Cold Bang Bang Ji Chicken Soba
Cocoron is my favorite noodle shop in NYC, but I never had a favorite Cocoron dish (they're all awesome)...until now. Behold, Cold Bang Bang Ji Chicken Soba. Why the hell haven't I eaten this combo of cold soba, shredded chicken breast, julienned cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, crunchy bits of deep fried soba, and spicy sesame sauce earlier? (Ok, I know why: I avoid spicy food due to my food sensitivities. But I took a risk and the spicy sauce didn't kill me, so yeah! Thumbs up!) I'd eat this any time of the year, but it's especially great for the summer. —Robyn Lee, AHT editor and staff photographer
Roasted Chicken and Banana Blossom Salad
Uncle Boon's pulled chicken and banana blossom salad doesn't exactly resemble anything I ate in Thailand, but it's damn good nonetheless: meaty hunks of white and dark meat are mixed with crunchy raw banana blossoms in a citrusy, spicy coconut milk dressing, then topped with fried shallots, peanuts, and cilantro. Every bite was a little party on my fork—textures and flavors all mixing and mingling with each other like tipsy coeds. Not every dish at Uncle Boon's is a star, but I can only dream of the day when deli chicken salads have half as much complexity as this one. —Jamie Feldmar, Managing Editor
Eggplant with Walnut Sauce
A local's tour of Bensonhurst brought me to Mtskheta Café, a Georgian restaurant with a talent for cheesy breads and fatty sausage. But it was this Eggplant with Walnut Sauce that stuck with me; thin slices of chilled tender eggplant smeared with creamy walnut purée and pomegranate seeds. It's nutty and rich to be sure, but I love its brightness: cool, clean dill and a levity to the walnuts (thanks to yogurt? Cream? Any guesses?). I'll be tinkering with this one at home for sure—it'd be perfect as a chilled starter for a backyard grill party.—Max Falkowitz, NYC editor
Clam Pizza I
This month the best thing I ate didn't come from a restaurant. It came from a hacked-together pizza party at my sister's place in upstate New York. I brought my KettlePizza with me but didn't know that my sister's stone was a 1/4-inch thin and she had no pizza peel. We improvised by attaching a piece of cardboard to the handle of a splatter screen. Everything was going great until her light-duty aluminum foil literally melted and dripped onto the hot stone (that's an indication that our makeshift oven got to at least 1221°F!).
After a few slightly burnt (but still way tasty) pies, things calmed down and the pizzas started cooking perfectly. The best was the last of the night (isn't it always?): live cherrystone clams cooked in the shell on a pizza with fresh oregano, mozzarella, Romano, Aleppo pepper flakes, and plenty of garlic and black pepper. The clams open up in the heat of the oven spilling their juices, which soaks into the crust. It's a bit of work to shuck the clams from their shells while the pizza's still hot before slicing and serving, but man, is it worth it!
—Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer
This beast of a wet burrito from Taqueria Vallarta on 24th Street in the Mission was more than enough for two people, ordered without rice and stuffed with tender, just slightly gamey barbacoa and creamy pinto beans, and topped with cheese, avocado, and sour cream. The diverse collection of bright salsas and deep, earthy sauces at Vallarta are a highlight; might as well start with a dish that's doused in at least one of them, and add extra charred-tomato pico de gallo for good measure. —Maggie Hoffman, Drinks editor
Brisket and Grilled Mortadella
According to Louisville chef Edward Lee, MilkWood's name is supposed remind one of "comfort and nurture, the ideas of milk and wood." But due to its subterranean location, walls of white brick, and milk theme, the restaurant initially reminded of the demented Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange. Fortunately, instead of "milk plus" dispensed from bare breasted statues, this eatery in the basement of the Actors Theatre in Louisville specializes in Southern dishes done with "an Asian pantry."
Lee has a serious way with vegetables, especially asparagus, but I mostly fell for the brisket and grilled mortadella. If you only read the description on the menu, you'd have reason to expect an overly heavy dish. But while there are "biscuit crumbles and milk gravy," those are more like garnishes. Even the mortadella is limited to a few ribbons on top. This is mostly about the slab of smoked brisket, which is tender but not mushy. It's all balanced by some acidic pickles on the side. —Nick Kindelsperger, Chicago Editor
Clam Pizza II
I'm still thinking about the clam pie ($18) that I had earlier this month at the new Franny's location in Park Slope. Fresh, briny clams, a bright hit of parsley, and some hot chilies are apparently all it takes to send me into the throes of ecstasy. I'd say more, but really you should just get on the train (or plane) and go eat it yourself. —Niki Achitoff-Gray, Associate Editor
Bloomsadale Spinach Salad
The place I ate at this month and can't stop thinking about was Gjelina in L.A. The move is to order a series of smallish plates—and so many of them are veggie-based, which I love. My favorite thing there was actually the English pea and burrata crostini but I only got a picture of the also delicious (and menu staple) Bloomsadale Spinach salad. It comes with pinenuts, feta, tomatoes, olives, and gloriously olive-oil soaked croutons. Simple but made just right. Followed with a squash blossom pizza and a plate of wood roasted asparagus, it was a perfect meal. —Carrie Vasios, Sweets editor