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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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

New Hampshire: Rock’n Ribfest (Pulled Pork, Sandwiches, etc.)

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Day two of New England week brings us the rest (non-rib portion) of New Hampshire’s awesome Ribfest; we already know that the festival serves up some pretty darn good ribs, but what about some of their other BBQ concoctions?

This review will deal mainly with Pulled Pork; in my opinion, Pulled Pork is one of the big hit or misses in BBQ as not only does the pork need to be tender and finely shredded, but the choice of sauce has to be absolutely right (a part where many places just don’t succeed).

VENDOR ONE: Jack’s Down Home Barbecue 

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My first experience with Jack’s was when I was offered a sample on my way to buy a rack of ribs from Texas Smokehouse; that first bite made me go and order a whole sandwich from Jack’s later in the day, because it only took me one bite to know I had found a winner.

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Jack’s Pulled Pork is tender and slightly juicy, with a really good chew to it; the soft bun absorbs some of the flavor, making the bun better as a result. All of that is good and needed, but the BBQ sauce is what really caught my attention and put the sandwich over the top. The sauce was perfectly spicy, not too much, but not too little; and the spice was the perfect hot edition to the sweet flavored sauce.

I did not get a chance to try Gator’s Pulled Pork Sandwich (something I plan on doing next year as I heard it was really good), but out of the Pulled Pork I did try, Jack’s was simply the best and a must eat for all Ribfest attendees and Pulled Pork lovers.

VENDOR TWO: Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ

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This is the part of the review that shakes things up a bit, as it introduces Butch’s Lip Smacker; a combination Pulled Pork, Brisket, and Coleslaw sandwich.

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This is one big, messy sandwich that lives up to its name; it is second only to Jack’s in regards to Pulled Pork and is unique in its own way due to its choice combination. Most of what I said about Jack’s pork can be said about Butch’s as well, minus the sauce (hence why it is second to Jack’s). Butch’s Brisket was tender, juicy, and melts in your mouth; the contrasting flavors and textures of the Pork and Brisket melded well together, and the added cool crunch of the coleslaw finishes off the sandwich nicely.

With this many flavors and textures gracing your taste-buds at once, the Lip Smacker from Butch’s should not be passed up.

VENDOR THREE: Road Hawg – Swine Dining

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Road Hawg introduces us to another unique BBQ creation, the Pulled Pork Ripper; a deep fired hot dog (to the point of the skin almost ripping) topped with Pulled Pork. Our server was a very nice woman who showed us true hospitality and was very friendly, here she is with our Rippers;

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Now for a closer look at the aforementioned Pulled Pork Rippers:

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They call this the Ripper for good reason; the hot dog had a very good rip to it, something that is hard to find with most hot dogs. The pork itself was not Jack’s level, but was still of really good quality and made for a nice edition to the dog; and when you take into account the good amount of thick, ketchup based sauce that was included, the Ripper makes for a really fun, satisfying snack.

Ribfest has a lot more to offer than just ribs, and proved to me that they know how to make other delicious meats as well; I hope everyone is able to try and enjoy these sandwiches and meaty combinations in the years to come.

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