Sake School

Sake is slowly growing on me. Initially I found the taste to be bitter and strange, but the more I try, the more I am able to find pleasure in it. Here is a run down on various types of sake and their flavor. The following text and images are courtesy of Time Out New York and the article can be seen here.

Sake school: Six sake types for wine drinkers, Scotch sluggers and more

Master sommelier Roger Dagorn (15 East) gives us a 101 on the fermented-rice hooch. From oenophile-baiting junmai to kimoto for Scotch sluggers, there’s a variety for every type of drinker.

By Christina IzzoTue Apr 23 2013

Sushi Of Seki

Sushi Of Seki – Photograph: Filip Wolak

You know if you’re a merlot fan or a champagne sipper, if you’re a sherry devotee or a Scotchaficionado. But do you know junmai from honjozoGinjo from nigori? Before you step into another sakebar, get schooled on six different types of the Japanese fermented-rice beverage and find out which variety will tickle your boozing fancy best.

If you like full-bodied cabs, try a junmai
Heavier and fuller than its delicate sake brethren, the concentrated, acidic junmai grade—pure sake made from rice, koji (starter enzyme) and water—boasts a bold, rich earthiness similar to a robust cabernet sauvignon.

If you like Scotch, try a kimoto or yamahai
Love the peaty malt of good Scotch? Brews crafted in the kimoto or yamahai technique—made without adding lactic acid to the yeast, resulting in more wild bacteria—have that smoky, savory funk that single-malt drinkers crave. This variety is sometimes aged in cedar barrels, which can imbue these labor-intensive sakes—the starter mash is hand-churned over a period of at least four weeks—with a Scotch-like peppery finish.

If you like dry sherry, try a ginjo
The difference between hearty junmai and the lighter ginjo grade is its polishing rate (in layman’s terms: the amount of rice remaining after the husk has been milled) and, with a 60 percent polishing rate, ginjo is leagues more refined than rustic junmai. The superpremium brew is dry, fruity and aromatic, à la Spanish sherry. Sip it chilled for optimum smoothness.

If you like champagne, try sparkling sake
A Japanese twist on bubbly, sparkling sake is distinctive due to its in-bottle secondary fermentation, which produces the fizz and soft sweetness that bottle-poppers look for. Bonus: Unlike the blinding champagne-induced hangover you get every New Year’s Day, carbonated sake’s alcohol content clocks in at under 8 percent, making for easy, breezy tippling.

If you like classic merlot, try honjozo
The medium-bodied cousin of bold junmai, the everyday honjozo-grade sake adds a touch of distilled alcohol to the mash, lending it a soft, easy-to-drink quality in line with a milder merlot. Like that grape varietal, honjozo commonly gives off a cherry flavor and touch of spicy clove.

If you like dessert wine, try nigori
The sweetest of the bunch, milky, creamy nigori caps many Japanese meals as a digestif. The cloudy sip (unfermented rice solids produce the brew’s signature murkiness) is unfiltered and low in alcohol, with light fruit notes. It’s best served cool to bring out its complex sweetness, so chill the brew in an ice bucket as you would dessert wine.

CHEAT SHEET

Warm or chilled?
Sake’s traditionally served warm, but the higher the quality of the sake, the more it should be chilled—warming sake can mask the subtle flavors of premium brews.

Wooden box or stemware?
Wood tampers with the nose of high-end sake (sip delicate ginjos in glassware), though it can actually help smooth out cheaper, harsher varieties.

To pour or not to pour?
Pour for your fellow boozers but not yourself—tejaku (pouring your own sake) is considered very rude in Japanese culture.

What to pair?
A common misconception is that sake should be paired with sushi. Avoid rice-on-rice overkill by soaking up your brew with soba noodles, braised pork belly, miso-glazed Chinese sausage or sashimi.

Sake bomb: yay or nay?
Just say no to sake bombs. They are an American invention and, if ordered at a real-deal sake den, will betray your rookie status.

What’s the difference between junmai and daiginjo?
There are four main grades of sake: junmai (pure rice sake, at least 30 percent polished), honjozo (a tad of distilled alcohol added, at least 30 percent polished), ginjo (highly milled rice—at least 40 percent polished—with or without added alcohol) and daiginjo (even more highly milled rice—at least 50 percent polished—with or without added alcohol).

