Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

Awards

Welcome to the Second Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2016. As opposed to last year I will be changing up the format a bit to help keep this short and sweet. If a category is underrepresented in my reviews this year (Eg. if I ate a food item/category last year and not this year, or there were no new options), then they will not be mentioned here (for last year’s winners, click this link).

Best Burger Winner: Pretzel Burger (WBC) 

Runner Up: The 5 Napkin, 14 Spice Stuffed Burger (The Cobblestone)

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The Pretzel Burger takes it for the second year in a row, the Cobblestone’s offering put up a great fight, but Westchester Burger Co. has seriously perfected this amazing burger.

Best Specialty Pizza Winner: French Fry Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Runner Up: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Former Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella)

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I mention former winner and runner up because of the immense respect I have for the now closed down Luca Bella and their Vodka Sauce pizza, that being said this was hands down the best specialty pizza I had this year, nothing else comes close. The combination of french fries, bacon, ranch, chives, and two kinds of cheese is fantastic, and is a whole lot better than should be allowed.

Best BBQ Winner: Cider Spiced Ribs (Whetstone Station)

Runner Up: The Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke)

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What else can I say about these ribs that I haven’t already said? As I wrote in my review, “Smothered in sauce, these ribs are near perfection. The BBQ sauce is sweet, with a semi hot (but not overpowering) cider spice.” Can’t beat it.

Best Bird Winner: Duck Confit (Le Provencal)

Runner Up: Fried Chicken (Birdsall House)

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Our second two-time winner, this Duck Confit remains the best bird I have ever had, and the most steak like bird I’ve seen.

Best Desert Winner: Cheesecake (Westchester Burger Co.)

Runner Up: Maple Bacon Ice Cream (Birdsall House)

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Believe it or not, the runner up race was harder to pick than the winner! There were a lot of good choices this year, but the cheese(cake) stands alone.

Best Penne Alla Vodka Winner: Sal’s (White Plains)

Runner Up: Doubleday’s.

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To be honest, if Luca Bella were still around, there would be no contest; Sal’s is great, but Luca Bella was something else. That being said, Sal’s has become the best Penne Vodka in Westchester County, and is deserving of this victory for sure.

Best Non-Beef/Bird Meat Winner: Rack of Lamb (KEE Oyster House)

Runner Up: Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi (Communal Kitchen) 

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Truly the best lamb I’ve ever tasted; from the rich red tenderness of the meat, to the succulent bone and citrus infused panko crust, this is a meal to behold…and then devour.

Best Appetizer Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Runner Up: Charcuterie Board (Communal Kitchen)

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Still one of the most amazingly flavored appetizers out there, I’ve been longing for it ever since I first tried it. While it is not readily available on the menu (it is seasonal), it is still the top appetizer around.

Best Steak Winner:  8 oz Filet Mignon (Ruth’s Chris)

Runner Up: 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre (O’Malley’s)

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You can’t go wrong with a prime cut of steak that is served on a sizzling 500 degree plate. For awhile O’Malley’s was going to take home the title, but then Ruth’s Chris came back into my life during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week; and I’m so glad she did.

Best Soup/Chowder Winner: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s)

Runner Up: Roasted Tomato Soup (Ruth’s Chris)

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I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is simply the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve tried. The roasted tomato soup was great, but the “chowdah”at O’Malley’s is simply amazing.

Best Hot Sandwich Winner: Phive All Day (Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia)

Runner Up: Ale Roasted Cheese Steak (Lazy Boy Saloon)

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Another two-time winner and with good reason, this is one of the most unique sandwiches out there. Take your traditional Philly and add bacon and secret sauce to it nd you have a Phive All Day. Wonderful.

Best Side Dish Winner: Garlic Balls (PPT’s)

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Another two time winner that is totally unique; doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. This is a great side to pizza and even a great dish to bring home by itself. Truly deserving.

Best Philly Cheesesteak Winner: Silver Lake Pizza

Runner Up: Tighe’s Tavern

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The final two-time winner, and my favorite Philly that I’ve had, this sandwich from Silver Lake Pizza is top notch, and has yet to be beat (maybe when I visit Philly?)

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That’s it for the Second Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

 

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First Annual Pristine Awards

Awards

Welcome to the First Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2015. The Categories this year are as follows:

Best Burger, Best Plain Pizza, Best Specialty Pizza, Best Sicilian Pizza, Best BBQ, Best Bird, Best Desert, Best Milk Shake, Best Mac and Cheese, Best Penne Alla Vodka, Best “Other” Pasta, Best Appetizer, Best Side Dish, Best Soup/Chowder, Best Hot Sandwich, Best Deli Sandwich and Best Philly Cheesesteak. 

