In essence, it was a year of achievement and a year of growth; and of greater consequence, a year filled with much rediscovery. I can say with complete certainty that it was within the previous span of 365 days where I came away with the knowledge that necessity emanates from the heart as opposed to the mind, for the heart is the place where the soul seeks its nourishment. Along this route of rediscovery, I've enjoyed the acquaintance of many new friends, and to my greater fulfillment, have rekindled bonds with old pals and cherished family members. As I've traveled this path, I've learned to separate what is important and what is not, while absorbing the lesson that I can only control what is within my sphere of influence and nothing more. And I am most satisfied by the fact that through it all - through the ebbs and flows each day offered - I've managed to keep an eye on the big prize; outer harmony and inner happiness. It is a balancing act few ever achieve.
Each year at this time, I try to recall the events of the previous twelve months that have impacted me and seek to take away my most joyous moments. Historically, at this time of year I tend to get somewhat introspective or even nostalgic as I ponder the course life has chosen me to follow. In terms of Foodidude.com, the previous year is one I look back on with fondness for there was much joy and many successes to celebrate and in the end, that's all any of us can ask for.
In closing, I thought I would list fourteen of the most memorable Foodidude moments that occurred during the 2014 year. And although happenstance has led me to far more than I could ever hope to mention here, these fourteen never fail to bring a smile to my face when I recall their occurrence.
So to my family and friends, associates and acquaintances, readers and contributors; have a healthy and prosperous New Year. And remember, "Life is an adventure. Eat it."
#14 - Stumbling Into "Broadway Bites" by UrbanSpace
In retrospect, I forget what exactly brought us to the Big Apple on that particularly balmy, summer day; more than likely, it was yet another outing spent doing research for my upcoming book. Either way, as we approached Greeley Square, we noticed throngs of people walking down the center of Broadway amidst a number of tents which read: "Broadway Bites by UrbanSpace". Now I
This particular version of UrbanSpace's pop-up market was located in Greeley Square Park at the intersection of 33rd Street and Broadway. To my delight, on hand were a huge assortment of chefs, small culinary businesses and artisan producers. Many of these vendors worked in uniquely configured outdoor kitchens to create an array of unique offerings that were not only diverse, but prepared with an eye toward quality.
Vendors like; Roberta’s, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Mayhem & Stout, Mexicue, Brooklyn Taco, Gelato Ti Amo, La Newyorkina, Onigiri by Tampopo and Breads Bakery made this an unexpected find a refreshing oasis to stumble upon.
#13 - JerseyFest and the Food Truck Mash-Up
With close to thirty vendors, it was easy to find something for every taste - Barbeque, Pulled Pork, Sausage, Cheese Steaks, Bacon, Pickles, Meatballs, Empanadas, Ice Cream - whatever one could want could be found on wheels. But for me, the great eats was just the backdrop for some lasting friendships I would carry into future days - namely Chef Larry Rosenberg and Kane Jeong of Bacon Bites - delicious chocolate covered bacon. But bacon is only half the story here...
Rosenberg's side-show antics have earned him the moniker, "P.T. Bacon" and his wackiness is simply contagious. With piggy hats, piggy sunglasses, plush pink pigs, stickers, decals and of course, Kane dressed as "Smokey the Pig", he lures passers-by into his tent to taste his delectable goodies. Once inside, he entertains their sensibilities with his zany sense of humor and their tastebuds with his yummy delights.
Over the previous seven months, we have forged quite a great friendship; one for which I am thankful. I also love how my friend describes himself as "a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn who has an unorthodox infatuation with bacon. For me, "oink" is the new "oy vey." Oink oink, Larry.
#12 - A Visit to The Meatball Shop in New York City's
However, "jaunt" is perhaps describing our excursion a tad too nonchalantly. In fact, we were there on business to conduct an interview and photo shoot with a neighborhood restaurateur. As is usually our business practice, we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Less typical, was the fact we had no plan B for arriving a solid two hours early.
We decided upon a casual stroll through the East Village to discuss the finer points of the interview we were about to conduct. However, the weather had no intention of cooperating. For our part, we acted as real troopers; braving the elements and doing our best to convince ourselves we were catching the village's sights on a far milder day than it actually was. Between the jokes and laughs that emanated from trembling lips, the inclement morning was steadily having its way with us and our casual stroll quickly turned into a near sprint trying to dodge chilling gusts of wind. With scarves pulled tightly about our necks and gloved hands stuffed deep in our pockets, we knew we had to get an alternate plan together quick. Coffee!