Tangierino, Mamma Maria and Improv Asylum

Valentine’s Day was comprised of my boyfriend doing his National Guard duty up in Massachusetts, clearing roads and debris after the blizzard, and me, stuck in a cramped conference room for 14 hours working on yet another audit. To make up for missing the opportunity to be romantic, I drove up to Boston for the weekend to spend some time with my man.

This was our third Valentine’s “together.” To give you a brief history… Our first Valentine’s Day I was still in school and living in the Bronx and he came to visit. I had class for most of the day, but anticipated returning to my apartment to find my boyfriend looking clean and sharp with a bouquet of flowers and ready for a dinner date. Instead he was in boxers, hanging out on the couch with nothing planned. Epic fail. I ended up booking us a dinner reservation at the Capital Grille and we made the best of it. Valentine’s Day #2 was spent home alone while my boyfriend served his country in Afghanistan. It was a tough day to be alone and I missed him terrilbly, but from afar we managed an ,”I love you” and carried on.

This time around my expectations were minimal. I imagined a repeat of V-Day 1. I sent a reminder text to let him know that I wanted flowers and that I was looking forward to seeing him. I figured it would be a normal weekend, nothing too spectacular. Though I did not receive any flowers, the Army Ranger had something even better up his sleeve.

Making up for two lost Valentine’s, he planned an extravagant weekend in Boston with wonderful food, drink and cheer.

Tangierino

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We began our date night at this beautifully decorated hookah and tapas lounge located in Charlestown. It was perfect. I imagine everyone in the restaurant was gagging as we spent the entire time sitting pressed against each other, laughing, sharing drinks and food and the occasional kiss.

We ordered the Merguez (Tangierino spiced ground lamb wrapped in phyllo dough, smoked eggplant, kalamata olives). Heavenly. I adore lamb, it is one of my favorite meats and this was perfectly seasoned.

The other highlight of this restaurant is the Moroccan Mojito made with Blackberry Bacardi, Moroccan mint tea, muddled lime and mint. Heavenly. This was hands down the best spin on a mojito I have ever had.

Mamma Maria

Probably the best restaurant in the North End, Mamma Maria is the only Italian restaurant in Boston to earn the Four Diamond Rating by AAA Travel Guide. It it well worth it.

This was a night for a new experience. I tried the Rabbit Pasta (classic slow-cooked Vermont-raised rabbit, in the Tuscan-style, with homemade pappardelle, crispy pancetta, and fresh rosemary). It was outstanding! The flavor was incredible! The meat was tender and succulent without tasting like strong game. Probably one of the best meals I have ever had.

The place is perfect for dates. Comfortable tables, excellent service and very romantic. I loved it!

Improv Asylum 

After dinner we headed to a midnight show at the Improv Asylum. This was my second time at the asylum and it was as hilarious as the first. The show is run by posing questions to the audience and running wild with the themes and ideas provided. The cast is hilarious and do a wonderful job on taking commonplace topics and giving them a unique and ridiculous twist. I highly recommend this place.

My man surpassed expectations. He planned a wonderful evening for us, full of good food, drink and romance. I had a truly fantastic time.

Prune and Mono Mono

By far the greatest thing about New York is the diversity and quality of the restaurants. I recently tried two new places after very strong recommendations from friends. Tried and true, these two are incredible!

Prune

Located in the East Village, Prune serves very simplistic American fare. Ingredients are basic and pure and the menu is constantly changing and evolving. The flavors are out of this world. If Anthony Bourdain could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of his life, he would eat here. From a cynic like him, that’s saying something.

I enjoyed the baked mussels with parsley shallot butter and the grilled lamb blade chop with Turkish piyaz. Everything was perfectly seasoned and placed the core elements of the meal on a pedestal of deliciousness.

Mono Mono

Also in the East Village, Mono Mono serves the best Korean fried chicken in all of New York City. What makes this chicken so special is it takes 30 minutes to specially prepare for you and it is double fried adding an insane amount of crispiness to the outside, leaving the inside super juicy and apparently burning off excess fat. It was amazing! Best fried chicken I have ever had and that includes the incredible chicken I ate in Atlanta. That’s saying something.

The interior is very intriguing. The ceiling is very high and thousands of records are stored in built in shelving running all along the walls. An electric system pulls the records from the shelves and transports it over to the DJ. You can also eat your fried chicken on a piano converted into a table.

Another interesting note, all their drinks are made with soju, almost like vodka. They infuse their own soju there and the drinks are heavenly.

