We all have our preferences. We may love triple-chocolate chunk ice cream, while you may prefer Tahitian vanilla bean. We may live for mountain biking, while you may favor a leisurely stroll through a park. It’s all good.
But to discover what is best in Westchester, we put our biases aside, rolled up our sleeves, and began to do the tough work. We have spent the past year traveling through the county, sipping margaritas, martinis, and milk tea; noshing on pizzas, paella, and porterhouse steak; sugar OD-ing on chocolate cream cakes, caramel cookies, and cream puffs; and getting caffeine highs from cappuccinos, café au laits, and café lattes. We’ve visited new stores and shops and bar-hopped ’till dawn. We’ve been scrubbed and rubbed, coiffed and buffed, and we’ve hiked and biked the county. We even enlisted our kids to scale 40-foot rock walls. And we did it all to bring you the best that our county has to offer. You’ll find the results of all our tasting, imbibing, testing, and sleuthing in the following 40 pages.
Don’t agree with our choices? We’re ready to defend them. But, we’re open-minded. We asked you to tell us your picks—and you did. We received more than 2,000 Readers’ Choice ballots, on which you named your county favorites. Look for them on page 117.
Featuring Photography by Lindsay Burdick, Emmanuel Faure, John Fortunato, Cathy Pinsky and Dawn Smith
Special thanks to some of our freelancers for their help: Dave Donelson, Judith Hausman, Laura Mogil, Karen Odom, Diane Weintraub Pohl, Julia Sexton
The juiciest steak, the most tender duck, the silkiest mozzarella, and the thickest burger. Our picks of the best palate-pleasing (and diet-sabotaging) delights.
Porterhouse for Two
Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse
Don’t let the sleek, sophisticated decor fool you; Frankie and Johnnie’s is a traditional steakhouse at heart. And, since any steakhouse worth its cuts is about big indulgence, what better way to indulge in grand style than with a USDA prime dry-aged porterhouse for two. The porterhouse takes a good 35 minutes to prepare, but, trust us, it’s worth the wait: 48 ounces of dense, super-tender, well-textured beef. There are dozens of classic sides, but all you really need is a bit of the smoky, house steak sauce and a glass of full-bodied, ruby-red wine (like the Table Rock Vineyards Merlot). And a sharp knife, of course.
We foodies know that dressed-up chicken dishes and gussied-up pasta entrées are what most every restaurateur hopes we’ll order—after all, roast chicken, no matter how much fancy extra-virgin olive oil or European butter a chef slathers on it, is way cheaper than, say, a piece of swordfish. Yes, chicken is cheap (compare its price to, say, a hunk of marbled rib-eye or fresh-caught tuna)—and, usually, boring. At Trotters, however, chef/owner Anthony Goncalves has given his poultry some pluck with the whimsically dubbed “Raised Right Chicken Three Ways.” It’s 10 ounces of antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken pieces (two breasts, one thigh), cooked, as the name makes clear, three ways: braised, roasted, and fried. The chicken is served with pickled spicy peppers, orzo, and caramelized baby bananas. It’s the best $19 you’ll ever spend on a chicken dish.
Quick Trip to France
Buffet de la Gare
To get a genuine taste of France, you needn’t book a flight on Air France. You need only book a table at Buffet de la Gare. Owners Luc and Nicole Dimnet, the 30-something couple who last year took over the restaurant from Gwenael and Annie Goulet (the proprietors since 1980), are keeping—thank Dieu!—the classic French dining tradition alive in their charming bistro. “My husband and I recognize the family tradition here that was set by the Goulets,” says Nicole, who manages the front of the house. “I share the restaurant’s story with our patrons and how the Goulets picked us as their successors.” The Goulets chose well. With French copper pots hanging from the tin ceiling and soft white-painted walls adorned with French art, Buffet de la Gare could easily pass for that little bistro you happily found the last time you were wandering the streets of the Left Bank. Then, of course, there’s the cuisine—classic French dishes prepared by Luc Dimnet, who was born and raised in Alsace, France, and who learned how to cook in Strasbourg, Germany. A must-try is the hearty cassoulet with garlic sausage and double-smoked bacon; it’s a Parisian dream with every bite. “The French know how to dine like no one else,” Nicole says. Thanks to the Dimnets, you can too.
Take on Bagels and Lox
Chiboust Bistro + Bakery
A bagel and lox is a quick meal found in most any deli or bagel store. But for an upgraded version, look no further than the lunch menu at Chiboust, owner Jill Rose’s darling French-Mediterranean bistro on Tarrytown’s main drag. A flaky and wonderfully oversized buttery croissant, baked daily by Rose herself (former pastry chef at Lespinasse), is layered with satiny gravlax-style wild salmon cured in-house by chef Vijay Raghavan and spread with velvety, slightly tangy crème fraîche. Pickled lemon adds tartness, red onion and watercress lend crunch, and capers some sea-worthy brininess. You’ll never look at a poppy seed bagel with lox and a schmear the same way again.
The Willett House
Welcome to the county’s clubby carnivore’s culinary center. The Willett House is Westchester’s answer to Peter Luger. Whether it’s the mammoth, silky, mouth-watering porterhouse, the filet mignon so tender you can cut it with a butter knife, or the thick and juicy T-bone charred on the outside and succulent pink on the inside, the slabs of beef here are simply prime masterpieces. The Willett House’s appeal goes beyond its steaks, though, with an international 30,000-bottle wine list; a historic, 20th-century former granary setting, and a delectably rich cheesecake that will make even the most devout sugarphobe swoon.
S’mores Bark at Cocoa
If you’re going to splurge on chocolate, you might as well get a Proustian bang for your calorie buck- and Angela Ingrao’s upscale take on the campfire favorite will have you dreaming of the long forgotten summers of your youth. Her divine S’mores Bark starts with tempered Belgian milk chocolate mixed with chopped graham cracker and tiny marshmallows.
It’s not sexy. It has no mojo. You won’t find it on any modern or nuevo cuisine menu. Let’s face it; bread pudding gets no respect in the culinary world. “Sure it’s old-fashioned,” admits Dave Haggerty, chef and owner of Café Mirage. “But there aren’t many other desserts more delicious. It’s our best-seller.” Haggerty’s bread-and-butter pudding with golden raisins and caramel sauce is made simply by soaking then baking leftover sandwich wedges from nearby Neri’s Bakery in a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. “I melt butter over it at the end to really put it over-the-top.” Maybe old-fashioned isn’t such a bad thing after all.
June & Ho
Why is the smoked salmon at specialty food shop June & Ho the best? Because it’s made the right way. We’ll let June Park, who has owned the store with her husband, Ho, for the past 25 years, explain. “We make small batches two to three times a week. We would never wholesale our smoked salmon. We’re happy doing things small, the right way.” The “right way” at June & Ho means starting with a fresh fillet of salmon, and then curing it twice: first with a salt/herbs/spice mix, then with brandy. The fillet is cold-smoked in the couple’s rooftop stainless-steel smoker. And the “right way” to eat smoked salmon? With capers, Beluga caviar, red onion, and fresh store-baked seven-grain bread—items June & Ho also happens to sell.
When a restaurant like Meritage offers three-course meals that would normally cost from $45 to $55 for just $25, we take notice. “Our prix-fixe menu includes our bestselling dishes,” explains chef/owner Chris Vergara. The special dinners, offered from Tuesday to Friday between 5 and 6:30 pm, include a choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert. You’ll find dishes such as spaghettini pomodoro, sautéed King salmon, and grilled chicken paillard on the summer menu (it changes seasonally), but we’d suggest the roasted red-and-white colored beets with goat cheese and truffle oil to start, and duck confit with frisée, mâche, raspberries, toasted pine nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette for the main course. Perhaps some summer fruit for dessert and it’s a meal fit for a king, especially a frugal one.
Niko’s Greek Taverna
The relatively quick, relatively cheap Niko’s is a go-to spot for tasty, casual, unpretentious dining. Nearly half of its menu is made up of small plates, and one of its best is the octopus char-grilled and dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Don’t let the tentacle thing turn you off. A glass of sweet anise-flavored ouzo, some warm pita bread, and it’s a meal worthy of Mount Olympus.
Crabtree’s Kittle House
On any given Saturday night, the renowned Crabtree’s Kittle Houseserves at least 35 orders of magret (breast meat) of Long Island duck swathed in a pomegranate glaze and accompanied by gingered sweet potatoes.
Tuna Tower at Tengda Asian Bistro
It’s tall (it’s a tower) and filled with all the right ingredients: high-grade tuna, wonton crisps, fresh cilantro sprigs, and lightly toasted pine nuts. Scrumptious and so addictive that one order sometimes just won’t do.
Old World graciousness (love the gratis plate of olives and sausage brought to the table), hearty dishes packed with Atlantic-coastline fish and shellfish, and friendly native servers make a visit to Caravela feel like a jaunt to Lisbon. Don’t expect emulsions and elaborate presentations at the tradition-minded restaurant, just robust home-style Portuguese cooking—palate-pleasing dishes like caldo verde (a “green soup” that’s made with potatoes, collard greens, and Portuguese sausages); red snapper roasted with sweet onions, garlic, and Portuguese olive oil; and roasted bacalhau (salt-cured codfish) proffering lots of heart and soul.
Briarcliff Manor /Mohegan Lake
(914) 762-9511/(914) 603-3527
“It’s not a science,” says owner Pat Patierno. “It’s a feel.” Every morning, Patierno feels his way to making wonderfully soft, heavenly tasting, fresh silken balls of cow’s milk mozzarella in his Italian specialty market. He was taught the craft (art?) by Vincenzo Malasronte, the legendary, alas now retired, mozzarella king. Using raw curds of fresh cheese and warm water, Patierno creates moist, pure white spheres of delectable treats, delicious with a drizzle of olive oil or sliced on a hefty sandwich with arugula and sun-dried tomatoes. Yum!
New Neighborhood Italian
A’Tavola Bistro 385
A’Tavola Bistro is an Italian restaurant in a shopping center—but not to worry, it’s not your typical Italian restaurant in a shopping center. Stone floors instead of dull burgundy carpet; wood tabletops rather than red-and-white checkered tablecloths; there are even fun drinks like blueberry Mojitos (no, not Italian, but nice!). And the menu? Barely a ladle of red sauce. Chef and owner Paul Harrison offers a modernized Italian menu (with a sprinkling of French influences) featuring dishes such as olive oil-poached Alaskan halibut with lobster-saffron emulsion, grilled polenta spread with melted Maytag blue cheese, and herb-crusted rack of Colorado lamb with creamy black pepper-mushroom orzo. Here’s to thinking beyond eggplant parm!
New Tea Boutique
No longer will the tea-drinkers of Westchester have to suffer the indignities of supermarket Lipton bags and the occasional bubble-tea. Fans of more exotic tea varieties can dazzle their palates with sophisticated leaves from as far east as Sri Lanka to as far south as Africa, including neat varieties like flowering teas whose bags actually blossom when brewed. Once you become a tea-afficionado, you can work your way up to the good stuff: the Yome Gyokuro, a tea made from a leaf that is available for harvest only two weeks a year. The price: $24 an ounce (and you thought Kobe beef was expensive).
Mount Kisco Farmers’ Market
From early June until as late in November as Mother Nature will allow (the best Brussels sprouts and squash arrive late in the fall), farmers from around the region appear in front of the Mount Kisco train station every Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm to provide shoppers with the freshest food the lower Hudson Valley has to offer. Products span an eclectic range and include farm-reared fish, bouquets of organic flowers, and bushels of berries—with availability based on the season. Mount Kisco’s own Cabbage Hill Farm has served as the anchor for the collaborative market, which is now in its fifth year, bringing the best local products grown close to our home.
