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Time for Dessert? Pass the Salt
Salt, that pallid kitchen workhorse, has gone glam. Long an aid to pie crusts and cookie dough, it now struts its stuff atop hotshot desserts all over town.
Obviously, we’re not talking Morton. These are the A-list gourmet sea salts that flaunt color and style and that often hail from the Mediterranean, Aegean, and South Pacific, where they are extricated from the brine of sun-evaporated seawater. Any pastry chef worth his or her, um, you know, realizes that a few finishing sprinkles can catapult a dessert from satisfactory to sublime.
The trend was launched about 10 years ago with an haute riff on the peanut-butter cups and Cracker Jacks of our youth. Some chocolatier sprinkled Fleur de Sel on caramels and chocolate-nut brittles to wild acclaim, and pastry chefs soon took up the call. Today, sea salt-speckled ice creams, tarts, and roasted nuts are highlights on many upscale desserts menus.
At X2O Xaviars on the Hudson (71 Water Grant St, Yonkers, 914-965-1111; xaviars.com), Peter Kelly sprinkles a Slovanian sea salt on both a chocolate-caramel tart and caramel ice cream for balance, “much like vinegar would cut through the richness of foie gras.”
Matthew Karp at Plates (121 Myrtle Blvd, Larchmont, 914-834-1244; platesonthepark.com) favors Fleur de Sel for its “less straight salty taste and crisp texture,” sprinkling it onto the caramel popcorn that crowns his caramel ice-cream sundae.
Rick Laakkonen at Antipasti (One N Broadway, White Plains 914-949-3500; antipastiny.com), pipes a Robiola cheese and sea-salt mixture into the center of his ricotta cheesecake
At Harvest on Hudson (One River St, Hastings-on-Hudson 914-478-2800; harvest 2000.com), the ubiquitous flourless chocolate cake is elevated with caramel-hazelnut gelato and toasted hazelnuts sprinkled with a Breton sea salt that chef Vincent Barcelona prizes for its briny taste, off-white color, and more diminutive grain.
// Diane Weintraub Pohl
6 Underrated Eateries
Enjoy terrific meals—without the crowds—at these undiscovered gems.
1. Cholo’s Kitchen (4 Lawton St, New Rochelle; 914-235-0094; choloskitchen.com). Cholo’s Kitchen is decorated brightly with cookware, sunny yellow and blue paint, fanciful chandeliers, and movie posters. Featuring the cuisine of Northern Peru with its potato specialties and ceviches, Cholo’s is much more than a luncheonette. Chunky soups, rice-based dishes, and grilled meats are wonderful and reasonably priced. This is primarily beer food, but a tropically flavored “smoothie” works too.
2.Julianna’s (276 Watchhill Rd, Cortlandt Manor, 914-788-0505; juliannasonline.com).Once a schoolhouse, then a roadhouse, Julianna’s, snuggled into a residential neighborhood, is, like its cuisine, unpretentious and homey: shrimp cocktail, seafood mac ‘n’ cheese with truffle oil and spinach added, house-made raviloi, and Thai-style fried calamari. The homemade ice creams are a must. You’ll wish it were your local haunt.
3.Mauro’s Restaurant (199 Main St, Ossining, 914-941-2662; maurosrestaurant.com). The historic Keenan building houses this traditional, white-tablecloth Italian restaurant where ex-Mulino’s chef John Gervasi was recently added as consulting chef. Rich pasta combinations and the usual veal and chicken dishes are balanced with more contemporary touches, such as goat-cheese ravioli and lobster spring rolls. Look for homemade spinach pasta with crabmeat, grilled veal chops, or swordfish, prepared with capers and artichoke hearts. Staff is professional and you can hear your dining companions’ conversation, rare today.
4. Sardegna (154 Larchmont Ave, Larchmont, 914-833-3399; sardegnany.com). Your ol’ faves (fettuccine Bolognese, spaghetti vongole, chicken Milanese, and veal pizzaiola) are here, but look for the Sardinian secrets instead: pane carasau (crispy flatbread), spaghetti bottariga (garlic, oil, and dried mullet roe) or bombas alla sarda (meatballs Sardinian-style).
5. Serafina Trattoria Pizzeria (228 S Highland Ave, Ossining, 914-941-5454; serafinatrattoria.com). In 1997, the Martin family morphed their then 22-year-old pizzeria, Pizza Beat, into a full-fledged eatery with granite tables and custom woodwork called Serafina. And don’t let the Irish-sounding surname fool you. Franco Martin is an Italian originally from Argentina and wife Serafina is a native of Canosa Sannita, Italy, so expect to hear the romance language across the dining room. Also expect specials such as tripe alla Romana and pan-seared chicken in a cognac sauce. Pizzas also are offered, prepared by son Christian Martin, who learned pizza making in Canosa Sannita, and include such gourmet toppings as prosciutto di Parma and shiitake mushrooms. Say hi to Mama Serafina Martin, the hostess, and don’t forget to order a bottle from the bargain wine list ($25-$35).
6. Spinelli’s (26 E Main St, Mount Kisco, 914-242-0009). It’s easy to walk right past Spinelli’s and assume it’s the pizza joint next door. No, no, no. The restaurant is white-tablecloth. The long, narrow room ends in an archway and is painted in soothing peach and greens. The menu is classic but upscale Italian: caprese and fried calamari, yes, but also fruit and cheese platter, onion tart with goat cheese, and seared scallops. A “gourmet” pizza selection and lots of pasta join Cornish hen and duck specials.
// Judith Hausman