The Best Dishes/Things I Ate In 2009
I know I’m way overdue for a post to you all. Granted, I didn’t write as many posts as I should in regards to my Hong Kong/Zhuhai, China trip and a few other places I’ve eaten in New York City. But here’s a recap of what I thought was memorable during the year of 2009 in no particular order (and some of them I haven’t written posts but they’re good enough to mention here).
Side note: I can’t believe we’re ending the first decade of the second millennia already!
Liang Pi from Xi’an Famous Foods in Flushing. I love this addictive, heaping mess of cold, chewy noodles made of wheat flour, large cubes of gluten, bean sprouts, and cilantro. It’s pleasantly spicy to everything that’s cool. I never thought eating vegetarian would taste any better. The best part, it’s under $5.
All the specials from Big Gay Ice Cream Truck At first glance this conventional ice cream truck owned by Doug Quint went innovative. I’ve eaten one way too many crazy ice cream concoctions from this truck the past summer. My first special was the Thanksgiving Special composed of vanilla soft serve, covered in graham cracker crumbs, drizzled with pumpkin butter and topped with a pile of whipped cream. The accoladed Choinkwich was something I never heard of – crisp chocolate cookies sandwiching chocolate soft serve and bacon?! As expected, it was amazing but really messy. Don’t wear anything light colored if you’re eating it. As for the Salty Pimp, a cone of vanilla soft serve, sprinkled with sea salt, and assiduously squeezed with dulce de leche along the grooves of the soft serve’s spirals, and coated in a chocolate shell. That concoction was the last I’ve eaten that summer. A bittersweet (or salty-sweet) ending. It was phenomenal as always, if you’re a big fan of desserts of all things sweet-salty or just plain weird, Doug Quint is the genius to make your mundane sundae to something extraordinary.
Sea Urchin Sandwich from Aldea Sea urchin are one of my favorite ingredients to eat (my other loves are foie gras, sweetbreads, pork, and chocolate). When I spotted this back when Aldea started serving lunch, my eyes widened when I saw it on the menu and I told my waitress that I must have it. What makes this amazing is the simplicity of this entire sandwich. No fancy techniques or sauces; just superior, fresh ingredients to let them speak for themselves. Witnessing how my sandwich inchoate with the hands of Executive Chef George Mendes, he split a plain Sullivan Street Bakery stecca, drizzle it with olive oil, toast it under a salamander to develop a slight crisp crust, then top it with small heirloom tomatoes, uni, and sprigs of blanched sea beans, then slightly warmed in the salamander. If you love uni, you must try it.
Black Angus Tenderloin with Parsley Root Puree and Lobster Mushroom and Sullivan County Foie Gras with Fresh Peas, Banana and Almond Cream from The Modern Restaurant These two dishes stood out in my mind when I ate through their tasting menu. Sure, everything was beautifully plated but it what made the amazing flavors and textures. The beef tenderloin dish was everything a meat lover wanted and you wouldn’t have noticed the mushroom so much since it mimicked the silky, meaty texture of the beef. As for the foie gras, the unusual things beside the fact it’s served with peas, bananas and almond cream, was that it’s cooked sous vide; usually, it’s seared more than any other technique. What this technique does that it makes this luscious duck liver was to retain it’s smooth, creamy, fatty texture all the way through. The peas, bananas, and almond cream made you believe it’s late spring or summer. I also adore the mini ice cream cone petit four.
Red Wine Braised Octopus, Bone Marrow Fusili and Agnolotti from Marea Sam Sifton from the NY Times explains the fusili dish better than I, so read his article for this dish. As for the Agnolotti, I briefly mentioned that it was amazing. Something about that rich veal filling that’s enveloped with a superb pasta made me dreaming of that ravioli for an entire weekend. Chef Michael White, I bow to your pasta dexterity.
