After thinking long and hard, I’ve chosen my five favorite comments from more than 100 during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. Each of the five winners. Each of you receives a pair of tickets to the grand tasting at the Greater New York Wine & Food Festival.
Number 5 goes to “Bill,” whose cheerleading and participating got the ball rolling for many others. His more than 30 comments repeatedly engaged me and other readers. Here’s just one of his comments, which even includes a ranking of his favorite HVRW experiences. Congratulations Bill!
Iâ€™ve fallen behind on my reviews, so here are the final three, along with my rankings for the 2 week period. Warning, very long post.
Wednesday night, my wife and I had dinner at Stoneleigh Creek. Weâ€™d never eaten there when they were in Croton Falls, and their menu looked interesting and they do have an above average food rating in Zagat (25). The place was filled and the service was harried, although itâ€™s not clear that it would have been up to the level youâ€™d expect of a $30 entrÃ©e restaurant even if it werenâ€™t (having to ask who gets which entrÃ©e, when there are only two people at a table, and itâ€™s your server delivering the food, is really inexcusable). First we were given a basket with a small chunk of bread which was warm on the outside and cold on the inside (we never got more so I canâ€™t say whether it was an anomaly). To start, I had the Tuna Tataki and my wife had the Cauliflower Soup. I really liked the tuna and did not find it overly spicy, but it was such a mess that I would dub it â€œTaste 10, Looks 3â€ (sorry for borrowing from the famous song). There were 4 large slices and
one end piece (I thought they kitchen staff ate the end pieces, this is two places were we were served them).There were two sauces, one was wasabi and it was drizzled on top of the tuna and the accompanying salad. There was also some reddish sauce on the plate and some diced mango which was quite good. Overall, I thought it tasted great, so long as you didnâ€™t look at it. My wife really enjoyed her soup (although Fridayâ€™s rendition at Valley was better).
For entrees, I had the Opaka Paka and my wife had the Short Ribs. Both were large portions and we ended up taking half of each home. Presentation was not as much of a mess, but in my case I found a string bean buried at the bottom of my mashed potatoes (which the fish was sitting on, the short ribs were also served on it) and there were pieces zucchini buried in both portions of potatoes. My fish plate was garnished with diced red pepper which looked nice but Iâ€™m not sure how necessary it was, and some sort of sauce.
For dessert, I knew I wanted the apple dessert, so we were trying to figure out whether to get the zeppoles or chocolate cake. We asked the waitress when she came over to get our entrÃ©e plates and she was not a lot of help and eventually let without our deciding, and when she did not return for 5 minutes we started wondering what we would actually get for dessert. When she did and asked what we wanted, I said I still could not decide and asked (again) what she recommended. With a stern look on her face, she said â€œweâ€™re not going to do this againâ€ so we decided to just get the chocolate cake since I figured it would travel (and reheat) better than the zeppoles, plus the neighboring table of 4 women had subsequently gotten all 3 desserts and it appeared that the zeppoles were not being eaten (my wife said she heard one of them say they were too hard). I thought the chocolate sauce looked good but I now see a post here stating it was like Hersheyâ€™s syrup, so I guess we
definitely made the right decision not getting it.
As for what we did get for dessert, the apple empanada was ok (and yes, not puff pastry, just as Kittle House did not have for their tart tatin), nothing great (certainly nothing close to the apple desserts at Tavern and Valley, see the next reviews). The chocolate cake was ok, but didnâ€™t seem to have a strong rich chocolate flavor. Also both accompanying scoops of ice cream did not seem to be full scoops.
To close, while we did enjoy the food here, the service was definitely below what youâ€™d expect at a place like this, and when we saw the entrees were in the high 20â€™s-low 30â€™s range, we decided we would not go back. To their credit, the HVRW menu items did appear to come from their regular menu.
Thursday was my second HVRW lunch with co-workers. Since my wife was not working that day, she also joined us. We went to Tavern up in Garrison (where Xaviarâ€™s used to be). I had been very excited about their menu since it had wings and turkey pot pie. When we got there at noon, we were the only party there, and they seated us in the small room near the entrance, rather than the large room that Xaviarâ€™s used to use. Since there were 6 of us, I think we ordered most everything on the menu and I have to say that we all enjoyed our meals. I had the wings, which were listed as being made with a home made BBQ sauce. They were nice and crisp, but the sauce was strangely bland (it had some fire to it which you tasted afterwards). The portion was a nice size, 7 wings. My wife had the squash soup, which was wonderful, very rich and flavorful.
