Marcus has covered food for Newsday since 1998.
What were the culinary highlights of the year?
The year 2013 may well go down in the record books as the year of the Cronut. Since that deep-fried doughnut-croissant cyborg debuted at Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo in May, copycat confections (and stories about them) popped up on at least four continents.
While the rest of the world tweeted themselves into a tizzy, we tried to maintain a dignified silence. Then Fiorello Dolce in Huntington launched a baked-not-fried doughnut-shaped croissant, Bruce & Son in Greenport introduced a sconut (ring-shaped scone) and Beach Bakery Café in Westhampton Beach reminded me that it had been frying croissants since 1986. All of which we dutifully reported.
On a less rarefied note, Taco Bell launched Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Locos in March, a year after the chain launched Nachos Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos. It was bad enough that I had to sample these unholy affronts to Mexican cuisine, but just typing their names gave me the willies. "I'll never type Doritos Locos Tacos again," I swore.
Mostly, this year, I stuck with the classics. The pastry debut of the year may well have been the pies at Kerber's Farm. The Huntington landmark was resurrected in August by Nick Voulgaris III, and his pastry chef, Danna Abrams, catapulted straight into the top tier of local bakers with homey pies made with all-butter crusts and ripe, fresh fruit.
We learned about two local companies, Kalypso Greek Yogurt and Trimona Bulgarian Yogurt, both of which produce simple, delicious yogurt whose quality derives from the quality of the milk used, and not by the addition of flavors more suited to puddings and jelly beans.
Condiment of the Year goes to cHarissa, the addictive Morrocan-by-way-of-North-Fork spread.
Sandwich I'd risk my life for: The succulent, seductive shawarma sandwich at Ahuva's Grill Express in Lawrence. This neat little takeout shop is located at the perilous intersection of Rockaway Turnpike and Peninsula Boulevard but is well worth braving oncoming rush-hour traffic.
Sandwich that made me laugh out loud: The bacon cheeseburger at Mike's Portuguese Chicken & Deli in Baldwin Harbor, a half-pound of meat that's been essentially stir-fried on a hot griddle with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, bacon and cheese and which is barely contained by its toasted, seeded bun. A fine meal -- for two to four.
Takeout of the year: For an office party I ordered some baklava from Ephesus Mediterranean & Turkish Cuisine in Massapequa. I knew it would be good but was not prepared for the huge round tray of butter-burnished, pistachio-speckled pastry cut into neat diamonds. It was the hit of the party.
Now, the year in Asian food. There was bad news. Miraku in Great Neck closed in February before I had a chance to go all the way (omakase) with the chef. Yamaguchi in Port Washington had a fire in March. (Plans are well under way to reopen down the street in 2014.)
But there was consolation. Soup dumplings returned to Long Island at Red Tiger Dumpling House in Stony Brook. Red Tiger joins Ten89 Noodle House in Stony Brook and Yao's Diner in Centereach as bastions of authentic Chinese food.
I whined for years about not being able to get a banh mi on Long Island and then in July, Joe Bui opened Rolling Spring Roll in Farmingdale and started serving the supernal Vietnamese sandwich. And I just learned that they're making banh mi at the brand-new Wednesday's Table in Southold.
Lesson learned: Keep whining.