Favorite Foods of 2014

2014 was a good year for food. It was a year that involved an unprecedented amount of travel, due to the record number of friends getting married this year, and many of their ceremonies took place internationally. As a result, this created many opportunities for interesting meals–breakfast sushi at Tsukiji market or unripe strawberries in Copenhagen are not experiences that can be easily had back at home.

While the international meals were memorable, the majority of my favorite meals took place in New York, and Kansas City and New Orleans weren’t too shabby, either. Honestly, with so many chefs training at the same restaurants and then setting shop elsewhere, you can find really good cooking anywhere. But that also means that many of the meals and food trends seem all too similar. It’s amazing how many small plates, Brooklyn-esque farm-to-table restaurants exist in the world.

I personally preferred those meals that still retained their regional traits to the ambiguous New World Global cuisine that proliferated everywhere else. So my favorite food moments in 2014 crosses many borders and price points, a reflection of the glamorous and janky meals that were unique to the cities I ate them in. In no particular order, here is a round up of my favorite foods in 2014.

1. the z-man sandwich from oklahoma joe’s in kansas city

oklahoma joe's - the z-man sandwich

2. the melt-in-your-mouth sea eel from nakamura in tokyo

nakamura - 18 sea eel

3. the epic peking duck dinner at decoy in new york

peking duck

4. the ricotta gnocchi from the eddy in new york

ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, squash, rosemary and hazelnuts

5. the husk meringue with corn mousse dessert from cosme in new york

husk meringue and corn mousse

6. the duck carnitas from cosme in new york

duck carnitas with white onions, radish and salsa verde

7. the duck fat rice with kale and chinese sausage from tuome in new york

rice with kale, chinese sausage and duck fat

8. the beef tartare from manfreds in copenhagen

beef tartare with watercress

9. the breakfast sushi from tsukiji market in tokyo

image

10. the omakase at sushi nakazawa in new york

nakazawa hamming it up with shrimp

11. the whitefish donburi bowl from ivan ramen slurp shop in new york

ivan ramen slurp shop - smoked whitefish donburi

12. the kale and wild mushroom risotto from gato in new york

kale and wild mushroom paella with crispy artichokes and egg

13. the lobster ravioli from cherche midi in new york

homemade lobster ravioli

14. the #1 bagel sandwich from black seed bagels in new york

black seed - sandwich 1

15. the butcher’s steak at st. anselm in new york (my pictures were so crappy and not post-worthy, but i would highly recommend that you brave the no reservation policy and make the trek out to brooklyn for this amazing piece of meat)

The Food is Tres Délicieux at Cherche Midi

I was prepared to hate Cherche Midi when I dropped by for dinner a few weeks ago. I’m not the biggest fan of French food, and I find the whole Keith McNally restaurant scene a little annoying. Like I don’t really care that I’m rubbing elbows with Anna Wintour at Balthazar or that Olivier Theyskens was eating mussels at Pastis. I don’t want to self-consciously put on airs so that I can meet the standards of the stylish diners around me–I just want to focus on eating good food.

The food at Cherche Midi is so good, though, that it was able to overcome my initial reservations, and I am now a total McNally convert and will gladly wear some makeup and heels to eat more of his delicious French fare. Seriously, the kitchen hit it out of the park with every dish we ordered, it was very impressive how perfect everything was. This is officially the best new restaurant of the 2014 season.

There’s so much to like as soon as you step in. The space is beautiful–a gorgeous, modern bistro decked out in the whitest of whites, filled with interesting downtown clientele. I was initially concerned that the fashionista staff might be a little snobby, but they were very warm and accommodating. They were running a bit behind in seating us for dinner, and to make it up to us, they offered us free glasses of champagne. I’ve had to wait ~30 minutes for a reservation many times, and rarely do I get a drink on the house, so I certainly appreciated this gesture.

French food can be very heavy, and so when we ordered the pot de fromage as a group appetizer, I expected a huge vat of thick, fondue-like cheese, accompanied by huge slices of bread. What appeared was completely the opposite. The texture of the parmesan cheese was a revelation. It was very fluffy and egg custard like, and not dense and overbearing at all. The salted cheese went so well with the crisp slices of golden, anchovy toasts that accompanied the plate. It was such an elegant and elevated rendition of a typical comfort food dish.

pot de fromage
pot de fromage

The elegant rendition of comfort food classics continued with the lobster ravioli, which was my favorite entree of the night. Again, I expected something packed with butter and cheese, but the ravioli was much more subdued, having more in common with the delicate wonton than its hearty Italian roots. I liked the subtlety of the preparation, although you could taste the hints of cheese and salt to reassure you that this is still an indulgence.

homemade lobster ravioli
homemade lobster ravioli

My whole grilled daurade was fantastic–the meat was delightfully chunky, fleshy and flavorful, and it was all seasoned very well. There were these interesting bits of what looked like fried vegetable tempura that accompanied it, which gave the soft fish some good texture.

whole grilled daurade
whole grilled daurade

I tried some of Ruoxi’s prime rib burger, which was also juicy and delicious. There’s so much umami going on in the patty–bacon marmalade and roasted mushroom extracting the fullest savory sensations possible from the meat. The side of thin, crispy frites was perfect, although make sure you eat them before they get soggy.

prime rib burger
prime rib burger

As if dinner couldn’t get any better, the chocolate souffle arrived, and it was flawless. Warm, with a perfect, billowing pouf, filled with a smooth, velvety chocolate sauce that was even more incredible with a ribbon of cream. Every single calorie was absolutely worth it.

chocolate souffle
chocolate souffle

I was pleased as punch by the end of dinner. It’s hard to find restaurants that are equally scene-y and delicious, but McNally definitely has a magic formula going that is able to deliver on both. The phrase “le cherche midi” apparently means the “midday search,” and it is also the name of an old French prison, both of which don’t do justice to this restaurant. There’s no midday searching to be done at Cherche Midi, all the good food has been discovered and found here, and if this is what prison is like, then by all means lock me up!


Cherche Midi
282 Bowery (and Houston St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 226-3055