BRESCA Gave Me the Best Meal of My Life

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Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

No, I am not being hyperbolic.

I’v had a good amount of great food experiences over my relatively short life, both homemade and restaurant served; and visiting Washington, DC, this weekend I knew that I needed to have another one. I mean what’s a trip to the nation’s capital without a top quality meal? After doing some research I picked BRESCA for one specific item on the menu, their “Rohan Duck a La Presse,” and while I knew it would be good (I mean it better be for them to charge $118 for an “four per night” entree), I had no idea as I was rushing in the door that this would literally be the most unforgettable meal I’ve ever had.

I was seated very quickly and was almost immediately given a complimentary palate cleansing mixture of orgeat, apple juice and sherry…which was delicious. Its something that I would never have known existed but now have the urge to try making at home, not to mention that whenever an establishment can provide you with a complimentary anything, its a huge plus. Now going into this dinner, I didn’t plan on ordering any drinks, after all this was already an expensive meal and I figured that water would suit me fine instead of paying for a mixed drink; but that quickly changed when I saw “The Bee’s Knees.”

Composed of gin, mead, honey and lemon, the real draw of this tasty sounding cocktail was the fact that it came in a very unique “glass” shaped like a bee. When I asked for this drink I double checked with my server if this was indeed the drink I was thinking of and while he said that it was, unfortunately they ceased serving it in the bee because there was too much demand and not enough bees to be constantly using them. I ordered the drink anyway hiding my disappointment, that is until they placed my drink down in front of me and…

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“We were able to find one for you!”

Heck yes

I don’t know about you dear reader, but when a restaurant goes out of its way to do something for you it has ceased doing on a regular basis, you know they are the real deal; plus look at that thing, its so cool!

But as cool as it is lets be real, I came here for the the duck, and you might think $118 is a lot of money to pay for a duck breast and accouterments, but there is a reason for it. You see this duck is dry-aged for twenty-one days and has a coriander & pink peppercorn crust with local honey. Normally when you think of dry aged meat the first thing that comes to your mind is beef, so to be able to have that experience with the steak of birds is something I could not pass up.

I knew this was going to be special when a server came out carrying the biggest duck breast I had ever seen in my life, I mean this thing was huge, I didn’t know ducks came in that size. “This is your duck,” she told me, and continued to describe how they were about to de-bone and season it and that I should soon expect one of their chefs to come out and make a sauce in front of me. It all sounded so wonderful and I don’t know what I was expecting to see but it certainly wasn’t a portable stove and giant metal press to be wheeled out to my table! Apparently no one else was either as other patrons of BRESCA stopped mid conversation to stare at the show that was being put on for me.

“This is our duck press,” said the chef, “in it we’ve put the duck legs, neck and other parts and we are going to press out all the juices, blood and marrow and incorporate it into this red wine sauce in order to enhance it.”

Bloody Brilliant (Ha!)

If I might digress for a moment, I would have been happy if all they gave me was the duck, but in true great restaurant fashion, BRESCA is going to give you all the bang for your buck they can. In addition to the duck they included three sides that could have been served as appetizers; the first was one of the most delicious salads I’ve ever had, comprised of picked cherry, kohlrabi, noisette butter and spring herbs:

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Second was a fresh, warm bread that they bake daily and that (according to the chef) is “the best thing to eat with the pressed sauce,” and he wasn’t wrong.

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The final side was a savory duck leg tart with cherry, pistachio and spruce tip; and while I had seen it listed on the menu, it didn’t click in my mind until I bit into it that there was duck leg INSIDE THE TART! And holy cow (err, duck) it was great.

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The combination of the pastry with the rich flavor of the duck meat was so good that I wasn’t sure how the the breast could be better. Spoiler alert: it totally was.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how to describe the flavor of this duck breast or the sauce it came in, but all I can say is son of a mother duck it was fantastic. As I ended up telling the server, I have no words.  Tender and juicy on its own, the duck enhanced red wine sauce made it all the more rich and savory…or maybe that came from the Foie Gras that I added for an extra twelve bucks…I mean, go big or go home right? Oh who am I kidding, it was probably both those things that made this an indescribably good flavor combination.  But its not enough to tell you, I just need to show you!

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Phenomenal

I was enjoying this dish so much that a woman, who I believe was the general manager, came over to me and said “You look like you want a high-five,” she was right, and we did.

That picture right there is my happy place. Its what I love most about the culinary arts; the ability to prepare something so creative and delicious is what makes places like this so special; and when you are able to do that while also making your customer feel incredibly special, you are doing nothing less than generating pure happiness, and that’s what real cooking is all about.

