Amuse Bouche

Tequilla turns trendy, Richard Gere's new role as restauranteur, and more.



That’s The Spirit

The newest luxury spirit trend? Tequila. Yes, that swill you knocked back in college has gone upscale ($40 shots, anyone?). To check out this latest hot new libation trend, see page 190.

food trends

Tequila

 

There’s a new luxury spirit of choice in this country, and it’s not single-cask scotch or Champagne cognac. It’s tequila. Yes, that incendiary stuff you swigged back in college, the fuel of that frosty confection whose crucial concern was salt or no salt. Today, that margarita can run you $11 if it’s stoked with Patron blanco. A shot can cost you $40 if it’s a Herradura Seleccion Suprema. Want to buy a bottle of that Herradura to use at home? It’ll set you back $350. Yes, that’s a zero after the five.

Aficionados have made tequila our fastest-growing spirit, according to Eric Schmidt, research director of Adams Beverage Group, which offers tools to assist with sales, distribution and marketing. Just as Champagne only can be called “Champagne” if it is produced and bottled in the Champagne region of France, only bottlings from Mexico legally can be labeled “tequila,” and only if what’s inside those bottles is derived from the blue agave plant grown in four Mexican states (especially the region of Jalisco). The highest quality tequila is 100-percent blue agave.

That $11 Patron blanco margarita is the bestseller at Blue Moon in Bronxville. Blanco (or silver) tequila has a smoothness that does not mask the spirit’s taste, says Blue Moon bartender Tracey Guerin, who offers up to 20 margarita varieties, pomegranate being the most popular. But her $9 tequila shots are top-sellers too. “They’re usually ordered un-chilled, without salt or lime, because of the better taste,” she notes.

Patron silver seems to be Westchester’s agave libation of choice. Bartenders at Sonora, Blue, and MacMenamin’s Grill deem it most popular—though anejo (meaning “old,” aged in oak casks for at least one year) rules at Sonora, too—with Don Julio and Herradura brand silvers close runners-up. Other top bar brands are Corazon and Gran Centenario, and at liquor stores, Corzo anejo (about $50) and Don Diego Santa anejo (about $70) are good choices.

“I’ve seen some people sip their tequila shots like wine,” says MacMenamin’s head bartender Miguel Hurtavo. At these prices, with this quality, a very sensible practice.

//  Diane Weintraub Pohl

 

$75 Steak

(For One)

 

If you think the view at 42 (The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, One Renaissance Sq, White Plains 914-761-4242; 42therestaurant.com) is extravagant, consider the steak. It’s $75 for either a prime-aged, 13-ounce sirloin or rib-eye. Yes, that’s per person. Incredulous? Don’t be, says Chef/Partner Anthony Goncalves. Both are the finest cuts of Kobe-style Akaushi beef, a Japanese breed raised in Texas. “Its flavor profile is incredible,” Goncalves raves. “It’s rich, clean, almost nutty.” And healthy, too, he notes, with less cholesterol than buffalo, chicken breast, even most fish.

Pretty incredible too is Goncalves’s claim that “it’s not a money maker for the restaurant.” He pays close to $40 per pound for it, he says, and the porcini mushrooms he serves with it cost upwards of $30 per pound. The beef is roasted in 42’s wood-burning oven, then plated with buttery potato fondant, garlic foam, blue cheese-infused beef demi-glace, and clipped wheatgrass for a dish that is, Goncalves says, “a great value.”

Clipped wheatgrass? “It’s a connection to the animal,” says Goncalves, referring to the Akaushi’s pasture diet, “but mostly it’s just having fun with food.” So smile big, sit back, and savor. For $75 you’re getting off easy. If he served Kobe imported from Japan, Goncalves says, you’d be paying $150.

//  DWP

 

Gere’s Eatery Gears Up

 

Photo courtesy of 2005 Fox Searchlight Pictures

While Pound Ridge resident Richard Gere was busy finishing up his latest film project, Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, his other project—the Bedford Post Inn (954 Old Post Rd, Bedford Village 914-234-7800) was beginning to do some business. The café/bakery in the bi-level barn has opened, but the upscale 85-seat restaurant and eight-suite inn won’t be ready until late spring or summer. But if you just can’t wait, a $65 four-course prix-fixe dinner is being offered, Thursday through Saturday, with seating choices of 6:30 and 8:30.

