Despite Its Bad Rap, Soda Thrives in Artisan Creations at Westchester Restaurants
New Rochelle's Alvin and Friends moves into the vacant Mo’s New York Grill space, and Peekskill Brewery's sinful, savory dishes.
Like EDP? Then Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Weekend on Facebook, where every week until our festival (June 6-9), we’ll be giving away $50 gift certificates redeemable for free wine and spirits at our event partner, Zachys Wine and Liquor. You heard us right—that means free booze, folks! Only on Facebook (and only if you “like” us)!
In Other Beverage News: Soda is Exploding
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you probably know that soda is bad for you. Soda is so evil that it was nearly banned in large servings by New York City, and it’s so bad that it’s been excluded from school campuses along with crack, porn, and cigarettes. One can of cola contains zero nutrition and 10 teaspoons of sugar, a megadose that would be pretty vomit-inducing in one serving of any other product. Then there’s the type of sugar used in most sodas. More than other sugars, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been linked to Type 2 diabetes. And diet soda is only somewhat better than the sugary version. Diet sodas are packed with alarming chemicals like aspartame which, though sugarless, may still raise insulin levels, anyway. Okay—that link is from the Livestrong site, so it might be lying about chemicals and the human body, but you get the point. You shouldn’t be guzzling soda. Sadly, you’re an American—and sometimes all you want to do is crack open that can.
The good news is that the food world is addressing your quandary. In the home-appliance market, supernova Sodastream succeeded with the promise that one could make sodas at home without scary chemicals and staggering amounts of HFCS. (Plus, its house-made fizz is vastly greener than commercial sodas—the carbon-footprint in a plastic bottle of Diet Coke is appalling.) For a while now, high-end restaurants have been seducing lovers of carbonation with elegant, own-made sodas using herbs, roots, spices, and fruit. In a way, these new sodas hearken to the original idea of the liquid—which, when introduced in the 19th century, was a novel sparkling beverage flavored with exotic botanicals and sold in small doses (at drugstores!) as a special treat.
Sure, these new-wave sodas are a little pricey, a little out of the ordinary, and carry big, exciting flavors—but then, these sodas are not made to be guzzled instead of water. They’re an indulgence. Here’s where to satisfy your jones for fizz in psychic ease:
Restaurant North is serving co-owner Stephen Paul Mancini’s excellent, if not downright revelatory, seasonal pops at Restaurant North. Last year, our minds were blown by locally harvested grape, peach/honey, and smoked watermelon/basil. Right now, he’s got cucumber-ginger and Buddha’s hand-basil, which goes into Restaurant North’s stunning Bottle Rocket cocktail.
Brooklyn Sodaworks, available on tap at Blue Hill (in Manhattan) and, in Westchester, at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. These quickly changing kegs of pop are made with locally harvested fruit and restrained amounts of sugar. Look for elegant flavors like cucumber, lime, and sea salt; red currant and shiso; and grapefruit, jalapeño, and honey—plus, it has “Brooklyn” in the name, so it’s automatically way cooler, right?
Drink More Good sodas available at Gleason’s and Birdsall House. Gleason’s resident cocktail wiz, Jason’s Schuler, has launched his own soda company. Look for organic and locally sourced ingredients behind Schuler’s sophisticated fizzy drinks—we’re especially fans of his delightfully crisp and herbal root beer made with organic sarsaparilla, but he’s also got cola and ginger ale. Just as at Restaurant North, Drink More Good sodas will be integrated into Gleason’s cocktail list.
New Rochelle’s Alvin and Friends Has Moved!
Here was the thing about Alvin and Friends. It was like walking into New Rochelle’s living room—the mayor was frequently in the house, and so was everyone else that you knew. This caused problems. For instance, super-gracious owner Alvin Clayton created such a happy vibe that diners never wanted to leave. You might walk in for your 9 o’clock ressy, but all the 7 pm diners were still yukking it up at their tables. In Alvin’s old space on Lawton Street, there was only a tiny bar, and, though it was always fun, the room could get cramped. Thankfully, Alvin and Friends has moved into a large space vacated by the virtually un-lamented Mo’s New York Grill (sorry, Yankees fans, but you know it’s true).
Good news: The baseball décor and fish tanks are all gone. Owner Alvin Clayton, who is also an accomplished painter, has transformed what was a grim, subterranean-feeling bunker into an urbane, open, and very welcoming space. Look for a floor-to-ceiling glass front, which, in summer, will open for sidewalk seating. Just inside, there’s a large and gorgeous bar area with a wide, communal harvest table. The entire restaurant is hung with Clayton’s vibrant paintings, which give the space a personal and idiosyncratic feeling. It’s like someone’s home.
In Alvin and Friends’ new dining room, Clayton has wisely invoked the intimacy of his former space. A paned glass window separates the large dining room into smaller, cozy sections. Also, New Rochelle’s socialites will be pleased that the new space holds a big event room with its own separate bar. When it’s not in use for private events, Clayton plans to devote the space to live music. (Sorry for the lack of photos here—we didn’t want to show you badly lit, casual pics when you really need to head over and see it for yourself.)
Pigging out at PB
Folks…have you been to the new Peekskill Brewery? Drop whatever you are doing and head over there right now. We’ve already told you that PB snagged superstar brewer Jeff O’Neill from larger Ithaca. We already told you about PB’s cool new digs in a four-story historic building with river views. What we didn’t mention (until now) is that Chef Sean Corcoran is proffering food that lives up to all that beer and building. We finally made it into PB after WAY too long (I’m ashamed to say that the new spot debuted in January) and we have three Hotplates this week because we literally couldn’t choose between them, so here goes.
Left to right: Chicken liver parfait with onion jam, red wine gelée, hazelnuts, toast points; grilled Halloumi cheese; PB pickles