The Absolutely, Positively, Best of Everything (Editor’s Picks)

Our fifth annual insider’s guide to the Best of Westchester

Best of Westchester 2005

Presenting the county’s Emmys, Tonys, Grammys, and People’s Choice awards all rolled up into one (without, lucky you, the boring acceptance speeches): our Fifth Annual, and absolute best ever, 2005 Best of Westchester. And the winners are:

Featuring Photography by John Fortunato,
Cathy Pinsky and Michael Polito

Food

[restaurants]

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Best Breakfast
Le Jardin du Roi
Chappaqua
(914) 238-1368
www.lejardinchappaqua.com

This laid-back French bistro does some of its best work in the morning (just ask regulars Vanessa Williams, the Clintons, or musician Rob Thomas). Love the pain perdu (luscious and light French toast), the poached egg atop a flavorful goat cheese potato cake, the buttery ham and cheese croissant, and, though meant for kids, the handmade crêpes smeared with Nutella. And, yes, there really is a jardin out front, so enjoy your almond croissant and café au lait alfresco.

Best New Neighborhood Restaurant
Four Doors Down
Buchanan
(914) 737-0606

The staff is unpretentious. The price is modest. The décor is cheerful. And the food darn good (We love the peanut butter ice cream). What more can you ask of a neighborhood restaurant?

Best New Seafood Restaurant
Ocean House
Croton-on-Hudson
(914) 271-0702

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There are those among us who believe there’s no compelling reason to venture up to Croton. Well, Ocean House is one heck of a delicious reason. But warning: Ocean House is teeny (19 seats) and has a no-reservations policy. So go early, wear comfortable shoes (often there’s a line to get in), and enjoy dining on some of the best and freshest fish dishes Westchester has to offer.

Best Revamp
Il Cigno
Scarsdale
(914) 472-8484

We were fans of Il Cigno before Hartsdale natives Christopher Vergara and Jamie Steinthal took it over. Now we’re even bigger fans, thanks to the new, updated look (we were decidedly not fans of the previous décor) and thanks to the continued good cooking. We’re still big fans of the pappardelle with wild boar in a Parmigiano-Reggiano laced sauce, and now we’re also big fans of the rare grilled tuna in a lime chile vinaigrette and the grilled poussin with roasted peppers. And, oh yes, the white-and-dark chocolate-studded bread pudding. Who said change
is difficult?

Best Classic French Restaurant
Le Château
South Salem
(914) 533-6631
www.lechateauny.com

Yes, we love new cuisine as much as the next foodie, but sometimes we yearn for the tried and true—dishes that don’t need explanations, preparations that don’t need high-tech gadgets, and presentations that don’t require a degree in architecture. This gorgeous restaurant, housed in a 20-room Tudor mansion set on 32 acres that used to belong to J.P. Morgan, is for serious-minded diners who enjoy dressing up (jackets preferred) and dining in a quiet, serene setting, on food whose appeal is timeless. Oh yes, and the authentic French accents are appealing too.

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Best Dim Sum
Kam-Sen Asian Market
White Plains
(914) 428-4500

The aesthetics may be lacking at this vast emporium and you may not have steaming carts of dim sum wend their way toward you as you might at the formal restaurant across the street (it’s counter service only here), but for top-quality dim sum—savory roasted pork buns, sweet red bean buns, and tender shrimp dumplings—this is the place to go. (PS: When you’re done eating, go shopping; recommended items include scallion pancakes, green tea ice cream, chicken feet, Japanese eggplant, and specialty Asian candies.)

Best Longtime Portuguese Restaurant
Caravela
Tarrytown
(914) 631-1863

When you’ve been serving mariscada (a hearty seafood stew with either a red or cream sauce) and roasted codfish for nearly two decades and the people keep coming back for more, you must be doing something right. Caravela is.

Best Italian Grandmother Cuisine
La Manda’s
White Plains
(914) 684-9228

Remember two things before entering this old-school red-sauce eatery: it’s called macaroni (not pasta) and bring cash (credit cards are not accepted). Then settle for a luscious thin-crust pizza, red-sauce spaghetti with palm-sized meatballs, and Italian cheesecake that will have you unbuttoning your pants. So what if the décor hasn’t been touched since the restaurant opened in 1947; ever heard the expression, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

Best New Restaurant, South County
Plates
Larchmont
(914) 834-1244
www.platesonthepark.com

You’ll love the wild salmon with rhubarb and the pan-seared duck, and the hand-dived scallops with salsify, parsley, vanilla, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms will have you holding your plate out for more. But try to resist ’cause you shouldn’t leave without tasting the giant ring ding dessert or sampling the country doughnuts with homemade cinnamon ice cream. Heaven.

Best New Restaurant, North County
Vox
North Salem
(914) 669-5450

It isn’t as if more formal Auberge Maxime, which last year morphed into less formal Vox, wasn’t a favorite. Who can deny the beauty of the location (the terrace overlooking the rolling hills and gorgeous sunsets of North Salem horse country are reasons enough to visit) or the expertise of owners Jean and Sophie LeBris? They’ve been in the biz for 27 years. So it came as no surprise that Vox, their new venture, is such a winner. Love the seared foie gras and the Moroccan-spiced ahi tuna and crunchy frites worthy of their own “Best Of” category.

Best Eclectic Menu
Café Mirage
Port Chester
(914) 937-3497
www.cafemirageny.com

Chef Dave Haggerty’s gas station-turned-restaurant has a menu to please even the most disparate group of diners. The menu mixes French, Asian, and Caribbean, Cajun and regional American cuisines, offering such dishes as andouille-spiked seafood gumbo, Jamaican jerk chicken, and farm-raised ostrich with country potatoes and ancho sauce. And because of the kitchen’s late hours (depending on the day, it stays open until midnight or 2 am), the crowd—firemen, nurses, doctors, bartenders, and chefs—is as eclectic as the menu.

Best Old-School Pizza
Johnny’s Pizzeria
Mt. Vernon
(914) 668-1957

If the ultra-thin crust topped with fresh mozzarella and a modest amount of faintly sweet sauce have made Esquire food writer John Mariani into a near 30-year regular, Johnny’s Pizzeria must be good. Whole pies sold only (no slices), which, truth be told, is an extra bonus. Reheated leftover slices make for a delicious breakfast.

Best Bargain Latin Restaurant
Karamba Café
White Plains
(914) 946-5550

Two-thirds ethnic Cuban eatery (mashed plantains with chicken or pork, fried beef, and shrimp in hot sauce) and one-third American diner (burgers, salads, and grilled cheese are offered), Karamba is ideal for taking out the family—a dinner tab for a family of four barely goes above $30. And odds are good you’ll come home with a few doggie bags; portions are generous. But even if your pockets are deep, there are at least three other good reasons to come here: frothy mango, pineapple, and vanilla batidos (Cuban shake).

Best Bargain Mexican Restaurant
Las Brisas
Port Chester
(914) 937-1462

Don’t be put off by the décor (or lack thereof) or by the cramped quarters (there are only five booths and a lunch counter). Here’s where you’ll find the best soft tacos in the county, as well as top-notch enchiladas and burritos. Stuff yourself silly for $7.

Best Salads/Sandwiches
Steam
Pelham
(914) 738-7395

A place for a good cup of joe, sure? To hang out and read the paper in a cool atmosphere? Yes that too. But the best reason to go, well, full steam ahead to Steam are for its create-your-own salads (there are close to 30 ingredients from which to choose) and the wonderful panini and sandwiches filled with store-roasted meats. Our favorite: the spice-crusted roast beef with caramelized onions, spinach, tomatoes, and horseradish spread on rye.

Best Thai Restaurant
Thai House
Ardsley
(914) 674-6633
www.thaihouserestaurant.com

Yes, this modest, no-pretense eatery has the typical Thai fair—pad Thai and pineapple fried rice—but the culinary adventurer in you may want to try the deep-fried tofu and taro root in a sweet chili garlic sauce or the hor mok talay, jumbo shrimp, squid, scallop, and mussels in a spicy red curry paste with coconut milk, basil leaves, and mixed vegetables, served in a banana leaf cup or fresh whole coconut. And the interior decor is so colorful and cheerful, you’ll forget about the huge window overlooking the Saw Mill River Parkway in no time.

