Last Friday, food lovers from the five boroughs and gathered at on the Village Voice's 10th Annual Choice Eats Festival, featuring over 50 of the Voice's reviewed restaurants. People got on line at the venue on a sweltering spring day long before doors opened.
Of course, I want to tell you about Bessie’s Best of Village Voice’s Choice Eats.
The overall winner of the night for me was from Obica, featuring Burrata with truffle and basil. The Burrata was so good the truffle and fresh basil almost didn't even feel needed. The tiramisu also knocked me out. Sensational, just creamy and sweet enough.
Ofrenda surprised me the most. The barbacoa had an umani flavor that I haven’t tasted outside the the southwest, complemented by great salsa and fresh radish. I have high standards for Mexican food, and Ofrenda completely blew me away.
The best heat came from Cafe Rue Dix, which served Fataya, Senegalese-style empanada, deep fried with a fresh hot pepper sauce. Most hot sauces I encounter tend to be made of a dried chili, but these were fresh peppers that burned but still had that freshly chopped taste. Even though my mouth was on fire, I wanted more.
As a lover of chicken and rice dishes, Awadh’s Chicken Biryani tasted of a milieu of spices and finely chopped herbs, you could see the craft and care in how the ingredients were spread out in the dish. Best rice dish I had from this festival.
Horchata really did justice to Mexican street corn, the most fresh-tasting corn with the right about of cheese and flavoring, is worth visiting alone for.
The Harlem Shake added to the great ways to eat fried chicken with hot honey and jalapeño in a slider.
Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ accomplished the rare feat of the right amount of smoke flavor and vinegar, though the ribs didn't even need the sauce and tasted like something from south of Virginia.
Nom Wah Nolita’s jellyfish salad tastes has the flavor of its dim sum roots with peanut, dried fish and jellyfish over watercress, an inventive flavor that doesn't feel like a cheap derivative or the gimmicky type of fusion.
Mooncake Food's spicy flame torched grilled lemongrass shrimp noodle salad had a great homecooked touch. I appreciate they did not skimp on the spicy level or the fish sauce flavor.
Kailash Parbat came strong with a Crispy Corn Basket and Three Cheese Pav Baji Fondue, seemingly paying homage to Indian street food dishes with a flurry of Americana thrown in for good measure.
Soho Tiffin Junction’s inventive Chicken Tikka Burger had the most tasty chicken, although light on the actual Tikka flavor, it made for a unique slider experience on a sweet Hawaiian-bun type bread.
The Festival Roll served by Peppa’s Jerk Chicken provided the best side, chewy with volume, texture, and a soft sweetness to accompany the main.
Long-time Brooklyn Restaurant Yemen Cafe’s braised Lamb Haneez and Basmati rice along with Fattah, a Yemini bread-pudding-like dessert always make for a great meal. This Brooklyn restaurant has been going strong for 30-years, and their food makes it obvious why.
Ilili Box’s Chicken and Lamb & Beef Shawarma never disappoints.
Little Neck’s Sardine toast brought a nice nautical flair, the restaurant came with the most New England and salt-of-the earth quality but also reflected its hipster Brooklyn roots.
Lolo’s Seafood Shack crafted a yummy poke-like salmon salad with citrus dressing.
Loi Estiatorio’s Karydopita, a Greek dessert made of Walnut Sponge Cake seeped in bath of honey and spices had an old world quality to it, like a flavor that was likely much more common in a different time and place in New York City.
My old favorite Underwest Donuts came strong with their signature cake donut flavors, the Halva and the Maple Waffle. They have been expanding their presence in NYC, definitely worth trying.
The Gander, one of my favorite fancy places, served the The Peachy Keen, a vanilla financier with basil creme, spiced peach compote, and a ginger chip.
The Odd Fellow's Saffron Ice Cream with Apricot and Pistachio is a revelation. I could taste every ingredient without one overwhelming the other and not too sweet.
Whimsy and Spice baked the best dessert. After a whirlwind trip around complex flavors, the chocolate cake with just the right amount of moist made my evening. There’s something to be said about taking a simple and common dish and elevating it to a higher level, and that’s what they did. So good.
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