Gordy’s Burger House
What makes a burger terrific? Sure, the meat matters—it needs to be marbled with fat. (Your cardiologist may not want you to know it, but fat—your taste buds can attest to this—tastes good.) But so does the cooking method. And owner Gordon MacDonald, Jr. (something about that name and burgers…hmm) has no doubt as to why his burgers are so darn good: it’s the char grilling, buddy. “Charring the burger on a grill results in a smoky flavor. Plus, you get the requisite grill marks burger lovers crave.” MacDonald slips his char-grilled 10-ounce Angus burgers between a chewy Bronx-style toasted roll, adds one of six different cheeses, and presto, you get one heck of a great burger.
Chappaqua Village Market
A shopping trip here is like a trip back to the Old Country without ever leaving the confines of Chappaqua. Walk through this amazing market and find mouthwatering prepared meals made from handed-down recipes older than your grandparents. (The savory meat lasagna is far and away the market’s bestseller, but don’t leave without some biscotti, made using a century-old recipe.) Dining in or entertaining? Pick up some of the market’s fresh-made pastas, ratatouille, or even puff pastry hors d’oeuvres—or better yet, have them delivered. Or, if you want to be the one to do the cooking—and we’d think you’re crazy if you do—the market carries the choicest cuts of meat and some of the freshest fish around.
Ginger Beer at Lejends Restaurant
There aren’t many restaurants that make their own soda. Then again, there aren’t many local restaurants like Lejends in which a stylized décor complements homey Southern-Caribbean fare. Ginger beer, a staple drink in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, is the bolder big brother to pale, fizzy ginger ale made primarily with sugar, club soda, and lots of (what else?) ginger. In fact, it has enough bite to stand up to Lejends’ aggressively spiced jerk chicken and even the fieriest Jamaican Scotch bonnet.
Mexican Ice Pops
The American phrase “ice pops” hardly does these Mexican treats justice. Instead of American-style, artificially-flavored sugar water, Paleteria Fernandez offers a mind-boggling array of naturally-flavored frozen-fruit paletas.
New Niche Wine Shop
Wine at Five
There are 365 days in the year. There are 365 wines for sale at Wine at Five in Rye. Coincidence? Hardly. Cai Palmer left a 25-year Wall Street career to launch Wine at 5, a wine shop in which you can find a wine for every occasion—and, apparently, every day. Palmer has tasted every wine he sells. So if you’re dinner plans include roast lamb with a tarragon vinegar sauce as opposed to seared tuna drizzled with olive oil, Palmer can tell you exactly which of his wines will work best with your dish. And you’ll probably be surprised with his recommendation. Palmer reports that the average customer has never tasted 90 percent of his wines. Sounds like a place we all should visit—unless you believe the best wines come in a jug.
Thumbing through the 500-page custom cake book at Lulu, you’re likely to find just about anything your sweet tooth and imagination might desire. Because just about anything is what pastry chef Jay Muse, who has a background in painting and sculpting, and partner Victor Gonzalez, a former accessories designer for Versace, Manolo Blahnik, and Dolce & Gabbana, can do. And if it’s not in the book, that’s okay because, as Muse says, “we like a challenge.” Among recent requests met: a replica of the Taj Mahal made with white chocolate; a facsimile of a brownstone to celebrate the birthday of a man whose wife bought him one in Manhattan; and a reproduction of Yankee Stadium with an edible white chocolate Goodyear Blimp overhead. “We did a scene of the stunning panorama of the Hana Highway in Maui using passion fruit, white chocolate ganache, fresh kiwis, and macadamia nuts,” Muse says. “It was my favorite.”
Restaurant Wine Deal
“Your Wine Wednesday” at Plates
In these days of $15 cocktails and 400-percent bottle markups, isn’t it nice to BYOB once in a while? Every Wednesday this summer, Plates will be waiving its customary $25 per bottle corkage fee. (This is the amount most restaurants charge to discourage wine-toting cheapskates.) That means that you can bring whatever you like to pair with Chef Matthew Karp’s sophisticated and urbane food—which will save you a dining-out bundle. Be warned, though: a bottle of Ripple might draw ire from this ex-Bouley, ex-Restaurant Daniel trained chef.
When it comes to paella, that incredibly complicated dish of
sunny Valencia, it’s best to squeeze into a Speedo and hit the beaches of Spain. But if that’s not in the cards, go to Port Chester. At Patrias, Barcelona-born Chef/Owner Mariano Aznar is crafting his natal dish with Spanish olive oil, fish fumé, rice, chorizo, beef, calamari, shrimp, and scallops (and way too many other ingredients to list in this space). Best of all, at Patrias, you can get in the mood for your beach-fresh paella with addictive tapas washed down with cool Spanish sangria or crisp Peruvian beer. It’s like a Spanish beach vacation without all the sunburned Brits.
Place To Eat Healthy
Myong Private Label Gourmet
Myong Feiner, a mother of two who went from teaching cooking classes at her home for friends to ownign a gourmet shop and cafe, is a stickler when it comes to the ingredients she uses. To ensure the healthiest dishes, Feiner uses purified water from a multi-stage water filtration system for baking organic breads and cakes, brewing coffee, and whipping up Old World chicken soup.
Place for Cooking Classes
MacMenamin’s Grill & ChefWorks
Attention to all wannabe Bobby Flays (or Rachel Rays): MacMenamin’s Grill is the place to satisfy your Food-Network fantasies. Grab a friend and get ready to get your hands dirty creating your own culinary delights. MacMenamin’s interactive cooking classes teach you how to prepare mouthwatering dishes—perhaps short ribs, Maki rolls, or cioppino—and each class comes with a recipe book so you can attempt to re-create the dishes at home, without their expert guidance. (What about us? We think we need to start with the “Cooking Basics” class.)
If the view looks like a million bucks, it’s because Le Château was built by a man that had it: legendary financier J.P. Morgan built the estate that now houses the esteemed French restaurant. Sit outside on the patio and treat yourself to views of the hills of the Hudson Valley, where sunsets—no two of which are ever alike—aren’t ever spoiled by Big City lights. Or, look around at the restaurant’s gardens, blossoming with climbing hydrangeas, rosebud impatiens, cosmos, and dogwoods. The gorgeous setting is almost enough to make you forget about your minute steak in a Bearnaise sauce.
Continue reading for our Best of Westchester 2007: shopping, services, nightlife, health & beauty, art & leisure, and kids categories!
Comfort’s Asian Spiced Chicken
Do you know what goes into that gelatinous, orangey glop coating the average rotisserie chicken? We don’t…but we do know what goes into Comfort’s delicious eat-in or take-out Asian-spiced chicken. It starts with organic chicken, rolled in a heady mix of anise, chili powder, and soy sauce. Oven-roasted until nearly black and falling off the bone, these succulent, reasonably priced rotisserie chickens come perfectly paired with organic, healthy sides. Look for great seasonal salads; low-fat, three-cheese mac and cheese; and sautéed green beans. In short, unlike most of your too-tired-to-cook options (like pizza, Chinese take-out, and Mickey Ds), Comfort offers comfort food that you actually can feel comfortable about serving to your kids.
Oh, it’s a sad day when your favorite diner gets a lobster tank and a liquor license. It’s like another fallen soldier in the proud American tradition of lunch counters. The good news is that it will never happen at the Star, which is far too small for either of those dubious improvements. Wedged in an alley between two buildings, there’s just no room for it to grow. This streamlined, 1930s steel diner will always hold only five booths and 16 stools, which is just about perfect. And while the prices have changed since the Depression, the Star’s quality hasn’t: expect homemade pancake batter; real butter on your toast; yummy, griddle-crisped home fries and delicious, fresh-brewed coffee. And isn’t that why you go to a diner, anyway?
Look for sultry, multi-cultural eye candy at this breezy Havana-themed Cuban in Mount Kisco. While looks aren’t everything when it comes to restaurant staff, they certainly don’t hurt—just think of these steamy, smiling hotties as a part of Coco Rumba’s tropical decor. And even though Coco Rumba’s Cubano sandwiches are great (and don’t miss their ropa vieja), it’s the staff that’ll have you humming that old Buster Poindexter song, “Hot, Hot, Hot.”
Having moved to Mamaroneck after a well-received stint in the Meatpacking District, Zitoune has lost none of its clubby cool. This sultry new Moroccan offers slouchy sofa nooks, table-to-table belly dancing, and straight-from-the-source decorative finishes including geometric tiles and tapestries. In short, it’s the perfect environment for Chef/Owner Alain Bennouna’s sexy North African cuisine.
La Flor de Michoacan
Next time you’re parched, skip that Diet Coke and head over to La Flor for a delicious Mexican-style agua fresca. These sweet and cool home-made drinks are offered in a changing roster of traditional botanical flavors. Look for jamaica (made with dried hibiscus flowers), horchata (made with puréed rice, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon), and tamarindo (made from dried and fresh tamarind pods). These lush, exotic quaffs are as interesting as any cocktail, plus they won’t earn you a D.U.I.
No one takes its cocktails more seriously than Chef Rafael Palomino, who approaches his bar with an anthropologist’s zeal for authenticity. At Sonora, you’ll find faithfully crafted versions of all the currently popular Latin American drinks, including Peruvian Pisco sours, Mexican margaritas, and especially the national drink of Brazil, the sophisticated Caipirinha. This clean, urbane take on the margarita is simply made with muddled lime wedges, sugar, and Brazilian cachaça (liquor made from fermented sugar cane). One sweet/tart sip and you’ll feel the offshore breeze in Rio blowing into PC.
(914) 524-9687/(914) 242-8965
You know those neighborhood restaurants where you always seem to see someone you know? Lefteris is like that because absolutely everyone is addicted to its gyros. Walk in unshaven and in flip-flops and no one will bat an eye. They’re all too busy getting their own Lefteris fix: creamy/tangy hummus with warm pitas, addictive (and impossibly bountiful) Greek salads, and those stuffed-to-explosion gyros containing a spit-roasted mix of ground lamb and beef, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. Don’t be ashamed to get a doggie bag—no one will judge you here. To paraphrase Tennesee Williams, “No one cares about that at Lefteris.”
Looking for a smart, casual, reasonably priced sushi place? Then Toyo is for you. This good-looking and cheerful joint is always hopping, with a bustling lunch trade, flying-out-the-door take-out, and convivial, high volume dinner times. And this is precisely what you want in a sushi restaurant—quick, quick turnover of fish. At Toyo, you can expect efficient, no-nonsense service, immaculately fresh fish, and creative maki made by Japanese trained sushi chefs. Even Toyo’s freebies are great—like picked ginger imported from Japan and rich, deeply flavorful dashi basing their addictive miso soup. Its small but thoughtfully composed beer and sake list clinches the deal: it’s our favorite mid-week sushi run.
Red Lotus Thai Restaurant
Admit it: sometimes you’re even too lazy to run and pick up the take out. Yet the restaurants willing to deliver to your door are never the restaurants that you’d drive to—and so trapped by geography, the lazy (or exhausted) have to take whatever they can get. Unless, of course, you live in Pelham, New Rochelle, and Larchmont, the three towns inside of Red Lotus’s delivery area. This critical-darling Thai has its menu up on its website and lickity-split delivery, so you can relax in your jammies as a meal worth traveling for gets delivered to your door. Soothing tom kha gai; crisp, cool beef salad; heady kang massaman and addictive pad khi mao—they’re all perfect for eating under a blanket on the sofa.
