Harvest on Hudson
Of course, as the bride-to-be, you’re the focal point, but the scenery at Harvest on Hudson will give you a run for your money. The Palisades cliffs and majestic Hudson are naturally beautiful, and both are visible from each of Harvest’s two rooms.
The rooms’ views may be similar; their auras are not. The smaller upstairs space is completely private, an intimate jewel box of velvet drapes, ochre walls, and a vaulted ceiling anchored by a bronze chandelier dripping crystals. Cocktails in the neighboring loft overlooking the cavernous main dining room will set the mood with upholstered seating niches and votive candles poised on low-slung tables.
Downstairs, Harvest’s semi- private room feels open and airy, separated from the main dining area by heavy drapes. A medieval tapestry adorns one wall, the shimmering river view, another.
In warm weather, sip cocktails in the riverfront garden before heading in for dinner. And a fine dinner it will be too, with Chef Vincent Barcelona’s contemporary take on Mediterranean cuisine. Choose one of three Ã la carte menus for sit-down service, or a cocktail reception option with passed hors d’oeuvres, and pasta, cruditÃ©, and cheese stations. Chef Barcelona trained in France and at the unparalleled Le Bernardin, so expect haute selections like porcini-dusted sea scallops, wild-mushroom ravioli with sage-parmesan cream, and spring rolls of lamb, apricot, and almond. Dessert choices include a rich chocolate ganache tart, or order a specialty cake and get in some main-event practice.
Harvest on Hudson
â€¢ Private room seats 20 to 32. semi-private room, 30 to 48.
â€¢ Sit-down dinners are $54, $67, and $125 pp; wine/liquor not included.
â€¢ Passed hors d’oeuvres from $13.75 to $24.50 pp.
â€¢ Two-hour open bar reception w/passed hors d’oeuvres and three stations, $75 pp.
â€¢ Additional $250 set-up charge for private room.
â€¢ Audiovisual equipment and music in upstairs room only.
â€¢ Website: www.harvest2000.com
Contact: Regina Michielli, events coordinator, (914) 478-2800
If an evening’s detour from wedding formality sounds like bliss, Zen Tango could be your ride. The dining room is an oasis of calm, and your party will bask in a semi-private corner of it, cordoned off from the rest of the room with velvet ropes.
Just like your future self, the dining room is a vision in white, a haven of filmy drapes, creamy leather, and frosted glass. Zen Tango is dedicated, as its menu boldly notes, to the “enlightenment of one’s soul” through the uniting of the senses, and the room provides a virgin canvas for Chef Michael Valentino’s rollicking Latin fusion fare. Customize your meal from his regular menu, choosing appetizers like sake-steamed mussels or duck ropa spring rolls. Forget endive and croutons; Valentino’s salads pulse with beet hibiscus dressing and Jamaican jerk spices. Most of his entrÃ©es channel Asia, from the sweet-sour-sauced chicken with kimchee slaw to the star anise-marinated duck with figs and mango. A whole striped bass comes panko-crusted and wok-fried; grilled wild salmon gets a jolt of ponzu and tamarind. For dessert, leave earthbound Asia for chocolate heaven with a molten lava cake and fresh berries.
â€¢ The dining room can be sectioned off for semi-privacy.
â€¢ Three-course sit-down dinners from $33 to $50 pp.
â€¢ House wine $25 per bottle and up.
â€¢ Pre-dinner cocktails in bar area or at table.
Contact: Colby Brock or Diana Wilkins, (914) 576-4141
Hidden below Zuppa’s planked floors, terra-cotta walls, and gauzy drapes is a subterranean lair of equal charm. Housing the restaurant’s 3,500-bottle wine collection, it doubles as a rustic, private-party cocoon. Other places may boast authentic brick walls; Zuppa’s displays the remnants of an arched foot bridge that once spanned the Saw Mill River. That’s a tough dÃ©cor act to follow, but Zuppa’s owners meet the challenge with bronze-and-abalone sconces and wrought-iron gates. The effect: medieval and magnificent.
The food’s not bad, either. Chef David DiBari cut his urbane Italian cuisine teeth at Mario Batali’s Babbo, and he’ll customize your sit-down dinner from his scintillating Ã la carte menu. It’s so scintillating, in fact, (I live nearby; I know), that he wants to exploit it, offering not the standard three courses, but five to seven. You might start with a grilled asparagus salad crowned with a poached egg in a prosciutto “cup,” or scallops anointed with orange fennel schiuma (foam). There’ll be a pasta course, then a fish offering like wild king salmon over braised red chard with port-onion purÃ©e. Next comes meat (horseradish-crusted beef short ribs, anyone?), then a choice of two dolci that will banish any embedded tiramisu demons.
