Where to Find the Best Hot Chocolate; Polpettina Needs Your Help; Chef Billy Rosenberg of F.I.S.H. Is Back; Book Your Valentine’s Day Dinner Now



Cold Weather/Hot Chocolate

Do you remember when the winter indulgence of a cup of hot chocolate meant getting handed a styro cup of hot water and a packet of Swiss Miss? And what was in that Swiss Miss, anyway? It tasted like war-ration milk powder, brown flavoring, and chalk. Blech. Hardly worth getting so cold in the first place.

The good news is that, as Americans’ taste in coffee has become more sophisticated, so has their taste in hot chocolate. Nowadays, in Westchester, you can find excellent versions of the winter warmer—but now made with excellent bar chocolate instead of nasty chemical powders. Here are a few favorites:

Restaurant North Wine geek extraordinaire Stephen Paul Mancini uses Mast Brothers Chocolate in his version. He blends the bar chocolate with Battenkill Valley Creamery whole milk from Salem, New York.

Paleteria Fernandez If you’re lucky (and walking down a wind-blasted street in Mamaroneck or Port Chester), you might happen upon a cup of this ice pop’s store’s champurrado. This thick Mexican drink contains a little bit of masa, which lends this spiced, cinnamon-inflected chocolate a pudding thickness and corny flavor. Sound odd? Well, it’s no stranger than malted milk. Plus, if you’re double lucky you’ll also find Paleteria Fernandez’s tasty tamales.

Cocoa It’s best not to think of Angela Ingrao’s hot cocoa as a beverage. It’s so rich and mouth-filling—like liquid fudge—it could pass also as a confection. Though I’ve seen large cups of the stuff leaving the store in the hands of happy residents, I think it’s best to pick up a smaller serving and leave yourself wanting just one more sip.

Blue Hill Café There are few things that might induce me to hike in January. One is the goat soup at Blue Hill Café, the other is the Valrhona hot chocolate at Blue Hill Café. And, by “hike,” of course, I mean the frigid walk from the parking lot to the café. Let’s not get crazy.

The Kneaded Bread One of the great things here is that the hot chocolate is frothed with KB’s cappuccino milk frother, which aerates the drink as it heats it. The resulting, slightly cinnamon drink manages to be both light and rich—perfect to pair with a pastry from the counter.

 

Polpettina Needs Your Help!

In a tragic twist of town zoning ordinances, the tiny, 15-seat Polpettina is restricted from using its equally tiny (as in, 15 more seats) expansion to serve the restaurant’s growing fans. Because the space is strictly zoned, you may not dine in the new space next door—this restriction is particularly ghastly, since the Times just gave the restaurant a nice review, as did I, way back in September . Polpettina’s owners are doing everything they can to placate the town, but you can help by signing this online petition that asks for a variance. This hurdle comes to Polpettina’s beleaguered owners along with the news that Hearth Wood Fired Pizza will be opening around the corner in the Martinis & Chocolates space—which, though larger and unencumbered by zoning issues, will probably get a call from Marco Canora’s lawyer about its name.

Here’s a link to the petition.

 

Chef Bill Rosenberg, formerly of F.I.S.H., is back!

Do you remember that beloved Port Chester place, F.I.S.H. Restaurant (Fox Island Seafood House)—the one out on Fox Island with the great seafood that closed in October 2010? Its chef, Bill Rosenberg, will soon be heading up the kitchen at New Rochelle’s Radisson Hotel, taking the reins (after a long gap) from Chef Michael Proietti, veteran of Chopped and Food Network Star. The new spot, currently under renovation, will be (according to the announcement): “re-branded and re-launched as NoMa Social in the spring. The new cuisine in the new restaurant will be Mediterranean style.”

 

Great February Events (and the Official Beginning of Valentine’s Day Mania)

Red Tail Ridge Winery Farmer Appreciation Dinner at Sweet Grass Grill
February 1
$65 per person, wines included, exclusive of tax and tip
This from David Starkey, managing partner of Sweet Grass Grill: “We’d like to give all hard working farmers (slackers need not apply) a 10% discount whenever they dine at Sweet Grass as a way of thanking them for breaking their backs and getting their hands dirty while doing all of the hard work that puts the food on our plates. You are why our food taste so great and so fresh. You keep the big delivery trucks off the road, the chemicals out of the ground, and the condos from erupting in every open space. So I can’t possibly thank you enough. We want to kick off this program Wednesday, February 1, with a special wine-pairing dinner. We thought what better time to celebrate farmers than right now before the seeds go into the ground and the hard work begins again in earnest. Collaborating with Sweet Grass Chef Chad Esposto will be guest Chef Gustaf Mabrouk. Their hearty winter menu will be paired with wines from New York’s award-winning Red Tail Ridge Winery, a model in sustainability.
Four courses, three wines, all for $65. If you are a farmer, you will get a 50% discount (or $32.50) on the night. There will be special pricing for non-drinkers or beer drinkers. To register for the farmer discount program, we ask that you sign up and register. Just give us your name and the name of your farm and you’ll be all set. We will keep a list so you can enjoy the 10% discount anytime you join us. If you can’t join us for the dinner, please register anyway and make sure to take advantage of the discount. If you know anyone who should sign up, please let them know, too.”

Valentine’s Day at Bedford Post
February 14, with seatings from 5pm until 10pm
$95 per person, exclusive of tax and tip. Wine pairings also are offered for $45 per person or $85 per person for reserve wines.
From the announcement: “This Valentine’s Day, there is no better way to surprise your sweetheart than a romantic escape to Bedford Post. Located just one hour from New York City, the Bedford Post offers an ideal respite for a fairy-tale experience, with the finest dining and most idyllic ambiance in the area.
On February 14, guests are invited to The Farmhouse to enjoy an exceptional four-course tasting menu. For the first course, diners are offered buratta, American osetra caviar, toasted brioche; Spanish mackerel, blood orange, pistachio, tardivo; steak tartare, pecorino vinaigrette, quail egg, baguette. Second-course options include wild mushroom minestra, Swiss chard, Parmiagiano brodo; ricotta gnocchi, baby beets, poppyseeds, horseradish; corzetti nero, pasta coins, lobster, Fresno chilies, mint. For main courses, guests have the option of risotto, black truffle, Parmigiano-Reggiano; Atlantic fluke, citrus, olive, marjoram; dry aged strip loin, potato purée, watercress, balsamic. Dessert options include a chocolate torte, passionfruit caramel; Meyer lemon curd, pâte sucre tartlette, raspberry coulis; Prosecco float, poached pear, allspice, orange zest; selection of gelato & sorbet.” And, may I add, you might also get a room?

 

Pork and Beans at Polpettina

Hey, pork lovers—here’s where to get your pig on. This elegant take on cassoulet might be garnished with a chicken leg confit, but, under that drumstick, it’s all about the pork. We’re talking sausage, pancetta, crisped lardo and pork belly, all only slightly alleviated with hearty cannellini beans. This is a soulful, warming dish and perfect if you’ve just frozen your butt waiting for a table.