Cool Dining

Cool Dining



Cool Food

 

   

Bloom in Hastings. (Above) 

From ethnic eats to organic feasts, 914 is newly flush with great cuisine. Westchester food writer and gastronome Julia Sexton, whose work appears in Westchester Magazine, The Boston Globe, as well as The Journal News, dishes on the hot local dining scene. Tuck in your napkin, loosen your belt, open your mind, and dig in!

 

 It’s no secret that most Westchester restaurants used to, well, suck. We’re talking chain restaurants, bad Mexican, and lots and lots of “Continental cuisine”—food so bad that no nation will own it. Of course, there were some old-school French joints around, places with inscrutable menus and protein a la glue.

Things have changed—thank the kitchen gods. Manhattan’s insane rental market means that immigrant neighborhoods are being priced out of the city—and  immigrant  neighborhoods have always defined the cuisine of “The City”; think pastrami, pizza, bagels, pretzels, Chinatown. Manhattan food is the cuisine of newcomers. And where did all those ethnic neighborhoods go? Many shifted north, to the formerly depressed inner-ring suburbs of New Rochelle, Port Chester, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers. Some have gone even further into Ossining and Peekskill.

 

 

Bloom in Hastings.(Above)

So Westchester has been getting sizeable populations of new immigrants, coming from the culinary wonderlands of Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Portugal, Uruguay, and Colombia. Dining out in Westchester has never been so great.

For once, we can lord it over Manhattanites because hip, global cuisine is moving here in droves. In places like New Rochelle and Port Chester, the food scene is so rich and intense that it’s akin to the hotbed restaurant scenes of the East and West Village.  The food scene is so competitive, you have to be really good to stay in business. There are just too many educated palates around who won’t stand for sub-par ethnic cuisine. Plus, the guy two doors down is making his own tortillas or he’s just bought a spit and he’s roasting tacos al pastor (a kind of Lebanese/Mexican fusion dish of spitted, chili-rubbed pork that’s very trendy in Mexico City). 

 

 

Bloom in Hastings.(Above)

The other cool food scene in Westchester? Chic restaurants serving heritage breeds and organic and local produce. There’s Blue Hill, The Flying Pig on Lexington, Comfort, Tomatillo, and Peter Pratt’s. Bloom is the newest hot organic on the block. It has an ambitious interior design (and an ethical one, using lots of sustainable and post-consumer materials), plus, it’s hired Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s cocktail whiz to design its signature drinks. It’s doing cocktails and infusions with organic Square One vodka. (Some people swear that organic vodka won’t cause a hangover. Care to test that theory?)

Finally, Moroccan is hot! It’s exotic, sexy, veggie-friendly, and one of the few ethnic cuisines that isn’t super spicy—so it manages to be novel without being painful. And it goes well with drinks, which is always cool.

 

Ready to eat? Here’s where to try some of the county’s hottest cuisines.

 

 

Cool New Rochelle

Little Mexican Café 581 Main St, New Rochelle (914) 636-3926. Go for spit-roasted tacos al pastor, grilled cecina (salt dried beef), soulful mole, and carne asada.

 

  

 

 

Corner Mexican Restaurant (Above) 497 Main St, New Rochelle (914) 633-9696.

Go for rich, flavorful breakfasts of chilaquiles and carne asada, tamales, soul-warming pozole, and sopes.

 

El Michoacano 485 Main St, New Rochelle (914) 654-9315.

Go for the state of Michoacan’s regional specialty, carnitas tacos. This is pork that’s been braised in water, then fried in its own rendered fat. “Gutsy” eaters can try El Michoacano’s super-authentic offal tacos, including pork stomach, brain, tongue, head, and tripe.

 

 

La Flor de Michoacan 215 Union Ave, New Rochelle (914) 632-7496.

Go for a mind-boggling array of paletas, or Mexican fruit-based ice pops. Also worth the trip are La Flor de Michoacan’s aguas frescas. These flavored cold drinks are available in an ever-changing roster of flavors—look for Jamaica (hibiscus flower; you might recognize the color and flavor from Red Zinger tea), tamarind and horchata (rice water with sugar and spices).

 

 

Cool Port Chester

Paleteria Fernandez 33 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 939-3694.

Everyone knows about Westchester’s premier paleteria serving ice cream and popsicles, but the cool thing about Paleteria Fernandez is that it bridges the seasonal downtick in business with hot offerings. Look for champurrado, or Mexican hot chocolate thickened and subtly flavored with corn masa. On other days, Paleteria Fernandez offers atole, or warm water thickened into a pudding with masa, then spiced with vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar. Also look for tamales, which are delivered just before lunch by an outside maker. The supplier can be unreliable; it’s wise to call before you go.

 

Los Gemellos Restaurant & Tortilleria 167 Westchester Ave, Port Chester (914) 934-0372.

Adelo Ramirez went one better than all the other taco joints in the neighborhood: he opened his own tortilla factory. Expect super-fresh tortillas wrapped around an incredible array of traditional Mexican meats—the carnitas are especially good. Also good: the chunky, Mexican veal stew, birria, served piping hot in a taco.

 

Pollo a la Brasa Misti 100 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 939-9437; www.polloalabrasamisti.com.

Great, cheap Peruvian—look for ceviche and steak with lima beans.

