Dining Q & A
Where to go to win her heart, impress your in-laws or clinch a deal.
A Restaurant For Every Occasion
Q:Where can you find a farm-to-table restaurant, fabulous foie gras,
finger-lickin’ ribs, family-style pasta and authentic English afternoon tea?
By Judith Hausman Photography by John Fortunato
Lucky us. Westchester boasts not only a vast number of restaurants—more than 400—but also a huge selection of different types of eateries. Whether you’re a soccer mom on a budget looking to feed the winning team, a courting couple hankering for a romantic hideaway or a discreet mega-mogul hoping to keep his latest dinner companion off of Page Six, Westchester has a restaurant for you.
Q:I’m falling in love and want to win her heart. Got any suggestions?
A:You bet. Take her somewhere conducive to romance, perhaps Blu in Hastings. The dreamy view of the Hudson along with the Tappan Zee and the Palisades from Blu’s balcony is remarkably romantic, the perfect setting for enjoying each other, tall Blu Wave cocktails (rum, pineapple juice and blue curaçao) and a plate of fried calamari salad, which you may opt to feed her, ring by ring, depending on how much rum was in your Blu Wave. Aurora in Rye will seduce her—and you—in a different way. The arched ceilings glow pastel pink and blue, like the sky over the canals in Venice. The grilled squid with fennel and baby arugula and the grilled lamb with roasted artichokes may be aphrodisiacs and, believe it or not, Nonna’s terrific chicken soup may be too.
Or impress her with the refined country inn décor at Thomas Henkelmann at Homestead inn in Greenwich, CT. I like the porch seating, but every corner is beautiful. If luxurious foie gras, delicate bay scallops, woodsy pheasant, and the staff’s congeniality don’t win her over, then dessert will. Swoon over the chocolate soufflé cake with its liquid center or a vacherin meringue with raspberry, sorbet and vanilla ice cream locked inside. Once you’ve won her heart, you’ll want to come back again and again; the guestrooms upstairs are luxurious and strikingly decorated, great for anniversary celebrations.
Q: Where can we go for dinner and dancing?
A: On Saturday nights, The Atrium at the Doral Arrowwood Resort in Purchase hosts ballroom dancing with an opulent, seafood extravaganza ($41.95) included. Prefer to twist and shout? After 10 p.m. on weekends, show off your merengue and salsa moves at Mango Café in Mt. Kisco. A mango margarita goes well with the Guatemalan specialty, garnachas, which are fried corn cakes topped with meat, cilantro and green onions, crumbled cheese and shredded cabbage. In Briarcliff Maison Lafitte has found a new life and now arranges themed cocktail dinner and dancing events with music and food from around the world. “Havana” was May’s theme, and, in September, a Moroccan-themed night will feature music, dancing and North African delicacies.
Q: What’s new for food lovers this year?
A: Temptation Tea house, an almost-kitsch Oriental den in Mt. Kisco, brings to Westchester tapioca bubble teas, those weirdly delicious drinks with extra-fat straws that urban teens have made popular. Try coconut milk tea with giant black tapioca pearls at the bottom and a sweet-tart Vietnamese salad. Or a Scorpio smoothie, made with honeydew melon and green veggie dumplings.
Restful Water Moon in Rye brings to Westchester the whole of Asia with Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Japanese dishes, as well as a Chinese dim sum lunch on Sundays. French doors open from the stylish dining room for indoor-outdoor dining. Western desserts such as cheesecake follow scallion duck and sesame-crusted salmon.
Without heading north, fish lovers now can get that seafood-in-the-rough experience at Ebb Tide seafood, on the Port Chester canal. Seafood lovers can take home the fish or eat scallops or fried clams at picnic tables on the deck. At The Red Hat in Irvington, an intimate, casual, French-inspired cafe, discover an authentic, chewy skirt steak with those skinny, browned fries. La Flor de Michoacan in New Rochelle introduces us to paletas, ice pops that pop up in flavors like avocado or cherimoya, a new sensation here but very traditional in Mexico. Painted a bright orange and yellow, Tomatillo in Dobbs Ferry, which proudly calls itself a “Mexchester original,” has a mission: to serve healthier Mexican cuisine incorporating regional ingredients. You can build a better burrito from a long list of ingredients or add your own ideas to a giant cheese quesadilla. Try house-made guacamole that has a kick, followed by a half or whole Latin-spiced rotisserie chicken.