You might have noticed that your eating options become limited when you try to paddle to dinner in a kayak. Yet F.I.S.H.—with its own free-of-charge Byram
dock—is a delicious port-ofcall for any Sound-side pleasure boater. No luck fishing? No problem. Pull in and tie up for perfect cooked, sustainably-fished seafood served either indoors in F.I.S.H.’s whimsical dining room or outside on its scenic waterfront deck. Don’t say we didn’t warn you: the valets will only park cars.
Contnue reading for our local chef’s picks, caffeine craze, best slice, and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
Each month we ask local chefs to taste and rate various food products. Here are the year’s winners—the county’s best according to the pros.
Sorry Mom, but Topps is tops when it comes to apple pies. And why not? These pies are full of sweet, tender, delicious York apples and topped with a melt-in-your-mouth golden, flaky crust. Break out the vanilla ice cream and go to town!
Gramatan Hot Bagels
“Golden brown, great flavor, crunchy exterior, and a nice shine,” proclaimed Jeffrey Kohn, co-owner of bread shop The Kneaded Bread in Port Chester, about Gramatan’s bagels. “Plus, its bagel has the best hole. The hole is important. Otherwise it’s bread.”
City Limits Diner
The competition for best blueberry muffin was so intense, we had to have a taste-off of the three semi-finalists. Ultimately, City Limits Diner won because, says Philip McGrath, owner/chef of the Iron Horse Grill in Pleasantville, “it was not too sweet, and had a nice crust distributed all around.”
Suzanne Fromm, owner of Suzanne’s Sweets, knows a thing or two about desserts and rated the Cocoa brownie a perfect 10: “Rich, fudge-y texture, with a nice crisp top.” We certainly agree.
Jackson & Wheeler
You don’t have to be Jewish to love Jackson & Wheeler’s challah bread. “Original taste, moist, fresh, artisanal, and the best shape,” raved Alexandre Cheblal, executive chef/owner of Belle Havana in Yonkers.
We’ve touted this cheesecake as the best ever since Pâtisserie Lulu opened its doors on Valentine’s Day 2002, and our love affair is still going strong. Its birch sugar cheesecake (which is even safe for diabetics) won our cheesecake taste test; Sunset Grille Executive Chef Greg Cortelyou dubbed it “the gold standard.” Truth be told, though, we love the cane sugar one even more (especially when topped with organic berries or drizzled with caramel, chocolate, and pecans).
Connie’s Bakery and General Store
(914) 242-2014; www.connies.org
Here’s a chocolate chip
cookie you can eat without guilt—all of Connies’ profits goes to charity and the bakery hires and trains low-income residents. But that’s not why our panel of experts chose this delectable cookie; it’s all about taste and crunch. “The more I had of it, the more it grew on me,” said Tim Shea, co-owner of Anna Shea Chocolates in Tarrytown and Katonah.
We say, the messier, the better. And the powdery, gooey confections from Topps easily required at least two napkins. “Too much filling and powdered sugar made it messy, but it tasted great,” said Greg Gilbert, executive chef at Emily Shaw’s Inn at Pound Ridge.
Gina Marie’s Trattoria
Gina Marie’s red sauce is the top tomato in our chefs’ book. “Nice consistency, rustic, and I can taste distinct herbs,” said Brian Galvin, chef and owner of Ocean House in Croton-on-Hudson.
From Irish to Thai to Colombian, we’ve filtered down the best places to get your much-needed jolt of java.
Hastings-on-Hudson (914) 478-7200
If you’re tired of ordering your tall, skim, double-shot, iced caramel macchiato every morning (heck, we’re tired just writing it), then it’s time to leave the franchise-fueled blend behind. We love how this family-owned, petite patisserie looks more like it belongs in the south of France than in the south of Westchester, with small round tables, pastry-filled counters, and the enveloping smell of espresso. Using organic Fair Trade coffee, the house blend is full bodied and full flavored. And, if you’re feeling nostalgic for the, ahem, other place, they’ll be happy to add a shot of vanilla or caramel to your cup.
The Willett House
Port Chester (914) 939-7500; www.thewilletthouse.com
Who are we kidding? Sometimes caffeine alone just won’t cut it. For a jolt of java with a shot of liquor, the Irish coffee at The Willet House can’t be beat. Post-porterhouse, try this house specialty, made in the classic Emerald-Isle way: double-strength coffee, Jameson Irish whiskey, brown sugar, green Crème de Menthe, and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. It’s enough to make your Irish ancestors proud—even if you’re not, well, Irish.
Quimbaya’s Colombian Coffeehouse
Ossining (914) 941-0810
Juan Valdez better watch his back. At Quimbaya’s in Ossining virtually everything in the store is rooted in the South-American country’s brewing ways. And the coffee? You won’t find a richer, more full-bodied cup this side of Bogotá.
Coffee Labs Roasters
Tarrytown (914) 332-1479; web.mac.com/coffeelabsroasters
Hollywood may have just gone green, but Mike Love and Alicia Kelligrew, owners of Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown, have been doing their part to help the environment since they opened in 2003 (100-percent biodegradable cups, energy-saving green lights). And, they brew some of the best coffee in the county. The beans are hand- roasted on the premises (the centerpiece of the store is a 2002 Diedrich drum-roaster) on a by-need basis—meaning your coffee won’t have that day-old, burnt flavor. And Coffee Labs offers a full line of Fair Trade coffee, ensuring that the farmers who grow it are getting paid fairly. So, while you might still be driving that gas-guzzling SUV, drinking a cup of the cafe’s Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee (try the Nicaraguan Selva Negra with dried-fruit undertones) is at least a step in the right direction.
New Rochelle (914) 576-0444; www.redlotusthairestaurant.com
Made with super-strong coffee and sweetened condensed milk (a mixture of whole milk and sugar that’s heated until it’s sticky and sweet), Thai iced coffee is thick and rich and practically a dessert on its own. For a taste of this perfect treat after a spicy meal of Kang Ped or Tom Yum Gai, Red Lotus brews it best.
Port Chester (914) 939-1494
Devoted drinkers of this Port Chester restaurant’s signature coffee explain that it’s the “creamiest, smoothest, café con leche you can imagine and perfectly blended.” We couldn’t agree more.
Get a slice of perfection at these local pie palaces
Yonkers (914) 476-4446; www.totonnos.com/yonkers
We in Westchester are lucky to have this pizzeria—even if it is housed in the bar at the Ramada Inn. Our branch of Totonno’s is part of pizza royalty, linked to the first pizzas thrown in the New World. Antonio “Totonno” Pero learned his craft back in the sepia-toned, gaslight era of New York’s Little Italy. The New York heritage lives on in Yonkers, where Totonno’s is cranking out pies the old- fashioned way—with a rocket-hot coal oven; uncooked, canned San Marzano tomatoes (and not stewed-to-death, burgundy “pizza sauce”); and daily-made fior de latte mozzarella. The volcanic heat of Totonno’s coal oven creates the perfectly structured crust that pie fanatics live for. But even if you’re not a pizza obsessive, one glance at Totonno’s gnarled, bubbled pies and you’ll be lost. It’s pizza heaven, right here in Yonkers.
Port Chester (914) 939-4227; www.fishfoxisland.com
This hard-to-find waterfront seafood restaurant doesn’t have a coal oven, but it does have a spectacular, hammered-copper wood oven. This massive, primitive piece of equipment gives F.I.S.H’s pizzas their haunting smoky flavor. Now, you might wonder, what’s a seafood restaurant doing with a pizza oven? The answer is its signature F.I.S.H. pizza. This sprightly mix of sausage, shrimp, and pickled hot cherry peppers is served over F.I.S.H’s smoky, straight-from-the-fire, crisp-crusted base. Gourmet indeed.
Ossining (914) 941-5454; www.serafinatrattoria.com
Subtly-flavored artichokes, bright-green asparagus, delicate shiitake mushrooms, grilled eggplant, meaty portobellos, and bitter broccoli rabe. No, it’s not a salad bar menu; it’s just part of the toppings list at no-pretense Serafina. You can either compose your own creation, or try one of Serafina’s tried-and-true specialty pies. Look for “The Ossining,” covered with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and fresh garlic; or “The Neapolitan,” which comes with tart capers, fresh basil, and salty anchovies. Either way, mangia.
Modern Restaurant and Pizzeria
New Rochelle (914) 633-9479
Modern, contrary to its name, is actually quite an old business: it’s a re-purposed 1920s-era commercial bakery. At its heart is Modern’s huge, white tile oven—the bakery’s original—which was once coal fired but now (regrettably) runs on oil. This behemoth oven actually heats the wall it flanks, so on chilly nights be sure to cuddle up along its side. Wherever you sit, in the quaint bar, near the antique oven, or in the restaurant’s newest dining area (in the re-claimed commercial loading dock), look for crisp-crusted pies with a huge variety of toppings. Our favorite? Ricotta and bacon, where the cheese’s white, mild, creamy perfection is highlighted with soulful, salty bacon.
Tuckahoe (914) 961-3175
Crisp-crusted pies from Roma Restaurant have pleased residents of Tuckahoe since before the start of World War II. And the crust is so thin, it’s near anorexic: we had five slices at one sitting and still had room for gelato (two scoops!) afterwards. While the ingredients behind the pizzas have changed over the years, Roma’s secret recipe hasn’t—but just try getting that out of owner Michael Tavolilla. He may be keeping mum on the details, but Tavolilla did let slip that he uses Grande cheese (“the Cadillac of cheese,” as he calls it), which he imports straight from Wisconsin, USA.
Continue reading for our Shopping section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
The most exquisite platinum bracelet, the smartest custom-made suit, party dresses that will get you noticed, and this year’s doggie must-have: a Swarovski crystal-encrusted leash. Pack the plastic.
Daniele Trissi Ltd.
There’s bling, baubles, and then, there’s the serious stuff. For seriously elegant jewelry, this 28-year-old shop owned by a third-generation jewelry maker is it. What you won’t find: the usual roundup of designer names. What you will: sophisticated, mostly one-of-a-kind pieces of serious jewelry not available elsewhere. “We’re like a gourmet restaurant as compared to a McDonald’s or Burger King,” says owner Solly Refael. “Nothing we carry is mass-produced.” Most pieces are designed by Refael and handmade for the shop by jewelers in Switzerland, Italy, and the United States. You’ll find everything from a diamond-and-pearl pin for $2,000 to a platinum bracelet with 30 cushion-cut diamonds (and a cool $350,000 price tag).
David’s Fine Menswear
Fashion-savvy metrosexuals know this upscale men’s fashion boutique is a must-visit for modern, hip fashions and accessories by such designers as Zanella, Jhane Barnes, Robert Talbott, TailorByrd, and Ike Behar. But the real draw is its custom-made suits. Choose the fabric (though we admit it can be overwhelming choosing between the shop’s 2,000 different fabric swatches—and absolutely mind-numbing to look at the additional 40,000 more available to the shop), the buttons (we didn’t count—but can vouch that there are many), the lining, and all the other details (Got a particular stitch you like?). And what about a tie to go with that bespoke suit? If one of the 200 ties in stock doesn’t suit you, have one custom designed—from one of 400 different silks. No one said having a signature look is easy—just ask Tom Wolfe.
