Blanca

261 Moore St. Brooklyn, NY 11206(347) 799-2807blancanyc.com

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Had I never been to Momofuku Ko prior to my visit to Blanca, I’d probably be swooning even more than I’m about to, but unfortunately the concept does come off a bit as a copy cat (without the affordability hook). A high-end, chef’s tasting only offered to a dozen stools overlooking the kitchen amidst a purposefully pompless dining room.

What’s different is that it’s Italian and if you’ve ever been to Roberta’s for pizza, than you’re probably already drooling, because you kinda know what this chef is capable of. Then again, you also kinda don’t, because Carlo Mirachi is about to open a can of culinary whoop-ass on you that you’d likely never come to expect from a pie slinger, slinging around Ultimates instead, as if they were going out of style.

To get here, there are few things you need to know. First, make a reservation fast, because as I mentioned above, there aren’t many seats and there are only two seatings a night. Second, be willing to eat when you normally wouldn’t. The first seating is at 6pm and the second is at 8:30pm. I recommend the earlier one so you have time to digest. I also recommend booking during Passover when you weed out about half of the competition to get a table. Third, be prepared to drop some coin, because you HAVE to get the “wine” pairings. I use quotes because many of the pairings are not actually wine (more on that later). And finally, to get to the dining room itself, you must first check in at the front desk in Roberta’s, where they will then escort you to the back corner of the ever-expanding Roberta’s compound, to a nondescript building set apart from the rest of the hullaballoo.

Kicking things off, they get you in the mood with a pallet-cleansing sip of Evil Twin “Blanca Biere de Table” yes, beer of all things. But nice touch on the “blanca.” Well played.

First on the food docket comes a little taste of glass shrimp with sprinkling of kohlrabi and black sesame, paired with a crisp Hugues Godme Extra Brut Champagne. It’s a nice, light start to set the mood, artfully balanced and just understated enough to give them something to build to.

Unfortunately, the second course kinda dropped the baton. A house-cured pancetta that was as white as ghost, both looking and tasting like a pure ribbon of fat. It was easily the worst course of the night and so off-putting that I honestly recommend skipping it entirely and saving more room for the brilliance to come.

And Johnny come quickly, with an early Ultimate, served in the form of a cold soup, made with garbanzo beans and autumn olives, which that alone is impressive, because let’s be honest, it’s not like garbanzo beans are a treasure trove of flavor, so to get that much pizzazz out of it is easily worthy of a golf clap.

Chasing that was a bit of a wasted bullet with a ginger-soaked apple and macadamia shavings. Nothing to write home about, and not much to blog about either. And sadly, neither were the next two courses, the sweet potato with buttermilk and the peas with ramps. All paired with a Rose and not a one worth remembering.

But just when my faith was failing, BOOM another Ultimate. The lamb carbonara is balls out jaw dropping. Sporting a healthy, peppery kick this carbonara kicks some serious ass. And adding to the ass-kickage is the pairing with a vermouth from Hammer & Tongs that is so inventive that it is only bested by its complementary perfection with the pasta.

Then, right on the heels of such pasta brilliance, they do it again with an agnolotti filled with a smoky lapsang souchong (Chinese tea). And while I would love to wax poetic about it, the next pasta course managed to blow them all away. A spicy blood orange nduja (pork sausage) ravioli that is so fucking good that it will make you angry that they only give you one of them. But perhaps the most shockingly amazing thing about this pasta is that the pairing deserves an Ultimate unto itself. A stout beer with the most badass name in history, Siberian Black Magic Panther Imperial Stout. I don’t even know what it means, but what I do know it that it goes hella good with spicy blood orange nduja ravioli.

Sadly the rollercoaster returned, however, as the stracciatella with beef lardo and the king crab with bottarga brought me back to Earth. But barely did my feet even touch the ground before being swept into the stratosphere once again by the “bread and butter,” also known as pizza crust and homemade salted butter. I know it sounds so simple that it teeters on lame, but if lame tastes this friggin’ good, then sign me up for a lame-a-palooza.

Back to blah was the loin of wagyu beef and the pork with grapefruit, proving out a theme, if you ask me, that the meat dishes, across the board, proved to be the biggest misses of the night.

Fortunately the hits were so strong that it made up for it in spades, coming in every shape and form, including even a palate cleanser, such as the pineapple, cilantro sorbet.

Then, capping the night, we were met with a finale of desserts set to the theme of a late harvest Riesling from the Finger Lakes in New York. The first of the lot being sourdough gelato with yuzu crème. So inventive. So good. You really have to try it to understand.