About three-quarters of the way through the meal I was all but full. I didn’t know how much more I could eat, not because I didn’t want to, but to be frank this is a meal that should be shared by two or more people; and if you ever make your way to BRESCA in DC, please go with friends and order this meal, I assure you it will not disappoint. But despite how full I was getting I couldn’t help but order a dessert. I did so because it was both small and incredibly special: a Foie Gras Cake Pop. WHAT? Yeah, you read that right; and though it sounds so wrong, it tasted oh so right.

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Covered in hazelnut, chocolate, amaretto and an edible gold leaf (talk about “rich”), this dessert honestly tasted like what Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream wishes it could taste like. Yes, I understand that it is hazelnut, not peanut, but honestly I got strong chocolate and peanut flavor vibes from the coating, and the cold duck liver inside truly gave it an ice cream-like texture and vibe. If I thought I couldn’t be any more pleased after my entree, lets just say I was very happy to be wrong. This is a desert that probably shouldn’t exist but thank goodness it does, and its something every one who claims to be even a remotely adventurous eater needs to try.

I’m not going to give BRESCA a rating for their meal or the experience, because truth be told an A+ or A++ or 5 Stars or whatever rating you could dream up…none of them can do this meal justice; but I think the one thing that can is just to say that BRESCA in Washington, DC, gave me hands down the best meal of my life, and that is really saying something.

bartaco: Duck, Pork Belly & Chorizo Tacos

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Located in Port Chester, New York, bartaco is one of the top taco joints in Westchester County, and for my first visit, I chose to try the Duck, Pork Belly, and Chorizo tacos.

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I have to preface this by saying that I enjoyed all three of these tacos, but as one can expect, I did like some better than others, so starting at the bottom:

Chorizo Taco

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All three of the shells in these tacos are soft, and very good, so I will not be addressing them below.

The chorizo meat was tender, sweet and spicy, and was accompanied by very strong veggies, that while good, tend to take control of the taco a bit more than than I would like. I liked this taco, but it wasn’t as good as the…

Pork Belly Taco

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I’ve really grown to love pork belly over the last couple of years, and this taco was no exception. The belly was thick, tender and fatty with a nice grilled texture, and had an extra acidic flavor component from the veggies. The two flavors mix together quite nicely, and will always be on my list of tacos to get, but if I was forced to choose just one it would be the…

Duck Taco

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Like the pork belly, duck is a meat that I have grown to love, nay, adore over the past two or three years, and this taco is delicious. The duck meat (which in my opinion is the steak of birds) was very tender, juicy and sweet, with a tiny element of spice contributed to it from the raw onion and cilantro. Even more so the pork belly, the vegetables included with the duck simply worked.

If you want good tacos at a fantastic price ($2.5-3.5), and that won’t fill you up right away, bartaco is certainly the place to go.

Mediterraneo: Kobe Beef & Spinach Ravioli

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Relatively newly opened, Mediterraneo in White Plains is a high quality restaurant with a few very unique menu items, including today’s review, house made Kobe Beef and Spinach Ravioli with Marsala Wine, Wild Mushrooms and Calabrian Chili.

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This was one of the better house made style pastas I’ve had, particularly in recent memory. The pasta itself was slightly Al dente, and had a sweet flavor with a slight heat. The inside contained Kobe beef that was rich and flavorful, s a small about of really good spinach, and was accompanied by a few meaty mushrooms that I was actually able to eat (when in general I am not a fan of mushrooms), and was washed in a delicious sauce.

I would definitely recommend trying this dish, and am planning on getting it again; and at a reasonable price of $21, this is a meal that will not break the bank.

 

 

Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

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Welcome to the Second Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2016. As opposed to last year I will be changing up the format a bit to help keep this short and sweet. If a category is underrepresented in my reviews this year (Eg. if I ate a food item/category last year and not this year, or there were no new options), then they will not be mentioned here (for last year’s winners, click this link).

Best Burger Winner: Pretzel Burger (WBC) 

Runner Up: The 5 Napkin, 14 Spice Stuffed Burger (The Cobblestone)

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The Pretzel Burger takes it for the second year in a row, the Cobblestone’s offering put up a great fight, but Westchester Burger Co. has seriously perfected this amazing burger.

Best Specialty Pizza Winner: French Fry Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Runner Up: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Former Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella)

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I mention former winner and runner up because of the immense respect I have for the now closed down Luca Bella and their Vodka Sauce pizza, that being said this was hands down the best specialty pizza I had this year, nothing else comes close. The combination of french fries, bacon, ranch, chives, and two kinds of cheese is fantastic, and is a whole lot better than should be allowed.

Best BBQ Winner: Cider Spiced Ribs (Whetstone Station)

Runner Up: The Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke)

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What else can I say about these ribs that I haven’t already said? As I wrote in my review, “Smothered in sauce, these ribs are near perfection. The BBQ sauce is sweet, with a semi hot (but not overpowering) cider spice.” Can’t beat it.

