Sunday December 14, 2008
1. Porchetta sandwich at Porchetta
In a city where designer pork inspires a fervent following, it takes some serious swine to stand out from the crowd. Porchetta has delivered just such a contender with its rendition of one of central Italy’s most hallowed creations: a whole, deboned pig laced with fennel and spices, then slow-roasted until the skin is a crackling shell and the inner flesh is basted with melted fat. When it’s served as a sandwich, the spongy bread soaks up the juices, making for a quick bite…and a porcine epiphany.
110 E 7th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-777-2151). $9.
2. Squab at Corton
Wrapped in bacon and gently poached, Paul Liebrandt’s squab roulade is the centerpiece of the year’s most transcendent entrée, which also includes the confited leg with chestnut puree and a candied ginger, black truffle and roasted squab jus.
239 West Broadway at North Moore St (212-219-2777). Served with a three-course prix fixe: $76.
3. Akamaru Modern ramen at Ippudo NY
New ramen shops were more plentiful than Obama pins this year, but this complex, creamy, scallion-scattered broth set the standard for top-notch noodle soups. Add on cubes of jiggling pork belly and a goodly squeeze of raw garlic before tackling this restorative wonder.
65 Fourth Ave between 9th and 10th Sts (212-388-0088). $13.
4. Tarragon pappardelle at Falai
Pastry chef turned restaurateur Iacopo Falai’s lush elastic ribbons are scented with fresh tarragon and slicked in an emulsion of clove-, bay-leaf-, black-pepper- and wine-enriched butter. With a fig compote and ricotta fonduta, it’s hard to tell whether this is dinner or dessert.
68 Clinton St between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-253-1960). $15.
5 Askinosie chocolate from Blue Apron Foods
The San Jose Del Tambo 70 percent chocolate bar is an explosion of dried-fruit flavors (figs, bananas, raisins). Owner Shawn Askinosie pays farmers more than fair-trade price, and uses biodegradable packaging. It’s as guilt-free as a chocolate binge can get.
814 Union St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-230-3180). $7.50.
6. Foie Gras Ravioli at Scarpetta
The best dish at Scott Conant’s comeback, Scarpetta, wasn’t resurrected from restaurants past. The chef fills delicate ravioli bundles with duck meat and foie gras, then anoints the decadent packages with a syrupy drizzle of duck and marsala jus. As plump as soup dumplings, they’re served in an overkill portion that still somehow doesn’t seem generous enough.
355 W 14th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-691-0555). $25.
7. Prosciutto at Salumeria Rosi
If you’ve ever grazed on an antipasti plate, you’ve seen your share of prosciutto—but never like this. Translucent slices of prosciutto di Parma from chef Cesare Casella’s Salumeria Rosi have a silky-smooth texture and a sweet, salty flavor that puts those other hams to shame. 283 Amsterdam Ave between 73rd and 74th Sts (212-877-4800). $25 per pound.
8 Roasted sardines at A Voce
Stuffed with a heady combination of lemon, marjoram, parsley and garlic, each citrusy bite is punctuated by the addictive crunch of hypercrisp bread crumbs. If only sardines like these came in a can.
41 Madison Ave, entrance on 26th St between Madison Ave and Park Ave South (212-545-8555). $16.
9. Face bacon at Blue Hill
Bacon worship still runs rampant in food-geek circles because chefs like Blue Hill’s Dan Barber keep upping the ante. His face bacon uses the choicest bits from the pig’s punim: Barber and his crew pick a hog’s head clean, cure the meat, braise it in its own fat, roll it into a log, thinly slice it, bake it and voilà: a crisp pinwheel of salty perfection.
75 Washington Pl between Washington Sq West and Sixth Ave (212-539-1776). Part of the $68 farmers’ feast.
10. Diamondback at PDT
Balance and potency are the hallmarks of this elixir from barkeep Jim Meehan. Spicy, caramely rye is the brawny backbone, tempered with sweet Laird’s bonded apple brandy. The final constituent: 80-proof yellow Chartreuse, which imparts a savory yet botanical edge.
113 St. Marks Pl between First Ave and Ave A (212-614-0386). $13.