We’ve seen so much of these the last few weeks (and I couldn’t help but do one myself). I made the requisite “decade lists” for music, films, books and TV shows. But I thought since we write a food blog we might look back at the culinary experiences we’ve had over the past 10 years.
This was really hard to do! Should it be just Brooklyn? New York City? The world? We decided on two lists. One for NYC (and just around) and one for outside NYC (with brief descriptions of why). Now, we’ve been to the Chez Panisse’s and the Public’s of the world but this is our list, based on great nights we’ve had together or with family and friends – sometimes it had very little to do with the food! (these are in no particular order)
- Celeste – Upper West Side, NY. What a gem. We started going to this place in 2002. We lived around the corner and my roommate, who had just returned from a semester in Italy, was looking for an authentic Neapolitan restaurant. There it was, right next door. It is always packed and be prepared to wait. Also, try the cheese plate…the owner frequents his native Italy and will bring cheese back in his suitcase, or so he says (not sure if I think this is gross or totally awesome). Ties for best dish? Ravioli with butter and sage sauce and linguine alla vongole. Pizza isn’t bad either.
- Aqua Grille – SOHO, NY. I know this place has seen better days but when my dad, James and I discovered the oysters and martinis, somewhere around 2004, we have always gone back for pre-dinner mollusks.
- Le Gigot – West Village, NY. We’ve gone here for so many occasions; my birthday in 2006, our first anniversary last year and many more. The crabcakes are unreal and it’s so cozy you’d swear you were in the Marais. Its gotten mixed reviews but I’ve never had a bad meal.
- Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Tarrytown, NY. If you haven’t been here, you should. It is worth it, REALLY. No exaggeration. It is beautiful and the service is impeccable. Can’t really talk about the food. We had cocktails to start and did the wine pairing with dinner and by the 3rd course I don’t even recall what things tasted like…needless to say, that was a bad idea. I’d do it again (when I sell all my gold) just so I can remember what I ate.
- Yeah Shanghai Deluxe – Chinatown, NY. When you’re lost in Chinatown and need a place to rest your weary bones, head over here. The food is great (not to mention the awesome bridge you have to cross in order to be seated). My friend Ji showed us this place somewhere in 2003 before a show at Bowery. Can’t remember what we saw but I remember eating here.
- Peasant – Lower East Side, NY. I’ve talked about this before. I will keep talking about it. The year is 2009, the day is my birthday. Just order the tagliatelle with rabbit and fava beans and you won’t be disappointed. Awesome.
- General Greene – Fort Greene, Brooklyn. This place is amazing all around. This summer we went nearly every night for the homemade ice cream (Philly style-sans eggs) truck parked outside the joint. The Honey Vanilla rules my world. James love the Salted Caramel Pretzel.
- Fatty’s Cafe – Queens. Our favorite Astoria spot. Our friend Matt lives around the corner. It’s a frequent stop when we visit him (or when we play at nearby Waltz – hello! shameless act of self promotion!) The Cuban sandwich is my favorite and the Yucca Rellena is great. The service is even better. SO friendly.
- Silver Moon Bakery – Morningside Heights, NY. Our first apartment together was on 108th and Broadway. On weekends in the summer we would head here to eat pain au chocolat and sip cafe au lait in their tiny outdoor cafe. It’s cozy and a perfect neighborhood spot. Their bread is very very tasty with perfect crunchy crusts. Their breads would often accompany many of our meals.
- Le Monde – Morningside Heights, NY. Nearby our old apartment is this French restaurant. The service is TERRIBLE but the food has never failed. Very basic French fare but when we got engaged we came here to celebrate. Sigh. The Friday lobster risotto is out of this world.
- The Turf Club – San Diego, CA (2002). James lived in San Diego for a bit after college. Although we enjoyed many fish burritos I can’t say we’ve ever had an experience quiet like The Turf Club. It’s the perfect balance of retro kitsch and really good food. You grill your own meat at your station. Some people say “why would I go out to dinner and cook my own meal?”. I’d say, good point. But you don’t have cocktails served in goldfish bowls in your house, do you.
- Burma Superstar – San Francisco, CA (2005). A friend took me here before I moved to SF. I then took every out of town guest here when they visited. I’ve probably been here a hundred times and tried everything on the menu, I’ve never been disappointed. Parking is terrible in this part of town and its ALWAYS crowded. They, like many smart SF restaurant owners, let you leave your name and cell phone and you can wait at a nearby bar.
- The Slanted Door – San Francisco, CA (2006). I’ve been here three times. Once for lunch and twice for dinner. Reasons I love it here (because a LOT of people do) 1. The view of the Bay. 2. The Ferry Building (and all its wonders). 3. The Niman ranch shaking beef. 4. They serve off Heath. 5. Once, Chris Isaak sat next to me.
- Book Trader Café – New Haven, CT (2005). Their website is wonky but their sandwiches are awesome. It’s a bookstore with an attached café. I dream of the Jane Rare (Roast beef with goat cheese and arguala) and the Tempesto (fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and pesto, there is something VERY different about this sandwich though)…yes, they have clever names for their sandwiches based on literature. The next time you are in New Haven and need a quick bite to eat I suggest Book Trader.