Atlanta, GA

Recently training for work brought me to Atlanta for a week of long days learning protocol and processes combined with long nights of exploring downtown Atlanta. A few of the highlights of my trip:

 Alma Cocina:

Carnitas tacos, guacamole, and a Keep Your Head Down to drink

This delicious Mexican restaurant and bar Downtown Atlanta offers a trendy atmosphere, excellent food with a few unique options including braised goat, a full bar and creative drink menu.

Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint:

This place, in my Yankee mind, is the epitome of real southern food and charm.

Blueberry Lemonade Moonshine. Delicious! This was my first time trying anything with moonshine. Dirty south!

Not the healthiest of meals, but it tasted amazing! This is the best fried chicken I have ever had! The meat was juicy and succulent, the breading crispy and flavorful with a hint of sweet. The sweet potato fries were amazing! However, the mac and cheese was a disappointment. I had high hopes, but found it to taste more like stuffing than cheese. Overall, fabulous meal!

I love hot sauce. Thank you Minxy for converting me. This one was delicious! I have never seen it up north, but it is worth hunting around for. The flavors are amazing and it adds a nice bit of heat without overdoing it with burn.

Did I mention live music?

Meehan’s Public House:

Another Irish pub with good drinks, good people, and a good atmosphere. As we were walking out and older gentleman approached my friend and I. Directing the conversation at my friend he told her his friend, Teddy,  thought she looked bored and could give her the night of her life. Stepping aside, Teddy was revealed to be an man with a thick mustache and toupe. Sexy.

Museum Bar:

We took a cab here on a weeknight and were greeted by two big events, a concert for breast cancer, and some promotional event for Bombay Sapphire. We chose the free cocktails from Bombay. Upon being seated we were handed canvas each and asked to paint. So we began to paint… at a bar, with pink cocktails.

Steamhouse Lounge:

This place was a true local restaurant and bar offering fresh, delicious seafood and a good atmosphere. We sat on the second floor balcony overlooking the city of Atlanta and munching on calamari and fish tacos.

Top 25 Pizza Pies in NYC

NYC is know for having amazing pizza. Yet with every other pizza place claiming to be original, famous, or the best, picking a place to try can be a bit intense. Thank you Time Out New York for yet another amazing foodie article assisting the public in the formidable task of choosing pizza parlors.

The following words and photos are courtesy of Time Out New York.

Best New York pizza: The top 25 pies in the city

Our five-borough tour of the best New York pizza skips from legendary institutions to new-wave joints. Here are the reigning pies in Gotham.

By Mari Uyehara     Mon Sep 17 2012

Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

In 1905, Lombardi’s opened as New York’s first pizzeria, bringing the simple Italian dish to Gotham. Owner Gennaro Lombardi helped train a generation of pizzaioli, dispatching thin-crust acolytes all over the city: Patsy Lancieri over to East Harlem with Patsy’s, John Sasso to the West Village with John’s of Bleecker Street, and Anthony Pero out to Coney Island with Totonno’s. Since then, a new generation has ushered in traditional Neapolitan-style pies (Kesté Pizza & Vino), wildly creative toppings (Paulie Gee’s) and, of course, the fried-pizza craze (Forcella). The onetime exotic immigrant food is now synonymous with Gotham, and arguing over the city’s best pizza has become a classic New York pastime. With that in mind, we trekked all over town to find out if old favorites still lived up to their reputation and if new pizzerias could rise to the fierce competition. Here are the best New York pizza spots.

25. Diavolo at Zero Otto Nove

Salerno-born upstart Roberto Paciullo made waves on Arthur Avenue when he challenged red-sauce supremacy with his standout trattoria, which opened in 2007 and spun off a Chelsea offshoot in 2011. The wide-ranging menu features baroque combinations like butternut squash, smoked mozzarella and pancetta, but we favor his diavolo, built on a thin crust, slighty puffed at the edges, with a good chew. Singed lengths of spicy sopressata mingle with swatches of oozing mozzarella and a thick, brawny tomato sauce. 2357 Arthur Ave between 184th and 186th Sts, Bronx (718-220-1027) • 15 W 21st St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-242-0899) • $14.95.

24. Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano

This Coney Island institution—founded in 1924 by Gennaro Lombardi apprentice Anthony “Totonno” Pero—was once as famous for its rude service as for its peerless pies. But with Pero’s friendly niece Louise Ciminieri now running the no-frills joint, the mood is decidedly more welcoming. Although two generations of pizzaioli have turned over, the honest pies are still a superb showcase of culinary high art: bubbling browned cheese covers a sweet tangy sauce and ultrathin crust, touched with a whiff of smoke from a historic coal oven. 1524 Neptune Ave between 15th and 16th Sts, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-372-8606). Small $16.50, large $19.50.

