Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

Awards

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)

20150324_172729

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)

20160303_184645

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)

20150905_183832

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)

20150829_201154

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)

20150808_180943

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.

20151115_140228

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) 

20160507_201145

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)

20150619_192750

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)

20160308_202154

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)

20150417_164610

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)

20150622_122741

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)

20150312_184858

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

20150404_182043

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?)

___________________________________________________________

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!

 

 

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.

20150324_172729

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.

20150419_133152  

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 

20150317_173321

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.

20150928_163445

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.

20150830_140545

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.

20150829_201154

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.

20150808_180922

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.

20150808_171952

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.

20141122_115849

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

LucaBella2

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

20150621_194448

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.

20150619_192750

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.

20150312_184858

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.

20150417_164610

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.

20150622_122741

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.

20150115_172239 

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.

20150404_182129

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.

_______________________________________________________________

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!

 

Holy Smoke: Trash Rib Teasers

download

For my second visit to Mahopac’s Holy Smoke BBQ, I ordered an appetizer of Trash Rib Teasers, and a main course of their Fried Buttermilk Chicken. This review will focus on the ribs, with the Fried Chicken review soon to follow. Without further ado, these are Holy Smoke’s Trash Rib Teasers:

20150830_140545

These ribs are absolutely fantastic. they are very thick and meaty, with moist flesh that has a nice, partially resistant tear off the bone. Each rib (there are four of them) is smoky in flavor, but is also doused with a good amount of sweet, (almost syrupy) BBQ sauce that fully enhances the flavor.

I cannot recommend these ribs enough; if you are going to spend a meal time at Holy Smoke, order these teasers as your appetizer, and enjoy this wonderful addition to a great BBQ restaurant.

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

Portofino: Plain Pizza

20150419_135644

Portofino Pizza & Pasta is everything that is right with the pizza world; not only do they make a great tasting pie, but the size of their slices is unbelievable.

20150419_133152

Yes, that is one slice that has been cut in half; when you have a slice of pizza that is nearly the same size of two normal ones, you automatically have something unique. But unique is not enough, you need quality and taste as well, and fortunately, Portofino does exactly that.

In contrast to its extremely thin crust, this slice has a good thick cheese that carries a nice element of sweetness to it; the sauce on the other hand was very special, with a flavor that is mildly savory. That sweet and savory combination really stands out in the world of pizza, and rightfully so, because such a duo deserves our attention. Not to be outdone, the amount of oil that is used in each serving is just the right amount for a slice of this size.

Another reason why this is a great slice of pizza is because its sheer size allows you to employ a truly proper “New York Fold”:

20150419_134033

Portofino Pizza & Pasta (located in Golden’s Bridge NY) is simply put, some of the best pizza you will ever have; and I highly recommend it to everyone. Rest assured though, this is not the only review that will come from this restaurant, tune in later this week as I take on their massive Sicilian slice.

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

Silver Lake Pizza: Philly Cheesesteak

20150414_154423

Philly Cheesesteaks are without a question my favorite food; which is why its such a good thing that Silver Lake Pizza (located in my hometown of Silver Lake) makes the best Philly Cheesesteak I have had to date.

20150404_182043

In brief, Silver Lake Pizza provides taste, texture, and quantity in their Cheesesteaks; utilizing great ingredients to produce a great sandwich. The outside of the bread has a good chewiness to it while the inside is soft and laced with the juices of the sub’s fillings.

The American cheese on this sandwich is perfectly melted, so much so that even if you don’t like American cheese in general (and I do not), you will find it works perfectly in this context.

The meat is a sweetly seasoned steak that works great with the cheese, onions and peppers; and these peppers are not too hot or overly sweet, but rather bring a highly accessible taste and texture combination. It must also be said that there is a good amount of grease in this Philly, but it only helps to enhance all the other flavors held within.

20150404_182129

If you are looking for a great tasting Philly Cheesesteak that is also satisfyingly filling, look no further than Silver Lake Pizza. I’ve been eating Cheesesteaks for years, and have yet to find one that matches the overall product that Silver Lake produces on a regular basis; size, taste, and satisfaction will all be found in this one sandwich.