For a similar price, you can opt for a cocktail party with passed hors d’oeuvres like roasted beet-and-goat-cheese bruschetta, and two to four stations featuring various risottos, or perhaps a raw bar. The options here are multiple, the rules flexible, the outcome assured.
â€¢ The wine cellar seats up to 30 people.
â€¢ Five- to seven-course dinners range from $65 to $95 pp.
â€¢ Wine-pairing service available.
â€¢ Pre-dinner cocktails optionally served in main lounge.
â€¢ Valet parking included.
â€¢ Website: www.zuppa restaurant.com.
Contact: Robert Leggio, (914) 376-6500
RUBY’S OYSTER BAR AND BISTRO
Ruby’s embodies two hall- marks of Francophile charm: its main dining room, all brasserie bustle; its private room, salon serene.
Ascend a rear stairway and leave the zinc-bar clatter for a haven of sage paneled walls and Parisian murals. One wall houses the restaurant’s wine, another a bank of mullioned windows. Seated at tables that each hold up to 14 guests, you’ll dine on a customized menu chosen from Ruby’s regular Ã la carte offerings. Amidst the bucolic arrondissement scenes of shops and courtyards, the aura is more of a private home than restaurant.
Do your pre-dinner cocktail mingling around a towering raw bar display, or three-cheese fondue and shellfish station. Additional nibbles, perhaps mini crab cakes and filet mignon bruschetta, can be plucked from butlered trays. Fish is the focus here, so entrÃ©e choices include peppercorn-crusted ahi and seared halibut over rock shrimp and fingerling potatoes but carnivores need not despair: Ruby’s serves a mean grilled sirloin laced with Bernaise butter.
The restaurant could order you a specialty cake for dessert, but with such perennial in-house favorites as crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e, molten chocolate cake, and apple crumb tart available, your bases are pretty well covered.
RUBY’S OYSTER BAR AND BISTRO
â€¢ Private room seats up to 35 people.
â€¢ Customized dinners from $45 pp.
â€¢ Friday evening, $2,000 min. charge.
â€¢ Saturday evening, $2,500 min.
â€¢ Website:www.rubysoyster bar.net.
Contact: Lisa McKiernan, (914) 921-4166
Delamar Hotel, Greenwich
Stroll this inlet-bounded, ProvenÃ§al-styled haven, and it’s not a far leap to a streamside terrace in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse or an inn on the Durance. Of course, it would have to be a very fancy inn—one with harlequin-patterned stone floors, pillars hoisting arched ceilings, and damask armchairs. Such is the lobby of the Delamar Hotel, where you can savor cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres (like smoked-salmon pizza with caviar) in a semi-private oasis bordered by a screen of lush plantings. Add sophisticated background music played by a pianist on the resident baby grand.
And you don’t have to stop there. Consider antipasti platters of crostini-laden foie gras terrine and white truffle-laced artichokes, carving stations offering smoked pork loin and roasted Cantonese duck, and myriad other international cuisines prepared by the stellar L’Escale kitchen.
May through October, you can trade the lobby’s elegance for the plein-air allure of a private waterfront patio. Then it’s a few steps in to the ivory-hued, linen-draperied Deauville Room for dinner, either a three-course sit-down or four-station buffet. Chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo, whose resumÃ© boasts Manhattan’s Remi and both the L.A. and Chicago Spago hotspots, will also customize a menu from L’Escale’s Ã la carte offerings, and has been known to reproduce a host’s revered family recipe if requested.
His seasonal menus abound with offerings like marinated haricots verts with goat cheese and baby greens, and herb-crusted halibut with basil-potato purÃ©e and tomato fondue. The buffet option includes a pasta course, with four-cheese ravioli and risottos especially popular. Desserts are a French cornucopia of seasonal fruit tarts and favorites like crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e and molten chocolate cake—though I don’t know if molten cakes ever made it to the south of France.
â€¢ Deauville Room seats up to 60 people.
â€¢ Three-course, sit-down dinner from $75 pp.
â€¢ Buffet dinner from $95 pp.
â€¢ One-hour open bar and passed hors d’oeuvres from $44 pp.
â€¢ Additional fees May through October: Deauville Room, $500; Lobby, $750.
â€¢ Website:www.lescale restaurant.com
Contact: Nancy McKittrick associate director of catering (203) 661-0719
BUFFET DE LA GARE
Many things are unique about Buffet de la Gare, the most obvious being its displacement from a side street off a Left Bank boulevard. If you’ve stepped inside, you’ve felt it too: the authenticity of faience plates pinned on pressed-tin walls, copper pans, and painted ceramic cocottes, the floorboards groaning the protestations of 100 years.
There’s nothing trendy here, nothing hip or avant garde. Just classic, straightforward cooking grounded in tradition and technique. New chef/owner Luc Dimnet continues this legacy from his predecessor, Gwenael Goulet, offering a three-course sit-down dinner chosen from the Ã la carte menu.
