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.

20150324_172729

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.

20150419_133152  

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 

20150317_173321

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.

20150928_163445

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.

20150830_140545

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.

20150829_201154

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.

20150808_180922

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.

20150808_171952

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.

20141122_115849

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

LucaBella2

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

20150621_194448

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.

20150619_192750

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.

20150312_184858

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.

20150417_164610

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.

20150622_122741

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.

20150115_172239 

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.

20150404_182129

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.

_______________________________________________________________

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!

 

Advertisements

Roosters Market: Sicilian Sandwich

tp1861_472

If you grew up in an Italian family or spent any considerable time around one, you have probably had a wonderful dish comprised of mozzarella, tomato, and basil. We all know how good that is, but imagine that as a sandwich…with meat…and peppers; that’s what you have in Roosters’ Sicilian.

20151103_104831

This sandwich is absolutely delicious. Served inside a nice, soft wedge of bread, the ingredients within are of the best quality.

The mozzarella was fresh and very spongy, the prosciutto was slightly salty, and the salt flavor that it had coalesced with the rest of the flavors perfectly. Not only was the prosciutto tasty, it was also plentiful. The tomatoes were juicy, the peppers roasted nicely, and the Italian dressing that topped it off was quite delicious.

20151103_104853

Every single ingredient in this sandwich works alone, and together, but preferably the latter, and Roosters has struck upon a very good twist on a classic Italian dish.

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

Sal’s Pizza: Sicilian Slice

2008-11-11-sals-facade

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.

20150928_163445

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

Nicky’s Pizza: Sicilian Slice

f1ff0db0dbffc343d4490aebeaca140c

Picture courtesy of citysearch.com

A few years ago Nicky’s was one of my favorite spots to visit when I wanted good pizza; my late Uncle used to take us there for a “smorgasbord” of delicious types of pizza, and it was always a good time. But then the unthinkable happened and Nicky’s closed down due to complications from a fire; and now, a few years later, Nicky’s pizza is back in business.

20150604_193523

While this was a really good slice, I must admit that my first bite in years took me by surprise as I tasted what can only be described as a flavor that triggered memories of alcohol; that taste was not bad at all, nor did it make a return in any other parts of the pizza, it was just an interesting surprise that I felt needed mention.

As you can see the size of the slice (lengthwise) is that of two ordinary Sicilian slices elsewhere, which is always a good thing; the bottom crust was crisped very nicely while maintaining the soft upper bite that good Sicilians are known for. The oil content was not overpowering, adding to the flavor without making a mess, and the sweet, thick cheese mixed with the slightly savory sauce were a great combo.

Nicky’s had small additions of basil to their slices which added even more flavor to an already flavorful slice, and the back crust had the slight taste of bakery style bread (a truly great touch). Another interesting part of this pizza was what I found underneath the cheese in a corner of my slice:

20150604_194754

That right there is a stewed tomato, and in terms of flavor and texture, its brief appearance was both a surprise and a delight.

I am very glad Nicky’s pizza is back and I hope you will be too once you try it; in a world of NY pizza, Nicky’s truly stands out as one of the best places you can go.

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

Portofino: Sicilian Slice

20150419_135644

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.

20150510_131638

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?

20150510_131649

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

Tarantella: Sicilian Slice

fe96f2f7837ca26d5c0ec0e29ffa5f9d

 

There are certain key elements that go into making a good Sicilian style pizza; first the crust must be firm enough to hold its shape when picked up, but soft enough to give you a full, doughy bite (think of a pillow of dough, as opposed to a pillow of cheese).

Second, the sauce should be spread out evenly enough to lubricate your mouth with each bite; and finally the cheese must be melted in such a way that it stays on the pizza when you chow down.

I once visited a hole in the wall pizza shop (if you could even call it pizza) that served me the exact opposite of what I’ve described. The crust was too hard, the sauce was cold (after being heated up!), and the cheese was hard and slid off the slice after one bite. Last time I checked, this shop had closed down and Tarantella is still going strong; why? Because Tarantella knows how to make a proper Sicilian.

20150223_143703

Soft pillow of dough? Check. Melted cheese that actually stays on? Yep. Enough tomato sauce to compliment the other ingredients? You bet. This particular slice also had a nice crunch that started the closer you got to the crust. A crunch that was not the result of too hard a crust but rather just the right amount of time in the oven; and as usual, the the taste was just as good as the texture.

If you have never had a Sicilian before, you are missing out; this style takes the traditional taste of good pizza and applies it to a thicker canvas, putting a nice spin on an already great work of art; and quite simply, if you want to experience one of the best artists in the business, you must go to Tarantella Pizzeria in Nyack.

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