2014 has been a delicious year for Tasting Table editors.
We scouted the juiciest fried chicken in the city, imbibed many a cocktail at snazzy new bars (hello, NoMad), covered some of the city's most hyped openings (looking at you, Cosme and Dirty French) and embarked on countless other food and drink adventures.
So while we could just round up the top 10 openings or some such, we decided to get personal and let each editor declare four favorite dishes and drinks of 2014. Here's what made the cut.
Kat Kinsman, Editor in Chief
• Winter can be bleak pickings at seasonally based restaurants but not so at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which this past January served sheep's milk cheese with pig bone charcoal ash and pickled strawberries as a course in the restaurant's kitchen. Like the best strawberry cheesecake you've ever had but with the soupçon of carbonized swine skeleton you never knew was missing.
• My Tasting Table colleagues can attest that I don't usually manage to stick food into my mouth until 4 p.m., but the Kung Pao chicken wings and waffles with coconut brown butter syrup ($15) at Talde brunch (#teambrunch, y'all!) has me up and at 'em early(ish) on the weekend. (And then back to bed, because holy carb/sugar/fat bomb.)
• Follow your nose to the pungent, perfect soupe de poisson ($12) at Olivier Bistro. Really, please do that, so 1. Olivier keeps offering it as a special. And 2. Olivier Bistro gets on more people's radars. The restaurant consistently turns out homey, heartfelt French classics on a rather "Huh?" block of Fourth Avenue in the South Slope, and I worry, man. I worry.
• Full disclosure: The guys behind Bâtard are pals of mine, but arguably this is due at least in part to this dessert on the set menu: a pool of warm Époisses served with a mushroom vinaigrette; cipollini; and thin, crisp slices of baguette. It's essentially the fondue of the fallen, stanky-breathed angels, and it's emotionally and medically impossible for me not to order it every time.
Aldo Sohm | The licorice latte at Búđin
Karen Palmer, Executive Editor
• A doughnut filled with spaghetti and cacio e pepe cream ($18)? Come on. You simply cannot get better than this savory carb-bomb of fried awesomeness at Mulino a Vino. Chef Davide Scabin is a mad genius.
• Yes, the licorice latte at Bú?in costs $10. No, I don't care. I'm not typically a licorice fan, but even I was enthralled by the drink's almost floral anise flavor. I wouldn't order it every day for fear of bankruptcy, but it's a nice little indulgence.
• I wanted to hate on Dirty French, but the dark meat served with the Chicken and Crepes ($36 per person) goes claws to the wall—quite literally, as the two legs are served with feet still attached. The meat's crisp, crackly, salty and delicious, lacquered with honey and kaffir lime. And my story on the restaurant had one of my favorite headlines of the year: "Dirty Francing."
• The truffle pasta with yak cheese ($22) at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar had me at "yak cheese" (and pasta, and truffles). Turns out the rare Tibetan cheese tastes quite similar to nutty Comté, and when interlaced with ribbons of fresh tagliatelle flecked with black truffle, it's pure magic. Aldo himself is such a gem—possibly the nicest, warmest, most welcoming somm on the planet.
Barbecue at Arrogant Swine
Jamie Feldmar, Senior Editor
• The young chef Jonah Miller is doing all sorts of interesting things at Huertas, his East Village Basque restaurant, but gildas ($3), a three-ingredient pintxo, is a great example of less being more: mild white anchovy, spicy-sweet pickled guindilla pepper and a tart Manzanilla olive, each flavor perfectly balanced on a toothpick.
• Yes, there are flashier things on José Ramírez-Ruíz and Pamela Yung's veg-forward tasting menu at Semilla than the bread and homemade butter. But Yung's nutty, crusty buckwheat-einkorn bread, served with a smartly combined swipe of fresh butter and creamy buttermilk, is the most deeply satisfying.
• There's an unfortunate lack of Carolina-style barbecue in this city, but Flushing native-turned-smoked meat savant Tyson Ho is here to change that with Arrogant Swine. He smokes whole hogs in a lot in Bushwick, cleaves it into bite-size chunks and seasons liberally with a vinegar-pepper sauce. Acquaint yourself.
• Taco Mix's tacos al pastor are not the fancy new ones you might have read about. These are the down-and-dirty, hot-and-juicy tacos al pastor ($3) you dream about, served on paper plates next to a DIY toppings counter—the kind that make you seriously contemplate a midnight trip to East Harlem to sate your all-consuming craving.
Head brewer Kevin Stafford of Finback Brewery
Lizzie Munro, Associate Editor
• There's plenty of great craft beer in NYC, but I was blown away by the incredible offerings coming out of Finback Brewery in Queens. These guys are brewing with everything from chocolate to pine to habaneros, but they keep it all shockingly subtle. The Starchild sour ale, with its whisper of grapefruit peel, is one of the best beers I've had this year.
• Speaking of beer, let's talk Dogfish Head. Yes, I know it's based in Delaware, but I was recently lucky enough to sample some deliciously refreshing gin from its new distillery (labeled Dogfish Head Jin, because, why not?). Brewed with juniper, coriander, cucumber and hops, it'll be hitting NYC shelves late next year, so keep an eye out.
• Not only did my dad teach me most of what I know about photography, he also instilled in me a love of dry British humor; French bistros; and cheese-laden, crispy snacks. That's why I hold him partly to blame when it comes to my unbridled obsession with the impossibly addictive cheese straws ($2.50 each) from Breads Bakery. (Just ask my colleagues.) But, hey, I'll own it. And I might even bring some home for Dad on Christmas.
