First Annual Pristine Awards

Awards

Welcome to the First Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2015. The Categories this year are as follows:

Best Burger, Best Plain Pizza, Best Specialty Pizza, Best Sicilian Pizza, Best BBQ, Best Bird, Best Desert, Best Milk Shake, Best Mac and Cheese, Best Penne Alla Vodka, Best “Other” Pasta, Best Appetizer, Best Side Dish, Best Soup/Chowder, Best Hot Sandwich, Best Deli Sandwich and Best Philly Cheesesteak. 

Each category will be broken down into the top 3 choices, and the winner will be chosen from the finalists. Certain categories that only have one choice in them, such as Steak, Salad, Burrito, Smoothie, etc. will be forwarded to next year’s awards when they will (hopefully) have some competition. With that out of the way, on with the awards!

Best Burger: Pretzel Burger (WBC) vs. Bacon Cheeseburger (O’Malley’s) vs. Eastchester Burger (Piper’s Kilt.) 

Winner: The Pretzel Burger – Westchester Burger Co.

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While the other two choices were both amazingly delicious, the Pretzel Burger just had no downsides. With a perfect patty, delicious melted cheese, crispy maple bacon and a pretzel bun, one can’t go wrong with this choice. Besides, when a burger can make me actually enjoy an egg, that’s an extra bonus.

Best Plain Pizza: Plain Slice (Portofino’s) vs. Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella (Frank Pepe)

Winner: Plain Slice – Portofino’s.

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Portofino’s combines a great flavor with an amazingly sized slice. New York makes some of the best pizza in the world, and this slice easily ranks up there with the best of them.

Best Specialty Pizza: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella) vs. Big Mac Slice (Luca Bella) vs. White Pizza (Tarantella)

Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza – Luca Bella 

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This slice beats out the other delicious specialties from Luca Bella and Tarantella, because the Vodka Sauce used on this slice is by far the best Vodka Sauce I’ve ever had. The idea to put this sauce on the pizza was inspired, and we are all better off for it.

Best Sicilian Pizza: Nicky’s vs. Sal’s vs. Portofino’s

Winner: Sal’s Sicilian Pizza.

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Nicky’s had thickness, Portofino’s had size, but Sal’s was perhaps the best Sicilian I’ve ever had, and certainly the best in Westchester. Light and airy, and yet somehow filling; with perfectly melted cheese and an amazing sauce, Sal’s Sicilian pizza earns the easy victory.

Best BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich (Jack’s *Ribfest NH*) vs. Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke) vs. Ribs (Texas Smokehouse *Ribfest NH*)

Winner: The Trash Rib Teasers – Holy Smoke.

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Believe it or not, the rib teasers actually beat out a full rack and pulled pork, mainly due to how meaty and flavorful a rib Holy Smoke was able to concoct. The Texas ribs were great, but Holy Smoke gets the edge.

Best Bird: Duck Confit (Le Provencal) vs. Fried Chicken (Holy Smoke)

Winner: Duck Confit – Le Provencal.

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If I’m being honest, I don’t like eating birds that much; so many places just don’t do a good job preparing them. Holy Smoke and Le Provencal are two establishments who know what they are doing. I went with the Duck because it was simply one of the best birds I’ve ever had. In my review I described it as “the steak of birds” and in the end, that is what sealed the victory for the Duck Confit.

Best Desert: Cheesecake (WBC) vs. Black Salted Caramel Donut (Gypsy Donut)

Winner: Cheesecake – Westchester Burger Co.

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This was a harder decision than you might think; the black salted caramel is one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever tasted, but the Cheesecake won in part due to its light, and rich texture and flavor. The plating of the desert was also an added bonus but did not play into the decision.

Best Milkshake: Chocolate Milkshake (City Limits) vs Italian Nutella Milkshake (WBC)

Winner: Italian Nutella Milkshake – Westchester Burger Co.

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The specialty milkshake carries the day. I love chocolate milkshakes, but the Italian Nutella was just too good not to win. The flavor was unique, and  it was made so well. Both were great, but WBC’s was just better.

Best Mac and Cheese: Mac and Cheese (Piper’s Kilt) vs. Deluxe Cheeseburger Mac (Mr. Mac’s) vs. Philly Cheese Steak Mac (Mr. Mac’s).

Winner: Philly Cheese Steak Mac – Mr. Mac’s.

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Man, I wish this restaurant would come to New York! The Philly-Mac was simply one of the best things I’ve ever had. The Macaroni and Cheese portion was great, and made even better by an authentic taste of the Philly Cheesesteak.  Not only that, but it also has great re-heat value; and while I love the Mac at Piper’s Kilt, Mr. Mac’s specialty is their Mac and Cheese, and this is one of the best.

