Westchester Eats

Wonder where to go for Valentine’s Day dinner or who makes the best truffles? Find the answers here, and more.



Westchester Eats

 

By John Bruno Turiano

 

Drink to Zagat’s New Guide

 

 

Want the best cocktail in Westchester? Head on over to Monteverde in Cortlandt Manor (28 Bear Mountain Bridge Rd, 914-739-5000; www.monteverderestaurant.com). In Zagat’s new undertaking, an online drinks guide called “drinkwell” (Zagat has already covered spas, hotels, shops, golf courses, movies, and of course, its real bread and butter, restaurants), Monteverde got the highest score, 24 (out of 30) for its cocktails.

 

If you don’t need the very best to drown your woes, try Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua 914-666-8044; www.kittlehouse.com) or Ruby’s Oyster Bar & Bistro (45 Purchase St, Rye 914-921-4166; www.rubysoysterbar.net); they both came in at 23.

For more on the top restaurants for drinks in the county, go to www.zagat.com/drinkwell.

 

 

[Cupid Cuisine]

Where to dine on Valentine’s Day

 

    Chef-owner John Reynolds offers on his first Valentine’s Day at Bungalow Restaurant and Lounge (166 Stoneleigh Ave, Croton Falls 914-598-3008; www.bungalow166.com), a prix-fixe menu at $70. It starts with a basket full of muffins and moves on through lobster bisque, “heart-beet” salad, or roasted oysters. Entrée choices include lamb Wellington and pomegranate lacquered Cornish hen and, for dessert, passion-fruit panna cotta, chocolate fondue for two, or chocolate covered strawberries to go “in case you’re in a hurry to get home,” says Reynolds.

 

At the classically romantic Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua 914-666-8044; www.kittlehouse.com), the four-course prix-fixe costs $80 per person. Spring for a special bottle of wine from Kittle House’s excellent collection. The flowers and warm candlelight here can put anyone in a passionate mood.

 

      At Monteverde (28 Bear Mountain Bridge Rd, Cortlandt Manor 914-739-5000; www.monte verderestaurant.com), all women will receive a long-stemmed rose on Valentine’s Day. The elegant rooms are a romantic setting to try the $62 prix-fixe menu. Chef Neil Ferguson has also put together an $85 seven-course tasting menu for the evening, which includes a glass of Champagne served with a Champagne dessert. 

 

       If you can get away early, the newly relocated Red Hat on the River (One Bridge St, Irvington-on-Hudson 914-591-5888; www.red hatbistro.com) will have a romantic sunset seating at 4:30 pm on Valentine’s Day and will stay open until 10 pm. Executive Chef Bruce Beaty will be making a chilled pavé of Valrhona chocolate, served in a pool of passion-fruit crème anglaise and garnished with fresh raspberries. “I learned to make the pavé in Paris; it’s a very light consistency but still impossibly rich,” Beaty says, “the passion-fruit filling makes the flavor combination phenomenal.”

 

At Zitoune (1127 W Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck 914-835-8350; www.zitounerestau rant.com), entertainment by belly dancers is  included with the $55 prix-fixe Valentine’s Day menu. So is a glass of Champagne, a beet-and-tangerine salad (or choice of two other appetizers), and an entrée choice of Merlot-marinated quail, red snapper tagine with saffron, or rack of lamb with Moroccan spicing. End with a tray of Moroccan sweets and more Champagne.

                                  —Judith Hausman

  

What’s in Season

 

Russian Bananas

 

 

It’s a bleak, bitter Sunday, and
your comfort-food index is at high alert. Better start planning those emergency supplies: a crusty boule, a fragrant Pinot Noir, an amber roast chicken, some Russian bananas. Hold that reverie: Russian bananas? They’re the go-to tuber you’ve loved for years, prosaically termed fingerling potatoes.

 

The Russian banana is the most common fingerling variety, and also the most versatile. Its shape and color are obvious, its flavor is rich and nutty, its texture holds firm yet cooks up creamy.