23. The Saint Louie at Speedy Romeo

Pie obsessives—from Slice NY blog founder Adam Kuban to Paulie Gee’s owner Paul Gianonne—rank this wood-fired beaut in the upper echelons of the city’s greatest ‘za creations. The stacked pie, cut into squares, is smothered with tangy San Marzano tomato sauce and molten Provel—a pungent, almost-blue-cheese-like mix of provolone, cheddar, Swiss and liquid smoke, born in St. Louis. It’s blanketed with plump nuggets of anisey homemade pork sausage, crisp-edged strips of sopressata and zippy pickled peppers. Although the inspiration comes from chef-owner JustinBazdarich’s father’s hometown, this balls-out pie de resistance will stir nostalgia for anyone who has shared a pizza overloaded with toppings at cozy family-style joints in the burbs. 376 Classon Ave at Greene Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (718-230-0061). $16.

22. Margherita at Sottocasa

Chef-owner Luca Arrigoni learned to punch dough alongside pizza maestro Roberto Caporuscio (Kesté), before opening this rustic Boerum Hill restaurant in 2011. Arrigoni’s Margherita is a superb rendition: Creamy puddles of mozzarella and a simple fresh tomato sauce crown a buoyant round of dough. A wood-fired brick Acunto oven scorches the thin pizzas at the edges and lends them a hint of smoke. The old master would be proud. 298 Atlantic Ave between Hoyt and Smith Sts, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-852-8758). $11.

21. Baked Potato pie at PeteZaaz

The short menu at this urbanist slice joint reads like a list of fantasy stoner snacks dreamed up in a ganja-smoke haze. The thin, crackery crusts may lack pronounced flavor, but they’re vehicles, sturdily built to deliver baroque combos of local produce, artisanal cheeses and meats to your mouth. While other creations rotate in and out, our favorite, the Baked Potato pie, has become a signature. Gooey white cheddar, thick slices of purple potato and crispy bits of bacon are scattered atop a crisp crust. It’s finished with a cooling pool of tangy crème fraîche in the middle and smattering of sharp chopped scallion: hangover grub in its highest form. 766 Classon Ave between Park and Sterling Pls, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-9229). $17.

20. Vodka pie at Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria and Restaurant

A trio of young men—uniformly wearing backward caps, white tees and stud earrings—pat down rounds of dough in the front of this family-run pie shop, a required stop on the Staten Island pizza junket since it opened in 1960. The must-order pie is the Vodka. The junky favorite achieves an almost restrained elegance here: Cracker-thin crusts with a soft interior are covered with just enough of creamy vodka-spiked tomato sauce and stretchy, salty mozzarella. 1758 Victory Blvd between Manor Rd and Winthrop Pl, Staten Island (718-981-0887). Small $15, large $17.

19. Bacon pie at Best Pizza

The crews behind Roberta’s and Brooklyn Star collaborated on this stellar homage to the classic New York slice joint, here updated with backpacker hip-hop and a Williamsburg clientele arriving by skateboard. The über-thin crust has an alkaline zip, good browning and hearty chew; the tomato sauce is fresh and bright; and the thin web of punchy cheese is in perfect proportion, all earning it best-in-class status for the old-school-style pie. Take yours to the next level and add the sweet pieces of slightly smoked slab bacon, which play nicely against the full rosettes of heady basil. 33 Havemeyer St between North 7th and 8th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-2210). Pie $24.

18. Plain pie at John’s of Bleecker Street

Scratched-wood booths, a bright neon-red sign and tattered floors outfit this charmingly shabby New York icon, which opened in 1929 and still buzzes with both tourists and locals. Cooked at 850 degrees in a coal-fired brick oven, the pizza has stood the test of time. A super-thin crust has just enough flop. Blanketed with sweet tomato and blistered, gooey cheese, the top-notch pie tastes of pure New York. 278 Bleecker St at Jones St (212-243-1680). Small $14.50, large $16.50.

