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)

Italian Storefront Dining at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is the casual Italian spin-off of more formal sister restaurant Il Buco. “Alimentari” refers to the restaurant’s gourmet food market concept, which is located near the front entrance. Here, you can stock up on all of your high-end Italian essentials–it’s hard to resist the beautiful displays of amazing cured meats, local and imported artisanal cheese, loaves of fresh bread and scoops of sweet gelato.

“Vineria” refers to the restaurant and wine bar portion of the restaurant, which is located behind the retail storefront. About a third of the space is devoted to the wine bar, and the remaining area is filled with large, communal tables. The four of us slid awkwardly into a table already occupied by an older couple. I usually don’t mind communal dining in a really casual restaurant like Mighty Quinn’s or Back Forty, but I was a bit annoyed to have to go through it here. When you charge premium prices for your food, and when a large portion of your clientele is older and more formal looking, then communal tables don’t seem to be that appropriate. Luckily, I got over my discomfort and annoyance when the hearty and flavorful cooking won me over.

house salumi plate for two
house salumi plate for two
whole grain bread basket
whole grain bread basket

Any meal here must be preceded by a plate of the house salumi and a basket of the freshly baked bread. The hogs that Il Buco Alimentari uses must be the happiest, most well-fed pigs on the planet, because the pork meat here is the richest and sweetest that I’ve ever tried. The extremely delicate slices of salumi literally seem to melt in your mouth like a savory piece of lard. Placing a slice on top of the bread is a winning combination.

orecchiette with housemade sausage, ramps, parmigiano
orecchiette with housemade sausage, ramps, parmigiano
roasted gnocchi with mushroom
roasted gnocchi with mushroom

The appetizers were an excellent prelude to the equally delicious main courses that followed. The orecchiette was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long while. The quality of the freshly made, house-extruded ear-shaped pasta was quite impressive. It had that springy, chewy texture and slightly salty taste that you get from a perfectly cooked noodle. The salty fennel seasonings from the homemade sausage provided more depth to the flavor, and the parmigiano coated everything in a creamy, velvety sauce. The roasted gnocchi was also well executed although less memorable than the orecchiette. I personally think gnocchi tastes best when left in its soft, billowy form, which better absorbs the flavors of the underlying mashed potatoes and the surrounding sauce. With the roasted version, the char created from roasting the gnocchi dominates the flavor profile, and the more delicate flavors of the seasonings get lost.

show stopping slow-roasted short ribs
show stopping slow-roasted short ribs
crispy polenta with parmigiano
crispy polenta with parmigiano
grilled asparagus and aioli
grilled asparagus and aioli

The enormous plate of slow-roasted ribs arrived at the table in dramatic fashion. Huge slabs of tender meat fell off a piece of bone the size of a grown man’s forearm. The moist, fatty rib meat was so delicious that not even our “flexitarian” friends Tim and Caroline could resist a taste. As much as we raved about the ribs, the four of us could not finish the Paul Bunyan-sized portions. The crusty polenta didn’t even stand a chance, although the small bite that I did have was very satisfying and comforting.

As much as I enjoyed the meal at Il Buco Alimentari, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just eaten dinner in the area reserved for a cooking demonstration at Williams-Sonoma. I understand that low-key is the theme that the owners were going for, but that seems a little disingenuous when entrees are priced over $30 a plate. I think it works better as a lunch place, where the lower price points and the quicker pace of the midday meal are more fitting for the cafeteria-like atmosphere. If you want something romantic or intimate, the sister restaurant is a better bet. If mood is secondary to good food, then by all means make multiple visits to Il Buco Alimentari.


Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
53 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 837-2622