Härth at Hilton Westchester: Totally Not Wörth It
PLUS: Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ Eighth Annual Sausage & Beer Dinner Is Coming; Noodle Plus’s Excellent Duck Soup Defies Groucho’s Ridicule.
First Taste: Härth at Hilton Westchester
Do my eyes deceive me, or did the Times’ N.Y./Region, Westchester, section give Härth—the most recent installation at the Hilton Westchester—a “Worth It,” which is the same rating that it just gave to The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry? What can they be smoking over there? I’ll ignore just how annoying it is to find the A+ umlaut on my computer. Let’s take a second and think about this restaurant’s tired, Marco Canora-evoking name, which, BTW, was already iffy last year when the Eastchester restaurant now known as Burrata erected its first sign reading “Hearth.” The sign was later taken down after a cease-and-desist letter from Chef Canora—he of the deservedly famed Village restaurant of the same name. Really, Hilton? An umlaut? Is that how you’re dodging the letter? Plus, I can’t be the only one who read it and thought of Spinal Tap and heavy metal music in general, which is noted for its odd affection for utterly nonsensical Wagnerian punctuation.
Okay, so I went to Härth thinking, “Who knows? Maybe there was something I missed.” As noted in Emily DeNitto’s review, there was the chlorine smell of the pool and the “generic welcome desk.” Check. But what about this restaurant’s bright lighting and incredibly neutral, corporate-feeling décor, and what about its odd position on a low terrace running along the hotel hallway? Meals might be enjoyed comfortably ensconced in the blandness of beige, nude, and earth tones, listening to watered-down elevator sambas as one watches hotel guests pull their luggage along on squeaking wheels. A highlight of the view is the frequent sight of families flip-flapping their way in sandals to the pool. You can see right into the hotel’s bar, which is peppered with big TVs and the kind of people who hang out in hotel bars. But just as the review says, Härth’s chairs are big, plush, (beige), and comfortable. So they have that going for them.
The review notes that Härth’s “tight menu is determined in large part by what is available from local sources.” While it’s true that I visited late in December (when there is precious little of anything coming from local farms), I will say that Westchester sources were only called on the menu by two highlighted beef dishes (Porterhouse and a Delmonico steak from Hemlock Hill). Then there was all the rest of the menu—which included several salads—that could not have come from here. I couldn’t help but feel that Härth’s locavorian claims were as misleading as its rustic-sounding name; aside from those two locally sourced steaks, this is the sort of democratic, all-serving menu that is determined—not by our region—but by the needs of a wide range of hotel guests. Look for the Caesar and chopped salads, the half roasted chicken, the mushroom pappardelle, and the baked salmon. Overwhelmingly, the food tasted as blah as the décor felt. Our “wood-fired” mushrooms might just as well have been sautéed over a gas jet, and our fennel soup was super-salty, very bland, and as commercial-tasting as something dipped out of a black crock at a salad bar. A side of lobster mac and cheese that was ordered with a steak was accompanied by such a waft of fishy odor that we didn’t eat it.
There were highlights: A pleasantly roomy and attractive by-the-glass wine list yielded some temptation, like the spicy Apothic red (an oddball California blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes), a delight at $8.50 per glass. The wine’s fruit was a good match for a truly delicious lobe of Hudson Valley foie gras, which arrived perfectly seared on the outside and molten, jetting pink within. And the sopressata flatbread was a reasonable version, if not particularly inspired—you might check out better flatbreads at Gleason’s or Italian Kitchen.
Finally, you could end with the dessert flatbread that so impressed someone at the Times that the dish earned the review’s title (“A Pizza for Dessert? Naturally. With S’mores”). Now, reader, think—where have we seen dessert pizzas before? Oh, that’s right: just about everywhere. You could also end with the equally uninspired beignets—fried dough with a Nutella-based sauce. Or you could skip dessert and flap on over for a dip in the nearby pool.
8th Annual Sausage & Beer Dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns
January 27, 3 pm
$195, exclusive of tax and tip
Oh, folks…the time is nigh, and it’s going down on the QT. You’d have to be looking (just as I was) to know about this annual hoedown that shows Blue Hill at its earthy best. We’re talking pork-gasms of such wonderous intensity that you’ll be staggering for more than two weeks. Plus beer—gallons of beer!—presented by amazing local brewers. This year, the event is longer and packed with more demonstrations. Here’s an excerpt from the invitation, and I hope I’ll see you there: “Join us for the 8th Annual Sausage & Beer Night. The fun will begin with beer-maker workshops, butchery demonstrations, and dishes bursting with single sausage bites. Brewers from Kelso of Brooklyn and Captain Lawrence will be joined by Stillwater Artisan Ales, Maine Beer Co., and The Bronx Brewery; our favorite farmers will be on hand. Dinner will feature classic sausages and charcuterie along with a few of our latest discoveries—all paired with sensational beers.” For reservations call (914) 366-9600.
Serious Duck Soup at Noodle +
Screw you, Groucho—duck soup is serious business, especially when it’s frikkin’ January outside and a frikkin’ icy wind blows right through you. Recently, we had the privilege of getting around this big bowl of hot chicken noodle soup, which arrived prettily graced with crisp-fried boneless duck pieces, headily perfumed with star anise. Crunch through the juicy duck, or go right for the childish pleasures of yellow, gingery chicken broth, punctuated by ample, slurpy chopstick-loads of bouncy Chinese egg noodles. Yum.