Photography by Cathy Pinsky
Petite tomatoes, red-pepper hibiscus gelée, and eggplant with saffron vinaigrette make an elegant starter.
Once you’ve trained yourself to look, you won’t stop seeing them. I’m talking about Westchester’s grand private estates, built in the years before World War I, now left to languish as college administration buildings, conference centers, and dusty museum offices. It’s a pity that now we only glimpse Westchester’s greatest rooms in their occasional, set-dressed appearances in peroid pieces like Boardwalk Empire.
Happily, in the last couple of decades, Westchester has seen the trend of turning these white elephants into earning concerns. In 1996, the Tarrytown estate formerly known as Carrollcliffe—having spent some time as a boy’s boarding school—was re-launched as the restaurant Equus at the then-new hotel Castle on the Hudson. Blue Hill at Stone Barns came eight years later when the Barbers transformed a picturesque barn complex on a Rockefeller estate into a restaurant world titan. Briarcliff Manor’s Hudson at Haymount House is less spectacular, though its history is just as strange. Built as a private estate in 1910, the house was used as a banquet hall-cum-French restaurant for 40 years before being upcycled this spring into the aspirational new restaurant Hudson at Haymount House.
The wedding-perfect façade of the grand white house remains, with a daunting two-story portico fronted by a fountain and circular gravel path. But once inside, the story is different. Though its pretty, historic fireplace surrounds remain, the building has been substantially remodeled since its days as a private house. A ballroom, usually reserved for large events, takes up the majority of the first floor, while, along one side of the building, a small bar and restaurant exploit a pretty view of terraced lawn extending to a distant view of the Hudson.
An entrée of hard-shell lobster, roasted peach, savoy cabbage, and espellete pepper.
Chef Scott Riesenberger, fresh off stints at Corton, Gilt, and Cru, is slinging high-minded locavorian cuisine that shows flashes of brilliance. A slippery amuse bouche of red snapper crudo with delicate fennel frond made a suave introduction, though, on another visit, we were merely presented with an “hors d’œuvre.” Upon further questioning, I learned that the offering was left over from the event running in the ballroom, but not what the bite contained. (Turns out, it was a rather uneventful breaded eggplant rollatini.) But, generally speaking, service at Hudson is attentive—which is a good thing, as waits between courses can feel protracted. It’s wise to settle in with the view and artfully crafted cocktails like the bracing, fragrantly herbal Haymount Gimlet (Peace Vodka, cucumber, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and muddled arugula). Also, look for a long wine list of comfortably priced picks, with several seductive labels offered by the glass—we liked Sbragia’s Sonoma Chardonnay.
Beautifully red bullseyes of roasted Satur Farms beets were served with crunchy pistachios and tangy Eclipse goat cheese, making a suitably dramatic starter for one summer evening. However, a cucumber-melon gazpacho arrived so subtly flavored that it tasted merely watery while almost audibly begging for salt. A dish of rich sweetbreads meunière with salty, popping capers and nutty brown butter was better balanced; Its animal lushness was set off by sweet-tart wild huckleberries. And a salad of sweetly caramelized purple, white, and orange heirloom carrots under lardo was stunning. This dish is a root-veg revelation.
Seasonal desserts at Hudson, like this blueberry tartlet with sweet corn sorbet and coffee anglaise, are a strong point.
A beautiful, volcanically hot risotto starter with summer vegetables and tiny cubes of crunchy pancetta arrived with a still-cold poached egg under its jaunty cap of crisped pancetta. Shelled lobster served with lobster-stuffed cabbage struck an off note, too, when the weakling flavor of lobster fought its cabbage envelope and lost the battle. However, its partner of silken, beurre-de-pêche-slicked lobster claws made a gracious apology. And succulent slabs of milky cod with tamed horseradish, chard, and tomato-rhubarb compote swung for the cheap seats. Don’t miss creamy wild branzino with charred romaine lettuce and perfumed, preserved citrus. And a homey side of lentils and duck ragoût makes a wise option for heartier appetites—portions at Hudson are not large.
Sunsets through Hudson at Haymount House’s large windows (or, in fine weather, on the lawn or terrace) demand lingering evenings—and all of Hudson’s desserts reward their caloric outlay. Riesenberger’s ice creams make an excellent finale. We especially loved a tangy mozzarella that powerfully evoked the cheese in dessert form. Also, don’t miss fragrant smoked vanilla and strawberry ice creams. (Happily, a sampler of three choices is available.) We also loved a heaven-scented, lemon-verbena crème brûlée—a sunny taste to savor as the sun sets.
Hudson at Haymount House 2.5 â˜…s
25 Studio Hill Rd, Briarcliff Manor
Hours: dinner, Tues to Sat 5:30 pm-10:30 pm, Sun 5 pm-8:30 pm; brunch, Sun 11:30 am-2:30 pm
Appetizers: $11-$17; entrées: $24-$45; desserts: $9-$12
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good