2011 can be summarized as the year of the oysters. I even learned to shuck a few, all under the influence from work in planning for an oyster saloon and also the trend in seeing bivalves on the menu and oyster bars opening across New York City. Sure, they’re great finger food but oysters was once a New York City delicacy. It dates back to the 1800s when New York City was once an oyster bed, hence the street names such as Pearl Street and was once commonly eaten by everyone at a very affordable cost and for these reasons it is great oysters are back. Food connects us to our history and more importantly it connects us with people. As we come to a close for 2011, below is my annual recap of my favorite finds this year and with the special people I shared a meal with:
Prune /// Brunch is one of my most favorite meals because I don’t do brunch enough in New York City other than when I go on a road trip so I find it always a treat. It’s my preferred meal to cook at home during the week when I have the time and besides the wait for brunch in New York City is too damn long. Rarely, do I ever like to wait in a line for anything but Prune is definitely worth the wait, promise. For my sister’s 31st birthday (wow!) I treated her and pampered myself and indulged in a 3 hour meal (this includes waiting time). The place is small which is another reason for the wait. Renowned chef Gabrielle Hamilton created a creative brunch menu with many methods to cook an egg and is very well done and exceptionally delicious, all for a moderately budget friendly cost. It’s not your only typical scramble or sunny side but on the Prune brunch menu, a fried egg in Monte Cristo and coddled egg baked in a ramekin with savory chicken. I’m looking forward to my return soon to try the dutch style pancakes. Perfect to fuel up for a Saturday afternoon walk from the East Village to Central Park to explore the New York City’s Autumn foliage.
Diner /// Every well known poet, writer, artist has a spot where inspirations are drawn from, for my boss it might probably be Diner. I went to Diner twice this year and it has become one of my most favorite New American restaurants in New York City. The first time with my friend Anneliese for dinner where I ordered a grass-fed beef burger and the second time lunch with my boss, Robert. I’ve only learned about Diner through Robert since he had given the restaurant rave reviews as a pioneer in the food industry and I cannot agree more. To order at Diner, you must listen very carefully as the waiters recites to you and as soon as I heard fried chicken sandwich, I had to have that. I have a serious achilles heel for fried chicken and partially it runs in our family genes as I recalled my grandfather would always snuck in the back kitchen with fried chicken wings which my grandmother would prevent him in having due to health concerns. The sandwich came with a pickled farm fresh egg, ramp mayo, lettuce, boneless fried chicken on a brioche roll and fries. To finish off the meal, a seasonal bartlett pear tart. A delightful, local, and amazing lunch was where Robert had drawn a sketch of the last market of the year on the table cloths of Diner. Later that afternoon, we had a personalized tour at Mast Brothers Chocolate and that evening I attended a free book signing and talk by Michael Pollan at Barnes & Nobles ! It was the ultimate foodventure.
Brooklyn Bowl /// This year all my 86′ year born friends turned 25 and a making through a quarter of a life is rough which calls for a celebration! Being born in January, I inaugurated the year of birthday celebration at Brooklyn Bowl since I love fried chicken and bowling, there are no place other than at Brooklyn Bowl that has both. This fall I joined a bowling league that met once a week through NYC Social Sports Club which is not meant to be competitive at all but a great place to meet new people and throw a ball at pins at the end of a stressful work day which I have revisit Brooklyn Bowl multiple times since my birthday.
The Green Cup & Parker Pie /// In late March this year, my colleagues and I made a trip to Vermont and had one of the most memorable and well-fed supply of cheese, beer, and maple syrups. It was important to make these behind the scenes food production tours to witness small food start ups are creating and are in the movement to change our food systems. During our visit there we were recommended by our local friends in Vermont to both restaurants: Parker Pie and The Green Cup. I was amazed to find amazingly delicious pizza in Vermont. Parker Pie had a wide selection of creative and appropriate topping like local maple syrup and local cheeses from Vermont dairy farms. The weekend trip had concluded with a farewell brunch at The Green Cup which similarly to Prune is heavily focused on egg dishes. I was sad to learn, The Green Cup was devastated by Hurricane Irene in August and are currently seeking for donation of help to get its feet back on. To help please visit: http://www.greencupvt.com/
Mermaid Oyster Bar /// Oysters are suppose to be eaten in the months with “R” but heck with that, at Mermaid Oyster Bar it’s happy hour & half every day 7 days a week from 5:30pm -7pm and if you say “yelp” you get a free appetizer, though the limited time special offer is now over. Regardless, this place is a lot of fun with a group of friends. My friend Sandra had recommended and it was a nice Friday night dine out spot. I especially like the touch, ending the meal with a surprise chocolate pudding and a conversation piece, fortune miracle fish.
