Westchester Restaurant Closings: Hastings-on-Hudson’s Buffet de la Gare Will Close Its Doors in July 2013

PLUS: Birdsall House’s Rushing Duck beer dinner and deep-fried pickles at Craftsman Ale House.

This photo originally appeared in the New York Times

This photo originally appeared in the New York Times

One of Westchester’s landmark restaurants will close this summer. Buffet de la Gare in Hastings-on-Hudson was opened in 1980 by Chef Gwenael Goulet and his wife, Annie Goulet. In its 33 years, Buffet de la Gare has earned top critical ratings including raves in the New York Times, Westchester Magazine, and the Westchester/Hudson Valley Zagat Surveys where it was consistently rated one of the County’s favorite restaurants. Chef Gwenael Goulet died in 2011 after a decade long battle with cancer.

Chef Peter Kelly of the Xaviars Restaurant Group (a longtime friend of the Goulets) had this to say of the restaurant’s closure: “Gwenael and Annie Goulet have been close friends of mine for nearly 30 years; they brought a little bit of France to Westchester when Westchester truly needed it. No restaurant in Westchester was more committed to delivering traditional ‘Cuisine Francaise’ than Buffet de la Gare. My son Dylan celebrated his christening at Buffet de la Gare on one of the rare Sundays when Gwen and Annie opened for us in 1996. I well remember the lobster nage and chocolate opera cake that Gwen prepared for us. Many of our celebrations, most happy (but a few sad), were spent with the Goulet family.

“I hope that the spirit of Buffet de la Gare and the commitment of the Goulet family continues to inspire generations of Westchester County chefs and restaurateurs for years to come.”

In a recent conversation, Annie Goulet said that her decision to close Buffet de la Gare was difficult. She sites her concern for her children, specifically, Gwendal Goulet, who suspended his own career to help Mrs. Goulet operate Buffet de la Gare when Chef Goulet became ill. “I’m a mother. I have to think about my own kids. It’s tough, when you work with your kids, to think about their desires, but this is something that I need to do.” Gwendal Goulet, a graduate of the École Hôtételier de Lausanne, plans to pursue a career in hotels.

Of her devoted customers, Mrs. Goulet says, “We built a nice following and these people are in my heart. But my husband would have been 63 years old this year, and he would have been thinking of retirement at this point, too. I feel like this is the right thing to do.”

Chef/Restaurateur Chris Vergara of Meritage (Scarsdale) and Harpers on Main (Dobbs Ferry) has purchased the building from Mrs. Goulet. He’ll take ownership at the end of July when he will begin the process of redesigning the space for a new, as-yet-unnamed restaurant. The new venture will serve what Vergara calls “elevated bistro cuisine” with a menu that features recognizable classics like duck confit and trout grenobloise. Vergara plans “a strong shellfish program with plateaux fruit de mer,” though stresses that prices (and dress codes) will be casual. Prices begin at $10 starters at the bottom of the range to $25 entrées at the top—though there might be one or two outliers (that plateau fruit de mer comes to mind). In addition, Vergara plans to install a couple of tap lines for craft beer. The new restaurant will also have a cocktail menu and a list of ten mostly organic, biodynamic and small production wines by the glass with 50 more in bottles. Vergara confesses a desire “to fill the cellar with every wine that my partner and I want to drink for the rest of our lives,” but his Hastings cellar will start modestly.

While Chef Vergara plans to retain many of the space’s beloved historic interior details (like its century old pressed tin ceilings and bar), he’ll be doing away with Buffet de la Gare’s white tablecloths. Instead, he and his partner in the new venture, Jason Steinberg (current GM of Harper’s on Main), will install marble and wood tabletops. Other than a few tweaks, Vergara plans to keep the interior of what he calls “a dollhouse” intact.

Says Vergara of the Goulets, “They were big time influences on me coming up as a chef in Westchester. Big time. Chef Goulet was amazing. When I was starting out, Buffet de la Gare was one of the three restaurants in Westchester where I wanted to work most.”

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Rushing Duck Beer Dinner at Birdsall House
June 27, 7 pm
$55 per person
From the site, “Opened only last year, 26 year old Dan Hitchcock is already making a name for himself as a top East Coast brewer. One sip of his Imperial IPA 'War Elephant' or the sessionable 'Naysayer' Pale Ale and you'll understand. Birdsall House chef, March Walker has created a five-course dinner, each course paired with a Rushing Duck beer. Weather permitting we will be dining communal-style on the picnic tables. Owners Dan Hitchcock and Nikki Cavanaugh will be on hand to discuss their beers and the food pairing.”

Here’s the menu, to book, click here:

Chilled asparagus soup with whipped créme fraîche, lemon potato gaufrette w/ Naysayer Pale Ale
Roasted monkfish with clams stewed with bacon and tomato, braised greens w/ Bauli Saison
Beer-braised lamb ribs with rainbow marble potato salad, Swiss chard w/ Beanhead Coffee Porter
Bobolink Dairy Spring Frolic with onion tart, mâche, rhubarb vinaigrette w/ War Elephant Imperial IPA
Orange hazelnut cake with dark chocolate glaze, brown butter ice cream w/ Nimptopsical Scotch Ale

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In Defense of Deep-Fried Pickles at Craftsman Ale House

Ok, I’m totally not proud of what I’m going to say, but try to stick with me as I defend deep-fried pickles. What’s the problem with most deep-fried food? It’s heavy and maybe mouth-coating; it slicks your palate and, after about six bites, it  gets a little nasty. But here’s the thing. Pickles are acid and a little watery. You crack through the crisp shell and, bingo: a tart, watery surprise. These pickles are just the thing for oceans of beer, or a fabulous flight of beer at Craftsman Ale House.

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