Each category will be broken down into the top 3 choices, and the winner will be chosen from the finalists. Certain categories that only have one choice in them, such as Steak, Salad, Burrito, Smoothie, etc. will be forwarded to next year’s awards when they will (hopefully) have some competition. With that out of the way, on with the awards!

Best Burger: Pretzel Burger (WBC) vs. Bacon Cheeseburger (O’Malley’s) vs. Eastchester Burger (Piper’s Kilt.) 

Winner: The Pretzel Burger – Westchester Burger Co.

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While the other two choices were both amazingly delicious, the Pretzel Burger just had no downsides. With a perfect patty, delicious melted cheese, crispy maple bacon and a pretzel bun, one can’t go wrong with this choice. Besides, when a burger can make me actually enjoy an egg, that’s an extra bonus.

Best Plain Pizza: Plain Slice (Portofino’s) vs. Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella (Frank Pepe)

Winner: Plain Slice – Portofino’s.

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Portofino’s combines a great flavor with an amazingly sized slice. New York makes some of the best pizza in the world, and this slice easily ranks up there with the best of them.

Best Specialty Pizza: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella) vs. Big Mac Slice (Luca Bella) vs. White Pizza (Tarantella)

Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza – Luca Bella 

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This slice beats out the other delicious specialties from Luca Bella and Tarantella, because the Vodka Sauce used on this slice is by far the best Vodka Sauce I’ve ever had. The idea to put this sauce on the pizza was inspired, and we are all better off for it.

Best Sicilian Pizza: Nicky’s vs. Sal’s vs. Portofino’s

Winner: Sal’s Sicilian Pizza.

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Nicky’s had thickness, Portofino’s had size, but Sal’s was perhaps the best Sicilian I’ve ever had, and certainly the best in Westchester. Light and airy, and yet somehow filling; with perfectly melted cheese and an amazing sauce, Sal’s Sicilian pizza earns the easy victory.

Best BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich (Jack’s *Ribfest NH*) vs. Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke) vs. Ribs (Texas Smokehouse *Ribfest NH*)

Winner: The Trash Rib Teasers – Holy Smoke.

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Believe it or not, the rib teasers actually beat out a full rack and pulled pork, mainly due to how meaty and flavorful a rib Holy Smoke was able to concoct. The Texas ribs were great, but Holy Smoke gets the edge.

Best Bird: Duck Confit (Le Provencal) vs. Fried Chicken (Holy Smoke)

Winner: Duck Confit – Le Provencal.

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If I’m being honest, I don’t like eating birds that much; so many places just don’t do a good job preparing them. Holy Smoke and Le Provencal are two establishments who know what they are doing. I went with the Duck because it was simply one of the best birds I’ve ever had. In my review I described it as “the steak of birds” and in the end, that is what sealed the victory for the Duck Confit.

Best Desert: Cheesecake (WBC) vs. Black Salted Caramel Donut (Gypsy Donut)

Winner: Cheesecake – Westchester Burger Co.

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This was a harder decision than you might think; the black salted caramel is one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever tasted, but the Cheesecake won in part due to its light, and rich texture and flavor. The plating of the desert was also an added bonus but did not play into the decision.

Best Milkshake: Chocolate Milkshake (City Limits) vs Italian Nutella Milkshake (WBC)

Winner: Italian Nutella Milkshake – Westchester Burger Co.

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The specialty milkshake carries the day. I love chocolate milkshakes, but the Italian Nutella was just too good not to win. The flavor was unique, and  it was made so well. Both were great, but WBC’s was just better.

Best Mac and Cheese: Mac and Cheese (Piper’s Kilt) vs. Deluxe Cheeseburger Mac (Mr. Mac’s) vs. Philly Cheese Steak Mac (Mr. Mac’s).

Winner: Philly Cheese Steak Mac – Mr. Mac’s.

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Man, I wish this restaurant would come to New York! The Philly-Mac was simply one of the best things I’ve ever had. The Macaroni and Cheese portion was great, and made even better by an authentic taste of the Philly Cheesesteak.  Not only that, but it also has great re-heat value; and while I love the Mac at Piper’s Kilt, Mr. Mac’s specialty is their Mac and Cheese, and this is one of the best.