Best Penne Alla Vodka: Sal’s (White Plains) vs. Luca Bella

Winner: Penne Alla Vodka – Luca Bella

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Its the sauce. In the same way that Luca Bella won best specialty pizza with their Vodka Sauce slice, they win the Penne category with the sauce being where it was always meant to be, on pasta. It was a hard choice given that Sal’s sauce included a few extra and delicious elements, but in the end, Luca Bella’s sauce was just that much better.

Best “Other” Pasta: Spinach Ricotta Pillows (Grazie) vs. Linguine and Clams (Lago)

Winner: Spinach Ricotta Pillows – Grazie

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A country club take on spinach ravioli, these pillows were not only delicious, but presented in a wonderful manner. The spinach and ricotta meld beautifully and just made for a great pasta dish.

Best Appetizer: Speck (Lago) vs. Dueling Meatballs (Grazie) vs. Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites – Prohibition River.

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Possibly the toughest choice so far; on one hand you have a a wonderful Charcuterie dish, but you also have a fantastic meatball offering. But the Chicken Fried Steak Bites get the victory because it is one of the most delicious appetizers out there. Filet Mignon steak bites, with a deliciously crispy skin and a fantastic gravy? How could it not get the win?

Best Side Dish: Garlic Balls (PPT’s) vs. Beer Battered Onion Rings (O’Malley’s) 

Winner: Garlic Balls – PPT’s.

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The ultimate side to pizza, Garlic Balls from PPT’s are doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. It is easily one of the most unique side dishes out there, and a must try for anyone who likes good food.

Best Soup/Chowder: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s) vs. New England Clam Chowder (Townhouse)

Winner: New England Clam Chowder – O’Malley’s.

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Very easily the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve had, as it is the specialty of the Chef at O’Malley’s. It is thick, creamy, and has great clams. An easy dish to return to over and over, and I do almost every time I go to O’Malley’s.

Best Hot Sandwich: Phive All Day (Philly’s) vs. Aged Beef Top Round w/ French Onion (Melt)

Winner: Phive All Day – Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia.

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One of the most unique and succulent sandwiches out there, the Phive All Day wins based on its combination of traditional Philly Cheesesteak elements, but with the fantastic additions of bacon and home-made “McNabb Sauce.” (Note: This Sandwich will not be considered for the category of Philly Cheesesteak because it has too many unique elements).

Best Deli Sandwich: Sicilian Sandwich (Roosters) vs. The Godfather (Anthony’s) vs. American Combo (Anthony’s)

Winner: American Combo – Anthony’s Deli.

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Another tough choice, especially considering that the Godfather is Anthony’s signature sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, the Godfather is a fantastic Italian Sandwich (as is Rooster’s Sicilian), but the American Combo just has the “it factor” in terms of traditional deli sandwiches. The bread, as well as every meat used is fresh, and the size is fantastic. I’ve had all three of these sandwiches on multiple occasions, but the American Combo is the one that I go back to the most.

Best Philly Cheesesteak: Silver Lake Pizza vs. Royal Scarlet Deli

Winner: Philly Cheesesteak – Silver Lake Pizza.

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Easily my favorite Philly Cheesesteak, Silver Lake Pizza knows what they are doing in regards to this sandwich. The bread is crisp, the meat is thick and flavorful, the cheese is melted perfectly, and the peppers and onions are a nice addition to this juicy sandwich.

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

 

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Frank Pepe: Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella

20150810_132302Established in 1925, Frank Pepe as a long history of serving pizza to citizens of Yonkers and Connecticut. I walked in there not really knowing anything about the place except that the pizza was supposed to be good. I was immediately surprised to find out that instead of slices, Frank Pepe serves coal fired personal pies; and it is with a healthy curiosity that I dug into mine.

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I’m not usually a fan of coal fired pizza, but this one was very good. It was crispy and had a medium sized crust (not too thin and not too thick) as well as a medium sized body; it was covered in both stringy and thick mozzarella cheese, an absolutely perfect choice for this pie.

The sauce they used was sweet and delicious, and the pie also had a nice dousing of olive oil which was a really nice accompaniment to the cheese and the sauce.

After one visit to Frank Pepe in Yonkers, I know I’ll be back; and I’m looking forward to trying their White Clam Pizza in the near future.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

New Hampshire: Mr Mac’s: Deluxe Cheeseburger and Philly Cheese Steak Mac ‘N’ Cheese

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Almost every kid in America (or Adult who was previously a kid) has had some kind of prolonged experience with Macaroni and Cheese; it is the consummate kids meal. Mr. Mac’s in Manchester New Hampshire has taken this kids meal and upgraded it into a truly phenomenal gourmet dish.

Mr. Mac’s offers many different choices and directions you can take with your Mac ‘N’ Cheese, I have chosen to cover their Deluxe Cheeseburger and Philly Cheese Steak Macs.

This is the Deluxe Cheeseburger Mac:

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Served in a piping hot skillet, this is the perfect mixture of “Seasoned Ground Beef, Cabot Cheddar, American Cheeses, Bacon, Onions, Pickles, and Thousand Island dressing topped with Breadcrumbs.”