The inn’s chef is Brian Lewis, formerly of Vu Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa in Arizona and the venerated seafood restaurant Oceana in Manhattan. Jessica Haight, previously of Bistro VG in Atlanta, is the pastry chef.

The 35-seat café serves breakfast from 8 to 10:30 am and lunch from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm weekdays; there’s brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 3 pm. Muffins ($2.50), mushroom-and-ricotta frittatas ($12), fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice ($4), and pecan sticky buns ($3) are popular breakfast items. Lunch dishes, from $7 to $17, include a farm egg with maple-glazed pork belly; jasmine rice veggie burger with avocado; and grilled chicken paillard with shaved fennel and arugula. 

Yoga classes are slated to begin on the barn’s second level in the spring. 

//  John Bruno Turiano

 

what’s in season //

Shad Roe

 

Photo by Carina Salvi

Never mind Beaujolais Nouveau and white truffles. Right now, our very own local delicacy is about to surface. Well, not surface, exactly—netted is more like it—but it’s arriving nonetheless. The annual Atlantic shad migration up the Hudson has begun, and connoisseurs have their lemons on the cutting board, their capers drained, their butter cut, their sauté pans at the ready.

The particular objects of anticipation are the roe sacs of the shad, those burnt-orange-hued pouches heaped with thousands of granular eggs. From February through mid-May, when the spawning migration ends, the roe will be a special on many local chefs’ menus. Among them: Harvest on Hudson’s Chef de Cuisine Sal Sprufero, who plans to feature it at the American-style brasserie Half Moon debuting this spring in the former Chart House space in Dobbs Ferry. Sprufero will be Half Moon’s executive chef.

Both Harvest and Half Moon are proponents of local, seasonal ingredients, and Sprufero sees shad roe as emblematic of that ethos. Shad swim right past his kitchen door, literally, and you can’t get more local than that. “The Hudson is the biggest and most famous fishery for shad,” he says, noting that river pollution is not an issue since the fish have matured in the ocean.

Sprufero feels shad roe’s delicate texture is best suited to pan-roasting; its mild salinity most aptly complemented by a lemon-spiked brown-butter sauce. And bacon, he says, is de rigueur. “I always include it in some form, usually crumbled on top or in a sauce. The saltiness and smokiness is a great marriage with the roe.”

At his restaurants, shad roe usually is served sliced with a vinaigrette-dressed salad. Home cooks, he suggests, should handle the delicate roe sacs carefully and store them in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for no more than two days. And don’t
cook them to more than medium, he stresses, lest they get livery and lose their characteristics. With such limited seasonality and coveted flavor, that would be a shame.

Pan-Roasted Shad Roe with Frisée, Watercress and Bacon Salad

Courtesy of Harvest-on-Hudson’s Chef de Cuisine Sal Sprufero

(Serves 4)

Shad roe 2 pair

½ cup Wondra flour, or all-purpose     

Vegetable oil for frying

Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Season roe with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, shake off excess. In large non-stick pan, heat oil to just-before smoking, then carefully add roe. Cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes per side on high heat, covered, as roe can “pop,” shaking pan occasionally. Remove roe to cutting board and keep warm. Use same pan to prepare sauce (see below).

FOR SAUCE:

4 Tbsp butter, salted                            

1 bunch parsley leaves, chopped          

juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp capers, chopped

Pour oil from pan and add butter, whisking until brown. Stir in capers, parsley and lemon. Separate roe sac pairs (you will have four pieces; pairs will separate easily after cooking) and cut each piece into three slices. Put slices on plate with salad, spoon brown butter sauce over roe.

FOR SALAD:

½ lb bacon, sliced

1 head frisée, or chicory                       

1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil                                      

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar              

shallot, minced             

salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Render bacon until crisp, and then crumble into pieces. Toss greens with olive oil, vinegar, shallots; add salt and pepper. Sprinkle bacon on top of salad and
shad roe.