17. Sicilian at Artichoke Basille

Forget the gloopy spinach-artichoke special that’s the namesake of this burgeoning pizza chainlet, from Staten Island natives Francis Garcia and Sal Basile. The superior order here is the Sicilian, which achieves a dexterous balance of tangy sauce, gooey mozzarella punched up with robust Parm, and a buttery, almost shortbreadlike, crust. The heaving slice is the kind of drunk food you would be just as happy to eat in broad daylight. 328 E 14th St between First and Second Aves (212-228-2004) • 111 MacDougal St between Bleecker St and Minetta Ln (646-278-6100) • 457 W 17th St at Tenth Ave (212-792-9200) • Slice $4, pie $26

16. Old-fashioned pie at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar

It’s worth braving the Wall Street clientele and dreadful trance music for the fabulous square pie at this Financial District pizzeria, from Nick Angelis of the famed Nick’s in Queens. A sheet pan of airy crust, glossy with oil and browned with char, drips with a robust tomato sauce and burnished blend of mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Load on the toppings—crisp porky pepperoni, meaty mushrooms, coins of fennel sausage—the substantial crust can handle any amount of gut-busting gluttony. 54 Stone St between Pearl and William Sts (212-248-3838). $18.50.

15. Pizza Patate at Sullivan St Bakery

It’s all about the bread at Jim Lahey’s celebrated bakery. The impeccable Roman-style square—silky dough pocked with air bubbles and sporting a baguettelike chew—would be good enough on its own. But  wisps of golden potatoes, crunchy brown just at the edges, along with curls of sweet onion and fragrant rosemary, put this virtuous slab of pizza over the top. 533 W 47th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-265-5580) • 236 Ninth Ave between 24th and 25th Sts (212-929-5900). Slice $3.50, pie $27.

14. Square pie at L&B Spumoni Gardens

Since 1939, this Bensonhurst original—where muscle-bound Brooklynites with deep accents gather in the outdoor patio—has served one of the best Sicilian slices in town. Candy-sweet tomato sauce is generously slathered over tall, doughy rectangles with a crunchy browned bottom. It’s finished with squares of melted mozzarella and zippy strands of Parm. 2725 86th St between 10th and 11th Sts, Gravesend, Brooklyn (718-372-8400). Slice $2.25, half tray $19, full tray $36.

13. Bee Sting at Roberta’s

Among food cognoscenti, the composed plates at indie favorite Roberta’s may have eclipsed its pies of late. The wily pizzaioli here rotate playfully named creations on and off the dinner menu as the seasons change; but our favorite of the signature pies, the Bee Sting, is a brunch mainstay (you can order it off-menu at other meal times). Fitting, since like breakfast sausage drenched in maple syrup, this excellent pie showcases the classic combo of savory pork with sweetness, here punched up with a spicy kick. On a foundation of stretchy mozzarella and velvety tomato sauce, a drizzle of honey melds with paper-thin coins of hot soppressata and chili flakes for a spicy-sweet-tangy mélange. 261 Moore St between Bogart and White Sts, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-417-1118). $15.

12. Meatball pie at Nick’s Pizza

Nick Angelis’s classy Queens pizzeria—done up nicely with tall arched windows, bronzed tin ceilings and a gleaming copper espresso machine—defies New York’s pizza categories. It’s neither Neapolitan-style (pulled from a wood-burning hearth), nor old-school New York (baked in a coal-fired oven). But the ’za—built on light, thin crusts scorched on the bottom in a regular ol’ gas-assisted oven—is excellent all the same. The meatball pie, topped with flat, brown slices, may not look like much, but those tender full moons are packed with beefy flavor. Spread atop supple rounds of mozzarella and an oregano-fragrant tomato sauce, it’s our favorite version in town. 108-26 Ascan Ave between Austin and Burns Sts, Forest Hills, Queens (718-263-1126). Small $15.50, large $17.50.

11. Sausage pie at Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern

“In crust we trust” is the pizza-box slogan of this family-style pizzeria—a Staten Island fixture since 1937 that keeps Frank Sinatra on the jukebox and friendly locals at the granite bar. The toppings are fine: The sauce is sparse and sweet, the cheese is mild, and the sweet Italian sausage is properly juicy. But it’s the unique crust, browned to perfection in a roaring brick oven, that endows this pizzeria with a mythmaking legacy: A flat round, crunchy with breadcrumbs, sports a crackling crenulated texture unlike any other in the city. 524 Port Richmond Ave at Hooker Pl, Staten Island (718-442-9401). $14.50.

