Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and more Historic Hudson Valley events


The Pumpkin Carousel- new this year

This is a fantastic event that you must experience and will certainly get you in the Autumn spirit.  The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze has returned to historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton On Hudson.  This is one of the country’s most extensive displays of lit Jack O’Lanterns.

The grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor are transformed into a Halloween fantasy landscape with over 7000 lit and carved Jack O’Lanterns. Each one is hand carved  It is an extraordinary sight.


Upon entering under the lit arch you follow along the Pumpkin Promenade, and over the “Pumpkin Zee” Bridge, a lit marvel of craftsmanship.   Under the bridge is a sea of underwater creatures all carved into pumpkins.  Everywhere you look there is some new detail to admire.  You pass an amazing sea serpent and enter the amazing “Pumpkin Planetarium” with its constantly changing light show.


Your path wanders through such great creations as the circus train, Headless Horsemen display, witches and their cauldron, spiders, skeletons and so much more.  The tour ends back near the Manor House itself which has been transformed into a dramatic backdrop for a constantly changing light show.  This is really amazing and you must experience this event.

There is also a tent serving drinks and snacks and a tent filled with Blaze related gifts.

Tickets:  In advance only !!   $20 adults ($25 Saturdays), $16 Children (3-17) ($20 on Saturdays) Under 3 free   TICKETS ARE FOR SPECIFIC TIMES.  See website for dates and time availability.


Horsemans Hollow at Sleepy Hollow   through October 31 at Phillipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow

Irving,s Legend with stories by master story teller Jonathan Kruk   through October 31 at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow

Dickens’s A Christmas Carol  told by master story teller Jonathan Kruk  starting December 9-10, 15-17 at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow

for more info and tickets please visit

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Hudson Valley Restaurant Week returns October 30th-November 12th. Over 200 restaurants offering Price Fixe menus!

HVRW fall 2017

Hudson Valley Restaurant week, presented by Valley Table Magazine is back again! Starting Monday October 30th, 2017 and it runs  through Sunday November 12 ,2017.   This event involves over 200 participating restaurants in the Hudson Valley which offer diners special three-course price fixe dinner menus for $32.95 (not including beverage, tax and gratuity). Many of these fine restaurants also offer three course price fixe  lunch menus for $22.95 (not including beverage, tax and gratuity).  There will be 115 restaurants participating in Westchester County alone.


Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges is one of the many restaurants participating

This is an amazing opportunity to try new restaurants, or revisit some old favorites at a very reasonable price. There are no tickets or coupons to buy and the process is easy ! Go to the Valley Table website and scroll down and view the participating restaurants, then choose a restaurant (or more), call the restaurant to make a reservation and then enjoy!  It is advised that you make reservations as this is a very popular event.

Many of the restaurants will have the Restaurant Week Menu  on their own websites.  Each restaurant offers selections off that special menu for you to enjoy the discount and experience new eateries.
You really should not miss this special time get out and dine at some of the fantastic restaurants we have here in the Hudson Valley!

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Enjoy Jazz Brunch at Mediterraneo of White Plains

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An upscale and relaxing Sunday Brunch dining experience awaits at Mediterraneo in White Plains.  The restaurant now has a Jazz Brunch on Sundays from 11am to 3pm and features not only fabulous food, but bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s and the soft sounds of a two piece group playing instrumental jazz.

The restaurant on the corner of Main Street and Renaissance Square is housed in a modern space with soaring two story high windows which open to the streetscape outside.    The space is very unique and attractive.   The menu at Mediterraneo is described as Mediterranean coastal cuisine with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and the freshest seafood.

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The menu for Sunday Brunch is a short list of 6 items ranging in price from $12-$23 with items such as Egg White Frittatas to Strip Steak and  scrambled eggs with mozzarella toast.  However as it is mid day you can opt for regular appetizers and entrees from the menu, which gives the guest many more delicious options.  There are 15 different appetizers on the menu priced from $10-$15 which provides a wide variety of options for you and your dining guests.

We sampled the delicious Butternut Squash  and Red Lentil soup.  This creamy soup also contained cumin, quinoa and lemon oil.  It was a good choice on  a fall day, and the cumin gave the soup a unique taste that was quite satisfying.  Very healthy and not too filling.

