Type to search

EATER’s Top 10 Reasons Why Autumn Doesn’t Suck

Share

At this time of year, with autumn undeniably upon us, it’s easy for avid diners to get bogged down with the end-of-summer blues. After all, local corn and heirloom tomatoes are about to go, each day is shorter, and all the outdoor dining furniture has been carted off to storage. That means no more outdoor grills, no more dining under the stars, and no more heirloom tomato bruschetti. It’s enough to put you into a 7-month sulk under a full-spectrum light bulb (to ward off SAD, of course—Seasonal Affective Disorder).

While sensitive to SAD’ed diners, we try to look on the bright side here at EATER. There are tons of great foods to look forward to in autumn, and we welcome each and every one. To help those at high risk for end-of-summer sulks, we’ve compiled a top ten list of our favorite autumn treats.

Top 10 Reasons Why Autumn Doesn’t Suck

10. Halloween
We love Halloween because it’s just so perverse. You spend all year telling your kids not to take candy from strangers, to avoid eating too many sweets and that greediness is bad, then what do you do? On Halloween, you dress the same kids up in silly costumes and the rules go right out the window. They’re out walking at night, taking candy from strangers and stuffing sugar down their gullets until their eyes roll back in their heads. Plus, once they get their loot home, they’re counting and re-counting their candy bars, and running the Fun-Sized packages through their fingers with the ugly, gloating greed of a miser. Want to know how your children will handle their finances as adults? Check them out at Halloween. Do they wheel and deal, making unethical trades with their too-young-to-know-any-better siblings? Do they gobble it all up in a blaze of glory? Or do they jealously hoard it until the chocolate goes all white and ashy? All you need to know is right there on Halloween night.

Plus, even though we at EATER are a bit past Trick or Treating (okay–we tearfully gave it up at 35), we still love Halloween for the candy corn. We’ve found that it goes remarkably well with Tuthilltown Baby Bourbon — made locally with 100% New York State corn — and the original black and white Frankenstein directed by James Whale.

9. Beaujolais Nouveaux
To be honest, Beaujolais nouveau is not our favorite quaff. We see it as the sort of Shaeffer Beer of wine: it’s the one wine to have when you’re having more than one. It’s light, refreshing, and maybe not all that complex – fine, as it goes — but what we really love about Beaujolais nouveau is its history. At the completion of the grape harvest, vineyard workers guzzled the six-week-old wine to celebrate the end of their backbreaking labors. This joyous autumn ritual was taken up by French city dwellers, and now the annual appearance of Beaujolais nouveau is a nationwide celebration. Bars, restaurants and cafes stay open late as all of France celebrates the end of the grape harvest. It’s a very up-the-peasant, “La Marsellaise” moment.

This being France and related to food or wine, there are strict laws governing the nouveau – it may not be sold before the third Thursday in November. Even so, with today’s rapid transport, we Americans can still get down with the celebrating wine workers. Look for this year’s Beaujolais nouveau on the third Thursday in November (this year, November 15) at several local wine stores, including Zachy’s.

8. The Stone Barns Harvest Festival
Let’s face it, harvest celebrations are just big ol’ fertility-worshipping, howl-at-the-moon pagan festivals. That’s why we love them. And no one does nature-worship better than the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. On October 13, Stone Barns closes down for its annual Harvest Fest. Expect mobs of revelers (with parking at PACE and shuttle busses), music, food, hayrides, cooking demonstrations and a seasonal pie bake-off judged by Martha Stewart herself. (In case you don’t recognize her, she’ll be the one pointedly NOT wearing broad, black and white horizontal stripes.) All in all, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate the season and the magical, fertile earth beneath our feet.

7. Seriously rich, heavy foods
Now that the shorts and bathing suits are put away, it’s safe to indulge in all the hot, rich and heavies that you’ve been avoiding all summer. We’re talking ragout, stew, game, roasts, mashed potatoes, fricassee, you name it. All the foods that seemed like just too much all summer are really looking good right now. Our current, shorter-days favorite? Try the magret wienerschnitzel at X20: it comes with duck confit spaetzle, glazed turnips, and when I last had it—cinnamon-scented red cabbage. Heavy? Rich? Autumnal? How about just delicious.

6. Pie
Autumn is pie time. Sure, there were berry pies all summer, but can a strawberry-rhubarb really compete with a warm apple pie? To paraphrase Mario Batali, apple is the undisputed King of pies. Plus, there’s pumpkin (surely a Duke or an Earl in the pie kingdom), sweet potato (at least a Viscount), pecan (a Marquess) and elegant apple and pear tarts (Ladies-in-Waiting — though I hesitate to call them tarts).

While cooler, dryer temperatures – and our indifferently insulated kitchen—make autumn the perfect time to roll out pie crust, we understand that there are those among us who are less pastry-inclined. For them, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite local piemakers. Drop in or call to see which varieties they have on offer.

