The Best of Everything
Our fourth annual guide to the Best of Westchester.
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Best of Westchester ‘04
Selected by the Staff of Westchester Magazine
Text by Laurie Yarnell
with Marisa LaScala and Nancy Claus Giles
Featuring Photography by John Fortunato
In a county of nearly one million people, most (all?) oF whom have their own strong feelings about what’s good, what’s better and what’s best, we might have been hesitant to express our own favorites. No way. We’re journalists. We get paid for nosing around and finding out what’s good, what’s better and what’s best. And besides, we have a team of experts—critics, shopaholics and Westchester know-it-alls—to help inform us. So here it is: our annual guide to the best of everything in our county. Our best guide, yet.
Ruby’s Oyster Bar & Bistro
As good as Sarabeth’s—and easier to get to (and into). Ruby’s serves brunch that is not for the faint of stomach. Begin with a batch of fresh chilled oysters on the half shell, then dig into ultra-rich eggs Benedict with a slice of tender filet mignon, or treat yourself to a heady omelet stuffed with lobster, asparagus and Brie. And take advantage, too, of the bistro’s many stellar wines, offered at half-price during brunch.
Best Authentic Mexican Food
The Little Mexican Café
Here, Spanish-speaking grandmas prepare fiery tamales the old-fashioned way—by hand and according to time-honored tradition—one at a time. And they make a mean posole, too.
Best Korean Barbecue
There’s a reason this restaurant is always packed. It’s good. A delicious do-it-yourself cooking experience.
Best Sports Bar
The Sports Page Pub
Owned by former New York Giants’ center Robert Hyland, this is just the place to knock back some brewskis and watch the big game. Kick off with a macho mound o’ wings and a mess of golden-fried calamari. Twenty-five TVs in the bar area and 30 in the dining room put you right at the 50-yard line or center court.
Best New Bistro
The Red Hat
Chapeaux off to this charming newcomer with the hip bistro look—a swanky zinc bar, red leather banquettes, vintage stamped tin ceilings. Still, neither man nor woman can live on looks alone. Savor a perfectly grilled ham-and-cheese croque madame or a special plate of pumpkin-filled gnocchi with minced pancetta, chanterelle mushrooms and sage—and leave room for the French farmhouse-style desserts. Our favorite? The crock of nutmeg-and-cinnamon-flavored bread pudding. Atkins who?
Best New Italian Restaurant
Superb, upscale Northern Italian cuisine in a chic, sophisticated space of deep, rich woods, amber lighting and hand-painted ceilings. Try the shrimp-stuffed ravioli (resist licking the plate clean for every last bit of the sage and sorrel-flavored sauce) and the tenderloin of veal served with smoked mozzerella, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled eggplant. Or make your way through its various super-slim- crusted gourmet pizzas.
Best Place to Experience a Culinary Revolution
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Go visit your mother. Do 100 sit-ups. Give up reality TV. Maybe if you’re good, really good, you’ll be able to secure a weekend reservation at what is arguably the most exciting and creative culinary experiment in the nation. “Blue Hill,” one knowledgeable foodie chirped, “will do for New York what Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse did for California cuisine.” From the farm right outside the dining room window (the greenhouses, chickens, sheep and pigs are not just for show) to your table, an organic, fresh-from-the-farm dinner awaits. Call it “Westchester cuisine.”
Best Portuguese Restaurant
Come hungry; the portions are large and filling. Dig into such authentic favorites as sizzling hot filet of codfish, smothered with golden garlic cloves served over sautéed onions and sweet red peppers, or hearty paella with succulent shrimp, clams and mussels, tender pieces of chicken and pork, and house-made sausage. And, though you may think you can’t eat one more bite, think again. Odds are if you order the homemade fruit tart—and do—you’ll devour it in no time flat. You can always work it off at the gym tomorrow.
Best Chinese Restaurant
Larchmont (914) 833-2551
Rye Brook (914) 937-0747
You won’t be swept away by Ray’s uninspired décor, but you will be floored by Ray’s food—delicately flavored cashew-nut chicken, sautéed fresh broccoli and snow peas, crispy bean curd in garlic sauce and homemade wide, flat noodles flecked with tender chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables.