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Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup

Another choice was the Organic Farro and Escarole Salad with dried cranberries, roasted chestnuts and clementine slices.  A very healthy choice and the mix of ingredients was delicious with contrasting tastes between the hearty flavor of the farro and the sweet taste of the cranberries and clementines.   A pleasing selection that will not fill you up for your next course.

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Organic Farro and Escarole Salad

For entrees, we selected two from the available list of 17 different items.  One of our selections was the Jumbo Sea Scallops in a butternut squash puree, cranberry compote and pumpkin seeds.  The fresh sea scallops were expertly prepared and the choice of seasonal autumn ingredients was innovative and delicious.  A wonderful dish and a nice presentation.

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Jumbo Sea Scallops in a Butternut Squash Puree

We also enjoyed the Parmesan Crusted Fillet of Halibut, with tomato, chives, beurre blanc and roasted cauliflower.  The halibut was served in several smaller squares and surrounded the roasted cauliflower.  A really interesting take on halibut and it was delicious.  The roasted cauliflower was good compliment to the halibut, and beurre blanc was not heavy, but rather light.   The dish is definitive of the restaurants theme of coastal Mediterranean cuisine.

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Parmesan Crusted Halibut

If you are looking for a Sunday brunch experience that  provides a wide variety of fine dishes and the soft sounds of relaxing jazz music, then you should check out Mediterraneo of White Plains.

Mediterraneo of White Plains

189 Main Street White Plains New York

tel.  914.448.8800 

web: info and reservations:

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City Perch Kitchen and Bar: Farm to table dining and cocktails bring movie night to new heights


photo: City Perch

Dinner and a movie just became a whole lot easier in Westchester County.   City Perch Kitchen and Bar in Dobbs Ferry is the perfect place to enjoy cocktails and dine before or after seeing a movie at the fantastic Ipic Theater next door.   The menu is American Seasonal with an emphasis on farm to table ingredients.

City Perch is actually attached to the Ipic Theater (see our separate review).   This hip eatery features a rectangular bar with plenty of seating, bar games and tables.  The dining room features tables from intimate tables for two and for parties of 4 and more.  The theme of the restaurant is birds and wall art, unique custom lighting and more attest to this motif.  The lighting is subtle and creates a cozy and yet elevated place to dine.  There is also a private room for parties, and when weather permits, outdoor dining. There is a definite upscale feel to the restaurant.

Craft cocktails, described as Farm to Glass provide a wide and fun choice to enjoy before or during your meal.   The Perchmopolitan was a house berry infused vodka with cranberry, fresh sour and a splash of prosecco .  A very smooth cocktail and a real pleaser.    The Norma Jean was a refreshing concoction of vodka spiked strawberry lemonade.

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For starters we began with the  Brioche Crusted Maryland Crab Cakes.  Three small cakes served with an old bay remoulade, frisee and citrus salad and with yuzu vinaigrette.  An excellent way to start the meal with this fresh blend of soft crab and delicious ingredients.  The perfect size without filling you up before your entree.   The Yuzu vinaigrette was a perfect compliment and gave the crab cakes a little kick of flavor.

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Brioche Crusted Maryland Crab Cakes

We also sampled the Mussles.  A nice bowl of mussles served in a delicious white wine, dijon and saffron broth that was perfect.  As a seafood lover I was very pleased. Also available on the menu are King crab, shrimp, oysters served raw or as Oysters Rockefeller.

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The entree portion of the dinner menu offers many selections from burgers, pork, chicken, seafood, salads, and fresh pizza.   We tried several items from the menu for our entree.  The Shrimp and Grits was a fine choice with grilled shrimp, and a grits with a bacon vinaigrette.  The shrimp was delicious but the grits were missing something and tasted a bit plain to me. I am not sure what spices could have been added but it lacked the kick I was expecting. Still a nice dish.

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Shrimp and grits

The Grilled  Salmon was grilled to perfection and served in a healthy plate of quinoa, spinach and a saffron emulsion.  A pleasant presentation and a very nice healthy dish.

