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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Silver Lake Pizza: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

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Now that Luca Bella has shut down, I am in need of a new place to eat a Philly Cheesesteak slice, and fortunately, I found it at Silver Lake Pizza (West Harrison, NY).

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Perhaps the most important aspect of a Philly Cheesesteak pizza is the meat – if the meat is bad, it throws off the rest of the pizza. Not only was the meat on this slice delicious, it was generously plentiful. Tender, sweet, and juicy, each bite of meat was a wonderful mouthful of flavor.

The melted cheese was also sweet, and the peppers and onions provide a nice crunch to the slice. The crust is flavorful and had good texture and consistency.

But there is one thing that this slice offers you that gives it distinction – sliced jalapeno peppers. By themselves, these peppers are enough to set your mouth on fire, but mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, the inferno is muted into a sweet heat and spice that resonates well with the rest of the flavors.

This is an easy recommendation to make; go to Silver lake Pizza and get yourself a slice of Philly Cheesesteak pizza – its that good.

 

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!

 

Royal Scarlet Deli: Philly Cheesesteak

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If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge fan of the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, which is why I’m always trying to find the next great vendor of this particular cuisine. Enter Royal Scarlet Deli in White Plains.

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The bread was soft and of good quality, and the meat was tender, well seasoned, and steak like. The melted cheese was just right, and abundance of onions were sweet, juicy, and crunchy. To top it all off, this sandwich had a moist, and tasty gravy throughout.

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It is always nice to find another place that can make a good Philly, and that’s what we have in Royal Scarlet Deli; so if you want a good tasting cheesesteak that will fill your belly and please your taste-buds, I suggest the one at Royal Scarlet Deli.

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

Holy Smoke: Fried Buttermilk Chicken

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Now for the Fried Chicken. I must say that I was looking forward to this dish for months because I was eager to see if I could actually find a good Fried Chicken place.

Sadly, KFC and Popeye’s tend to dominate the fried chicken scene in this general vicinity, with fast food being an option too easy to ignore. But thankfully, Holy Smoke has provided a much needed better option.

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Every bit of this chicken was enjoyable; the skin was some of the best I’ve had, as it had a great crunch. The meat was thick and very juicy, and the grease content within was also very good, as it added to the flavor.

The meat was not too heavily seasoned (although double dipped in seasoned flour), nor did it need to be, due to the wonderful buttermilk that they used.

In regards to the sides, the chili was good and had a little spice to it, and the potato salad was creamy, chunky, and sweet. Both were nice additions to my chicken.

In my experience so far, Buttermilk Fried Chicken is the best dish at Holy Smoke; my opinion could very well change with increased tastings of different dishes, but all I know is that I’m looking forward to further excursions to Holy Smoke to find out!

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

Lago: Speck

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Lago is a nice Italian restaurant (ristorante) in West Harrison that makes some pretty good, authentic Italian food. While there were many intriguing options on the menu, the appetizer that I decided to try was a meat dish known simply as “Speck.”

For those who don’t know (and I certainly didn’t), Speck is the name of a particular type of prosciutto, which the menu describes as “Smoked pork belly from Trentino region.”

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The Speck was thinly sliced with a smooth and polished texture; in terms of flavor it was sweet, but with a nice accompaniment of saltiness. It was moist, while also having the tiniest bit of hardness on the edges.

I happened to show this picture to a foodie friend of mine, and he opined that this was possibly one of the best cuts of this particular meat that he had ever seen, and he may very well be right, as this smoked pork belly was quite tasty.

Lago’s Speck was a good start to my meal, the entree of which will be covered at a later date. One thing is for certain; Lago definitely deserves respect as an Italian restaurant, and has earned a future return visit from yours truly; I hope that it will gain your business as well.

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

Prohibition River: Bacon Meatballs

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For the second time this year I get to cover a meatball unlike any I’ve ever had, although this one is located much closer to home in Nyack NY.

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These bacon meatballs are a staple appetizer at Prohibition River, and are very unique in texture and flavor. I have never had a meatball this tender. Whereas most meatballs provide some sort of resistance when cutting through them, my fork went through these like a knife in butter; but in this case, surprisingly, it worked.

