For fans of gracious, farm to table dining, there’s a new kid in town. And, like Beyoncé, Angelina and Hillary, there’s only one name you need to know. Hudson, in the historic Haymount House in Briarcliff Manor, takes it namesake seriously. There are stunning views of the Hudson River, for one, where if you book your table at the right time, you can watch the sunset. But what really shines – and what the restaurant is all about – is the ever changing menu featuring food direct from the Hudson Valley.
Lamb loin, left, and apple tart.
Hi. I’m Jeanne Muchnick, a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Journal News.
Before we start with the food – which thanks to Executive Chef Scott Riesenberger, whose career includes work with top Manhattan chefs David Bouley (Bouley), Rocco Dispirito (Union Pacific) and Alain Ducasse (The Essex House) – is impressive and thoughtful, we need to set the scene with the ambiance.
How’s that for a front entrance?
I’ve lived in Westchester 15 years and never knew this property existed. The custom-built Southern colonial-style home, which dates to 1910, was owned by William Fuller, a leading financier of the early twentieth century. He modeled it after his childhood estate in North Carolina and named it for his beloved hometown of Haymount. And here’s another Who knew? The house, which sits on four hilltop acres in what’s now a residential neighborhood, was featured in various scenes as the Civil War era plantation, Tara, in “Gone with the Wind.”
The estate at one point even housed world-famous thoroughbreds and four elephants but that’s something you can look up on your own (or ask the staff about when you go: Everyone is happy to share what they know about the home’s history.) For a long time it housed the French restaurant Maison Lafitte.
But back to the ambiance. Upon entering you’ll see a large ballroom straight ahead with views of the Hudson. The maître d’ stand is on the left between two sweeping grand staircases.
You enter Hudson through the bar where you can lounge pre-dinner or enjoy a cocktail and soak up the regal atmosphere. Marble fireplaces abound in this place and there’s one here where you can sit in plush Laura Ashley-like chairs or schmooze in the purple wrap around sofa that takes up the corner space.
You then enter the front dining room where there’s another huge, antique marble fireplace filled with flickering candles. What you notice first, aside from the sheer gorgeousness of it all, is the long wood communal table (soon to have stools around it) where the chef (pictured here) offers diners a glimpse of what’s on the menu via a basket filled with the bounty of the night.
A second dining room holds court along the back wall and though the menu offerings are the same, there’s a more formal atmosphere here with white table cloths and a more subdued setting. It’s from here you can best see the river.
I chose to sit in the front room with its rich banquettes and tranquil lighting.
Chef Riesenberger starts every meal with a small amuse bouche. We had chilled pea soup with crab salad, slice melon, caviar and almond oil and a touch of vanilla.
Next was the beet salad. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of beets but these were so fresh — they come from Satur Farms, a sustainable farm on the North Fork of Long Island – and were paired with a light combination of cocoa, plum and goat cheese, that I ate the whole thing.
This was among my top contenders. Spring risotto with a poached organic hen egg and pancetta vinaigrette. Risotto is usually heavy but this one, thanks to the yolk of the egg and the deft hand of Chef Riesenberger, was creamy and light, like eating a soup.
A foie gras terrine was served with dried apricot-mustard terrine and red wine syrup.
Halibut was perfectly plated with a puree of parsnip and green peas, and featured a foam sauce made of horseradish emulsion (vanilla infused) and a touch of grapefruit jam.
Grilled lamb loin with Japanese eggplant and sweet soy was tender and delicious.
For you, dear reader, I tried dessert though I could have been happy with my glass of Malbec. The wine list, while still a work in progress, is very impressive with bottles that range from $29 to $2,229. The restaurant features New and Old World varieties including a host of rare and special vintages (think Chateau Lafite Rothschild Paulliac, 1995 and Charmes-chambertin, Grand Cru, Joseph Drouhine, 2005). Of course many other varietals are available by the glass in the $7 to $15 range.
Just when you think you’ve been impressed enough, a gorgeous warm apple tart with walnut and smoked vanilla ice cream was brought to our table, along with a dark chocolate pot de crème with blood orange and almond biscotti. All sorbets and ice creams are made on the premises. Does this chef ever sleep?
And we haven’t even talked about the main hall which can accommodate up to 200 and is perfect for private parties, weddings and corporate events. There’s even a separate suite for a bride and groom upstairs where you can stay overnight B&B style. Six more rooms on the third floor are currently being renovated.
Though Hudson feels like a formal restaurant from the outside, inside its warm, inviting and casual enough (at least in the front) that you can feel comfortable wear jeans. If you think it’s just for special occasions, you’d be missing out as its on par price-wise with more casual eateries but way more “special” in terms of the food (for the record appetizers start at $11; entrees are in the $19 to $42 range, though keep in mind this will constantly be changing as the menu varies on the seasons).
Right now the restaurant only serves dinner (Tuesdays to Thursdays from 5:30 to 10 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm to l0 pm.) but plans to introduce brunch within the next month as well as a bar menu.
Almost forgot to mention: Because the chef suffers from Celiac disease, many of his offerings are available gluten free. Just let them know when you make your reservation and you will be graciously accommodated.
The 411 is coming. Til then:
Hudson at the Haymount House, 25 Studio Hill Road, Briarcliff Manor, 914-502-0080, www.HaymountHouseNY.com