Okay—we’ve recovered from the bubbly and oysters (and foie gras and bacon and smoked salmon…) of our annual champagne pig-out in front of the fire. Call us lame, but we enjoy ourselves so much more at home, where we can wear our fetching stripey-pajamas-and-fuzzy-slippers ensemble and there are no drunken idiots blowing noisemakers in our faces. So we gathered all our favorite gourmet treats and spent the last hours of 2007 gorging ourselves—no dropping ball, no Times Square, no Auld Lang Syne. After a midnight toast, we crawled off to bed.
Now it’s time face 2008. (Though, to be honest, we’ll be misdating checks for a good six months). So—what are the biggest food stories that we’ll be looking at looking at in the upcoming year? Here’s the breakdown of what’s boiling on our front burners:
Chart Houseâ€¦Gone!? To become a Harvest spot
Okay—we admit. We’re no great fans of the Chart House oeuvre, with its overpriced, freezer-and-microwave food and tacky maritime vibe—but we’d occasionally swan in late at night for a drink, enjoyed sitting and gazing at the twinkling lights of Manhattan with our toes practically dipped in the mighty Hudson. The Chart House chain, which owns many of the most coveted shoreline restaurant spots in America, has shuttered its huge riverside spread and by all appearances, abandoned it.
But here’s the scoop: on December 19th, Harvest-on-Hudson’s owner Bruce Bernaccia and his team bought the space and are now furiously retooling it for a summer re-opening. The plan? According to Chef Vincent Barcelona, the space is being recast as an American brasserie, with a more casual vibe and lower price point than found at nearby Harvest-on-Hudson. Chef Barcelona will be using his Montauk connections for lots of fresh, day-boat fish (Harvest has two sister restaurants in Montauk, ENE and Harvest on Fort Pond), plus the new site will offer an outside raw bar and plancha-style cooking—all overseen by Le Bernardin, River CafÃ© and Koi alum Chef Sal Spruferro. Look for hipper music in the 200+ seat space (What? They’re losing the Chart House’s piped-in hotel-lobby Muzak?), plus tapas, paper covered tables, and festive buckets of nips on ice. The company projects a by-summer opening day.
Hooray. Here’s hoping that all those shipping charts and tacky Hawaiian shirts have decamped with the space’s former owners. According to Chef Barcelona (who has an admirably cheffy finickyness about these things), nothing will happen until the kitchens have been thoroughly blast-cleaned and rid of all microwaves. (FYI—Those looking for free equipment might want to check the spot’s dumpsters.)
Monteverde at Old Stone Manor
Oh, how revenge is sweet—especially in the restaurant business. (Right now, I’m imagining Jeffrey Chodorow’s evil chuckle whenever he sees Rocco Dispirito hawking Bertolli frozen pasta.) Even though it wasn’t glorified in reality TV (as the Chodorow/DiSpirito debacle was in “The Restaurant”), the backstory on Monteverde’s new chef is even juicier: Chef Neil Ferguson was hand picked by London-based celeb-chef-andâ€“professional-hothead Gordon Ramsay to head up Ramsay’s first Manhattan venture, modestly dubbed Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel. Problem was, the super-arrogant chef’s Manhattan venture wasn’t as mind-blowingly successful as he had predicted. In fact, New Yorkers were left unimpressed—after all, this is Manhattan, baby, and not some culinary backwater like London. It turns out that diners were staying away in droves, and the critics were uniformly underwhelmed.
As luck would have it, the whole distressing mess was documented by Bill Buford in his New Yorker profile of Ramsay, where we see Chef Ferguson enduring all sorts of grief at the hands of Ramsay, who was mostly jetting about to his other 11 restaurants or filming one of his shticky televised triumphs. In the New Yorker piece, Ferguson comes out smelling like a rose—heroically battling in the kitchen trenches under the inconstant leadership of a tyrant. To everyone’s shock, Ferguson was eventually fired from his position soon after the piece appeared—the event announced on that other blog named Eater (that annoyingly started up a week later than this one).
As awful as that sounds, Ferguson managed to make lemonade out of his lemons—simultaneously opening up two restaurants to unchecked, unabashed, gushing critical raves. That’s gotta hurt bilious chef Ramsay, whose single eponymous restaurant was received with a collective shrug of the shoulders. While Manhattan’s Allen and Delancey looks great, Westchesterites don’t need to brave the traffic—we can check out Chef Ferguson’s skilled odes to Hudson Valley produce and game at Monteverde at Oldstone Manor.
