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[Food & Wine]

…Make a Perfect Mojito

“The key to a good Mojito is fresh ingredients,” says Alex Cheblal, chef and co-owner of Belle Havana (35 Main St, Yonkers 914-969-1006). Here is his Cuban/French restaurant’s winning recipe for one perfect Mojito.

½ lime, wedged
3 spoons finely ground
cane sugar
7 fresh mint leaves
Crushed ice to fill glass
3 oz white rum (not dark)
2 oz limejuice
1 oz club soda

Muddle (crush in a large glass using a pestle) lime, sugar, and mint. Add crushed ice, white rum, and limejuice. Gently shake, and then add club soda.

…Chop Onions Without Crying

CIA-trained chef Jill Rose, owner of Chiboust in Tarrytown, recommends chopping onions when they’re cold, and with your mouth closed. “If you have the time, pop them into your refrigerator for at least an hour,” she says. Why? The onion’s smell comes from a sulfur compound contained inside. At lower temperatures, the sulfur compound’s molecules become less active and potent. And when you do work with them? “Keep your mouth closed” to reduce the amount of the irritating sulfuric compound you inhale. And to get the smell off your hands afterward? Rub them on a stainless steel utensil under a steady stream of running cold water.

…Use All the Vegetables from Your CSA

Don’t get us wrong: we love community-sponsored agriculture. But everybody has a vegetable he or she just can’t stomach (Yuck! More Swiss chard?), and there are just some weeks when you need an army to finish it all. We asked local farmers and foodies how to make the most of the CSA share.

1: Drizzle It with Oil and Then Some. “I’ve never met a vegetable that couldn’t stand a little olive oil, onion, and garlic sauté with a little goat cheese tossed in,” says Lisa Schwartz of Rainbeau Ridge in Bedford Hills.

2: Dry Out. “We make a lot of kale chips,” says Kurt Gabel of Katonah’s Green Fork Farms, who makes them by drying and salting the kale.

3: Be Creative. “Some of the best recipes I’ve created are the result of an overloaded CSA box or an overzealous trip to the farmers’ market,” says Nicki Sizemore, Rainbeau Ridge’s cooking-class chef. “How else would I have discovered that kohlrabi is delicious in a stir-fry or that Brussels sprouts can make a terrific salad?”

4: Throw It All in a Frittata. Frittatas are “fast, easy, and nutritious, and can be thrown together with a limitless combination of herbs and vegetables,” says Sizemore. For Sizemore’s own frittata recipe, visit westchestermagazine.com.

5: Can It. You can never eat all those fresh groceries now, but you might have a hankering in a few months. Can those veggies, or make jam with your luscious raspberries. “In late August and September, there is a multitude of tomatoes, and it’s great to put them up,” says Marian Cross of Amawalk Farm in Katonah.

6: Find a Better Program. You can buy a membership with Rainbeau Ridge’s Community Agricultural Partnership, for example, which gets you access to the garden, where you can then purchase veggies à la carte; that means you never need to look at kale again if you don’t want to.

…Get a table at Tarry Lodge

Call (914) 939-3111 promptly at 10 am—one month before you want to dine. Tarry Lodge starts booking tables at 10 am exactly one month ahead to the calendar date (e.g., if it’s January 13th, that would be February 13th). Prime times (between 6 and 9 pm) fill up first. Saturday prime-time reservations for the month usually are gone within 15 minutes. “Some have better luck with Internet booking because you bypass the possibility of being put on hold,” says Managing Partner Nancy Selzer. So try tarrylodge.com and click on “online reservations.”
A reservation for dining midweek or Sunday is somewhat easier. “There are very, very few restaurants in Westchester where you couldn’t get a reservation on a Tuesday night,” says Philip McGrath, chef-owner of the Iron Horse Grill in Pleasantville.
Placing calls for a table for four on four consecutive Tuesdays yielded these results:

Date                       Available Seating(s)
First Tuesday           5:15 pm or earlier
Second Tuesday   6:30 pm or earlier or 9 pm or later
Third Tuesday       5:15 pm or 8 pm (yeah, a cancellation!)
Fourth Tuesday        6 pm or 8:45 pm only

And for the worst of procrastinators—call the same day you’re interested in dining. “By early afternoon, we’ll have completed confirmation calls and know about cancellations,” Selzer says.

If nothing else, you can order antipasti, pizza, or salads to go. Selzer says, “There’s a nice little sliver of park on the river down the street that’s a picnic just waiting to happen!”

…Fake Being a Wine Expert

When it comes to wine, you may not know your Tuscans from your tannins—but you don’t want to sound so clueless. According to frequent Westchester Magazine contributor W. R. Tish of Wine for All in Katonah, to make it look like you actually listened at that wine tasting…

1: Know Which Are the Buzzy Regions. Wines from Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Washington, and organic wines are hot now. Which are not? Australian and high-end Napa wines, along with high-alcohol reds such as Cabernet, Merlots, Shiraz, and Grenache. “High-alcohol reds tend to be expensive,” Tish says, and bigger wines tend to be less versatile with food.

2: Know How to Spot Good Wine. In general, the more specific the wine’s origin, the more refined is the wine. A Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, for example, is considered better quality than a Pinot that simply comes from California.

3: Know What Not to Say. While it may seem smart to quote a wine expert or disagree with the latest wine ratings from a famed critic, it often is a dead giveaway that you are a wine ignoramus.

4: Increase Your “Real” Wine Knowledge. “A good, knowledgeable retailer is a wine lover’s best friend,” Tish says. And for the book lover, pick up Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine.