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Top Noms of 2014

1 Jan

Every year, we compile our favorite meals of the previous 12 months.  (For previous years, check here: 2013201220112010, and 2009). It is always hard to choose the best, and this year especially so when 2013 ended with our number one meal of all time at Alinea in Chicago, and then 2014 started with the previous #1 (and still #1 in NYC), Eleven Madison Park for the second time.   But enough about previous tops, and onto the tops of 2014:

As for great food that weren’t specific restaurants, I had an incredible experience at the New York Magazine Taste Event, getting to sample a bite from some of the best restaurants around the city. My favorite recipe that I shared (and have now baked over and over again) was the Nutella Stuffed Salted Chocolate Cookies (note: I have since removed the caramels and find the recipe is perfect even without this extra indulgence).  And then my favorite day of the year is the day we went on a veritable treasure hunt around NYC to #followtherabbit to get free cronuts and cookie shots from Dominique Ansel in honor of his cookbook launch.  What an amazing time!

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As for our top 10 Restaurants of 2014…

#10: The NoMad Bar

We had a great meal at The NoMad (#5 on the Top Noms of 2013) and we were excited to see that they launched a slightly more casual (and very sexy) “Bar” version.  We have since been back a few times and each time we enjoy the food and the cocktails, which are very expensive but some of the best in the city. It’s hard to beat as a place to impress guests or a date.


#9: Carbone

We had heard the rumbling about the new restaurant from Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, Carbone. The buzz about the Veal Parm was especially loud, referencing the ridiculous price ($54) and the equally ridiculous deliciousness.  The veal was certainly delicious, but it was actually the amazing pasta dishes that pushed this into the top 10.


#8: Brunch at DBGB

We were surprised at how much we enjoyed brunch at DBGB, though I really shouldn’t have been since I have always been a big fan of David Boulud restaurants. We have enjoyed ourselves at many including Boulud Sud (#6 on the 2012 Top Noms List) Daniel (#3 on the 2011 Top Noms List), Cafe Boulud (#5 on the Top Restaurant Week list), and Bar Boulud (a favorite brunch spot).   Our brunch at DBGB was with a big group and everyone left raving about the food, and the French Toast was the best I’ve ever had.


#7: Root & Bone Opening

We had a great time at the pop-up preview of Root & Bone in 2013 and then visited the new permanent location in the East Village during the first few weeks of opening.  It was opened by Top Chef alums Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth and brought us the fried chicken that no one can stop talking about. I loved the corn dish (which combined “Grilled Sweet Corn Cob… Husk and All” with cornbread butter, giant hominy, and popped corn) though I’ve heard that it’s not as consistent from other reviewers. I also adored the short rib meat loaf. I loved that the menu had a lot of memorable dishes that were a little bit different.

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#6: Bodega Negra at the Dream Hotel

Another surprising meal was at Bodega Negra in Chelsea.  Perhaps it’s because I don’t get to eat Mexican food very often due to my allergy, so this was novel.  But the dessert alone put this squarely in the top 10 and it was an incredibly memorable meal. (Video of the dessert’s metamorphosis here)


#5: Decoy: Peking Duck Dinner

I love a Peking Duck dinner. Something about that crispy duck with all the fixins wrapped in the little pancakes just make me happy. But this dinner was pretty epic in that not only was the duck dinner included, but also 4 small plates, 2 main dishes, and 1 fried rice or side dish.  The grilled wagyu beef pieces are still a taste memory stuck on repeat in my brain and it’s a great meal to share with food loving friends.


#4: all’onda

A restaurant I have recommended again and again is all’onda. Eater called it the biggest restaurant opening of 2014 and we could not disagree.  Each dish was very unique and had a special flare to it that everyone really enjoyed.  We loved the sea urchin pasta (which I think has gone off and on the menu a few times depending on availability) and I still think of the arancini balls with beautiful squid ink rice.


#3: Sushi Nakazawa

What a surprise! Mike made an impressive choice for my surprise birthday dinner and our meal was fantastic from start to finish.  A whole lot of chef chosen sushi in the Omikase, with the uni that will forever leave me chasing that uni dragon.  Do yourself a favor and make a reservation, be sure to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi before you go, and then visit this restaurant to taste what Chef Daisuke Nakazawa learned after a 10-year apprenticeship at one of the best sushi restaurants in Japan.


#2: Per Se

After quite the exciting meal at The French Laundry during out honeymoon, it was hard to resist trying Per Se on our first wedding anniversary. I was excited just to be in this NYC institution, and I could not wait to wrap my tongue around the Oysters and Pearls dish again, a tiny bowl of heaven that is famous in both locations.  While still not as great as other restaurants we have loved, it was undeniable why this is commonly referred to as one of the best (and most special) restaurants in New York City. The meal was perfect (just like our French Laundry meal) but not quite as creative as some of our favorites.  Still #2 for the year!


#1: Liquid Art House

The surprise of the year. I went to Boston on business but was able to spend my first night in the city with a good friend.  A quick search of top restaurants in the city near the Boston Back Bay station led me to Liquid Art House.  The space opened in May of this year and it was incredible and impressive with art hung like a gallery.  The food is also a work of art on each plate.  Usually you expect food that beautiful to be more aesthetic than substance, but the food absolutely, 100% delivered.  Each flavor was incredible and the ingredients were so fresh.  I was actually suffering extensively from morning sickness during this meal, but I managed to enjoy every single bite. I wish I had room for dessert, because I can only imagine what creations they came up with, but I left this meal in awe of how much I enjoyed it. I also just found out that Chef Stacy Cogswell from the current season of Top Chef (the Boston native) just came into the kitchen under Executive Chef Rachel Klein.  Since we do love our Top Cheftestant restaurants, I look forward even more to bringing Mike back to try this place as soon as we can make a trip back to Boston.



