Tag Archives: hudson valley restaurant week

Restaurant Week at Cafe of Love

While most of us were doing a leap of joy over last week’s 70-degree temps, the folks at Cafe of Love had to be frowning; their Restaurant Week menu was primarily built around cold weather, comfort dishes. Who’d want to dine on hearty soups and braised meats on days suited for a t-shirt and shorts?

Well, plenty of people.

The bar area was hopping.

As was the dining room.  Those mirrors work well to create an illusion of space, but the dining room is actually deceptively small.

My friends Jillian, Diandra and I waited a few minutes before being seated, and then our server directed us towards what we’d already been eyeing — a table with a complimentary spread to nosh on before dinner.

There was a white bean dip, pickled squash and radishes, and fresh bread.

We wondered if Cafe of Love makes its own bread or if it’s brought in from a local bakery.  Either way, it was great — crusty and chewy, and it went well with the bean dip.  The pickled squash was a little unusual.

These are Jillian’s appetizers of cod fritters with saffron aioli.

They reminded us of the dreamy potato croquetas we ate at Harvest-on-Hudson a few weeks ago — golden crispy crust with a creamy filling, only this time it was cod.  Cod fritters are like gourmet fish sticks for adults.

Diandra and I were both pleased with our large bowls of ramp and potato soup.

That little floating crouton was crusted with goat cheese, giving it an explosion of flavor when you bit in.

Here’s Diandra’s entree, the wild mushroom lasagna.  Homemade lasagna noodles.  I snagged a bite and it was earthy and meaty.

I debated between the fish stew and the braised short ribs, but who am I kidding, it really wasn’t a hard choice.  I just can’t resist short ribs — if they’re on the menu, there’s a good chance I’m diving in.

The ribs were fork-tender, the potato puree super smooth, and the mushrooms bursting with the deep flavor of wine from the sauce. Honestly, it could be 100 degrees out and I’d still want to eat a full-bodied dish of short ribs.

For dessert, Jillian’s plate of coffee panna cotta and French toast crouton, served with an intense caramel sauce.

And my almond croissant bread pudding with crème anglaise.

It was different than any bread pudding I’d ever eaten — firmer and with a crisp shell.

We sipped our wine and lingered for over three hours, feeling quite satisfied, and a lot full.  Chalk up another success for Restaurant Week.

Cafe of Love
38 E. Main St.
Mt. Kisco, NY

It’s Time for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

Eric Gabryonwicz made a comment during our Tavern interview that didn’t make it into the video. He said, “The Hudson Valley is growing into a food capital.”

As I surveyed the enormous Harvest-on-Hudson dining room at the HV Restaurant Week kick-off reception, I understood what he meant.  This was a gathering of chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, food suppliers, tourism leaders and media members, all celebrating the bounty of the Valley.

It’s quite a bounty.  There are amazing products coming out of our region: award-winning wines, craft beers, artisanal cheeses, farm-raised meat and poultry, locally grown produce… not to mention the tremendous restaurants, many of which utilize those local ingredients. Eric was right, we are growing into a food capital!

And this will be the biggest HV Restaurant Week yet, running from March 15th-March 29th, with more than 135 participating restaurants.  Had your eye on a particular restaurant?  Now’s the time to try it!

Small Bites guest blogger, Linda Lombroso, wrote a nice post about the kick-off and the various attendees.  So as not to repeat what she already covered, I’ll report on a different angle: what we ate.  Harvest-on-Hudson not only hosted the reception but provided an impressive spread of food; local purveyors and sponsors also set up tables throughout the room, serving up samples of food and drink.

Conclusion: We ate and drank well.  Very, very well.

First off, isn’t Harvest-on-Hudson a beautiful space for an event?

I brought along my friend Jillian because she’s a food lover and I knew she would have a good time.  The two of us prowled the room sampling everything there was to offer.

We had barely walked in the door when we were presented with these strawberry cocktails.  I’m not even sure what alcohol was in them, but they went down real easy.

So did these: Hendrick Hudson gin with a piece of cucumber.  Who knew cucumber went so well with gin?

We were served two types of pizza: one sprinkled simply with basil, and another of fig, goat cheese and prosciutto — one of our clear favorites of the night.

I was horrified to learn that Jillian dislikes prosciutto.  She had me pick it off her slice and put it on mine, which I did, gladly. Prosciutto must never go to waste.

There were juicy lamb spring rolls.

Plus bacalao, beef empanadas, and a first for both of us, rabbit rillete on garlic toast.

