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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Westchester Burger Co: Fried Pickles

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Fried Pickles are one of my favorite sides, ranking up there with Onion Rings and French Fries as one of the best fried foods to have with a burger. We already know WBC can make a great burger, but what about their sides?

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Following the traditional method of using bite sized pickle slices, WBC did a great job creating a side this memorable; the pickles were very crunchy in and of themselves, and the crunch was helped along by the fried “skin” covering each slice.

The flavor of the pickle was subtle and not overpowering, which plays well with your taste buds; mix all of this together with a fantastic Chipotle remoulade, and you have a great mix of crunchy and mildly spicy fried pickle slices to settle your hunger until your burger arrives.

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

Holy Smoke: The Texas Brisket Meal

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Today’s review is special not only because it covers a Putnam restaurant, but also because this is the first time that I review an entire meal instead of one specific food item. The Texas Brisket Meal from Holy Smoke is our selection, and it is a review that is 11 years in the making. I first noticed Holy Smoke one Sunday in early February 2004 and expressed desire in checking the place out; and now, in 2015, that desire has been fulfilled.

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As you can see, this meal from Holy Smoke consists of a few elements; coleslaw, garlic smashed potatoes, cornbread, fried pickles (not pictured above, but included below), and of course, the signature brisket.

First, the sides; the coleslaw was thick and provided a nice crunch, the cornbread muffin had the nice combination of a strong crust and a soft inside, and the garlic smashed potatoes were some of the best I’ve had. They were leaner than most mashed potatoes, but included small chunks of whole potatoes in it as well; and the light, but easily detectable taste of garlic throughout really shone through.

The appetizer I chose was fried pickles, and Holy Smoke certainly goes a unique direction with theirs:

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Most venues who serve fried pickles do so in little circular slices, but not Holy Smoke; they give you fried pickle spears, and good ones at that. The breading was light, but had a good taste and texture to them, and the inside was coated nicely, providing a surprising last minute heat (spice) that you do not expect going in. The pickles themselves are thicker than most, and provide a nice bite.

And that brings us to the brisket:

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Drenched in onions, the linchpin of this meal certainly did not disappoint. After spending 17 hours in the pit, the meat was both tender, and incredibly juicy; there was no point during consumption that I thought the meat was too dry, or unenjoyable.

Furthermore, there was so much on the plate that I actually got to take some home and get another lunch out of it. If there is one (minor) criticism to be made, its that there was no standout seasoning or rub that really made the brisket “pop”; but that in no way takes away from the fact that this is a really delectable brisket.

Holy Smoke BBQ in Mahopac NY (located at 241 NY-6N), truly knows how to make a good meal, and I certainly recommend them to anyone looking for good BBQ. Along with the meal, the atmosphere is fun, and has outdoor seating that is ideal during the summer months. I will definitely be going back to Holy Smoke, perhaps even this summer; after all, the Fried Buttermilk Chicken sure sounds good.

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