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!

 

 

Restaurant Week: Le Provençal Bistro

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For the third and sadly final Restaurant Week review (until its next iteration), I return to a fantastic French Bistro located in Mamaroneck, NY – Le Provençal Bistro.

Appetizer: Duck Confit Tacos

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I knew going in that Le Provençal’s Duck Confit was excellent, so I was interested to see how it tasted in a taco. The duck meat was tender and juicy, truly fitting for the steak of birds, and was topped with a semi sweet cheese and some salsa verde that leaves a slight spice in the back of your throat.

Joining the meat inside the shell of the thin tortilla were some slightly crunchy mushrooms, and some lentils; overall it was a very light and tasty appetizer that I would have again for sure.

Entree: Beef Bourguignonne

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This dish was somewhere between a pot roast and a stew (though easily more pot roast in nature). Everything on this plate is tender, and I mean everything; the fact that they gave me a knife is ironic, because I had no use of it at all.

The beef was cooked to perfection, and was very easy to chew; mixed in with the meat were soft carrots, mushrooms of medium thickness, and some supple oranges. The mashed potatoes and string beans were a nice accompaniment to the dish as well.

Dessert: Crème Caramel 

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This dessert was quite tasty, and tasted almost like a caramel gelatin; its sweet caramel flavor mixing perfectly with its light and jiggly texture.

I love Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. Its one of the only times you can get a three course meal of delicious food from quality establishments for an affordable price; and thats exactly what you get at Le Provençal Bistro.

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!

 

Sal’s Pizza: Sicilian Slice

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Happy Columbus Day! In the spirit of the intrepid Italian explorer, I thought what better food to review than everyone’s favorite Italian dish…pizza! Today’s venue: Sal’s Pizza in Mamaroneck.

Having been in business for over half a century, Sal’s Pizzeria and Restaurant should know a thing or two about pizza, and thankfully, they do. Sal’s claim to fame is their Sicilian, and with receiving multiple recommendations in the span of a couple weeks, I new this was a slice I needed to try.

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Did Sal’s pizza live up to the recommendations? Absolutely. In fact, it may be one of the best Sicilians I’ve had. The dough was fluffy, light, and airy; a quality that allows you to eat more than one slice and still have room for more. The cheese was perfectly melted and had a great oozing quality (yes, that is a good thing!).

The crust is crunchy, but not too hard, and the light splash of sauce was an interesting combination of sweet and slightly tangy (although not at all acidic). Its a nice compliment to the dough and the cheese.

How should you celebrate Columbus Day? By eating a slice of pizza, and what better place to eat it than at Sal’s Pizza; and if you are reading this after Columbus Day, that’s no problem, because Sal’s is still the place you need to go.

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

Prohibition River: Chicken Fried Steak Bites

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

Prohibition River is a cool Speak Easy themed bar and restaurant in Nyack NY, and along with the decor, the food is most excellent.

I had previously been to Prohibition River once before (when it was just opening up), and only afterwards did I come to the realization that there was one menu item that I needed to try: Chicken Fried Steak Bites w/ Country Gravy.

To be clear, these aren’t any old steak bites, these are Chicken Fried Filet Mignon steak bites. Sound good? Well they look and taste even better.

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The plating of this appetizer was great, with the bites resting in a shallow pool of country gravy, with the rest of the gravy poured lightly over the top and garnished with green.

The gravy provided more than just a good look, it also brought great flavor; a combination of sweet and salty seasoning mixed in with the creamy consistency makes this a tasty and comforting addition to the meat of the dish.

But what of the meat? Its coating was fried so as to have a perfectly slight crunch, and the “skin” was garnished and flavored quite well. The steak beneath was tender, flavorful, and chewed like a dream; not too tough and very easy to consume, which is a mastication must.

Once the coating was gone, the gravy seemed to penetrate and permeate the meat itself, assuring there were always multiple flavor combinations and profiles for the consumer to enjoy.

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This is by far one of the best appetizers I have ever had; the flavors were simply unbelievable and undeniably hard to beat. Everyone should try this at least once, though it is my belief that if you try it, you will certainly come back for more (Honestly, this could easily be an entree in terms of the quality of the food).

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

Portofino: Sicilian Slice

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When I reviewed Portofino’s delicious slice of plain pizza, I made a point to say that it was not just the taste that made it special, but its huge size as well. Fortunately, the same can be said for their Sicilian slice. I have covered a Sicilian slice before (for a size reference on what normal Sicilians look like, click here), but I have never seen anything quite like this.

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This slice literally takes up two paper plates, its massive. Along with the size, there are slight differences between this and most Sicilian slices; so the question is, how does it hold up against others?

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This culinary marvel needs to be broken down into three categories; cheese, sauce, and crust. The cheese one might notice is lacking in comparison to many others, but in this case it doesn’t matter; what cheese there is provides a nice sweet flavor that compliments the sauce. And speaking of sauce, there was plenty of it. In fact, I would say that in this case the reduction in cheese is balanced out perfectly by the increase in sauce.

That leaves the crust, which very well may be the best part of this entire pizza; it is doughy (like any good Sicilian), but also has a very good light bite; and the crunch on the crust can be summed up in one word: fantastic. I have never had a slice of pizza with a crunch like this (burnt ones aside), and the crispness of the crust mixed with the cheese and sauce makes this one truly special piece of pizza.

With two reviews dedicated to their product in a week, its safe to say that Portofino Pizzeria is one of the premiere pizza shops in Westchester County. If you are a Westchester resident, or are just passing through, this is a spot that you need to visit; and if you are in Putnam County, you are close enough to visit as well, so please do; if you like pizza, you won’t regret it.

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

Portofino: Plain Pizza

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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.

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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”:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

Bliss: The Chooch

20150401_124609Bliss Dairy Bar and Grill in Mahopac NY has a very fun quality to them, as they have chosen to give a bunch of their sandwiches and burgers unique and humorous names; and when I saw a classic hot sandwich designated “The Chooch” (an Italian slang word/insult), I just knew I had to try it.

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As in all truly good hot sandwiches, the bread was soft, but with a slight crisp to it; the meat was tender and juicy, the mozzarella cheese was moist and had a good elasticity. The sandwich also contained a good amount of sautéed onions to add crunch to it; but there was one thing in this sandwich that provided a standout element; the french fries.

The inclusion of the french fries into “The Chooch” really turns this into a legitimate meat and potatoes sandwich; while eating you are noticing all the traditional hot sandwich flavors and then are suddenly hit with a soft and familiar change of taste. The semi salty potato flavor/texture along with the meat, cheese, and onion flavors/textures make for a nice combination and twist on an already good culinary concoction.

In Putnam and looking for a good sandwich? Are you thinking about hitting Subway? Don’t be a Chooch, order one instead! Bliss Dairy Bar and Grill is located at 4 Cherry Lane in Mahopac NY.

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