Root + Revel

The Best Things We Ate in January 2016

Is it seriously already February? I swear just yesterday it was NYE and I was making short ribs and writing about the best things we ate in 2015. Just like that list, this one is a mashup of the most delicious restaurant meals and homecooked recipes–only this list is just for the month of January, rather than the entire year.

Thai boar collar, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

It’s part of a new monthly series here on Root + Revel called “The Best Things We Ate”, a way to share all of the incredible restaurants I discover as a full-time food writer, and the recipes that don’t always make it onto the site (and those that stood out the most!). So let’s get into it:

HERE ARE THE BEST THINGS WE ATE IN JANUARY:

Boar Collar at Pok Pok (NYC)

Thai boar collar, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

2016 started on a high note, as we traveled to New York City with Mattie’s West Coast family to celebrate a belated Christmas. Three INCREDIBLE Broadway shows (we’ve had the Hamilton soundtrack full on BLASTING on repeat ever since we got home!) may have taken center stage, but the food was anything but an understudy. Perhaps my favorite dish of all: this insanely flavorful boar collar at Pok Pok in Brooklyn…easily one of the very best things I’ve EVER eaten. It’s charcoal-grilled, tender meat with all those classic bright, tangy Thai flavors: garlic, coriander, soy, sugar, chiles and lime. Not pictured: me drinking the sauce.

Wild Rice Hoppin’ John

Hoppin' John, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

This was the very first meal I cooked in 2016 and it’s remained one of my favorites–this healthy twist on classic Hoppin’ John is gluten-free and boasts a colorful and nutritious boost from peppers, scallions and whole grain wild rice. DELICIOUS!

Beef Taco Lettuce Wraps

Taco lettuce wraps, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

After we returned from NYC, we started Whole30 and I’ve been using this awesome Paleo cookbook for recipe inspiration. No grains has been tough, but using lettuce wraps as a sub for tortillas has proven very successful. These ground beef tacos (seasoned with chile powder, cumin, garlic, oregano and cayenne) have all my favorite fixins: avocado, red onion, scallions, salsa and (of course) Cholula. And they’re insanely quick and easy to make!

Betel Leaf Wraps at Uncle Boon’s (NYC)

Thai betel leaves, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

Unable to find any passable Thai food in Atlanta, I knew our trip to NYC had to include a few stops to get our fish sauce fix. At Uncle Boon’s, betel leaves are filled with an outrageously flavorful and textured mix of ginger, lime, toasted coconut, dried shrimp, chiles and peanuts resulting in a roller coaster of tastes to keep your palette entertained. Perfection! 

Roasted Acorn Squash Breakfast Bowls

Squash breakfast bowl, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

Again inspired by the Practical Paleo cookbook, I decided to mix things up at breakfast time with roasted acorn squash filled with decadent coconut manna (butter), pomegranate seeds, coconut flakes and pecans, all spiked with warming cinnamon and nutmeg. The perfect winter breakfast bowl!

Everything Bagel with Scallion Cream Cheese (NYC)

NYC Bagel, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

With the impending doom of Whole30 happening at the end of our trip, I knew I had to squeeze in a little gluten and dairy before we got home. What better way to indulge than with an iconic New York bagel (everything is the only bagel flavor that needs to exist) smothered in scallion cream cheese. We got this beauty from Ess-A-Bagel in Midtown and it was easily one of the best bagels I’ve ever had, even if I had to wait 25 minutes for it. #worthit

Kale Pesto Grilled Chicken

Kale Pesto Chicken, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

One of my favorite sauces to make from scratch is pesto and I’m constantly playing around with the mixture depending on what flavors and nutrients I’m going for. In keeping with Whole30, this time I decided to blend kale, pine nuts, pecans, garlic and olive oil together for a superfood boost (sans parmesan–#whole30problems–BUT I’ve heard nutritional yeast is a great vegan swap for cheese and plan to try that next time!).

Nigiri at O-Ya (NYC)

Nigiri at O-Ya, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to sushi, and after reading Time Out’s Best Sushi Restaurants in America last year, I knew I had to try one of the winners during our time in NYC. O-Ya blew me away, as each of their jet-fresh nigiri is artfully adorned with specialty garnishes, like fried oysters with squid ink bubbles, king salmon with caramel dashi, hamachi with banana peppers, chutoro with herb sauce, ocean trout with torched tomato, potato chip with shaved truffles (YES! potato chip sushi… what a revelation!), uni with sea salt, needlefish and more oysters with cucumber mignonette. I’m still dreaming about this meal.

Grilled Octopus at Marea (NYC)

Grilled Octopus, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

Despite how it may appear, we actually tried to eat as light and clean as we could during out trip, while still checking out the city’s top restaurants. Asian food is great for this–lots of seafood, light sauces, little dairy–which is why we went to half a dozen Asian spots. So is Mediterranean food, and nowhere is it more delicious and elegant than at Marea. Admittedly, you’ll have to break out your fancy pants for this meal, but the service is excellent, the food delicate and beautiful and this perfectly cooked octopus was one of the best I’ve had (which is saying a lot, considering I order octopus any time it’s on the menu).

Pastrami Tacos at Empellon (NYC)

Pastrami tacos, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

On our last trip to NYC way back in 2012, the Kordsmeier clan fell deeply, madly in love with Empellon, a hip taco temple run by one of the city’s most impressive chefs, Alex Stupak. I’ve written about Empellon many times since (here, here and here, for starters) and it’s now a favorite tradition of ours to stop in for margaritas and their signature short rib pastrami tacos–the mustard seeds are so tangy and tantalizing, the perfect complement to the rich and tender pastrami.

Seared Tuna Salad at Bergdorf’s (NYC)

Salad at Bergdorf's, one of the best things we ate this month. Check out the series for the full delicious round up of the best restaurant meals to homecooked recipes. | rootandrevel.com

You guys, I really hit the jackpot when it comes to Mothers-In-Law–not only did mine organize this epic trip to NYC, but she insisted on taking me for lunch and champagne at Bergdorf’s. This salad was delicious, it was, but I’m including this spot on my list more for the experience. Sipping bubbly, sharing stories overlooking the park and oogling over all the beautiful handbags (that I could never afford) was the cherry on top of a perfect trip. Thanks, madre! 🙂

What was the best thing you ate this month?

Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser

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