The best things we ate this year

The best things we ate this year
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Reporters and editors name the finest things they stuffed in their mouths in Brooklyn in 2014.

Holy pozole

There is nothing like the food of the Aztecs. Taqueria La Placita Puebla on Broadway in Bushwick has all sorts of stellar traditional Mexican dishes, but the best thing on the menu is the pozole soup. This pre-Columbian dish is savory, complex and scrumptious. It is a good representation of what the Mexicans ate before the conquistadors moved in.

The main ingredient in the soup is hominy, an oversized type of corn that is rarely seen here in Brooklyn. In fact, that is what pozole means. The soup also has meat.

Anthropologists say that in the Aztec days, the meat used in pozole was sometimes human, taken from the bodies of prisoners. La Placita Puebla just makes it with run-of-the-mill pork, but that does not make it any less tasty. The soup is served with shakers full of chili powder and paprika, a garnish of sprouts, and some wedges of lime. It also comes with two vegetarian tostadas, making it one of the most economical and satisfying meals that I have had in the borough. — Danielle Furfaro

Taqueria La Placita Puebla [830 Broadway between Ellery and Park streets in Bushwick, (718) 302–1092].

Comfort food

Istanbul Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay is the best place I ate all year — and not just because of the food, though the Turkish meat pie I had there — reminiscent of a calzone — was quite good. But the best part about the restaurant was the service.

I’m cold in restaurants year-round. Most eateries blast the air conditioning in the summer and the bay’s waterfront establishments are usually drafty in the winter, but Istanbul Restaurant is prepared for every poor-circulation patron. Before I even sat down, a waiter asked me if I wanted a blanket and I think I gasped when he produced a fluffy turquoise one. It was soft and smelled like it had been tumbled on high heat with two dryer sheets.

So bring your friends, bring your spouse, and most importantly, bring your grandma who wears five layers. — Vanessa Ogle

Istanbul Restaurant [1715 Emmons Ave. between E. 16th Street and Sheepshead Bay Road in Sheepshead Bay, (718) 368–3587].

Sounds fishy

I’m hooked! The fish and chips at Downtown’s Ocean Fresh Fish Market is the best thing I ate all year. It is a no-frills market where you can stuff yourself to the gills for about $5. I stumbled on this gem one evening as a man pled with the owner through a half-closed security gate.

“My wife sent me all the way here — I can’t go back empty-handed,” I recall him saying.

I knew that was a good sign and went back the next day. — Max Jaeger

Ocean Fresh Fish Market [70 Willoughby St. between Bridge and Lawrence streets Downtown, (718) 596–0720].

Broth sides now

The Downtown restaurant Ganso is a sharp break from the fish sandwiches, hot dogs, and souvlaki that I usually eat near The Brooklyn Paper office. It is tucked away on Bond Street amidst the looming development projects just off of Fulton Mall. It is not a place you expect to stumble across an awesome bowl of ramen, but that is what you’ll find there. I like the stock version best — the Ganso kakuni. There is just something about pork belly swimming in a salty broth surrounded by chewy noodles that I can’t get enough of. I even like the awkward shoveling of the strands with chop sticks. The difficulty makes every bite taste a bit better, like it is an accomplishment of sorts. Challenge yourself to a bowl. It is a great way to warm up. — Matthew Perlman

Ganso [25 Bond St. at Livingston Street in Downtown, (718) 403–0900, www.ganso‌nyc.com].

Prison food

The best thing I ate last year was an apple. More specifically, the best thing I ate this year was a red macintosh apple served up by the New York Police Department during my overnight incarceration at One Police Plaza while covering the second night of the still-ongoing Eric Garner protests.

Jail food has a deserved reputation for nastiness, and the so-called “cheese sandwiches” on the menu that night were a good representation of that. But cold and crisp with nary a bruise or a spot, the apples were a delight. When I bit into the fruit I had probably been awake for close to 24 hours, and was still nursing the handcuff marks on my wrists, but the juicy fruit of biblical temptation brought me back to life.

I hope never to go back to the holding cells of One Police Plaza, but I will remember that apple fondly for the rest of my days. — Noah Hurowitz

One Police Plaza [Police Plaza Path and Park Row in Manhattan, (646) 610–5000, www.nyc.gov/‌nypd].

Taco swell

The best thing I ate last year was tacos al pastor at Cholulita Bella Deli in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a prime offering from a taqueria run by folks from Puebla, the best-represented Mexican province in Brooklyn. The meat comes in morsels that are seared and moist on the inside, the onions, limes, and radish slices are fresh, and a drizzle of table cream takes the whole package from a heavy snack to a decadent entree, if you’re ordering three.

I have been stopping in for a few years, and for most of that time, hidden among the juices in the fridge were cans of pulque, the sickly sweet beer equivalent made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. The last time I visited a few months back, the pulque was gone, so thirsty diners may have to settle for mango juice or grapefruit soda. The tacos are still awesome. — Nathan Tempey

Cholulita Bella Deli [888 Broadway between Lewis Avenue and Stockton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, (347) 435–0813].

Whole latte love

In February, The Brooklyn Paper’s news section had a minor viral hit (by which I mean the story was quickly appropriated and re-reported by other, larger news outlets) with a story about a new Scandinavian coffee shop in Greenpoint selling a $7 (later raised to $10) latte. Many commenters were suitably outraged at this latest apparent harbinger of the death of Old Brooklyn, until the next thing to be shake their fists at came along (a performance art duo decided to live inside a giant hamster wheel for 10 days).

First off, apologies to the coffee shop, Budin — I was the one who passed that story on to the news department. (Unless it brought you more customers, in which case: you’re welcome). Secondly, apologies to outraged readers, but I was delighted by the opening of Budin, which is bringing some of the finest coffee in the world roasted by the best roasters in the world to New York City.

So the best thing I ate (well, drank) this year was just such a coffee — grown by an esteemed farm in Panama, roasted by famed Norwegian roaster, and deftly prepared in an Aeropress. It was delicious — sweet and floral with bright, citric acidity — and it cost around $8, which I was perfectly happy to part with. — Ruth Brown

Budin [114 Greenpoint Ave. between Franklin and Manhattan Avenues in Greenpoint, (347) 844–9639, www.budin‌-nyc.com].

They’ve got you covered: Istanbul Restaurant owners Hicri Atas and Riza Atas with their signature offering: a blanket.
Photo by Steve Solomonson