Getting down to the finish line of Spring 2013 Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, a group of bloggers (Donna Monaco Olsen, Patrice Costa, Margaret Rizzuto, Rinku Bhattacharya, Maria Reina and Arlen Gargagliano) were on the lookout for more Scavenger Hunt points. With its stunning Hudson River views, casual atmosphere, and enticing menu choices, Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry was a perfect choice.
Here’s what happens when six food bloggers unite to enjoy a fun-filled evening during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.
DONNA MONACO OLSEN
(Writes Chef’s Tip as the Co-coordinator of Westchester Community College’s Continuing Education Taste of Westchester program)
Our friend and ring leader, Patrice Costa, truly is “behind the kitchen door” these days working in this restaurant’s “sister” kitchen Harvest on Hudson, just one town “up the river”; and she has become quite the prep chef changing careers to follow her passion. I am so excited at the mere thought of her gumption to do so and how quickly she has mastered so many kitchen skills. She is lucky to be able to train with Executive Chef Vincent Barcelona (posing with us for 100 points and this should be a 200 point bonus as he is the featured chef in the slide show) learning the tricks of the trade each day. This chef treated us royally as we were dining with the kitchen queen.
Pictured (left to right bottom) Chef Vincent Barcelona, Patrice Costa, Maria Reina.
(left to right top) Donna Monaco Olsen, Arlen Gargagliano, Margaret Rizzuto
(Camera shy our friend and dinner companion Rinku Bhattacharya)
You will see all the HVRW things we ordered, and the rest of the regular menu sent out so graciously by the chef, in our photo array of beautifully plated and tasty offerings. One of the fun parts of the evening was getting to know the other writers and their backgrounds, all so diverse and interesting. We became instant friends dipping into each others plates. The passing and flash of the cameras was endless making us somewhat giddy! Of course in keeping with the “hunt” we scored a few points along the way! You can see chef Patrice starting us off by making a toast, with Prosecco, sent to our table from the chef, at our bloggers dinner (500 points). HVRW 2013 Bloggers Toast
Roasted Beets & Arugula Salad with Pistachio, White Balsamic & Goat Cheese was my pick of the many appetizer offerings. I was thrilled to see my friend the beet appear on this menu. I had been searching for my well known HVRW menu choice these past two weeks only to find my new friend Brussels sprouts appearing in my beloved beets place (and I have had a love affair with the sprouts LONG before they were in favor). Not only was this a classic beet and goat cheese starter but they probably were the best tasting beets I have had outside of my own kitchen. They were earthy and firm (so many are overcooked and mushy). The two types appearing on the plate were small classic red and my favorite golden. Heaven on a plate! Although we tasted so many things that evening this was my favorite and I would return just for the execution of this clean and lovely starter (and I have eaten many a beet salad over the years, each one being completely different).
My choice for the main attraction, although a difficult one, was the Guajillo Rub Boneless Chicken with Carrots, Smashed Potatoes & Natural Jus (200+50 points featured dish). The flavor punch was outstanding. The rustic “smash” was chunky and held up well to the bold flavor that the Guajillo peppers brought to the dish. Usually a vegetable side afterthought, even in the most sought after dining establishments, but not so at Half Moon-the heirloom multi-colored carrots and beans were crisp and flavorful without being deluged in butter and salt.
Guajillo Rubbed Chicken
Although we did not order it, the chef sent out so many treats and this looked so yummy that I tried it, not knowing it was lamb which I have never eaten. While still not a convert to the lamb burger craze the chorizo made it super flavorful and a nice surprise (50+50).
Our group enjoying a meal (100 points) and taking lots of pictures.
Great server who did so much for us Dan “the man,” was super and brought all that we asked for and MORE! Here he is twice (100 points).
(writes the Latin Twist column and weighs in on this fun and food-filled evening! )
Pastrami spring rolls to start? YES! And I’d have them again—(200+50 points featured dish).
Our hero of the evening, Chef Vincent Barcelona, did not disappoint at all. Au contraire; we were, in case you haven’t noticed yet, thrilled by all the dishes we sampled. (And, yes, the view—sunset over the Hudson River—was also dazzling!)
Back to my starter pick, Pastrami Spring Rolls! I have to say that I was smitten by the salted and pepper-kissed flavors of the pastrami nestled in a crunchy-yet-flaky pastry angle cut beds, and a small bed of spicy pineapple slaw, and dipped in a Russian dressing or spicy mustard sauce. It felt decadent, but not over done. (Ah, I think that is really perfect!)
I then enjoyed the Coffee & Pepper Dusted Mahi Mahi Filet, served with shaved fennel salad and passion fruit cream sauce (actually I need to figure out how to make that fennel salad!). (200+50 points featured dish) And while I loved that contrast of flavors, I need to confess; like Donna, I was totally taken by the Guajillo Rub 1/2 Boneless Chicken with smashed potatoes. I think I was just in the mood for more comfort (ah, maybe because we’re not really enjoying spring-like weather yet!) and, well, I’m a sucker for roast chicken and potatoes…especially in chillier temps!
My next favorite came in the form of the sweets: the Coconut Risotto Pudding, perfectly accented with caramelized pineapple, was dreamy, dreamy stuff…and, as some of my fellow bloggers know, all I wanted to do was heat it up and enjoy it at home before bed (which, big sigh, I did the following night!).
Thanks friends, innovative and charming Chef Vincent, Dan our patient and lovely server, and to HVRW—for a great evening…and I’ll be back for more Half Moon fun on another day, for sure!
