Twisted Oak’s Kale salad
And their duck lasagna
Let’s call them “Danny’s Kids.” They’re a posse of Westchester chefs who spent their formative years in Danny Meyer’s excellent Manhattan restaurants. Of course, these include Westchester’s most Dynamic Duo: the Restaurant North team of Stephen Paul Mancini and Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, the last of whom is currently up for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast. But—and you might not know this—Danny’s Kids also included Chef Michael Cutney. Cutney, lately of Restaurant 42 and, before that, of Café of Love and Union Square Cafe, has just opened his own Tarrytown spot, The Twisted Oak. I checked it out last week and here’s what I found.
The space (at 61 Main St) formerly housed an Italian restaurant called Isabella’s. Since taking over, Cutney and his FOH partner, Jacob Parenti, added a small entry foyer. This airlock is a smart choice during this Year of The Vortex when many restaurants can’t use all of their tables for the frigid blasts from the door. The partners also brightened the interior and added a long, welcoming bar. Gone are the tablecloths and any remnants of stuffiness—all good, but the final vision of Twisted Oak’s decor has yet to be realized. Right now, the team is trying to get its sea legs while the crowds, having sniffed new blood, hit Twisted Oak in force. It’s already hard to get a reservation at Twisted Oak—and chances are, this place will be slammed during the madness of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (see below). That said, I didn’t see any stress on Twisted Oak’s staff; service was perfectly smooth.
According to Cutney, The Twisted Oak is slinging “an innovative twist on farmhouse food” that blends locally-sourced Hudson Valley ingredients with Italian and American traditions. Cutney has developed an in-house pasta program and is making his own, very beautiful charcuterie. We caught his lomo and Hudson Valley duck prosciutto (not yet on the menu) and they were very pounceable all on their own. Look for a wine list that promises to feature many NY State wines, though, currently it’s in an abbreviated form and also lists picks from Italy, Spain and California. Having barely snagged an 8:45 reservation on an arctic night, we took the chill off with two cocktails. The Cabin in the Woods (with Bulleit Bourbon, spiced cider, lemon juice, and sugar and cinnamon rum) and the Upstate Old Fashioned (with bourbon, orange, Vermont maple, and brandied cherries) turned those shudders into aaaahhhhs.
It’s a fashionably rustic menu— “Haute Barnyard” to quote the divine Adam Platt. We caught heritage pork belly jota (a Northern Italian peasant soup pronounced “hota,” $14), with pig broth, borlotti, sauerkraut and polenta. Folks, this layered stew was rich, sustaining, and delicious and just the thing to restore our flagging, end-of-winter souls. While the jota was rustic, my cauliflower and potato soup was all elegance. It included yellow oyster mushrooms and truffle vinaigrette and an elegant speckling of salsa verde. Don’t miss Cutney’s version of the now ubiquitous kale salad; it’s actually airy with mint leaves and lemon and made mouthwatering with serrano chilis and salty Pecorino cheese.
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Twisted Oak’s menu can be funny. Take Cutney’s spin on a Reuben sandwich—pastrami-spiced Chatham cod with rye pain perdu, braised red cabbage, and Thousand Island dressing. The cod arrived milky and moist and fell into perfect, juicy medallions. Sure enough, its delicate crust tasted ineffably of pastrami. Then there was the bread, a very rye tasting rye—delicious, brawny, and made in-house. Also great, the John Fazio duck lasagna with mushrooms, kale, and duck egg. This was food made for winter (we wound up with excellent donuts, too).
In short, you better pounce on Twisted Oak, but don’t be surprised if you have to fight your way in. Good thing that Cutney’s new bar offers lots of seats.
HotFlash! Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is Here!
Chefs, kiss your amulets, and waiters, wear two pairs of socks. You are all about to be run until you’re bleeding, tired, and ragged. This year’s spring Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (brought to you by Valley Table Magazine) actually runs for two weeks and includes nearly ninety restaurants from all over the Hudson Valley. For a full list and to book, click the HVRW website here. The deals are intense and include three course lunches for $20.95 and three course dinners for $29.95, both prices excluding tax, drinks, and tip. Most of Westchester’s restaurant luminaries are participating in HVRW, including The Cookery, Restaurant North, X20 and all of the Xaviars Restaurant Group venues, Tarry Lodge, Crabtree’s Kittle House RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen, MP Taverna, and St. George. For more info, click here but do everyone a favor: tip generously, drink some wine, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a cup of coffee.
HotFlash! (Part Deux!)
Chef Michael White to take over the Farmhouse at Bedford Post Inn; Plans to Debut Campagna
Ok, I kinda knew all about this from unnamed sources in town. We all get together and talk about the people we loathe—sometimes a little work comes up. Anyway, the news was debuted on Grub Street which announced on Tuesday, March 4 that, “Reps for Ahmass Fakahany and Chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group say they will convert the food-and-beverage operations at Richard Gere’s Bedford Post Inn in Westchester, changing the name of its farmhouse restaurant to Campagna. The inn includes a fine-dining restaurant and an outdoor, grill-based terrace, as well as a private events space. Ai Fiori and Costata Chef PJ Calapa will oversee the entire operation, along with Chef de Cuisine Devin Bozkaya, a veteran of West End Bistro and the Inn at Little Washington.” No news yet about when Campagna will open.
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