Best Family-Style Italian Restaurant
The portions are so huge at this popular family-style restaurant that no one leaves without an oversized doggie bag. Order the hearty sausage-and-meatballs Sunday dinner for two for $22.95—and expect to have enough in that doggie bag for lunch and dinner Monday, too.
Best Indian Restaurant
Coromandel, Cuisine of India
The offerings are sublime—from the kodi vepuda, spicy tender chicken in a dry masala sauce, to the transcendent shamm savera, mild Indian cheese wrapped in spinach leaves. Do try the mouthwatering masala dosa, a savory crispy rice and lentil crêpe and the fragrant sabji bhaji stew of ginger-flavored, sautéed garden-fresh potatoes in a fiery yogurt- curry sauce. And leave room for the classic gulab jamun dessert of delicately fried pastry served in a sweet sauce flavored with cardamom, saffron and rose water.
Best Neo-Japanese Restaurant
A huge “thank Koo” to co-owner Yona Hsieh for bringing some of her Nobuesque expertise to our part of New York. The restaurant’s décor is stunning and its food superb. Start your meal with heavenly lobster with pea shoots in a Champagne citrus vinaigrette or spicy king crab tortilla. (A Japanese chili powder delivers the kick). For an entrée, order the yellowfin tuna with jalapeño. You’ll be obsessing about it for days on end.
Best High-End Bargain
Xaviar’s at Piermont
All right. Technically, Piermont is not in Westchester. But chef Peter Kelly is a Yonkers boy, and he’s scheduled to open another culinary mecca in his riverfront hometown. Besides, Piermont is so darn close to the county (there’s just a river between it and us), and Kelly is so darn talented (both Xaviar’s and Kelly’s less formal restaurant next door, Freelance Café, received a score of 29 out of 30 for its food in the Zagat Survey) that who gives a hoot about technicalities? Just cross that bridge and plunk down $60 for what may be the most extraordinary, most luscious and most creative four-course meal north of the city.
Best Prix-Fixe Dinner
Enjoy the exotic flavors from the sun-drenched coastal areas of France and Italy with this Mediterranean stalwart’s three-course, prix-fixe dinner. A delicate, paper-thin trio of salmon (smoked salmon, gravlax, salmon tartar) served with a jasmine rice cake. Piquant sausage-stuffed pan-roasted chicken in a fennel and lemon garlic sauce. Heavenly vanilla panna cotta with fresh blueberry compote. All for $27 (the cost of an entrée in some restaurants). Available Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m; stellar service included.
Best Summer Dining
What it’s lacking in vowels Blu more than makes up for with its spectacular view of the Palisades Cliffs and the Hudson. Drink in the river view while dining on the deck. Begin with such refreshing summertime starters as chilled cucumber soup with tender lump crab meat, grilled shrimp cocktail with candied fennel or a baby beet arugula salad with pepper-crusted goat cheese. Then try the crispy soft-shell crab with fresh herbal salad, jasmine rice and red pepper miso sauce or a rare seared Moroccan-spiced tuna served over curry couscous and fresh navel orange salad. And finish with a chilled mango sorbet or a homemade, market-fresh, peach and blueberry cobbler. How good is that?
Best New Seafood Restaurant
This funky eatery by the Long Island Sound is tucked away and hard to find. But don’t let that deter you. F.I.S.H.’s octopus salad with hot cherry peppers and calamata olives in lemon and olive oil, its devilishly good lobster fra diavolo, seared sashimi-grade tuna “mignon” au poivre and just about everything else on the menu is too good to miss.
Best Prix-Fixe Lunch
Stoneleigh Creek Restaurant
Savor an elegant, three-course prix-fixe lunch. Menus change seasonally, but think oysters rolled in seasoned cornmeal and flash-fried, seared tuna with a sesame soy dressing or flame-grilled sirloin with shoestring fries for just $13.95 ($3 more with a glass of house wine) at this charming, cottage-like foodie-fave. Available every day but Monday from 12 p.m to 2:30 p.m.