Best Christmas Decorations
Travelers Rest
Ossining
(914) 941-7744
www.thetravelersrest.com

No wonder Travelers Rest has got Christmas décor down pat; it’s been “decking the halls” since 1876. Starting on the 1st of December, this Continental restaurant, once a coach stop, sets up a dazzling holiday display with 55 lighted figures, seven Christmas trees, 100 wreaths, a 6-foot-tall gingerbread house, and hundreds of thousands of lights (typical December electric bill: $11,000). Reserve early to enjoy a Christmas goose dinner in this winter wonderland.

Most Stylish New Restaurant
RK, An American Brasserie
Rye
(914) 967-8900
www.rkateliers.com

It’s all so modern and minimal—and stunning. Its sleek open kitchen has floor-to-ceiling glass on all sides but one. And RK is the only local restaurant with projected screen art—now that’s cool!

Best Wine List at a Steakhouse
The Willett House
Port Chester
(914) 939-7500
www.thewilletthouse.com

From a $30 Jacobs Creek Cabernet to a $750 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild and $1,750 1996 Screaming Eagle Cabernet, the 35-page wine list with more than 1,000 selections has a vintage for your budget. May we suggest a glass of 2001 Chimney Rock Cab with your rib eye?

[specialty dishes and drinks]

Best Pastrami on Rye
Bloom’s Kosher Delicatessan
Yorktown
(914) 245-3900
www.bloomsdeli.com

Overstuffed, lean, and slathered with deli mustard. Throw in a few sour pickles and a cream soda, and you’re in culinary heaven.

Best Way to Get Rid of a Cold
Carrot and Ginger soup at Chat 19
Larchmont
(914) 833-8871

Summer cold got you down and grandma’s not around to make you chicken soup? Chat 19’s steaming bowl of carrot and ginger soup is infused with enough earthy sweet carrots and freshly grated ginger that those germs don’t stand a chance. And it’s damn delicious, too. (Sorry, grams.)

Best Takeout Wings
So Damn Hot
Valhalla
(914) 328-6051

Simplicity and freshness are owners Richard and Patti Viscomes’ keys to kickin’ wings (6 for $3.95; w/fries $4.95). The duo buys just enough wings for each day and uses a fryer that’s for frying wings and wings only. No trendy flavors either; you got mild and you got hot. Simplicity, remember?

Best Eat-In Wings
Lazy Boy Saloon & Alehouse
White Plains
(914) 761-0272
www.lazyboysaloon.com

Lazy Boy Saloon may specialize in beer—bottles from 28 countries, 17 states, plus 35 draught beers and the largest selection of microbrews on tap in the area—but it has still another specialty, one that, surprise, surprise, goes perfectly with a tall, frothy mug. Its tender chicken wings are offered in an assortment of flavors (tequila citrus wings, anyone?). And, psssst, Mondays and Thursdays are “Wing Nights” (25¢ each). Go ahead, try to eat just one. We wish you luck!

Best Appetizer
Butternut Squash Ravioli
at Lia’s
Hartsdale
(914) 725-8400

The first time we tried Lia’s butternut squash ravioli, it’s all we could think about the next day. The second time we had it, it’s all we could think about for days. The first swipe of the silken pasta set in a sage brown butter sauce, and you’ll be hooked, too.

Best Crab Cakes
Coughlan’s American Bistro
White Plains
(914) 285-0900

Huge? Try colossal. Good? Try one. No mincing, no filling. Just a crispy-thin crumb coating. Eat your heart out Maryland!

Best Pasta
Tuscan Oven Trattoria
Mount Kisco
(914) 666-7711
www.tuscanoven.com

We know you don’t have to be Italian to make good pasta, but it can’t hurt. Anthony Pirraglia cooked in Perugia, Italy, and perhaps just as telling grew up in the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx. So any wonder why his pasta is extraordinarily good? Try the roasted beet flavored linguine with pecans, asparagus, and grilled chicken apple sausage in a creamy fontina and yellow pepper sauce and homemade spinach ravioli stuffed with cannellini beans, Yukon Gold potatoes, ricotta, and pancetta in a black truffle purée. Better pasta is hard to find.

Best Ceviche
Sonora
Port Chester
(914) 933-0200

Chef Rafael Palomino’s trio de ceviches salutes three countries: there’s the Ecuadorian with oyster, avocado, and tomato; the Peruvian with octopus, red onions, and cilantro in an aji amarillo (hot, yellow chile sauce); and the Colombian with salmon, passion fruit, onions, cilantro, and habanero. Order a Brazilian caipirihna with it (sugar cane rum, muddled limes, sugar, and freshly squeezed lime juice), then tell us it’s not wonderful.

Best Chopped Liver
Kisco Kosher
White Plains
(914) 948-6600 www.kiscokosher.com

Zeev Bain has been in the kosher deli business for more than three and a half decades, so he knows a thing or two about chopped liver. And we know that we like his best. Made of fresh beef liver, sautéed onions, eggs, and vegetable shortening, Kisco Kosher’s chopped liver can be had either in a sandwich on—what else—rye with sliced onions and a sour or half-sour pickle—or as an appetizer. Either way, you’ll be kibetzing in Yiddish in no time.

Best Quesadilla
Halstead Ave. Bistro
Harrison
(914) 777-1181

The duck quesadilla is so darn good you’re not going to want to share. The chef cures the meat, marinates it in its own fat, then roasts and stuffs it into a flour tortilla with sweet caramelized onions and Monterey jack. All you’ve got to do is pile on a healthy dollop of the chunky grilled vegetable guacamole and swoon.

Best Roasted Chicken
Oporto
Hartsdale
(914) 722-6565

We don’t know what we like better—the crackly golden-brown exterior or the juicy white meat interior. But we do know to leave Oporto with a takeout whole chicken to enjoy at home.

Best Guacamole
Tequila Sunrise
Larchmont
(914) 834-6378

Sure you could order the chimichangas or quesadillas and get a dollop of the house aromatic green guacamole, but then you’d miss out on the tableside drama that’s part of the guacamole en molcajete experience. A server rolls a cart bearing fresh avocados, tomatoes, coriander, onions, and jalapeño peppers, and then you watch in awe as he/she prepares the guacamole tableside. Added bonus: it’s heavenly.

Best Hot Chocolate
Sassinoro Cafe
White Plains
(914) 217-6760
www.sassinorocafe.com

It may be the middle of another sweltering summer but one sip of Franco Mastracchio’s imported hot chocolate and you’ll be transported to a ski lodge in the Italian Alps. There are 30 flavors of the imported Italian cocoa powder blended with milk then steamed to work up a froth. A bit of whipped cream and perhaps some chocolate syrup finish, and, alla tua salute!

Best Wine Tastings
Front Street Cellar
Croton Falls
(914) 276-0116

Front Street doesn’t just offer daily(!) store tastings but tastings at local restaurants (Finch Tavern, Purdys Homestead, Jaipore Royal Indian). And what tastings! Numerous tables, each showcasing affordable wines from a different country, and manned by a knowledgeable representative to explain each bottle. Your wine palate will be educated to varietals from South Africa, New Zealand, and all over the world. Order a case at a restaurant tasting and get 15 percent off. Now we can drink to that!

Best Falafel
Mint Premium Foods
Tarrytown
(914) 703-6511

The last time we tasted falafel this good we were on a street in Jaffa—or was it Williamsburg? The falafel balls made of mashed garbanzo beans are deep fried to a crisp golden brown and stuffed into a warm, soft pita with creamy tahini. Yum.

Best Biscotti
Boiano Bakery
Mamaroneck
(914) 698-2070

Boiano’s biscotti, everyone’s favorite twice-baked cookie, have that intense crunch that make the Italian specialty ideal for dipping into a steaming cup of cappuccino. Stacked in towering pyramids in the front display window, try and walk by without stopping in for half a pound. We dare you.

Best Cream Puff
Magnificent Edibles
White Plains
(914) 948-7673
www.magnificentedibles.com

Bake pâte à choux until it puffs into an irregular dome. Cut the French pastry in half and fill one half with fresh whipped cream. Place a cap of pastry on top, followed by a swirl of whipped cream. What do you have? Pastry bliss. Also try Magnificent Edible’s almond croissants and fudge-like brownies. Winners, too.

