Our apple pie taste test; where to find the freshest mozzarella and yummiest hot chocolate; and more.
By John Bruno Turiano
Passage to India
This tempting taste of the Sub-continent is sure to curry favor with Indian-fare aficionados. Traditional saffron basmati rice at Coromandel in New Rochelle features a fragrant medley of cardamom and cinnamon-scented long-grain rice with raisins, cashews, and almonds.
Gourmet versions of hot chocolate are available in the county, including this Mexican version from Quimbaya¡¯s in Ossining.
When the wind is biting at your nose and your toes, nothing soothes better than a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Thick, milky, and sweet, it instantly warms your body and your soul. Plus, it¡¯s chocolate, which never hurts.
The gourmet revolution is introducing Westchester to the seductive pleasures of Parisian-style hot chocolate, traditionally made with quality bar chocolate rather than powdered cocoa. Thick, whole milk replaces water in these gourmet hot chocolates, with some versions even using half-and-half or cream. Plus, Parisian hot chocolate is typically whisked prior to serving, which gives it a silky, hot head of foam. Local vendors are a bit more technology-savvy, however, preferring to use their handy cappuccino frothers instead.
Besides French-style versions, Westchester offers several tantalizing spiced hot chocolates from Mexico and South America, some perked up with cinnamon and chili, some thickened with masa.
So the next time you get caught in a freezing driving rain, skip the thin, watery latte and treat yourself to the real deal¡ªa piping mug of creamy hot chocolate.
Cocoa (2107A Boston Post Rd, Larchmont 914-834-6464; www.cocoachocolateshop.com). More confection than beverage, Cocoa¡¯s hot chocolate is almost chewably thick¡ªlike a liquid ganache. Owner Angela Ingrao uses both dark and milk Belgian chocolate in her version, achieving the perfect balance between bitter and sweet.
Sunset Grille (68 Gedney Way, White Plains 914-227-9353; www.sunsetgrilleny.com). Sunset Grille¡¯s Mexican-style hot chocolate includes a hint of fire, combining Ibarra Mexican chocolate, Callebaut bittersweet chocolate, milk, cream, cinnamon, and chili. And, to please your inner eight-year-old, it¡¯s topped with two cool and melting house-made marshmallows.
The Kneaded Bread (181 N Main St, Port Chester 914-937-9489). Jeffrey Kohn¡¯s hot chocolate is worth a bakery run on its own. After melting an entire 10-pound brick of chocolate, he adds whole milk and half-and-half and simmers it with cinnamon sticks and pure vanilla extract. The Kneaded Bread¡¯s hot chocolate is spicy and vivid, with a complex flavor and a satisfying consistency¡ªrich but not overwhelming.
Paleteria Fernandez (33 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-3694). This paleteria (serving Mexican popsicles) bridges its off-season with champurrado, or spiced Mexican hot chocolate thickened with masa. In Paleteria Fernandez¡¯s version, Mexican bar chocolate is melted and steeped with cinnamon sticks, sugar, and milk. Finally, masa harina (ground corn) is added to thicken the mixture into a creamy chocolate porridge.
Quimbaya¡¯s (193 Main St, Ossining 914-941-0810). Billing itself as a ¡°Colombian coffee shop¡± disguises Quimbaya¡¯s real excellence¡ªit makes some of the best hot chocolate in the county. Take Quimbaya¡¯s Mexican hot chocolate: unsweetened Colombian cocoa, sugar, coffee crystals, cinnamon, water, and milk. Or its ¡°special¡± hot chocolate: unsweetened Colombian chocolate, milk, panela (sugarcane syrup), cloves, and cinnamon. All are capped with a luscious shot of whipped cream, which provides a cool, mild contrast to these hot and spicy drinks.
The restaurant scene in Westchester¡¯s small cities and towns is being invigorated by the cuisines of South and Central America. Get to know their variety.
Asi es Colombia (172 N Main St, Port Chester, 914-934-7675), as the name suggests, shares the specialties of Colombia in a small, friendly spot with a bakery case and a few tables. Try arepa¡ªflat, crunchy corn cakes, eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, topped with soft cheese, shredded beef, or tomato sauce and onions. Take home sweet rolls filled with guava paste or huge football-shaped breads sprinkled with cheese. (Main dishes: $8.50-$25.)
La Fonda Paisa (109 E Post Rd, White Plains 914-682-9032) is Colombian with a bakery case in front and restaurant tables in back. The Bandeja La Fonda Paisa is a typical platter of rice, soupy beans, sweet plantains, fried pork, a small arepa, and a thin piece of grilled steak, topped with an egg. Even the ¡°small¡± size is huge. Daily ¡°soups¡± are more like complex stews that make a meal when ordered ¡°completa,¡± that is, with rice, arepa, avocado, and spiced ground beef. (Main dishes: $7.75-$19.50.)
