Food lovers rejoice! 11 top Gourmet Shops

Food lovers rejoice! 11 Top Gourmet Shops


Oven-fresh, hot crusty bread; mouthwatering overstuffed muffalettas; succulent lamb; fork-tender beef; herb-infused oils and creamy confections. sounds like heaven? it is—westchester foodie heaven.

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By Charlotte Kaiser

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Photography by Phil Mansfield


For me, gourmet shops have always been the site of
rituals. They are places to return to again and again—to the same smiling faces and reliable fare.

When I was growing up in Scarsdale, there  were high school lunch breaks at Michael’s, afternoon coffee while shopping with Mom at Hay Day, and Sunday morning trips to the Hartsdale Cheesery for lox and bagels. Owners greeted customers by name at virtually all of the 11 shops I visited. Can’t say that about your average A&P, can you?

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The stops on my gourmet shop tour all offer prepared foods and varying amounts of specialty products. They range from a place where you can get refined entrées prepared by a French Culinary Institute chef to a more casual, deli-style counter where the tuna salad is a must; from an expansive upscale supermarket imported from the city to a cluttered culinary country store.


Hay Day: The Country Farm Market

15 Palmer Avenue, Scarsdale

(914) 722-0200

There was a period of time during my high school years when every dinner was courtesy of Hay Day. My mother and I would grab a latte at their espresso bar before heading to the prepared foods counter to select the plat du jour. The choices were—and continue to be—seemingly endless. These days there’s a focus on seasonal dishes like low-country style pulled pork and a salad Niçoise with the traditional tuna, potatoes and olives. When appetites call for simpler fare, one of their Provençal-style rotisserie chickens (perhaps with sides of  Kentucky blue grass slaw with mustard greens and scallion oil and poblano-pesto pasta salad) is always a crowd pleaser. Home cooks delight in the butcher counter, which offers all prime meats, and the seafood counter where Gio, an expert who grew up fishing on the shores of Southern Italy, is always ready to hand over the catch of the day. Some balk at the high prices, especially in the produce section, but where else can you find specialty items like ramps and fiddlehead ferns?


June & Ho

70 Purchase Street • Rye

(914) 967-1900

For some, it’s the homemade sour cream muffins; for others, the smoked salmon tartare. Whatever it is, people are passionate about June & Ho, and June and Ho Park are passionate about their customers. The husband-and-wife team greet many of them by name, as I saw firsthand on a visit to the store one afternoon. June, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and the shop’s executive chef, is a strong believer in the culinary dictum that “better ingredients make better food.” That is evident in the quality of her traditonal terrine, house smoked salmon tartare, lusty osso buco, brick oven bread and trademark tarte Tatin. Everything is made in the 1500-square-foot stainless steel kitchen above the shop, which the couple built when, at the end of last October, they moved into the space (formerly their fish market). “We want to be an upscale gourmet shop, but we also have all the ingredients for people who want to cook at home,” June says. Hence the wide array of gourmet products and the small seafood section at the rear of the store with some of the freshest looking fish around.


Bedford Gourmet

Arcade Building, Rt. 22 • Bedford

(914) 234-9409

For a picnic on Bedford Green, there’s no place more convenient than Bedford Gourmet. Step into the charming shop in the Arcade Building to pick up a ham and Brie sandwich and one of their beloved Callebaut Belgian chocolate brownies, or perhaps a lo-cal chicken tostada and some fruit salad for more virtuous types.

Despite the store’s small size, owner Mona Spilo offers a staggering amount of selections. There are breads imported from the city, such as Eli’s multi-grain and Amy’s Bread’s potato-dill loaf (available on weekends only), incredibly decadent chocolate cream cheese muffins, dozens of cheeses, scrumptious prepared salads like curried chicken with chutney, curry and mayo, and celery remoulade, lightly dressed with a pink peppercorn vinaigrette, plus cases stocked with ready-to-eat and frozen entrées. Spilo is also known for her made-to-order gift baskets, which can be filled with olive oils, balsamic vinegars, dried salamis, ceramic crocks of cheese, Lake Champlain chocolates, specialty crackers, Carolyn’s Gourmet pecans and specialty teas of your choosing.



Village Market

12 King Street • Chappaqua

(914) 238-4948

Any place that offers more than 50 kinds of bread is a shoo-in in my book. Not only that, but the Chappaqua Village Market sells gourmet cakes from top local bakeries like Mamaroneck’s Plaza Sweets—with chocolate-velvet boule and cheesecake on the roster—and also makes  a mouthwatering apple tart and killer almond-laden biscotti (many of which were consumed while writing this article).

