If you live in Westchester, you know there are many great restaurants from which to choose. Fortunately the chefs are generally quite willing to accommodate any dietary need as well.
As a vegan for the last four years, I have enjoyed incredible meals throughout the county, from 42, Serafina and even BLT in White Plains, to bruschetta at Nessa in Port Chester, vegetarian chili at the Meetinghouse, the quinoa lentil salad at Bedford Post Inn and a creative salad and sides at the new King Street in Chappaqua.
As a food writer, I have blogged about many of these nights out, and here are a few of the highlights for those of you considering this way of life, for a lifetime or even just a meal!
Moderne Barn is a beautiful restaurant located in Armonk, New York owned by the Livanos family Restaurant Group, proprietors of Abbocatto, Oceana and Molyvos in NYC. It’s within 15 minutes of my house, but when you’re there, you feel like you’ve been transported. The ceilings are remarkably high with big exposed beams, and you dine on comfortable banquettes with needlepoint cushions at dark tables…it feels like Ralph Lauren himself designed the space.
I usually love to mix things up when I go out to eat, but when I go to Moderne Barn, despite the salads, sides, flat breads and pastas, I’m a die hard for the same thing ~ The Barn Salad. It’s a blend of frisee and mixed greens, topped with black ceci beans, chick peas, black olives, cucumbers, orange segments and pistachios. It’s not just that it’s raw, vegan and simple, or incredibly tasty with wonderful texture, but I can make it at home when I can’t get there! Adaptable recipes always make me happy.
Another great one to copy is the side of the brussel sprouts they offer. I love these gorgeous, leafy green nuggets of goodness, and here they are served al dente, slightly sauteed, and sprinkled with dried cranberries ~ pretty to look at, seasoned just right, and super tasty to eat!
The Cheesecake Factory has been a long-time favorite of my family’s, starting back in the ’90′s when I was still in college. Despite how large the chain has become, the food is good, it feels fresh, and the menu is so vast that it’s almost daunting to choose something new. And, when you consider their prices as compared to their hefty portions, it’s just hard to come by that kind of a deal at most other establishments. I often feel even the lunch portions can feed two!
The last time I was there, I wanted to check out the relatively new SkinnyLicious menu options. I saw a veggie burger and, when they told me it was made without egg, I was sold. The “burger” was made from brown rice, farro (another grain), black beans, fresh beets and onions, garnishes with pickles, onion, lettuce and tomato and accompanied by a small side salad. (I don’t love rolls, so I got it on an English muffin, and I asked them to leave off the mayo.) It was SO good! The combination of beets and black beans, one I’d never enjoyed before, was really wonderful, and though rice and farro were key ingredients, I wasn’t left feeling overly full. It was really tasty, and while I didn’t eat the salad (I didn’t feel I needed it), I topped it with every topping. Just one caveat about ordering there…you must ask about hidden ingredients. Dairy in the dressings, stock in the rice or vegetables…the menu has been through quite a few transitions and you need to be sure the way the ingredients are prepared is still as you expected them to be before.
Haven restaurant in Pleasantville, NY was designed with a vegan in mind. While it caters to any palate, it boasts a vegan menu! Upon arrival, we were treated to sweet hummus served with home baked spinach and tomato tortilla chips. The hummus, something I eat often, had a really interesting texture and nuanced flavor. I also ordered some prosecco, served to me in my very own little bottle…it’s bubbly nature and sweet taste were perfect for livening up the night! And seriously, how fun is that?
For appetizers, I was torn between the puree of carrot-ginger soup with crispy celery leaves and pomegranate seeds and the crispy chick pea fries with spicy remoulade. Fortunately, I had a great option ~ I settled instead on a salad, but got to sample the fries, pictured above, which were AMAZING! They were devoured. I think we each could have ordered a platter and licked the plate clean (well, not really…that would be uncouth!)
For entrees they offered a vegan ravioli of broccoli, smoked apple and carrot with a sweet pea puree, but what really got me were the black bean “meatballs” over linguini with spinach pomodoro sauce (though I admit I didn’t try the noodles.) They were SO good! While they were firm enough to hold their shape, they were beautifully tender and flavorful…I was sorry to have finished them. Even my non-vegan friend ordered them after seeing my reaction and just loved them.