As promised, the ground beef is seasoned well and the bacon provides that nice salty crunch; sweet onions and potent pickles each provided an additional, albeit different kind of crunch and flavor, and the thousand island dressing mixed in with the smooth and gooey mixture of cheese and perfectly cooked pasta presents a wonderful assortment of flavors in your mouth. The addition of bread crumbs as the light, crunchy topping is the best possible choice they could have made, and is the perfect topper to this dish.

And now for the Philly Cheese Steak Mac:

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The Philly Cheese Steak Mac is made up of “Shaved steak, American and Provolone Cheeses, Onions and Peppers”; and as promised tastes like an authentic Philly (with the addition of pasta).

The steak was rich and plentiful, the pasta cooked to perfection, and the thick, smooth cheese throughout provided amazing taste; the onions and peppers were flavorful and added their own brand of crunch to the Mac. The frizzled onions on top added even more crunch to the dish, especially when mixed in with the other ingredients.

Half a skillet full is enough to satisfy your hunger, and the reheat value in each of these dishes is not to be underestimated; both make for very delicious first tastings, and leftovers. Mr. Mac’s is true gourmet Macaroni and Cheese and is the perfect meal for kids of all ages; both the young, and the kids at heart.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

O’Malley’s: New England Clam Chowder

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Its hard to come by good New England Clam Chowder outside of its namesake location; fortunately for us, it just so happens to be a chef specialty at O’Malley’s in Nyack.

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This is by far the best New England Clam Chowder I have ever had (though my experience with this dish has been mostly relegated to New York), and it comes in two sizes; cup, and bowl. Pictured above is the cup, but I readily suggest everyone get the bowl.

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O’Malley’s chowder is a pure and accurate taste of New England; thick and creamy, with a nice combination of sweetness and zest. The clams were fresh and had a good chew to them (avoiding the common fault of rubbery clams); the potatoes were hearty, and the vegetables had a good slight crunch to them.

This is an appetizer that could very well be a meal, and by the time you’ve finished it, there is an excellent chance that it will leave you craving more.

O’Malley’s has a plethora of good menu items, with this chowder being one of their best. Whether its the middle of winter, or the peak of summer, O’Malley’s New England Clam Chowder is always worth the purchase, and can give many New England restaurants a run for their money. I hope you will enjoy it soon.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Anthony’s Deli: American Combo

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Today’s review brings you one of the greatest deli sandwiches in New York, if not the country; you think I’m joking? If so, then you’ve never been to Anthony’s.

Anthony’s is a traditional Italian American deli with great food and a classic charm; known for overstuffed sandwiches at an affordable price, if you want a real NY deli experience, Anthony’s is the place to go. Their signature sandwich is known simply as “The Godfather” (“often replicated never duplicated”), and it is a fantastic wedge that I will one day review, but today belongs to the American Combo; easily my favorite thing on the menu:

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Look at that size! It is, simply put, a monster of a sandwich that Anthony’s packs with an assortment of meats, cheese and lettuce; if you don’t think its really that big, I invite you to take a look at what half of that sandwich looks like:

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Yes my friends, that is only half of what you get when you order an American Combo on a wedge; pretty awesome right? But never fear, if a wedge is not your style, you can always order it on a roll as well:

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Are you hungry yet? What is amazing about these sandwiches is that even if you traditionally do not like deli style sandwiches, you will still like most anything the staff at Anthony’s puts together. They always use the freshest ingredients and the price difference between a roll and a wedge is less than $2. But I know what you are thinking; “okay, so it looks good, but how does it taste?” The answer? Unbelievable.

I said it before, but it bears repeating; Anthony’s ingredients are always fresh. When you take a bite, a myriad of flavor and texture hits you like a brick…a delicious meat filled brick.

The bread is equipped with a perfect crust; not too hard, and not too soft. The ham and turkey both have a delightful sweetness to them, a key factor in what makes this sandwich deserving of praise. But not to be outdone, the roast beef is of the best quality and is unspoiled by time or exposure. The Swiss cheese provides a sharp bite that is the perfect counterpart to the sweetness of the ham and turkey, and crunchy iceberg lettuce with creamy mayonnaise puts a final bow on this gift to humanity.

Anthony’s Deli truly knows how to make a top notch sandwich; what could be sold for $11 or $12 elsewhere will only cost you about $8.50, a great price for a great meal*. Even better is that one could easily be satisfied by only half a sandwich and save the other half for another meal; which makes it an even greater value.

Anthony’s is my favorite sandwich shop, and I hope it becomes yours as well; so whether you live in Westchester or are just passing through, do yourself a favor and go to Anthony’s Deli in Mamaroneck; you will not be sorry you did.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

*One thing that must be noted for first time buyers at Anthony’s is that they are a cash only establishment; credit/debit cards are not accepted (although they do have an ATM inside). But hey, that’s part of the charm.