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Grilled Salmon

As we saw a lobster being delivered to another table, we just had to try the Oven Roasted Maine Lobster which was split and the claws removed from the shell for easier dining.  The lobster was 1 1/2 pounds and was delicious.Irene october 222

With just a bit of room left, we had to sample a dessert.  We split the Raspberry Red Velvet Pavlova , an interesting tall desert with a knive inserted in top consisting of crispy vanilla meringue, red velvet raspberry chunk ice cream, whipped cream,  and raspberry sauce.  A decadent and very filling dessert.  Great to share.

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Rasberry Red Velvet Pavlova

City Perch was a real fun dining experience.  Service was friendly and our items were brought to our table like clockwork.   If you are going to the fantastic Ipic theater next door (both restaurant and theater are connected) or just looking for a new place to dine, City Perch Kitchen and Bar in  Dobbs Ferry is the place.   Great for date night or dining out with friends.

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City Perch Kitchen and Bar

1 Livingstone Avenue Dobbs Ferry New York    (right off the Saw Mill Parkway)

free parking !

tel. 914.348.7007


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Join the Westchester Food Bank for “An Evening of Good Taste” October 26th

food bank

A great event for a great cause comes to Whitfe Plains on  October 26th 2017 from 6:30 to 9 pm. The Food Bank For Westchester,Inc, will be holding its 27th Annual “An Evening of Good Taste” .

Join the Food Bank  for “An Evening in Good Taste,” a night of savoring 25 top chefs’ fine food creations, networking with other Food Bank supporters, and raising funds for the Food Bank for Westchester’s initiative to end childhood hunger in Westchester County.

Some of the participating restaurants will be: Abigail Kirsch, Bona Bona, The Castle at Tarrytown, Bread and Brine, The Cookery, Chutney Marsala, Crabtree Kittle House, The Dessertist, Harvest On Hudson, Ladle of Love,Lulu’s Bakery, Mediterraneo, Mt Kisco Seafood, Rivermarket, Saltaire and more!  

Come out and have a great evening and sample the dishes of some great local chefs.  Your ticket price goes to support the amazing programs of the Food Bank For Westchester, Inc  which is fighting to end childhood hunger in our communtity.

For information on this special evening and for tickets:

Location of event  1133 Westchester Ave  White Plains NY

Food Bank for Westchester, Inc.   

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Blockheads: fun, affordable, innovative and healthy Mexican comes to White Plains

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A successful Manhattan based eatery has brought its San Francisco style of Mexican food  and fun atmosphere to downtown White Plains.  Blockheads first opened in Manhattan 24 years ago and now has 5 locations around the city.  White Plains is their newest location and with it they have brought their signature style of casual, fun, and a lighter more innovative approach to Mexican cuisine.

The location is  right on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains.  The decor of Blockheads is eclectic and fun, and not the typical Mexican design motif.  No Mexican blankets on the walls, no sombreros, and no mustard colored stucco walls.  The floors are a mix of tiles, the walls are ship lap wood with an interesting collection of paintings and photographs, tables  with metal chairs painted bright colors.  The doors at the entrance are reclaimed from another location and are painted a distressed light green. Lighting is repurposed as well and are adorned with colorful bulbs.   After my first drink, I felt as if I was no longer in White Plains but on vacation somewhere sunny, carefree and  fun.

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We started with drinks and we just had to try a couple of the variety of fun frozen  margaritas. They have numerous flavors including, peach, mango, guava, coconut, passion fruit and even pomegranate.  We sampled the mango and the pomegranate and can report they were delicious.  Interesting they are not served in the typical margarita glass, which is consistent with Blockheads unique approach.  Also on the drink menu are beer, sangria and more interesting drinks.

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Frozen Margaritas in lots of fun flavors!


We dined at lunch and the food menu is clearly different from typical Mexican fare served in this country.  The heavy sauces and bombardment of gooey cheese is missing from the menu (thankfully!) and its place is a lighter and more innovative approach to Mexican food.  The stated mission of Blockheads is to make healthy eating affordable and fun.  All three the deliver on their mission.

We started with the Chicken Fajita Quesdilla as an appetizer which was full and spice and flavor.  You can tell the chef likes to experiment with combining dishes and different flavors.  It keeps the menu interesting.