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

PPT’s: Garlic Balls

micrositeimage_371673photo1

Today’s review is a little different as it will be my first ever review of a side dish; namely, Garlic Balls from Pizza, Pasta, and Things (which can be found in both Port Chester and West Harrison).

Now some of you may have immediately thought of Garlic Knots, and if so, you need to put that completely out of your mind; because Garlic Balls are a different, and more delicious animal than are Garlic Knots.

Part of what makes Garlic Balls so great is that they are a rare commodity; there are only three locations that you can acquire these treats, with two of them being in Westchester (Clino’s and Michelangelo’s). So without further ado:

20150312_184858

Full disclosure; you have not had a true pizza experience until you have had Garlic Balls with your pie/slice. So I know you are wondering how they taste, right?

The outside “skin” of the ball has a light crisp to it (you will hear a crunch of sorts when you bite in), but at the same time is soft, doughy, and lightly moist. There is a definite element of grease there, but it is in no way overwhelming; and the flavor combination is a complex and thoroughly enjoyable one. PPT’s combines their seasoning generously to bring about a taste that is garlicky, sweet, and even a bit buttery.

Garlic Balls are a rare treat that breaks away from the traditional Garlic Knot, and is a side that will always leave you wanting more (and that’s not a bad thing); so when you have a chance, treat yourself to a nice order of Garlic Balls down at Clino’s or Michelangelo’s Pizza, Pasta, and Things.

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

Tarantella: White Pizza

fe96f2f7837ca26d5c0ec0e29ffa5f9d

 

Tarantella Pizzeria in Nyack makes the best pizza I’ve ever tasted; I have had White Pizza from many different locations and while other vendors are really good (its New York after all), no one does it better than Tarantella.

20150223_143659

Tarantella’s White comes with a hot, thin crust; and while it is thin, it has enough of a body to it to provide a good crunch and chew with each bite. It is garnished very well (as you can see in the picture) and is layered with a soft, but thick cheese; the first thing that popped into my mind while eating it was that this slice had a “pillow of cheese” on it. The cheese was melted perfectly, it did not slide off the slice like some other cheeses would, and it also did not have the “puff of cheese” that many pizzerias tend to go with, as seen in the example below:

Picture courtesy of http://www.seriouseats.com

Now there is nothing “wrong” per se about a slice of pizza with a cheese “puff”, as they can be very tasty, but I have found that the best White Pizza, like Tarantella, avoids that method and instead gives you a straight forward White slice.

Trust me, if you like White Pizza and have the ability to get over to Nyack any time soon, do it; I have brought out of town family and friends there on multiple occasions, and hear nothing from them but rave reviews.

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

Gypsy Donut: Black Salted Caramel

o

 

So you are out and about in Nyack having just finished a wonderful dinner at Harry’s or O’Malley’s, and you are looking for a light but delectable desert; where do you go? The answer without a doubt is Gypsy Donut.

Gypsy makes by far some of the best donuts you will ever have, in fact, they blow other donut facilities clear out of the water (Dunkin who?). For a bit of anecdotal evidence, I took my friend Eric to Gypsy Donut once, and he ended up bringing some of them home with him; his roommate got a taste, and now whenever he is passing through New York, said roommate makes it a point to go out of his way for some of Gypsy’s finest…they are that good.

Today’s installment focuses on the Black Salted Caramel donut:

20150201_174217

This is one amazing donut; when you bite into it, not only do you get dough that is rich and never stale, but the mixture of black salt and caramel is inspired. The caramel is unlike any coating I have tasted to date, its a flavor that makes you wish that the donut wouldn’t end; and the black salt adds an extra spice to it that fits perfectly with the sweetness of the caramel coating.

If you are into coffee and donuts, Gypsy Donut and Espresso Bar is a place you need to visit, and often. Every other donut I have tried pales in comparison to the ones at Gypsy; so after you hit up one of Nyack’s many delicious dinner outlets, go get yourself a Black Salted Caramel donut at Gypsy, it’ll change your life (or at least your standards when it comes to donuts).