 

//DWP

 

 What’s in a Number?

What’s up with numbers in restaurant names? It seems that more and more Westchester restaurants are following a national trend to eschew words and play the numbers. Why?

It always comes down to. . .money. Quoted in the Providence Journal last fall, Hudson Riehle of the National Restaurant Association in Washington, DC explained that numbering the name means numerous marketing and other advantages. People remember and recommend a restaurant by its location and since most online search engines put numerals before letters, results will list numbered names first.

In addition, with a name that incorporates an address, diners can’t not know where the restaurant is. Take 42 (Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, White Plains, 914-761-4242; 42therestaurant.com). Michael Pires, assistant to chef Anthony Goncalves, reports that “Chef Anthony Gonclaves wanted to keep the name as simple as possible.” At A’Tavola Bistro 385 (385 Halstead Ave, Harrison 914-381-6050; atavolabistro385.com), owners Paul Harrison and Camille Branca liked the way Bistro 385 sounded and thought it would be easily remembered. By lucky alphabetical accident A’ Tavola became part of the name too.

So, here we name some of the eateries in the county, old and new, that do it by the numbers.

Route 22 has two restaurants that use that number, the lovely, sedate Bistro Twenty-Two (391 Old Post Rd, Bedford 914-234-7333) and Route 22 (55 Old Rte 22, Armonk 914-765-0022; rt22restaurant.com), the family-friendly, 1930s automotive-themed spot. The wood-fired pizzas at 121 Restaurant & Bar (2-4 Dingle Ridge Rd/Rte 121, North Salem 914-669-0121; 121restaurant.com) have been easy to find for a number of years now.

A memorable name helps in the intense competition for customers, after all, and eliminates trademark issues as well. Fuffi 2000 (1288 North Ave, New Rochelle 914-738-6200; fuffi2000.com) associates with the Millennium, a hard year to forget. And speaking of forgetting, One (1 Bridge St, Irvington 914-591-2233; restaurantoneny.com) is onto something. If names escape other Baby Boomers as often as they do me, we all would say, “You know…the
one by the river in Irvington.” Chat 19 (19
Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont 914-833-8871; chat19.net), Lusardi’s casual cousin, is another example in which the street address is part of the name and Boe@324 (324 Central Ave, White Plains 914-684-8855; boeat324.com) is a combination of street number and owner Michael Boemio’s name. Med 15/35 (Hilton Rye Town, 699 Westchester Ave, Rye Brook 914-934-2550; med1535.com) uses numbers that start conversations about the sophisticated menu, which focuses on the interrelated cuisines of that latitude.

//  Judith Hausman

 

The Longest Wait

 

Want to dine out this Saturday night? Good luck. We called some of the county’s top restaurants midweek for a “This Saturday” reservation. The waits, let’s say, might leave you hungry.                                                 

 CLICK HERE TO SEE THE RESULTS 

 

The Best Cupcake

 

Want to know which local bakery bakes the best cupcake? We did, so we invited three local chefs—Pastry Chef Elizabeth Lilley of Woody’s on Main in Mount Kisco, Chef/Owner John Reynolds of Bungalow Restaurant-Lounge in Croton Falls, and author and chocolate expert Clay Gordon (discoverchocolate.com)—to taste seven white-cake and chocolate-frosted cupcakes from seven top bakeries. The winner: Carmela’s Bakery (2013 Crompond Rd, Yorktown Heights 914-962-0190; 1205 Pleasantville Rd, Briarcliff Manor 914-762-7600) “There are many variables that determine quality cupcakes,” Gordon says, “but the best ones make you feel like you’re seven and it’s your birthday.” Munch on a Carmela’s cupcake and, who knows, you may want to wear a party hat.

Note: Try Carmela’s cannoli doughnut, too. Yum!         