Best Bird Winner: Duck Confit (Le Provencal)

Runner Up: Fried Chicken (Birdsall House)

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Our second two-time winner, this Duck Confit remains the best bird I have ever had, and the most steak like bird I’ve seen.

Best Desert Winner: Cheesecake (Westchester Burger Co.)

Runner Up: Maple Bacon Ice Cream (Birdsall House)

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Believe it or not, the runner up race was harder to pick than the winner! There were a lot of good choices this year, but the cheese(cake) stands alone.

Best Penne Alla Vodka Winner: Sal’s (White Plains)

Runner Up: Doubleday’s.

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To be honest, if Luca Bella were still around, there would be no contest; Sal’s is great, but Luca Bella was something else. That being said, Sal’s has become the best Penne Vodka in Westchester County, and is deserving of this victory for sure.

Best Non-Beef/Bird Meat Winner: Rack of Lamb (KEE Oyster House)

Runner Up: Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi (Communal Kitchen) 

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Truly the best lamb I’ve ever tasted; from the rich red tenderness of the meat, to the succulent bone and citrus infused panko crust, this is a meal to behold…and then devour.

Best Appetizer Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Runner Up: Charcuterie Board (Communal Kitchen)

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Still one of the most amazingly flavored appetizers out there, I’ve been longing for it ever since I first tried it. While it is not readily available on the menu (it is seasonal), it is still the top appetizer around.

Best Steak Winner:  8 oz Filet Mignon (Ruth’s Chris)

Runner Up: 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre (O’Malley’s)

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You can’t go wrong with a prime cut of steak that is served on a sizzling 500 degree plate. For awhile O’Malley’s was going to take home the title, but then Ruth’s Chris came back into my life during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week; and I’m so glad she did.

Best Soup/Chowder Winner: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s)

Runner Up: Roasted Tomato Soup (Ruth’s Chris)

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I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is simply the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve tried. The roasted tomato soup was great, but the “chowdah”at O’Malley’s is simply amazing.

Best Hot Sandwich Winner: Phive All Day (Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia)

Runner Up: Ale Roasted Cheese Steak (Lazy Boy Saloon)

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Another two-time winner and with good reason, this is one of the most unique sandwiches out there. Take your traditional Philly and add bacon and secret sauce to it nd you have a Phive All Day. Wonderful.

Best Side Dish Winner: Garlic Balls (PPT’s)

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Another two time winner that is totally unique; doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. This is a great side to pizza and even a great dish to bring home by itself. Truly deserving.

Best Philly Cheesesteak Winner: Silver Lake Pizza

Runner Up: Tighe’s Tavern

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The final two-time winner, and my favorite Philly that I’ve had, this sandwich from Silver Lake Pizza is top notch, and has yet to be beat (maybe when I visit Philly?)

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That’s it for the Second Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

 

Communal Kitchen: Communal Salad

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The last time I was at Communal Kitchen, I noticed an intriguing item on the menu, a salad. The reason it caught my eye was that this was no ordinary salad, it contained “Organic local greens, grilled peaches, aged goat cheese, sunflower seeds, duck bacon and buttermilk honey dressing”…and boy was it good.

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That is one of the prettiest salads I have ever seen in person. The local greens were very good, and that is saying something given that I usually don’t like darker lettuce that much.

The grilled peaches were fantastic, and proved to be one of my favorite parts of the meal, the aged goat cheese was delicious, and had that comforting thick texture that only goat cheese has.

The duck bacon was salty, and had a good combination of crunch and chew to it, while the sunflower seeds were an interesting addition, and the buttermilk honey dressing was smooth and sweet.

I loved this salad, and along with its flavor, the portion size was great, very plentiful, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

 

 

RiverMarket Bar And Kitchen: Quail

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This review is a first for me, as it is the first time I have ever reviewed or eaten Quail, so quite honesty I was very excited and a bit apprehensive to try it. How’d it turn out? Really good.

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This is a Black Dirt bourbon glazed Cavendish Farms quail, laid out on creamy wild hive polenta and accompanied by caramelized brussels sprouts.

Starting with the polenta, it was thick and creamy, with a hint of sweetness; I have to say I really enjoyed it. To an extent, it reminded me of oatmeal, and I know that may sound weird to you if you know polenta, but I don’t mean it negatively. I’m not saying it is the same as oatmeal, in truth oatmeal is thicker and heavier, but in terms of some base texture elements, this polenta reminded me of this common breakfast dish.

The brussels sprouts were good too, but the star of this meal is obviously the bird, and don’t you know that the bird is the word? (I’m so sorry).

Underneath a slightly rough texture is a tender and moist meat, similar to chicken, though distinct enough to tell the difference, particularly in its sweetness, and was charred ever so slightly for added flavor.