10. Regular pie at Rubirosa

Born of pizza royalty at Staten Island’s lauded Joe & Pat’s, Angelo Pappalardo did a turn in fine dining (Esca) before planting a flag for the forgotten borough in Nolita. Pappalardo does the family legacy proud with these expertly charred thin-crust pies. As at the original, the Vodka version is unimpeachable, but you shouldn’t miss the outstanding plain pizza, crafted from a 50-year-old recipe: Generous discs of lush mozzarella and a thick swatch of bright tomato sauce hug a pliant crust that crackles at the edges. 235 Mulberry St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-965-0500). Small $16, large $24.

9. Slice at Sal & Carmine Pizza

Upper West Siders poured a little marinara out when legendary pie maker Sal Malanga passed away in 2009. But his brother Carmine and grandsons Luciano and George still carry on the family tradition for this hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, which opened in 1959. From the outside, Sal and Carmine looks like any no-frills slice joint, but step into the back and you’ll see vintage Christian Dior adverts and Walasse Ting prints hanging on the shabby walls—a touch of unexpected refinement in a seemingly generic spot. Likewise, there’s more than meets the eye with the humble slice. The stiff crust, thin layer of concentrated sauce and shredded mozzarella form something greater than the sume of their parts: a flawless harmony, hitting all the right notes of saltiness, tang and chew. 2671 Broadway between 101st and 102nd Sts (212-663-7651). $3.

8. Montanara Starita at Don Antonio by Starita

Pizza dream team Roberto Caporuscio (Kesté) and his mentor Antonio Starita—who opened their midtown gem in February 2012—weren’t the first to unveil the montanara. But theirs takes top honors in this fried-pizza-crazy town. Here, a round of dough is plunged in roiling oil to develop a fluffy, moist crumb and a darkly tanned exterior—the Italian-stallion kissing cousin to that sweet country-fair favorite, funnel cake. With melted pellets of smoked buffalo mozzarella and rich tomato sauce, the flavors of smoke, fruit and cream mingle together in a wood-burning oven. 309 W 50th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (646-719-1043). $12.

7. Regular pie at Di Fara Pizza

No pizza is worth a two-hour wait. But pizza pilgrims don’t trek to this far-out Brooklyn neighborhood for the ‘’za alone. Sure, the pie here is wonderful, one of the best in the city as it has been since 1965: The chewy, charred crust is topped with swirls of bright tomato sauce, a lacing of superior mozzarella and grated Parm, snips of basil and a golden sheen of olive oil. But the pizza obsessives—a motley cross-section of camera-toting tourists, rotund goodfellas and young Brooklynites—are here to watch Dom De Marco. He’s the last of a generation of dough-pushing titans—including Gennaro Lombardi, Patsy Grimaldi and Anthony “Totonno” Pero—who were devoted not to building pizzeria empires, but to making pies, day in and day out. Moving at a glacial pace, DeMarco hunches over each pie, ladling sauce and sprinkling cheese, seemingly oblivious to the hungry hordes: Make time to witness the twilight of an era before it’s gone. 1424 Ave J at 15th St, Midwood, Brooklyn (718-258-1367). Slice $5, pie $28.

6. Brussels-sprouts-and-pancetta pie at Motorino

Given his background, the ascent of Mathieu Palombino—a Belgium-born, French-trained toque—to become one of the city’s most heralded pizzaioli wasn’t a predictable one, but his stature since opening his Williamsburg pie shop in 2008 is now undeniable. His East Village pizzeria—the lone location since the flagship shuttered in 2011—showcases a first-rate crust: stretchy, fluffy at the edges and splotched with char on the bottom. Faithful renditions of Neapolitan forms are first-rate, but it’s the brussels-sprouts-and-pancetta pie that deserves entry into the pizza pantheon. Thick with fior di latte, the creative round gets a fresh hit of bitterness from sleek brussels sprouts leaves, slight heat from thin garlic slices and smoky pork from tender pancetta cubes. 349 E 12th St between First and Second Aves (212-777-2644). $16.

5. Margherita at Kesté Pizza & Vino

In a city lousy with Neapolitan-style pizzerias, Kesté broke through the noise when it started slinging its own superb rounds in 2009. Chef-owner Roberto Caporuscio is the president of the U.S. branch of the highly regarded Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani—the certifying organization for aspiring Neapolitan-style pizzaioli—making him a veritableprofessor of pie. His ingredient list is a lesson in proper sourcing: a slow-mixed dough made Caputo 00 flour, a simple, sweet San Marzano tomato sauce and pools of homemade mozzarella. And his puffy crust—speckled with tiny, burnished bubbles—is a winning testament to years spent mastering technique. No matter what you top it with, this world-class pie sings. 271 Bleecker St between Cornelia and Jones Sts, New York, NY (212-243-1500). $13.

