What To Do in Westchester for Valentine’s Day?

Sorry for the long hiatus between posts guys, but I’m back! Seems the insanity of the holidays is just wearing off and I finally had some time to put pen to paper…figuratively of course. I will do another post on some of the fantastic wines that are out there right now, as I have had the opportunity to sample some great juice as of late. But I thought with Valentine’s Day around the corner, some ideas on what is happening around town may be more appropriate for now.

So…if you are looking for a spot to rekindle the sparks of love that night the no brainer move is Crabtree’s Kittle House. This rustic and charming venue really has it all. A creative and well thought out four course Valentine’s Day tasting menu for $75 a person, a 70,000 bottle wine list (Leo the Somm will happily help you select something in line with your palate and budget) and an ambiance that screams romance. Plus, if you really feel like getting a little loopy you can stay overnight in one of their rooms as it is an Inn as well, and the rates are very affordable!

For the Richard Gere fans out there, you may want to check out his fancy new spot The Farmhouse at Bedford Post. This place has romance written all over it, and the food is really quite excellent. They are doing a four course prix fixe for $95 which includes a risotto course offering a choice of wild mushroom minestra with truffle pesto, fagotelli pasta with grated truffle, or a lobster risotto with shaved truffle….can you say decadence?!

Mima Vinoteca in Irvington has been getting lots of great press as of late, and for good reason. A classic combination of a quaint atmosphere, traditional Italian fare with a modern twist and an accessible wine list makes this a local favorite for the river town dwellers. Their three course Valentine’s Day prix fixe is a reasonable $68 and features lots of culinary creativity and selections appropriate for all including a venison dish with cranberry wild rice in a port wine lingonberry reduction…nice!!

Looking to keep it low key and fun? Then head over to The TapHouse in Tuckahoe! With an overall updated menu (the Grilled Cheese & Pork, Muenster, Caramelized Onion, Jalapeno on Texas Toast is off the hook!) and a Valentine’s Day special menu including Fresh Gnocchi, Shrimp, & Lobster with Tomato, Basil in a Lobster Bisque Sauce this will be a hot spot this Friday night for sure. Of course the vast selection of brews on tap always impresses as well as the ever evolving and extensive wine list.

Lastly, you can forget about going out at all and just create a romantic dinner at home. Sometimes just a quiet night around the fire with a homemade meal and a nice bottle of your favorite red wine is the best way to enjoy a cozy Valentine’s Day.

Cheers!

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A Weekend of Wine and Food…Westchester Style!

If you missed out on this past weekend’s festivities at the Ritz Carlton in White Plains…shame on you! In its third year, Westchester Magazine hosted a fantastic weekend full of culinary events loaded with lots of great juice and some of Westchester’s best restaurants. If you were there, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Check out my article from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine website for all the highlights and plenty of reasons to mark it on your calendar for next year!

Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend Highlights

The Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend is HERE!!

This is more of an informative update than a post… lots of great events happening this whole weekend starting tonight! Tickets are still available for some of the events….I’ll be there all weekend and hope to see some of you there! Check out the kick ass restaurants and wines to be featured:

Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend

Review of Two Popular Westchester Restaurants…Flames and Il Sorisso

This week I had the good fortune of eating out at both of these well known Westchester dining establishments. They are very different in style, cuisine and even location. But quite frankly I find that most people just won’t read a full restaurant review, so I figured I would consolidate and do a 2 for 1. But the overall consensus on both places is that they are worth attending, as long as you are aware of a couple of subtle flaws.

First, Il Sorisso in Irvington. A large group of us went on Saturday night for a Birthday celebration. We were about 16 people and they put together a great package dinner menu. For around $50 a person it included salad, pasta an entree and all the beer, wine and coffee you could drink. They also let us bring in a few bottles to start with for a minimal corkage fee which I am always a fan of. Team Bruno killed it and graced the table with a Pride Cab, a Mondavi Oakville Cab, a Jordan and the Anderson Conn Valley Right Bank blend… all fantastic! However the Pride Cab they brought was the 09 which would still be a bit young, so I swapped them out with my 03 that I have had stored for about 5 years. Holy crap was that drinking well!! But I digress…

While the food was all really solid (I had the Penne with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage and a “Homemade” Veal Parmigiana) and the service was great, I still left the restaurant with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth… and it was not from the food or the wine. My wife and I were the first to get to the restaurant and Game 7 of the Ranger vs. Caps series was being played night. There is a flat screen TV over the bar that had a rerun of Sportscenter on. I asked the bartender if he could put on the game instead, but he said the owner had to make the call on that. I figured it would be an easy enough call, but boy was I wrong. I asked the uninterested owner if he could put on the game, but the combination of the restaurant being a bit busy and the remote control being ALL the way in the basement just made it impossible to put on the game. Seemed a bit odd to me, but I am not a huge Rangers fan, so I kind of let it go. But I informed him I was part of a large group that was going to be spending a good amount of money in his restaurant and there were about 6 big Ranger fans coming in that would certainly have the same request. His answer… a very nonchalant “OK”. So he was prepared to shoot down another 6 requests for the game, which he basically did. I mean, we had to harass the guy for the 45 minutes we were waiting for our table to get the game on. And of course by the time he finally caved, our table was ready.

So I guess my end take on Il Sorisso is this: The dishes were all fresh and well prepared and the pricing is somewhat reasonable. The staff was very attentive and moved us through the meal wonderfully. However the owner has not quite grasped the whole “customer experience” concept which makes it a tough place for me to frequent, especially when there are so many solid Italian restaurants in Westchester that are the exact opposite.

Next up, Flames Steakhouse in Briarcliff. This is arguably one of the best steakhouses in all of Westchester when it comes to the beef, depending on the night. We had a work function on a Thursday night and when we all discussed the meal the next morning, everyone had different opinions on the steaks based on which cut they ordered. Those of us who got the NY strip thought it was fantastic, while the ribeye fans thought it was a little too fatty…even for ribeye. The filet was solid too, but not of the same caliber as the strip. The issue is if you go on another night it can be the exact opposite. Obviously the quality of the cuts the restaurant is getting from their meat distributor has a lot to do with this, but for the price of their steaks you would expect a little more consistency across the board.

Flames also mixes in a good amount of Italian fare into the dining experience. Again, we went with a large group so we were able to order a bunch of small apps to start. The eggplant rollatini may be the best in town and the lobster ravioli literally melts in your mouth. But it’s tricky to pull off this Italian restaurant and steakhouse combination, almost like the restaurant has an identity crisis at times. We ate in the wine cellar, which I would highly recommend, and they have a nice secluded outdoor patio section as well. But the interior is sort of a retro throwback to the 70’s and again, its tough to tell whether you are in a steakhouse or Italian restaurant. Personally, I like that throwback and somewhat “wiseguys” kinda feel…but I have a feeling I am in the minority on that one. But unlike Il Sorisso, Nick (the owner) will make you feel right at home and is looking to make your dining experience as pleasurable as possible.

So while I can’t give either restaurant a glowing review,  I can tell you that I really enjoyed my meal at both Il Sorisso and Flames. Are they my top choices to go to for Italian food or Steak respectively in Westchester? No. But if they are in your neck of the woods and you haven’t been yet they are both worth a shot. Just be sure there are no important sporting events you are planning on watching at the bar that night 😉