I hesitated before taking the bite, unsure of what to expect. Would it be gamey? Rabbity?  Surprisingly, neither.  Just intensely flavored and smooth, almost like a bean dip.

A bite of American caviar.

Baldor Specialty Foods had a table where they showed off their meat and poultry products.

For the second time in my life, I tried foie gras.

There’s a texture and finish about foie gras that I’m just not able to enjoy yet.   May require a third try.

But the spicy pulled pork sliders with cucumber — those I could get behind.

We ate carrot bread, sunflower pesto, and another huge favorite, duck tacos with guacamole and bruschetta. Drippy and messy and delicious.

But for Jillian and me, nothing topped the crispy/creamy white truffle potato croquettes, which I believe we snagged on the first, second and third passes.

I think it was at this point when one of the servers pointed out, “I keep coming around to you two because I know you’re going to eat it.”  Yup, pretty much!

There were so many excellent local cheeses, like these huge hunks of parmesan and romano.

Here one of the vendors pointed out the drunken manchego to Jillian.

I love drunken manchego; it was served with a brightly flavored quince paste.

Holy Chicken!  Chicken bacon.

And chicken sliders.

Several vineyards were represented with their wines. Tuthilltown Spirits showed off their products, including their Hudson River Rum. One sip almost knocked me out — that was seriously potent and oaky rum.  I also tried their absinthe.

Hands down though, the drink that wowed us was the Kopparberg pear cider.

Served on ice, it was incredibly cooling and refreshing.  We just couldn’t get enough of that stuff, and the vendor gave Jillian a bottle to take home with her.

Of course, Harvest also provided an ample selection of desserts.

Our plate of cake, brownie, key lime pie and cream puff.

Lastly, at the Red Barn Produce table, they were taking photos of guests and putting them on complimentary fridge magnets.  So here it is on my fridge, a reminder of a fun night with interesting people and great food.

Where will you be heading for Restaurant Week?

I Almost Won a Cheese Wheel But Met Peter Kelly Instead

How’s that for a catchy title?   I’ll explain a little later.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is coming up in a few short weeks, and tonight was the press reception, held at the Thayer Hotel at West Point.

The room was filled with restaurateurs, chefs, local food purveyors, media members and lowly food bloggers like yours truly.  I was just happy to be there.

I made sure to sample from all the vendors, like Sprout Creek Farm and their excellent artisanal cheeses.

The Pastry Garden’s desserts were fantastic, especially the cake filled with Bailey’s Irish Cream mousse, on the bottom right. Wow was that good.

I tried to nosh on shrimp and other finger foods while holding a pad, camera and press packet. Sometimes you need a third hand.

The chefs gathered together for pictures.

I had an interesting conversation with one chef in particular, Eric Gabrynowicz, Executive Chef at Tavern in Garrison.  A few tidbits: he raved about Chef David Martinez of Union Restaurant in Haverstraw, calling Martinez’s ceviche “one of the top five foods I’ve ever put in my mouth.” Here’s Chef Martinez being interviewed.

Eric also raved about Mima Vinoteca (I agreed) and mentioned he wanted to try Velo in Nyack (which I strongly recommended).  We got to talking about what chefs eat, and I commented that it must be impossible for a non-professional to cook for a chef because they’re used to such a high standard of food.  But he said it’s just the opposite, he could care less about the caliber of the food — what makes a home-cooked meal enjoyable is the idea that someone is putting the time and effort into cooking for him.

At the end of the night, the organizers drew raffle tickets to give away free prizes.  One of the prizes was a wheel of Ouray cheese from Sprout Creek Farm.  I’d sampled it earlier, and I wanted this thing.  (Not really sure what I would have done with an entire cheese wheel — I mean, how much cheese can one person eat?) Anyway, the emcee called out the number… “170!” And what do you know, I won!  At that moment, Liz introduced me to Peter Kelly, who you see here (that’s not me on the right, by the way).

I had two options — either A) excuse myself and go up to collect my wheel of cheese before they gave it somebody else, or B) talk to Peter Kelly.  I chose B, and I’m glad I did; he’s a very nice man, and a very gracious man.  I think I managed to stammer out something about enjoying X2O and having the venison.

So that was my introduction to Peter Kelly.   I went home cheeseless, but I got to meet an acclaimed chef.

Now I’m all fired up for Restaurant Week.  Don’t forget to make your reservations before everything gets booked up.  I’ll be floating around that week guest blogging for Lohud.com, so hopefully I’ll see you out there. The weird guy taking pictures of his food?  That’ll be me.