If you’re gonna fund your daughter’s shopping trip, shouldn’t you have some fun, too? “I saw a zillion things for my daughter on shopping trips but nothing for me,” recalls E.B. Barrett owner Ellen Grad. “I’d think, ‘Oh, this is so cute. I’d love to buy it for me.’” Those experiences inspired Grad to launch a store that caters to both stylish moms and their fashion-savvy teens ages 12 and up. “Other stores are either really teenager-y or someplace teens would never set foot in, so I thought what a nice combination to have a shop that has a little bit for both moms and girls.” The shop carries labels, styles, and sizes that fit and work well for both teens and their moms. You’ll find everything from jeans to black-tie attire and casual to party dresses, including lots of Lilly Pulitzer, the celeb-favored Ella Moss line of dresses, tunics, tops, and leggings, and the Metalicus line of brightly colored cardigans, camisoles, leggings, and dresses from Australia.
The (no longer) sartorial secret of some of the county’s chicest clotheshorses, this is the destination for designer fashions at discount. And though we’re not supposed to name labels, our undercover shoppers found some of the hottest designer clothes here, like those of Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole, Shoshanna, Tracy Reese and Joie—for way less than retail. How about $78 for a Betsey Johnson white eyelet dress that sold elsewhere for $205? Or $49 for a pair of Michael Kors cargo-style capris that normally sell for $79.50? Or $27 for a cool Free People waffle-style shirt that regularly sells for $48? You never know what you’ll find (new merchandise arrives each Tuesday through Saturday morning), so fashion addicts stop in for weekly fixes.
R&M Woodrow Jewelers
Time to update your wristwatch wardrobe? Then you’ll definitely appreciate this family-owned jeweler’s superb collection of, let’s see, about 1,000 different fine timepieces, from a $100 Swiss Army watch with a black rubber band to a $20,000 Ebel ladies wristwatch with an 18-karat gold bracelet. Known for its attentive and informative service, Woodrow is an authorized dealer for such top-of-the-line brands as Baume & Mercier, Breitling, Tag Heuer, Hermès, Montblanc, Ebel, Michele, and Swiss Army, and has a full-time watchmaker with 25-plus years’ experience on staff.
Take our word for it: anything you try on in this sliver of a boutique on Pleasantville Road will delight you. That Eve Franco black-and-light-blue print wraparound dress with the short puffy sleeves? It may look like your mother’s housedress on the hanger, but put it on, and wow—it ain’t anything like Mom’s. Shop owner Lynn Puro doesn’t fill her racks with the same-old, same-old Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Laundry threads. You can go to the mall for that. Come here to get one-of-a-kind suits, unique leather bags, rare summer tees—and real old-fashioned sales help.
This sparkling fine jewelry boutique made an instant splash when it opened last August, thanks to its personable and knowledgeable sales staff (the owners grew up in Manhattan’s diamond district), way beyond the usual, expected service (Not sure about that sapphire necklace? Take it home and think about it—no problem!), and selection. In addition to diamonds (both loose and set), you’ll find case upon gleaming case of spectacular pieces by some of the most talented luxury designers, many not found elsewhere. There is, for example, John Hardy’s cutting edge collection (including earrings, necklaces, and bracelets) handcrafted in Bali; Irene Neuwirth’s hand-crafted solid 18-karat yellow gold necklaces with chocolate and rainbow-colored moonstones; the romantic designs of Rhonda Faber Greene in 18-karat white and yellow gold; and Penny Preville’s timeless pieces (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings) of 18-karat white and yellow gold with diamonds. A white-hot trend? Give new life to your engagement ring and have Landsberg re-set the stone in a J.B. Starr micro pave diamond remount ($7,000 to $15,000). Landsberg’s jewelry may not be inexpensive—this isn’t Macy’s, after all—but, then again, you won’t find this kind of jewelry at Macy’s or at most other department stores or jewelry shops.
Lifestyles & Interiors by Lisa
You’ll find—and lust for—just about everything at this charming “lifestyle” shop housed in the former Croton Post Office—from the casual clothing and jewelry handmade by local artists to antique, upholstered furniture and home accessories. We see this as a finer, higher-end Anthropologie—only it isn’t a chain (a big plus in our book) and the help actually helps (a real big plus). Take our advice: if you see something you like, snap it up. Odds are good it won’t be there when you come back—and you will be back; trust us.
Sorab & Roshi Etc.
This charming boutique with wood-beamed ceiling and light blue walls features an eclectic collection of very hip, high-end housewares, gifts, and accessories. “We collect things we love,” says co-owner Roshi Ameri. You’ll love ’em, too. We fell hard for the capiz-shell serving pieces, jasper and hematite hand-carved frogs and chicks, hand-forged metal vases from Vietnam, picture frames inlaid with mother of pearl, and unusually shaped vases and bowls made of ostrich skin, plus the stunning silk evening bags and scarves from England. We got gifts, all right—for ourselves.
Anderson’s Book Shop
Yes, yes, we know. Independent bookstores are a dying breed. But there’s a reason Anderson’s survives. Not only is this a bibliophile’s paradise, but the 60-year-old icon is so loved by its loyal customers that when it almost went under seven years ago, it was a longtime Larchmont resident and customer, Peter Greeman, who bought it. And we can’t thank him enough. We love the selections here (it’s not just the big bestsellers but the wonderful small reads and special staff picks that are given prominent display space). Go ahead, ask for a recommendation—you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the shop will get it for you sometimes as quickly as the next day. Now that’s service.
The Katonah Yarn Company
Knitting aficionados now have a new place to ply their craft. This homey shop is as cozy and comfy as the soft cashmere scarves and chenille throws its customers fabricate. “We wished we had a specific type of store available to us, so we started one ourselves,” says co-owner Jane Lee Leggio. “We’re like a candy store for knitters!” With everything from basic yarns (cotton and wool) to luxury (cashmeres, alpacas, silks) and exotic fibers such as soy and sea silk (it’s made from shells) and organic fibers, Katonah Yarn has it all—even rosewood needles and others that light up! Yarns range from $5.95 to $46 a skein.
Pet Pantry Warehouse
Does Fido or Fifi need a new cashmere sweater ($50 to $150), a rolled-leather leash from Italy ($26 to $36), a “jeweled” rhinestone collar ($75 to $145), or a Bowser bolster bed in the latest toile or paisley print ($80 to $200)? This light-filled shop’s in-house boutique is the place to indulge your favorite furry, finned, or feathered family member. You can even pamper your pet with an individual layer birthday cake ($8) or a donut-shaped biscuit ($9) at its bakery counter. It also hosts fashion trunk shows, holiday celebrations, and “Yappy Hours” for dogs and their owners, complete with wine and cheese (for the humans), and canine treats (for the real masters).
Second Story Book Shop
This bookshop, a favorite of the First Resident himself, is the only place in the entire nation at which you can buy Clinton knickknacks—other than, that is, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum in Little Rock. So if you have a hankering to tee off with some golf balls bearing the Presidential Seal, or if you just can’t live without a brass commemorative coin bearing his likeness, well, you can get it here, as you can Bill Clinton books, CDs of his speeches, and perhaps a glimpse of the Chappaqua resident himself.
Wit, creativity, and a wonderful sense of humor: they are the three most important ingredients Oak Atkinson uses to create fabulous, fun, and funny greeting cards that are almost too wonderful to drop in the mail. (Saccharine sentiments are prohibited.) All are handmade by owner/designer Atkinson and her handful of “card elves,” who glue the buttons, the ribbons, the rhinestones, the beads, the baubles, and the glitter that make Tumbalina cards so special. One, for example, sports a 3-D furry leopard-print bikini and bears the message, “Happy Birthday Wild Thing”; it won the “Best Birthday Card” award from the Greeting Card Association of America. View the selection on the company’s website and then purchase Tumbalina cards at Fine Lines in Katonah, Precious Papers in Pleasantville, and Whole Foods in White Plains.
Continue reading for our Home and Garden section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
Sublime fabrics, cushy carpets, avant-garde appliances, unique accessories, and funky furniture. Our guide for the best for your house and yard.
Country Willow Home
Many of us hire personal shoppers and personal chefs, and order
custom-made clothing. So when it comes to our homes, why should we settle for furniture we can find in any Pottery Barn? Country Willow Home specializes in custom furniture that’s assembled by hand, one piece at a time, by skilled master craftsmen and artisans. The shop’s heirloom-
quality furniture is made from earth-friendly reclaimed lumber—barn wood, cherry, chestnut, oak, and pine—that takes on a gorgeous patina with age. Not sure what you’re looking for? Check out the shop’s selection of ready-made furniture from all over the globe, including England, India, Argentina, Peru, and Canada, for inspiration.
Leibert’s Royal Green
We’re not the only ones who think highly of Leibert’s Royal Green. Designers, contractors, and lots of savvy homeowners swear by this longtime county fixture for the best, most comprehensive selection of designer-brand appliances at discount. Yes, discount! You’ll find refrigerators (Sub-Zero, Viking, Thermador, GE, Whirlpool, etc.), dishwashers (Bosch, Miele, Asko, Maytag, etc.), ranges and cooktops (Wolf, Viking, Thermador, etc.), wine coolers (Marvel, Sub-Zero), washer and dryers (Bosch, Miele. etc.), air conditioners (Friedrich, Frigidaire, etc.), televisions (Sony, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, etc.), and audio-equipment (Niles, Kef, Denon, etc.). And a big bonus: the staff; they really know their stuff. No blank looks. No trying to guess what specific features are nor how they work. They’ll show
you. (Outfit your kitchen with Liebert’s appliances and who knows, you may actually want to make a home meal, not just order it.)
Soho East, a darling boutique on Main Street in Dobbs Ferry, is rather deceptive—on purpose. The gorgeous items on its shelves look expensive. But—sweet surprise—frequently, they’re not. Just $18 for that stunning hand-blown Murano glass goblet—not $180? And, pardon me, does that sticker on that exotic handmade porcelain ceramic vase just say $175? Goodness, if these aren’t the best home accessories, what, pray tell, are? Panache for not a lot of cash: that’s what we call real taste.
It isn’t just the wide-ranging choices that have us gaga over Home Works. It’s the prices too. Fabrics—silks, chenilles, cottons, wools, sheers, ultrasuedes, cotton and silk velvets, and synthetic weaves—are discounted at least 20 percent off manufacturers’ list prices. No wonder the Donald Trump/Cappelli project commissioned Home Works to supply the window treatments for the model apartments at Trump Plaza in New Rochelle. The Donald knows a good deal when he
Eva’s Design & Decorating
Eva’s was great even before its new owners decided to plunk down over a million dollars to renovate it; now it’s a fabulous, über-sophisticated decorating resource. Not only is its expanded selection of couture fabrics, upholstery, wall coverings, decorative hardware, window treatments, and other fine furnishings top-of-the-line, its two in-house workrooms and staff of 25 craftsmen and designers allow it to deliver superior, Old World-style craftsmanship. All projects are professionally designed, measured, fabricated, and installed by Eva’s own trained personnel—and the results indeed look like a million bucks.
Bath & Bagno
Bath & Bagno is small in size—and therein lies its attraction and its charm. Big may be wonderful—Home Depot shoppers clearly think so—but it also can be frustrating, overwhelming, and downright unpleasant. (We certainly appreciate choice but, hey, not too many choices. And, yes, there is such a thing; it’s why some of us need professionals—or aspirin—to shop.) At Bath & Bagno, someone else has done the hard work for you, weeding out the not-so-great baths, faucets, vanities, tiles, sinks, shower heads, and other bath products on the market and keeping just the best for you to discover. We like that.
Kanter’s Carpet Service Inc.
If you can’t find the perfect carpet here, then you clearly want your floors bare. The selection is enormous—3,000(!) carpet samples. And the staff knows its wools from its nylons from its silks. Prices range from $18 to $800 a square yard, and—who doesn’t love this?—discounts are given depending upon product and yardage.