//  JBT

 

booze buzz //

A Bon Marché

 

Thanks to the dollar’s tumble, we wine lovers soon will see an upward creep in price for our favorite vins and vinos from across the pond. Reason to panic? Hardly. Take advantage of Europe’s diversity by trading down in price while still reaping the benefits of excellent quality.

For example, when switching from $60-and-up Brunello di Montalcino to baby brother Rosso di Montalcino for less than a third of the price, you give up intensity but not the earthy/fruity character (Banfi and Barbi are two reliable labels at around $20). Or think table wine. Go from peppery Grenache-based Châteauneuf-du-Pape to broader southern Rhône appellations of Côtes-du-Rhône (Jaboulet’s “Parallel 45” is available for under $12) and Côtes-du-Ventoux (Ch. Pesquier “Les Terasses” 2003, $13 at Stew Leonard’s), which are made from the same mix of grapes. And while pricey “classified” estates from Bordeaux’s 2005 vintage haven’t even reached our shelves yet, you can laugh your way through dinner tonight with a basic Bordeaux (try Ch. La Rose Tour Blanche at Dodd’s Liquor City in Millwood or Ch. Malbat at Millesima in Dobbs Ferry, both winners at $10).

Also seek out wines that traditionally deliver more value for  less bling. Westchester Wine Warehouse in White Plains has three excellent Portuguese reds for under $10 (Duas Quintas; Adriano; Quinta dos Aciprestes); Suburban Wines & Spirits in Yorktown Heights has the snappy Huber “Hugo” Gruner Veltliner for $9.99; it will wow even avowed Pinot Grigiacs. And the fleshy, peachy Martin Codax Albariño from Spain is built
for seafood; it’s available at Rochambeau Wines and Liquors in Dobbs Ferry and other stores for $11.99.   

//  W.R. Tish

 

Cater Your Seder

Make your first night of Passover a delicious one with help from others.

 

Balducci’s (15 Palmer Ave, Scarsdale 914-722-0200; balduccis.com) carries kosher-for-Passover prepared foods made by Divine To Go! (212-541-7300; simplydivine.com), including sea bass with olive-caper emulsion ($22 per person) and sides such as homemade matzoh ball soup ($1 per matzoh ball and $6.50/qt of chicken soup). A package deal, for a minimum of four people, is $40 per person for one appetizer, soup, one entrée, two accompaniments, and one dessert.

Bloom’s Kosher Delicatessen & Restaurant (339 Downing Dr, Yorktown Green Shopping Center, Yorktown Heights 914-245-3900; bloomsdeli.com) offers homey specialties “under strict rabbinical supervision.” As sides, try its Old World brisket ($23.99/lb) or whole roasted chickens ($6.99/lb) and potato kugel ($6.99/lb) or authentic gefilte fish ($12.99/lb).

Norma Olarte-Becker of Café Norma (387 Main St, Armonk, 914-273-4320; cafenorma.com) offers turkey breast with apricot chutney ($16.99/lb) or mustard-crusted salmon as an alternative to her brisket ($21.99/lb) for your Passover entrée. For sides, consider sweet potato, apple, carrot, and currant tzimmes ($16.95/lb), or string beans with almonds ($9.99/lb), and dessert, a flourless chocolate cake ($18).

Jackson & Wheeler (25 Wheeler Ave, Pleasantville, 914-741-2000; jacksonand wheeler.com) offers a package deal. From matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish to the flourless chocolate cake, all kosher-style fixings run $55 per person, including a box of matzoh. (Delivery may even be possible in some locations.)

Metro Deli’s (4 Palmer Ave, Scarsdale 914-472-4760) matzoh ball soup ($5.75/qt) is ”through the roof all year round,” says owner Gregory Kassimis. Brisket (16.99/lb), roast chicken ($12 a piece) or fresh turkey ($14.99/lb) can be ordered, as well as sides such as carrot-sweet potato tzimmes or onion-mushroom farfel (both $5.50/lb).

Standing Room Only (1491 Weaver St, Scarsdale, 914-472-3002; srofinefoods.com) makes a dynamite (however not kosher for Passover) matzoh ball soup ($12 for a dozen matzoh balls plus $10/qt of soup) and a mousse-like gefilte fish ($3 a piece). Then follow with brisket ($22/lb) or turkey breast ($42 for eight servings).

