When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Westchester’s dining scene, we honestly weren’t sure if we’d ever get to enjoy some of our favorite restaurants again. While the county is replete with corner pizza joints and neighborhood diners, small, exclusive eateries with local menus — and often slim margins — were some of those hit hardest by the shutdown. Luckily, one of our favorites has found a way to press onward, albeit in a slightly different manner that’s actually kind of perfect for late summer/early fall.
Elephant Tree, the brainchild of Chef Eric Korn of Monteverde at Oldstone, had been one of Westchester’s most exclusive gourmet pop-ups pre-pandemic. Held only on weekends, Elephant Tree’s rotating menus were crafted with farm-fresh ingredients, announced for the month at the tail end of the preceding one, and typically sold out all seating times in just a short time. With tickets for the five-course dinners usually running around $80-$95 each — before wine or cocktails — was an extravagance so good we were more than happy to indulge on special occasions.
This summer, Chef Korn worked behind the scenes as many restauranteurs did and figured out a way to revive Elephant Tree for the era of social distancing. He settled on outside at the Monteverde grounds, under massive tents you might expect to see at lush garden weddings, overlooking the Hudson.
To give an idea of the menus, the amuse bouche for August was a watermelon salad with heirloom tomatoes and charred scallion, followed by Italian pepper stuffed with farmer cheese and wild mushroom in tomato water as a starter — basically the fanciest jalapeño popper you’ve ever encountered.
This was followed by crispy, flaky halibut with smoked eggplant purée and scape vinaigrette, and seared duck two ways with Monteverde greens and garden honey. Dessert was a carefully planned coda to the meal: watermelon with peach sugar; a “fudgecicle” of decadent chocolate with sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds with fermented chili skins; and a miniature peach hand pie.
September’s menu has rotated in late summer corn and carrot tops to whet the appetite, followed by fennel pollen cured trout with watermelon and beets, a farm tomato tart, and a main of braised beef with carrot tops and maitake mushrooms. Dessert this month is apple and honey cake.
Tickets are available online every month, with new menus announced periodically. Accommodations can be made for allergies and dietary restrictions, and a wine, beer, and cocktail menu is available upon seating.