Best Pan-Asian Restaurant
No wonder Water Moon is always packed. Its prices are reasonable, its dishes a magnificent mélange of culinary inspirations and the service comes with a smile. Try the Thai crab cake starter garnished with pineapple salsa and served in a pomelo plum sauce, the stir-fried chicken and shrimp with Szechuan peppercorns and the crispy duck and beef chow fun. And then, swoon over the chocolate truffle cake: Similar to a chocolate mousse cake, it’s served with a scoop of fresh coconut sorbet—and both are drizzled with mango raspberry sauce and garnished with seasonal berries. What a way to fill your daily
Best Winter Dining
A 1775 Revolutionary War-period house. A crackling warm fireplace. A bracing hot toddy. Those first may have brought us to Purdys. But what brings us back—again and again—is the food. We love the superb roasted oysters, the sublime onion tower and the sumptuous coriander-crusted pork tenderloin. And, of course, those homemade desserts; it’s nearly impossible to choose between the chocolate profiteroles with raspberry sauce and the sour cherry apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. It’s best to order both.
Best Little-Known Restaurant
A restaurateur’s restaurant. Owners of far more elegant local establishments drop by Piero’s to enjoy the homey and cozy (okay, cramped) restaurant’s generous portions of authentic, homemade Italian cuisine. You should too.
Most Charming Bistro
Buffet de la Gare
It’s not just the tin ceilings, wall sconces, copper detailing and superb cassoulet, vol-au-vent and coq au vin that makes this country French bistro so charming, although, Lord knows, that would suffice. But add to all that owners Annie and Gwen Goulet’s lilting accents, welcoming smiles and nurturing ministrations, and you can’t help but fall madly in love with the bistro—and the Goulets. In fact, odds are the minute you leave, sated and pampered, you’ll begin to plan a return trip—not just for more of the heavenly, flaky puff pastry stuffed with sweet lobster and asparagus or the decadently rich profiteroles, but to see Annie and Gwen, your charming new friends.
Best OverSized Portions
The Cheesecake Factory
Before the portion-control police discover the humongous dishes of crunchy Chinese chicken salad, hearty jambalaya and fragrant chicken Madeira, take your hungry self over and bring your hungry friends. Just make sure to wear drawstring-waist pants.
Best Retro Restaurant
Brooklyn’s Famous Sub Shop & Pasta
Get your homemade, generously sized, crispy fries and frothy, thick, won’t-fit-through-the-straw shakes from servers in ’50s uniforms with Chuck Berry boogieing in the background.
Best Wine List
Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant & Inn
It should come as no surprise that the Kittle House has won the prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award for the past 10 years. Its 299-page(!) wine menu lists the names of 5,500(!) wines. Nuff said.
Best American Bistro with Entertainment
Catch a rising jazz or folk star with your crispy cornmeal calamari. Often free, performances are scheduled most Wednesdays through Saturdays on a petite-sized stage with great sight lines. All this and first-rate food, too.
Best Private Dining Room
This charming dining room in the lovingly restored Finch Tavern, with gorgeous pale-green wainscotting and brown walls accented with gold flowers, gives you a nice way to entertain like the landed gentry—enjoy your foie gras and Finch fries in privacy. Gather your dearest friends for a special brunch, lunch or dinner. For a summer soirée, dine alfresco on the porch.
These caffeine vixens serve up a near-perfect cup of imported java. Enjoy your favorite jolt, anything from a frothy latte, a foamy cappuccino, a chocolatey café mocha or the signature Dragotino (like a Starbucks frappuccino, only better) with a yummy home-baked cookie (the popular oatmeal with white-chocolate cranberry cookies are scrumptious). The café, decorated with paper lanterns and a large antique opium table (not to worry—caffeine’s the drug of choice here) is the perfect spot to linger before or after catching a flick at the Jacob Burns.
Best Special-Occasion Restaurant
Equus at The Castle on the Hudson
How grand is it to propose, celebrate or seal a deal sitting in a hilltop castle with a wine steward filling your Champagne glass and attentive waiters fulfilling your every gastronomic desire? Very. Relax in a regal, high-back upholstered chair in the historic Oak Room. With a manor-style stone fireplace, this hunting lodge-like room, one of three dining rooms, was first owned by Louis XIV and then brought intact to the Castle upon its construction a century ago. Start with a divine Maryland crab cake with avocado marmalade and chipotle remoulade, enjoy a tender seared filet of Black Angus beef in red wine reduction with savory wild mushroom ragout, and finish with the signature Castle chocolate cake with black raspberry ice cream and fresh berry sauce. It's easy to imagine that you're a member of a royal family here—one who appreciates superb food, impeccable service and astounding views of the gardens, the Hudson and the Manhattan skyline.