 

Panaderia Uruguaya Las Gemelas 204 Westchester Ave, Port Chester (914) 937-4322

Look for churros with dulce de leche at this Uruguayan bakery. Churros are long, cinnamon sugar-dusted doughnuts (kind of like a cruller) and dulce de leche is milk that’s been slowly cooked down until it’s a sweet, beige, lightly caramelized syrup.

 

La Flor De Jalisco Bakery 217 Westchester Ave, Port Chester (914) 937-5305.

Specializes in pastel de tres leches, or “cake of the three milks.” The milks in question are whole milk, cream, and sweetened condensed milk. Cakes are available whole and by the slice.

 

 

Cool Ossining

Quimbaya’s 193 Main St, Ossining (914) 941-0810.

Quimabaya’s offers a complex and unusual coffee menu, featuring specialty drinks and gourmet hot chocolates. All use Colombian chocolate, Colombian coffee, and panela (Colombian sugar-cane syrup). Quimbaya’s house-baked pastries are also gaining fans—these include flaky meat-and-potatoes empanadas, corn cakes, and sweet guava paste/cheese triangles.

 

Churrasqueira Ribatejo 39 Spring St, Ossining (914) 941-5928.

Modestly priced Portuguese grill: go for quails with pirri-pirri sauce, delicious pork chops, crisp/gooey baccalhao (codfish) cakes, grilled chorico, and succulent roasted chicken

 

Docas 125 Main St, Ossining (914) 944-9205.

Another modestly priced Portuguese. Go for cheap, tasty Portuguese wine and reasonably priced seafood, including its locally famous, impeccably fresh octopus salad and cold mussels with salsa.

 

 

Cool Mediterranean

Zitoune 1127 W Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck (914) 835-8350.

This is owner Alain Bennouna’s second incarnation of Zitoune. The first found the restaurant on Manhattan’s Gansevoort Street, smack in the middle of the Meatpacking District’s clubland. The change of address doesn’t mean the party has to stop—check out Zitoune’s belly dancing on Friday nights.

 

Turkish Meze 409 Mt Pleasant Ave, Mamaroneck (914) 777-3042; www.turkishmeze.com.

Look for hard-to-find, house-made, stuffed grape leaves; warm, soothing hummus; and spicy, yogurty cacik. Seafood is great here as well, like simply grilled fresh brook trout and branzino. Turkish Meze is a great place to knock back some Turkish beer and wine, and maybe share the wide selection of meze (small plates).

 

Turquoise 1895 Palmer Ave, Larchmont (914) 834-9888.

This super-popular Larchmont Turkish spot has a great look, a great vibe, and maybe not-so-great food, but when has that ever gotten in the way of coolness?

 

 

Cool Organic, Sustainable and Locally Raised

Bloom 19 Main St, Hastings-on-Hudson (914) 478-3250.

Expect high design and even higher prices at this thronged, brand-spanking-new Hastings organic. Look for chic cocktails brought to you by the drinks designer at Spice Market, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s trendy Manhattan eatery. All Bloom’s cocktails are made with organic Square One vodka—so you can feel good about tying one on.

 

Blue Hill at Stone Barns 630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills (914) 366-9600; www.bluehillsfarm.com.

Dan, David, and Laureen Barber spearhead this not-for-profit working farm and education center. Blue Hill at Stone Barns was the first area restaurant to show us that organic, sustainable, and local, really translates to hip, chic, and truly elegant.

 

Comfort 598 Warburton Ave, Hastings-on-Hudson (914) 478-4677.

This under-the-radar Hastings hole-in-the-wall has no restroom and only seven tables, but it does come with lots and lots of buzz. Whether you call early, wait in line, or just get take-out, be sure to order the Asian-spiced, hormone- and antibiotic-free roasted chicken.

 

The Flying Pig on Lexington 251 Lexington Ave, Mount Kisco (914) 666-7445; www.pigcafe.com.

The Flying Pig showcases the organic produce, heritage breeds, and aquaponic fish raised on Nancy and Jerome Kohlberg’s sprawling Mount Kisco estate, Cabbage Hill Farm. (Jerome Kohlberg can afford the space—he’s the high finance partner of Henry Kravis.) “The Pig” is as buzzy and casual as Blue Hill is subdued and elegant—but both offer locally raised, organic, and sustainable cuisine in a cool, hip atmosphere.

 

 

  

 Peter Pratt’s Inn (Above) 673 Croton Heights Rd, Yorktown (914) 962-4090; www.prattsinn.com.

Jonathan Pratt gets most of his produce from local farms (including Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg’s Cabbage Hill Farm and Meadows Farm). That is, if he’s not growing it himself. He has ancient sugar maples that he taps for syrup as well as honeybees, apple trees, and Concord grape vines—all on the grounds of his 260-year-old Yorktown inn. He also forages for morels and chicken mushrooms in the front yard, and in season, can get as much as a pound per expedition. (But only Jonathan’s dearest friends get invitations to Peter Pratt’s Morel Dinner. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail.)

 

 

Peter Pratt (Above)

Tomatillo 13 Cedar St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 478-2300; www.mexchester.com.

Chef Starkey serves a lighter version of Mexican fare, with much of his produce coming from Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Look for great, reasonably priced tequilas and sangrias, too.

 

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