Whole Foods Market (100 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains 914-288-1300; wholefoodsmarket.com) offers a traditional and updated menu of prepared foods
(kosher for Passover): Moroccan-spiced lamb shanks ($14.99/lb), golden beet salad ($8.99/lb), and individual kugels with carrots and dried cherries ($3.99 each). Kosher-for-Passover desserts, each serving three to five people, include meringues ($6.99), sponge cake ($9.99), and cookies ($5.99).

//  JH

 Nibbles

Jeff Raider, formerly executive chef of Valley at the Garrison in Putnam County, has replaced Dan Magill at One (1 Bridge St, Irvington 914-591-2233; restaurantoneny.com). Raider plans to introduce a new seasonally inspired menu for the spring. Magill has taken a position with Adrsley Country Club as executive chef. // Greg Gilbert, last at Emily Shaw’s Inn at Pound Ridge, is now Chef de Cuisine at Palomino in Greenwich, Connecticut (1392 E Putnam Ave 203-698-9033;
palominorestaurants.com). Gilbert and Rafael Palomino previously worked together at River Café in Brooklyn. No menu changes are expected. // Opened in March as part of the new indoor kart-racing facility Grand Prix New York is Fuel Restaurant and Bar (333 N Bedford Rd, Mount Kisco 914-241-3131; gpny.com). The 3,000-square-foot restaurant serves traditional American fare such as Maryland crab cakes, Asian-style short ribs with wasabi-mashed potatoes; and thin-crust pizzas. Entrées range from $15 to $33. // Morton’s, The Steakhouse (9 Maple Ave, White Plains 914-683-6101; mortons.com) is offering a vodka-and-caviar tasting on April 3 from 6 to 7:30 pm  ($45 per person).  Paired with the vodka drinks will be passed hors d’oeuvres including Petrossian caviar. // Northern Westchesterites looking for healthy food choices should check out Organic Connection Fresh Food Market & Café (981 Rte 22, Brewster, NY 845-279-2290; organic connection.com). The market/café offers organic brands from small producers and local farmers (those within 200 miles), plus takeout foods prepared by CIA-trained Executive Chef Gerry Herrfurth. There are also cooking classes offered every other Thursday ($60), themed dinner parties twice a month on Saturdays ($40), and film nights with movies that have some health or food tie-in.             

 //  JBT

 From page 200 and 203:

Food Find

Royal Plum Chutney

Why We Like It: Rich and smooth, this versatile chutney adds instant sweetness to many dishes. Royal Plum Chutney can be heated without losing flavor. Also, it contains no added color or preservatives and no oil. 

Best Uses: Spread on naan, use as a marinade for lamb kebobs or as a sandwich spread, or mix with yogurt.

Cost: $7.50 for a six-ounce jar

What’s in It: Water, sugar, plums, dates, figs, raisins, mango powder, salt, red pepper, spices.

Made by: Bombay Emerald Chutney Company, LLC, of Yorktown/Poughkeepsie

If You Like, Also Try: Royal Pomegranate Chutney, Royal Cranberry Chutney

Found at: Hastings Indoor Farmers’ Market at the James Harmon Community Center, April 12; County Center Indoor Farmers’ Market, April 20; (800) 394-0983; bombayemeraldchutneyco.com.                                      

Side Order

A Local Taste of Colombia

Brownies, a favorite sweet of owner and chef Jaíro Guayala, are not the only creations at Brownie Restaurant and Panaderia (179 Martine Ave, White Plains 914-946-0179). The restaurant and bakery (panaderia means “bakery” in Spanish) specializes in authentic Colombian foods, serving complete meals, fresh breads, pastries, and a variety of coffees. Desserts to sample include tiramisu, torta negra ( black cake), and, of course, brownies. Some entrées to try are empanadas (pastries filled with beef or chicken) and the succulent rotisserie chicken. The tab for main dishes ranges from $8 to $15.

//  Meryl Cates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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