Another incredible year of eats!  I cannot help but reflect back on how fortunate we are that we get to live this life.  We joke that our biggest fear for our baby is that he will not love food. But I have to think that can’t possibly be feasible with us as parents. We just love this way too much.

Thanks for another great year!

Onto the adventures of 2015.









Ithaca, NY: Wine Tasting and the Supermoon

11 Dec

Our first full day in Ithaca, after an incredible dinner the night prior, brought us some of the most incredible weather.  Sunshine and blue skies greeted us at our incredible Airbnb rental in the middle of the woods (with a bonus porch and hot tub, which we thoroughly enjoyed with some wine on both nights!).  We had booked a private wine tour with Grapevine Country Tours with the plan to have them use their expertise to pick the wineries for us, with a stop for lunch at one of the wineries along the way, and not have to make any decisions all day long besides which wines to try.

They picked us up at our Airbnb right on time and our tour guide, a jovial middle aged man, immediately started asking us all sorts of questions and telling us all sorts of funny stories. He proved to be a very entertaining part of our day.

He took us to the next door Seneca Lake (Ithaca is on Cayuga Lake) because he said he thought we would enjoy their wineries more.

The first stop he chose for us was J.R. Dill Winery.  This wound up actually be our favorite wines of the day and had a beautiful view across the river.


Tastings were about $3-$5 for 5-8 tastings and our driver would peek in when we arrived to make sure we got special treatment, which usually included extra pours, if not unlimited tastings.

We stopped at Hazlitt, which is one of the most famous wineries and their wines were pretty good. They also have a slushie tiki area which we didn’t try, but apparently it’s quite the attraction.
We also stopped at some crazy hippie winery that smelled like pachouli and had questionable cleanliness… but we embraced the present and tasted some wine and bought some hippie dresses and were on our way.
Wagner Valley has both a winery and a brewery on the same property, and both were very good.  They also had one of the largest areas and beautiful views.


Our lunch stop was at Red Newt Cellar and both the wine and the food were very good.



The bride to be even showed off her sobriety as we took photos of the sampler plate.


The sampler had some salad, charcuterie and cheese samplings, grilled cheese, and tomato soup.


We also ordered the gnocchi special.


And the special grilled cheese.



And… this… wtf was this?  Oh the wine.


And of course the brownie sundae for dessert!


On our way out of the Seneca Lake wine region we stopped at Chateau Lafayette Reneau.  The wines were pretty good but we all agreed that our first stop was best.


Though I simply loved the view across the street.


That night, we drove around the lake looking for a view of the “Super Moon.” We finally found it by sneaking into the Ithaca Yacht Club.  (shhhh… don’t tell)


During our trip, we also stopped at a few of our old favorites, including Purity Ice Cream, Collegetown Bagels (twice), and DP Dough.  Ahhh college. We also stopped on campus where we hardly recognized it with all the new buildings.

It was a fantastic trip and we all thoroughly enjoyed NOT being broke in Ithaca.  A great place to have a bachelorette party.

Ithaca, NY: Just a Taste

9 Dec

This summer, I went with my two college roommates, Vicki and Kim, on a roadtrip to Ithaca, NY. We went back to Ithaca, where we went to school, to celebrate Vicki’s Bachelorette Party.  We had juggled a few ideas for where to go, but Ithaca won out because of the nostalgic factor and the fact that we all spent 4 years there but basically did so broke. So we were excited to go back to eat at some of the good restaurants and visit the wineries.

On our first night, we dropped in to Just a Taste and put our name on the list.  They said it would be about 45 minutes, so we took them literally and went to kill time by grabbing a cocktail at a nearby restaurant.  Twenty minutes later, our cocktails were just being delivered when they called us to say they were ready.  So we chugged the cocktails as quickly as we could and returned to find that they held the table for us.  Phew!


Just a Taste had been on my radar for some time, and then I randomly read an article on the way up mentioning how they were a fantastic restaurant, so we were excited to try it.  We were presented with an extensive tapas menu and we went to town.


And we did some wine flights to get our party started.



We started with the warm brie with melon and crostini. Loved the blend of warm brie with the perfectly ripe melon, and the crostini was a nice added crisp.


Squash blossom hush puppies with maple butter and zucchini-herb salad. Great dish and unlike anything I have had before.


We asked our waiter what dish we should definitely get, and much to our surprise, he recommended the garlic braised greens with walnuts, stilton blue cheese, and sherry vinegar.  Sure enough, it was incredibly delicious and we never would have ordered it from the menu description.  It didn’t sound all that exciting, but all the flavors were just perfect together.


We also tried the deep fried salt cod fritters with garlic aioli and mixed greens.


These were perfectly crispy on the outside and the salt cod was really perfectly flavored on the inside. Not at all greasy and very enjoyable.


Basque style lamb (local) braised with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and paprika on toasted orzo.  I couldn’t try this due to my allergy, and my sweet friends very kindly told me it was awful (HINT: they LIED!) to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out.



We also go the summer squash sautéed in brown butter with garlic, pecans, and romano cheese.  I really enjoyed this dish. The squash was cooked perfectly and the flavors were great together.


And we also got a plate of the charcuterie.


This came with duck liver mousse, smoked duck breast, shaved ham and pate maison (pistachios) with crostini, wholegrain mustard and pickled garlic scapes.  We loved everything on this plate and all had trouble deciding our favorite bite amongst the selection.


Our meal was absolutely fantastic from start to finish.  We loved all the dishes and there wasn’t a dud to be had.  This rivaled some of the best tapas I’ve had in New York City and there it was, in upstate, New York. But even the cheap food was good in Ithaca when we were there, so really it was no surprise.

If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping in to Just a Taste.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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