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Sushi has never been my thing.

My first taste was in college.  The guys I was with gave me a massive piece to try, peer pressuring me to put the entire piece into my mouth.  It was a fishy tuna roll, squishy in texture and horrible in taste to my polluted sophomore year taste buds that were used to french fries, sodas and candy.

I wanted no more of that for a very long time.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled in sushi, usually with cooked choices like tempura rolls and eel and the occasional yellowtail with scallion roll.  And then for my birthday this year, a couple of friends took me to Neta.

It changed everything.

Nestled on a side street in the West Village of New York City, Neta is unassuming and sparsely decorated. The food, however, is simply beautiful, both visually and on the palate. A combination of small plates and sushi rocked my culinary world.

One of the most inventive and unique dishes I’ve ever eaten: Barely cooked and strikingly fresh scallops with luscious bites of uni (otherwise known as sea urchin) meld together perfectly with a slightly salty hint of garlic soy butter and tang from a squeeze of lime.  Heavenly.

Supremely fresh crab meat (the chef told me it was from Vancouver on this day) over a julienne of cucumber and lightly dressed in a dashi vinaigrette – with a citrusy back note – was refreshingly delicious.

Toro tartare and Petrossian caviar was delightfully decadent.  It comes with two squares of toast, but I felt indulgent and preferred it straight up.

Uni porridge was exquisitely creamy and rich, like a Japanese risotto, and topped with shavings of summer truffle.

Miso avocado tofu rolls sound like they would be a mushy mess, but they were perfect vegetarian bites.  The salty tang of the miso beautifully accented the creamy textures of the avocado and tofu, while the rice added just enough bite.

Neta only serves a few desserts, and I sampled the summer truffle ice cream. I am a truffle lover, but even I wasn’t sure how it would translate in a sweet dish. It was beautiful – a familiar ice cream base that is delicately sweet, with just enough of a punch of earthy truffle. It had me swooning.

While Neta is not inexpensive, I keep thinking of reasons to go back for its beautifully clean flavors.  Hopefully, I will see you there.

Neta, 61 West 8th Street, New York, NY 10011; 212.505-2610

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The end of the year is cause for celebration – a time to reflect on what was good, and what should never be repeated, from the 365 days past.

Naturally, celebration for me generally means good food.  Case in point, salmon roe with chives and creme fraiche on top of blinis.

That is a fantastic accompaniment to any festive occasion.

Of course, there are ends to some years that deserve a heightened sense of occasion, if for no other reason than to forsake the badness of the old for the goodness of the new.

This December 31 certainly warranted a more luxurious way to ring in the new. So, I started the celebration a day early.  And I splurged a bit.

Caviar is certainly an indulgence, but being able to buy a small amount makes it more accessible.  The folks at Petrossian are great in helping you find the highest quality for the smallest price point.  And something simple like an accompanying twice-baked potato with truffle butter and parmesan cheese help to extend the decadence.

I’m betting on 2012 to be a spectacular year.  May your New Year’s Eve celebration bring you nothing but goodness and grace – and an abundance of good grub.

Petrossian, 911 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10019, 212.245.2217

The only thing better about a beautiful fall day in New York City is spending the day eating good food.  And luckily, today was such a day.  This autumn weekend ushered in the third annual New York City Wine & Food Festival.  Our day began with Milk & Cookies at the spectacular New York Times building in midtown Manhattan.

The event was hosted by the legendary Martha Stewart.

Of course, the day wouldn’t have been complete without the goodness of Nutella. These Nutella sandwich cookies were the ultimate vehicle for the beloved spread.

MadMac brought a rainbow of macarons, which we savored in all of their scrumptiousness.

Surprisingly flavorful and delicious gluten-free double chocolate cookies were offered by Glow Gluten Free.

The chocolate master Jacques Torres was there to show off his creations…

…which included these chocolate chunk cookies.

One of my favorite bakeries from the Upper West Side, Levain Bakery, sampled bites of their notoriously massive cookies, including the chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin and dark chocolate chocolate chip.

And my favorite of the morning, a simple – but by no means ordinary – chocolate chip cookie was brought in from John Barricelli of The SoNo Baking Company & Cafe in South Norwalk, Connecticut.  It was thin and crispy, buttery yet airy and full of an overall yumminess.

Satiated and full of sugar and butter, the afternoon then took us to the Caviarteria event at the very cool Astor Center on Lafayette Street.  This session was hosted by Ray Isle, executive wine editor for Food & Wine magazine, and Walter Drobenko, owner and president of Caviarteria.  The pair led us through a tasting of four different caviars: American Sturgeon, Russian Sevruga, farm-raised Oscetra and Kaluga, which is a high-quality (and very tasty) substitute for the now-endangered Beluga.

There aren’t as many pictures from this event because, well, we experienced caviar paired champagne, wine, sake and vodka.  But it sure was good!

Wherever you are today, be sure to celebrate the goodness of food!

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