Q: Forget the foie gras, the filet, the fondue. I only care about dessert. Where to?
A: Go right to the source for kamikaze sweets. In Tarrytown, Chiboust bistro & bakery’s namesake melon-colored pastry is a column of intense passion fruit cream on a cashew crust with frills of cream and white chocolate
on top. In Rye, Patisserie Salzburg’s smooth lemon tart snuggles in a pâte sucrée crust. Belgian waffles and hot apple strudel with extra whipped
topping are specialties of the
comfortable Café mozart in Mamaroneck. An added bonus: You can enjoy Viennese coffee and live musical accompaniment with your splurge. In Scarsdale, Pâtisserie Lulu’s dense, tangy New York cheesecake and its German chocolate cake, filled with coconut, pecan and burnt caramel, are each decadently indulgent and fabulously caloric, too.
Q: Where do the Power Lunchers clinch a deal?
A: Lusardi’s in Larchmont feels like a cushy gentlemen’s club where regulars are recognized and where, with just a nod to the waiter, they order their favorites—perhaps rustic spaghetti alla Calabrisella featuring roasted peppers, anchovies, capers, tomatoes and breadcrumbs, or other pasta with sauces such as veal-based Bolognese or white clam sauce with plenty of tiny clams. Bask in the in-the-know glow as your clients are made to realize that you’re The Man—or The Woman.
The country manor setting of the chummy tavern room at Crabtree’s Kittle House, tucked away off of Bedford Road in Chappaqua, can also help woo a challenging client from “maybe” to “yes” with sumptuous oysters on the half shell, foie gras or Peking duck. If your client’s not a local, a quick drive past the ex-prez’s digs (just a hop, skip and a jump down the road) might garner you a few extra negotiating points—or at least make some fun after-lunch chit-chat.
Q: Where to impress a foodie?
A: Your foodie dining companions may not be impressed with the casual atmosphere of ümami café—this is not a white-glove, white-tablecloth kind of place—but there’s nothing casual or unimpressive about the fine and inventive global food served at this unpretentious Croton-on-Hudson eatery. Enjoy novel combinations such as pulled pork and foie gras or duck prosciutto and truffled cheese that stroke the tongue with “ümami,” the illusive “fifth taste” defined by the Japanese as “satisfaction” or “good taste” but by most everyone else as simply “delicious.”
Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills is the most exciting new restaurant development in the area, and possibly the nation. The suburban outpost of Blue Hill in Manhattan, Blue Hill at Stone Barns serves as the keystone to the demonstration farm located in the beautifully restored, former Rockefeller family dairy and carriage horse barn. Foodie friends will feel like virtuous trendsetters eating soft, ecologically grown baby lettuces from the property’s greenhouse, area cheeses, pickled ramps picked from the woods around the enchanting terrace and roasted heritage-breed pigs raised on the farm.
Cafe Mezé in Hartsdale is hip and airy and always impresses in the way dishes, such as grilled asparagus with pistachio aillade and goat cheese or bucatini with prosciutto and pancetta, combine and thereby redefine the cuisine of the Greater Mediterranean region. Your guests will also dig chatting up the sommelier about the serious wine collection here.
Q: If the magic just won’t quit, where can we go to eat late at night?