Most Creative Cocktails
Blue
White Plains
(914) 220-0000
www.bluewhiteplains.com

The martini list alone impresses: there’s the Espresso (vodka, chilled espresso, Frangelico, and cream de cacao), Key Lime Pie (Stoli Vanilla, lime juice, Triple Sec rimmed with graham crackers), and our favorite, the BlueTini (Absolut Citron, Blue curacao, and fresh lime juice), served in a sexy cocktail glass. But then there’s the mojito, the flirtini, and the South Beach margarita.

Best Chorizo
Casa Victoria
Tarrytown
(914) 366-8219

If it’s good enough for professional chefs (the chorizo made here is supplied to numerous restaurants), it’s good enough for us. Casa Victoria makes its smoky, coarsely grained dark red chorizo fresh every day. It’s as good as any you’ll get in Lisbon or Faro.

Best Raw Bar
The Fish Cellar
Mt. Kisco
(914) 666-4448

Oysters from both East and West coasts. Clams from Long Island. Shrimp from the gulf, mussels from Prince Edward Island, and lobster from Maine and Nova Scotia. And it’s all super fresh and super delicious. Can’t decide? Try the raw bar sampler (two clams, two oysters, and two shrimp for $10.50).

[food and wine shops]

Best Store Concept
Connie’s Bakery & General Store
Mount Kisco
(914) 242-2014

We’d stuff ourselves silly with Connie’s caramel apples, apple cranberry muffins, Bessie’s Big Cupcakes and UFO’s (chocolate or oatmeal cookies with marshmallow cream) even if the profits the store makes weren’t going to charity. But since Connie Milstein donates her profits to various Westchester and Hudson Valley charities, we don’t feel an ounce of guilt stuffing ourselves. In fact, Connie, we’ll have another muffin, please.

Best Butcher Shop
Village Prime Meats
Armonk
(914) 273-5222

Since he made his first sausage at the tender age of 14, Angelo Letizia has been passionate about quality meat. So it’s fitting that he owns Village Prime Meats, a butcher shop where prime is the only grade sold and the chicken is juicy, the steaks aged, and the sausage plump with fresh stuffings. Among his customers: a Yankees outfielder, a record mogul, and a Kennedy.

Best Edible Gifts
Edible Arrangements
Mount Kisco
(914) 244-1176
www.ediblearrangements.com

You may think that the gorgeous flowers designed with fruit are too beautiful to eat, but take our word: they’re too good to pass up. The gorgeously-colored strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew, and pineapple will turn you into a fruit-a-holic in no time.

Continue reading for our Shopping section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2005

 

Shopping

[clothing, jewelry, and accessories]

Best Sportswear
Pennacchio Sport
Larchmont
(914) 834-3835

It doesn’t matter how you break a sweat—golfing, playing tennis, swimming, sailing—Pennacchio Sport can make you look winning while you’re burning calories. In fact, the clothes are too beautiful to really play sports in. It’s best to sit on the sidelines and just be admired for your good taste.

Best New Jewelry Shop
Desires by Mikolay
Chappaqua
(914) 238-2223
www.desiresbymikolay.com

The Gustav Klimt of jewelry design, Scott Mikolay’s ultra-romantic yet contemporary pieces, many inspired by his local nature hikes, feature rich-hued 18- and 22-karat-gold with a splash of color from semi-precious and precious stones. His custom-designs are exactly that: custom. Mikolay spends upwards of two hours with a client, learning about what she enjoys and what she may already have in her collection, and he takes into account skin tone and hair and eye color before setting pencil to paper (you don’t want your diamonds to clash, do ya?). Desires also carries the work of such jewelry artists as Mount Kisco native Mauri Pioppo (her jewelry is popular with Cameron Diaz, Brittany Murphy, and Angelina Jolie), Sarah Perlis, Scott Colee, Karen Bizer, and the Italian-made Calgaro (a Westchester exclusive).

Best Trendy New Boutique
LF
Scarsdale
(914) 725-4655
www.lfstores.com

Without question, the best collection of the coolest, hippest, downtown LA fashions in the county. Shop to an edgy, hip hop/R&B soundtrack and snag such of-the-minute must-haves as vintage bangles and bracelets, Jeffrey Campbell shoes, and sizzling hot European designs by Paul Boutique, Burn ’n’ Violet, and Flamingo Therapy, Pucci-inspired rubber rain boots, casual and elegant camis, and glittering, jeweled flats
and scarves.

Best Eyeglass Shop
I Fetish Optiques
Pleasantville
(914) 773-1641

What you won’t find: mass-produced and licensed items. What you will: cutting-edge, innovative eyewear that owner and licensed optician Michael Marchica brings back from Milan and Paris.

Best Outerwear
Outerluxe
Larchmont
(914) 834-2345
www.outerluxe.com

Luscious Russian sable, silky sheared minks, and velvety soft rabbit; luxury material for our coats, jackets, scarves, earmuffs, hats and caps, and head bands. We never looked so good dressing for the outdoors in frigid weather. Makes living up north a breeze.

Best Place to Buy Watches
Wilson & Son Jewelers
Scarsdale
(914) 723-0327

Wilson’s superb collection of timepieces includes watches by Rolex (it’s the county’s only authorized dealer), Bedat & Co., Baume & Mercier, IWC, and Raymond Weil, all of Switzerland, and Wolf Designs of London, as well as the shop’s own private line.

Best Mall
The Westchester
White Plains
(914) 683-8600
www.the-westchester-ny.com

There’s no better mall in the tri-state region. Period.

Best New Handcrafted Jewelry
Jems
Katonah
(914) 232-2900

Don’t want to see your jewelry coming and going? This year-old shop offers beautifully-crafted, handmade, one-of-a-kind, wearable works of art in 18-karat gold, sterling silver, bronze, and platinum, designed by 20+ artisans, and featuring glittering gem stones like pink sapphire and amethyst, pearls, and even unique vintage trimmings.

Best Designer Shoe Store
Loehmann’s
White Plains
(914) 948-8090
www.Loehmanns.com

You know the deal with Loehmann’s discounted designer clothes (hey, even our most well-off friends like to hunt through its racks for a true bargain). The same deal holds for the shoes. Imagine a pair of Manolos or perhaps Choos or maybe Guccis and other famous name brands that cost less than a trip to Europe. Now that’s a bargain!

[gifts]

Best Vintage Home Accessories
Brother & Annie’s
Mamaroneck
(914) 381-3423

A blast from the past, this kitschy little store takes you back to the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s with its collection of Formica tables, Fire King dishes, and Donna Reed-style aprons. Retro and vintage treasures as well as one-of-a-kind flea market and garage-sale finds.

Best New Contemporary Housewares
Romantic Modern
Cross River
(914) 763-0800

We don’t get the name either—what’s romantic modern?—but we certainly get what makes this not yet year-old boutique a wonderful place to buy our home gifts. Like, say, a mink-trimmed cashmere throw or a Vera Wang silver tray. A bit of SoHo-chic in the oh-so stylish Yellow Monkey Village.

Best New Desk Accessories Shop
Folio Per Se
Scarsdale
(914) 723-1059

We love the line of recycled leather goods, custom made in Italy just for Folio Per Se, that come in a host of stunning colors from pale lavender to bright orange, from brilliant white to deep red. You can’t find these albums, journals, and desk accessories anywhere else! The store also carries a full array of gorgeous pens, inks, picture frames, and more. And owner Josh Berlin will wrap each gift in stunning paper, no extra charge.

Best Shop for Coffeemaker Connoisseurs
Zaccardi’s
Scarsdale
(914) 472-1231
www.zaccardis.com

A coffee lover’s dream-come true: Capresso, Saeco, La Pavoni, Krups, Solis, Gaggia,—all in one place! In addition to high-end coffee makers and espresso machines, Zaccardi’s has grinders, roasters, frothers, and of course, fresh-roasted beans. The aroma alone will give you a slight caffeine buzz.

Best African-American Gift Boutique
That Old Black Magic Gift Gallery
White Plains
(914) 328-7212

It’s magic all right, and this
little specialty shop totally has us “in its spell” with its striking jewelry, exquisite vases, and an amazing collection of all things elephant.