As for the pot pie, the menu originally said that it was chicken, which was a change from the menu posted on the HVRW website. Only after we had ordered did the server come out and tell us that it was turkey again (it appeared they had run out of turkey for a while). It was excellent, served in a crock with a creamy mix of turkey (and lots of it) and assorted vegetables with a noticeable tarragon flavor. It was topped with a square of puff pastry that was simply sitting on top, not baked sealed like you normally find in a pot pie. The puff pastry was excellent and the only negative I can say is that there was something small in the very middle like some melted butter which had a salty taste to it. Others at my table had the pork confit, seared scallops (which I was told were crispy yet moist) and the pasta, which was a HUGE portion and delicious (my wife and I both had the pot pie â€“ we should have shared that and the pasta). For dessert, my wife and I split the apple pie,
which had to be ordered for 2 or there was a $7 supplement. It was HUGE; easily enough for 2 or more people and it was delicious. Finally, someone who used puff pastry for dessert! The only negative was I decided to splurge $3 to get it a la mode and they brought us chocolate ice cream (when I think of apple pie a la mode, I think vanilla, but they must not have had it because the brownie sundae also came with chocolate). To make matters worse, they didnâ€™t give us the whipped cream on top of our pie that they did put on top of the non-a la mode version. But that is a minor nit. It was the best dessert I had during HVRW.
Tavern was a real revelation â€“ Iâ€™d go back just for the apple pie!
Friday, we had dinner at Valley, also in Garrison. We went with our son (who has promised to post his own review here eventually) and a co-worker and his wife who had also joined us at Tavern. This was to be our HVRW grand finale dinner, and I have to admit that I was concerned about our meal here because Iâ€™d read that Jeff Raider, who had been the chef, has left for One in Irvington. It turns out those fears were unfounded. The whole experience was amazing â€“ easily one of the top meals we had during HVRW. And while the waitress at Stoneleigh Creek couldnâ€™t remember who got what at a table for 2, here the staff got it right without asking at a table for 5, even when 2 of us got a dish without an ingredient. We started with an amuse of a carrot puree topped with a small portion of spicy chicken. It was delicious. I was a little disappointed that more HVRW restaurants we visited did not do amusees. Only Iron Forge Inn, Relish and Valley did. To start, my wife and I bot
h had the cauliflower soup, which we had ordered without the prosciutto, and my son had the short rib raviolo (initially on the HVRW menu as beef cheek). The cauliflower soup was amazing; rich and flavorful. The chef put some diced roasted garlic in our bowls in place of the meat, which confused me initially since they looked the same, but they did deliver the correct ones to my wife and me (my friends got it with the prosciutto). When the server checked back as soon as it was delivered, I asked whether I had the correct one and she seemed genuinely concerned and checked with the kitchen, but they assured her that it was correct, and it was. My sonâ€™s raviolo was also excellent. It was a single disk of pasta covering a large portion of beef, with an egg underneath. Very interesting presentation and it tasted great.
For entrees, I had the chicken, which was a nice sized breast, served sliced; over a mixture of beans, mushrooms and roasted garlic (the latter was not listed on the menu and may have been the replacement for the chorizo I asked them to leave out). My wife and son had the flat iron steak which did not look anything like other preparations of that cut that weâ€™d seen. It was sliced thin and fanned out on the plate. Both ordered it medium-rare and it was perfect. It came with a roast potato salad that was great.
Similar to what I found at John Michaelâ€™s, while our meals had been great up until dessert, it was dessert that just made it amazing. My wife and son ordered the fried apple pies, I ordered the chocolate tart with beet ice cream. They were simply amazing. The apple pies (5 of them) were hot and crisp and served with vanilla and caramel dipping sauces. The chocolate cake was the liquid center variety, which many restaurants try and most seem to fail at. The cake was perfect and the beet ice cream was delicious. An amusing touch was 3 small cubes of beets which were incredibly sweet, placed between the ice cream and the chocolate cake.
I was initially disappointed to find that they did not have the madelines on the HVRW dessert menu (you would get a paper cone with around 20 of them with three dipping sauces; they were amazing). In fact, they no longer seem to be on the regular menu, either. But by the time we were finished with dessert, it was no longer an issue.
Anyway, the good news is that Valley is just as good was it was with Jeff Raider, and the service is absolutely wonderful.
So, I guess I should rate my HVRW dining.
1) John Michaelâ€™s (that tuna appetizer, to die for!)
3) Relish (might have rated higher had they not run out of duck and if I liked the fish appetizer more).
5) Iron Forge Inn
6) Stoneleigh Creek
7) Crabtreeâ€™s Kittle House
1) John Michaelâ€™s tuna appetizer
2) Stoneleigh Creekâ€™s tuna tataki appetizer
3) Valleyâ€™s Cauliflower Soup
1) Relishâ€™s Tilefish
2) John Michaelâ€™s Salmon
3) Tavernâ€™s Turkey Pot Pie
1) Tavernâ€™s apple pies
2) Valleyâ€™s chocolate cake and apple pies
3) Relishâ€™s crÃ¨me brulee
4) John Michaelâ€™s basil panna cotta