Where Are We?
Locating Ardsley-on-Hudson, defining “upstate,” and more
Q: I hope you can help me with my “quest.” I am trying to find the brand, type, or blend of coffee that was served in Westchester diners during the ’50s and ’60s. I know it wasn’t the best, but I would like to bring a little of the good ol’ days back if I can (I grew up in Mamaroneck).
—Hank Loescher, Stratford, CT
A: We have absolutely no idea. But the “Westchester” part of “Ask Westchester” gives me access to all the resources of this fine publication (though I would love a few more “resources,” if you know what I mean.) Anyway, let’s meet your Westchester Magazine Culinary All-Stars: Gastronomy Genius John Bruno Turiano; Scholar of the Savory Julia Sexton; Menu Master Judith Hausman; and Food Fashionista Diane Weintraub Pohl. And after dozens of (okay, four) e-mails, we have an answer. Possibly.
The most likely suspects are Vassilaros Coffee, Chock Full o’ Nuts, or Coffee Associates Coffee (Coffee Associates merged three separate companies into one in 1969). We spoke to John A. Vassilaros, president of John A Vassilaros & Son, Inc., and he explained that his brew has blanketed the County since 1919 and today is still served in approximately 40 diners in Westchester. Vassilaros also explained why he believes modern brands of coffee taste different. Many brewers, he claims, now over-roast their beans to give the brew more body, creating a product that may be fashionable but, he says, has less flavor, which only can be rejuvenated with lots of sugar and cream. Vassilaros personally blends his java with different beans from different countries during different seasons. And thus, he says, his coffee has more flavor, expertly crafted, and similar to how it was 50 years ago.
Q: Where and what is Ardsley-on-Hudson?
A: Where is Ardsley-on-Hudson? In Irvington, of course—and not part of or even next to the village of Ardsley. What is it? A Metro-North train station and a post office, both named after a casino. “What’s that?” you may ask. “Another casino in Westchester?” Well, not really. (Actually, there are no casinos in Westchester, only Racinos. Whatever.)
In 1896, a group of “prominent residents,” as the New York Times put it, wished to build a country club as “thoroughly perfect and complete as it was possible to get.” So they built the Ardsley Casino Club House. It wasn’t a “casino” by today’s standards—more of a golf club, and it was missing something. Specifically, a train station. So they built that, too.
The club was moved in the 1960s, but the train station still remains part of the Hudson Line. Rumor has it the movie Unfaithful, starring Westchester resident and restaurateur Richard Gere, was filmed in part there. The area in and around the club, formerly known as “Ardsley-on-Hudson,” is also known as Ardsley Park, but the post office is simply “Ardsley-on-Hudson.”
Q: New York City: downstate. Anyplace else: upstate. This makes no sense! This inquiring (and annoyed) mind wants to know.
—Nina O’Brien, Mount Pleasant
A: Hooray! Our first philosophical inquiry. We, too, are ticked off. “Upstate” sounds so rural and should only be used for such artless locations as Albany, Utica, and Peekskill. Okay, okay—we really didn’t mean Peekskill. It’s had it rough lately. Fred Armisen’s insanely funny David Paterson doppelgänger recently referred to the County’s fifth largest city as an “upstate hellhole,” full of “rock eaters” and “freaks.” But our new favorite mayor, Mary Foster, shot back, pointing out that Peekskill is in Westchester County, which is “just north of the City.”
To be honest, we don’t know why WC gets labeled on occasion with the offending “upstate” moniker. But here are five quick defenses every Westchester resident needs to have on call to combat this ugly trend (with some credit to the wonderful Facebook group on the subject): (1) more than 95 percent of New York State is north of us; (2) the Department of Motor Vehicles has certain rules for “upstate” counties, and they don’t apply to Westchester; (3) we never have to change trains at Southeast or Stamford to get to the City; (4) the “Downstate Correctional Facility” is located north of Westchester; and (5) part of New York City was donated by us. Yeah New York City, we totally owned you.
Caption: (Top) Ardsley Casino Club House in the elusive Ardsley-on-Hudson