Hunting, Gathering, and Grazing
Gifts, gourmet goodies, and a global menu gather at this eclectic Hartsdale hot spot
Restaurant, patisserie, HOME dÃ©cor and gourmet gift store. Sound a bit scattered? It is, at least at newly opened Global Gatherings in Hartsdale. The line between food service and retail is purposely blurred: the front room is a store showcasing world-music CDs and an eclectic selection of global furniture, gifts and home dÃ©cor items, as well as a pÃ¢tisserie and cafÃ© of sorts. Shoppers/diners can enjoy a slice of cheesecake and an espresso while sitting in a carved tribal chair, which they can then purchase as well. The larger back room, lit with candles and chandeliers, is home to the restaurant and is also a continuation of the store (virtually everything—even the candleholders on diners’ tables—is for sale). The protocol is unclear: it’s difficult to determine whether you should shop while waiting for the next course.
Nevertheless, this multifaceted concept is sophisticated and compelling. Global Gatherings is reminiscent of Manhattan’s ABC Carpet & Home, the internationally oriented, upscale Manhattan department store that is also home to two restaurants. The difference is that at ABC, the restaurants are owned and managed by other parties. At Global Gatherings, the owners attempt to do it all, and that is the challenge.
While the shopping experience is worth a visit (I spotted an all-wood, six-foot-tall cigar-store Indian, a two-foot-tall sandstone fountain from Thailand in the shape of an elephant, and leather wing-back chairs and ottomans from Romania), the staff is courteous, and the desserts are delectable, I can’t say the same for the savory food. The menu is tempting, listing an array of flavorful-sounding, international options, but the quality is inconsistent. For example, on one of my visits the mesclun salad, described as featuring heirloom tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic vinegar, was disappointing (I could locate only three or four small pieces of tomato). Fortunately, though, the kitchen did offer up some winners: the ribs were delicious—melt-in-your-mouth tender and basted with a sweet, rich sauce. Also delicious was the lobster-dumpling appetizer, lobster wrapped in a tender, soft dough and glistening from a buttery sauce infused with truffle oil. Yet the grilled chicken—though nicely seasoned with a spice rub and
accented with a fruity sauce—featured oddly chosen sides: mashed yucca, plantain, and black beans. Where were the vegetables?
The mesclun salad wasn’t the only dish that didn’t deliver. For example, the slab of fattened goose liver was overcooked. A grilled prawn entrÃ©e, which I’d heard was a specialty but is no longer on the menu, was improperly seasoned and small for a main dish, with just four prawns in a rather bland coconut broth. We also found an unwelcome sharp piece of clam shell in the mango and black bean salsa that accompanied the blue corn-crusted mahi mahi.
Although the staff was incredibly friendly (a big plus), my guests and I waited 25 minutes for our first course and another 20 minutes for our entrÃ©es. Even on a Tuesday night, the wait for our first course was lengthy. To be fair, though, the restaurant, which opened four months ago, is still in the process of refining its kitchen processes.
What doesn’t need refining are the breads and desserts, prepared by CIA-trained pastry chef and owner Desiree Kelly. The ciabatta and nut, wheat, and poppy seed-sprinkled Parker House rolls were warm and tender, as if they’d just emerged from the oven. Also delicious—and inspired—is the the dulce de leche baked Alaska beehive, with a dulce de leche ice-cream center, honey crÃ¨me anglaise, and an adorable marzipan bee. The hazelnut cake we tried on our second visit was rich with chocolate and toasted hazelnut flavor and almost melted in our mouths (it should be added to the menu, it is that good). Even better, it was served with the creamiest Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate ice cream, and cranberries cooked with Port.
All in all, these sweets were so tempting—and the ambience so quirky, colorful, and exotic—that I would return just for desserts and coffee (and to browse as well). Global Gatherings should either improve its kitchen or limit its scope to retail and a dessert cafÃ©, perhaps with nightly entertainment: concerts, poetry readings, and lectures. Surely, there is a global need for such a gathering place.
156 South Central Park Ave., Hartsdale
Lunch, Tue to Sun. 11:30 am-4 pm
Dinner, Tue to Thur. 5-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5-11 pm, Sun. 5-9 pm
Open Mondays for special parties
Entrees: $9-$18 (lunch), $20-$30 (dinner)