Best New Tea Shop
A haven for tea lovers. Relax by the interior waterfall and koi pond or cozy up into the hand-shaped pop art sofa with a spot of fruity green tea, a cup of black tea blend, a sweet tea smoothie or our favorite, honeydew bubble tea (choose from a dozen flavors of this popular creamy tea with tapioca pearls). As you sip, give into the tempting Asian fusion snacks; enjoy Thai crab cakes, Japanese-style eel, Vietnamese roll and Thai-style tempura shrimp. And do try not to gawk at the schoolgirl uniform-clad waitresses. Staring, mom must have told you, is not polite.
Most Gregarious Chef/Restaurateur
Philip McGrath of
Iron Horse Grill
Take our advice: When dining at the Iron Horse Grill, join the clean plate club. If you don’t finish what’s on your plate, Philip McGrath might just call you at home to inquire if everything was all right. McGrath is our kind of chef: a chef who cares, really cares—and cooks, really, really well. Ever tasted his divine timbale of Peaky Toe crab or zesty thyme-rubbed rack of lamb, or the maple crème brûlée? If you can’t finish it all, bring us along to help you out.
Flaky golden phyllo dough puffy with tangy feta cheese. Zesty chopped baby eggplant with plump tomatoes and pungent garlic. Savory cubes of tender calf’s liver, pan-seared and served with market-fresh tomatoes, raw onions and crisp romaine lettuce. Plus shredded wheat baklava for dessert. Graze to your heart’s—and palate’s—content.
Best House-Made Ice Cream
One spoonful of La Crémaillère’s wild forest strawberry ice cream and…wow! The creamiest, most luscious ice cream that, thanks to owners Robert and Bobbie Meyzen, we can enjoy at home, too—straight from the carton (it’ll never make it into a bowl). La Crémaillère’s ice cream is
sold at select local retailers including the Hartsdale Cheesery, Chappaqua Village Market and Mrs. Green’s.
Best Mussels Bargain
Le Provençal Bistro
A mere $17.50 gets you a deep bowl full of plump sweet bivalves in a fragrant sea of herb-infused white wine sauce accompanied by shoestring-thin French fries on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Best Cubano Sandwiches
Latin American Café
Picture a wedge filled with sliced ham, seasoned pork, sweet pickles and slightly nutty-flavored Swiss cheese, slathered with sweet yellow mustard and a zesty mojo sauce of onion, lemon and garlic, grilled together on a sizzling hot press that turns its innards into a yummy goo. For $6.50, it’s the sandwich equivalent of those coveted cigars, for a lot less pesos.
Best Vegetable Appetizer
Grilled Asparagus, Blue
Is it any wonder this dish has already won so many fans already? Combining tender stalks of fresh-grilled asparagus in a delicately flavored cream sauce with chunks of sweet lobster and fresh walnut is just brilliant—and delicious. Joan Lunden loves this starter dish. We do too.
MacMenamin’s Grill & ChefWorks
We’ve always loved calamari prepared the old-fashioned way—fried and dunked in red sauce. But when we tasted chef Brian MacMenamin’s calamari dish—citrus flavored, crusted with cashews and scallions and bathed in a hot and sour orange sauce—our taste buds nearly wept with joy. It’s a cathartic culinary experience.
Best Steak Frites
Encore Bistro Français
Just like those served at your favorite Parisian bistro: Thick and juicy high-quality strip loin steak, grilled to perfection, and served either in a red wine and roasted shallot sauce or in a creamy blue cheese or green peppercorn sauce. And the frites? Made fresh every day, they’re crunchy, crisp and lightly salted—très magnifique.
Best Ice Cream Sandwich
Spy Rock Grille
A brilliant gourmet twist on the traditional ice cream treat. Sandwiched between two home-baked oatmeal cookies is fresh vanilla ice cream (hand-made in Mr. Shane’s ice cream parlor in Ridgefield, CT) drizzled with cold black currant sauce or warm chocolate sauce. Häagen-Dazs who?
Best Sirloin Steak
Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse
Its 22-ounce, perfectly cooked prime-aged sirloin tastes wonderful—with or without Frankie & Johnnie’s slightly sweet and smoky steak sauce.