• I've probably tasted a couple hundred wines this year (seriously), and it's hard to pick a favorite. But I can call out a seriously incredible consumer tasting: the annual Wine on Wheels Grand Tasting benefiting Wheeling Forward, a charity that offers support to those living with disabilities. Co-founder and sommelier Yannick Benjamin brings together the best somms in the city to pour wines from around the world.
Jillian King, Associate Managing Editor
• I ordered the spaghetti and clams ($23) on my first visit to The Clam, because it felt obligatory. I've ordered it every time since—which is more than I care to admit—because it's the best damn sauce I've tasted (thanks to soy sauce, apparently).
• Normally, I opt for a Belgian wheat and call it a night. But this fall, Proletariat's bartender talked me into BFM's L'Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien ($16), a delicious, sour-but-sweet brew the color of lingonberries.
• Calling it: Fancy onion rings are going to be a thing in 2015 (I hope). Leading the charge are the thick wedges ($11) at Vic's, sprinkled with tomato powder and served with a side of Parmigiano fonduta for dipping.
• When executive editor Karen Palmer and I went to check out Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, we weren't sure we should order the Tower of Charcuterie ($45) for just the two of us. But we did just fine with that three-tiered lazy Susan of dried meats, poached ham and lardo spread.
Spaghetti and clams at The Clam | Fried onions at Vic's
Elyse Inamine, Assistant Editor
• I've had many a hamburger patty—dad from Honolulu here, land of the gravy-shellacked version known as loco moco—and the hulking mound of hand-cut New York strip steak ($19) at Via Carota is simple, satisfying and so wonderful: It's charred on the outside, raw and fleshy inside and served with a few roasted garlic cloves to spread on like butter.
• I fully believe that North End Grill pastry chef Tracy Obolsky can turn anything into ice cream, and it'll be rich, thick and delicious. Take her sticky bun ice cream sundae ($10), made with buns she bakes and magically whirs into a luscious soft serve-like cream, then garnishes with the cutest mini buns.
• I eat way too much ramen (admittedly, the instant variety, too), and this year, my favorite bowl was newcomer Mu Ramen's oxtail and marrow ramen ($18), brimming with brisket and half-sour pickles. Meaty, briny, full of flavor. Mind blown.
• One of the few upsides of living in the Financial District is being a short walk from The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. Its newish graphic novel-like menu is fascinating (and crazy violent!), and I love the Goldmine cocktail ($14), citrusy and creamy from egg white and chocolate.
Arctic char at Box Kite | The tower of charcuterie at Aldo Sohm | A selection of pintxos at Huertas
Andy Baraghani, Food Editor
• One of the first stories I pitched when I joined Tasting Table was about Box Kite, an East Village coffee shop that serves an 11- to 13-course tasting menu ($75) at night. I couldn't believe what was coming out of this tiny kitchen that had only a toaster oven and two burners. The most memorable course was the barely cooked arctic char covered in paper-thin discs of butternut squash and sweet potato and dollops of trout roe.
• I'm a Negroni drinker. And even though the three-ingredient, equal-parts cocktail might seem like one of the easiest drinks to make, so many bartenders screw it up. However, Maison Premiere makes it so right that I end up feeling so wrong the next day. London dry gin gets stirred with Cinzano vermouth and Campari, served on the rocks with an orange twist ($12). It might be the best one in the city.
• For months, I wanted to get my hands on the mysterious Chinese bun filled with a sweet, runny egg custard know as lao suh bao ($3 for three). When my roommates and I ended up at Pacificana, a dim sum restaurant in Sunset Park, I found it, ate it and got two more orders.
• The owners of The Farm on Adderley opened up a bakery less than a year ago called Nine Chains, and we included it in our roundup for best breads in New York. I'm not a carboholic, but the potato and nigella focaccia ($8) is insane: oily, super fluffy with tender pieces of Yukon Gold potatoes studded throughout and a generous sprinkling of smoky nigella seeds and sea salt on top.
Dave Katz, Assistant Photo Editor
• Pizza holds a special place in my life; if I go more than a week without it, I start to feel sorry for myself. When I first saw the ¡PXG! pizza ($18) at Pizza Loves Emily, I was skeptical. Boy, was I wrong. The pizza topped with spicy 'nduja sausage and a little herby edge of cilantro is now my go-to pie.
• The football-shaped mass of bread, cheese and egg, otherwise known as khachapuri ($12 to $16), is nothing short of addictive. Old Tbilisi Garden in the West Village does this Georgian staple plenty of justice. I easily devour the whole ungodly thing.
• Toby's Estate is one of those cafes that takes care to train its baristas well. Occasionally, they'll serve the Korate espresso ($3.50) from Ethiopia, and when they do, order it. This one will kick you in the face, then apologize while giving you a back massage. It has flavors of bright cherry and apricot, flanked by a creamy, soft finish.
• When you walk into Copper & Oak on the LES, you'll see it's unlike most other bars. Once you get over the cramped space and the fact that everything is glowing orange, this is a great spot to try liquors you never knew existed. I won't soon forget that glass of Del Maguey's Chichicapa mezcal ($14): Bright citrus notes at the beginning are followed by a beautifully long smokiness on the end.
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