- Lunch at Melipal Vineyards – Mendoza, Argentina (2009). We had a five-course lunch with wine pairing here. The porch overlooks a tranquil pool and you can’t beat the view of the Andes settled in the distance. James claims he had the best steak here (I out ate him 7 to 4 in 12 days – so clearly I am the authority on Argentine beef and parillas). The food was just as beautiful as the setting. It was also very creative and well-prepared. Incidentally, this was not our favorite vineyard in Mendoza..that would be Mendel. If you go, ask for Cecilia to give you the tour. She walked us through the fields and even let us eat the grapes straight off the vine. She also helped me understand wine in a way no other person ever has.
- Brasserie Petanque – Buenos Aires, Argentina (2009). Is it weird that one of my favorite French restaurants is in Buenos Aires? This is probably because we ate here on the first night of our honeymoon in Argentina. We don’t speak Spanish – at all. The waiters speak French – so do we. But the duck confit was ridiculous, maybe better than Paris?? We doodled pictures of each other on the table and drank lots of Malbec. Ahh…
- Chez Gladines – Paris, France (2007) – (doesn’t have a website that I can find but this is a nice overview of the whole ‘hood). This Basque restaurant was a few meters away from our apartment in the 13eme. We’d always comment on how busy it was, so busy it was almost a turn off. We affectionately named it “line out the door”. One night we braved the crowds and ordered what every other person was eating…the “Cinq Diamand” salad, which contains goat cheese, Cantal, croutons, ham, belly, gizzards, potatoes, tomatoes, egg. So very good.
- Chez L’ami Jean – Paris, France (2007). (the website makes this place look MUCH fancier than it really is). We had a reservation for 10 pm and we weren’t seated until about 11:30 pm. We sat next to a couple who lived in Montmartre for 30 years who thought it was so funny that we were named Jess and James, “Like Jesse James!” (meanwhile, their names were Jack and Jill and they lived in the hilliest places in the whole city – they didn’t think it was so funny when I started reciting nursery rhymes). The waiters were hysterical and berated me for not finishing my dinner…if I’d finished a whole fish I wouldn’t have had room for the Riz au Lait. Recipe here.
- Café Simon – St. Malo, Brittany, France (2007). (can’t find a website but that’s the address). We stumbled upon this place, which is nestled among MANY seafood restaurants/creperies on the outer circle of this walled city. I’ve ordered the Moules Creme and have tried it in so many other places but nothing compares. This was our favorite spot in France and I can’t wait to revisit the city.
- Ostereria del Ghiottone – Perguia, Umbria, Italy (2007). I don’t know how we found this place but I’m glad we did. James had spent time in Orvieto a few years before and had continued to talk about umbricelli con cinghiale. We stopped in here because they produce their own olive oil but noticed the dining room. We stayed for dinner and I was not disappointed. It was the first time I’d ordered umbricelli (with truffles) and James ordered the cinghiale (wild boar). I think about this place often.
- Ristoranti Del Corso – Ascoli Piceno, La Marche, Italy (2007). We wanted to be close to the ocean and close to the mountains and settled on Ascoli Piceno (home of Anisette Meletti). It’s a little bit off the beaten path and not many people speak English here. We were somehow convinced to rent a two bedroom (8 bed) apartment…the joke was on them though ’cause it was way fun choosing a different bed to sleep in every night. It was recommended that we try Ristoranti Del Corso at least one night while we were here. We walked in and the owner greeted us as if we were his long lost grandchildren. When we asked for a menu he simple stated “Peche!”. He then proceeded to bring us 6 courses of different fish (lagostines, fried minnows, bacala, etc.). In the corner a local man was eating a gorgeous bowl of spaghetti alla vongole and it was all I wanted! I thought maybe if we kept eating he would bring it out. Finally, he came to the table and said, “Tagliatelle e basta?” (I should have said “basta” but my mouth said “tagliatelle”). It would have kept coming, who knows for how long, but we’d had enough. After we digested our meal, we went back a few nights later seeking out the vongole. When we got to the door he smiled widely and said “Carne!”. We turned right around (after a gracious goodbye) wondering who sits through more than 3 courses of meat.
- Trattoria Omero – Florence, Italy (2007). We’d been traveling for a while and met my parents in Florence for a week of eating, sightseeing and lounging. My mother had made reservations at Omero, which is just outside Florence. Its across the street from Galileo’s birthplace and overlooks the whole city. Phenomenal view and not too crowded. Again butter and sage ravioli takes the cake.
- Sunny’s – Bangalore, India (2000). I don’t know if it’s the novelty of eating Italian food (REALLY good Italian food, in fact) in India or if it’s just a great find in the middle of a great city. We’d congregate to this place when we needed a slice of home (they served Budweiser – for 10 bucks a can) and some respite from south Indian fare. It was named after the chef’s golden retriever.
- Koshy’s – Bangalore, India (2000). I’d come to the Parade Café to eat traditional Indian fare. It was the perfect culinary intro to the city as they understood the western palate and knew as soon as they saw us coming to lighten up on the spice. At least for the first few weeks.
- La Barraca – Madrid, Spain (2002). I travelled to Spain with my best friend after graduating from college. Her family is from there and since I speak NOT a lick of Spanish it made the experience so much better. We had lunch with her family here and although I’ve never been to Valencia, this is said to be the best paella in town. It was a great experience being with a big Spanish family enjoying lunch, even if the waiters were teasing me because I didn’t know what was going on (I also had to be told I was being made fun of).
Honrable Mention: Bastille Market, all of the helado in Argentina and making momo’s in Nepal.