This list was hard to think about, much less rank. That being said, I tried my damndest even though for some people, my palate is somewhat pedestrian. 😉
Cod, watermelon foam, pea shoots, sesame rice cracker, miso
Spamwise says: Too much style, not enough substance. Pretentious codswallop in the Lower East Side, though the hostess uniform (with Pam Grier hot pants) has the potential to turn me straight. Savories work better than sweets. It takes a special talent to turn foie gras into a Kit-Kat bar.
Apricot, plum, heirloom tomatoes, watercress, tomato sorbet, tomato foam
Blue Hill Stone Barns: B+ (borderline A-)
Spamwise says: Food that tastes of its essence in a magical rural setting in upstate New York. It’s Chez Panisse East. My only quibble is that the kitchen could learn a bit of deftness when it comes to seasoning. Salt is not the enemy. Apart from that, I do wish it were closer. I’d go all the time.
Brisket, Kreuz sausage, roast chicken in all their glory
Hill Country: C+
Spamwise says: Oh, where to begin. Dry, cardboard-tasting brisket. Kreuz sausage was sort of okay, as was the roast chicken. Mac-and-cheese at $16 for a quart-size container. Yes, you heard that right. $16. For $16, I expect a tray and a half to feed a family of four. Fucking highway robbery! Banana pudding was nothing special, though I liked the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. One was enough for me however.
Branzino wrapped in potato, leek, white asparagus and served with huckleberry sauce
Spamwise says: Too precious for its own good. The professional critics liked it; I hated it. Narrow railroad apartment-type space that reminds you of a dentist’s office or an elongated bathroom. Food that needs more care in the kitchen and less handmade Italian scarves. Chairs could use a lesson in comfort. If you call for the check, it should not take the waitstaff a millenium to bring it to you.
Fava bean tortelli, fava beans, white asparagus, Gulf shrimp, tarragon
Spamwise says: What can I say that I haven’t said already in previous entries? Hearth remains a perennial favorite. It’s not serving four-star cuisine which perversely enough is a good thing. The food is amazingly accessible and more to the point, utterly delicious. I wouldn’t have it any other way.