Best Mexican Home Accessories
Casa Rustica Bonita
Mt. Kisco
(914) 241-8444

It’s a fiesta of bold and bright colors and patterns from south of the border in this fun little shop, filled to the rafters with whimsical pottery, wrought iron and pewter crafts, and wonderful hand-painted planters. Owner Ana Civita hand picks everything during her frequent prowls to Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil (and a few European haunts as well).

Best Personalized Gift Item
The Quilt Cottage
Mamaroneck
(914) 777-1333

The quilts on the wall, bolts of fabric in every hue and texture, and riotous display of ribbons, lace, and trims that greet you as you enter this homey spot call to the inner homemaker in all of us. But The Quilt Cottage also caters to those unskilled in the womanly arts and creates one-of-a-kind quilts and pillows made up of favorite old T-shirts or family photos scanned into the fabric perfect for the off-to-college kid to snuggle into when the homesick blues hits.

Best New Artsy Gifts
Glass Onion Originals
Pleasantville
(914) 741-6294

This one-year-old gift shop-cum-art gallery carries creations by a wide selection of local, national, well-known, and obscure artists, and features primarily what owner Emily Wong calls “functional art.” Most items are hand-crafted and many are truly one-of-a-kind. We love them all—the quirky character clocks by Boss Brown (made with common household items like jar lids, spoons, and shoehorns), the limited-edition prints by former Larson illustrator John DeAmicis, the magnificent mosaic mirrors and frames by Mozart, and the sumptuous scarves and shawls by Queens-based artist Mina Mann.

Best New Tabletop Shop
A Perfect Presence
Bronxville
(914) 779-6799

The first thing you see when you walk into this charming shop is a perfectly appointed dining table, dressed to the nines with Varga crystal, Limoges porcelain, Empire sterling, and the like: very formal, very traditional, and utterly elegant. But there is also a slew of fun items: colorful ceramics from South Africa, whimsical Murano glass serving pieces and colored glass vases from Leonardo to create your own personal perfect tabletop presence.

Best Country Furnishings
Country Willow
Katonah
(914) 232-3058
www.countrywillow.com

For those whose tastes are more than a little bit country, there’s no better place to buy furniture and knickknacks to spruce up your roost. Country Willow has the coziest, homiest, funkiest furniture—and a lot of it (spanning two locations, Katonah Ave. and Bedford Rd.). We love the 19th-century barnwood farm tables, comfy overstuffed sofas, and eclectic collection of picture frames.

Best Vintage Gift Shop
Sky Star Jewelry
Pleasantville
(914) 747-0717 and
Star Jewelry
Tarrytown
(914) 366-7440

Whether you’re a lunch-hour browser or a hard-core treasure hunter, once you visit these sister shops, there’s no turning back. Both are jam-packed with a dazzling array of new, vintage, and antique goodies—gold, silver, jewels of all kinds, paintings, collectibles, knickknacks, estate finds, and more—in every conceivable price range. Skip your morning latte and, for almost the same price ($5), you can buy a pair of earrings instead! In the
market for some collectible 1960s vinyl (prices vary) or a 1930s Zenith floor-model radio ($250)? No problem. Looking for something more high-end? How about an estate diamond set in platinum from the Roaring ’20s? It’ll set you back a mere $22,000.

[hobbies, sports, & special interests]

Best Hobby Shop
Elmsford Hobbies
Elmsford
(914) 592-0600

Whether you enjoy building model airplanes, racing radio-controlled cars, or launching rockets, you’ll find what you like and need all at this classic old-time hobby shop staffed by folks who know the trade well. And, unlike your MD, they even make house calls; they’ll come on over to repair or restore such big-ticket items as big Aeromarine model boats or hulls.

Best Power Tool Store
Tool Nut
Yorktown Heights
(914) 621-0200

Some men we know drool as they walk through the aisles. Others get the “give me’s.” Still others go MIA every Saturday afternoon, heading over to this 10,000-square-foot haven for home improvement enthusiasts. This is the place where power tools rule, with more than 40,000 drills, saws, jack hammers, generators, pressure washers, ladders, woodworking equipment, and every possible cordless tool we suspect available on the planet.

Best High-End Audio Store
Lyric Hi Fi
White Plains
(914) 949-7500; www.lyricusa.com

Love music? You’ll love it even more after you listen to it through the audio systems that Lyric Hi-Fi installs (its clients include Paul Newman, Al Pacino, and the late Isaac Stern). We’re saving up for the Fireball Digital Music Manager System that will store 800 CDs ($4,000) or 550 DVDs ($30,000) on a computer server connected to multiple speakers throughout one’s house (think: giant iPod).

Best Computer Deals
MarketPro Computer Show and sale
Westchester County Center
White Plains
(914) 995-4050; www.marketpro.com

The best bargain around for the price of a $7 admission ticket: save up to 80 percent on the latest brand-name merchandise, including hardware (mostly IBM-compatible, but some Mac), software, computer parts, and components, monitors, printers, scanners, and accessories.

[home & garden]

Best Window Blinds
Handy Andy
White Plains
(914) 946-4329
www.handyandyblinds.com

Handy Andy has installed blinds for the Knicks and Yankees, local politicians, and more than one or two celebrities (including Puff Daddy’s crib in the Hamptons). But, hey, you don’t have to be a big-wig for the shop to serve you—and serve you well. One woman loved her pale pink shoes so much that she asked the shopkeepers to make her bedroom blinds match them. Her pink blinds hang in her bedroom today.

Best Australian Art and Artifacts
Antipodes
Katonah
(914) 232-8266

Aussie owner Christopher Wilson never disappoints with his wonderful wares from the land down under and other exotic locales. Nowhere will you find a better collection of art, artifacts, and home accessories than here—the store even carries its own line of crocodile goods (love the $3,700 handbag). But what really impresses us is his commitment to helping others: he honchoed a local effort that raised $250,000 to rebuild Denuwala, a town in Sri Lanka, devastated by the tsunami.

Best Bargains
Cortlandt Auctions
Peekskill
(914) 734-2161

How about a gorgeous armoire from the 1920s with glass doors for just $50, a great-looking 1940s lamp for $20, a five-foot long swordfish that once graced an old barroom for $5? Nope, those aren’t typos, but (un)real bargains. And once it’s gone, it’s gone—you never know what you’ll find. And good news for auction scene neophytes: the pace is slow here, so it’s a good place to learn the ropes.

Best Custom Cabinets
Yorktown Woodworking
Yorktown Heights
(914) 962-2130

This 18-year-old business creates custom cabinets for every room in a house. Yorktown Woodworking excels at upper-crust wood-work, especially when it comes to replicating the “country club look” for home libraries, wine tasting and billiards rooms with full height paneling and paneled ceilings.

Best Tile
Artistic Tile
White Plains
(914) 422-0041
www.artistictile.com

Tiles, tiles, and more tiles. Tiles from Tunisia and Turkey. Tiles from India, China, Brazil. And tiles from Israel. If you can’t find the perfect tile for your bathroom or kitchen here, we defy you to find them elsewhere. What’s more, while you’re searching, enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine; it’s the store’s way of making shopping more pleasant. Now that’s good service.

Best Architectural Millwork
Culin & Colella, Inc.
Mamaroneck
(914) 698-7727
www.culincolella.com

The best of both worlds: he’s the techie; she’s the artist. Husband-and-wife team Ray Culin and Janis Colella bring together a special marriage of architecture, furniture design, sculpture, and woodworking. Together, they transform miles of moldings and paneling into circular conservatories (or any other shaped room), exquisitely designed fireplace mantels and one-of-a-kind furnishings. “We excel in the unusual and the difficult,” says Culin. An understatement.

Best Town for Antiquing
Tarrytown

Hey, it’s a historic town, what with Lyndhurst and Sunnyside as star attractions, so it should be no surprise that nine antique shops have ended up on or near Main Street, offering up everything from antique jewelry to mid-century modern furniture and decorative arts.

Best Vintage Furniture
Golden Oldies
Mount Kisco
(914) 244-4466

Antique armoires from Europe and Asia that can be customized for different uses (they will even transform them into 21st-century entertainment centers), country farm tables for every size family, antique lighting, and off-beat accessories like antique rice buckets.