A: Café Mirage in Port Chester can fix you up with a plate of Korean barbecue with fiery kimchee, a smoked duck quesadilla or some bread pudding until 2 a.m. on weekends. An Ommegang or an Old Peculiar from its international and microbrewery beer selection might be fun late at night, too. Zuppa restaurant & lounge, a jazzy, contemporary restaurant just a block from the waterfront in Yonkers, serves dinner until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Pasta combinations—black spaghettini with fat, juicy clams and plenty of garlic; pappardelle with lamb ragù; or parsnip gnocchi with oxtail and Parmigiano-Reggiano—are appealing any time of night. Or make Zuppa’s puffy zeppole, light-as-a-feather fried dough served in a folded-over paper bag, your sweet nightcap, available until 12:30 a.m. At Globe Bar & grill in Larchmont, you can take a table on the sidewalk for a light bowl of mussels until 11 p.m. For the carnivore, B4’s beautiful burgers are still coming off the grill in Valhalla at 2 a.m., and they are still shaking those Pear Perfection martinis, too. If it’s a really long night, B4 serves breakfast from 8 a.m. on weekends and 10 a.m. weekdays.
Q: Where can we find personalized, grown-up service, a soothing atmosphere and a civilized meal?
A: Take a scenic drive in Somers around Amawalk Reservoir along Route 22 and you’ll arrive at traditions 118 (formerly Dylan’s Roadhouse) in Granite Springs, a casual modern American-Italian restaurant with a warm, elegant look. Take a seat on the quiet back patio or at the spacious bar and enjoy selections from Traditions 118’s diversified menu. Mom wants porcini mushroom-crusted salmon with a grilled vegetable tower. Sounds good to Dad, but it would sound even better with a porterhouse steak. You, on the other hand, would rather have the New Orleans paella.
Grappolo in Chappaqua is small, sparsely chic and friendly. The upscale Italian menu doesn’t rely on pasta with sauce; it includes trendier, more interesting dishes, such as roasted beet salad, stuffed pork tenderloin and a lovely peach upside-down tart. La Fontanella in Pelham is also popular with sophisticated diners. La Fontanella’s take on pasta ranges from eclectic to elegant. Try homemade, black squid-ink linguine with shellfish or crêpe-like manicotti filled with creamy ricotta. The tuxedoed waiters know their wines and are willing to tweak the menu selections to make you happy. The gracious, personal service is a pleasure. Try one of the excellent, little-known wines from Croatia, from where some of the staff hail.
Q: The yearly dinner for our softball league is coming up. Is there a restaurant that can accommodate us all?
A: No problem. Nine-month-old Star Canyon steakhouse in Mt. Vernon can seat 350. The stone walls and large chandeliers make it feel like a Western mountain lodge. Porterhouse steak and Caesar salad all around? Coming right up. If the team is feeling flush, there’s also a super wine collection from which to choose. Casual and moderately priced SoleLuna in Pleasantville and Tramonto in Hawthorne both have backrooms and can serve up huge trays of ziti or lasagna, salmon or chicken and salads. Soleluna’s menu prices are based on “family-style” (read: huge) portions—one entrée can easily serve two or more hungry people, so order accordingly. Spasso in Bedford Hills is darkly atmospheric for a private party. A glowing, round ceiling mural depicting Tuscan life is the center attraction of the dining room and, when it comes to the food, the pasta and thin-crusted pizzas are first-rate. When it’s your business colleagues, not your teammates, the roomy and tonier dining room at An American Bistro in Tuckahoe is a good choice, offering such selections as pork tenderloin or seared salmon, followed by a scrumptious bittersweet chocolate tart, for business and family groups.
Q: Heaven is good food and good music. Any suggestions?
A: The intimate setting at Watercolor Café in Larchmont has become a regular stop for performers on the singer-songwriter and jazz circuits, with performers such as Dave’s True Story, Susan Werner, the Doug Munroe Quartet and Bucky Pizzarelli. There’s a Folk Poet Series and workshops for musicians, too. But it’s the food that will make your tastebuds sing. Try the shrimp Giovanni or crab-packed crab cakes while you listen in the pastel dining
room-gallery. ernaccio’s—17 Main Restaurant & Jazz Club in Mt. Kisco prides itself not just on its funky, flavorful cuisine but on the growing roster of live talent that graces its stage each week. 17 Main has made a name for itself showcasing performers such as the Roger Davidson Trio and the Dixieland Devils Wednesday through Sunday. Listen with a Cosmo and some coconut shrimp at the bar or dig into grilled ostrich loin with tart cherry cassis sauce at a table.
