 1st Avenue (Between 12th and 13th streets)                                                           [photo courtesy of Serious Eats]

Ramen: Mincaphoto (6)
It may not be the world’s best ramen, but the bubbling rich soup at Minca is absolutely delicious, reasonably priced, and doesn’t involve uppity hostesses and two hour plus-long wait times (read: Ippudo). The broth is made from long-simmered chicken and pork bones, resulting in a souper (see what I did there?) rich flavor and silky texture, all the better to be soaked up by springy noodles and decadent pork charshu– a study in calorific velvet.

What To Order: Minca Sio Ramen (Roast pork and garlic flavor), Spicy Miso Ramen.
563 East 5th Street (between Avenue A and Avenue B)