Best Fabrics
Brunschwig & Fils
North White Plains
(914) 684-5800

You know the name. After all, Brunschwig fabrics and trimmings are legendary. Now that the company has moved to Westchester, local interior designers no longer have to trek into the city. Their high-end fabric shop sells to the trade only, so your designer or architect has to act as middle (wo)man.

Best Framing
The Art Barn
Ossining
(914) 762-4997

You’ve got to be pretty good if you frame some 5,000 items a year. Among those that this shop tackled: a very large autographed basketball sneaker and a computer board a woman wanted framed for her techie husband. When you visit, check out the art gallery downstairs featuring Hudson River and other artists.

Best Antique Shop
Accents on Antiques
Pelham
(914) 637-1195

An antique consortium with a conscience, this little find houses a variety of excellent antique vendors: estate jewelry, furniture, memorabilia, all under one roof. Shop here without guilt—part of the proceeds benefit the Sound Shore Medical Center.

Best Garden Statuary
Fleur
Mount Kisco
(914) 241-3400
www.fleur-newyork.com

The best selection of French and English stone statuary and one-of-a-kind garden antiques. End of story.

[services]

Best Butler-for-Hire
Lifeworx
Chappaqua
(914) 923-9300
www.lifeworx.net

Goodness. We adore the fact that Lifeworx will pick up our kid’s backpack when he leaves it at school, pick up milk and eggs for us when we’ve forgotten, and, yes, wash our windows. More than a butler, come to think of it. Kind of an army of butlers. Nice!

Best Used Car Dealer
Overseas Auto
Hastings-on-Hudson
(914) 478-0080
www.carguyinc.com

You gotta love cars to be a good car dealer. And Overseas Auto’s owner Larry Rosten clearly loves cars. Old, used, vintage cars. The guy runs around the county looking for the “ripest” vehicles. His most recent find: a 1949 Cadillac with only 5,000 miles on the odometer. Try topping that!

Best Carpet Cleaning
USA Carpet Cleaning, Inc.
Buchanan and Cortlandt Manor
(914) 788-1824

For removing all the ground-in grime that has been tracked through the county carpets, USA Carpet Cleaning deserves a medal. But don’t stop with carpets. USA can breathe new life into upholstered furniture, too.

Best Jewelry Repair
F. & D. Panvell Jewelers
Hastings-on-Hudson
(914) 478-3393

For a quarter of a century, we’ve depended on Dr. and Mrs. Panvell to perfectly re-string our pearls, re-set our stones, and repair our watches. While you’re there waiting, you may want to browse their original pieces or vintage costume jewelry.

Best Computer Repair
Crest Connect Communications
Valhalla
(914) 673-6831
www.westchesterpcfix.com

Your PC is plagued by pesky pop-ups and your iBook is inundated with serious spyware. Who you gonna call? Try Chris Rie, owner of this five-year-old company based in Valhalla. Rie can dispatch someone to your home to fix your computer problems, plus handle tasks like computer network wiring and DSL or cable internet setup. You’ll be back checking your e-mail in no time.

Best Performance Car Service
Corvettes of Westchester
Sleepy Hollow
(914) 332-0049
www.corvettes-of-westchester.com

If your car is putt, putt, putting along and you want to put a little vroom in it (or, fine, a lot of vroom in it) come to Corvettes of Westchester. Brings out the Paul Newman in us all.

Best Custom Draperies
Johansen Interiors
Peekskill
(914) 739-6293

A wiz with draperies, Johansen excels in passementerie (applying ornamental trimmings).

Continue reading for our Health & Beauty section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2005

 

Health & Beauty

Best Spa for Pregnant Women
Edamame
White Plains
(914) 948-1279

Perhaps the best thing for moms-to-be since the epi-dural. Not only can you get the kinks in your back massaged (not to worry, there’s a special prego-pillow to accommodate that beachball of a belly so you can lie face down in comfort), but you can also find sophisticated and, yes, sexy maternity clothes from such designers as Tocca, Anna Paul, Juicy, and Bella Dahl. It kind of makes one think about having another baby.

Best Pedicure
Angleface Day Spa
Yorktown Heights
(914) 245-1084
www.angelfacespa.com

In the prettiest pedicure room we’ve ever seen, with faux-fern finish walls, amber lighting, and silk curtains separating three pedicure thrones from the rest of the spa, your feet will be lovingly massaged with hot stones, soothed with a tangerine sorbet (or, perhaps, you prefer mint) finishing cream, and wrapped in steaming towels. And, oh yes, your nails will be painted a pretty hue. From $35 to $100—it’s cheaper than therapy.

Best Facial
Park Avenue Medical Spa
Armonk
(914) 730-3333
www.parkavenuemedicalspa.com

Ask for Lorraine Hoy. She is simply passionate about what she does.

Best Waxing
Shine Salon
Ossining
(914) 762-6675

The things we do for beauty! Let the aestheticians at Shine help you keep that flawless, hairless, perfectly groomed look going all summer. The staff is so gentle that it almost doesn’t hurt. And they understand that men have needs too (like losing those unibrows and hairy backs).

Best Nail Wrap Tech
Jenny Park at Belle Visage
Mount Kisco
(914) 244-1552

What nature didn’t provide, Jenny Park will—and in a gorgeous setting.

Best Stylist for Ethnic Hair
Chaz Miller
CDM International Beauty Salon
Cortlandt Manor
(914) 736-0202

Multicultural maven Chaz Miller is a genius at mixing and blending African, Caucasian, and Asian styles and treatments: weaving, braiding, dreadlocks, flat twists, straw sets, perms, and relaxers.

Best-Kept Hair Salon Secret
D’Alessandro
Armonk
(914) 273-0899

The proof is in the clientele. And Gary D’Alessandro’s clients are so devoted, many have been with him for decades; indeed, there are grandmothers who come with their granddaughters. Others drive up from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York City. D’Alessandro could charge $250 for a cut, but he’s kind as well as talented; cuts start at $55.

Best Colorist
Franco Marino
Beautiful Hair Color Salon
Pleasantville
(914) 741-2428

Trained in Italy, Franco has been perfecting his craft ever since. He can make reds more radiant, blondes and brunettes more beautiful than even nature could. Have a home coloring disaster? He can fix it. He can even transform hair that has been fried or frizzled into glossy and glamorous. If only he could find a way to keep those pesky roots from coming back. Great cuts here, too.

Best Privately Owned Pharmacy
Russell & Lawrie Medical Center Pharmacy
Tarrytown
(914) 631-0079

When was the last time you went into a pharmacy where the owner actually knew you—and cared about your healthcare needs? Don’t get that at CVS, now do you? Owner and pharmacist Neil Norwood knows his customers by name—“How you doing today, Pearl?”—and helps them deal (read: go to battle) with their insurers. When Pearl (“Not so good, Neil”) recently came in complaining that she could not get the medication she needed, Norwood assured, “Don’t worry, I’ll call and straighten it out for you.” Now, when have you ever overheard something like that at a CVS?

Best Therapeutic Massage
Nordic Spa
Chappaqua
(914) 238-1558
www.nordictherapyspa.com

No pain, no gain. But you’ll thank Nordic Spa in the morning.

Best Hair Extensions
Zazo Salon & Lounge
Bedford Hills
(914) 241-9009

Zazo’s Christina Nappi works her miracles, turning limp and lackluster tresses into long, flowing manes. The service is so popular the salon installed a new private lounge just for extension clients. (BTW: When she’s not at the salon, you may find Nappi jamming on her drum set down the road at 17 Main in Mount Kisco.)

Best Tennis Club
Sportime at Harbor Island
Mamaroneck
(914) 777-5050
www.sportimefm.com

We don’t often tout exports from “Lawn Guyland,” but Sportime, a popular Long Island sports franchise, is an exception. Smack dab in the middle of Harbor Island (warning: the views could do damage to your score), it offers eight superbly maintained indoor/outdoor red-clay courts (covered with bubbles during colder months), four men’s, three women’s, and six junior leagues, and the best part—expert guidance from top pro Eric Fromm (ranked 38th in the world).

Best Personal Fitness Experience
Altheus
Rye
(914) 921-3044;
www.altheus.net

Body. Mind. Tummy. It’s all connected. And the team at Altheus integrates one-on-one coached workouts with nutrition counseling, massage therapy, and sport exercise psychology to get them all in line. Go team!