The signature B4 burger consists of eight ounces of juicy, grade-A ground chuck topped with Swiss cheese, premium hand-cut bacon and—the pièce de résistance—a sunny-side up egg whose runny yolk means, look mom, no ketchup. Lotsa protein for all those Atkins adherents (skip the bun, you won’t miss it).
Best Crêpe Dessert
Marry velvety, ripe bananas with rich, sweet white chocolate mousse in a delicate, thin crêpe and serve with warm, homemade chocolate sauce and voila! The best crêpe you’ll find this side of the Seine.
Best Grand Marnier Soufflé
Light, airy and with just a hint of cognac-flavored liqueur, Le Château’s delicate soufflé is served with an ambrosial, rich crème anglaise. Order at the start of your meal so it’s ready when you are ($11.75).
Best Seafood Platter
Oyster House & Fish Market
Savor these sensational fruits of the sea: fresh succulent shrimp, tender Prince Edward Island mussels, plump littleneck clams from Rhode Island and half a sweet steamed lobster in the shell. Served with steamed potatoes, onions and fresh corn on the cob, it’s a fabulous feast for any hungry seafood-loving fan at $24.50.
Best Pan Pizza
Abatino’s Pizza & Pasta
North White Plains
Serious pan-pizza purists swear by Abatino’s. Farm-fresh tomatoes, plenty of gooey mozzarella and lotsa pungent fresh garlic piled on a 16-inch square pie ($13). If you indulge, make sure your significant other digs in too (you’ll thank us later). Or pick up a single slice (or two or three) for $2 each, and plan to stop in at the neighboring Stop & Shop for some Altoids before you go home.
Best-Priced Kobe Steak
You’d be super-tender, too, if you were massaged daily, lulled to sleep with jazz and drank only beer (lots happier, too). That’s the secret behind the juicy, melts-in-your-mouth Kobe steak served here. But that kind of pampering doesn’t come cheap. So $85 for a 19 to 20 ounce strip of Kobe steak, grilled to your liking, is a veritable bargain.
Best Crab Cakes
Zuppa Restaurant & Lounge
Made from fresh crabmeat with sweet Asian chili, mayo, peppers, onions, thyme, lemon zest and a sprinkle of the chef’s breadcrumbs, Zuppa’s crab cakes, pan-fried with herbs and marinated fennel, are divine.
(914) 666-6929 or
Conte’s “new-caught” (fresh from the ocean) kings of the crustacean family are consistently sweet and succulent. Order ’em up steamed ($28) or stuffed with shrimp and scallops ($36), and they arrive accompanied by steamed fresh spinach or baby bok choy. Conte’s luscious lobsters also make delicious guest appearances in the fragrant house bouillabaisse and hearty cioppino fish stew.
Best Pizza Pie
John Mariani, Esquire magazine’s food writer, calls Johnny’s pies “pretty near perfect.” We can’t argue with that. Pizza pundits praise the slightly charred crust with a pleasantly bitter flavor that’s topped with a delicately sweet tomato sauce dappled with blistered mozzarella. Made according to a secret Italian recipe that’s been in Johnny’s family since 1921, the pizza features fresh tomatoes on top of the cheese. Johnny’s pizza, alas, is not sold by the slice, but it is so darn good that on your own you could polish off a small pie ($10). But what the hey; for a dollar more, order the bigger-sized pie and enjoy what’s left in the morning.
Best Mac and Cheese
Yes, we’ve touted this dish before. But we can’t help crowing about it time and time again because this childhood favorite is hardly like mom’s (sorry Mom), unless mom (lucky you) is a gourmet cook who assembled al dente macaroni in heavy cream and sautéed shallots with fresh Fontina and Parmesan cheese in black truffle butter and white truffle oil. Finished with a touch of fresh chives and house-
made toasted breadcrumbs, it’s seriously yummy comfort food.
Best Buffalo Wings
Likely to start a stampede: Prepare to share this popular pub appetizer of extra-plump chicken wings that are first oven-baked and then quickly deep-fried to produce a crispy exterior to seal the savory juices inside. Or better yet, order an extra round so you don’t have to.