4. Anise and Anephew at Paulie Gee’s

Chef-owner Paul Giannone may be Brooklyn’s only pizzaiolo to make appearances in the pages of both gourmet glossies and the AARP’s magazine. While his peers looked toward retirement on the horizon, the then-56-year-old left a career in IT consulting to follow a lifelong passion, opening a rustic pizza tavern in 2010. Creative wood-fired pies—like the Hellboy and Greenpointer—on artfully scorched crusts won over legions of fans, and beat out young bucks for TONY’s 2011 Food & Drink Award for Best Pizza. His homage to anise is a masterwork. Fennel four ways might sound like overkill, but Giannone’s gentle melding is a symphony. Milky fior di latte plays off sweet anisette-spiked cream and tender braised fennel, while superlative Berkshire guanciale and fennel fronds punch it up with pork and fresh herb flavors. 60 Greenpoint Ave between Franklin and West Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-987-3747). $17.

3. Regular pie at Patsy’s Pizzeria

History hasn’t dulled the shine of this legendary pie shop. Opened in 1933 by one of New York’s pizza OGs, Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri, the spot served as training ground for Patsy Grimaldi, and a haunt for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Behind the iconic neon-red sign, the joint still turns out excellent thin-crust pies. Each pizza—pulled from a coal-fired oven with old-school bona fides—has the perfect ratio of scorch-spotted crust, tangy sauce, creamy mozzarella and salty Parm. Head straight to the East Harlem original: The leaden versions at the spin-off locations just don’t compare. 287-91 First Ave between 117th and 118th Sts (212-534-9783). $12.

2. Clam pie at Franny’s

Before there was Roberta’s or Paulie Gee’s or any of the locavore Italian joints that have proliferated recently in Kings County, there was Franny’s. The trailblazing Prospect Heights spot, run by husband-and-wife team Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, opened it in 2004. It practically pioneered the nouveau-Brooklyn-pizza genre: ambitious pies made with righteous ingredients and time-honored techniques. Among its superlative options, we adore the stunning clam pie. The chewy crust—blistered with a hearth-scented char—is cloaked in lush cream and studded with fresh, meaty clams and pristine parsley leaves. Chili flakes lend a balancing spice. 295 Flatbush Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-0221). $17.

1. Pie with basil at Lucali

In the annals of New York’s pizza history, the pie maker has been better known as a humble flour-dusted artisan, not a swoonworthy celebrity toque. Credit Mark Iacono, a veritable pizzaiolo lothario, for figuring out how to embody both. The mythology of the Carroll Gardens native combines acts of small-town heroism (he turned to the pizza biz to save the space that was once his childhood candy shop) and classic bad-boy romance (who could forget his headline-making knife fight over a mafiosa wife in 2011?). And his transportive pizzeria—romantically staged with tobacco-stained walls, dangling boxing mitts and strumming guitar music—demands waits up to three hours. Locals vie with the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z (who skipped the Grammys for a slice) for one of the weathered-wood tables in view of Iacono, brawny in a white tee and punching out dough by candlelight. But its wild popularity is more than hype: Iacono’s pizza is flawless—a thin and crispy crust boasts a char-speckled bottom and pleasant chew. He blankets it with two types of mozzarella (buffalo and low-moisture), plus long gratings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, all boosted by a bright, long-simmered sauce. Then he showers the round with a bouquet of basil rosettes, giving each transcendent bite an anisey perfume. 575 Henry St between Carroll St and 1st Pl, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-858-4086). $24.

Best Lobster Rolls in NYC

Being a huge fan of lobster rolls, when I saw this collection by Time Out New York it could not go ignored. The article can be seen below and here is a link to the full version. I will definitely be hitting up these locations in the near future. Please leave a comment if you’ve been to any of these or have a favorite stop of your own for lobster rolls! Enjoy!

Best lobster rolls in NYC: Five restaurants top our list

Littleneck, Red Hook Lobster Pound and more top our list for the finest lobster rolls in New York City.

By Time Out editors

Fifteen years after Rebecca Charles pushed the first lobster roll across the marble counter at Pearl Oyster Bar, the simple summertime sandwich has become a New York staple, with dozens of versions on menus all over town. We tried 17 lobster rolls—at no-frills upstarts, elegant midtown power players and new-wave clam shacks—weeding out tough meat and flabby buns to find the five best versions in NYC.