The market comes across as very well-edited, each section—meat, fish, produce, dairy, deli, dry goods, flowers and, of course, bakery—with its own pristine selection of top-quality items. Owner Tony Milazzo, who used to oversee meat operations for Food Emporium, is especially proud of his butcher counter, which offers only prime hanging beef and American (not New Zealand, Milazzo emphasizes) lamb. The quality of the meat comes across in the homemade sausages, like turkey with broccoli rabe and chicken Parmesan with chunks of mozzarella, and prepared entrées, like veal with roasted peppers, onions and mushrooms in white wine sauce. If you’re cooking at home and just want to pick up a couple of extras, why not try the artichoke-tomato spread (fabulous as a topping for bruschetta) or the summery fennel salad with oranges and red onions? Both are fairly light and laden with flavor.



Country Kitchen

31 South Greeley Avenue • Chappaqua

(914) 238-0690


Phil Callaci, the original Dr. Produce, sold the rights to the name when a former employee made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Callaci decided to go for something cuter the second time around, renaming his shop after his beloved English bulldog. The name change hasn’t affected his wide range of products, which includes longstanding favorites like wholesome chicken-orzo soup, crunchy wheatberry salad with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, and creamy guacamole. Atkins acolytes take note: Turkey meatloaf and crab cakes are breadcrumb-free and there are no noodles to taint the hearty garden vegetable lasagna. For those with a bit less willpower, Callaci recently opened an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and candy shop next door called Lickety Split (named after a shop that used to be in town some 25 years ago).


Wm. Nicholas & Co.

19 Edgemont Road • Katonah

(914) 232-1949

Wm. Nicholas’s grilled chicken and avocado salad (which made an appearance on Martha Stewart Living) is so good that it became my summer project to replicate it at home. I fell in love with the flavors—the interplay of the richness of the avocado and the slight acidity of the cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Although the chicken salad became the object of my affection, it could have easily been another one of their prepared foods that won my heart.

Take the grilled corn and barley salad or the couscous with feta cheese and mint vinaigrette. One is fresher than the next and, unlike many places, you don’t get the feeling that you could make it just as well at home (or at least that’s what my trials and tribulations with the chicken salad taught me).

Wm. Nicholas also has a mouthwatering selection of homemade baked goods, including Oreo Rice Krispies squares, red velvet cake—a dark vermillion Southern confection iced with cream cheese frosting, and their signature chewy oatmeal cookies with tart dried cherries (which are so good that they also made a cameo on Martha Stewart Living). In addition, they offer a handful of specialty products, like Joseph Schmidt chocolates and Stonewall Kitchen’s sensational garlic and onion jam.

Dr. Produce

387 Main Street • Armonk

(914) 273-4320

You don’t have to be on a diet to appreciate Dr. Produce’s low-fat tuna, you need only be a lover of good tastes. Inspired by the Waldorf salad, the salad is composed of low-fat mayo, dried cranberries and Fuji apples. It tastes just as good as the original, but with fewer calories a cup. No wonder it’s such a big seller! “We sell 40 to 50 pounds a day,” says store owner Michael Hicks.

Although the business started out as a produce store, the only place you’ll find produce these days is in the salads. Hicks prepares 40 daily, with the colorful Mediterranean chicken salad and rich bowties with a Thai-style peanut sauce among the favorites. His turkey meatballs, meatloaf and dumplings (similar to those at Penelope’s) are a great option when things get too busy to cook (and when isn’t that the case?). For dessert, bring home a few Wonder Bars with chocolate chips, coconut and peanuts, and everyone’s bound to be happy.


Hartsdale Cheesery

215 East Hartsdale Avenue Hartsdale

(914) 723-6859

You haven’t really experienced cream cheese until you visit the Hartsdale Cheesery. Sure, you can find scallion or walnut-raisin cream cheese at your average bagel shop, but what about apple strudel or black caviar? “We built this store on cream cheese,” says owner Cliff Hall who, with partner Peter Sagona, makes 22 cream cheese combos. The pair also recently began selling flavored baked farmer’s cheeses—a boon for those who feed on lighter fare. The Cheesery has three types of smoked salmon (Nova, Scotch and Gaspé) from the same Brooklyn smokehouses that supply Barney Greengrass and Zabar’s, and brings in bagels from Highridge Hot Bagels in Yonkers. True to its name, there are also 150 types of cheese available—including some more unusual varieties like Cypress Grove chèvre from California and sun-dried tomato and pesto mascarpone torta from Italy. There’s also a variety of prepared salads and entrées, gourmet products and giftware. As Hall says, “If we just sold cheese, we’d be out of business.”