Q: Can you suggest one last splurge before The Big Diet?
A: Choose your last hurrah. In Rye, La Panetière’s $85 tasting menu is extravagant and elegant. Fill up on duck foie gras or baby beet salad, wild sea bass in truffled broth or filet mignon with gnocchi au gratin, passion fruit soup and then a chocolate soufflé. Il Sorriso in Irvington will give you pasta to remember when you aren’t eating any: black tagliolini in lobster sauce with scallops; mushroom ravioli with white truffle oil; delicate agnolotti, filled with minced veal and spinach; pasta alla chitarra with lamb ragù; and tagliolini with porcini and zucchini. Every day is Mardi Gras at Bayou in Mt. Vernon, where an oyster po’ boy with sweet potato chips will provide you with food fantasies for the lean months: battered and deep-fried oysters packed into a crusty roll and swaddled in lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeños and remoulade sauce. Et toi!
Q: Wood-fired and thin or red-sauced and thick—where do I go for pizza?
A: At least once in your lifetime you’ve got to go to Sal’s pizzeria in Mamaroneck to try its chewy-gooey, old-school pizza. Sal’s is known for its denser-than-most Sicilian slices. Extra cheese on that? Sausage and green pepper? The weekend crowd waiting on line confirms that you won’t be the only one eager to slide into a booth there. Johnny’s Pizzeria in Mt. Vernon has guarded its secret Italian family recipe since 1921, creating smoky, thin-crusted pies with light, sweet tomato sauce dappled with blistered mozzarella and fresh tomatoes on top of the cheese. Portofino’s pizza & pasta in Goldens Bridge has got to be the best pizza deal, though. For $3.23, you get a huge, thin-crusted slice with ribbons of melted cheese. The specialty topping here is thin slices of homemade giant meatballs, sprinkled with extra mozzarella. Ossining Pizza and restaurant is a great choice too: delicious pizza for the kids and mussels fra diavolo over spaghetti for you. Everyone will adjourn to the adjoining gelati place afterwards. 121 restaurant & bar in North Salem and Luna restaurant in Mt. Kisco feature wood-fired, crispy individual pies with toppings like shrimp scampi, fresh clams and smoked salmon. Broadway North Pizza in Armonk even offers lasagna or ziti pizza and a chicken marsala pizza. Bellizzi in Mt. Kisco gives you a choice: heaped-up salad pizza, thick squares of Sicilian, or gourmet-style white pizza with real ricotta and mozzarella. An indoor playground/mini arcade for kids is a big plus.
Q: I can’t get away this year. Can you suggest some stand-ins for travel?
A: A stand-in for Guadalajara or Puebla? Try Azteca in Mt. Kisco, where you can enjoy delectable moles and tamales or try Tortilleria los Gamelos in Port Chester, where you can buy stacks of the restaurant’s own tortillas and tosatadas. To feel like you’re in Quito or San Salvador, head to La Pupusa Loca, also in Port Chester. Pupusas are corn cakes filled with a variety of ingredients (cheese, fried pork rinds or refried beans are the most common), and typically served with curtido, a type of coleslaw. For a Chinatown fix, Aberdeen in Harrison has a dim-sum brunch very much like the big halls in Flushing or downtown Manhattan—or, perhaps, downtown Beijing. Selections include lotus leaf with sticky rice and chicken, shrimp and pork, and garlic eggplant with stuffed shrimp. Buffet de La Gare is a direct flight to Paris with its tin ceilings, classic cassoulet and the dear accents of the Goulet family who serve you. The Latin American Café, a Miami luncheonette in the middle of White Plains, brings Havana to you with ropa viejo (shredded beef) and huge platters of meat, beans, rice and plantains, plus milky-sweet batidos to drink. How about domestic travel? For a choice of authentic barbecue styles without packing the van, head over to Southbound Bar-b-Que in Valhalla. They have researched, reproduced and “imported” Texas-, St. Louis- and Carolina-style brisket, ribs and pulled pork with the trimmings.