Reserve the semi-private room three steps up from the ground-floor level, and admire that faience collection while sampling the chef’s amuse-bouche, perhaps a roasted apple-and-butternut squash soup with housemade croutons. There’ll be a seasonal salad, then a choice of three of four entrees like roasted halibut over black trumpet mushrooms with a Reisling sauce, or, for meat lovers, a roasted rack of lamb with spaetzle and oven-dried tomatoes. (Reisling, spaetzle—yes, Chef Dimnet is Alsatian). Desserts are iconic: tarte tatin, crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e, chocolate beignets. For an unconventional tweak, try the crepes with blood-orange anglaise. Listen to Piaf or Asnavour on the sound system, toast your cheri, and say bonjour to romance incarnate.
BUFFET DE LA GARE
â€¢ Semi-private room seats up to 35 people.
â€¢ Three-course customized dinner from $45 pp.
â€¢ Wines from $35 per bottle.
â€¢ Room unavailable Fri./Sat. evenings, October through February.
Contact: Nicole Dimnet (914) 478-1671
MacMenamin’s hip cachet is Westchester legend, and dinner in the private Shea room loses none of it. You’ll still get this renovated factory’s brick walls, arched windows, and plankedwood ceiling and floor. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, you’ll get the sinewy rhythms of a live jazz combo wafting from the adjacent main dining room. And of course, there’s Brian MacMenamin’s modern American cooking.
House wines and passed hors d’oeuvres come with your seated-dinner package, and you can enjoy them either in front of the room’s working fireplace, or downstairs in a ground-floor private kitchen. Choosing the buffet option won’t get you hors d’oeuvres, but could get you a carving station featuring roast baby suckling pig. There are many such enticements here, from a pasta selection of butternut-squash ravioli with browned sage butter, to an entrÃ©e of Tuscan grilled beef chateaubriand with caramelized onions and fontina cheese. Alluring desserts include a chocolate caramel marquise and white chocolate macaroons; for the more conventionally predisposed, there’s always cheesecake.
â€¢ Shea room seats 20 to 70 people.
â€¢ Sit-down dinner from $65 pp; house wine, dessert, and coffee included.
â€¢ Buffet dinner from $55 pp; house wine, dessert, and coffee included.
â€¢ Friday evening, $4,000 minimum charge; Saturday, $5,000 minimum charge.
â€¢ Valet parking included.
â€¢ Webstide: www.macmenamins grill.com.
Contact: Lucy Benedetto, director of special events, (914) 632-4900
Downstairs from the main floor, the private room is a serene cocoon of ochre walls, stone accents, and wood-beamed ceilings. Painted demoiselles in traditional Breton frocks beam from rustic wooden panels, and swans and peacocks “stroll” on antique sanded-glass panels. A wall of mullioned windows looks out onto a private patio, ideal for warm weather cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and beyond that, a landscape of sprawling lawns and wooded hills.
CIA-trained chef Christopher Cipollone’s Hudson Valley-sourced, modern American cuisine is informed by classic technique. He offers three sit-down dinner menus, with appetizers like lobster bisque and a grilled artichoke salad with fennel and apple; and such entrÃ©e selections as grilled king salmon in a roasted tomato broth, and beef tenderloin sauced with Bordelaise. He can supply a special cake, but with desserts like a three-chocolate terrine or cappuccino bread pudding, I’d save the cake for the wedding.
â€¢ Private room seats up to 30 people.
â€¢ Three-course sit-down dinners from $38 to $58 pp, served in room or on the covered patio.
â€¢ Passed hors d’oeuvres from $8 pp.
â€¢ One-hour open bar, $12 pp.
â€¢ House wine from $25 per bottle.
Contact: Jean LeBris, (914) 669-5450
CASTLE ON THE HUDSON
Norman fortifications, gothic arches, hand-hewn beams—it could be the Scottish highlands, or it could be a hilltop not far from the Tappan Zee tolls. You’ll be able to tell only by the building’s entryway plaque noting “Historic Hotels of America,” and the lack of a brogue when you’re greeted at the stately front desk. Otherwise, the Castle on the Hudson is authentic as it gets this side of the pond, a bastion of medieval grandeur.
Both the Tapestry Room and the smaller Library offer fireplaces, Oriental carpets, and tapestry upholstery. The Tapestry Room is more an elegant salon, with tasseled drapery tiebacks, pastoral-motif wallpaper, and a ceiling mural right out of the Pitti Palace. It opens onto a patio, ideal for pre-dinner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, with stairs leading into expansive gardens.
The Library is an intimate, neoclassical space of mahogany paneling and Corinthian columns, dentil crown moldings, even a marble bust or two. Swag-framed windows gaze onto the gardens below.