Gourmet Foods

24-26 Harwood Court • Scarsdale

(914) 723-3024


Michael Cairo may have started out as a hairdresser at Saks Fifth Avenue in White Plains, but food is clearly his love. His original gourmet shop opened in 1978 in a 300-square-foot shop where he sold cheese, crackers, pâté and coffee. After three moves, his family business now occupies an 1800-square-foot space that includes a deli counter, produce section and special area where Pattie, Michael’s wife, prepares her popular gift baskets with the help of his son, Jason. At the deli counter, Michael’s other son, Eric, helps make their signature sandwiches, including the muffaletta, a New Orleans style sandwich on an Italian roll with ham, provolone, Genoa salami and homemade olive spread, and the Parma, with imported Parma ham, mozzarella, roasted peppers and basil dressing. (The counter’s also where you can find Michael’s trademark tuna salad, a simple blend of commercial grade tuna, mayo, dill and parsley that’s guaranteed to win over even the most die-hard tuna despisers.) Eric also selects the shop’s specialty beers, like Chimay from Belgium, Fuller’s from England and Brooklyn Brewery’s microbrews.


Turquoise Gourmet

1895 Palmer Avenue • Larchmont

(914) 834-9888

French fruit syrup, Irish butter and Turkish coffee are among the treasures at Turquoise, a Larchmont shop that boasts a bazaar’s worth of international goods. Turkish owner Emil Acar also sells produce and bulk spices, including cumin, coriander and cloves. The spacious store is attractively designed with turquoise walls, tiled floors and café tables both inside and out. From behind the counter, Acar presents a small selection of Middle Eastern salads, like hummus, babaganoush and taboule, in addition to a handful of homemade lamb dishes like kofte and beyti. There’s more where that came from—he also owns the Turquoise Mediterranean restaurant on Mamaroneck Avenue in Mamaroneck.


Gourmet Garage

935 Central Park Avenue • Scarsdale

(914) 722-2112

This Central Avenue store—the most recent of the Manhattan-based mini chain—is the most spacious of the lot I visited. Since its July 2002 debut, it has gained a local following, thanks to its crisp produce, wide aisles and impressive selection of prepared foods. Co-owner Andy Arons decided it was time to try his luck in the ’burbs. “It’s a super high-end demographic and that demand wasn’t being met,” he says. His timing was right, as he was first into the market before competitors like Citarella and Whole Foods (though the latter has plans to open in White Plains next year). Gourmet Garage stocks a wide range of gourmet products—including coffee, olive oil, chips and salsa made for them by private manufacturers and sold under Gourmet Garage’s private label—but they also have less sexy stuff like Cheerios and Charmin. In addition to all the usual supermarket departments, there’s an olive bar and a dreamy selection of 250 cheeses. Most appealing, however, is the salad bar (everything fresh from the kitchen on the premises), which features a section devoted entirely to tapas—in this case broadly defined to include all sort of international treats, like tortilla di patata, fresh dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and Thai hacked chicken.


Rye Country Store

41 Purchase Street • Rye

(914) 967-3450

The Rye Country Store looks better suited for Stockbridge or Stowe than suburban Rye. It has occupied its current space for a mere four years (although it’s been in town for 80—since its earliest days as the Rye Meat Market), but the current incarnation looks like it’s been there for decades. The wood shelves are filled to the brim with candies, gourmet products and gift wares. Platters of prepared salads and entrées line the food cases and the pastry section overflows with homemade cupcakes and fresh breads. Despite the abundance of their offerings, co-owner Claire Hassi, who worked for the original owners for eight years before buying the business, says that simple dishes like grilled chicken and poached salmon are her best sellers. I’m partial to the chicken salad with grapes and nuts and the sunny fusilli with sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil, both of which are perfect picnic foods. The folks at Rye Country Market are master soup makers, too. Their peach soup makes an impressive, no-fuss summer appetizer or dessert and there’s nothing like a bowl of their curried butternut squash soup once the cold weather comes around.


Food writer Charlotte Kaiser’s kitchen shelves are brimming with gourmet products from researching this article.

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