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Tacos were up next and Blockheads serves its tacos by layering two lightly grilled soft tacos and then adding the ingredients.  We tried the fish and butternut squash tacos.  Both were excellent and light and I can honestly say I have never had a butter nut squash taco, but it was the perfect dish on a fall afternoon.

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Fish Taco and Butternut Squash Taco

We also tried the large and delicious Vegan Butternut Squash Burrito, a full 12 inch soft whole wheat tortilla stuffed with butternut squash, vegan cheese, brown rice and pinto beans.   I am not a vegan, but this dish was amazing.  I  felt  that we were eating a  super healthy as well as delicious dish that makes you feel satisfied, not stuffed.

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Vegan Butternut Squash Burrito

Blockheads takes special care of all its customers by offering a menu that is vegan and vegetarian friendly, and  health conscious. Gluten free items are also available.  Do not despair as there is plenty for the meat lovers in your group.  There are also bowls that blend Asian and Mexican themes which we did not try.

Blockheads is a reasonably priced fun place to dine with friends.  Great food with an emphasis on healthy dining options, in a fun atmosphere make this eatery one we will be returning to again.

Tacos (2)  start at $13.95  Quesadillas start at $10.95  Burritos start at $12.95

There is also Sunday Brunch !

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40 Mamaroneck Avenue  White Plains NY

tel. 914-288-8070

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Bannerman’s Island: tour a wonderous and mysterious castle in the heart of the Hudson Valley


Along the east shore of the Hudson River just south of  Beacon  is a fascinating place worth exploring called Bannerman’s Island.  The small island is well known for its mysterious castle ruins that dominate the island itself.  It can be easily seen by boaters on the Hudson, train travelers along the east shore tracks and motorists on Route 9D.  While the abandoned island and its fanciful structures were off limits to visitors for years, now you can take advantage of guided tours of  the island provided by the Bannerman Island Trust.  You must reach the island by boat or by guided kayak tours.


A short boat ride takes you to the island

The island  has had several owners over the years but its most famous owner was Francis Bannerman, a Scottish immigrant who lived in New York City.  In the years following the Civil War and the Spanish American war, Bannerman built a successful business of buying surplus war materials from the U.S. Government and reselling them.  He eventually had to move his warehouse of munitions out of New York City, and he found the island (known as Pollepel  Island)  the perfect spot.   There he had built an arsenal warehouse and smaller summer house that resembled a Scottish castle.

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The residence with gardens maintained by volunteers

The tour we took started by boat from the Beacon waterfront and it was a short scenic ride to the island. On reaching the island, the tour guide led us to the arsenal ruins itself which has seen some of its walls collapse in the past decade.  Efforts are ongoing to stabilize the structure.  Here we learned more about Francis Bannerman, his business, and the development of the island.

Next we visited the smaller but no less impressive Bannerman family residence that was used as a summer home.  With its location at the north end of the scenic Hudson Highlands, this must have been a wonderful place to spend a summer.  We were able to tour the downstairs of the home and study its rooms.  The guide had a binder of documents and photos to share with the tour group.


The tour also provided a story telling session by Jonathan Kruk, a Hudson valley story teller, who entertained us with tales while dressed in a purple vest and bright orange top hat.  Perfect tales for all ages.

The Island also hosts other events during the season (May-October) including such as plays, outdoor movie screenings, live music and more.   So put this on your calendar for next spring.   Exploring this beautiful and fascinating island made us proud to be a resident of the Hudson River Valley.

Bannerman Castle Trust Inc.


photo credit:  Renee Wallace

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Ipic Theater:Luxury Meets the Silver Screen


Since the invention of film in the 1890s, movie theaters have been a popular entertainment destination since the early 20th century. Although movies have advanced, the theaters themselves have remained similar over the decades. iPic Theaters with a new location in Dobbs Ferry NY  has revolutionized the cinema experience and brought it into the 21st century.

