1) Widow Jane Rye Whiskey Call me a sucker for a story, but I love several things about Widow Jane Whiskey. It’s locally distilled, for a start, in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I also love that its parent company, also based in Red Hook, is Cacao Prieto, a chocolate factory whose cacao plantations in the Dominican Republic are models of organic and sustainable practices. The water to make the Widow Jane whiskeys comes from the Widow Jane limestone mine in Rosendale, New York. This Hudson Valley mine also yielded the limestone for the massive piers of the Brooklyn Bridge. The distiller’s choice to use water from a limestone mine is influenced by the great whiskeys of Scotland and Kentucky, both of which often contain water similar in specific minerality to the water in the Widow Jane mine. Finally, and this one is a bit geeky, I like that you can buy a bottle of the Widow Jane mineral water and compare its flavor with its ultimate iteration in Widow Jane whiskey.
2) Bobolink Cave-Ripened Cheddar This is where I get into trouble. Bobolink only appears at my local farmers’ market one Saturday per month. When I see the fine folks of this New Jersey dairy and bakehouse and sample their delicious yet pricey cheeses, I go a little nuts. My reasoning for spending $60 at a single stand for a food that isn’t a) a necessity or b) particularly good for my body is that a) Bobolink appears only once per month and b) they used The Square. So, basically, I’m a sucker—plus, Bobolink cheeses are all stunning.
3) Scallop Crudo with Apple Dashi and Pickled Radish at the Good-Life Gourmet Pop-Up Restaurant I love nothing more than the texture of raw scallops. There is something sublime about the way a slippery slice of scallop yields to being chewed. If I see raw scallop, I will almost always order it—and this one by Chef Eric Korn was a great example: Its silken mildness was contrasted with fiery, crunchy radishes. Mmm.
4) Pastries from La Colombe D’Or in Casablanca, Morocco My neighbors are all delightful people, but they are especially charming when they bring fresh pastries back from trips to the countries of their origins. The small yet weighty box of richly nutty, honeyed pastries had come directly from Casablanca—you know, Bogart, Peter Lorre, and “Are you looking at me, kid?” A couple of weeks ago, we sat around another neighbor’s dining room and took turns eating each tiny, perfect pastry. I’m not ashamed to say that eyes rolled, toes curled, and there were moans.
5) Chicken wings at Holy Smoke BBQ in Mahopac, New York Not everything in a restaurant critic’s life is about scallop crudo and perfect pastries from Morocco! Chicken wings are also an embarrassing addiction of mine. These were particularly good: They were spiced, then smoked, then, according to the restaurant, “finished off” in a way that distinctly looked (and tasted) as though they were deep-fat-fried. Who can resist that? // Julia Sexton