A LA CARTE; Places That Rate Some Kind of Mention
Those traveling on Route 22 north might note that Cascade Mountain Winery and Restaurant (373-9021), a Dutchess County hideaway in Amenia, serves lunch daily from noon to 3 P.M. Dinner is served on weekends only, when reservations are a must. Begin in the cellar, with a wine tasting of a few of Cascade‘s eight wines, available for purchase. Upstairs, dine on the deck or in the cozy dining room built chalet style. The present chef might have a somewhat heavier hand than those in past years, but nothing has changed the full flavors and fresh local ingredients for which this informal eating spot has long been known. We found particularly winning crisp potato cake with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, grilled quail with potato salad and wonderful pea shoots, a huge rack of meaty, smoked barbecued ribs and a selection of first-rate cheeses. A three-course lunch runs $20. Take Webatuck School Road off Route 22 three miles north of Amenia, follow the snaking road (with some gorgeous views) to the top and turn left at the T.
The beautiful flower garden surrounding the patio of Auberge Maxime (669-5450), operated by the Le Bris family in North Salem, makes the place an agreeable destination for lunch, and there is still time to take advantage of a special three-course lunch offered at $19.97, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their restaurant. The menu includes choices like zucchini flowers filled with scallop mousse, yellow tomatoes with blue cheese and broccoli flowers, duck with figs and pistachio souffle. Wherever possible, vegetables come dewy fresh from the couple‘s garden. Lunch is served every day except Sundays and Wednesdays. The restaurant is on Route 116 at Route 121.
Closer to home in downtown White Plains, those wanting fresh organic homemade food should know about Manna Foods, a minuscule vegetarian restaurant behind a health food store at 171 Mamaroneck Avenue. The place is open from 11:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. Mondays through Fridays. Apart from its value of being good for you, the food is delicious. All dishes here seemed hearty and filling. Specials change daily, like soups -- thick, chunky zucchini gumbo or molten sweet pea. Served with a salad, vegetarian chili burrito wrapped in whole wheat pita delivered a nice hot-pepper kick, and manna burger was stuffed with soy cheese and protein, sunflower seeds, quinoa (a nutty grain), red onion, lettuce and sprouts. Or try, if available, one of the vegetable stews, dairy- or wheat-free lasagna, tasty zucchini pie, udon noodles and vegetables, pesto pasta salad or curried brown rice studded with onions, peas, cashews, coconuts and raisins. Wash everything down with sweet, fresh-pressed carrot or other vegetable juice. Lunch should run about $7 or $8. Picnic tables outside supplement eight small tables within. Easy entrance is from the rear parking lot. Everything is made to order; thus service can be slow. Order by fax (946-2243) for a later pick-up.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, Xaviar‘s in Garrison (424-4228) offers a six-course dinner with a different and appropriate wine for every course. Diners may choose from two menus, each well planned and each with outstanding dishes. Outstanding were the small plates of lobster teamed with Yukon Gold potato, asparagus with succulent poached oysters, seared salmon with corn pancake and breast of Guinea hen with a spectacular heady toss of cavatelli, truffles and mushrooms. Extraordinary fine cabernet sorbet freshened the palate. Thick, juicy tournedos of beef in Roquefort crust or loin of lamb with grilled polenta was our choice for larger plates. For dessert a dariole (or a cylinder) of chocolate with espresso cream got our vote. Both the sheltered patio with a fine view of the golf course and the grand dining room make appropriate settings for this elegant, superb dinner that costs $75 without tax and tip, a price less than the wine alone would cost elsewhere. Reservations are a must.
At the opposite end of the scale, for lunch as well as for dinner, Empire King Buffet (773-1752) in Thornwood‘s Town Center shopping plaza offers an ‘‘all-you-can-eat‘‘ buffet of at least four dozen selections of Chinese food. No gourmet fillips here. Take the children, especially teen-agers. The cost is $8.55, except on special evenings when the selection includes lobster and the price goes to $11, and children younger than 12 pay $4.49. Usually on hand are fried dumplings, lo mein, chicken with cashews, several vegetable dishes, sushi, beef with a vegetable, shrimps with garlic sauce, barbecued pork and fresh cut fruit.
It is easy to miss its narrow storefront, but Utsuwa-No-Yakata (289-0790) has been selling stunning Japanese ceramics here for the last two years, and to stop in is to feast the eyes. On the edge of the White Plains downtown area at 508 Mamaroneck Avenue this long capacious shop is filled with lovely items, both factory made and hand made, priced from a couple of dollars to $10,000. To keep prices low, this company orders directly from factories and artists. We were informed that the shop is particularly appealing to Japanese tourists, who make up a large part of its clientele.
The shop also carries prized items like Arita porcelain and Mino stoneware. And what does $10,000 buy? A perfect globe, perhaps 16 inches in diameter, like a celadon moon, made by Yamaguchi, a famous Hasami potter. If required, the piece can serve as a vase. It is best to leave young children at home. The shop is open every day.
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