Continue reading for our services section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
A cut and blow-dry for your pet, an expert repair for your rug, and a tech geek for your spyware-choked computer. The best services available to keep everything in your life humming along.
Aaron Woodin/PC Ventures
Q: You’re two keystrokes away from finishing the overdue quarterly report that your boss has been hounding you for and—oh no!—your computer screen goes blank. What should you do?
a) Up your life insurance coverage immediately;
b) Tell your boss that quarterly reports are passé—it’s annual reports that matter;
c) Call Aaron Woodin at PC Ventures.
If you chose C, congratulations—you’re probably still employed! No, he’s not a magician, but if you’ve got a computer problem, chances are, Woodin can fix it. He can fix “insidious threats” like spyware infestations which, he says, “take real skill and craft,” and keep “middle-aged systems,” which might otherwise be rendered obsolete, “up and running.” Woodin also offers private consulting and customizes—truly customizes—computer systems to the needs, wants, and lifestyles of their owners. He’s on-call seven days a week and can work as early as 6 am. “After 11:30 pm, though, I’m usually pretty fatigued,” he says. So have a heart—and try to call him within the confines of his 17-hour day.
SBS Shipping and Business Solutions
Whether you’re shipping a $25 birthday present, a valuable work of art, or a one-of-a-kind antique, SBS can do it for you—and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your package will arrive safely and on time. “We ship anything that can be shipped and send it anywhere it can go,” says Frank Maselli, owner of the eight-year-old shop, located next door to Flames Steakhouse in Briarcliff. “We specialize in shipping art and antiques and are well known for our meticulous packing.” Maselli says that nothing is “too big, too small, or too valuable” to be shipped by his shop—something shipping franchises and even some major carriers can’t claim, due to insurance limits, company policies, and other hindrances. In addition, Maselli says, “I don’t have the restraints of a franchise that has to answer to ‘corporate.’ If I have to match or beat a price, I can do it.” Maselli has shipped cars, motorcycles, furniture, and more. SBS also has a full-service copy center and offers printing, graphic design, picture framing, and even eBay auction services.
Shampooch Dog Salon
It’s been three months since your pooch’s last bath and he’s starting to take on the increasingly pungent odor of Cheese Doodles. What to do? Take him to Shampooch. This whimsically named Mamaroneck mainstay will have the most malodorous mutt spiffed up and smellin’ sweet in no time. Have a fussier furry one in need of more than just a scrub-down? Shampooch offers not only the basics (baths, blow-drys, ear cleanings, etc.), but mani/pedi combos, complete with nail-filing, clipping, and, if you’d like, nail painting with OPI Pawlish (we swear); high-end spa treatments that rival the offerings of their human counterparts at spas (blueberry facials, Dead Sea mineral mud scrubs to treat dry skin, moisturizing Luminosity Treatments to give your dog’s coat a little “bling” as owner Diane Calleia put it); a one-hour Splash-n-Dash grooming, available by special appointment; and even a doggie limo service (“Well, it’s actually a funky green Honda Element done up in dogs,” says Calleia), so your dog can be picked up and dropped off in style.
I Need My Space, Inc.
Practicing attorney Debbie
Harwin and her small team of associates have been de-cluttering Westchester homes—and minds—for 11 years. “We don’t just organize closets or spaces,” says Harwin. “We try to free our clients of all the excess in their lives that just weighs them down.” Sound good to you? It certainly does to us—and to her many repeat clients who consider her services, Harwin tells us, “life-altering.” A member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, Harwin knows a mess when she sees one and, more important, she knows how to turn chaos and clutter into calm and clear. Whether you’ve got an overrun closet in need of a makeover, photos that need to be organized, or an entire house that needs a major overhaul, Harwin can help with her “interactive, hands-on” service that isn’t only about organization but aesthetics too.
Mercedes Benz of White Plains
Other folks drive cars, but you drive a Benz, and when you own the crème de la crème of cars, you want—dare we say expect?—crème de la crème service. Though Mercedez Benz of White Plains caters to Benz owners who expect the best all the time, it still manages to exceed their expectations with
ultra-friendly—and efficient (not saccharine fake)—customer service, a team of talented and experienced service technicians, and a full menu of services from the basics (brake-pad inspection and replacement) to intermittent inspections to the truly customized. Whatever ails your car—we mean, your baby—this White Plains Benz “spa” can make better—painlessly.
The Golden Horn Oriental Rugs
When you need your antique rug brought back to its original luster, visit the same group of rug restorers relied on by Christie’s auction house. The world-famous auctioneers trust the Golden Horn in Mamaroneck to work on rugs, some of which are valued at up to $250,000. Fear not, they’re also glad to restore regular woolery and anything handmade, even if its cost doesn’t have six figures. And, if the price to restore the rug is greater than the value, they’ll even send your rug to Istanbul where labor costs are cheaper.
Continue reading for our Health & Beauty section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
A cutting-edge cut, a stress-busting massage, a sensational spa; our finds for easing your psyche and enhancing your looks.
This physician-run center does everything from facials to facelifts. It has the latest equipment to zap away unwanted hair, age spots, and spider veins, tighten necklines and tummies and fill in furrows. When it’s time to turn back the clock, turn to SkinCentre.
So what makes SkinCentre different from all the other skin care centers out there? Let’s face it: when you are having lasers and the like pointed at your face and sensitive body parts, you want to know there’s always a doctor in the house before, during, and after the procedure. And the center’s director Dr. Joseph Sozio, a cosmetic and laser surgeon, and his staff of physicians are physically there—not just on call—to ensure optimum results.
Park Avenue Medical Spa
When many former “Best of Westchester” winners “Best Facial,” “Best Massage Therapist”—turned up at the then newly opened Park Avenue Medical Spa (the year was 2004), we had a hunch this spa was something special. We were right. Since then, the spa keeps landing on our list, best facial one year, most unique treatment the next. And, this year, best overall spa. These folks know how to pamper. Plus, they have the medical chops when a little more, ahem, tweaking is needed. Just lie back, and say “aah.”
The Spa at AER Yoga and Living
Prepare to sigh. It starts the moment you soak your tired Jimmy Choo–abused feet in Aer Spa’s beautiful celadon sinks. It continues as you are treated to a wonderful head-to-toe massage in a clever little beach-hut room that can accommodate you and your significant other. First, Christine Brooking massages oil into your scalp (divine!) then moves on to your neck (“yes!”), shoulders (“ooh”), arms (“oh my”), and hands. Feet are smoothed and softened with a sage and rosemary scrub followed by a foot rub. Need even more bliss? Book a session of classic reflexology with Eva Malik.
Richard Scott Salon and Day Spa
They say you can’t keep a good man down. We say, you can’t keep a good salon closed. Richard Scott Salon and Day Spa was destroyed by a fire late one frigid night this past January. But the community couldn’t stand for that; offers of help came almost immediately. “When I got home from meeting with the insurance adjusters,” says Richard Mason, a co-owner, “there was a message on my voice mail from Christina Nappi [the owner of Zazo Salon], offering not only her condol-ences but her space for my staff to work. It was like a message from an angel.” There were more angels in the wings. The Saw Mill Club, Adam and Eve, and Kids Style all offered space in Mount Kisco for Richard Scott employees to work. “Within forty-eight hours, I had all of my employees placed,” Mason says. Though we never thought it possible, we love the newly reopened salon even more than the original.
To Vasken Demirjian, what you’ve got growing on your head is not simply hair, for goodness sake; it’s a living, organic canvas, one that with an array of brushes, a bit of foil, and a dollop of cream he can turn into a gorgeous work of beautifully colored art. Talk to Demirjian about hair color and you’ll soon be talking as if every strand of your hair should be displayed on the walls of the Neuberger. To Demirjian, hair color is an intellectual and artistic pursuit. “I’m extremely passionate about my work—and want to elevate the standards.” Oh yes, don’t ever ask him to do “ash” blonde; this Monet of hair deems the shade ghastly.
At the risk of sounding immodest: boy, can we spot stars in the making. Back in 2004, we predicted that then rookie Lisa DeMaria would become a hair star. To be sure, her credentials impressed: she was personally trained by big shot Frédéric Fekkai and studied at big shot Bumble & bumble hair salon in Manhattan and Vidal Sassoon salon in London. But what had us gaga were her cuts. After DeMaria gets done snipping, what’s left is hair with style, attitude, and personality—nothing bland, nothing ho-hum. We no longer have to predict. We know how good she is. Our haircuts let us know.
Let’s face it: massages feel good just about anywhere, any time. So what makes Tranquility Spa’s massages better than the next guy’s or gal’s? We love the feeling we get walking down into the spacious, calming waiting room…then the feeling we get when we indulge in a sauna before our treatment (No extra charge!—We love that too)…then slipping out of those plush robes and surrendering to the trained hands of our massage therapist. What will it be this time: Swedish, sports, shiatsu, reflexology, deep tissue, pregnancy, or stone? It doesn’t matter—they all feel wonderful. The only downside is what to do with the fright-wig hair après massage. But we’re so relaxed afterwards, we can cope.
We couldn’t choose just one: our four favorite facials
Julie Pipolo works wonders with mature skin. After a pampering facial using the ultra-gentle, pure, and yummy-smelling Sircuit skincare line (used by Kate Hudson, Marcia Cross, Natalie Portman, and Paris Hilton), she gently dermaplanes the skin to reveal fresher, younger-looking skin. Bonus: the process also banishes peach fuzz (and no, it doesn’t grow back all stubbly). Her many repeat clients call Pipolo “the Fuzz Buster.”
Devra Bader Skin Care and Beauty Spa
What do you do before you meet your ex’s new squeeze or attend your 20th high school reunion? Head over to Devra Bader’s for the Hydrolift Facial, a temporary non-surgical facelift. This luxurious treatment leaves skin so fully hydrated that all fine lines are plumped out and skin looks amazing—an instant, visible improvement that lasts about a week.
Spa Director Robin Queen believes that skin treatments should not be simply cosmetic, but should actually help “renew from within.” So Monteverde’s Signature Renewal Facial combines traditional cleansing and hydrating with all-organic products, along with New Age treatments to cure whatever ails you. Have a wicked knot in your neck? They’ll do a little cranial sacral massage. Stressed out? Maybe a little Reiki energy work or guided imagery to balance your chakras. Just lay back and float away—it’s a total out-of-body experience!
Eiluj a Beauty Lounge
Simin Roofeh loves, loves, loves what she does, and we love her for it. Trained in Germany and formerly with a New York City dermatologist, Roofeh customizes each facial according to her customers’ needs. Eiluj owner Julie Cuomo interviewed dozens of aestheticians before striking gold with Roofeh. Her devoted clients call her facials “positively reviving,” plus she is skilled at the ancient art of threading, a less damaging method of hair removal. Added bonus: Eiluj is like a high-end candy store for women, filled with potions, lotions, and lots of beauty baubles.
Continue reading for our Nightlife section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
Who says Westchester rolls up its sidewalks at dusk? We have hot spots with knock-your-socks-off views, places for late-night partying, chilling to classical tunes or N’Awlins blues, even bars to practice your pick-up lines. Let’s party!
A little piece of the Emerald Isle runs for about a mile through
Yonkers. On McLean Avenue, from its intersection with the Bronx River Parkway west to it’s junction with the Major Deegan, Irish bars have taken over southern Westchester. Some of the best bets for a night out on McLean Avenue include J.P. Clarkes
Saloon, where you will enjoy the complete authentic Irish-bar experience including Celtic food and Irish sports on the tube. Indeed, this place is so nice, locals say you have to “fight” your way in (we wouldn’t recommend fighting anyone at an Irish bar though). If you’re looking for great Irish music, spend the evening at Danny Mac’s where songs from U2 or local Irish bands like Shilelagh Law infuse sound into the night. And if you just want to drink as much Guinness at as many different spots as possible, bar hop through Rory Dolan’s, Ned Devine’s, Fitzy’s, and, nearby on Katonah Avenue in the Bronx, The Rambling House. All are authentically awesome.