Pantanal (29 N. Main St, Port Chester, 914-939-6894) is named after a Brazilian national park. Try Brazilian grilled meats served on swords. (Main dishes: $12.95-$29.95.)
Patrias (35 1/2 N Main St, Port Chester, 914-937-0177), Pacifico (316 Boston Post Rd, Port Chester, 914-937-1610), and Sonora (179 Rectory St, Port Chester, 914-933-0200) are each fashionable efforts to elevate Latino cuisine. Patrias combines Chef Mariano Aznar¡¯s Spanish cuisine with his sister-in-law¡¯s Peruvian specialties. While Rafael Palomino is originally Colombian, his menus at Sonora and Pacifico include trendy Mojito cocktails, ceviches, towers of chilled seafood, and his signature dulce de leche cheesecake. (Main dishes: Patrias, $12-$22; Pacifico, $16.95-$26.96; Sonora, $22-$26.)
Samba Na¡¯ Brasa (42 W Broad St, Mount Vernon 914-668-1112) does churrascaria with at least 15 meats and the huge buffet of hot and cold sides. (Buffet only: Sun to Thurs $24.95; Fri and Sat $27.95.)
Peter Kelly, the renowned Rockland County chef/restaurateur¡ªand soon to be Westchester County chef/restaurateur¡ªwill appear on Food Network¡¯s Iron Chef America. His opponent: Chef Bobby Flay, the celebrated TV personality and owner of four restaurants including Mesa Grill and Bolo in Manhattan. Care to see who won? The episode will most likely air at the end of this month or sometime in February. And check our web site in upcoming weeks to learn when the episode will indeed air.
New Owners of Supermarket in Hartsdale
Specialty food retailer Turco¡¯s in Hartsdale has been bought by Morton Williams, The Fresh Marketplace, a small gourmet supermarket chain founded in 1952 in the Bronx. This will be the 11th Morton Williams store and the first in the county.
¡°We expect to try to expand the offerings,¡± says Morton Williams President Morton Sloan, who owns the regional chain with brother and Vice President William Sloan, a Hastings-on-Hudson resident. ¡°The fresh mozzarella, pastas, breads, sausages, and sauces will stay the same,¡± Sloan continues, ¡°but there will be many additions. We¡¯ve already added more than five-hundred new grocery items.¡±
The company also plans on having an expanded cheese department, an in-store bakery, an increase in organic items, and to remodel the shop inside and out.
And don¡¯t fret, diehard Turco¡¯s fans: the Turco¡¯s in Yorktown remains.
Zafr¨¢n¡¯s Mango Chutney
Best uses: Toasted pita bread with French Brie, relish for steak or an omelet, on a corned beef or pastrami sandwich.
Cost: $5.99-$6.99 (10 oz jar)
What¡¯s in it: Mangoes, salt, vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, raisins, mustard seeds, and cayenne pepper.
Made by: Akhtar Mir, co-owner of Naseem Gourmet Foods in Yonkers.
Inspiration: ¡°I grew up on mango chutney in Kenya. This is my version of the classic British-Indian fusion item.¡±
If you like, also try: Apple chutney, papaya chutney, tomato chutney, tamarind chutney.
Found at: Zafr¨¢n restaurant in Yonkers, Morton Williams (formerly Turco's) in Hartsdale, DeCicco Marketplace in Scarsdale, Zabar¡¯s in Manhattan.
New Tea Shop
At the new Tea Blossom in Scarsdale, owner Jenny Chan offers a collection of more than 50 loose-leaf teas displayed in glass carafes. ¡°I want people to see all the colors and smell the teas before purchasing,¡± says the Stamford, Connecticut, resident and Hong Kong native. Among the teas offered: hand-rolled, floral-scented dragon pearl jasmine ($11/oz), caffeine-free, fruity sweet plum cinnamon rooibos ($3.50/oz), and tippy yunnan, a spicy black tea ($6/oz). The priciest teas Chan sells are the yame gyokuro, a shade-grown green tea from Japan, and silver dew, a blend of Japanese and Chinese exotic teas (both are $24/oz). Chan doesn¡¯t serve tea in her shop, however. ¡°This is not a tearoom. My main goal is to teach people how to make the perfect cup themselves.¡±
How? Here are her suggestions:
¡ö Store tea in foil pouches in wood or tin containers. ¡°The foil packages keep tea fresh while wood stabilizes the temperature of the tea.¡±
¡ö Store tea in a cool, dry place¡ªand not where your spices are. ¡°The tea will absorb the spice flavor.¡±
¡ö ¡°The bigger the tea leaves, the longer the steeping time.¡±
¡ö ¡°Black and herbal teas should be s