We looped around Greenwich Avenue intent on finding a local coffeehouse to hunker down in and kill another hour or so. We passed a coffee shop or two, but in truth, they were either exceptionally crowded or uninspiring, at best. It was nearing noon and our bellies were on "Foodidude Time" as we found ourselves before an inviting storefront that led to an establishment that seemed to be doing a brisk business. We momentarily glanced at each other looking for any sign of acknowledgement. I believe my eyebrow twitched and without uttering a word, we dashed for the door.
Inside, we found what has become one of our favorite lunch spots in the city filled with great food, great music and great people. The warmth was evident and I'm sure the environment is exactly what owners Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow had in mind when they decided to join forces and create The Meatball Shop.
After some wonderful grub and a couple of brews, we were filled with glowing vibes that overflowed right into our scheduled interview. Overall, it was one of those magical days that exceeded expectations and all I have to do is close my eyes and to remember it in explicit detail.
#11 - An Afternoon at "Virgola"with Joe Marazzo
And that atmosphere is exactly what Virgola's owner, Joseph Marazzo, had in mind when he decided to convert a six-foot wide 19th-Century alleyway into an "Oyster & Italian Wine Bar" that in his own words resemble, "...those dark side streets in Rome that you'd pass through while riding your motorino at night. A dark, intimate place, definitely more Rome than Venice." .
The afternoon spent interviewing Joseph Marazzo was not only intellectually fulfilling, but a complete satiation of the senses. In addition to the romantic mood that emanated from walls of his establishment that spans a mere six feet in width, our palates were dazzled with an array of wines that included: Prosecco Gujot, Vermentino Donnikalia and Montepulciano Tre Saggi. These wines were hand chosen as the perfect compliment to the delicious platters of food put before us in various courses: Island Creek Oysters, Montauk Pearl Oysters, fresh ceviche, tuna tartar, shrimp cocktail, Salumi (Felino and Bresaola), Formaggi (cheeses), and a delicious Funghi Tartufati - a wild mushroom salad. It was a spectacular and exquisite array that ranged from the scintillating to the sublime.
#10 - Learning the cooking craft under Chef Michael Flynn
Earlier this year, I wrote a review on a local gourmet market - Mary Ann's Gourmet Market - that didn't seem to be a market at all. In fact, its gourmet breakfasts and dinners appeared to be far more polished and composed with culinary precision than could ever be expected from a mere gourmet deli. I found the whole experience to be a study in deception, for in fact, it appeared to be an establishment of far higher culinary expertise dressed in a lunch market's clothing. And I soon found out why.
The experience of writing that review led to yet another opportunity; the chance to learn to cook on a regular basis under the tutelage of Chef Michael Flynn for the better part of the past year. Chef Flynn was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and along with his better half, Maria Flynn, is the proprietor of Mary Ann's Gourmet Market in Mahwah, NJ.
From that seedling has developed a friendship with Mike and an admiration I would never have expected to come my way. It has been a pure joy to cook beside him on a steady basis and learn from someone who can seemingly extract flavor from simple ingredients with utter and complete ease. He has viewed me as a peer from day one and that is something I appreciate. The knowledge he has imparted upon me in regard to the art of flavor, has not only honed my talents as a cook, but has given me unique insights into the restaurant business I would otherwise never have had, and for that I am grateful.
#9 - The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival
I love garlic. No, you don't understand; "I love garlic." In fact, it is in my opinion one of the most glorious bulbs of flavor I could ever encounter in my kitchen or have in my culinary arsenal. And I'm sure this fact has little to do with my Italian heritage and everything to do with the fact that I just love the flavor of garlic!
That is why when I first heard about the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival I nearly jumped out of my shorts with excitement.
#8 - An Afternoon with The Meatball King of New Jersey
Johnny is in the business of meatballs, but he is also an entertainer; both on television and in the streets where he serves his delicious meatballs from what he calls the "Ball Bus". He promotes himself and his schtick with the ease of P.T. Barnum and he laughs easily and often; particularly at the character he's created in Johnny Meatballs. But in Johnny's point of view, there is something far more important than the laughs and the entertaining and the food... namely, his family.
Johnny Meatballs is a character who makes me laugh, keeps me entertained and feeds me delicious Italian goodies; Johnny DeCarlo is a friend I value immensely. And the day I spent as his home was one I shall always remember with fondness. Thanks, Johnny.