Relax amid romantic gardens and the lush countryside while sipping a tangerine martini and watching the sunset over the rolling green hills of North Salem at Vox this summer. Yes, it sounds like the start of a television commercial, but it’s true. With 50 outdoor seats, and a bar that holds eight, there’s reason to be excited about your next venture to the northern tip of the county. The French eatery’s outdoor bar is both serene and full of enticing libations and gastronomical delights. Ask for a mint Mojito made with fresh mint from the garden, or for a “bateau,”—a boat filled with seafood and shaved ice, cleverly designed so that melted water drips to the lower deck, sparing your shellfish a soggy fate—and you’ll see why reservations are a must at this summer hotspot.
It’s a well-known fact that those who socialize while eating good food tend to have livelier discussions. Okay, we made that up, but it certainly sounds right. And if it is, then 121 is the place to be for late-night mingling. While there, order some warm pear cobbler with vanilla ice cream while fraternizing with friends, or munch on sticky toffee pudding with dulce de leche ice cream while flirting with a new—or potential—flame, or even ask for some bittersweet chocolate terrine with brandied cherries and pistachio mousse while seeking a seemingly suitable suitor; if the conversation is as scintillating as the desserts, you’ll have a very happy night.
Options—that’s what 107’s all about. For 107, you see, is the name of the nighttime-fun multi-verse that houses Rouge Lounge, newly reopened Bourbon Alley Bar, and Aura Nightclub all in one building. It’s at Aura, though, where the largest of the parties rages throughout the night. The club can fit 500 revelers and is known to attract that many and more when some of the best local DJs make their way to the White Plains hotspot. Generally, you can follow a trail of suds from Lazy Boy Saloon, Black Bear Saloon, Kelly’s, and James Joyce down the avenue to 107 and Aura starting around 12:30 am. And once you’re there, the bartenders hand out $2 SoCo-and-lime shots, or discount other nighttime intoxicants.
“Chillin’” at Café Mozart means listening to jazz, folk, and classical music, while sitting on the sidewalk on a warm summer night watching the world pass by. It means smiling, talking to friends, and simply enjoying one of the café’s signature pear salads or some of its delicious homemade pasta. It means drinking good coffee and supporting local musicians. It means not ending up at a place with the word “saloon” or “bar” in its name. It means actually relaxing. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone you’re taking it easy for a change.
The Pier View
X2O isn’t the only reason to head down to Yonkers this summer. Peter Kelly’s neighbor, The Pier View, is a fun place to watch a game, soak in some sounds, or grab a bite to eat all throughout the year. But the bar really shines in the warmer months when the 150-seat outdoor patio becomes party central on weekends. Indeed, the place gets so packed, it actually had to stop having so many live music events. They still spring up from time to time though, and when they do, they often play outside on the 2,000-square-foot patio. But even when live music is not playing, sitting on the patio is still a must. The views of the Hudson River capture everything from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Statue of Liberty. And on a clear day, the sunset is awe-inspiring. Happy Hour runs from 4 to 7 pm every day and, locals tell us, “There’s always something going on at the Pier View” on the weekend.
Bob Hyland’s Sports Page Pub
Grab the TVs, unscrew the beer taps, pack up the bar stools—that’s what everyone’s favorite White Plains sports bar was forced to do when they lost their lease on their old Mamaroneck Avenue digs (which, by the way, still are empty). But from misfortune sprang opportunity. The beer-serving, Buffalo wings-dishing sports Mecca has reopened in the White Plains Mall with a slew of flat-screen televisions and a lot of space for its growing crowd. And fear not: the food at the Sports Page still leads the league in taste. A must-start for any meal: the French-onion soup with gooey cheese and big flavor. Combine this with one of the bar’s many frothy beers, delicious wraps, and savory burgers and you’ll be yelling “Touchdown!” in no time.
At Chat 19, you can relax outside on a warm summer night with a cool Chat 19tini (Stoli raspberry, Stoli orange, Triple Sec, cranberry juice, 7up, and peach schnapps) or finish off a delectable meal with a tasty cappuccino martini (Kahlua, Bailey’s, white crème de cacao, Godiva cappuccino, and real espresso). Or, sip one of 19 other exotic blends that loosen up those tense muscles and put a smile on your face. Chat 19’s manager claims the bar just “created martinis that they liked,” but they must have good taste–a table is hard to find at this upscale Larchmont eatery that’s a crowd favorite almost every weekend night.
Come here often? You will.
We beg you, don’t turn this place into a bar full of 30-somethings on the prowl–but if you’re looking to meet the college girl or guy of your dreams, then there is no better place in the county than Michael’s. Students can’t resist the Tuesday night karaoke or the Friday night ladies’ night discounts. And most of all, local collegians like that Michael’s owner, Doug Crossett, goes out of his way to make the bar a friendly place. Indeed, Crossett insists that bartenders have to be nice to be hired, noting, “We’ll even throw you out nicely if you get out of control.” So, yes, we give you permission to go to this great bar to try to pick up a great guy or girl; just promise us you won’t wear a varsity jacket if the first number in your age is a three (or higher).
James Joyce (the poet, not the bar) once described “a nation” as nothing more than “the same people living in the same place.” If, like a nation, a bar is no more than the same people drinking in the same place, then James Joyce (the bar, not the poet), with its high repeat-visitor rate, is quite a bar. As the most mature of the “big three” bars on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains (the others being Lazy Boy Saloon and Black Bear) the large watering hole attracts a young, yet sophisticated, crowd. Regulars know to have the signature shepherd’s pie and to stop by during Happy Hour from 5 to 7 pm, when $2.50 pints and a free buffet (buffet only on Thursday and Friday) attract a young and upbeat crowd. The kitschy Celtic poetry books in the back add an upscale feel to the place and make it a necessary weekend-night stop for those 20-somethings on their way up the corporate ladder. And since the party inside the Irish-themed bar rocks all the way to the “top o’ the morning” (4 am), singles on the prowl have plenty of opportunities to pick up the perfect lad or lass for their next night out.
(914) 273-4676; www.opus465.com
Though your friends might be confused to hear you’re heading out to Armonk to meet the man or woman of your dreams, they’re sure to be jealous when you return successful. Opus 465 not only gets a host of available singles from the IBM crowd who work nearby, but also attracts eligible socialites from around the county. Why? The bar has 11 beers on tap, including local favorite Captain Lawrence, and has an extensive cocktail list that includes such chic-sounding libations as the Golden Pear (Absolute pear vodka, Triple Sec, pineapple juice, and sour mix). The kitchen at Opus is open until 11 pm Thursday through Saturday, there’s an outdoor patio, and guests can order half-priced cocktails during the bar’s weekday Happy Hour from 4 to 6 pm. It’s no wonder the owners of Opus 465 brag that couples often return for their anniversaries to “Opus—the bar where they first met.”
Globe Bar & Grill
(914) 833-8600; www.globegrill.com
Socialize in the “clubby” yet laid-back atmosphere of the Globe nightclub. When the restaurant that graces Palmer Avenue winds down its dinner service, the surprisingly large nightclub in the back heats up. Forty-somethings are attracted to the “throwback-to-the-good-old-days” concept of dining and dancing all in one place. And both are easy to do at the Globe, as the kitchen in the trendy nightspot stays open until 1 am on weekends, and two large projection TVs augment the spinning sounds played by local DJs until well after that. Since youngin’s rarely patronize the Globe, the club’s music and ambiance stay mature, upscale, relaxed, and quite popular all night long.
Continue reading for our Kids section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
Of course this kid-centric county has the coolest boutiques for pint-size debs and divas, most awesome activities (40-foot rock climbing walls—sweet!), spectacular party places, and kid-friendly eateries and services. Come on out and play!
When we discovered Bella Blu, a funky new kids’ shop in Goldens Bridge, we knew we had struck pint-sized gold. This darling shop has Harley-Davidson and
limited-edition Jimi Hendrix concert tees, Joe’s Jeans, and other West Coast collections and even “inspired” special-occasion designer dresses (Missoni, for example) for your future fashionista. Round out their eclectic new wardrobe with some of the shop’s über-cool accessories and you’ll have the neighborhood’s best-dressed deb or decked-out diva.
Pepper Noodle Couture
When your husbands are professional NBA players, let’s just say you don’t lack the green stuff. And, in the case of Tai Eisley and LaTasha Marbury, wives of NBA players Howard Eisley and Stephon Marbury, you don’t lack taste, either. The combination—bucks and taste—is a slam-dunk. So is it any surprise that the pair’s trendy kids’ boutique, Pepper Noodle Couture (Don’t you just love the name?) is a hit? Your kids will look so hip in the threads sold here (IKKS, Pura Vida, Seven for all Mankind), you may have to earn a professional athlete’s salary to outfit them. After all, binkies encrusted with Swarovski crystals do cost a bit more than the Wal-Mart brand. But, hey, isn’t your little one worth it?
Groovy on Grand
They might not be full-fledged teenagers, but ‘tweens (aka teen-wannabes), can be just as surly, demanding, and finicky. Want to see a complete about-face? Take them to Groovy on Grand. They may even crack a smile. The shop has U Go Girl and Jade for girls and ultra-hip Charlie Rocket and Micros for boys, with handbags, hats, and lots of gift items to boot. And with many items in the $20 to $30 range, you and your ’tween will (finally) have something to be happy about.
Junior Golf Program
Taught by world-class golf pro Mitchell Spearman, recognized as one of Golf Magazine’s top 100 instructors, and his talented staff, the Mitchell Spearman Junior Golf Program, held at the beautiful and critically acclaimed 3,200-yard, nine-hole Robert Van Hagge-designed Doral Golf Club, is for youngsters who are serious about learning the game. In other words, if your kid is “chipping” in the backyard with rocks or hard balls, or if he’s using his golf club as a makeshift baseball bat, this probably isn’t the program for him. The six-week program isn’t cheap ($7,500 per student), but it is intense—and it is the best. Students learn the ins and outs of the game from grip, alignment, stance, and posture to course strategy, emotional management, and tournament competition prep.
Lots of barber shops and beauty salons “do” kids’ haircuts. But only a few cater specifically to children and, of those, only a select few are masters. Topping that “select few” list—again—is KidStyles. We looked—we really did—for a kids’ style shop that could top this place and we just couldn’t find one, which is why, we suppose, so many celebs and other moms-in-the-know take their kids here to be clipped and coiffed. We’re not gonna mince words here: the stylists at KidStyles not only do a great job—they do it quickly, expertly, and relatively inexpensively ($18 for a cut and blow-dry) in a cheerful, kid-friendly (DVD-equipped TVs at each station, which include child-size seats shaped like cars, etc.) and
coffee brewing) environment, which makes for a positive, squirm-free, whine-free experience for all.
Holding in your hands that absurdly long list of “recommended” items your kid’s summer camp has sent? Rather than go broke (and nuts) running around for flashlights, sleeping bags, nail scissors, mini first-aid kits, and the requisite 12 pairs of underwear and 24 pairs of socks, visit Clöz, an Illinois-based retailer that opened its first East-coast outpost this past March. Clöz used to do “camp outfitting in Westchester,” says co-owner Philip Krumholtz, “but it was a road show that normally took place in hotels.” Once Krumholtz and co-owner Michael Cohen learned that Westchester was the “number-one-selling residential area in the country,” they naturally decided to camp here—in a 20,000-square-foot space in Rye. Sending junior off for the summer just got a lot easier.