Mima Vinoteca in Irvington
While Babbo-alum Chef Dave DiBari won’t be manning the pans at Irvington’s newest restaurant, Mima, Zuppa’s esteemed sommelier will be rattling its bottles. Look for a great, Italo-centric wine list, a casual atmosphere and more great tastes from the restaurateurs that brought you Zuppa in Yonkers.
Bastianich/Batali plans at Tarry Lodge
Oh, the rumor mill is still grinding away on Joe Bastianich’s plans for Tarry Lodge. While a reputable source of ours has seen the construction plans for the space, and asserts that an Otto-like pizzeria is in the works, we’re still officially uninformed by the Batali/Bastianich camp and so still waiting with bated breath. To add further mystique to this pair of NYC heavyweights, the Bastianich crew has been spotted checking out other spaces around the county, even briefly scanning Bloom as a potential space. Honestly—what’s up with that? Are they trying to drive us nuts?
(BTW—If anyone out there knows about the plans, please email EATER. All leads are appreciated, and the correct tip will be celebrated with a bottle of champagne—to be enjoyed in the tipster’s absence.)
Richard Gere’s restaurant, The Bedford Post Inn
Maybe Richard Gere hasn’t heard â€“ celebrity-owned restaurants in Westchester have not been so successful. (We’re thinking here of Stanly Tucci’s brief fling in the business, Finch Tavern in North Salem.) Still, we’re pulling for Mr. Gere. Not only has he fought tirelessly for Tibet, but he was totally hot as Julian Kaye in American Gigolo. Plus, we love anyone who echoes the terroirist ethos of Slow Food — and who knows enough about the movement to capitalize the phrase. For a quick statement of intention, check out the The Bedford Post Inn’s recent Craigslist ad looking for staff.
Mariano Aznar at Espana in Larchmont
We became fans of Mariano Aznar at Patrias, where he dished up pleasing boqueria standards paired with specialties from Peru. Now this Barcelona-born chef (who has worked with the two uber-stars of the Spanish culinary world, Ferran Adria and Martin Beresetegui) is ditching the Peruvian connection for Espana. Look for Aznar’s straight-on attack on Spanish foods, so welcome in Larchmont –a town chock full of restaurants, many of which are not so great.
Q in Mount Kisco
We love everything about Q: the great food, the easy vibe, the casual prices, the takeout. Working on so many levels, it’s one of those restaurant formulas that can’t help but draw customers. Unless, of course, they live outside of easy driving range.
Cue Q in Mount Kisco, Jeffrey and Jennifer Cohn’s first outpost of their wildly successful Port Chester brainchild. (They also own Port Chester’s Kneaded Bread, Westchester’s best bread bakery.) Jeff Cohn oversaw the construction, and we’re hoping that the concept works further north. In fact, we’re pulling for a chain of Q’s all over Westchester, so we’re never more than one town away from their succulent and smokey pulled pork sandwich.
Santorini, Sleepy Hollow
What have the boards been buzzing about? Westchester foodies can’t rave enough about Santorini, a modest, under-the-radar Greek place in Sleepy Hollow. Can Tarrytown’s Lefteris have some serious competition? Perhaps—we’ve read so many unsolicited gushes about this brightly-lit, family owned joint that we’re almost sick of it already. Who needs PR when you can get this kind of hype for free?
Dining at the Ritz Carlton
We were a little jealous of the inmates at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton—you know, those twin icicles spearing the sky over White Plains? They have chauffeured Bentleys at their disposal for running errands around town. It’s not because we’re vain. We’re not looking to impress our friends and neighbors. We’re just dying to pull up to the Star Diner (Westchester’s belovedly grungy lunch counter) in a Bentley.
Those cosseted residents have other, less down-home dining options at their disposal. First, and our personal favorite—Chef Anthony Goncalves’s vertical version of his much mourned streetside restaurant, Trotters, named 42 after its floor in the structure. Second, BLT Steak bltrestaurants.com/, Chef Laurent Tourandel’s newest tactic in his unstoppable bid to conquer the world. (For evidence of his restaurant-industry hegemony, note the seven BLT Steaks, one BLT Fish, a BLT Burger and a BLT Market).