The texture of the outside of the meatballs was nice, differing slightly from a normal rough, gravy covered ball; and there where small bits of bacon inside whose flavor spread throughout the meat. Another great flavor included is the slightly spicy tomato chutney, and the garnish of greens and Parmesan cheese slices were a nice touch.

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Prohibition River’s Bacon Meatballs are a wonderful appetizer, and a great way to start off your meal there. You can also do what I did and make your meal a pair of appetizers (Chicken Fried Steak Bites and Bacon Meatballs) and be satisfied in your choice; either way, you will always be a winner at Prohibition River.

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

New Hampshire: Rock’n Ribfest

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Welcome to New England Week! Over the next few days I will be covering delicious food from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, before returning to Nyack next week. Today will be focusing solely on the best ribs to come out of Ribfest this past weekend, with tomorrow dealing with Pulled Pork, Brisket, etc.

I had the pleasure to attend Ribfest with a great group of people, and had an awesome time doing it, to save everyone money we went the community method, with everyone buying ribs from a different vendor and then sharing them among the group:

Photo Credit: Stacie Coburn

Photo Credit: Stacie Coburn

Thanks to Stacie Coburn for the picture!

VENDOR ONE: The Texas Smokehouse

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Hailing from Bedford, Texas, The Texas Smokehouse was my personal favorite. These ribs were tender and very meaty; I felt they provided a good amount of meat per rib, and were well worth the money. But as good as the meat was, the sauce was the real star of these ribs. As for the sauce, there was a lot of it; it was a nice mixture of tomato and vinegar flavor, an acidic BBQ sauce that stood out to me above all the other vendors.

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If you visit Ribfest, make sure to get a rack of these delicious ribs.

VENDOR TWO: Gator BBQ Company

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These too were a meaty rack of ribs, which is exactly what you want; unlike Texas Smokehouse, who doused their ribs in delicious sauce, Gator relies more on smoking theirs, and they really stand out in doing so. In fact, the smokey flavor seemed to penetrate the entire rack of ribs, making sure there was great flavor in every bite.

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With a name like Gator, you’d know these ribs carry a great Southern BBQ tradition; and this vendor was another consensus top seller in my group’s opinion.

VENDOR THREE: Firefly’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que

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This company from Massachusetts was my third favorite rack, and another seller my friends and I reached consensus on as a top vendor. While not as meaty as the previous two, it still contained a nice amount of meat; but the good flavor from Firefly’s is what makes these ribs a must try.

Like Gator, Firefly takes the smoked rib route, and provides a unique taste in doing so. The best way I can describe their sauce was that it carried a smoked-in granular taste, which was not only very good, but also unique among the ribs we were able to try.

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If you visit Ribfest, you would be remiss to miss out on this delectable rack of meat.

This year there were nine Rib vendors who participated and competed at Rock’n Ribfest; the fact that I only covered three of them does not mean that the other six where terrible or shouldn’t receive your consideration. It just means that out of all the ones I tried, these are the three I believe you can’t afford to miss.

That being said, I encourage everyone to not only attend next year’s Ribfest (it is well worth the trip), but to try out as many vendors as possible; who knows, you may find a vendor who steps up their game and is even better than the ones I spotlighted today. For more on Ribfest, please visit their website: http://www.ribfestnh.com/

Be sure to come back tomorrow as I cover Ribfest’s other non-rib must eat meats.

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

Luca Bella: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

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Philly Cheesesteaks and Pizza are two of my favorite foods, so what could possibly be better than a combination of the two? One that comes from Luca Bella of course.

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I always find it amazing (and wonderful) when a “replica food” can mirror the original in taste and texture, and Luca Bella’s Philly Cheesesteak pizza does just that.

The cheese is piping hot and melted to near perfection; and just like a good Philly Cheesesteak, it can burn the roof of your mouth if you are not careful (though in this case that is not really a bad thing). The meat is thick and provides a taste-filled bite, and the peppers and onions help to bring the authentic cheesesteak taste full circle.

So what do you do when you want Philly Cheesesteak flavor but are running on pizza time? The answer is visiting Luca Bella for one of their slices; it is undoubtedly one of the best around.*

*Luca Bella’s Philly Cheesesteak pizza is usually available on weekends.

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.