Ham & Cheese Pizza from Co. I went here a few months ago with Ruskie for brunch. I love Co.’s Ham and Cheese Pizza because of the expertly made pizza crust (made by Jim Lehy of Sullivan Street Bakery and his crew) and the salty ham and pecorino cheese that makes it amazing. Granted, it’s not your traditional pizza by any standards but I love the creativity.
Bombolini alla Toscana from A Voce (Columbus Circle) I don’t eat donuts often since I find them a bit stale if I by it at a bakery after a certain number of hours passed when it came out of the fryer. Anyway, A Voce’s bombolini (an Italian donut) stood out from the my entire meal when they recently opened at the Time Warner Center. The donuts were served very warm making it really delicate to handle with a fork. They’re densely coated with vanilla sugar and filled with a vanilla specked custard. When I ate these while still piping hot the feather-light donut gave way to the custard, oozing out its contents gently. It was one hell of a donut eating experience. Messy but very satisfying. The warm bittersweet sauce was nearing a bit too acidic for my taste but it did do the job of contrasting all things sweet.
Pork buns from Fatty Crab (Upper West Side) I think I’m going to start a commotion by saying this but I think Fatty Crab’s pork buns are actually better than Momofuku‘s. It’s not as intensely fatty as Momofuku’s but not as lean as Ippudo’s. It strikes the middle which I appreciate when there are times when I want a pork bun that wouldn’t cut my life shorter by a few years yet still want some animal derived saturated lipids.
Macarons from Itzy Bitzy Patisserie Around the spring/early summer time of this year, Mitzy Budiono started her macaron business and spoiled me with her magnificent French macarons (not those coconut macaroons, mind you) that evokes memories of Pierre Hermé‘s. I sorely miss both of their macarons that I’m depressed that I can’t find or get anything remotely as delicious as theirs. Le sigh… To look a bit more optimistically, Mitzy’s coming back from her Indonesian hiatus soon! Woot!
When I went to Hong Kong and Zhuhai, China for two weeks in late May, where I met so many insanely cute cats, I did eat a lot. Hell, the first thing my mom said to me when I came back home besides “Welcome back” was “You gotten fat.” I know I didn’t write much beyond two posts for this vacation but here’s my remarks.
Portuguese egg tart in Macau (or egg custard tarts in Hong Kong) Fresh, warm egg tarts are hard to come by in New York City. I never came across so many bakeries in Macau and Hong Kong that sells them relatively cheaply and serves them piping hot. It’s an experience worth taking a 14-hour flight.
Phở Vietnamese Restaurant serves clean, balanced and complex flavored dishes. One, after another they are consistently great. The salads (especially the pomelo shrimp salad, pictured above) were the most remarkable that evening. The pho is very good as well. I guess the only one you can compare to in NYC is Michael Huynh’s Bia Gardens but I didn’t go there yet.
Dim sum Oh my goodness, I cannot tell you how fantastic and superb dim sum is at Hong Kong and Zhuhai (I would generalize it to China but I haven’t eaten all of China). I’ve eaten at Man Ho, Sportful Gardens (a handful of times), and Rosa Chinesensia in Zhuhai, China. Everything was fresh and hot, straight from the kitchen. No one come rolling down in steam carts around the restaurant like you’d see in New York. Dim sum is never the same again. I haven’t eaten a dim sum restaurant in NYC that matches Hong Kong’s. So sad.
Milk tea from Lan Fong I know Hong Kong-style milk tea seems like the most quotidian thing but Lan Fong’s milk tea tasted the best when I tried a few places in Hong Kong. Consistently good, it’s popular every morning whenever I walk through that alley, and the flavors are something you can’t find or taste in New York.
So, that’s the lengthy list of what I could recall as the remarkable things I’ve eaten the past year. Cheers to all of you for a healthy and great New Year 2010! May you all eat well (but take it easy on drinking on New Year’s Eve).
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
(Back then) Corner of 17th Street & Broadway in Union Square
New York, NY (website)
Itzy Bitzy Patisserie
Sold by web orders only (website)