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!

 

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Nat’s Pub: Nat’s Burger

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I’ve been going to Elmsford for years, and every time I went, I’d drive by Nat’s Pub, home of “the best burger in town.” This of course peaked my interest and I’d always tell myself that I was going to go there. Finally, after years of telling myself this, I finally made it to Nat’s Pub.

Nat’s is a hole in the wall venue that makes some pretty good food; and after perusing the menu, I ordered “Nat’s Burger” to see if it truly was the “best burger in town.”

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Now normally I wouldn’t touch a burger that has lettuce and tomato on it, but given this burger’s moniker, I decided not to change anything.

The meat was flavorful, juicy, and had a nice size and thickness to it; you really got a good amount of meat in every bite. The cheese was melted really nicely and covered a good section of the burger. Both the lettuce and the onions added a good crunch to the burger, and the tomato added extra juiciness.

The biggest difference between this and other burgers is that Nat’s tops theirs with mustard, which added a new, spicier flavor that I am not used to; though it was not a bad addition at all.

The only “downside” to this burger was that it was on a sandwich roll instead of the traditional hamburger bun, but in no way did it ruin the burger. As a side, the fries were quite good, crisp, full bodied, and tasty.

I would definitely recommend Nat’s Pub to anyone who is looking for a good burger in Elmsford, and so far I must agree with the assessment that it is the best burger in town.

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

Connecticut: Philly’s: Phive All Day

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I have to admit that I have been looking forward to reviewing this sandwich ever since I was introduced to it in a Daym Drops video; and now I’m finally able to.

The Phive All Day is an amazing sandwich. Crafted after Daym Drops’ slogan “Five All Day Son!”, it contains “five ounces of rib eye, five pieces of bacon, five pieces of American cheese, onions, McNabb sauce (house made 1000 Island Dressing) and a little bit of (cheese) whiz.” So, what does this monster sandwich look like?

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Click on the picture for an up close and personal look

Look at the way that bacon shines, and the way the melted cheese oozes on to and grips the bread, as well as filling every nook, cranny, and crevice of the meat; its a beautiful sight to behold.

The five ounces of rib eye were rich, delicious, and made even better by the rest of the ingredients. The bacon was how all bacon should be; crispy, salty, and all over the place. The melted cheese, both American and Whiz, was creamy and smooth; they penetrated all aspects of the sandwich like a warm blanket of velvety goodness.

The fried onions provided a sweet little crunch, and their McNabb sauce stood out with it’s wonderful flavor, and joined the cheese in permeating every inch of the sandwich (plus as a Redskins fan I do have somewhat of an affinity for Mr. McNabb, no matter how his tenure in D.C. turned out).

Encasing these ingredients is a wonderfully soft selection of bread, joining together all these wonderful flavors that meld so perfectly. This just so happens to be a messy meal as well, so be prepared to have your hands covered in finger-licking goodness.

Eating this hoagie was an absolute joy; the only bad thing is that after writing about it, I really want another one! (sadly, I’m not often in their neck of the woods)

This sandwich is one of the best I’ve ever tasted, and so much credit must be given to Daym Drops and the Boys down at Philly’s; great job guys, I can’t wait to come back, and I hope everyone else does too.

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

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

O’Malley’s: Beer Battered Onion Rings

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Yes, its now time to review another side dish; it won’t be too complicated, just a brief explanation as to why O’Malley’s makes some of the better ones I’ve had.

As with fries, onion rings are a dish that is very easily done wrong; many times they are flimsy, lacking enough breading and crunch, or suffer from limp and tasteless onions that slide out of the breading with the first bite. O’Malley’s onion rings suffer from none of these things.

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O’Malley’s breads their onion rings quite nicely, which in turn provides the rings with firmness and a good crunch; the casing holds the onion in place after the first bite has been taken, and the onion itself is sweet and does not suffer from a watery lack of taste.

To be sure, when going to O’Malley’s, the best side dish to order is the Beer Battered Onion Rings, you definitely will not be disappointed in this selection.

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