Best Holistic Pharmacy
Healthy Choice Apothecary
Chappaqua
(914) 238-1700

Did you know that fish oils cure everything from arthritis to heart disease to gout? And that adreset is the antidote to fatigue and stress? This is the place for those who want all natural, non-pharmaceutical solutions for whatever ails: the flu, itchy bug bites, the common cold. And, if your pet is on a health kick, too, Healthy Choice will compound medicine for him as well.

Hippest Hair Salon
Static Hair Salon
White Plains
(914) 997-2600
www.staticHair.com

Static is so hip that it is drawing both clients and hair artists from NYC to its ultra-cool lounge-like studio, complete with video monitors, water bar, and pulsating soundtrack—talk about an unlikely reverse commute!

Continue reading for our Nightlife section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2005

 

Nightlife

Best Night Out At the Movies
Talk Cinema
Purchase
(800) 551-9221
www.talkcinema.com

Our very own sneak preview. Each month, writer and film critic Harlan Jacobson (full disclosure: Harlan is this magazine’s film reporter) gives film lovers the opportunity to get a peek at a not-yet-released film—the kind shown in smaller, artier movie houses, not quadrillion-screen multiplexes—and discuss it afterward with the filmmaker or a critic. Past screenings have included Sideways, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, American Splendor, and Bend It Like Beckham. Pack yourself a picnic dinner and meet Harlan at the Performing Arts Center to be the first to see films before A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert, and David Denby start writing about them.

Best New Literary Salon
Spoken Interludes
New Rochelle, (914) 422-1869
www.spokeninterludes.com

Kudos to the county for snatching this cool salon series away from that backwater town, La La Land. At Spoken Interludes, participants indulge in a little fine dining, mingle with like-minded readers, and connect over some literature. Past participants have included such big-name writers as Kinky Friedman, Rupert Holmes, Meg Worlizter, and Anne Perry. Spoken Interludes is on hiatus for the summer, but don’t fret. It’ll start up again in September with a fresh lineup of authors. A must-do for any lit fan.

Best New Sounds In an Old Venue
Tarrytown Music Hall
Tarrytown, (914) 631-3390
www.tarrytownmusichall.org

The best concert we’ve ever seen was here, when ex-Talking Head David Byrne had the entire theater on its feet, dancing and shouting, “More! More!” What is it about this Music Hall—and the stars it books—that makes it such a county treasure? Just ask expert Dennis Elsas, a Rye resident and on-air radio personality at WFUV 90.7 FM (afternoons) and Siris Classic Vinyl 14 (mornings). “Whether I’m there to emcee an event or just sit back and enjoy the show, it’s always a pleasure to visit the Music Hall,” he says. “This historic theater, with its wide range of offerings, is one of the county’s special places.”

Best Venue for Original Theater
Blueberry Pond
Ossining, (914) 923-3530
www.blueberrypond.org

Who needs Broadway? Between all the Disney productions, movies-cum-musicals, and jukebox productions featuring the hits of your favorite artists from 30 years ago, there’s hardly room for an original thought down on the Great White Way. Much closer to home (and much easier on the wallet), there’s the Blueberry Pond theatre ensemble that dares to produce—gasp!—original works (hey, our local actors have to do more than just appear on Law and Order). It’s thought-provoking, award-winning, and totally new theater—and it’s all ours.

Best Jazz Venue
17 Main restaurant & Jazz club
Mount Kisco, (914) 244-1695
www.17main.com

A life-sized statue of Louis Armstrong has greeted the guests at 17 Main for the past six years. And what a crowd he’s observed, since guests have been flocking to the restaurant’s hot jazz lineup. The roster is as good as that on the island south of us but without the ’tude or the parking problems. Recent guests have included Burr Johnson, Doug Munro, Frank Louis Pisani, Doug Proper, and Yashmin Charnet, with some blues thrown in for good measure.

Best Blues
The Bayou
Mount Vernon, (914) 668-2634
www.thebayourestaurantny.com

Grab a “Swamp & Turf” (barbecue gator ’n’ ribs), a fried-oyster po’ boy, or some voodoo wings and get ready to hear the blues. The Bayou books the premier live blues and Zydeco artists touring the northeast, and past performers have included Nikki Armstrong & Whole Lotta Blues, Gary King and the Knights of Rhythm, The Blues Patrol (a Blues Brothers tribute band), and The Turnstyle Jumpers. Got the blues? Get up and jam at one of the open mic sessions (Mondays at 9:30), and be your own B.B. King.

Best Saturday Night Date Destination
White Plains

Park the car (we know, those meters in the City Center are tricky, but you will get used to them) and step out onto the streets of White Plains for your Saturday-night date. Dine at one of the many new restaurants; catch a flick at the state-of-the-art, 15-screen Cinema De Lux; stroll along the shops on Mamaroneck Avenue; or see a show at the White Plains Performing Arts Center. Afterward, meet friends for drinks (or make new friends over drinks) at one of the bustling late-night bars (try Coughlan’s, Trotter’s, Hush, or Vintage), or simply nurse a coffee and do some people-watching by the downtown fountain. And prepare to stay out late: this town doesn’t shut down until around 4 am.

Best Place to Dance
Coughlan’s American Bistro
White Plains
(914) 285-0900
www.coughlansatnight.com

Who says Westchester has no nightlife? Been to Coughlan’s on a Friday night? Bring a pair of earplugs, your dancing shoes, and a good attitude—and start rocking. Meet you on the dance floor!

Best Late-Night Coffeehouse
Café Mozart
Mamaroneck
(914) 698-4166 www.cafemozart.com

A steaming cup of frothy latte. Some classical piano. And a forest fruit tart with creamy vanilla custard and fresh raspberries. Now those are reasons to stay out late. Not good enough for you? How’s about grooving until 1 am (that jolt of caffeine will help you stay up) with some cool jazz music and a slice of heavenly German chocolate cake. We’ll see you when you come down from that sugar high.

Best Place for Karaoke
Vintage
White Plains
(914) 328-5803
www.vintagebar.net

Hey, give us a couple of high-potency libations and we love to croon as much as the other guy or gal. And Vintage is our favorite place to belt out “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” or “Take My Breath Away” (and way better than that Simpson broad). The libations are dirt-cheap too, if we get there early, during happy hour, with $2 domestic pints and half-price martinis. It’s an evening out—and who knows, one night we may be discovered.

Best Place for a Late-Night Snack
B4
Valhalla
(914) 328-4199

You could raid the fridge when the late-night munchies strike, but when our palate craves something a bit more sophisticated than last night’s pizza, we know to head to B4. If we’re good—and I mean, really, really good—they’ll rustle up our favorite Atkins-approved midnight snack—a juicy burger topped with a sunny-side up egg. Or, to heck with Atkins (or any diet), we order up a sugary bananas Foster dessert or a side of crispy golden fries, delicious at any time of night.

Best Late-Night Lounge
Hush Lounge
White Plains
(914) 428-2044

While everyone else is fast asleep, at Hush Lounge the party is just getting warmed up—and the action doesn’t die down until around 4 am. The bustling scene is invaded by Manhattanites on Thursday nights, when Hush acts as a magnet for top New York City nightclub/lounge staffers taking over as DJs, bartenders, etc. (you can take the club out of Manhattan but you can’t take Manhattan out of the club). Find poetry readings on alternating Wednesdays, and a sophisticated but still ready-to-boogie-down 30-and-over crowd on Saturdays. Now that’s not something to keep hush about.

Continue reading for our Leisure section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2005

 

Leisure

Best Day in the Country
Kykuit, Union Church, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills
Historic Hudson Valley: (914) 631-8200; www.hudsonvalley.org
Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture: (914) 366-6200 www.stonebarnscenter.org

Live like a Rockefeller out in Pocantico Hills, a teeny hamlet that holds the recipe for a perfect day in the country. Begin with one big helping of Kykuit, the former Rockefeller home (home, in this case, is a 300-acre estate with a mansion, carriage house, golf course, and sculpture garden), where you can linger in the garden as you ooh and aah your way through a 120-plus sculpture garden. Add a dash of Union Church, and marvel over its sensational stained-glass windows by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall (let’s just say, the windows are a true religious experience). Finish off with a real down-on-the-farm country experience at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, where docent-led tours will take you to the Berkshire pigs rooting in the woods, the greenhouse growing that night’s dinner, and the chickens and sheep lazing about the farm. And while it may be difficult to snag a table at esteemed restaurant Blue Hill, you can always grab a bite at the café. Make sure to try the duck panini, and leave room for a gooey, chocolaty cookie (or two). Mix well and serve.