RiverMarket Bar And Kitchen in Tarrytown, New York, is a great restaurant that serves up some pretty good food, and I am looking forward to trying even more of their menu soon.

RiverMarket Bar And Kitchen: Lamb Sliders

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This review is the first of two of the food at RiverMarket Bar And Kitchen in Tarrytown, New York, and a tasty one at that; ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to their Lamb Sliders.

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Served on a soft brioche bun, these patties (Sir William Farm Hudson Valley lamb) were comprised of some of the most tender and sweet lamb meat I have ever had. Along with a small amount of lettuce for an added cool crunch, was a juicy tomato and some nice house-made focaccia, accentuated by a delicious spring onion pesto, and mint yogurt sauce.

There is not much size to either slider, but that is perfectly acceptable for an appetizer, allowing me to leave room for my main course, while leaving me wanting more of this delicious dish.

This is truly a great appetizer and I look forward to having it again in the near future.

 

 

Communal Kitchen: Charcuterie Board and Pork Belly

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Located near the top of the Main Street strip in Nyack, New York, Communal Kitchen is by far one of the best restaurants Nyack has to offer, an thats saying something.

Let’s start off with their Charcuterie Board:

What I like the most about their Charcuterie is that it isn’t set in stone, they seem to be changing it on a regular basis. I ended up choosing some wild boar cacciatorini, soppressata toscana, duck prosciutto, raw milk cow’s cheese, and finally, goat’s cheese.

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Beginning with the cheese, the raw milk cow’s cheese was a bit dry and not creamy at all, and while not my cup of tea, was not offensive in the least, while the goat’s cheese was thick, creamy, and delicious.

The wild boar cacciatorini was really good, it has a strong, rough and wild flavor that differentiates itself from beef and pork in a major way. The soppressata was salty, had medium thickness, and had a nice spice to it, but the real star was the duck prosciutto. The duck was thick,creamy, smooth and had an element of fat that almost explodes in your mouth; utterly delicious.

Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi

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This main course tastes as good as it looks, the pork cuts like butter, tender and moist on the inside, with a slight crisp on the outside, the pork flavor shines through and the fat content adds an even greater taste; the kimchi had strong spice to it, and the miso is creamy and delicious, and paired with the pork, makes this plate one of the best you will have.

This is for sure a must eat if you live in Westchester or Rockland Counties, and I can’t wait to go back to the Communal Kitchen for even more great food.

Wolfort’s Roost: Fried Chicken (and Tostones)

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This will be a sad and unique review because for the first, and hopefully last time, I will be reviewing something that you can no longer buy; because sadly, Wolfort’s Roost is closed forever.

But even though this quaint and homey little restaurant with the open kitchen is no longer open for business, doesn’t mean their food doesn’t deserve one last good word. I had heard about this restaurant and fried chicken from a friend of mine who stumbled on the website while looking for restaurants to visit in Westchester, sadly, he never got to visit before they closed, so this is as much for him as it is for anyone.

Side Dish; Duck Fat Yukon Tostones:

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These Tostones (although made with potatoes instead of plantains) were seriously one one the best side dishes I have ever had. Each Tostone was thick, moist, and kind of rich. The flavor was a fantastic combination of salty and sweet, an all around wonderful cornucopia  of taste.

Sweet Tea brined Fried Chicken:

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 I have never had a fried chicken like this, and the sweet tea brine was what caught my eye big time. The chicken was lightly breaded, which means the skin wasn’t as thick as some other fried chickens, but there was still some pretty good crunch in many areas of the chicken.

The meat of the chicken was juicy and came off the bone quite nicely, and the flavor of the sweet tea along with the lemon came through very well, a unique and wonderful flavor to be sure. I only ordered the half chicken, but it was very filling and a meal I will remember for a long time.

While this was not the best fried chicken I have ever had, it was certainly the most unique, which is why it is such a shame it is no longer available. I can only hope that I find another sweet tea brined fried chicken as good as this one in Westchester County, and soon.

Lazy Boy Saloon: Mc-Boy Burger

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We are back again to the Lazy Boy Saloon in White Plains, New York, this time to try a well known and established pub food, the burger, or what Lazy Boy has named the “Mc-Boy.”

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A burger with a good size attached to it, the Mc-Boy is very tender and juicy, almost to the point where it falls apart as you eat it. The American cheese is melted pretty well and the caramelized onions provide a nice sweet taste.

The bacon is prepared well, crunchy and plentiful, and the iceberg lettuce adds a different kind of moisture to the burger than its own juices; the sauce, is sweet and tangy, and really brings the whole thing together.

All in all, a very good burger from Lazy Boy Saloon, and one that I would definitely recommend.