Best Dim Sum
We can hardly get enough of the Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, or the signature sautéed clams in black bean sauce, or, for that matter, the thick pork chop in a velvety sweet-and-sour Peking sauce. And what about the flavorful pork taro root dumplings or sweet lotus seed buns? Love ’em. But what cinches the deal and gets us to skip the Sunday-morning talk shows is the fun we have choosing among the many culinary creations that pass on wheeled carts. Hey, there. Stop, stop, please! What’s that? Lotus leaf sticky rice? Okay, we’ll try it.
Best Veal Milanese
Just like the kind served at those little trattorias in Milan. The milk-fed veal cutlet, pounded tender thin, is coated with house-made breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil with just the right amount of seasoning. It’s topped with flavorful cherry tomatoes, sweet red onions and crisp chopped arugula.
Best Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Devilishly good: a half-dozen market-fresh jumbo shrimp and juicy plum tomatoes sautéed in hot olive oil and white wine, and seasoned with a touch of fresh garlic, basil and crushed hot red pepper. Perfection.
A taste of the Mediterranean. Made from an old family recipe brought back from Greece, this flavorful, smooth spread, made fresh daily, strikes just the righ balance between the tahini (sesame paste) and the ground chickpeas. Seriously addictive when served with warm pita bread.
Best Specialty Margaritas
Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant
What a wonderful way to waste away a summer’s afternoon. Our favorite from the dozen offered? The fresh mango, a nice, not-too-sweet twist on the standard that goes down easy with—or without—the freshly made guacamole and chips.
Crisp, dry and straight up, it’s over the top. And served in a frosted glass with floating ice shivers and fresh, plump green olives.
The real thing: dark, thick and deliciously potent with a thin layer of creamy dark froth. Especially delicioso with a slice of panna cotta, flown straight over from Italy.
Food & Wine Shops
Best Wine Shop
Westchester Wine Warehouse
Cheers! Whether you’re a savvy wine connoisseur or just looking to impress your father-in-law oenophile, Westchester Wine Warehouse can help you choose the right bottle or case to enjoy or impress snobs, related or not. More than 1,000 bottles from all over the globe and at a range of price points.
Best Shop for French Cheese
Auray Cheese Shop
Is it any wonder Larchmont’s significant French community shops here? This jewel box fromagerie, which (merci bien) shuns commercial cheeses and carries more than 100 artisan specialties, some of which are made by hand. You haven’t really had cheese until you’ve had theirs. The nutty cave-aged Gruyère and Burgundy-washed Epoisses are terrific. Ditto the fine-grained, ash-covered Valencay de L’Indre goat cheese, the velvety Vacherin Mont D’Or and the tangy Le Deilloute Brie.
Get an apple a day from this busy, bazaar-like marketplace and it'll take you ten of 'em to sample all the varieties sold here, including New York State's sweet-tart Jonagold and juicy, red-wine colored Macoun, and that sweetly tart California girl, The Pink Lady. Celebrate the seasons with handfuls of sweet, purplish-black Bing cherries in summer, juicy sweet blood oranges and fragrant prickly pears in the fall, pungent broccoli rabe in winter and tender asparagus and fiddleheads in spring. No time to cook after cruising the racks at neighboring Loehmann's? Toss together some of the cold cuts from the deli counter with some crisp fresh greens and vine-ripe tomatoes for a carb-conscious chef's salad. Apple Farms may not be much to look at, but it’s great taste we’re after here, not great décor.
Best Italian Deli
Cosmo & Alex Deli
For those days when there’s no time to set foot in the kitchen (We call ’em weekdays). Pick up homemade, mouthwatering pasta and chicken dishes worthy of an Italian grandmother’s kitchen. Also try Cosmo’s fresh ham, salami and prosciutto for sandwiches with that special pizzazz.
Best Coffee Shop
Coffee Labs Roasters
Coffee fanatics Mike Love and Alicia Kelligrew are happy to share their expertise for brewing the perfect cup of java, including mastering the fine art of grinding (they’ll demonstrate on their $55,000 coffee roaster) and appreciating the subtleties of aroma and flavor. Order a café rosetta (a latte with the design of a rose etched in the foamy hot milk) and a buttery brioche (from SoHo-based Balthazar Bakery). Bonus: It’s a guilt-free cup; 75 percent of their beans are Fair Trade certified, which means farmers get a fair price for their crops.