Q Restaurant & Bar
This two-and-a-half-year-old es-
tablishment, owned by The Kneaded Bread owners Jennifer and Jeffrey Kohn, prides itself not only on its delectable Midwestern barbecue, but on its speedy service and commitment to the comfort of both kids and their parents. “We have little kids and we know it’s hard work to take them out,” Jennifer Kohn says. “We want our customers to be comfortable and happy.” You won’t have to walk on eggshells here. The people are warm, the food is delicious, and kids are welcome—and expected—to be kids. You want lots of napkins? No problem. There are crayons on the table, complimentary Hershey’s Kisses with kids’ meals, changing stations in restrooms, and free refills on pink lemonade, fountain soda, and iced tea. There’s also lots of onsite parking (no lugging strollers across town), a kids’ menu with yummy offerings like mac and cheese and chicken nuggets (typical, except that they’re made from scratch and delicious) and, everybody’s favorite, the Sticky Fingers Station in the middle of the dining room—a dentist’s sink operated by a foot pedal—that makes getting clean even more fun than getting messy.
The Scholastic Store
We grew up on Scholastic books and Scholastic magazines. Now our kids are growing up on Scholastic books, Scholastic magazines, and Scholastic toys. We adore this store. We adore spending time here—almost as much as our little ones do. (The tough part is getting them to leave.) Tuesday and Thursday mornings, we love the free story times—almost as much as our little ones do. Come Saturdays, it’s the free visits with Clifford, free author readings, free scavenger hunts, and free arts-and-crafts projects that we love. It’s a tie as to who loves ’em more.
Call us silly but we can’t help but think that it’s no coincidence that this restaurant’s name is pronounced “Oooh, Mommy!” Many Westchester foodies know by now that Ümami is a real word—corresponding to the “fifth taste” after sweet, sour, bitter, and salt—but what some still don’t know is that, not only is Ümami a popular place with a menu that’s an ultra-hip amalgam of ever-evolving taste sensations, it is also a comfy, cool, and colorful spot (it’s decked in kid-friendly primaries—yellow and blue) and great place for kids. Aside from the Blue Pig M&M ice cream on every tyke’s dessert wish list, Ümami offers a menu that real kids—not the “dream” kids of yuppie parents—love, like grilled-cheese squares on white—not whole wheat, not 12-grain, not flax-seed and clover honey—bread; and peanut butter and grape jelly—not boysenberry preserves or blood-orange marmalade—sandwiches. While “Oooh, Mommy—can we go to Ümami?” will admittedly get old eventually, even grown-ups will get a thrill out of viewing the kids’ menu on customized View-Masters.
Head2Head Sports & Games
If your resident baseball expert can double as a walking sports almanac, you’re probably already familiar with Head2Head Sports & Games, the 1,000-square-foot sports and games hotspot for fans of all ages. Baseball aficionados love this place for the memorabilia and for the cards. “We get every sports card as soon as it’s released,” says co-owner John Naimoli. What makes this spot shine among some of the better-known outfits and larger chains is the knowledge, expertise, passion, and experience of the owners, “and our atmosphere, too,” says Naimpoli, a former manager of the now-defunct Gamekeeper at The Westchester. “It’s all about fun.” The one-and-a-half-year-old store carries both signed and unsigned sports memorabilia in a wide range of prices. It also hosts signings (past signings have included the Mets’ Jose Reyes, Paul Lo Duca, and Billy Wagner), game tournaments (it has four eight-foot gaming tables and can accommodate tournaments of 50 or more people); and birthday parties.
Splash Car Wash
Bedford Hills/White Plains
(914) 241-2266 (914) 328-9020
Finally, you can run at least one errand with your kids without hearing a never-ending chorus of, “Are we done yet?” The car wash treats every car as if it were a custom Rolls, which is one reason Splash is to car washes what Valrhona is to chocolate. Most of all—it’s fun! Autos are hand-washed by a team of two to eight car “Ninjas” in rain gear and boots as kids—and their parents—watch through a long window. Sure, the wash is thorough and efficient if it’s good enough for Chevy Chase, Martha Stewart, and Bill Clinton’s Secret Service, (their vehicles have been sudsed and shined here), it’s got to be good. But the best part is the spray gun. From behind the protection (and dryness) of the window, kids (okay, and their parents) get to participate by spraying an arcade-type trigger gun full of colored soap as the car passes through the wash. “I can’t attest to whether the Secret Service played with the spray gun,” co-owner Mark Curtis says with a laugh. But he does know that Cheerios embedded in seats and upholstery and Goldfish ground into carpets is no laughing matter, nor is a tantrum-throwing preschooler who has to wait three hours for the mess to be cleaned. “So,” says Curtis, “we offer a twenty-minute express detail—it’s very Mom-friendly.”
It’s no secret that moms are the best resource for other moms. It takes a mom to know how to best get out spit-up stains, alleviate teething pain, and handle a nitwit nanny. Help is essential. Ergo, www.essentialmom.com, an easy, parent-friendly, one-stop source for Westchester moms—and dads. Yes, the pages may be filled with ads—day-care centers and pizza parlors want to reach new parents as much as new parents want to learn about new day-care centers and good local pizza joints. Founded by Gretchen Menzies, a Bedford mother of two, www.essentialmom.com offers book recommendations, a listing of local plumbers and architects, as well as information on summer camps and birthday party venues. “I felt there should be a resource out there to make it all easier,” says Menzies, a certified social worker. So next time it’s 2 am and you’re up with your bundle of joy, you’ll be able to quickly find everything from contractors to childcare during your business hours.
Indulge your child (and your inner child) at these fun and hassle-free party places.
Kids ‘r’ Cookin’
(914) 937-2012; www.kidsrcookin.com
Got a future Rachel Ray on your hands? Well before she starts hosting her own show in the kitchen (and pouring EVOO onto your floor), why not host a cooking party for her and her friends instead? We love how Bandy Acciavatti, owner of Kids r’ Cookin’, brings her 40 years of experience, along with all the pots, pans, and recipes you’ll need, right to your kitchen. She’ll also come up with fabulous age-appropriate recipes—gnocchi, Vietnamese summer rolls, and quesadillas to name a few—and help the tykes cook, and then the very best part of all, clean up. Yum-O!
Two years ago, bet your daughter wanted a princess party. Last year it was all about American Idol. This year, she’s clammering for the pirate theme. For whatever (and we really do mean whatever) your child’s current obsession, Bedford Hills-based Kiddie Parties can create the perfect party backdrop. They’ll also take care of all the invites, food, and paper goods, so that if next year she decides she’d like to master the ancient art of yoga, you’ll have your mat—and the location—already laid out.
Pied Piper Pony Rides and
You could schlep to the Bronx Zoo—or you could bring the zoo right to your house. Pied Piper Pony Rides and Petting Zoos will not only transport ponies to your backyard but bunnies, lambs, ducks, goats, chickens, and pot-bellied pigs as well. And this USDA-licensed company and mini zoo will come rain or shine (You didn’t opt for the four-car garage for no reason, right?). Watch your child and friends grin from ear to ear as they ride, brush, pet, and feed the animals.
(914) 244-8811; www.jodisgym.com
To the older set (you, me, and the fellow reading this over your shoulder), jumping, squatting, tumbling, balancing, stretching, stepping, and running is work—hard work. Hey, they don’t call it a workout for no reason. But, at Jodi’s Gym—which has locations in Mount Kisco and Manhattan—it’s a party. The gym, celebrating its 25th year, hosts fitness parties for youngsters—kids ages 1 to 12—turning over the entire equipment-packed facility (balance beams, bars, tumbletracks, mats, and more) to the always-glad-to jump, run, toss, tumble, and make-noise young crowd. Safety-certified instructors are always on hand to make sure no one gets hurt. Sure beats having all that jumping, running, screaming, and tumbling in your home.
Continue reading for our Arts & Leisure section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2007
All work and no play? No way! Check here for cheap thrills, sweet deals, high (and low) brow live entertainment, places to gamble or gambol, trails for hiking, biking, and Sunday driving.
Red Lotus Productions
Regina Spektor, a hipster-beloved musician who, according to cooler-than-thou music website Pitchfork, “belts like Ethel Merman, recites like Patti Smith, coos like Tori Amos, and shrieks like a Kate Bush for the McSweeney’s set,” graced the county with a hyped-up, sold-out, one-night-only performance at Purchase College. The reason for her visit? Red Lotus Productions, run by Purchase grad Travis Sluss, who promises to bring more entertainment of this caliber to the county. That’s cool enough for a “Best of Westchester” designation in and of itself, but there’s more: Sluss is using music for a mission, putting on concerts to raise awareness and funds for local charities (Spektor’s concert benefited the Purchase College Conservatory of Music). In one fell swoop, you can mingle with the hip crowd and make a difference at the same time.
Available at Stop & Shops throughout the county
Everyone loves Netflix, but what if Westchester Magazine’s “Home Theater” column gave you the overwhelming urge to rent The Host—and you wanted it right now? Hey, we’re all about instant gratification, too. Instead of waiting for a DVD to arrive by mail, head to the nearest Stop & Shop, where a Redbox vending machine is fully loaded with more than 500 DVDs for your immediate rental pleasure; just swipe your credit or debit card and it’s yours. And, at a price of just $1 a day, it’s likely cheaper than your local Blockbuster. More forgiving, too, since after 25 days the charges stop and the DVD is yours to keep. Cheap and fast—our two favorite words.
AMC Loews Port Chester 14
(914) 510-1000; www.amctheaters.com
Too old, too clunky, too crowded, too noisy, too busy—when you’re in the mood for a popcorn flick, it’s hard to find a good multiplex. The AMC Loews Port Chester 14? It’s just right. You get the new, high-tech auditoriums with pampering, stadium-seating chairs, the cup-holders, the works—but not the marauding crowds. And a bonus: the outdoor parking is free, so your wallet will be a little more comfortable, too.
“Next” on 107.1 The Peak
Wednesday nights at 11 pm and Sundays at 8 pm
(914) 397-0127; www.1071thepeak.com
We’ve all had moments when we’ve tightened our grip on our steering wheels and gasped, “God, if I hear Gwen Stefani on the radio one more time, I’m going to scream!” Put down the phone; there’s no need to order an XM radio yet. Chris Bro’s “Next,” played twice a week on the Peak, avoids all the done-to-death songs we’re already sick of (ahem, “Fergalicious”), and instead finds obsession-worthy tracks from both under-the-radar indie bands and established artists. Stock your iPod with bands from one of the “Next”’ playlists—try The Fratellis, Cold War Kids, Jarvis Cocker, We Are Scientists, or Ted Leo and the Pharmacists—and instantly seem ahead of the curve.
Nights at Playland
More rides, more thrills, more fond memories—same price! Stretch your entertainment dollars on Tuesday nights at Playland when, starting July 10, the admission for each attraction is reduced by one point between 6 and 11 pm. That means that the same $20 Fun Card buys us eight rides—not six—on our favorite wooden, dragon-themed roller-coaster in our favorite art deco amusement park. For those unenthused at the prospect of riding the Dragon Coaster eight times in a row (wimps), try the terrifying, ride-on-your-belly SuperFlight; the go-85-feet-straight-down Double Shot; and the perennial favorite Log Flume. Still not enough? On appreciation nights, county park pass holders receive eight “Bonus Points” when purchasing a 36-point Fun Card ($28)—which will certainly be able to hold you over until the next Tuesday.
