Last night was the 5t Annual Choice Eats 2012 with over fifty NYC-based restaurants picked by The Village Voice food critics Robert Sietsema, Lauren Shockey (who will leave her position this week) and the staff of Fork in the Road. Like last year, it’s packed, both people and food. If you did attend, you are bound to be eating at least an entire day’s worth of calories and then some. (As I’m typing this post, I’m not remotely hungry and just drinking my morning manual drip cups of coffee.) Some restaurants are familiar faces (e.g. The Meatball Shop, Spicy Bampa, etc.) but a majority were different than last year.
So, here’s a couple of highlights of what I ate last night:
During the VIP Hour, my favorites bites were from Murray’s Cheese‘s cheese and charcuterie plate (I’m a sucker for cheese), the succulent and flavorful stewed beef from El Almacen, and SCRATCHbread‘s chai sticky buns. Technically, everything from SCRATCHbread was amazing, especially the fresh mozzarella with their delicious bread (there was The Mutt and Bourbon Wheat).
While upstairs, one of the most popular bites around was Red Hook Lobster Pound‘s shrimp rolls. These rolls disappear like hot cakes and for good reason, as they are stuffed with lots of shrimp, lightly tossed in tarragon mayo, and the buttered, toasted bun makes it so delectable.
Pork belly and kimchi rice from Zuzu Ramen was interesting as their rice seemed like sheets of crisp, puffed rice topped with mild kimchi and pork belly.
The savory buttermilk panna cotta from Northern Spy Food Co. tastes like a change of tide occurred from their kitchen/restaurant. (The recent change of chefs, now Hadley Schmitt helm the team.) This savory panna cotta was the most unique savory offering of the entire event. The panna cotta was indeed savory and the sweet roasted carrots, crunchy almonds, and licorice added some dimension of flavor.
I’m always a fan of Xi’an Famous Foods‘ vegetarian-friendly liang pi. Something so addictive when you eat those herbaceous, spicy strands of rice noodles, bean sprouts, and cubes of gluten.
This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef had three different sandwiches (pastrami on rye and a slider version of the French dip sandwich) to choose from with a lobster bisque to boot. The This Way Slider was a pretty good and very filling sandwich made of razor thin shavings of roast beef au jus and Cheez Wiz. Usually I don’t care for Cheez Wiz but I’m willing to eat it for this sandwich.
Moving toward the sweeter side of things, The Blue Stove‘s baby chocolate bourbon cakes were an easy favorite. Pure dark chocolate cake that’s saturated (in glaze form) and baked with King’s Country Distllery’s bourbon whiskey. Chocolate + booze = win.
Butterscotch Semifreddo Tony-Style from Del Posto was a simpler approach compared to last year’s offering but nevertheless still very tasty dessert. I don’t know what made it “Tony-style” but it was an orange-laced semifreddo with a few teaspoons worth of butterscotch.
As usual, Dallis Bros. Coffee offers my preferred non-alcoholic digestif, Chemex coffee. This particular cup of coffee was brewed with Columbia Ceero Del Reyez beans. It had a pleasantly bright acidity and great aroma.
VIP Choice Sweets
Robicelli’s offered three desserts (my other favorite was their Chambord brownies) and they’re all excellent but their Dark chocolate dulce whoopie pie stole the show. The chewy, soft chocolate cake-like shell sandwiched in dulce de leche buttercream and nicely balanced with Maldon sea salt.
The Doughnut Plant graced their presence and offered two flavors: peanut butter and raspberry jelly and coconut cream. As both are very good, rich doughnuts but I was hoping to have their famous tres leches. Oh well.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds offered two pie flavors Salty Honey and Blackbottom lemon. Both were fantastic. The salty honey pie was like eating the most supple honey custard that’s sweet yet the hefty salt made it both sweet and salty and the crust meld so well together. The blackbottom lemon was tasted bright and sunny from the lemon curd filling with a touch of dark chocolate that’s sandwiched in between layers.
To view more photos of my visit, please click through the slideshow (or view my Flickr set):
Choice Eats 2012
69th Avenue Armory
Lexington Avenue between E 25th & 26th Streets