Best Mediterranean Groceries
A one-stop shop for all those hard-to-find big, bold Mediterranean tastes. Its exotic selection includes scrumptious cheeses, olives and olive oil from Greece (try the kasseri or halloumi) and frozen products from Israel. Yaranush’s pomegranate syrup is delicious in salad dressing.
Best Gourmet Supermarket
Turco’s Super Ranch
Hartsdale (914) 761-4414
Yorktown Heights (914) 243-9100
The sausages and mozzarella are homemade, the meat (including beef, veal and lamb) cut to order, and the imported cheeses are excellent and perfect for party platters. Toss some market-fresh fruits and vegetables in your basket, and you’re good to go.
Best Fish Store
Mt. Kisco Seafood
For the a-fish-ionado, this market carries more than 30 varieties of the best fish each day, all guaranteed to be scrupulously fresh. Buy some for the grill or try the pre-made dishes, including poached salmon and baked clams. Be sure to pick up one of their oh-so-yummy chowders, or, if time won’t allow, have it delivered.
Specialty Food & Drinks
Epstein’s Kosher Deli& Restaurant
Yonkers (914) 793-3131
Hartsdale (914) 428-5320
Plunk down two quarters for one of these mouth-puckering delights. Or, instead of settling for just one tart treat, indulge your sour tooth for a whole relish tray ($8.50) with sour and half-sour pickles, sour tomatoes, sauerkraut and peppers.
Best Rotisserie Chicken
Ruffled Feathers Gourmet Rotisserie Store
No feathers here, ruffled or otherwise, just moist, perfectly seasoned rotisserie chicken that’s wonderfully tender and wonderfully grease-free. Add their lightly seasoned, flavorful roasted veggies and the sweetly piquant cranberry, walnut and apple compote, and you have a yummy gourmet take-out feast.
Slave to the Grind
Just the thing for java junkies: A foamy 12- or 20-ounce latte with the perfect ratio of robust, potent espresso and steamy, creamy milk. Add a 50-cent shot of hazelnut, caramel, vanilla, coconut, strawberry or almond for a flavorful kick. Call it gilding the lily, but we call it caffeine bliss.
Best Gourmet Gift Baskets
Brimming with seasonal fruit, Perugina chocolates, gourmet Italian coffee, Lazzaroni cookies, Antonees’s own pasta sauces and even lotions, soaps and candles, these baskets, all festively tied with ribbons and bows, are a treat to give and receive. No wonder more than 6,000 are sent out each year! Choose holiday or other themed varieties (the popular “regular guy” substitutes Wise chips and Arizona Iced Teas for fancy gourmet goodies) or customize one of your own design.
Best Italian Specialties
A•S Fine Foods
Thornwood (914) 747-1449
Millwood (914) 923-8485
You’ll love these just-like-the-old-country Italian delis. A•S carries homemade mozzarella and hot Italian sausage and a wide selection of sharp and pungent imported cheeses, plus ready-to-eat dishes like spicy stuffed peppers, tender chicken marsala, mouthwatering stuffed mushrooms and their popular focaccia pizza.
Best Oversized Bread
Multigrain Herb and Marinated Calamata Olive at North Salem Cuisine
Man can not live by bread alone—unless he buys one of North Salem Cuisine’s 28-inch round, two-pound herb and olive loaves. The secret ingredient? A multi-grain flour imported from Germany. Not an impulse buy; orders need to be placed two days in advance.
Best Veggie Burger
Harvest Burger, Mrs. Green’s
and seven other locations in Westchester and Fairfield
Even non-vegetarians swoon over these meat-free, rich-tasting patties. Ultra-flavorful Harvest Burgers use organic veggies including crunchy red bell peppers, carrots, carob, peas, beets and onions along with millet flour, parsley, garlic and sea salt ($2.50).
Scarsdale Pastry Center
You don’t have to be Jewish to love Scarsdale pastry center’s Challah. You just have to love good Challah. This delicately sweet, light-as-air, soft-crusted bread regularly attracts lines that stretch out the door and around the corner before the High Holy Days and Shabbat—and for good reason. Bonus: Slightly stale leftover slices make gourmet-like French toast, so buy an extra loaf ($2.80).
Ladle of Love
The un-Soup Nazi. These savory, steaming hot, homemade soups are chock full of fresh vegetables and served with a smile.
Continue reading for our Shopping section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2004