 

Chef Mark Filippo casts them as key players in his modern American cooking at Morgans Fish House (22 Elm Pl, Rye 914-921-8190; www.morgansfishhouse.net). “I’ll sauté them for an octopus-and-mushroom salad or roast them with a rack of pork or lamb.”

 

The rules for choosing Russian bananas are straightforward. “Never buy any that are sprouting,” Filippo advises. “Choose those that feel firm, with shiny, even-colored skin.” Once you get them home, he adds, keep them refrigerated in low humidity, away from strong-smelling foods. They appear throughout his menu, nowhere more notably than in the following warm salad:

 

Warm Fingerling Potatoes with Shiitake Mushrooms and Mache Salad

(Serves 6)

Adapted from Mark Filippo

1 lb fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, steamed until firm when pierced with knife tip; sliced ½-inch thick

1 lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed

and saved for mushroom vinaigrette

4 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

6 oz mâche (can substitute arugula)

4 oz mushroom vinaigrette (see below)

½ tsp chopped garlic

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

1 Tbsp lemon juice

3 basil leaves, sliced in thin strips

 

For Mushroom Vinaigrette

4 white mushrooms, sliced

Stems from shiitake mushrooms

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ onion, chopped

12 oz chicken stock or water

1 tsp butter         

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp truffle oil

salt and pepper to taste

 

In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed sauce-pan, sauté mushrooms and stems in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook 5 minutes, strain through colander into bowl; save juice.

 

Place dry mushrooms back into saucepan with remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil; cook over medium heat 10 minutes.  Add onions; cook 5 minutes. Add stock and butter; simmer 40 minutes.

 

Strain juice into saved mushroom liquid; discard mushrooms.

Place juice back into same saucepan and reduce to 3 oz. Pour into bowl and cool. Whisk in balsamic vinegar and truffle oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

For Fingerling Potatoes

In 10-inch sauté pan, cook shiitake caps in 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter, season with salt and pepper. Cook about 12 minutes; add ¼ tsp chopped garlic, 1 tsp chopped parsley, and a drop of lemon juice.” Cook one minute. Set aside.    

 

In 10-inch nonstick sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil until almost smoking, then add sliced fingerlings. Cook 2 minutes, turn gently, and cook 3 minutes longer. Add remaining ¼ tsp garlic and parsley, season with salt and pepper. Stir gently, cook 1 minute, add lemon juice.

 

Divide fingerlings among 6 bowls, top with shiitake caps and basil. Lightly dress mâche with 1 oz vinaigrette and top each plate with a small amount of salad. Pass remaining vinaigrette on the side.

                              —Diane Weintraub Pohl

 

Short Order

 

 

Northern Westchester native Brian Lewis, who most recently worked at the contemporary steak-and-seafood eatery Vu in Scottsdale, Arizona, will head up the kitchen at Richard Gere’s Bedford Post Inn (Rte 121, Bedford Village). Lewis worked previously at Lutèce and Oceana restaurants and Bix in San Francisco. Gere’s 110-seat, dinner-only restaurant will feature American farmhouse cuisine (Gere is a proponent of the slow-food cooking movement), using seasonal ingredients from small family farms. The venture will also include an eight-suite inn and a 50-seat bakery and café. Opening day is expected sometime this or next month…  

Lefteris Gyro in Tarrytown has some nearby competition: the newly opened Santorini Greek Restaurant (175 Valley St, Sleepy Hollow 914-631-4300; www. santorinigreekrestaurant.com). The usual suspects can be found on the menu (succulent meat gyros dripping with freshly made tzatziki, vegetable or meat moussaka, broiled sea bass with lots of garlic and lemon), but there are also some surprising choices, such as lamb and beef meatballs, flamed with ouzo, and boiled dandelions. Desserts include the familiar (honey-drenched baklava) and the less so (kourambie—almond butter cookies dusted with powdered sugar). The restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner (until 1 am on Fri and Sat); entrées cost between $11 and $16.50...