After that, the sunchoke with cardamom, the cashew coconut cake and the chocolate peanut butter cookie were much more in the mortal realm, but after such heights I think it was probably prudent to ease you back into the real world.

4 teeth

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Vespa

Neyzen Tevfik Cad. • Marina Yacht Club, 48400 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 252 3161228

Vespa-Restaurant

Regardless of how good the food is in Turkey, if you are spending any length of time there, eventually you are bound to suffer from meze and fish fatigue. This is when I like to mix it up with something like Ox Burger or Vespa.

Vespa is a very capable pizza joint (and night club) located right on the marina, like so many other restaurants in the greater Bodrum area, however in Bodrum proper it’s pretty rare to be on the boat side of the road West of the castle, which they are. And which is nice.

Service is usually a tad rushed because the place seems to be packed every night. Guess we’re not the only ones who get meze fatigue?

The food, as I intimated already is solid. And I mean that only by Turkish standards. I mean c’mon, it’s not like you can compare it to Roberta’s or Grimadli’s, but for the Bodrum area in Turkey it does quite well. Not that pizza is the most foreign of cuisines to Turks, after all, the Romans did in fact consider Turkey part of home once upon a time. And with dishes like lahamacun and pide, who are we kidding, they are basically pizza-like objects already. But I don’t want to discount anything here either. If making pizza was easy, everyone would do it. Yet only Vespa seems to get the important alchemy of sauce and crust.

And having had many a pie here I can confidently say that they are pretty consistent, so feel free to let your cravings guide you. Salads are also good, but a little more on the simple side. Nothing too inventive. Just the classics. In fact, the only twist I recall seeing on the menu is a pie with sucuk on it (spicy Turkish sausage). Not exactly revolutionary, but a nice local spin on a tried and true. And that right there sums Vespa up in a nutshell. Tried and true and never disappoints.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Pizza

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I have been dreading this post for a while because there are SO many great pizza places out there it’s hard for me to narrow down. I mean the list of honorable mentions is easily in the double digits. The other reason I was dreading it is because everyone thinks they know the best pizza place and are extremely passionate about it. So I can only imagine I will get comments to the contrary below. But, I say bring it on! I’m always happy to try new places and revise a post.

La Pizza Fresca – New York, NY

Believe it or not, this is the ONLY pizza joint in the United States that is recognized by the Official Commission of Pizza in Italy. And believe it or not, I’m not making that up. The reason for their approval is that apparently La Pizza Fresca is the only place in the country that makes pizza according to the authentic Italian tradition. Now, if you’re normal, you probably don’t even care about this. All that matters is how the pies taste. Well, Mama Mia! The primavera is easily the best veggie pie I’ve ever had and the Quattro Frommagi is easily the best cheese pie. The veggies are fire roasted and so fresh they pop off the pie and dance in your mouth. And the Quattro? For the first time ever, I could literally taste each individual cheese shining through like a quartet of cheesy complexity. The only rub is the wait. Not that the place is ever really that packed, strangely enough. But I suppose it’s because the “authentic traditional” method is painfully slow.

Roberta’s Pizza – Brooklyn, NY

Consider me stung, because I loves me the Bee Sting. Granted I’m an easy target for a spicy and sweet combo, but this pie is on point all around. Get it? Pizzas are round. While you’re busy groaning, let me explain what makes it such. First, it’s the spicy soppressata, with its slight crispy char. Then, they drizzle honey over the top and that’s when the magic happens, blending with the sauce and the cheese and the oils of the meat. All sitting on their killer dough. It’s morta bene.

Grimaldi’s – Brooklyn, NY

There’s nothing fancy going on here. This is just straight up New York pie at its absolute best. Don’t get too cute with too many toppings. Just stick to your basics like pepperoni and mushroom and be prepared to bow like Wayne’s World at the knees of a pizza god.

Oenotri – Napa, CA

I’m a borderline mushroom groupie. Seriously. If there were AA for mushroom-eating I might be sitting in a 12 step somewhere right now, “Hi, my name is Ferocious Foodie and I’m a mushroom-a-holic.” So, it was probably a foregone conclusion that a mushroom pizza would be on this list. But not just any mushroom pie, this is gourmet all the way. From the impeccable choice of fresh cremini mushrooms to their almost bone marrow-like saute, making for a wonderfully creamy, tender top, aboard a perfectly contrasted crunchy crust. No wonder Thomas Keller loves this place.