Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Best of 2023

2023 started strong, with a trip to NYC and lots of good things to eat. Another trip to NY in June ensured some good summer eating. But then the rest of the year was kinda pfffftttt, culinarily. We've been stuck in a rut, going to the same handful of restaurants over and over. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just not a good thing. Then we had COVID from the end of September through mid-October and didn't really want to go out in public even after we had recovered. Plus, I didn't have any interest in food for a few weeks (I know - hard to believe!). 

Hopefully, we'll do better in 2024!


vegan cheeses from Riverdel in the Essex Market, NYC
I had no idea that vegan cheese could be so good! I had only tried the standard supermarket crap, which is fine if you enjoy Kraft Singles, but not if you're fond of cheese that couldn't pass for plastic. Riverdel cheese sells only vegan cheese, which is actual cheese made the way cheese is normally made, only without the use of animal milks. I can no longer remember the three cheeses I tried, though I believe one was a cheddar and another was a blue, but they were all fantastic. My non-lactose-intolerant companion kept asking for more "tastes" of my snack. Get yer own, girlie. This is mine.

el supremo at Golden West Cafe
Another vegan surprise was the vegan fried chicken sandwich at Golden West Cafe. Made by Melanie Molinaro's Little Fig Bake Shop in Rosedale, the free-form, plant-based glob of deliciousness is coated with a craggy brown crust and mimics a deep fried chicken breast extremely well. Golden West adds a brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and their version of thousand island, along with reasonably mozzarella-like fried vegan cheese sticks. Like most everything at Golden West, the sandwich is huge, but also delicious. 


homemade shrimp & grits
I made shrimp and grits more than once in 2023, but the best time was when I topped the garlicky shrimp with roasted red pepper and fried salami. It seemed Italian, so I added fennel seeds, too. 


everything pizza without green pepper, from Squire's
There will never be a time when pizza from Squire's won't be one of the best things I've eaten.

kupati at Tbiliso
The Georgian pork sausage called Kupati made last year's list, and it was just as amazing in 2023.

vegan fried green tomatoes at Golden West Cafe
Yet another vegan item on the list of best things I ate in 2023 is the fried green tomatoes from Golden West. It looks absolutely hideous, I know, but the vegan pimento cheese and herb aioli were both outstanding and passed for animal-based products. The tomatoes were fried perfectly, too. 

shrimp liang and pancit at Heritage Kitchen
Sadly, Heritage Kitchen closed its doors in 2023, but we made sure to get in our fix of Chef Rey Eugenio's Filipino dishes more than once. The shrimp liang was my favorite, from the rice and greens to the shrimp and crispy squares of pork belly. 

chicken and lamb kebabs with Shirazi salad at Villagio Cafe
Another sure winner is anything at Villagio Cafe. Though their rice dishes are uniformly tasty, when I'm on Whole30, I prefer a side of Shirazi salad, a simple combination of bell pepper, onion, tomato, and cucumber.  


egg fu yung at Kung Fu 12
Just for the heck of it, we ordered egg fu yung at Kung Fu 12; the veggie option with broccoli sounded good. Minds were blown when we received crunchy deep-fried clouds of egg filled with barely-cooked vegetables, and a cup of cornstarch-thickened gravy on the side. It was closer to a cross between tempura and beer-battered onion rings than to the gravy-drenched omelets we expected. Fabulous, and now one of our regular orders. 


woodlands pie from Underground Pizza Company
Underground Pizza Company makes the list again this year with their stunning mushroom pie. I can't even explain how good their crust is, and the mix of sauteed wild mushrooms on top puts it over the top.


moussaka at Nautilus Diner
When I see moussaka on the specials menu at Nautilus, I order it. While the inch of bechamel makes it a lactose-intolerant person's nightmare, everything else about it is perfection.

pineapple fried rice from Mr Fried Rice at Urban Hawker, NYC
During a marathon eating extravaganza with my friend Daisy, I devoured more than half of this flavorful rice dish. Those flower cut pieces of squid you see at the bottom front were insanely tender, there was just enough pineapple in it that you noticed but not because it was too sweet, and the pork floss on top added interesting texture and crunch. Can't wait to eat this again.

pistachio supreme from Lafayette NYC
Lafayette's spiral pastries made from laminated dough (think croissants) filled with custard (this one is pistachio) are Instagram-famous for a reason. They are fabulous.

crab cake on fettuccine with vodka sauce at Pappas Parkville
I seldom order pasta in a restaurant, but I couldn't pass up this special at Pappas. Their crab cakes are huge and very good, and the pasta was excellent. Best part is that there was a ton of sauce, so between Mr Minx's and my leftovers and adding a few more ounces of fettuccine, we had a bonus crab vodka pasta dinner.


homemade hearts of palm "crab"cake over quinoa and esquites.
I made some pretty impressive faux crab cakes out of canned hearts of palm. Sure, they're a little tangier than real crab, but the texture is similar and they are tasty in their own right.


melon, burrata, marcona almonds, gnocchi at Kneads Bakery
This dish had so much going on, all of it good. It was a cheese course kinda dish because there was a sweetness to it that isn't normally found in an appetizer, and the gnocchi were more like donut holes than pasta, but damn, so tasty. I regret not going back to eat it again before the menu changed.

roasted cauliflower with EWF seasoning 
Seems like I put the seasoning mix that Earth, Wood, and Fire uses on their chicken wings on lots of things, and one of the best was roasted cauliflower. If you look hard enough on this blog, you'll find the recipe, but it won't be credited to the restaurant because I told them it would be a secret. It was, for years, until now it's not.


lentil and duck salad at Petit Louis
Neal and I snuck out for a 3-course lunch at Petit Louis a few weeks before Christmas and enjoyed a lovely French lentil and duck confit salad as our appetizer. It was so good, I invested in a bag of Puy lentils so I can attempt to recreate it at home. 

allium pie at JBGB's
The allium pie at JBGB's, in Remington, has scallion bechamel, cipollini and sweet & sour onions, and garlic oil as well as fontina and mozzarella cheeses on a lovely Neapolitan-style thin crust (dark, blistered, somewhat soggy at the center). I had heard good things about this place and now I wonder why it took us so long to get there.

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