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)

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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!

 

 

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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!

 

Tarantella: White Pizza

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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.

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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

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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:

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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

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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:

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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

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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:

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And this is the inside:

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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

 

O’Malley’s: Filet Mignon

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A delicious, 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre for under $30? Steak lovers, stop what you are doing and say it with me: Ohhhhhhhhhhh Yeeeeeeeeeeeah!

Nestled in the heart of Nyack is O’Malley’s Bar and Restaurant; arguably the best watering hole in town. But not only is O’Malley’s a good looking bar with an authentic Irish feel (the bartenders have some of the best accents in the world), they also cook a mean steak. Admittedly this post covers one of the higher priced meals I will be reviewing, but fortunately even this masterpiece of meat is easily affordable.

When I sat down to my first real meal at O’Malley’s (I had previously ordered a burger to go), I was met with a plethora of choices to appease my appetite; but seeing that this was a special occasion (my friend was down from New Hampshire), there was only one logical choice; a rare Filet Mignon:

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Look at that beautiful cut of meat cooked to rare perfection! If we are being completely honest, no matter how you like your steak cooked on a normal basis, when ordering Filet Mignon, rare is the only way to go; and the chef at O’Malley’s does not fool around with their craft.

The steak had with it a couple of very good side dishes (most memorable were the fluffy, melt in your mouth mashed potatoes), but the steak was the true sensation; and I’m afraid that my feeble writings can never do it justice. But huzzah for trying! Slicing open the steak showed a beautiful red that most chefs wish they could achieve, and that was only one aspect of it.

Speaking of slicing, my knife cut through the meat as if it were butter (really, another food analogy?). It was tender, juicy, and paired with a sauce crafted in a way that only enhanced the flavor of the meat and its accompanying sides.

But one of the best things about this meal (besides the obviously amazing flavor) was the price. A steak of this quality could easily be sold anywhere between $30 and $40; but at O’Malley’s, you will receive a high quality, beautiful looking, superb tasting Filet Mignon for only $22. So if you want a fantastic steak dinner at an affordable price, take a trip over to Nyack and enjoy a great town, a great bar, and a truly great steak.

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

Luca Bella: Big Mac Pizza

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New York is one of the pizza capitals of the world; you can get good pizza just about anywhere. But it is because of this plethora of good pizza that truly great pizza can often fall through the cracks and go unnoticed. All too often the best pizza shops do not get the business that they deserve, due to so much competition; which really is a shame. Luca Bella doesn’t deserve that fate.

Luca Bella makes great pizza.

Today we are focusing on their Big Mac pizza; they also make excellent Plain, Sicilian, Philly Cheese Steak, and Vodka Sauce slices among other things, so stay tuned for further reviews.

This is Luca Bella’s Big Mac:

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Looks amazing right? Having had this slice on many an occasion, I can tell you that Luca Bella has found a way to make their slice not only taste, but smell like you just ordered a signature burger from McDonalds; I’d argue it actually tastes and smells better than the real thing.

Their meat is fresher, their vegetables are crisper and more flavorful, and the sauce is on point and out of this world; but the key? Look at that crust, it is a perfect, crispy version of a hamburger bun. It is a great touch that adds the cherry on top to an already great concoction (did I just make a food analogy about food?).

Even my friend Eric who is one of the biggest food snobs I know and would never willingly go to McDonalds (childhood aside), was amazed at how authentic and spot on this slice of pizza truly was; a high compliment from him.

When it comes to taste and aesthetic quality, the Big Mac pizza from Luca Bella is easily a **** 1/2 star slice and is a must eat. So if you are ever in White Plains and fancy a different kind of pizza, pop in to Luca Bella at 206 Mamaroneck Ave., and you will not be disappointed.

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