Radegast Hall & Biergarten /// Besides oysters, this was the year in which I have consumed the most German food. Of all the three restaurants: Loreley, Heidleburg, I really enjoyed Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Williamsburg, Brooklyn the most. The pretzel is my favorite, soft baked in house with a few condiments presented on a butcher block, made for sharing. Bratwurst and sausages are grilled and topped over a paper boat of fries and slaw and the best spaetzle which is a German version of mac n’ cheese. And what kind of beer garden would it be without good beer. The decor transports you to Medieval times, with long communal tables and benches and truly qualifies to be called as a Hall.
Porchetta /// I rarely eat alone and when I do I am either at work or at home and under the sun by the waterfront when possible. Meals are meant to be shared with someone but at Porchetta because of limited stool seating and meant to be a carry away restaurant, I was happily satisfy to be eating alone. Named after the sandwich, I rebelled and went with their special of the day and order a lasagna and a mushroom soup instead which was perfect on a frigid snowy day to make a lunch pit stop.
Hakata Tonton /// I had to roundup my annual recap with at least one Asian cuisine and that is Hakata Tonton which is Japanese soul food and pork (tonton). They’re best known for their hot pot dish but frankly I was really disappointed with how shallow the pot was and salty it tasted. Rather, the appetizers are the real highlights to the meal reminding anyone who has traveled to Asia of late night street food bites.
Iris Cafe /// I should have included Iris Cafe on last year’s list when I was introduced to their cheddar bacon biscuit from Iris Cafe by a dear friend, thanks Makalé! Their plain biscuit with jam is delicious too. For many who knows me well, one of my aspiration is to own a cafe, well, if I ever do it would very much be similar to Iris Cafe. The decor, the vibe, the neighborhood, oh the food especially. Though, I’ve only had their biscuits and the best Americano in the city, I absolutely adore this cafe and lucky it’s occasionally on my errand route.
Cowgirl Seahorse /// Sometimes you yearn for bad food and Cowgirl Seahorse near the South Street Seaport might probably be it. I’ve been there in a record 3x this year. The draw of returning as a customer is groupon and amazon had good deals and it’s close to work. The beer battered onion rings are scrumptious and cocktail in a mason jar! Every now and then there are some derogatory themed nights, like “White Trashed Christmas” with whimsical surf, mermaid, fishnet decor.
Oasis /// I was always curious about this little Middle Eastern carry away/ dine- in restaurant near the L train on the Bedford stop. Oasis indeed, it reminded me of a Middle Eastern neighborhood in London where I had the best Middle Eastern food ever. Oasis is good but not quite the best. Like most, there are the usual falafel and shawarma sandwiches and platters. The highlight was oddly the soup or lately I’ve been very fascinated with soup which is one thing I have grown to love more and more as I get older. The soup tasted like puree lentils or a harissa soup and was tasteful with subtle spices.
2011 has been a rewarding and a busy year. With many experiences, majority work related have broaden my perspective and knowledge on food on many levels. Many through conversations shared through meals and people I’ve met. Everyday has been filled with wisdom, thoughtfulness, and creativity in which I am humbly appreciative, thankful for and truly inspired by.
Looking ahead, I hope to document in my 3rd year of food journal with more food travels (New Orleans, backpacking through Istanbul, Greece Islands and elsewhere) reviews, shared home cooked meals, and in what I am most passionate is to share my latest food finds. In pursuit of eating, let the adventure continue. Wishing everyone a happy new year!
text and images © iluvpotato 2011