(Writes Behind the Kitchen Door and is an all around Small Bites contributor)
Question: How many bloggers does it take to snap a picture for HVRW? Answer: Four to light the dish with their phone flashlight app and one to take the picture. Yes, our bloggers’ night out for HVRW at Half Moon was truly a collaborative effort. Our meal really showcased the diverse flavors of Half Moon, including a few extra culinary treats from my favorite chef, Vincent Barcelona. Asian, Latin and everything in between, there was absolutely something for everyone.
Personally, I couldn’t wait to try the Pastrami Spring Roll appetizer. House cured pastrami with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese in a crispy fried wonton wrapper; a blending of flavors and textures, kinda like dim sum meets Jewish deli (minus the rye bread). (200 points for reviewing one of the featured dishes in the LOHUD gallery + 50 for the pic above) For my entree, I was quite pleased with the perfectly seared Atlantic Salmon which was nestled in the middle a colorful rainbow of sweet roasted corn, red peppers, and spinach all finished with a beet vinaigrette.
What do 3 out of 4 bloggers recommend for dessert? Yes, I too voted for the creamy, comfy and quite luscious Coconut Risotto Pudding, and it was a very, very good choice (please sir, I want some more). Good company (love my blogger friends), excellent food (thanks chef Gerald and the whole kitchen staff), amazing views (NYC to the south and the Tappan Zee to the north), wonderful service (Dan was the best) and simple hospitality (chef Barcelona is the master at making his guests feel so at home). Thanks to all!
(Small Bites Contributor, Food Photographer)
As far as I’m concerned, dinner at Half Moon was perfection — in every way. The views with the sun setting over the Hudson were stunning, the company (a group of 6 food bloggers — need I say more) lent itself to some great conversation and I’ll give you only one guess as to the topic (yes, food, food & more food). Then there was of course, the food — rich, deep flavors beautifully presented by Executive Chef Vincent Barcelona whose passion for cooking and hospitality is obvious in the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes as he visits the table and describes each dish. He sets a high bar for hospitality.
We began with a variety of appetizers that weren’t on the restaurant week menu and I am so glad we did — scrumptious!
Here’s a sampling (yes, we were only six women but, bear on mind a) we were six hungry women and b) we love food!
Mahi & Octopus Ceviche
One of the things I enjoyed most about the food was Chef Vincent’s use of flavors and the combination of ingredients. The Chipotle Caesar for example had a great layer of smoky flavor with the addition of the chipotle taking an already great salad to wonderful new place.
Then there was the Coffee & Pepper Dusted Mahi Mahi Filet (see Arlen’s image above, 200+50 points featured dish) — coffee, pepper and seafood! It not only worked but worked very well! And the shaved fennel salad with passion fruit cream sauce — wow! My only complaint was that it sang of Spring and Spring is still not here! Soon though right?
Dessert was a smorgasbord of delectable treats from which I selected the Coconut Risotto Pudding served with caramelized pineapple — creamy, not too sweet — so good. Arlen has the image above for you to see, so I’ll show another that was an absolute favorite of mine, the Flan with a beautiful presentation. For me, this was a bit of heaven in my mouth, the flavor, creaminess, richness without being over the top sweet — loved it!
Yes, already making plans for anther sunset diner, this time with the husband. What a great way to end the week, start the weekend, get over hump day — okay, anytime is the perfect time to visit!
(writes the Seasonal Chef column and is also all around Small Bites contributor)
This was my first time at Half Moon and the end of a double-header day for me eating. Earlier in the day I was at Village Social enjoying a spectacular lunch. Lucky for me I had about 4 hours in between to prepare for dinner. My husband Larry and I have never been to Half Moon, although he did remember it used to be in the old Chart House location. Our appointed meeting time was 6:00, and just in time to watch the beautiful sunset. There isn’t a seat in the house that’s bad. From every angle you can see the Hudson River. I think this dinner for all of us was not only delicious but so much fun because we were all together. The upside to blogging and generally all social media is you can keep up with people on line at any time of the day or night, but the downside is you miss the human interaction. There is just something so special about sitting at a table and sharing food with people as excited about it as you.
After a Prosecco toast, we jumped right in. I decided to start with the Roasted Tomato Bisque. Soups are a big thing for me. I frequently write about and create them for my Seasonal Chef blog. This one was a home run. The base was smooth and creamy with a hint of smokiness that I’m going to guess was a touch of smoked paprika. It was perfectly subtle and dreamy.
I am fond of telling people when I go out to dinner that if I’m getting the chicken on a menu, and paying a premium in some cases, it better be “rocking my world.” We all know generally how to purchase and cook chicken and especially for me being a chef, I know ultimately what goes into creating a chicken dish. (Some times that is just not a good thing!) I can say with great certainty this chicken was rocking my world. The rub was made with the guajillo chile pepper, which on the heat scale is low. Along with the potatoes, the flavors blended perfectly for me. I would also like to say that overall the plating for all the dishes was just stunning. Margaret captured many of the images for us that evening, but let’s face it, you need to start with a beautifully composed dish, right?
After being sufficiently sated I moved on to dessert. The Coconut Risotto Pudding basically set me over the edge. It was loose, yet divinely creamy blend with the toasty coconut pieces sprinkled over and the caramelized pineapple. It was just exactly the right amount to finish off my meal.
Each of us not only had a wonderful meal, but we all had a wonderful time sharing it with each other. A promise was made that night to do it again, which no doubt will happen very soon. For me this has been a special HVRW not only because of that night, but collectively over the past two weeks enjoying all of the restaurants I visited.
Until the next time …. Buon Appetito!
The 411 on Half Moon:
1 High Street