Hi everyone! I’m on spring break and using this glorious amount of time to explore/taste/savor as much as possible. While I love my eastern corner of the state, I often find myself wandering west toward the Hudson River towns scattered throughout the hillside. Maybe I've got that American spirit to keep moving west, to seek out new and uncharted territory. I'm always looking for the next great meal or anything else that will expand my gastronomic horizons. It's my own Mani-fresh Destiny (Cliché? Maybe. Spot on? Definitely). Whenever I’m on or near the Hudson I wonder if the explorer himself would be pleased with the evolution of the Hudson Valley. With restaurants like Cedar Street Grill, River Market Bar and Kitchen, and one funky Nyack based donut shop, I can’t imagine he’d be disappointed.
River Market Bar and Kitchen is situated along the river next to some of the most opulent town homes I've seen outside Manhattan. Since they opened, River Market has been a dark horse in Westchester's culinary derby. There are plenty of other riverfront restaurants with which to contend. Now having experienced the magic of their kitchen, I’d say they’re ready for their place on the podium.
Copper vessels and handsome, polished woods gleam in the softly lit brick interior of River Market Bar and Kitchen. Features that, quite literally, bring ambiance and refinement to the other side of the tracks. The menu has uber fresh and local ingredients, creative combinations and an overall level of sophistication that I generally associate with my favorite restaurant (a few towns down the river in fact). In short, I was going all in on this meal.
My duck tartine appetizer was a well-crafted combination of foie gras and duck confit, topped with a warm truffle sauce that had flavor as deep as the river (it’s a pretty deep river). My fellow diner had mussels drowning in a generous amount lobster bisque. Sigh, what I wouldn't give. The chicken with Brussel sprouts was enveloped in a sumptuous red wine sauce that ensured no morsel left behind. That all may sound delicious but nothing, NOTHING, comes close to my duck entree. The supremely tender slices of duck layered on heirloom carrots in a vadouvan curry sauce had me questioning if I was even eating game. Just, wow. That is all.
Not only do the river towns have some of the top dinner menus, they also boast the best of brunch, one being Cedar Street Grill. I visited once in its infancy and loved the southern flair they brought to an otherwise contemporary brunch. This time around I went with Steph and we began by splitting the fried maple bacon Brussel sprouts. They were crispy with a sweet and salty balance but could have benefited from the less is more technique. I enjoyed the quality of the ingredients but less syrup might have been a better option. Steph ordered creamy grits and sausage that lived up to the title and my pulled pork Benedict was a down south twist with some of the tastiest pulled pork above the Mason-Dixon line.
The last stop was Gypsy Donut and Espresso Bar in downtown Nyack. Wandering by the dated store fronts it reminded me of a lost New England mill city interspersed with epicurean delights (Art Cafe, anyone?) Gypsy’s tiny interior fits a handful of chairs and plenty of eclectic decor. The donuts are even more eclectic; among the staples are crowd favorites like Salted Caramel and Maple Bacon and three rotating specials. This week featured Raspberry Rose, Brie and Walnut, and Chocolate Chip Mousse.
I decided to balance out my savory brunch with a Raspberry Rose donut. The donut itself was dense and chewy and, as far as I’m concerned, a vehicle for the ultimate frosting. Tart raspberry and the floral notes of rosewater made for confection perfection. I'd nibble away the top of a donut for the frosting alone. Better yet, just give me a spoon and the bowl and we'll be all set.
Meander as I might throughout the river towns, remember: not all who wander are lost. Most of us are just hungry. Until the next dish, ciao!