Best Penne Alla Vodka: Sal’s (White Plains) vs. Luca Bella

Winner: Penne Alla Vodka – Luca Bella

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Its the sauce. In the same way that Luca Bella won best specialty pizza with their Vodka Sauce slice, they win the Penne category with the sauce being where it was always meant to be, on pasta. It was a hard choice given that Sal’s sauce included a few extra and delicious elements, but in the end, Luca Bella’s sauce was just that much better.

Best “Other” Pasta: Spinach Ricotta Pillows (Grazie) vs. Linguine and Clams (Lago)

Winner: Spinach Ricotta Pillows – Grazie

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A country club take on spinach ravioli, these pillows were not only delicious, but presented in a wonderful manner. The spinach and ricotta meld beautifully and just made for a great pasta dish.

Best Appetizer: Speck (Lago) vs. Dueling Meatballs (Grazie) vs. Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites – Prohibition River.

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Possibly the toughest choice so far; on one hand you have a a wonderful Charcuterie dish, but you also have a fantastic meatball offering. But the Chicken Fried Steak Bites get the victory because it is one of the most delicious appetizers out there. Filet Mignon steak bites, with a deliciously crispy skin and a fantastic gravy? How could it not get the win?

Best Side Dish: Garlic Balls (PPT’s) vs. Beer Battered Onion Rings (O’Malley’s) 

Winner: Garlic Balls – PPT’s.

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The ultimate side to pizza, Garlic Balls from PPT’s are doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. It is easily one of the most unique side dishes out there, and a must try for anyone who likes good food.

Best Soup/Chowder: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s) vs. New England Clam Chowder (Townhouse)

Winner: New England Clam Chowder – O’Malley’s.

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Very easily the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve had, as it is the specialty of the Chef at O’Malley’s. It is thick, creamy, and has great clams. An easy dish to return to over and over, and I do almost every time I go to O’Malley’s.

Best Hot Sandwich: Phive All Day (Philly’s) vs. Aged Beef Top Round w/ French Onion (Melt)

Winner: Phive All Day – Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia.

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One of the most unique and succulent sandwiches out there, the Phive All Day wins based on its combination of traditional Philly Cheesesteak elements, but with the fantastic additions of bacon and home-made “McNabb Sauce.” (Note: This Sandwich will not be considered for the category of Philly Cheesesteak because it has too many unique elements).

Best Deli Sandwich: Sicilian Sandwich (Roosters) vs. The Godfather (Anthony’s) vs. American Combo (Anthony’s)

Winner: American Combo – Anthony’s Deli.

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Another tough choice, especially considering that the Godfather is Anthony’s signature sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, the Godfather is a fantastic Italian Sandwich (as is Rooster’s Sicilian), but the American Combo just has the “it factor” in terms of traditional deli sandwiches. The bread, as well as every meat used is fresh, and the size is fantastic. I’ve had all three of these sandwiches on multiple occasions, but the American Combo is the one that I go back to the most.

Best Philly Cheesesteak: Silver Lake Pizza vs. Royal Scarlet Deli

Winner: Philly Cheesesteak – Silver Lake Pizza.

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Easily my favorite Philly Cheesesteak, Silver Lake Pizza knows what they are doing in regards to this sandwich. The bread is crisp, the meat is thick and flavorful, the cheese is melted perfectly, and the peppers and onions are a nice addition to this juicy sandwich.

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That’s it for the First Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

Luca Bella: Penne Alla Vodka

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For my final review of 2015, I am happy to bring everyone’s attention to one of the best Pasta dishes you can get in Westchester (or, anywhere for that matter): Penne Alla Vodka from Luca Bella.

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This dish is made with the same vodka sauce that Luca Bella makes their Vodka Sauce Pizza with, so you know its going to be good.

A good sign of a great meal is that along with lasting flavor, it can remain hot for the duration of the meal, and this did.

The sauce was divine; creamy, smooth, and sweet. It is the same rich sauce that my friend described as being a 9.5, when he was expecting a 9.0. It is the best vodka sauce I have ever had, and its one that everyone needs to try.

The pasta was soft and plentiful; the regular, single-person serving is enough for two full meals, and will leave you craving more. This is the epitome of a must eat.

Well folks, that’s it for singular reviews in 2015; I’ve had a great time reviewing food this year, and look forward to even more in 2016. Before its all said and done however, be sure to check out the First Annual Pristine Awards, where we name the best foods in each category from this year.

