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the sweet scoop
It was another thrilling year for the New York City dining scene, and last night, Time Out New York held their annual industry awards honoring the best new restaurants, bars and chefs. “It’s been an incredibly exciting year for food and drink,” shares Mari Uyehara, TONY’s Food & Drink editor. “Sensational new restaurants opened on Madison Avenue and in the West Village, but also in Bushwick, Flushing and Red Hook. It also brought national superstars, celebrated cookbook authors and daring upstarts to town. Our roster of winners reflects the astonishing range of drinking and dining experiences in New York City right now.”
Taking over the spacious Stephen Weiss Studio, the 2013 Food & Drink Awards paid tribute to the city’s culinary finest in a grand celebration attended by top toques, restauranteurs, mixologists and industry insiders. Before the winners were announced, guests sampled bites from nominated spots, including L’Apicio, Pork Slope, Dear Bushwick and Gran Electrica, and sipped prosecco, Stella Artois and Frederick Wildman cocktails—all while eagerly anticipating the results.
TONY’s food-obsessed readers voted for their faves out of 40 nominees to determine ten winners in the Readers’ Choice categories—top honors included Best New Restaurant (The NoMad), Chef of the Year (Daniel Humm), Best New Italian Spot (Perla), Best New Cocktail Bar (Pouring Ribbons) and Best New Bakery (Ovenly). Additionally, ten Critics’ Picks were presented, in aptly named categories ranging from Best Big-Pimp’ Brooklyn (Blanca) and The New Nordic Wonder (Aska), to The Same Same But Different Award (Pok Pok NY) and The High Rolling Stoner Sushi Award (Chez Sardine). You can check out the full list of this year’s winners here.
Many congrats to all the winners and nominees!
On Tuesday, the Village Voice’s sixth annual Choice Eats tasting event took over the 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue. The highly anticipated affair featured Voice food critic Robert Sietsema’s culinary favorites from more than 50 handpicked restaurants spanning the five boroughs, along with beverage pairings from craft beer, wine and spirits producers.
As if all this wasn’t enough, VIP guests were invited inside a full hour before general admission for a live culinary demo from City Grit’s Sarah McSimmons and offerings from a dozen local restos including Pig and Khao, Qi Thai Grill and Exchange Alley. VIPs also indulged in the exclusive “Choice Sweets” dessert lounge featuring confections from Butter Lane, Grandaisy Bakery, Ovenly, and more.
A few of the night’s many standouts included Anella’s velvety handmade burrata with tomato jam and basil salt, fresh seasoned shrimp rolls from both Luke’s Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound, tangy buffalo chicken balls from The Meatball Shop, Porchetta’s savory crackling-topped pork crostini, John Brown Smokehouse’s succulent pastrami sliders with sweet ‘n’ tangy slaw, moist red velvet squares from Carlo’s Bakery, and perfectly indulgent fudge brownies from Robicelli’s. A selection of suds from Blue Point Brewing Company, Lagunitas and Stella Artois, along with creative cocktails mixed with Sidney Frank spirits and Prairie Organic Vodka, helped wash it all down.
Whether you prefer savory, sweet, spicy, ethnic, Americana, inventive, classic, vegetarian or carnivorous, Choice Eats aims to please any palate. And with a surprisingly reasonable ticket price point, the bang-for-your-buck appeal is just another reason to attend the eating extravaganza next year.
Manhattan-based restaurateur Taavo Somer set across the river to open his first solo venture, Isa (meaning “father” in Estonian) in Williamsburg. The gorgeous space feels like an airy, modern barn with a large hearth, exposed kitchen, a wall of logs for the wood-burning stove and doors opening to the street. In a style called “primitive modernism,” chef Ignacio Mattos (formerly of Il Buco) executes rustic, seasonal fare with produce hailing from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
The printed daily menu only featured about a dozen dishes (the eatery was still in its soft-launch phase) with minimal descriptions, yet no detail seemed overlooked. Even the trio of freshly baked bread came alongside soft butter dusted with peppercorns and fennel seeds. A start of peppery horseradish shavings awakened our palate and added sharpness to coins of pickled daikon and kombu ribbons, while our Treviso salad tossed with creamy nut cheese and pistachio granola was a much milder appetizer. Adventurous eaters can get their hands dirty with cylinders of chewy, fat-laden pig’s tail glazed with chili and garlic (intended to be eaten sans silverware) or try to brave the sardine. Two large, meaty filets sitting in olive oil surround the fish’s crisped full skeleton and head—all meant for nibbling. On the refined side, our delicate cod filet performed beautifully when accompanied with silken cauliflower puree, fresh dill flowers and a dollop of tart orange confit. To finish, we blissfully spooned smoked yolk (which came cradled in an egg shell) over sliced rib eye and sweet glazed carrots.
At the time, Isa was BYO (waiting for their liquor license) and cash only, but the knowledgable staff affirmed that change was on the horizon. The vibe here is approachable and friendly, a warm neighborhood spot that I look forward to cozying up to again.