Lulu Cake Boutique 40 Garth Rd., Scarsdale (914)722-8300 and www.everythinglulu.com  
Connie’s Bakery & General Store 41 S. Moger Ave., Mt. Kisco (914) 242-2014 and www.connies.org.
Galloway’s Bakery 69 Harney Road, Scarsdale (914) 725-4074.
Salinger’s Orchards and Bakery, 230 Guinea Road, Brewster (845) 277-3521 and www.salingersorchard.com.
Riviera Bakehouse, 660 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley (914) 693-9758 and www.rivierabakehouse.com.

5. Apple-Mania
After a year’s worth of 3 meager varieties of distance grown, long-term-cold-storage apples, we’re finally about to strike it rich: local, seasonal Hudson Valley apples. We’re talking sweet apples, tart apples, eating apples, baking apples, heirloom apples, commercial apples—you name it. And besides just the fruit, look for all the wonderful apple products coming in: apple butter, apple sauce, apple pies, candy apples and, of course, apple cider (which you can drink fresh, hard—or our personal favorite—warm, spiced and spiked with dark rum).

The best place to find apples in all their glorious diversity is not at your local supermarket! Cut out the big, reductive agribusiness and visit your local Westchester farmer’s market. For more information, look on the NY State Agmarket site or, for more specialized news and info, on the local Community Markets site.

4. Hot Chocolate
The days of chalky packets of Swiss Miss are gone. Thank God, Parisian style hot chocolate, made with great-quality bar chocolate and actual liquid milk (or a combination of milk and cream) is replacing those mini-marshmallowed, sachets of dehydrated milk and mysterious, unchocolatty brown stuff. Plus, here in multi-culti Westchester, we have lots of Mexican and South American versions of hot chocolate, too. Here are a few of our faves:

Cocoa, 2107 Boston Post Road, Larchmont (914) 834-6464. More confection than beverage, Cocoa’s hot chocolate is almost chewably thick — like a liquid ganache, which makes sense for this elegant candy store. Owner Angela Ingrao uses both dark and milk Callebaut chocolates in her version, achieving the perfect balance between bitter and sweet.
Sunset Grille, 68 Gedney Way, White Plains (914) 227-9353 and www.sunsetgrilleny.com.  Sunset Grille’s Mexican style hot chocolate includes a hint of fire, combining Ibarra Mexican chocolate, Callebaut bittersweet chocolate, milk, cream, cinnamon and chili. And, to please your inner eight-year-old, it’s topped with two cool and melting house-made marshmallows.
The Kneaded Bread Bakery, 181 N Main St, Port Chester. Taking a cue from City Bakery’s famous drink, Jeffrey Kohn’s hot chocolate is worth a bakery run on its own. After melting an entire 10 pound brick of chocolate, he 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.
Paleteria Fernandez, 33 North Main Street, Port Chester (914) 939-3694. This paleteria (serving Mexican popsicles) bridges their off-season with champurrado, or spiced Mexican hot chocolate thickened with masa. In Paleteria Fernandez’s version, Mexican bar chocolate is melted and steeped with cinnamon sticks, sugar and milk. Finally, masa harina (ground corn) is added to thicken the mixture into a creamy chocolate porridge.
Quimbaya’s, 193 Main St, Ossining (914) 941-0810. Billing themselves as a “Columbian Coffee Shop” disguises Quimbaya’s real excellence — they make some of some of the best hot chocolate in the county. Take Quimbaya’s Mexican hot chocolate: unsweetened Columbian cocoa, sugar, coffee crystals, cinnamon, water and milk. Or their “special” hot chocolate: unsweetened Columbian chocolate, milk, panela (sugarcane syrup), cloves and cinnamon. All are capped with a luscious shot of whipped cream, which provides a cool, mild contrast to these hot and spicy drinks.
The Café at Blue Hill, 630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills (914)366-9600; www.bluehillfarm.com Using melted Valrhona chocolate and locally produced Ronnybrook milk, the hot chocolate at The Café is the perfect welcome after a brisk pasture walk on a chilly autumn day.

3. Fireplaces
True, al fresco dining is just about over for the season, but that just means that fireplaces are getting stacked and loaded for fireside dining — which is arguably as romantic as eating outdoors. Some of our favorites are:

L’Escale, 500 Steamboat Rd., Greenwich, CT (203) 661-4600 and www.lescalerestaurant.com.  Look for gigantic open hearths (shipped straight from an old French chateau) in this Provence inspired decor
Equus, 400 Benedict Avenue, Tarrytown, NY (914) 631-3646 and www.castleonthehudson.com These salvaged hearths come from great houses all over Europe. Our favorite is the Scottish, boar’s-head-carved granite hearth in Equus’s Oak Room.
La Cemaillere, 46 Bedford-Banksville Rd., Bedford (914)234-9647;
www.cremaillere.com.  Look for a big hearth in a tiny room, which sounds just about right to us. Call ahead to get a spot nearby
Purdy’s Homestead, 100 Titicus Road, North Salem (914)277-2301 There are several hearths in this quant old farmhouse – chances are you’ll be sitting near at least one.