Best Private Public Space
PepsiCo Headquarters
Purchase

It’s difficult to conceive that work actually takes place at the Pepsi HQ: the grounds are so gorgeous, who would ever want to go inside? The 168-acre campus is studded with 20th-century sculptural gems by such notable names as Alexander Calder, Auguste Rodin, Max Ernst, and Henry Moore. The building itself, designed by renowned architect Edward Durell Stone, is almost a work
of art.

Best Affordable Concert Series
Downtown Music at Grace
White Plains
(914) 949-0384
www.gracechurchwhiteplains.org

Affordable? Try free (or a small donation, if you’re feeling generous). That’s not something you experience every day in this county. Grace Church sponsors its series of “Noonday Getaway” concerts every Wednesday at 12:10 from September to May, and styles include everything from jazz to classical to traditional Arabic music. Pop over on your lunch hour and, at least for those 30 minutes, you’ll forget about that big report that’s way overdue.

Best Books by Mail
A Common Reader
Pleasantville
(800) 832-7323
www.commonreader.com

Amazon.com serves a purpose, of course, but you won’t find the books touted in A Common Reader’s catalogue on Amazon’s front pages. Take, for instance, some of its current bestsellers: The Revenge of Anguished English: Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language by Richard Lederer and Curries and Bugles: A Memoir & Cookbook of the British Raj by Jennifer Brennan. (Note the lack of The Da Vinci Code or S is for Sick of This Already Series.) The catalogue is chock-full of carefully selected titles reflecting a more, shall we say, literary taste. Some of the volumes are published by A Common Reader. We love having our favorite indie books mailed to our house each month.

Best New Park
Liberty Park
White Plains
(914) 422-1336

Though the bustling City Center may be the new, improved White Plains’ biggest draw, the nicest spot in the revitalized city might just be the decidedly un-citified Liberty Park. Nestled up against the county’s beautiful Silver Lake, two-acre Liberty Park offers trails for walking, tables for picnicking, bigmouth bass for fishing (just throw them back when you’re done, guys), and paddleboats and rowboats to rent for whiling away the hours ($8 per hour with a Westchester County Park Pass or White Plains Recreation I.D.)

Best Family Bike Ride
North County Trailway

Let’s see. There’s the 22 gently sloping miles of serene trails that wind their way through the tranquil wooded hills of Northern Westchester. There’s also the well-marked, paved path that follows the route for the old Putnam Railroad. And there are the drop-dead gorgeous views (care for the vistas of the magnificent Croton Reservoir?) So what excuse can you come up with for not getting on your bike now? Don’t forget your helmet.

Continue reading for our Kids section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2005

 

Kids

Best Educational School Supplies
Educational Warehouse
White Plains
(914) 682-ABCD
www.educationalwarehouse.com

Our kids are all super-smart (as are yours, no doubt), and we credit their smarts to superb upbringing, superb genes, and the superb games, books, tapes, and CDs we bought them at the Warehouse. We’re already requesting application forms from Harvard.

Best New Kids’ Music Class
Music for Aardvarks
and Other Mammals
Larchmont
(914) 834-3383
www.aardvarksrocks.com

Directed by Lesley Barovick, a classically-trained musician and mom of two young children (she headed up Lincoln Center’s jazz development efforts under Wynton Marsalis in a previous life), the Aardvarks program, featuring original rock, blues, and folk-influenced music and chants, free-form dance breaks, and instrumental jam sessions in a sunny, high-ceiling studio with a punchy purple floor, is a welcome alternative to traditional yawn-inducing alternatives.

Best New Music Conservatory
Amadeus Conservatory of Music at Wainwright House
Rye
(914) 967-0987
www.amadeusconservatory.com

Top-notch instrumental (including Suzuki violin), musical theatre, and vocal training, a magnificent facility (a 17th-century-inspired château with breathtaking Long Island Sound views) and frequent student and faculty recitals, competitions, youth orchestra performances, and concerts (including Saturday cushion concerts for kids), allow the newest branch of this 12-year-old Chappaqua-based conservatory to strike just the right note with musicians-in-training.

Best Fencing Academy
Fencing Academy of Westchester
Hawthorne
(914) 345-5005
www.fencewestchester.com

Kids from throughout the tri-state area come to FAW—for good reasons: its world-renowned professional coaching staff, including head coach and former Olympian Slava Grigoriev, and its 10,000 square-foot, state-of the-art training facility. Its 300 students regularly fence in the Junior Olympics, Summer Nationals, and even internationally, or just for fun, and some are already wielding blades for Princeton, Brown, Vassar, and Boston College.

Best Ceramic Studio
That Pottery Place
Rye
(914) 925-6793

We love the cozy atmosphere and friendly attention from sisters Joan Wilcox, Jeanne Mortarotti, and Carol Mason. Collapse on the comfy sofa to the soulful musings of Norah Jones as your little artist turns a figurine, vase, bowl, bank, cup, or pitcher into something worthy of Mackenzie-Childs. Getting in touch with one’s inner artist costs $8 for painting time ($6 for kids 12 and under) with pieces ranging from $2 to $60. Also available: parties (pottery or bead), classes, camps, and drop-ins.

Best Indoor Play Space
Leapin’ Lizards
Port Chester
(914) 937-5867
www.leaplizards.com

The happy shrieks and ear-to-ear grins of the kids climbing, bouncing, crawling, and jumping should tell you all you need to know.

Best Nature Center
Greenburgh Nature Center
Scarsdale
(914) 723-3470
www.townlink.com/community_web/gnc

Every day is special at the Center. After all, it schedules approximately 1,500(!) special events, classes, and workshops a year. But it would be special without any classes or workshop; the woodland preserve with trails, pond, orchard, and maple sugaring site, and an indoor live animal museum more than suffice.

Best Special Needs Arts Program
“Creative Wheels”
(Wheelchair Ballet Class)
Northern Westchester Center for the Arts
Mount Kisco
(914) 241-6922 www.nwcaonline.org

Yes, wheelchair ballet. And if you haven’t yet seen a performance, trust us, they don’t come any more moving than this.

Best Kids’ Muralist
Beaux Arts Studios Ltd.
Katonah
(914) 232-4720
www.bozarstudios.com

No one creates a fantasy escape for kids bedrooms better than
husband-and-wife Tim Eaton and Elisabeth Gogois. The
couple first met in Nice, France, while studying art (kind of a fairy tale meeting), and for the past 20 years they have been turning ho-hum walls into magical murals. Dreamland guaranteed. Who knows, maybe the little ones will let you catch up on your own much-needed zzzzz’s. (And if the reason Junior let you sleep past 5 am is he was busy scribbling on the walls, relax: records of all final finishes are on file should touch-ups be required.)

Best New Candy Shop
Fanda’s Pop Shop
Pleasantville
(914) 747-9797
www.fandaspopshop.com

We love taking our kids to this ’50s-style malt shop to give ’em a taste of the good ol’ days. Twirl on a stool at the old-fashioned soda counter (it guest-starred in a scene in The Godfather, way before Fonda’s bought it) and slurp down an egg cream after catching a classic flick at the nearby Burns Film Center. Retro décor and tunes, plus 24 all-natural ice cream flavors and more than 100 oldies-but-goodies candies, make Fanda’s a favorite teen and ’tween hang-out and birthday party spot. Vanessa Williams, clad in ’50s waitress garb complete with rhinestone eyeglasses, hosted her daughter’s fifth birthday bash here.

Best Way To Spend a Summer Afternoon
Playland
Rye
(914) 813-7000 www.ryeplayland.org

An old-fashioned boardwalk. A tranquil lake. An enormous pool. Mini golf. Live entertainment. And, oh yes, bumper cars, carousels, the Dragon Coaster, Kiddie Land, sticky cotton candy, and cheesy giant stuffed animals to take home, should you win at the arcade. It’s all here at the nation’s first totally planned (and only government-owned and-operated) Art Deco amusement park. Besides, who needs another overpriced set of rodent ears, anyway?