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

Harry’s Burritos: Steak Burrito

20150201_164148

In a country dominated by Taco Bell, it is easy to settle for burritos that epitomize “average”; but fortunately for residents of Nyack (and Westchesterians willing to cross the bridge) Harry’s Burritos doesn’t settle for anything but good, quality burritos.

To be perfectly honest, Harry’s makes what is possibly the best burrito I’ve ever had; it is loaded with all sorts of tasty morsels, and is much bigger than one would expect.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a Harry’s Burrito:

20150201_165557

20150201_165618

20150201_165631

The first thing you will notice about this dish is that unlike other burritos that tend to be long and skinny, Harry’s are short and fat; this allows for an even greater amount of fresh cooked ingredients to be included.

Along with the size, the smell that this burrito gives off is nothing short of delightful; and as everyone knows, smell is an essential part of food enjoyment. As much as I hate to keep comparing this with Taco Bell, the aroma from food served at the previously mentioned food chain just cannot compare. Harry’s food smells, simply put, better than most.

Now I had the option of choosing either pork, beef, or steak for my meat; and as tempting as the other two choices were, steak was the obvious choice here. The steak they chose was tender, juicy, and flavorful; the rice (typically my least favorite part) was cooked just right, the vegetables were crisp, and the sour cream mixed within added a nice extra element.

So if you are looking for a tasty, authentic burrito, check out Harry’s Burritos in Nyack; you will receive a delicious and filling meal that will be hard to forget.

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

Melt: Aged Beef Top Round with French Onion Combo

20150120_180312

Last week we visited the best deli sandwich location in Westchester, but today, we visit what may be the best hot sandwich location in our county; Melt Sandwich Shop. Now normally I would review a sandwich and tell you to buy it, but due to the uniqueness of Melt, today’s review will be a little different. Melt is an abnormal kind of vendor; while most shops have a list of predesignated sandwiches for you to choose from, Melt allows you to choose what sandwich they make for you.

Confused? Let me explain.

When you enter Melt and look at their sandwich board, instead of seeing sandwich names, you see bread size, choice of meat, and a list of combos you can mix your meat with.

So for example you can choose to have your aged beef top round with the french onion combo (as I did), or with the Cuban combo; or perhaps with the BLT combo. Or maybe you want ham instead of beef, or brisket instead of ham. No matter how you slice it, there is a plethora of different sandwich combinations for you to choose from; and if you don’t fancy the exact combination that I chose to review, please know that there are so many other choices for you to mix and match.

This week I decided to order the aged beef top round with the french onion combo on a long roll; this is the outside:

20150120_181115

And this is the inside:

20150120_181246

In case you are wondering, yes, it did taste as good as it looks. This, like all Melt sandwiches come in three parts; bread, meat, and the combo, so each must be addressed. The meat, simply put, is delicious; it is tender and spiced very nicely and provides a nice chew. You will not find yourself struggling to make each bite a manageable swallow, as the way the meat is prepared does that for you.

The French Onion Combo is made with “sauteed onions, gruyere cheese, au jus”; and when Melt says they love making food, this combo certainly attests to that. The onions were flavorful and were neither too flimsy nor too crunchy; and the cheese was of high quality. Another great thing about the combo was that it was au jus, or “made with its own juices”; something which added even more flavor to the onions and cheese.

The bread meanwhile was perfect for the kind of sandwich this was; its soft enough to provide an easy grip, bite, and chew, but it also was able to soak up the juices of the sandwiches contents without becoming soggy or mushy. This way the bread takes on even more flavor without becoming disgusting or messy.

Melt Sandwich Shop is a gem stuck in the heart of White Plains; they make killer sandwiches and because of the many possible combinations they provide, your sandwich eating experience will be a little different, but just as delicious every time you go. I highly recommend Melt, and hope you get a chance to visit it soon.

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