2. Thanksgiving
I know: pilgrims, Indians, Squanto, birth of our nation, yadda, yadda. Let’s face it—Thanksgiving is about food and football. While we at EATER have little interest in the gridiron (unless there’s a well-marbled steak on it), we do love a holiday about food. We cook for days, order our heritage breed turkey in advance and stalk through farmers markets looking for perfectly balanced sweet and tart pie apples. If you’re bemoaning the end of summer’s bounty, just think about a Thanksgiving table groaning under the weight of its harvest plenty. That’ll fix you.

1. Root Veg
How did humble root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, beets, rutabagas, celeriac, etc.) become so fabulous? It started with our great-grandmothers who had to eat the same few root vegetables stored in underground root cellars every day, all winter. Oh, how they prayed for a spot of green. When canning and the freezer came along, they banned those staple roots from their diets, preferring frozen bricks of broccoli and mushy cans of spinach to those poor played-out root vegetables. As generations passed, and food fads came and went, the root veg sat on the sidelines, in danger of becoming quaint and archaic—like quince. The once bog-standard roots became hard to find in supermarkets.

At some point in the eighties – we blame Alice Waters – chefs resurrected the humble root veg. Dressing them in great olive oil and roasting them in hot ovens with sea salt and a few sprigs of rosemary, or boiling and mashing them with cream, or even serving them raw as tiny shaved baby vegetables in salads, root veg are back with a vengeance. Look for the best variety and the freshest, most tiny and tender examples at your local farmer’s market. To find yours, look on the NY State Agmarket site or, for more specialized news and info, on the local Community Markets site.

Market Watch

One of the great things about Westchester’s farmer’s markets is that they are not all the same. Have to work on Saturday morning? No problem—drop by Rye’s market on Sunday. Weekends crazy? Stop by one of the mid-week markets. While most markets are held on Saturday, there are Westchester farmer’s markets on Wednesday (Dobbs Ferry), Thursday (Yonkers and Hartsdale), and Friday (New Rochelle). Nor do all the markets end at the same time of the year: while most conclude at around Thanksgiving time, Ossining, Pleasantville and Larchmont will continue through mid-December.

Having spent our Saturday slaving (ish) at work, we dropped by the Sunday market in Rye. While dairy, meat and poultry are still in the works for Rye, we consoled ourselves with fabulous ginger/raspberry muffins from Bread Alone. We discovered that Wholefoods Market — upbraided in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for “greenwashing” its big carbon footprint, long-haul-shipping practices –has been on the prowl to redeem itself with local vendors. Look for Bread Alone products at Wholefoods (from Boiceville, NY), as well as Sprout Creek Farm cheeses (from La Grange, NY). Or cut out the middleman and buy them at the Rye farmer’s market. We snagged garlicky full-sour pickles from Howard Nadel at Dr. Pickle (Patterson, NJ), who shocked the nice people of Rye by actually hawking his wares like a Cockney barrowman; pretty white currants from Newgate Farms from East Granby, CT; and cider, acorn squash and beautiful, fragrant yellow pears from Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli, NY. It’s going to be a great week. Here are the sites, days and ending points for Westchester’s farmer’s markets. Get out of the supermarkets and into the fields!

Cutting Edges

Let us just confess this right now. We’re no longer allowed to attend the Wüsthof Warehouse Sale with a valid credit card. There have been problems in the past, with a general lack of self-restraint, and a sale-induced mania that had us loaded down with enough blades to take on an entire feed lot. We’ve been forced to attend meetings.

But that’s just us. Readers should know that the Wüsthof End of Summer Warehouse Sale commences this Thursday. The hours are strange (Thursday, 10am-6pm; Friday, 10am-6pm and Saturday, 9am-3pm), but its well worth making the effort. Shoppers can expect deeply discounted, top-grade knives, plus factory seconds, discontinued items, overstocks, knife sets, gadgets, knife blocks, pans, etc. Best of all, the staff at the Wüsthof Warehouse are knife specialists – talking to a Wüsthof salesman is an education. They’re just the folks to help you find the one knife you can’t live without for the rest of your life.

Finally, they offer knife sharpening at $1 per knife. We at EATER confess to being a little fetishy about our knives, and we’ve never trusted them to commercial sharpeners. We’ve seen the sort of over-eager grinding that turns a chef’s knife into a boning knife in just three visits. At Wüsthof, that will never happen – our precious knives are returned to us with a laser edge and all their metal intact.

So we’ll be there, with our knives, our weak will and cash in hand. We’ll probably have to step up the meetings again.

Wüsthof End of Summer Sale
Thursday (10am-6pm), Friday (10am-6pm) and Saturday (9am-3pm)
Wüsthof Factory Outlet
333 South Highland Avenue
Briarcliff Manor (914) 502-5030

;

Get Westchester's Best Restaurants Guide for FREE! 

Keep a pulse on local food, art, and entertainment content when you join our Westchester newsletter.

No thank you
Top Restaurants