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

Sal’s Pizza: Penne Alla Vodka (White Plains)

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Today we visit a second Sal’s Pizza restaurant (to my knowledge there is no relation to the one in Mamaroneck) for a delicious and sizable helping of one of the best pasta dishes known to man, Penne Alla Vodka.

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This dish contains some of the best Vodka sauce I’ve ever had. The sauce is sweet and creamy, and is made with prosciutto, there is a nice amount of salty bacon inside, as well as a slight cheese element and a smattering of onions. The flavors mix together well, making this dish just so rich. The pasta was also nice and soft, which is great for soaking up the flavor of the sauce.

But we have to talk about the size of this dish. The portion that Sal’s gives you is massive. I’m no lightweight when it comes to eating, but I was able to eat my fill and then come back later to a plateful of leftovers. The fact that you can conceivably get two full meals out of this dish makes it all the more a must eat.

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I wholeheartedly recommend this dish to everyone; the richness alone is worth it. Whether you are Italian, or otherwise, this dish is something everyone should try at least once; but I have the feeling that after trying it the first time, once will not be enough.

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

 

Piper’s Kilt: Mac and Cheese

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It took me awhile but I finally made it back to the Kilt, and boy am I ever glad I did. Today’s review will focus on their Mac and Cheese appetizer, with their Steak Sandwich coming later this week.

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This Mac and Cheese is heavenly. It’s light and creamy consistency combines for both a great texture and a wonderful flavor combination. The cheese on top is akin to a a light comforter, the purpose of which is to keep you warm in bed, while not being too heavy as it covers you; this is what the cheese did for the macaroni.

Speaking of the Mac, it was soft and saturated in the creaminess of the cheese; combined together, this dish encompasses elements that make it the ultimate comfort food.

This is one of the best appetizers and certainly one of the best Mac and Cheese dishes in Westchester (or anywhere for that matter). If you are a fan of this dish, be sure to order it next time you visit Piper’s Kilt, you won’t regret it.

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

Massachusetts: Grazie: Spinach Ricotta Pillows

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We return to Grazie for our pasta Entree; Spinach Ricotta Pillows. For those wondering, the “Pillow” is Grazie’s take on ravioli, and what a unique and delicious take it is.

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This work of culinary art is comprised of Grazie’s “housemade ravioli, spinach, fresh ricotta in a mascarpone cream sauce”; it is unlike any ravioli i have ever tasted, as the pasta itself was thicker than usual, almost tortellini-esque. Interestingly the tortellini thickness of the pasta, while a technique I had never heard or thought of before, was a great addition to the dish. In the clash and melding of two distinct pastas, we the consumer are the winner.

The inside of the pillows was filled with a light and fluffy combination of ricotta and spinach, which was joined well with the thickness of the pasta; the creamy mascarpone sauce was the perfect dressing for each pillow.

On top of the pillows was a combination of spinach and chopped cooked tomatoes; the vegetables were a nice colorful addition to the dish, with the tomatoes providing a slight acidity to the meal.

As I mentioned in the Dueling Meatball review, Grazie is a must attend for anyone who is in the Massachusetts/New Hampshire area; everything I have had there (these two reviews plus a couple samples from other dishes) has been delicious, and the service and scenery is great.

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

PPT’s: Garlic Balls

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Today’s review is a little different as it will be my first ever review of a side dish; namely, Garlic Balls from Pizza, Pasta, and Things (which can be found in both Port Chester and West Harrison).

Now some of you may have immediately thought of Garlic Knots, and if so, you need to put that completely out of your mind; because Garlic Balls are a different, and more delicious animal than are Garlic Knots.

Part of what makes Garlic Balls so great is that they are a rare commodity; there are only three locations that you can acquire these treats, with two of them being in Westchester (Clino’s and Michelangelo’s). So without further ado:

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Full disclosure; you have not had a true pizza experience until you have had Garlic Balls with your pie/slice. So I know you are wondering how they taste, right?

The outside “skin” of the ball has a light crisp to it (you will hear a crunch of sorts when you bite in), but at the same time is soft, doughy, and lightly moist. There is a definite element of grease there, but it is in no way overwhelming; and the flavor combination is a complex and thoroughly enjoyable one. PPT’s combines their seasoning generously to bring about a taste that is garlicky, sweet, and even a bit buttery.

Garlic Balls are a rare treat that breaks away from the traditional Garlic Knot, and is a side that will always leave you wanting more (and that’s not a bad thing); so when you have a chance, treat yourself to a nice order of Garlic Balls down at Clino’s or Michelangelo’s Pizza, Pasta, and Things.

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