The Ultimate Duck

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Cask & Larder – Orlando, FL

There is nothing quite like a Christmas ham, or should I say, there used to be nothing quite like a Christmas ham until Cask & Larder created their Christmas Miracle, the Duck Ham. Yes, naughty never tasted so nice. Faithfully emulating the pig that inspired it, the duck version, like any good apprentice, surpasses the master. Guess you could say it is the ultimate “Angry Birds” revenge. Served over a bed of nutty faro, the contrast between sweet and savory and earthy is like getting everything your mouth had on its wish list.

Elan – New York, NY

As if it weren’t bad enough that the duck muscled in on pork’s turf with the Duck Ham (above), now the bird is going after the cow. Perhaps this is retribution for the long-running Chick Fil A campaign? Well, whatever the reason, Elan’s duck & foie gras burger puts about 98% of your cow burgers in the city to shame, save the Black Label and the Bash. Admittedly it’s more of a hoity-toity burger, but if hoity-toity tastes like this, who gives a cow’s ass? Also, if you’re really into self loathing or simply find that you’ve been too healthy lately and want to swing the pendulum in the other direction, I highly recommend getting it with the Bearnaise sauce and a fried egg, coz you’re gonna die anyway, might as well do it with a smile on your face, because as the famous Long Island philosopher Billy Joel once said, “Only the Good Die Young!”

Mizuna – Denver, CO

There is an old saying, “Fuck a Duck.” And albeit crass, I finally understand its true meaning, because if ever there were a duck I would consider for such a bestial act, it would probably be this one. Granted it’s also dead so I suppose I’d be committing necrophilia at the same time. Oh my, has this review gone off the rails. I started with Christmas and now I’ve devolved into doubling down on sexual deviance. Well, getting back to it (assuming I haven’t already lost you), this duck, served with with foie gras dirty rice, is a Cajun masterpiece like no other, with the two poultry-born indulgences teaming up to make a buttery counterbalance to the spicy grains. It might just be the best thing a duck has achieved since Daffy.

 

 

 

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The Ultimate Doughnut

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Boon Fly Café – Napa, CA

This is the purest entry of the three, served as a classic combination that could even rival Oreo’s and milk, “coffee and doughnuts.” Now I didn’t try the coffee, but giddy giddy are those doughnuts good! Always served warm to order. Perfect contrasting textures. And served with a chocolate dipping sauce that deserves it’s own Ultimates write up.

 

Doughnut Plant – New York, NY

There are several doughnuts at the plant that are worthy of adulation, but only one is SO good it should probably be on the controlled substance list. The crème brulée doughnut. Done true to its name, the outer sugary glaze is almost caramelized so as to mimic the crunchy crackle of the torch-seared brulée top. And as your teeth break through to the custard inside, the crème side of the equation hits you in the kisser and it’s game over. Or should I say, “fin.”

 

Mizuna – Denver, CO

While these last ones are technically beignets and not doughnuts, I fail to see the difference. At the end of the day it’s all just fried, sugary dough, right? So, assuming you agree, just go to Mizuna and get the apple ginger beignets. They are so well balanced in flavor it’s hard to ask for more from a doughnut. The ginger is just faint enough to bring its refreshing lightness, without trying to overpower the sweetness of the apple and steal the show. And what a show it is.

The Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese

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Mizuna – Denver, CO

By now every place and their grandmother has lobster mac and cheese, which will make this review seem like a big “me too,” but as far as I’m concerned, this is the only place to ever get it right. I mean, just think about the dish fundamentally. Cheese and seafood? Not a frequent culinary combo (except maybe on a Filet-O-Fish at Mickey D’s) and for good reason. It’s why most people don’t get grated parm over linguini and clams. So, whoever had the idea of putting it on lobster was a bit of a loon in my opinion. Well, that is until I ate at Mizuna. You see, what makes Mizuna’s work and the others fail is the choice of cheese. A remarkably creamy mascarpone that teeters on being a sauce as opposed to melted cheddar. And as we all know, sauce and seafood go swimmingly together (sorry).

 

Virgil’s – New York, NY

The only way I can think to describe Virgil’s Mac & Cheese would be to call it “dirty.” Not as in unclean, but rather unrefined, visceral, crave-inducing naughtiness. For example, the spice alone puts this way up there for me, but it’s no secret. Just a healthy dose of black pepper. Yet it gives it this incredible hit that no other mac seems to grasp. The other thing they do is ever so slightly overcook it. Purposefully, to get that slight burnt crunch on the outer clumps of cheese, while still maintaining a glorious creamy blend of cheeses beneath that crusty epidermis. And that’s really it. Nothing more. But trust me, it is the Mac Daddy.