Foie Gras Stuffed Quail at Restaurant North; Vote for Your Favorite Restaurants; Locally Made Holiday Cheer

Locally made holiday cheer; Irvington restaurants reopen after Sandy; vote on for your favorite restaurants; foie gras stuffed quail at Restaurant North

Locally made cheer

Let’s just say that, by now, your brain has been fried with all of the usual holiday season hoopla: the shopping, the cooking, the dressing up, the parties. You can’t think anymore. You’re going, “What should I buy for these people? I mean, what do these people effing want from me?” And so you stagger around, resentful, shoving smoked salmon canapés into your gob in a blistering fit of holiday pique.

Look, you don’t want to be that guy this December. What you need is a philosophy—a mental framework that helps to make buying holiday gifts easier. Here’s what I suggest. Get a mantra like mine, which is: “Party in support of local brewers, winemakers, and distillers.” Okay, so some of the littler kids get confused—but, let me tell you, some of them totally get it, and their exhausted parents will be your admirers forever. Here are some great, locally made booze gifts to keep your holidays cheery.

Comb/Still the One Spirits Westchester’s only distillery (so far—don’t look now, but distilling is coming to a town near you) offers several serious hard liquors distilled right in Port Chester. Comb and its proprietors, Ed and Laura Tiedge, have had their wares at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, X2O, Tarry Lodge, and a slew of Manhattan restaurants. They’ve been the subject of several great articles (The New York Times,, and Look for their products in liquor stores all over the county and on the website.

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Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey by Hillrock Estate Distillery Do you have room in your heart for one more “farm-to-blank” idea? Or are you gagging on farm-to-fork, farm-to-baby, farm-to-fridge, farm-to-market, farm-to-colon, farm-to-porcelain? Well, if there’s room, try Hillrock Estate’s “field-to-glass” spirits—they’re made from heirloom grains, grown, smoked, and distilled on a picturesque farm in Ancram, New York. Check out the Hillrock Estate wares at Rochambeau Wines and Liquors and at Zachys Wine and Liquor. Be warned, though: This fine, batch-distilled whiskey runs into serious dough. A 750 ML bottle will run you $95 at Zachys.


Black Dirt Distillery Bourbon Brought by the folks behind Doc’s Hard Cider, this new bourbon gets its name from the famously rich farmland surrounding its Pine Plains, New York distillery. Unlike Hillrock Estate’s Solera Aged Bourbon, the Black Dirt Bourbon is comfortably priced at about $40 per 750 ml. And, though reasonably priced, it’s really good—look to sample some at Restaurant North.

Wine Packs from Red Hook Winery Look, this world-class Brooklyn winery has made wines in collaboration with Robert Foley, Food & Wine’s Winemaker of the Year in 2007 (and the man who earned Robert Parker’s praise “99 points, virtually perfect.” Red Hook Winery was busted out by Sandy and it’s depending on the proceeds from whatever stock remains to determine the fate of the winery. Do what you can to support Red Hook Winery—give these great gift packs to everyone on your list.

Tuthilltown Spirits Everyone’s favorite New York whiskey is getting some competition in the local boutique spirits market, but these stubby little bottles are still a welcome gift. Look for the full Tuthilltown line at Suburban Wines and Spirits or check here for gift certificates that the lucky recipient can redeem at Tuthilltown’s onsite tasting and gift shop in Gardiner, New York.

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company Merch Hey, what says “we love and miss you at home in Westchester” better than a cozy Captain Lawrence hoodie? Look for T-shirts, trucker hats, hoodies, keychains, and all sorts of other cool gifts (emblazoned with CL’s fiery logo), at the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company’s Tasting Room. Seriously, where else can you knock off your Christmas shopping while downing a few beers?

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Bourbon from Delaware Phoenix I’m obsessed with this delightful Hudson Valley distillery that started off its product line with very well-received absinthe. Now absinthe and I don’t get along (I feel it precludes my ability to taste for seven days), so I’m thrilled that my favorite weirdos are making bourbon, and, guess what? It’s delicious. Check out the Delaware Phoenix line here and purchase online at Catskill Cellars or Astor Wine & Spirits.

hurricane sandy

Restaurants of Irvington are now open!

On October 29, the entire peninsula that was formerly the home of the Lord & Burnham factory was submerged in many feet of river water. Red Hat on the River, Chutney Masala, and MP Taverna were awash, their buildings requiring serious disaster remediation—teardowns and reconstruction, recertification, and inspections. After more than 40 days of hard work, Chutney Masala, MP Taverna, and Red Hat on the River will reopen this week. Do as Anthony Bourdain says and visit these storm-hit restaurants and tip very well—some of these folks were out of paychecks for weeks.

zagat survey

Support your favorite restaurants in the Zagat Westchester/Hudson River Valley survey!

Oh, folks, the time is nigh for the slim red book to be re-tabulated with new scores and new, super-pithy sentences. Zagat Surveys needs you to weigh in on your favorite (and least favorite) local restaurants by January 13, 2013. Take a moment to review where you’ve eaten lately. And, FYI, your reviews are much more likely to be quoted in the finished book if they are detailed and funny (so writing “nice” or “good” does not help anyone, especially your poor, suffering, local editors).

fois gras stuffed quail

Foie gras-stuffed grilled quail at Restaurant North

Oh, yes, the food writer’s life is a hard one: late dinners, foie gras, and tankers of fine wine. Why, there are nights that we simply don’t come home at all, and, when we do, we wake up at noon in sheets still delightfully resonant of forcemeat and small-batch bourbon. Kidding! Actually, this is one of the payoff dishes that justify all of my questionable career choices. Imagine a tiny, fire-licked quail stuffed with crunchy croutons soaked in lush, molten foie gras. People, this dish held the appeal of a good-looking aristocrat who bears a sinister slip of the tongue. Bacon was there for populism, as well as cranberry and pumpkin—basically, you had the whole social structure right there on a plate. P.S.: The quail was paired with stunning wine, too—Alter Ego de Palmer 2006 and Alter Ego de Palmer 2008. Okay, now who’s jealous?

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» Read more from writer Julia Sexton

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