Yesterday approximately 2,000 ravenous foodies converged under a massive tent across the street from Shake Shack on Columbus and 77th Street for the "Best of the West" tasting, part of the "New" Taste of the Upper West Side. People paid $115 a pop for unlimited samples of all the neighborhood's best restaurants, from Dovetail to Ocean Grille to (naturally) Shake Shack, which dished out their classic hamburgers and root beer custard floats. Here are our five favorites, for which we would schlep to the Upper West Side any day. An honorable mention goes to Whole Foods, which appeared to be the only purveyor serving samples on biodegradable plates—all the others used plastic, which didn't seem to be recycled and probably caused thousands of Upper West Siders to supress even more liberal guilt than usual.
- Carmine's Eggplant Parmesan: This was the first item that went into our mouths, and we could have walked away satisfied. The eggplant, sliced thin and layered generously throughout, was arrestingly fresh and succulent, just like you imagine your fictional Italian Grandma used to make it.
- Picholine's Fried Skate Bone with aioli, cucumber, jalapeno, paprika: Crispy, salty, unique, and addictive. We would like chef Terrance Brennan to come over to our apartment and make about two hundred of these bad boys next time we smoke up and watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, about an hour from now.
- Nice Matin's Fava Bean Tortelloni: Tortelloni are stuffed pasta, the same shape as tortellini, but bigger. We're pretty sure Nice Matin made these last year, and we overindulged to the verge of belt-unbuckling. This year we exercised great restraint, consuming just two of these abundantly rich delicacies, served in a creamy Parmesan butter sage sauce.
- Ocean Grille's Marinated Shrimp Salad: Served with hearts of palm, grape tomatoes and fava beans, this is a refreshingly simple dish that lets the quality of the ingredients shine through, dressed only with olive oil and lime juice. Excellent shrimps.
- Screme Gelato: With 58 locations in Israel and two in Manhattan, Screme seems poised for more sequels. We're told that they have 5,000 flavors in their repertoire, and each location serves a rotating cast of 100 on any given day. All the ingredients are 100% natural, so the mojito tastes like mojito, and the Guinness tastes like a pint of Guiness. We went with the Dark Belgian Chocolate, which contains little bits of house-made chocolate nestled inside the rich dark decadent gelato. More, please.