Careful…These Plates Are HOT

Okay, it’s mid-January and winter has finally locked us into its frigid, death-like grip. Our lakes are freezing, the ground is crunchy, and as we speak, we’re swaddled in bulky, unattractive sweaters and rag wool socks. Winter can get ugly, folks. But even so, freezing temperatures are fine by us, because summer’s heat is an appetite dampener and nothing makes us hungrier than knowing that bathing suit season is six months off. Sitting here under a slimming lap rug, we’ll always go for that second helping, all the while vowing to get back to the gym one of these days. Or at least get out and shovel the walk ourselves. Next time, that is.

So—which dishes worth bundling up and braving the cold for? We’ve taken a look around and chosen the best, most satisfying dishes for right here, right now. And this being the deepest, darkest depths of winter, you can expect tastes that warm your cockles and bring a glow to your flaking, wind-chapped cheeks. Calories? Forget about it. You’ve got a three month grace period before spring’s fasting and pilates: buy a bulkier sweater and tuck in.

1. Caramelized Veal Sweetbread, Warm Beetroot and Truffle Casserole, Celery Root Puree: Monteverde at Oldstone Manor (28 Bear Mountain Bridge Road, Cortlandt Manor, 914.739.5000 and www.monteverderestaurant.com)  

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Forget any qualms you might have about consuming the thymus glands of immature cattle and just eat them—sweetbreads are divine. Chef Neil Ferguson’s Hudson Valley ode to the ultimate gourmet food features a paper thin, nearly caramelized seared crust yielding to a lush, creamy interior that becomes all the more sexy paired with a light, sweet pear puree. If you’re ever going to indulge in sweetbreads, now’s the time—this is the richest and most soulful thymus going.

2. Crispy Duck Schnitzel with Red Cabbage, Ragout of Spätzle and Leg Confit with Glazed Turnips: X20 (71 Water Grant Street, Yonkers, 914. 965-1111 and www.xaviars.com)  

We were so smitten by this dish that we almost re-ordered it instead of dessert. Chef Peter Kelly shows hit witty, out-of-the-box thinking by substituting duck for the usual mushy, flavorless, milk-fed veal. It’s the perfect choice for the traditional preparation, which can be as dull as a bad chicken cutlet. Instead, Kelly’s beefy flattened magret stands up to breading, is greaseless and quite crisp. Plus, the dish’s side of duck confit spaetzle is truly, mind-blowingly delicious – the spaetzle firm and flavorful, the confit soulful, the whole perfectly cooked and seasoned. Yum. It’s definitely worth braving the frigid wind blasting off the Hudson.

3. Oysters: at Ocean House Oyster Bar and Grill (49 N Riverside Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson, 914. 271-0702)

Why eat an iced dish in the bitter cold of January—particularly if you’ve been waiting on line outdoors, in a bitter wind, just to get a seat at Ocean House? Because colder oceans yield the plumpest, most succulent bivalves – we view January’s arctic chill as the call to oyster slurping. While Chef Brian Galvin is taking this week off (to return 1/29), we’re willing to wait. His changing selection always features intriguing choices, and recently included Wellfleets from Cape Cod, Flowers from Long Island, Saint Simons from Nova Scotia, Chincoteagues from Virginia and Elkhorn, Deer Creek, Hammersley and Sister Points, all from Washington State.

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4. Hot Chocolate at The Kneaded Bread Bakery (181 North Main Street, Port Chester, 914.937-9489 and www.kneadedbread.com)  

Look, there are lots of great hot chocolates around, at Quimbaya’s, Cocoa, Blue Hill Café, etc. But given our druthers, we’ll always go for Jeff Cohn’s perfectly balanced version of the drink. After melting an entire 10-pound brick of chocolate, Cohn adds whole milk and half-and-half and simmers it with cinnamon sticks and pure vanilla extract. The Kneaded Bread’s hot chocolate is spicy and vivid, with a complex flavor and a satisfying consistency—rich but not overwhelming. Plus, for a totally indulgent treat, you can pair it with one of Kneaded bread’s incredible cinnamon rolls.

5. Steak and Eggs: Prime Filet Mignon & Farmhouse Quail Eggs, Wild Mushroom Mousse and Red Wine Sauce Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Road, Chappaqua 914.666-8044 and www.kittlehouse.com)

Bleakest winter demands comfort foods, both to nourish us and to stave off depression. Steak and eggs are the homiest of comfort foods, and the Kittle House’s version is our favorite take: in their nod, buttery filet mignon appears under a perfectly poached quail’s egg. When the filmy white spills its yolk, the beef is perfectly gilded with the simplest and most delicious of sauces. This dish leaves us helplessly scraping our plates.

6. Apple-Ginger Beignets with Ginger Black Tea and Cinnamon Ice Cream, Restaurant One (1 Bridge Street, Irvington-on-Hudson, 914.591-2233 and www.restaurantoneny.com)  

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They’re warm, crisp and comfortingly gingery, but do we really need to belabor the point? We’ll just leave you with these three words: deep fried dessert.

7. Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate Bruschetta with Chopped Pancetta, Nessa 325 North Main Street, Port Chester, 914.939-0119)

My, there are a lot of organ meats showing up in this week’s list, but winter’s bitter cold requires rich, cholesterol-laden foods – and what’s more fatty and cholesterol-laden than a filter organ? Nessa’s scrumptious ode to this traditional Tuscan bite might omit the original dish’s smoky note (in Italy, the bread is usually grilled over a wood fire), but it makes up for any lack by including a pork product. Can anything be wrong with that?

8. Duck Panini at Blue Hill Café (630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, 914. 366-9600 and www.bluehillstonebarns.com)

Let’s just say, for arguments sake, that you actually went outside in this frigid cold and took a long pasture walk at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. What could revive you afterward? One of the Café’s fatty, indulgent duck confit paninis might do the trick. Look for loads of succulent, rich duck confit loaded into tasty Balthazar bread, served hot and well-crisped from the iron. Hypothetically, this could make the walk worthwhile, though we ourselves would just park in the lot and run straight for the Café.

9. Any Spirit from Tuthilltown Gristmill, Gardiner NY– available at these local restaurants and liquor stores http://www.tuthilltown.com/links.htm  

Man cannot live by bread alone: he’ll need some booze to wash it all down. This week, given the unbearable temperatures outside, we’ll need a chest-warming shot or two—just to keep the chill off, you see. Our favorite quaff is Tuthilltown’s Baby Bourbon, which is made with 100-percent New York State corn, though in the past, we’ve happily consoled ourselves with Tuthilltown’s Spirit of the Hudson vodka, made from local Hudson Valley apples.

10. Sizzling Fresh Sardines Zitoune 1127 W. Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, 914. 835-8350 and www.zitounerestaurant.com)

Sometimes you have to go into winter denial and pretend it’s just not happening. For that, we love Zitoune’s spitting iron pan full of tender, unfishy sardine filets. Lemony, salty and glistening with olive oil, they taste like a beachside snack under the hot Mediterranean sun. And even better, there’s no one within our sightlines wearing a Speedo.

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