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Front desk

I walked into the entrance of a theater I noticed it  had a upscale hotel-like interior. Missing is the typical ticket booth and in its stead was a front desk that one would see in a hotel. We were escorted to our seats in the correct theater by the employee at the front desk. The inside had dimly lit lights, stylish furniture and trendy decor. While walking to my seats I passed iPic’s full service restaurant, City Perch Kitchen + Bar, run by the James Beard award winning chef Sherry Yard. Not only has she worked with Wolfgang Puck but her desserts have been a staple at the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball, the Grammy Awards and the Emmy Awards. I definitely want to try out this dining venue in the future!

I was shown to a section with two seats that were nestled inside curved walls. This pod-like seating provided comforted and privacy, yet the view of the screen was not compromised. This is a unique and intimate design.  The only other patrons you could see were the other guests.  You cannot see the other guests in your row to one side or in front of you.  It is almost as if you have your own private theater.  The seats are reclining leather seats that still had that new leather aroma as we settled in.  Between the seats is a small table for drinks and food that swivels to make access to your seat easier.  On the table is a call button to summon your waiter.

Waiter service is available during the movie for adult beverages as well as items from the menu including lobster roll, fish tacos, flatbread pizza, wraps, sliders and more!   The list was quite impressive.  There is also the cinema favorites as well.  There is beer and wine available as well. Ordering from the menu is of course optional.

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Not your typical cinema snack bar

To provide maximum comfort pillows and blankets are provided for those in the premium section.  I felt like I was watching a film in a first class private theater.  A great experience and though you pay more than a conventional theater, the overall effect is worth the price.

If you love the movies and want the comfort and first class  service  then do yourself a favor and check out the Ipic Theater in Dobbs Ferry.

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Ipic Theater

1 Livingston Avenue   (right off the Saw Mill Parkway)

Dobbs Ferry New York         tel.914.348.7002


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Mohonk Preserve: an outdoor adventure awaits in the heart of the Hudson Valley

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When Autumn arrives many here in the Hudson Valley look to our beautiful natural environment to enjoy the outdoors.  In the heart of the Hudson Valley along the scenic Shawnagunk Mountain ridge is the Mohonk Preserve.   This is the perfect place for a day hike that will transform not only your day but your life.

The Mohonk Preserve is the largest member-supported nature preserve in New York State.  It is not a New York State Park.  It welcomes to its wooded trails over 165,000 visitors every year.  It is well known nationally  for its rock climbing on the Trapps.

Mohonk Preserve was formed in 1963 by the Smiley Family, friends and supporters.  The Smiley family are the founders and operators of the spectacular Mohonk Mountain House.  The Mohonk Preserve has acquired over the decades thousands of acres scenic land along the ridge from the Smiley family.  The property contains miles of hiking trails and beautiful carriage roads that were once part of the Mohonk Mountain House Property and indeed still connect to that property itself.  The Preserve has two distinct areas, the Northern Section (north of the Mountain House) and the Southern Section  where we hiked.

Our hike earlier this year started at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center located off New York Route 55 in Gardiner NY just outside New Paltz.  The center is a good place to gather information about the preserve through helpful and informative staffers and maps.  There is interactive exhibits as well as a small gift shop all housed in this rustic stone and timber building.  Many hikers like to start their hike from the popular West Trapps parking lot that can fill up easily on weekends.  You can find parking here at the Visitor Center, but accessing the trails requires some effort.

After leaving the Visitors Center there is a short walk to the beginning of the connector trail (yellow blaze).  There you will find it is a strenuous 250 step walk on stone steps you will need to climb in order to reach the Undercliff Road (carriage road).  This is the hardest part of this hike. Please wear good hiking shoes.

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Cliffs along Undercliff Carriage Road

Once you reach the Undercliff Road (one of the carriage roads) you will realize the climb was worth it.  In front of you is the soaring vertical cliffs of the Trapps and to the east the entire Wallkill valley floor opens up.  In the distance you can see the Taconic range of hills on the New York border with Connecticut.    Above you will see the numerous rock climbers as they make their way up the cliff face.  The geology of the preserve could be the subject of its own article.