There’s no need to take a trip down to Avery Fisher Hall when some of the best, most respected orchestral musicians live and work right here. This past season, the orchestra thrilled audiences with everything from grand-scale productions of Beethoven’s works to intimate chamber performances at the Westchester Arts Council. Expect another set of world-class performances from the Westchester Philharmonic, whose 2007-2008 series—its 25th anniversary year—promises an all-French program of symphonic masterpieces, a hilarious family-oriented evening with the famous “P.D.Q. Bach,” outstanding soloists like violinist Elmar Oliveira, and a variety of special events to be announced. Stay tuned.
Paramount Center for the Arts
Forget Caroline’s and Dangerfield’s. Who wants to trek into the city when the best names in comedy come to us? Specifically, to the Paramount Center for the Arts, the haven of hilarity where heavyweight comics do their stand-up when they’re in town. Recent big-name jokesters to take the stage include George Carlin, Lisa Lampanelli, members of Second City, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s Lewis Black, who once gave us a 24-hour stomachache from making us laugh too hard.
They don’t have Dane Cook’s level of fame—yet—but you can say you caught these hot young comedy stars on the rise. Every sixth Saturday, Paulie’s in Pleasantville gets New York City’s best up-and-coming comedians to do a set up North. Previous laugh-your-butt-off talents have been seen on screen at Comedy Central and on stage at famous clubs like Dangerfield’s. Catch them now before they start selling out arenas.
August 23 to 26
Westchester Country Club
It’s hard to not get excited when the West Course at the Westchester Country Club becomes home to golf’s biggest names, big crowds, and a big, big purse: more than $7 million. Thankfully, all that money doesn’t only go to the college tuitions of the champions’ children. Local charities supported by the tournament include Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital Westchester, the Junior Leagues of Westchester, and other worthy causes—another reason this tournament is tops.
Tarrytown Music Hall
We know that you’ve been to Tarrytown’s legendary Music Hall to rock with David Byrne or groove to the Westchester Jazz Orchestra. But did you know that the Music Hall is also the perfect antidote to the “Mom, I’m bored” disease? That’s right. Take away the Wii-mote and give your children the thrill of watching their favorite book characters, historical figures, and movies re-created for the stage at the Music Hall’s daytime school shows. These aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill kids’ shows, either; highly acclaimed theatre groups such as ArtsPower and TheatreworksUSA give performances that have ranged from the cutesy tales of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Other Story Books to the epic story of Harriet Tubman’s struggles in Freedom Train. With such a packed schedule of performances, 30,000 youngsters each year are captivated by the Hall’s live music, dance, and theater—yours could be next.
Hudson Vagabond Puppets
The Hudson Vagabond Puppets borrow some traditions from the Japanese Bunraku style of puppetry—in which puppeteers dressed in black manipulate the most amazing-looking, full-size puppets—which means humongous dinosaurs, jellyfish, bullfighters, monkeys, kings, and queens populate their many shows. The puppets are outstanding works of art in and of themselves—styled to look like traditional Victorian toys, Diego Rivera’s artwork, or characters from different world cultures—but really come to life when the actors slip into their black costumes and manipulate them from the shadows. While Hudson Vagabond Puppets may be based further up in the Hudson Valley, we’re lucky to have them as frequent visitors to our county, so keep an eye out and your fingers crossed for future Westchester performances.
The Insights & Revelations Performance Series
Next time your friends tell you about a great new play, you can say you already saw it being workshopped—or visited an open rehearsal, or attended a Q&A with the artists. Producer Anna Becker’s “Insights and Revelations” puts audiences at both the edge of their seats and behind the scenes, revealing the “creative process” at its theater performances and staged readings. At a recent production of Liar, for example, audiences were treated to performances by four master storytellers—and then were told that one of the storytellers offered a complete fiction, and they had to interrogate the artists to figure out which one was the “liar.” Before that, Becker invited audiences to an open rehearsal of The Merchant of Venice with star Ron Leibman so they could see not the play’s final product, but its creative process at work. Go and feel like a real insider.
Graham Hills Trailways
Graham Hills Park
Want to get your mind racing, your heart pumping, and your feet pedaling? If you’re looking for something more challenging than Bicycle Sundays, experienced mountain-bikers look no further than this Mount Pleasant destination, the entrance of which is located on Route 117 in Pleasantville, just a stone’s throw from Pace University, the Rockefeller Preserve, and Stone Barns. Five miles of narrow, wooded trails wend their way through the 431-acres of formidable terrain. Leave the novices at home and opt for some serious mountain biking.
It isn’t often we gush about a road. But Baxter Road is, well, gorgeous. Drive it—and you’d swear you’ve gone through a time machine into Westchester’s distant past. The dirt road winds its way through lush, fertile scenery past old barns and picture-perfect farmhouses. So go ahead, take a nice, leisurely drive down Baxter Road. It is the best way to experience this untouched topography—that is, if touring the area by horseback is not an option.
Empire City Yonkers Raceway
Who needs the schlep down to the shore? If you want buzzing, whirring, blinking casino games, cool live music, and a variety of dining destinations, we got ’em all right here. That’s without sitting in traffic on the Tunpike. At Empire City Yonkers Raceway, 5,500 suspense-building video lottery machines are up and ready for your extra change—how lucky do you feel? Plus, there’s also the high-adrenaline excitement of live harness racing six days a week and simulcasting from the nation’s most famous racetracks, which is something you surely won’t find at the Borgata.
New York Water Taxi’s
Yonkers Commuter Service
Think the Metro-North’s Hudson Line has the best commuter view of the river? Think again. With New York Water Taxi’s new Yonkers service, which debuted in May, commuters now travel to either the World Financial Center or Wall Street’s Pier 11 on the river. In addition to offering the most breathtaking views, the vessels are decked out with luxurious seating, plasma-screen TVs, and a café/bar. The ferry currently makes eight 45-minute trips on the river (four in the morning, and four in the evening), with a one-way ticket costing $12. Who’s afraid of a congestion tax now?
The Old Croton Aqueduct
State Historic Park
Bronx to Croton
What does the Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway have in common with a contestant on America’s Next Top Model? Like those glamazons, it’s the state’s longest, thinnest, and, in our opinion, prettiest public park. However, the aqueduct has substance: the park provides gorgeous vistas of the Hudson River and Rivertowns throughout the entire length of our county. And, following the underground masonry tunnel that used to bring water to the city, it’s a pretty straight, mostly flat, fairly easy ramble (just watch out for tree roots); no hiking experience required. Along the way, enjoy back-door views of county landmarks, including the Octagon House, Lyndhurst, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Croton Dam Plaza, and plenty of Rivertown Main Streets—where you can grab a coffee and a little nosh after your walk.
News 12 Westchester
When you don’t have a copy of Westchester Magazine handy, tune in to News 12 for expert round-the-clock coverage of the place you care about most: here. Taking in just one of its quick half-hour broadcasts will leave you stocked up on the latest local headlines, weather forecasts, traffic tips, school closings, and neighborhood news. It’s the most efficient way to hear about what’s going on—without wasting your time hearing about the news in that city to the south of us.
Continue reading for Our Neighbor’s Picks
Our Neighbors’ Picks
Authors, actors, anchors, and others weigh in on their favorites in the county.
“For anything food-wise, it’s June & Ho in Rye. Their prepared dishes are the best around, their cheese counter in a class by itself, their flowers sublime, and the salmon tartare is absolutely the best party appetizer going!”
—Author Andrew Gross,
“I love the New Castle Historical Society’s Annual Antiques Show, usually held the first weekend of November. I’ve bought furniture, artwork, gifts, orchids, vintage clothing, and artifacts there almost every year. It’s shopping and a history lesson rolled up in one. And it’s always held at my former elementary school, Westorchard, on Granite Road in Chappaqua.”
—Actress Vanessa Williams,
“Manor Park in Larchmont has everything. My family and I especially like it in the summer when all the boats are in the water. But each season brings out the charm and natural beauty of Manor Park. See you there!”
—Fox 5 News anchor
“I love having the Caramoor Music Festival almost in our backyard. It is very special to have its programs in such a beautiful and restful setting.”
—Designer Josie Natori,
“My favorite spot, besides my own backyard, is the Jacob Burns Film Center. I love the Rube Goldberg-like artwork, the intimate theaters, and, oh yes, the movies are great, too. I took my daughter and her friends to see Weeping Camel, Otar, Goodbye Lenin and Super Size Me. I took my son and his buddies to see Roshomon and Bowling for Columbine. My husband and I go on dates there (Amélie, Greendale, Talk to Her). One Christmas I took the whole clan of Evanses to see a dreary Welsh movie (in Welsh) about a totally dysfunctional family: we loved it! Thank you Jacob Burns for making Westchester so very hip!”
—Carol Evans, CEO and President of Working Mother magazine and author of This Is How We Do It: The Working Mother’s Manifesto, Chappaqua
“Westchester County Airport is a favorite spot. Sometimes I just like to go there and watch the planes take off and land.
—FOX 5 News weather anchor Nick Gregory,
“I just adore the Hudson River. I grew up on the Hudson, in Newburgh, and the reason that we’re in Westchester is because of it. I don’t think there is anything like it anywhere else in the world.”
—Author James Patterson, Briarcliff Manor
“We went one Sunday to Sue’s in Peekskill for brunch and it has basically become a weekend habit. In the fall, I cannot live without the pumpkin pancakes, the cup of joe is always perfect, and Bobby, the owner, is a real nice guy. Just good people serving good food, and we love the fact that all the old-timers at the counter treat the joint like their very own kitchen.”
— FOX 5 News entertainment reporter Toni Senecal, Croton-on-Hudson
“I love Bellizzi restaurant in Mount Kisco. I go with my girlfriends and we bring our kids. They are guaranteed to leave us alone because, while we hang out and share a bottle of wine, they’re busy playing the video games. Plus, the food is outstanding!”
—Author and former news anchor Rene Syler,
“Bedford Gourmet in Bedford Village is my favorite catering and take-out food destination. The soup’s divine: curried zucchini, carrot ginger, mulligatawny. Best of all is the array of cheeses placed on the counter for nibbling. It’s been well documented there are no calories in free samples. For special occasions, order the pumpkin cheesecake, which does have calories—but it’s worth the splurge.
— My9 News film and theater critic,
Pat Collins, Bedford
“My favorite place in Westchester is the Bronx River Parkway because it has a bicycle path. I used to take my mountain bike out on my days off and ride from Bronxville to the dam and back.”
—Professional Wrestler Tommy Dreamer, Yonkers
“Two wonderful restaurants are Spaccarelli’s in Millwood and Guida’s in Ossining. Guida’s does fish beautifully and I love the restaurant’s pork-chop dish with onions and peppers. The ambiance there is lovely, too.”
— Actor/comedian Robert Klein,
“The Sculpture Garden at Pepsico with its beautiful works of art is a lovely place to stroll or picnic. It’s simply glorious!”
—Opera singer Roberta Peters, Purchase
“One of my favorite and most inspirational places in Westchester is the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. I have walked a million miles along its beautiful trails and, when I stop and stand very still, sometimes I can even see the wood fairies.”
— Singer/songwriter Sloan Wainwright, Katonah
“My favorite shop in Westchester is the LaVigna Brothers Garage in Harrison. It is an old-fashioned, family-owned auto repair shop. Brothers Louis and Joe are great mechanics and wonderful storytellers. It is not uncommon to find their customers hanging out in the office, drinking coffee, and being regaled by Louis and Joe recounting the crazy antics of their father, who founded the business.”
— FOX 5 News reporter Arnold Diaz,