Sexton hits St. George in Hastings-on-Hudson

Restaurant North to Cook at the James Beard House, and Heavenly Ricotta Dumplings at The New Guy (Yep: St. George)



Confited duck leg with caviar lentils at St. George in Hastings-on-Hudson

Confited duck leg with caviar lentils at St. George in Hastings-on-Hudson

So there I was, sneaking out of St. George when I ran into Chef Andy Nusser of Tarry Lodge and Casa Mono/Bar Jamon. Nusser sat alone, eating dinner at the bar, looking perfectly content. On that night, St. George—one of Westchester most iconic dining rooms—was in full-on sparkle, with light bouncing off the beveled mirrors and century (+) old pressed tin. Reopened October 4, the Southside space is virtually unchanged since its iteration as Buffet de la Gare, a landmark restaurant in Hastings-on-Hudson that was in constant operation from 1980 to 2013. Buffet de la Gare’s white tablecloths are gone (along with all the formality that they imply). What remains is a cozy, neighborhood bijoux where you might find yourself after a long day of work. We chatted about Nusser’s hellacious day (which included an emergency run to White Plains hospital) while he tucked into his hard-won dinner. Of this, Nusser said, “I’ve got a scotch and a steak. I’m happy!” And, in truth, he looked it.

And here lies the charm of St. George; it’s not trying to re-invent anything. The menu created by Executive Chef Chris Vergara, who also owns Meritage in Scarsdale and Harper’s in Dobbs Ferry, is lean and constructed around the French bistro flavors that are practically imprinted in our DNA. But the classics at St. George have been passed through a filter. You won’t find those default American-style bistro dishes here—we can all name them—moules frites, coq au vin, and tuna tartare. Unlike other Westchester bistros, St. George does not offer a democratic burger, and (get this!) there’s no half roasted chicken with fries on the menu. Instead, you’ll find a solid slab of St. George’s appetizers devoted to multiple varieties of raw oysters and clams, plus, plateaux that also bear those bivalves along with cold lobster, shrimp, and crab. Then there is the charcuterie to consider.

Sure, there are some ladies that daintily pick at pinkly curled shrimps in cocktail, but that ain’t me, folks. I zeroed in on the organ meats. Vergara’s pâté de campagne was rosy and delicious, at once finely textured and satisfyingly rustic, but it was the mousse de foies de volaille that stole my heart. Sure, there was that cholesterol-laden lusciousness that one might expect from an organ whose job it is to filter, but there was also an elegance in the mousse’s texture that made the second and third bites as compelling as the first. It was so good that I considered sharing it, but my companion was defending his pillowy ricotta dumplings with fragrant chanterelles and black garlic. Everyone was happy and no one was sharing squat. Note to self: I need nicer friends.

FYI: we visited St. George within its first ten days of operation, and that is way too soon for a critical review. We encountered some minor slip-ups on our visit, but nothing particularly grave. When its rough edges get a bit rounded, we predict that St. George will fit snugly into a warm, cozy spot in Westchester’s dining scene.

While St. George’s list of wines-by-the-glass is smart and well-edited, it’s wise to check out the cocktails, all of which are perfect for sipping in this all-but-gaslit 19th-Century room. Look for Absinthe’s green fairy—in pretty personal fountains and in a truly excellent Sazerac—plus, Lillet, Champagne, falernum, Chartreuse, all whipped into potions whose very glassware (small, stemmed half-spheres) evoke history. Sweetly, St. George tips a hat to its predecessor with the Buffet de la Gare cocktail: Champagne, spiced burgundy, apricot brandy. Of the wines-by-the-glass, we loved the Petit Chablis/Chardonnay blend and the Bourdeaux, but do check out the bottles—many are gently priced ($35-$45) and encourage conviviality.

Speaking of conviviality, you’ll find that almost half of the mains are portioned for two. Says Chef Vergara, “I just love the way it looks on the table: big platters of, say, côte de boeuf, with all the little copper pots of sauces, vegetable, and potatoes. It just suits the room.” Little copper pots also arrived with our singly portioned mains, onglet with herb-scattered frites and confited duck leg with caviar lentils. Both dishes were soulful, familiar, and just what we craved on this chilly October night. Our cheeks reddened, our eyes sparkled: it was going to be a good night.

To end, we swapped spoonsful of coffee-haunted chocolate mousse, savoring the sips of bourbon and moon-colored Absinthe that glittered lights of St. George. Take it from me, folks, you’ll want to pounce.

HotDate
Restaurant North Dinner at the James Beard House
December 19, 7 pm
$170 per person, inclusive

Looks like the Dynamic Duo are at it again! The partnership of Mancini and Gabrynowicz is virtually unbeatable. From the announcement, “The James Beard Foundation has asked for the participation of Restaurant North in an extraordinary charitable dinner on Thursday, December 19th, 2013. The event will be held at the historic James Beard House on 167 West 12th Street in the heart of Chelsea, New York City. The culinary and hospitality achievements of Eric Gabrynowicz, Stephen Mancini and the entire Restaurant North Team will be showcased. The dinner, which takes place at the home of the James Beard Foundation and will begin at 7 pm. An amazingly unique menu has been created which encompasses two seasons in the Hudson Valley with unique wines and house fermented beverages.     

Chef Eric Gabrynowicz and Stephen Mancini have constructed a locally sourced Hudson Valley produce based menu that captures the essence of summer and winter using modern preservation techniques. In addition to local ingredients for the kitchen they have secured wines showing the bounty of Long Island vineyards through a dynamic study of the Chardonnay grape. In addition to the wines paired with each course, we will be serving house made wines, beers and meads during the reception that  have been made entirely by the Restaurant North staff.

The special event is a benefit to raise funds and awareness for the James Beard Foundation. All of the proceeds of this event will go directly to The James Beard Foundation to support the Foundation’s various programs including educational workshops, culinary scholarships and seminars. The James Beard Foundation is a national non-for-profit charitable organization based in New York City dedicated to furthering the practice and appreciation of the culinary arts in America. The purpose of the James Beard Foundation, according to its bylaws, is: To celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire. See the menu and make reservations at jamesbeard.org/events/summer-winter.

Restaurant North is an award-winning, James Beard Nominated restaurant located in the Hamlet of Armonk, which is 38 miles north of New York City. At Restaurant North our only non-negotiable is that we must provide unparalleled hospitality and only the freshest organic and local ingredients to our guests.

If you would like more information about this topic or if you would like to schedule an interview regarding this topic, please reach out to Stephen Mancini at (914) 273-8686 or email stephen@restaurantnorth.com.

HotPlate
Ricotta Dumplings with black garlic, chanterelles, sage at St. George

Oh, yes, folks…just look at it. Imagine a bowlful of prettily pointed dumplings, all taut skinned and melting inside, served with sage-scented butter and ample, fan-shaped chanterelles. My dishrag partner literally raised an elbow when I went in for the kill, but I did manage to snag one. Man, was it delicious.