upper west side

eater's digest: new taste of the upper west side (part 3)

Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending “Best of the West“, an event honoring legendary food critic Gail Greene. As suggested, the evening featured many of the tastiest establishments on the Upper West Side, regaling attendees with more of an fine dining feel than the previous evening’s “Comfort Classics.”

Seafood dominated the night’s selections, and undercooked was king. From crudo to cured, the fish was delicate and fresh across the board, but for me, there was one clear winner: the scallop crudo from Nick & Toni’s Cafe. Paired with just a dash of flake salt and a few firm, bright peas, this simple scallop stood out from the pack.

Another memorable selection was Gastroarte‘s “Tomato Six Ways.” Fresh, sundried and even gelatinized, chef Jesús Núñez’s take on the omnipresent fruit was an inventive reminder that there’s really nothing better than a spectacular tomato.

Yet if the aforementioned plates were refreshing departures from the realm of over-thought restaurant eats, it was two more intellectual plates that truly surpassed my expectations for the evening.

The first was Jean Georges‘ gorgeous avocado and asparagus salad. Creamy smashed avocado enveloped the most perfectly cooked asparagus my teeth have ever encountered. Tender, yet still al dente, the vegetable’s iconic bitterness that lasted just long enough to impart flavor, but vanished before becoming unpleasant. Topped with sorrel flower and toasted sesame seeds, the dish left a lingering nutty memento on the tongue.

The second was Dovetail‘s quail egg, cured carrot and chicken feed. The words “chicken feed” by no means enticed me, but these nutty, grains offered an exquisite chew  - definitely the best texture of the night. The quail egg also had a great, creamy mouth-feel, and the cured carrots offered a bright, acidic crunch.

And finally, a few more-than-honorable mentions:

  • Chef Michael Psilakis proved his worth in proteins…
    • with his moist, deeply flavorful Kefi meatball (the best meat of the weekend, in my humble opinion)
    •  and a perfectly balanced corvino crudo from Fishtag (impressive, considering the fish was paired with a bevy of potentially overpowering ingredients).
  • The Tangled Vine confirmed its reputation for winning seasonal eats, serving a cured mackerel and a medley of barely-cooked spring veggies.

    Fava Bean Raviolo, Nice Matin

  • Nice Matin‘s creamy fava bean raviolo had me rethinking my allegiance to all things al-dente

For more photos of the evening’s offerings, check out my profile on Instagram or this album on Facebook.

eater's digest: new taste of the upper west side (part 2)

Last night was the first of two raucous culinary evenings under the tents at 77th & Columbus: "Comfort Classics", hosted by the Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern and Adam Richman.

Upon hearing the name of this event, one friend drooled, "Burgers, mac 'n' cheese and sloppy joes! That's everything I love to eat!" His guess was not far off. There was not a sloppy joe in sight, but the battle for the best burger and mac 'n' cheese definitely in full force. My favorites, in each category, were:

  • Upper West Side newcomer AG Kitchen's slider - combined the best of a burger and a meatball sub, with a moist pepper sauce and mildly spicy red onion
  • The sorrel mac 'n' cheese by PicNic Market & Cafe - a grown-up spin on the classic, with flavors that evolved in waves as you chewed

But my top three bites of the night were less stereotypical takes on the comfort food theme:

  • The chilled pea soup from Elizabeth's Neighborhood Table - pickled ramps added balancing acidity to this delightfully green, springy soup
  • Mughlai's light and most semolina-lentil cake wowed my palate, thanks to a winning combination of fresh, zesty mint and spicy tamarind sauces
  • Luke's Lobster lived up to it's seafood renown with delicate, sweet baby shrimp tumbling out of toasted hot dog buns (sprinkled with an exquisite oregano/thyme salt blend)