When it was time to order dessert, I was pretty full, but how could I resist ordering the vegan Valrhona chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet? I admit it would have been better with some chocolate frosting, but it was an enjoyable, and decadent way to end the evening (and far healthier than what anyone else chose!) I’ll be back…
North in Armonk, definitely one of the finest, and hottest, places around.
Last time I was there I arrived a bit before my friends and as our table was not yet ready, I decided to wait at the bar. I wasn’t in the mood for wine, so I decided to order one of their signature cocktails, Mo’s Guy. Mo’s Guy is champagne finished off with a few Sycamore Farm’s concord grapes and fresh mint. It felt rather decadent and had the perfect celebratory flair…and it was simply beautiful.
After we took our table, the waiter, upon learning I was vegan, asked the chef to come meet me and talk to me about my preferences, allergies, etc. Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, former Union Square Cafe sous chef, was charming and friendly and said he’d have some fun in the kitchen putting a meal together for me.
For starters, I selected a modified bibb lettuce salad with dijon mustard, agave and sliced pears. Chef Eric surprised us with an additional appetizer of vibrant heirloom tomatoes with chives in tomato water. It was colorful and simple and it truly captured the essence of the tomatoes’ flavor.
When the entrees arrived I was thrilled. Baby carrots, finely diced root vegetables, roasted broccoli and dragon tongue beans, an heirloom varietal of edible pods only found at I & Me Farm of Bedford Hills, all over a roasted onion puree. It was not only quite beautiful to look at, the flavors were sensational!
I was thrilled when I found Fig & Olive, a Todd English restaurant, had made it’s way from NYC to Scarsdale. I love figs and all kinds of olives (well not the ones with the pimentos) so how could I not love this?
Upon being seated, we were given a plate of fresh bread with 3 different dipping oils, I gladly indulged. For those skeptics out there, they actual do differ in taste, and we each had different favorites. The bread was so good, you actually didn’t even need to dip. For an appetizer I got a delicious gazpacho, accompanied by a piece of bruschetta (though by then I’d had my fill of bread!)
As an entree I got the salad I love with tomato, olives, scallions, walnuts, apples, mâché and fresh figs – the flavors are so fresh and I so enjoy the combination of savory and sweet all in one bite. We also shared the haricot vert with sautéed shallots and the sautéed mushrooms. It was a terrific meal.
Last but far from least is Blue Hill restuarant in Pocantico Hills, NY. This dining destination opened in the spring of 2004 within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture on the Rockefeller estate.
“Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms, Blue Hill at Stone Barns highlights the abundant resources of the Hudson Valley. There are no menus at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Instead, guests are presented with a list of over a hundred ingredients, updated daily, which contains the best offerings from the field and market.”
When the server approached our table, she explained how the night would work and then asked for our food preferences. Vegan patrons are more than welcome and the truly customized plates are a testament to this restaurant’s versatility.
Before the courses even begin, you are greeted with a series of amuse buche ~ small bites. We were presented (truly, each step is a presentation) with smoked kale and yukon gold potato crisps with fresh dill beautifully displayed on tiny branches; fresh tiny carrots, asparagus, radish, turnips and cucumber set on thin nails rising from a dark wood plank; herbed spritzers in shot glasses with lemon verbena, mint and basil; pea “burgers” which were adorable (and only the size of a quarter!); warm baby zucchini coated in sesame seeds; and a remarkable vichyssoise (cold potato soup) wrapped in leeks ~ it was stunning.
To even attempt to describe the rest of the meal is likely fruitless (no pun intended) as it would have been totally uncouth to take photos (or samples for all of you) but I will try. Many courses were preceded by some sort of table-side teaching about an ingredient one of us would be eating, so for example, I was given the history of Celtuce ~ a celery/lettuce hybrid originally from China, followed by a dish made from this unusual vegetable with hashimagi and chanterelle mushrooms, and almonds with foam. My words just cannot do this meal justice. The cost of this personalized dining experience is set at either $104 or $148 per person. Call now and make a reservation. You’ll thank me.