Chef David Haviland’s special-occasion menus consist of three- or four-plated courses of haute indulgences like maple-glazed duck breast over squash-and-bacon risotto, and horseradish-crusted filet mignon in a cabernet reduction. A cocktail reception with multiple food stations and passed hors d’oeuvres can be held in the Tapestry Room as well, for a price similar to a seated dinner.
With so many choices, so many decisions, you could just make the ultimate arrangement: the Castle’s Wedding Weekend, three days encompassing your rehearsal dinner, your wedding, your next-day’s breakfast, and sumptuous overnight chambers for your guests.
CASTLE ON THE HUDSON
â€¢ Library seats up to 30 people; Tapestry Room, up to 45.
â€¢ Three-course, sit-down dinner, $88 pp.
â€¢ 4-course dinner, $98 pp.
â€¢ Hors d’oeuvres: $12-$18 pp.
â€¢ Valet parking included.
â€¢ Website: www.castleonthe hudson.com.
Contact: Sales department, (914) 524-6366
BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS
At Blue Hill, you can both pledge your troth to your fiancÃ© and to the earth. The mandate here is food’s immediate, unadulterated route from land to table, the reason for which soon becomes appreciably evident. Most of the restaurant’s larder is grown, or raised, on the surrounding pastures, and will be the basis of your four-course seated dinner. Pre-meal cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served from butlered trays either in the covered foyer or on the open patio. There’s no set, pre-printed menu here: if it was grown yesterday, you’ll be eating it today. Taste preferences and seasonal availability are the only requisites. The rest is in Chef Dan Barber’s skilled, innovative hands.
If it’s spring, bet on baby greens from the center’s greenhouse, crowned with that morning’s fresh-plucked eggs. There might be a loin of center-raised lamb, or a poached fish nestled on the season’s new peas or fiddlehead ferns. If it’s winter, duck might accompany a stew of carrots with toasted spices and fromage blanc spaetzle. Whatever the season, expect shot glasses exuding the harvest’s pride: soups of smoked heirloom tomato in summer; parsnip in winter.
As an alternative to dinner, a two- or three-hour butler-serviced cocktail reception is possible.
The simple, pared-down culinary aesthetic transfers to Blue Hill’s private dining room decor. There are no fussy swags, no chintz or tassles to detract from the land, which unfolds in pastoral splendor from the vast windows. But pared-down here is never rustic, just sparely elegant—and always authentic. The floors are reclaimed pine; the tablecloths, cotton; the curtains, linen; the chairs, made from sustainably harvested wood, are cloaked in wool. Candles flicker from animal-horn votives; flowers and herbs come straight from the kitchen garden. Such is Blue Hill’s pure, unwavering commitment, surely an inspiring model for your own.
BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS
â€¢ Private dining room seats 64, or can be divided to seat up to 32.
â€¢ Four-course sit-down dinner from $165 pp.
â€¢ Open bar, cocktail/hors d’oeuvre reception included.
â€¢ Wine-pairing service also included.
â€¢ Valet parking included.
â€¢ Website: www.bluehillfarm.com.
Contact: Danielle MacQuarrie, private events manager (914) 366-9606, ext. 226
At the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY
Paradise has flourished in a corner of the Bronx for over a century, rivaling anything Adam and Eve ever strolled through. You can stroll through it, too, on your way to dinner, and in much nattier attire.
A short walk through the Garden’s Mosholu Gate brings you to the grand, mural-clad Garden Terrace Room, which also houses the more intimate Foyer. This room can be closed off with French doors, a decorous pavilion of ivory walls and arched windows with access to a tented patio shielded by lattice screens.
The high-profile Abigail Kirsch is the caterer here, offering multiple sit-down dinner options (no buffets). A three-hour evening is standard, the first hour consigned to cocktails with such passed hors d’oeuvres as truffled deviled quail eggs and asparagus pizettas. Take a pre-dinner meander along the public terrace, then prepare to indulge in three haute courses, possibly an appetizer of roasted beets and balsamic-laced pear salad, and an entrÃ©e of short ribs topped with chipotle-seared foie gras. For the epitome of luxe, there’s a lemon-chocolate terrine dessert oozing ganache and raspberry gelee.
If you choose, all this elegance could be clinched with string-quartet accompaniment, though a harpist would be the most appropriate choice for such a paradisal setting.
â€¢ The Foyer seats up to 50 people. Available Mon. to Thurs. only.
â€¢ Three-course sit-down dinner from $90 pp. One-hour cocktail reception and open bar included. Additional $500 facility fee charge.
â€¢ Website: www.abigailkirsch.com.
Contact: Susan LaVallee, (718) 220-8714 or Dianna Bricker, (718) 220-8712
Writing this article was cathartic for food writer Diane Weintraub Pohl, whose wedding rites did not include a rehearsal dinner.