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


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)

Tuome Gets High End Asian Fusion Right

I was a little skeptical when I first stepped into Tuome, a restaurant in the East Village that describes itself as New American with Asian influences. Was this another one of those cultural hybrid places that would crank out pastrami egg rolls or kimchee pizza, interesting in concept but a bit half-baked in execution? It didn’t help that this was the whitest restaurant ever with a name that seemed purely Italian. The place was straight up farm-to-table Brooklyn, and 99% of the guests around us were not Asian. And the strange playlist of classic 80s rock frankly annoyed me–whoever makes the decision to play Tom Petty, Pink Floyd and Billy Joel in succession clearly lacks good judgement. I felt like I was waiting for a really bad 80s business school party to get started.

Luckily the poor taste in music was not an indication of the extremely competent cooking behind the scenes. Tuome is one of those few restaurants that gets high-end Asian fusion right. Chef Thomas Chen, an Eleven Madison Park alum, incorporates different regional ingredients and seasonings because they actually complement each other, and not because they would be confrontational and edgy. And more impressively, he manages to preserve the homey, comforting flavor profiles of the original Asian dishes that they were inspired by. Remember when growing up, your mom would make kalbi chim, and the way the juices of the meat flowed into the rice and became fully absorbed by the grains made for the most amazing meal ever? You will undergo this Proustian food journey many times over at Tuome.

The side of rice, which sounds pretty mundane and unremarkable, is one of the best things on the menu. In presentation, it resembles the lotus leaf sticky rice wraps that you get during dim sum, but it is packed with tons more flavor. These are sticky, glutinous grains fully saturated with delicious duck fat, and accented with the tangy, arresting flavors of Chinese sausage. There were also ribbons of kale that reeled everything in so that the rice didn’t become too rich and salty. I always try to get a little dainty with white rice, like, oh, I don’t need so many carbs, but all caution went out the window, and I literally inhaled this.

rice with kale, chinese sausage and duck fat
rice with kale, chinese sausage and duck fat

Is it crazy that I also swooned over the deviled eggs? Deviled eggs is like the sad, ugly sister on an hors d’oeuvre platter, but Tuome gives her a very glamorous, Sabrina-like makeover. The ho-hum, plain Jane boiled egg surface gets jazzed up with some golden Panko crumbs, and the yolk develops a sassy personality of sweet and spicy heat. It’s a worldly and well-rounded nugget of protein that will impress even the most blase of palates.

eggs, deviled, crispy and chili
eggs, deviled, crispy and chili

The oxtail spring roll wasn’t rhapsodically delicious, but it was an extremely solid effort. It basically tasted like a really good taquito. The filling in a traditional spring roll tends to be light, ground beef with chopped vegetables and noodles, but the one we ate here had more in common with its Mexican cousin, as it was filled to the brim purely with meat, specifically oxtail and bone marrow. Despite the rich fillings, the spring roll surprisingly wasn’t that heavy, and the light cumin sauce that came on the side served to brighten the dish.

This was all building up to the highly anticipated pig out for two, a dish that celebrates gluttony in all of its glory by serving crispy cubes of Berkshire pork, with fatty, crackly skin on, that dissolve into amazing liquefied pig fat. In case you’re worried that you might keel over from the potently rich bite, a bowl of tasty spicy peanut noodles are available for you to chase the pork with. The perfectly al dente noodles and the smooth and creamy peanut sauce will bring you back to the days when eating fettuccini and a PBJ could make your whole day so much better. The comfort foods of your childhood and adult life crash head on so that you can simultaneously regress and elevate your palate all at the same time.

pig out (for two) with persimmon and walnuts on the side
pig out (for two) with persimmon and walnuts on the side
spicy peanut noodles
spicy peanut noodles

By the time dinner was over, the 80s music was still playing, but my irritation with it was a thing of the past. Sitting through tracks of Bono is a small price to pay for eating the inventive and tasty fusion cuisine here. Whether you want to relive your mother’s cooking or take a walk down college Chinese take-out lane, but in a much nicer and interesting setting, there’s a lucid food dream for everyone.

536 E. 5th St (between Ave A and B)
New York, NY 10009
(646) 833-7811