Chances are that you don’t know about the New Rochelle Armory. So here’s what you need to know: In New Rochelle, there is a naval armory (a military building used to store weapons and shelter drilling sailors) at 260-70 E Main Street near scenic Echo Bay. Since the Civil War, the coastline of New Rochelle had a strategic military presence that also included David’s Island Fort Slocum, an entire island town of military barracks, an army hospital, and administrative buildings, in which one of my distant relatives, a minor Irish aristocrat, the Baron DeFrayne, spent some time debating whether to become a Canadian Mountie without telling his parents. But you don’t need to know that part. Like most armories, the New Rochelle structure holds a giant open space that once afforded room for troops to parade. Locals have long debated an adaptive re-use of the derelict armory and its surrounding waterfront acreage, which, unfortunately, now includes a DPW depot near a McDonald’s restaurant, all of which are occasionally enveloped by a stink cloud from the sewage-treatment plant on Le Fevres Lane.
So why should you care? Turns out that my new Facebook friend, Chef Jeremiah Tower, is interested in converting the ca. 1931 armory into a mixed-use food hall in the vein of Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Philly’s Reading Terminal Market. The proposal, linked here, was presented by Tower and his team at City Hall on August 7, and it sounds thrilling: The plan includes at least two restaurants, plus stalls for local farmers to sell directly to customers. A partially unexcavated basement with loading dock will offer a locally raised food depot, storage to make the distribution of locally raised foods to consumers and restaurants easier for our farmers. Chef Tower is slated to oversee both restaurants, and there is an as yet undefined plan to offer prepared foods, also overseen by Tower.
In keeping with the structure’s original military intent, this proposed plan provides offices veteran services like job training, and there will be a space provided for use by local arts groups. The team of 17 behind the proposal includes Michael Blakeney (developer), Joseph Bergen (architect/designer), Wajdi Atallab (project manager), John DelBusti (Good Profit board member), and Nelson Burd Woltz (landscape architect). Check out the City’s RFP and you’ll see that the City is planning that the repurposed armory will be surrounded by several acres of public parkland to somewhat redress what has been, in the recent past, a shameful disregard of New Rochelle’s natural beauty.In case you’re not up on your chef gossip, Chef Jeremy Tower is a bit of character in the annals of American restaurants, a history that is, admittedly, chock full of characters. Emerging in the 70s with a Loomis Chaffee/Harvard/Harvard School of Design Master’s Degree, he walked into the kitchen at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse with no professional cooking experience, but a lifelong love of food. Within one year, he was an equal partner with Alice Waters and her other collaborators, and in sole control of the Chez Panisse kitchen and menu. Tower left in 1978 (in some acrimony) to debut other ventures. One of these was the wildly popular San Francisco restaurant, Stars—which, oddly enough, employed his potential neighboring restaurateur to the north, Mario Batali. Tower is the recipient of two James Beard Foundation awards (one in 1996 for Chef of the Year, and one 1986 for his cookbook, New American Classics). Currently, Tower lives in Mexico. He is reported to have visited New Rochelle for the first time last week.
For one, I’ve got my fingers crossed. As a Sound Shore resident, I have looked with envy upon the successes of Westchester’s riverside communities. Westchester’s rivertowns have managed to restore beauty and public recreation to the banks of the Hudson, which, since the early 19th century, had been used as a conduit for industry and its poisonous effluvia. Restaurants were an important part of that bankside revitalization; look at Harvest-on-Hudson in Hastings (once a Robison truck depot), Red Hat on the River/MP Taverna/ Chutney Masala in Irvington (once a glass factory), Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry (once a lumber depot) and, soon, the site of Crabtree’s Kittle House venture, RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen, in Sleepy Hollow (also once an industrial site). I’m thinking that the shakers in the Sound Shore community can do something with a giant, vaulted building overlooking Echo Bay.
From the release: “Each meal is designed and prepared by acclaimed chef Lesley Sutter (whose beloved restaurant, The Flying Pig in Mount Kisco, closed last January). Each evening spotlights an organic, biodynamic winery selected by ConsciousWine’s founding partners, Vinny Liscio and Jeffrey Weissler. Shelley Smedberg, also from Flying Pig, will be the pastry chef.
Each dinner will offer five courses (a round of appetizers, three main courses—of which one is always vegetarian— and a dessert course) paired with three wines. In addition to featuring beautiful, bucolic locations, local farms and farmers, and small-scale wineries, each dinner has a charitable partner that will receive portion of the evening’s proceeds.”
Tickets for all events are $155 per person. Group discounts are available. To buy tickets, click here
Saturday, August 18, 7 – 10pm, at John Jay Homestead (400 Jay St, Katonah)
Featured farm: Cabbage Hill Farm in Mount Kisco
Featured winery: Lumos Wine Company in Wren, Oregon
Charitable partner: Friends of John Jay Homestead
Saturday, August 25, 7 – 10pm at Lasdon Park & Arboretum (2610 New York 35, Katonah)
Featured farm: TBA
Featured winery: Youngberg Hill in McMinnville, Oregon
Charitable partner: Friends of Karen
Saturday, September 29 at Hilltop Hanover Farm (Hanover St, Yorktown Heights), 7 -10pm
Featured farm: TBA
Featured winery: Ambyth Estates in Paso Robles, California
Charitable partner: Friends of Hilltop Hanover
Oh, they had me at the surprisingly crisp, house-made watermelon soda, but I stayed for the spicy, handcrafted links piled high with innovative toppings that include pickled tongue, mostardo, fried egg, and lemon aioli. At Village Dog, a well-scrubbed, seven-week-old newcomer on Tarrytown’s Main Street, the shtick is that everything but the bun—and especially the seven types of sausages—is made on site. Don’t miss the mildly chili-tinged Seoul Dog, which offers an on-trend twist on franks and sauerkraut, or the Muerguez Frites: harissa-spiced lamb links with frizzled leeks and a few fries jammed on the bun. And about that bun: This yeasty, stretchy, top-split Balthazar loaf is more like real bread than the spongy, mere hand-hold on every other dog in town. For an ultimate ode to your swiftly closing summer, try the County Fair – peppery beef dog, chili, provolone sauce, and onions.