Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009: A Look Back

Happy New Year, everyone! Can you believe The Good Life has been online for a full year!?!

Creating this blog has been an interesting experiment. It began with no real goal; instead, it was a way for me to remember and document some of the stellar meals I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. So it was a surprise when Google Analytics confirmed that people were actually visiting my site each day. Links from Liz Johnson’s Small Bites, Foodgawker, and Tastespotting grew traffic considerably, but I suppose I didn’t truly understand the power of the internetz until The Amateur Gourmet himself, Adam Roberts, commented on my Almond Cake experiment. A few days later, Amanda Hesser tweeted that she loved the frowny face I put in her cake. And then there was that day in August I thought Analytics was broken because it said I got over 2,000 unique visitors in one day…and then later that same day when it turned out Analytics wasn’t broken at all—The Cooking Club of America had linked to my entry on Blueberry Buckle!

People were reading me!

I only hope I can stick with my blog in 2010. The Good Life is a one-woman show… and said woman has a full-time job, random extra-curricular hobbies, and a growing case of ADD. Sitting down to write can be difficult at times. As can paying for some of these absolutely fabulous meals. Hopefully, you’ll visit now and again, and won’t be too frustrated if there’s a lull in new content.

That said, let’s do one of those 2009 wrap-ups, where I tell you about all the best and worst things of 2009! In 2010!

Best Meals, 2009
2009 netted some mouth-watering, exciting food all over New York—fine dining, roadside food, grandma’s cooking: there were highs in every category. Here follows five of my top favorites:

(Note: Perilla, Craft and Babbo (the pasta-tasting evening) were not eligible for Best Meals, 2009, as all happened at the end of 2008. Each meal was absolutely fantastic, and a strong factor as to why I started this blog in the first place.)

#5. AquavitHere we have a NYC Restaurant Week participant that got it right: a pre-fixe menu finally representative of a restaurant’s cuisine without making diners suspicious as to what they were missing off of the regular menu; a special guest appearance by a super-star chef (Marcus Samuelsson); the strange and intriguing flavors of Scandinavian haute cuisine; and the feeling that I had just experienced a part of New York City history. After over 20 years in Manhattan, Aquavit is decidedly still ├╝ber-fabulous.

#4. Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q

Seriously. Don’t let the roadside locale or the drive north to Dutchess County deter you. And before you turn your nose up to da best ribs in da world, know that owner and all-around-nice-guy Warren Norstein used to cook at both Chanterelle and Bouley (in da city). His dry-rub ribs? Intoxicating. His excitement? Contagious. Buy a mountain of ribs for a few bucks, and while Warren packs up your order, sample some of his brisket, smoked chicken, or wings. Warren’s only happy when you’re happy.

#3. Tarry Lodge
Very new to the scene in 2009 was Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Tarry Lodge in Port Chester. One of my favorite dishes all year was unquestionably the grilled shrimp with grapefruit and shaved fennel root I sampled off of the antipasti menu. A simple dish, yes, but bursting with flavor, freshness—each ingredient made better by the next. A trend it seems, with all of their antipasti and pizzas. This restaurant is the real deal.

#2. The Cookery
While all of Westchester buzzed about Tarry Lodge’s opening (deservedly so, the food is fantastic), a small, unassuming restaurant in Dobbs Ferry quietly opened at the bottom of Chestnut Avenue serving simple, authentic Italian food. Little did anyone know, chef David DiBari was about to storm upon the Westchester scene, delivering mind-blowing homemade pasta, affordable wine, and food just like your Italian Grandma used to makebut perhaps only if your grandma molded cavatelli in Tuscany for 20 years and bested Mario Batali six straight times on Food Network’s Iron Chef. It’s that good, peeps. The Radiatore with Lamb Bolognese still calls to me.

#1. Tom: Tuesday Dinner
Was there any question that Top Chef/Dawg Tom Colicchio’s intimate private dining room open every other Tuesday evening would be crowned Best Meal of 2009? Any doubt at all? Colicchio is a hero to me. I love his philosophy, his clean, soulful food, his integrity, his …piercing blue eyes, and how he has inspired a whole new demographic to get into the kitchen and cook. If anything, I walked away that enchanted Tuesday evening admiring my Grand Poobah all the more. Nothing can touch that meal. Pure genius at work. Under-rated, I say!

Honorable Mentions: Pearl Oyster Bar, X20 Xaviar’s on the Hudson, Melt Sandwich Shop, Babbo (second visit), Shake Shack

Biggest Disappointments, 2009
I’m more of a “glass-is-half-full” gal, so can’t say there were a lot of disappointments in 2009. I went to some amazing destinations, all pretty fantastic, some due to the food, some due to the service, some due to the company—no matter the pitfall, it seemed as if there was always a saving grace.
If I had three lemons to pick, one would be in Hyde Park, New York, where the next 3-Star Michelin Star chefs are “allegedly” born and bred—Escoffier at The Culinary Institute of America, I’ve got your number. In a nutshell: your whole staff fell asleep the night of my visit.

Another big disappointment of 2009 was my evening at The Spotted Pig where I shared oysters with a charming doctor who looked like James McAvoy (Yeah ladies, I know—pretty appalling, right?). The food was good I guess, it’s more of what followed with the doc. ...nothin.

Finally, Id be remiss if I let Mortons The Steakhouse, White Plains off the hook. Service was decidely on the hook that night.

...oh, and Corton can get over itself.

Check back later this week for the best dishes of 2009! And here’s to a delicious 2010!

UPDATE 1/6/10: I shouldn't write that The Spotted Pig was a disappointment. The food was quite good. And if the doctor had called me back, then I never would've had that passionate affair with Gerard Butler (Just kidding. Turns out, Gerry's not very passionate at all.)

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