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Hiking along the gentle grade of the Overcliff Carraige Road

The gentle grade of the carriage roads make for easy and pleasurable hiking.  The trail is wide and smoothly graded. The views are beautiful as are the many hawks seen gliding along the cliffs.  The Undercliff Road terminates at the Rhododendron Bridge where several  carriage roads meet.  Some will make their way onto the Mohonk Mountain House property,(separate property from the Preserve) but for this hike we continue on the Overcliff Road which takes up and onto the western side of the Trapps

The old carriage road continues on a long but gentle incline and the hiker is awarded with fantastic views westward toward the high peaks of the Catskill Mountains.

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Looking West to the Catskill Mountains

The trail loops back around to the east facing Trapps where we began, passing amazing stone outcroppings and giant rocks that were once part of the cliff above.  The hike around 5 miles and for the most part is an easy hike and a great introduction to this wonderful preserve. We all can be thankful for the vision and the efforts to preserve such a wonderful natural environment.

Do consider hiking here and even becoming a member of the Mohonk Preserve.  The fee for hiking is $15 per person,  $20 for mountain bikes,  climbers, and horseback riders.  A great place to visit anytime of year.

for more information

Mohonk Preserve

3197 Route 55  Gardiner NY    (Visitor Center)

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Equus Restaurant:New chef and a new vision energizes a classic Westchester eatery

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Castle Hotel and Spa at Tarrytown is a very unique and special place in Westchester County and houses within its stone walls, Equus Restaurant.   The restaurant has operated for years and was once known for its upscale classic French cuisine.   The restaurant is now under the direction of a new Chef de Cuisine, Keith Suarino.  Chef  Suarino is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, and sharpened his culinary skills in Italy working at La Madia.  He draws his diverse culinary experience from positions at restaurants such as Eataly in NYC, Spigolo and Rubirosa.

The menu is focused on Mediterranean fare with  Italian and Spanish influences, with an emphasis on light, healthy dishes made only with the freshest ingredients and locally sourced when possible.  The new direction for the menu is a welcome and should attract a wider audience to Equus.

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Equus and were joined by Chef Suarino who spent time explaining each course and his experiences and hisculinary philosophy.  If you have not been to the Castle, it is a magnificent place.  A stone castle that was once a private home sitting high on a hill in Tarrytown with views of the Hudson River Valley below.  The long drive way leads you up to the impressive entrance which serves as the entry way both to the restaurant and the hotel.

The restaurant is divided into several spaces, the intimate bar room (where we dined), the sun filled conservatory, and the elegant Oak room with its massive stone fireplace.  There is also dining on the stone deck overlooking the garden and the valley in the distance.  This is a very special place.

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For lunch we started with the Grilled Octopus, served with purple and sweet fingerling potatoes, gigante beans, peperonata, and black olive puree.  The octopus was perfectly prepped and grilled to perfection and this was a perfect way to start the meal.

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Grilled Octopus

Also enjoyed (from the special menu) was the Coconut Curried Shrimp, which was very tasty, not breaded and fried , but  was light and flavorful.  A good choice, and could be a regular menu item.

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Coconut Curried Shrimp

There was a Spiced Pumpkin Bisque soup on the menu which is prepared with aleppo, toasted marshmallow, and sage.  It looked wonderful but we did not indulge as we wanted to save room for the main course.

Our main course was the Broiled Black Cod, served with a soy yuzu marinade, picked turnips and a wild mushroom shiso broth.  This was a departure from the Mediterranean  menu, as the dish picked up Asian tastes with the marinade, but it was light, healthy and delicious.  Well done.

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Broiled Black Cod

The other dish we enjoyed was the Butternut Squash Risotto, a delicious and filling bowl of risotto with pomegranate, melted shallots, baby kale and candied bacon.  The fusion of flavors in this dish was so interesting and was perfect for lunch on a fall afternoon.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

We shared a dessert and chose the S’mores Cheesecake.  A marshmallow cheese cake with graham cracker and chocolate sauce.  The filling unlike many cheese cakes was light and airy and was a great way to top off our lunch.  A pleasant presentation as well.

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Equus at the Castle is a wonderful restaurant in a unique and fantastic setting.  It should be on your list of  places to dine.  Chef Keith Suarino  has infused new energy into this classic restaurant with a menu of innovative dishes. Menu changes seasonal.  Price fixe menus also available.

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Equus Restaurant

at Castle Hotel and Spa

400 Benedict Avenue Tarrytown



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