1) Grilled bluepoint oysters with pickled garlic scape butter at Restaurant North If given a choice, I usually prefer raw oysters over cooked oysters, but these unbelievably delicious slurps were bare enough to offer a blast of the sea while still showing off the skill of Chef Eric Gabrynowicz. Sucked from their gnarled shells in a sip of pickle-y/herbal butter, they were an object lesson in tasteful adornment.
2) Black Dirt Distillery Bourbon Brought by the folks behind Doc’s Draft Hard Cider, this new bourbon gets its name from the famously inky, fertile farmland surrounding its Pine Island, New York, distillery. It was a great, earthy closer after a long night of tasting—it felt like falling asleep all snug and warm in the hay barn.
3) Yom Khun Chiang Salad (sweet Thai sausage with tomato and cucumbers in lime-garlic sauce) at Durian in Larchmont In accordance with this column’s disconcerting ability to air my addictions, I’ll go ahead and cop to my sweet Thai sausage jones. I already had a long and well-developed relationship with a similar dish at the Queens icon, SriPraPhai Thai Restaurant. Basically, any airport run necessitates a stop in Woodside for this salad. There’s something incredibly compelling about its tart/floral limejuice, herbal cilantro, and crisp cucumber paired with those squirtingly juicy rounds of sugary pork sausage. Yum. And it’s a salad, so that means it’s all, like, healthy and stuff, right?
4) Château Palmer 1995 Bordeaux This was a good one. It was the kind of wine that, when people drink it, they immediately shut up and look at their glasses. This big, opulent, show-stopping wine was perfectly paired at Restaurant North with braised lamb shank, hammer-milled polenta, and griddled onions. It was a genius pairing of big meat and big wine; both a dinner course and a privilege.
5) Jerk Chicken at Neil’s Cafe And here’s another of my addictions: jerk chicken. Sure, everyone always notices the evil-hot Scotch bonnet chiles used in the traditional Jamaican roadside dish, but, to me, one of the remarkable things about jerk chicken is that it’s also a bit tart. I like the way the chicken’s moist skin and smoky flesh are countered by the one-two punch of acid and heat. Neil’s version also comes with a great homey side of rice and peas.