Best Kids’ Hairstylist
Celia DiFilippo at KidStyles
Bedford Hills
(914) 666-7707

Celia DiFilippo has tamed the tresses (and, sometimes, the tantrums) of scores of Westchester kids, including Homer Gere and Dante Palminteri. And she’s so good that her kiddie clients rarely leave, as evidenced by her growing ’tween and teen biz. (A word to the wise: book way in advance.)

Best Kid-Friendly Museum
Hudson River Museum
Yonkers
(914) 963-4550; www.hrm.org

This treasure trove offers a staggering selection of children’s workshops, programs, and special events, where curious kids can cook up comets, learn to tell time using their shadows, create Tiffany-inspired dragonflies, and sing with the stars at an in-house planetarium.

Best Ice Skating Rink
Westchester Skating Academy
Elmsford
(914) 347-8232
www.skatewsa.com

Expert instruction, an impressive schedule of classes, leagues, camps, and open sessions, and a state-of-the-art facility featuring twin NHL-sized rinks (plus pro shop and café), make this the destination of choice for future Ice Capades headliners and Wayne Gretzky wannabes. (And for those kids who just won’t grow up, its adult league, one of the fastest growing and most competitive leagues in the tri-state area, offers 52 teams playing at seven different levels.)

Best Down-on-the-Farm Day in the Country
Muscoot Farm
Somers
(914) 864-7282
www.westchestergov.com/parks/MuscootFarm

Yes, it’s great for kids, but frankly we’ll borrow yours so that we can visit Muscoot and have a good reason to make fools of ourselves as we try our hands at farming, milking, and ice-cream churning. Also, love the hayrides.

Best Kids’ Shoes
Our Kids Shoes
Chappaqua
(914) 238-3550

An incredible selection of hand-made, imported children’s footwear fashions from such high-end Italian designers as Minibel and LelliKelly (we love their funky-colored, sparkled, beaded, and zippered high tops), plus the store’s own shoe line, custom-designed by owner Seth Pearlman at factories in Milan.

Best Discount Toys
Family Discount Stores
Bedford Hills (914) 666-6660; Harrison: (914) 835-0123;
Rye Brook: (914) 939-4321

Nothing fancy, just aisles and aisles of everything from Legos to Bratz, and Barbies to Boggle, at up to 20 percent off. Who can quibble with that?

Best ’Tween Gifts
Buttermilk Blue
Irvington
(914) 591-6277
www.buttermilkblue.com

’Tweens are notoriously hard to please, but never fear: this shop zeroes in on the ’tween market so well, if you snag a gift here, you’ll actually coax a smile from those surly faces. Need ideas? Try the geometric rugs by Albert and Dash ($98-$145). the punchy-colored quilts by Pinecone Hill, tees from Paul Frank, or fun, lace-trimmed Eberjey undies ($29.95). The shop’s staff will help you pacify even the pickiest pre-adolescent (at least until the next time you ruin her life).

Best Kids’ Bookstore
Galapagos Books
Hastings-on-Hudson
(914) 478-2501

Who says reading is dead? Bring your youngster here and we guarantee that the PlayStation will get a well-deserved rest.

Best Hands-On History Lesson
Philipsburg Manor
Sleepy Hollow
(914) 631-3992
www.hudsonvalley.org

Bring a child to a stuffy, “hands-off” museum, and watch how fast their eyes glaze over with boredom. That’s not the case at Philipsburg Manor, which recently started its “Hands-on-the-House” tour. Young visitors are actually encouraged to touch the historical artifacts during a special half hour tour of the 18th-century dairy, kitchen, and other warehouse rooms. Watch the boredom disappear as kids play with accurate reproductions of buckets, churns, cream pots, old-style mattresses, beaver and otter skins, Native American birch brooms, and shipping bales and crates. Offered every half-hour from 10 am to 4 pm.

Best Kids’ Party Planners
Life of the Party Productions
Armonk
(914) 273-5527

They’ve produced national broadcasts for MTV and VH1. We believe that qualifies them to put together a kids’ bash. Don’t you?

Continue reading for our People and Pets sections

 

People

Most Philanthropic
Sidney Frank
New Rochelle

Wine and liquor importer Sidney Frank of New Rochelle has made a couple of pennies—he sold Grey Goose Vodka for $2 billion—but the feisty 86-year-old has also given a penny or two away. He handed longtime secretaries more than $100,000 each as a bonus after the Grey Goose sale (hand this to your boss). He then gave Brown University the biggest donation in the school’s history—$100 million (Frank dropped out of Brown cause he couldn’t afford it). He also pledged another $12 million to his high school, the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, CT. And recently he pledged to donate $10 million to the White Plains Hospital Center. Is it any wonder Chronicle of Philanthropy lists him in their Top Ten list of the most generous donors in the U.S.?

Most Famous Artist
James Rosenquist
Bedford

You know you’ve made it big when the prestigious Guggenheim hosts a retrospective of your work. James Rosenquist, the biggest name among our resident artists, claimed that honor last year. (Think of it: an artist that made it big while still alive!) Not bad for a former billboard painter, eh? Today, the influential pop artist splits his time between his digs in Florida, New York City, and right here in Bedford.

Best New Resident Couple
Chynna Phillips and Billy Baldwin
Bedford

He is the actor (seen in Flatliners, Sliver, and the upcoming family drama The Squid and the Whale) and one of the famous acting Baldwin Brothers. She is the singer from the group Wilson Phillips and the daughter of Michelle and John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas. Let us be the first to say, “Welcome!”

Most Reclusive Neighbor
David Letterman
North Salem

Top 10 reasons David Letterman is our most reclusive neighbor:
10: Have you ever seen him around?
9: Has anyone you know ever seen him around?
8-2: Has anyone at all ever seen him around?
1: The only times anyone ever sees him is when he is perched behind his Late Show desk.

Best Party Givers
William and Nancy O’Shaugnessy
New Rochelle

The two sure know how to throw parties. Not only do they choose A-list locations (e.g., Le Cirque, the Four Seasons, and the 21 Club) but—surprise, surprise—they always draw a crowd of boldface names. And, lucky us, they throw a lot of parties. There might be an invitation in our mailbox right now.

Pets

Best Pet Massage Therapist
Patricia Nally Tagle
at Asvassage
Ardsley (917) 385-0577

You can almost hear your pet beg, “Don’t stop; please, don’t stop,” when certified canine and equine massage therapist Patricia Nally Tagle begins her one-hour treatment. The massage is administered at home—or stall. (Let us come back as our pets, please.)

Best Animal Shelter
SPCA of Westchester
Briarcliff Manor
(914) 941-2894
www.spca914.org

Prepare for plenty of cuddles and slurpy kisses: the SPCA shelter is home to more than 150 adult dogs and cats as well as puppies and kittens in need of loving permanent homes. Your home perhaps?

Best Rescue Group for Cats
Cat Assistance
Ardsley
(914) 667-7877

This small seven-year-old feline rescue group is the match-maker of choice for feline fanciers, making more than 150 puuurfect matches a year between abandoned or homeless cats and kitties and loving new families. Some local shelters even rely on it to help place their cats when they become overcrowded.

Best Rescue Group for Dogs
Adopt-a-Dog
Armonk
(914) 273-1674
www.adoptadog.org

If all dogs go to heaven, there are many there waiting for these dog lovers. Each year, the members of this unique non-profit placement service place more than 500 dogs and cats in loving permanent homes at no charge (and often assuming pre-adoption medical, spaying or neutering expenses). A donation is suggested however. And its popular annual “Puttin’ on the Dog” show (no Westminster, its categories include ”Best Kisser”) is a fun-for-the-whole-family event; the 18th one is to take place Sunday, September 25, at Greenwich’s scenic Roger Sherman Baldwin Park overlooking the harbor.

Best Doggie Barkery
Bow Meow Barkery and Munchinette
Ardsley
(914) 693-1110

We haven’t sampled the fare, but our dogs have. And judging by how wildly their tails wag and how quickly they slurp down the cannoli, peanut butter goobers, paw fingers, and the Dog-Iva chocolate candies, we can only surmise they’re dog-gone good.

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