Maine lobster roll at Littleneck

At this refined clam shack near the Gowanus Canal, chef Joe Atonte poaches live lobsters in house, and nestles the picked meat in an airy, toasted split-top bun from Lepage Bakeries in Maine. Squirt the accompanying lemon wedge over the stunningly sweet meat—barely dressed with Hellmann’s mayonnaise, lemon juice and bits of diced celery—to add an extra hit of brightness. On the side: semi-sour and homemade bread-and-butter pickles. • (718-522-1921). $18.

288 Third Ave, (between Carroll and President Sts)

The Down East Maine lobster roll at the Standard Grill

High Line visitors can pop into chef Dan Silverman’s airy brasserie for his chefly update on the seaside classic. He tosses ocean-fresh lobster—plucked from 1.25-pound crustaceans after briefly boiling for six minutes—with homemade mayo, lemon juice, black pepper and finely chopped celery. A smoky grilled Pepperidge Farm roll cradles the bright seafood salad topped with fresh chives and microgreens, while a paper-lined copper cup of crispy french fries completes the meal. • (212-645-4100). $22.

848 Washington St, (at 13th St)

Lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster

Maine native Luke Holden—who trapped lobsters throughout his childhood summers in Kettle Cove, Maine—and partner Ben Conniff now operate five New York locations, plus a roving food truck, for their growing seafood empire. Holden’s story is now a part of New York lobster lore: The real-estate investment banker gave up a promising financial career to start a lobster-roll business, with his pops, Jeff, who sources the picked and cooked crustaceans directly from Maine fisherman. For his simple roll, Holden sprinkles the meat with a proprietary seasoning blend, flavored with celery salt and oregano, along with lemony butter. It’s stuffed with a smidgen of mayo in a golden-toasted New England–style bun from Country Kitchen in Lewiston, Maine. • Visit lukeslobster.com. $15.

Multiple locations

Maine-style lobster roll at Red Hook Lobster Pound

At the 2009 Brooklyn Flea, Susan Povich and her husband, Ralph Gorham, became the first to bring the lobster roll—already popular at full-service restaurants like Pearl Oyster Bar and Mary’s Fish Camp—to the streets of New York. Today the couple still operates that weekend market stand, plus a takeout shop in Red Hook and roving trucks in New York and Washington, D.C. Their unadulterated Maine lobster roll showcases improbably perfect claw and knuckle pieces. The tender meat is kissed with mayonnaise, zipped up with scallion and deposited on crisp shredded lettuce in a buttery bun. • Visit redhooklobsterpound.com. $16.

Multiple locations

Lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar

Inspired by childhood summers in Kennebunkport, Maine, Rebecca Charles opened her West Village restaurant in 1997, practically launching “New England seafood” as a restaurant category in New York. A decade and a half later, her lobster roll is still a knockout. She griddles the top-loading bun to give it a beautiful, browned crunch. It’s practically flattened under the weight of a heaping mound of home-cooked lobster salad: The huge chunks of the crustacean­—boosted with a slick of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, and enlivened with lemon juice and chive—taste of pure ocean. • (212-691-8211).

18 Cornelia St, (between Bleecker and W 4th Sts), 10014

Castello di Verrazzano, Italia

July 23, 2012

After leaving San Gimignano, we made a stop at Castello di Verrazzano for a tour, wine tasting, and a light dinner.

The drive up to the castle was a narrow dirt path meandering on the edge of steep cliffs falling down to rolling field of grapes lines with olive trees.

Our group strolled through the winery, the guide describing how they make their famous Chianti wine (which is exclusively from Tuscany) from a blend of grapes and taking us into the bowels of the castle where the wine is aged in barrels of varying size and material based on the type of wine. Before heading to our meal, we were granted more spectacular views on a terrace and shown where the balsamic vinegar ages.

The meal consisted of lots of wine! My favorite part of course. Beginning with a white, then the Chianti Classico before getting a chance to taste their Chianti Reserve. All of which were phenomenal. The meal was simple, a pasta dish, meats, and a salad. The conclusion of the meal brought a special treat. A sherry type wine that was sweet and spicy. Biscotti was served to dip into the wine. I am a lover of sherry, but I found this wine a bit too sweet. A couple from Australia summed it up perfectly, cough syrup.

Beautiful castle, delicious wine. With a healthy buzz, we got back on the bus and headed into Firenze.