The owners of the once formal L’Europe restaurant have turned their establishment into the more casual Tosca Café (407 Smith Ridge Rd, South Salem 914-533-2570). Its modern Continental menu offers such dishes as sea scallops with pesto and braised spinach; Moroccan tuna; pappardelle with a short-rib ragu; and duck Bruxelles. Ruhi Toska will remain as chef. Serving dinner only Tues through Sun; main dishes cost between $20 and $30…

The owners of Harvest on Hudson, having purchased the space that housed Chart House in Dobbs Ferry, are in the midst of turning it into a Pan-American restaurant which will offer both South American dishes (ceviche, tapas, a la plancha—grilled items) and North American (ribs, burgers). Running the kitchen at the new venture,  Half Moon (1 High St), will be Sal Sprufero, executive chef under Harvest’s Corporate Chef Vincent Barcelona…

The team behind the popular Rosie’s Bistro in Bronxville has recently opened a second village restaurant, the 70-seat Sammy’s Downtown (124 Pondfield Rd 914-337-3200). Chef Juan Mejia, formerly at
Rosie’s, is responsible for Sammy’s Continental menu with such offerings as bouillabaisse and veal Milanese. Entrées cost from $14 to $28. Dinner is served every day; lunch Mon to Sat…

Irvington’s Rich Bean Café has closed and, in its place, former personal chef Emily Feliciano has opened a breakfast and lunch spot, Black Cat Café (45 Main St 914-231-9060; www.blackcatchef.com). Wraps, salads, stews,
and homemade soups are available for lunch, all made using locally grown products with no preservatives, antibiotics, or MSG, according to Feliciano. There’s also a takeout dinner menu with such items as orange chicken stir-fry; cod with leeks and tomatoes; and rigatoni with goat cheese and olives…

Hartsdale resident Joe Floriano, the owner of 50-year-old Italian bakery Enrico’s Pastry Shop and Caffe on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx, has opened a Westchester branch. Unlike the original, Enrico’s Pastry Shop and Caffe  (200 E Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale 914-723-0340) offers some Jewish items, including honey bread and tagelach (honey dough balls with cherries and walnuts). Do try the cupcakes, especially the pistachio and peanut butter varieties. Yum!

 

 

Cheapskates Corner

 

 

For those who love to dine on classic French food but get indigestion when they receive the bill, La Panetière (530 Milton Rd, Rye 914-967-8140; lapanetiere.com) believes it has an antidote for that malady. The refined French restaurant now offers a small-portion, half-price lunch menu.

 

Cheapskates can dine à la carte on country duck terrine with truffles and pistachios ($10), black sea bass in a port wine emulsion ($13), or rack of lamb ($16). Or, opt for a $25, three-course menu that may include tuna tartare, beef tenderloin, or braised leg of duck. (A three-course dinner costs $65, and a two-course one $52.) À la carte or not, save room for the restaurant’s signature opera cake, made with layers of rich chocolate ganache and light coffee butter cream.

 

La Panetière is open for lunch between noon and 2:30 pm every day except Saturday and Monday.

 

 

Food Xtremes

 

11 oz Grilled Angus Beef Burger

 

 

Where: Backals, 2 Weaver St, Scarsdale; (914) 722-4508; backals.com 

Served On: Pane D’Oro brioche bun

Served With: Caramelized Spanish onions with chipolte, dill pickles, red leaf lettuce, beefsteak tomato, sliced red onion, housemade ketchup and Dijon mustard, plus a choice of French fries, glazed carrots, broccoli rabe, bok choy, or warm homemade lentil salad

Atmosphere: Refined 1924 Tudor lodge with multi-tiered balconies, brass ring curtains, and mosaic tile floor in main dining room.  

Cost: $18

 

 

5.3 oz Ground Chuck Burger

 

 

Where: Burgers, Shakes & Fries, 302 Delavan Ave, Greenwich, Connecticut (203) 531-7433; burgersshakesnfries.com 

Served On: Two slices of toasted Rockland Bakery white bread

Served With: Leibo kosher dill pickles, raw onions, and B&G hot peppers (fries are extra: $2 for a small portion and $3 for large).

Atmosphere: Plain wood counter and plastic orange chairs; stuffed red bulldog atop Freaky Dog soda machine.   

Cost: $3.50

 

 

 

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