Q: We just love a good sit with a cuppa java or a spot of tea. Where to that isn’t Starbucks?
A: Perks coffee & tea in Katonah is simple, serene...and a scene; grab a metal chair (or a bench, or even a stoop outside) and a biscotti and eavesdrop on editors and artists chatting next to you. You’ll love the creamy lattes and the luscious lemon pound cake. You’ll like the prices, too. The little tables in front of Caffelatte in Dobbs Ferry are just like those in Italy. Inside, there’s a spare counter littered with little coffee cups, a big espresso machine and gelati, too. A tip: Try the lemon. Boone Dog Coffee House, farther north in Brewster, is a beatnik throwback with music on weekends, open-mike night every Thursday, a gallery space and daily lunch specials, such as chicken teriyaki or stromboli, in addition to cappuccino, frozen lattes and muffins all day. Dragonfly Caffe in Pleasantville is Harvard Square 1974 with its tranquil, Eastern-inspired decor, yogurt muffins and a cup of herbal tea.
Silver Tips tea room in Tarrytown has single estate, organic Indian Darjeeling, Japanese green teas and soothing fruit tisanes. “Afternoon” tea with smoked tea egg sandwiches, scones and samosas is served every day from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Kathleen’s tea Room in Peekskill does an authentic afternoon tea—featuring tea served in charming mismatched porcelain teacups and a three-tiered stand filled with sandwiches, crumpets, scones and sweets (like the delicious coconut cake)—which is served all day. Zafrán restaurant in Yonkers offers afternoon tea on Fridays with both traditional, English sandwiches and Indian appetizers, such as samosas and tandoori-wrapped shrimp.
Q: I’m living the low-carb lifestyle. Where to eat?
A: You can finish the whole T-bone at The Willett House, but you’ll have to cheat to appreciate the superb wine collection, not to mention the fried onion. Brightly colored, funky Y-Cook Café in Hastings color-codes the menu for low-carb selections and includes nutrition analyses so you can make wise choices, e.g., fried calamari for only two carbs or grilled sesame salmon for a mere three. Don’t skip dessert; the house-made low-carb cheesecake, parfaits and chocolate pudding are luxurious. If seafood’s your passion, fill up on yellowfin or fluke sashimi at Hanada Sushi in Pleasantville; just skip the rice. Of course, Fish Cellar restaurant in Mt. Kisco and Eastchester Fish Gourmet in Scarsdale can both fix you up with great salads (hold the tomatoes) and swordfish, tuna or branzini, fabulous fish that work for almost any diet.
Q: Carbs-schmarbs. I still love a good sandwich.
A: Around the Corner Café in Mt. Kisco offers a dozen two-fisted, original wraps. One of the top 10 is grilled vegetable with avocado, tahini and L-T-S-O (lettuce, tomato, sprouts and onion); all are served with homemade coleslaw or potato salad. In the summer, don’t miss the homemade lemonade infused with mint leaves. In the finest New York deli tradition, Bloom’s kosher DelicatessEn in Yorktown heaps smoky, lean pastrami on sour rye. Have it with plenty of pickles and a Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda. Lexington Square Café in Mt. Kisco has a great salmon club sandwich on multigrain bread or grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers with green mayo on ciabatta. Penelope’s Country Kitchen in Chappaqua packs pita, brioche or baguettes with chicken salad, ham and Brie or lemon-ginger shrimp salad, with a terrific Israeli couscous salad on the side.
As a food critic for The Journal News (Gannett Suburban Newspapers), Judith Hausman gets around.