HV Restaurant Week, Great Upcoming Wine Dinners, and Crabtree Kittle House’s “Retro Menu”



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In Defense of Restaurant Week

I’ve never been a blind booster and pom-poms don’t do it for me; at high school pep rallies, I was always the Gitanes-smoking conscientious objector dressed all in black. (I’m actually not proud of that.) So when it comes to Restaurant Week, whether Hudson Valley or New York, I always feel like a traitor when I suggest that, as great as it is, there are some downsides.

Here are the negatives. During any Restaurant Week, restaurants struggle with unusual crowds, which put greater stress on kitchens and FOH; generally, during Restaurant Week, restaurants aren’t at their best. Also, with a broader swath of diners visiting each restaurant, kitchens struggle to devise short, all-pleasing menus – which can be somewhat less interesting than the menus on offer during the rest of the year. Finally, in empathy of my former brethren, the restaurant workers, I’m always aware of how irking it must feel to work extra hard to earn—for the FOH, anyway—smaller tips on discounted tabs.

 

Chef Navjot Arora of Chutney Masala Indian Bistro in Irvington

During Hudson Valley Restaurant Week’s kickoff at the Culinary Institute of America, I caught up with Chef Vincent Barcelona of Harvest on Hudson, who is on the event’s advisory board. He’s been a huge part of Restaurant Week since its inception. He set me straight on a few points, most emphatically about the waiter problem. “Look, they might have to work harder for their money, but they have more tables per shift and so they do fine. You have to remember, March is the slowest month per year.  It’s better for these guys to be running their butts off in a full restaurant. Plus, everyone gets work – and as many shifts as they want.”

And not only does Restaurant Week bolster local restaurants (most of which are independent businesses owned by our neighbors), it also increases sales for local farmers. Last week, I spoke with Stephen Paul Mancini of Restaurant North, who purchased an entire steer from Meiller’s Farm in Pine Plains to feed the hordes. North’s story is echoed scores more times by Westchester’s other locavorian RW participants: Crabtree’s Kittle House, Birdsall House, Harper’s Restaurant and Bar, Sweet Grass Grille, X2O, Polpettina, The Barn at Bedford Post, etc. This year, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week has 200 participating restaurants, and its roster reads like an all-star team. Chef Barcelona is not surprised that, even recognizing the huge stresses that RW poses, even elite restaurants are willing to lower their prices. “I tell the other restaurant owners, look, every year I get a few events out of it – bar mitzvahs, weddings. So, even if we have to reduce our margin for a couple of weeks, it pays off in the long run. And some RW diners order extras, wine and so forth, so you make money on that.”

He’s got me convinced. Check here for the list of participating restaurants.

 

HotDates: Dial Now! Two Great Wine Dinners Coming Up….

Grapes The Wine Co. Presents Kistler Vineyards at Vintage 1891 http://vintage1891.com/
Tuesday, March 20
7 pm
$115 per person, includes four courses with wine pairings
This from Daniel Posner of Grapes The Wine Company: “Let me tell you about our next wine dinner, as it is just 3 short weeks away…Jason Kesner is coming to Larchmont, and we are joining him. Who is Jason Kesner? Jason is one of the winemakers at Kistler. Have you heard of Kistler, or did you just crawl out from under that rock? Jason Kesner started his own winery back in 2002. He makes miniscule quantities of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We are going to be showcasing them on March 20th, at Vintage 1891. The dinner will start at 7 pm. Four-course meal, with wine pairings, all for $115.”  For reservations, or more info, call Grapes The Wine Company at 914-397-WINE (9463); grapesthewineco.com


The Seeker Spring Fling at The Cookery
April 16, 7pm - 9pm
$65 per person
Look for The Seeker wines and a beautifully paired menu from Chef David DiBari at The Cookery. For more information or to reserve, call The Cookery at( 914) 305 2336

 

HotPlate: Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Mousse with Fuji Apples at Crabtree’s Kittle House

It’s totally coincidental that the Kittle House is going strong with its Thursday Retro Night—a short, six dish menu feature—just as Mad Men Mania is starting to ramp up. As noted in this New York Times piece on tournedos Rossini by Jeff Gordinier, there is ample pleasure to be found in the French classics (even without a TV link).  It’s sad, that in these days of tattooed young chefs and rampant pig-o-philia in high-end restaurants, dishes like coquilles St. Jacques, Dover sole à la meunière, and steak au poivre have become as rare as dodos. Recently, we had the indescribable pleasure of a Chef Marc Lippman’s elegant foie gras and chicken liver mousse with crisp fuji apples. Pared with a $12 glass of Thurnhof’s Goldmuskateller, it didn’t seem “retro”—it was simply delicious.


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