Equus in the Castle Hotel & Spa, Tarrytown, NY- Outstanding Food and Service

Castle Hotel and Spa in Tarrytown, NY is such a beautiful place. It is a picture perfect fairy tale hotel – a corner room at top of the castle with windows on two sides overlooking the Hudson River at sunset. I felt like Rapunzel letting down my hair and letting my prince up. The Equus restaurant is really something – deserves a top rating and review. It was perfect… even the French fries.

Unfortunately, this meal was eaten so long ago that these items have rotated off their current Summer menu. I had to reconstruct the meal from pictures and memory.imageFrench Fries, like the authentic fries from the good French bistros.imageSome sort of squash soup. This was delicious. I remember the taste and smoothness but not the ingredients.imageLobster Salad with foam. Also excellent. The lobster was tender. image Lamb… I really regret not writing the ingredients down. This was the best dish of the night and possibly the best lamb that I have had this year. I remember being surprised at how good it is and how impressed I was. The dish itself when described to me sounded heavy but it turned out to be just right. The grain that accompanied the lamb balanced out the red meat well. It was so good that I thought of thanking the chef!imageCobb Salad: Avocado, Bacon, Cucumber, Onion, Blue Cheese, Shrimp. Good and fresh.

Well worth the money. Outstanding food and service. Outstanding hotel and staff. Highly recommend both.

This experience took place at

Equus
Castle Hotel & Spa
400 Benedict Avenue
Tarrytown, NY 10591
914-631-3646

River Tavern in Chester, CT – Goooooooooooal

A friend of mine convinced me to drive two hours to Chester, CT (population < 4k) to try out River Tavern, a farm-to-table New American restaurant. I was impressed. I did not imagine such well-executed dishes from an eclectic menu could exist in the middle of nowhere. We spent a lot of time discussing where the customers of this restaurant could come from.image Chester, CT is an hour away from New Haven, CT. This is a little town with only one main street and one busy block.image River Tavern is very particular about everything, from the tea-pot, tea cups to how much the wait staff know about the menu. They are knowledgable and extremely detail oriented. You can tell that the owner has high expectations and the staff cares deeply.imageRiver Tavern’s menu changes daily. Thank goodness I took pictures of the menu on Feb 28th. This is the Smelts: Fried smelts with celery root remoulade, rye crisps, dill + lemon. You may think fried smelts are heavy… Yes, that is possible. But you have not tried them with the dill + lemon sauce. It was excellent!imageP.E.I. Mussels: sautéed with merguez, garlic, chilies, oregano, tomato paste + wine. I ordered this dish because I have never seen Prince Edward Island mussels cooked with merguez before. Unfortunately, the merguez was used in the pot and not served to the customers. Even more unfortunately, I could not taste the merguez in the broth nor the mussels. Other than that, this was an excellent dish as well.imageSoeltl Farm Beef Burger: cheddar cheese, homemade pickles, ketchup + green on brioche, served with french fries. Best burger ever! Cooked perfectly medium and juicy. The homemade pickles were awesome. The fresh veggies were just better on the  burger than those that are a day old.imageFalafel: fried + served with hummus and a cucumber, lettuce, pickles onion salad, spiced yogurt sauce, pine nuts, lemon + olive oil. Decent to almost excellent.

Interestingly, they also listed Pho on their menu and I was tempted to order Pho in the middle of nowhere CT. After I grilled the server again and again on how the Pho is prepared, I decided to go against it because they ran out of Hoisin sauce. I believe I made the right choice since the burger really scored! This reminds me of listening to the soccer games on the Spanish radio station… Gooooooooal.

Highly recommend it.  Will go back again and again.

This experience took place at

River Tavern
23 Main St
Chester, CT 06412
Phone:(860) 526-9417

Oceana in Manhattan, NYC – The World Is My Oyster, A Matter of Food and Life

I have been thinking a lot about how to write this post because the experience was not only about the food. The food played a big part for sure but the experience was more about connecting the dots in life, much like how the oysters showed up on the plate for me that night. Oceana is a seafood restaurant located on 49th Street and Ave of the Americas in New York City. It’s supposed to be a great one with a premier locale.

Oceana belongs to the Livanos Family who owns Moderne Barn in Armonk and City Limits Diner in White Plains. I was not aware of this fact until I did the research on Oceana post my dining experience.  Interestingly, the performance of Oceana is consistent with my experiences at both restaurants in the Westchester county. It’s consistently fine but not outstanding. Read my earlier posts, click here for Moderne Barn and here  for City Limits.image Chef’s compliment – Something about sunchokes with cream. Couldn’t really hear the waiter. It was good. imageOysters: Naked Cowboy (LI), Summerside (PEI), Dabob Bay (WA), Totten Inlet (WA), Fanny Bay (British Columbia), Tokeen Bay (AK).  I won’t point fingers since I am not 100% sure… I believe starting at 12 o’clock is the Naked Cowboy (2 each) and then rotate clockwise to Tokeen Bay. If that were true, Dabob Bays were really dumb! They were tasteless and meaty with a low salinity. Naked Cowboys and Summerside were everything one would expect from east coast oysters. They were beautiful, sweet and strong with a mineral taste. imageTamari Glazed Steelhead Salmon: soybeans, water chestnuts, shiitake broth. Excellent. Excellent. This was the best for the night.imageSticky Toffee Pudding: rum caramel, coconut ice cream, toasted coconut. Oceana’s dessert menu sounded very promising but the reality is far from satisfactory. This was ok but I certainly would not spend my calories on it.imageChocolate Layer Trifecta: chocolate cake, toffee crunch, chocolate crémeux. I love chocolate. Chocolate makes me happy. When a menu item lists chocolate three times, I expect the dessert to deliver a pleasant punch if not a high. Hershey’s kisses is the quality of this dessert. Mediocre and main stream. I had two bites.imageChef’s Compliments: They came by twice to try to give us the same complimentary dessert. My friend believes that the chef went out to a Duane Reade across the street and bought a bag of these to distribute to the diners. Sadly, they taste true to the Duane Reade candies.

Whenever I have oysters, I highly anticipate. Oysters are a representation of best things life can offer – smooth, alive, salty and sweet, mineral/floral, and filled with changes and surprises. They never sucked for me until those two dumb oysters that night. On that tray of twelve, some were pleasant highlights and two were not worth eating, reminding me to check my cavalier attitudes at the door, pay attention to my present-and-now, connect the dots and don’t let the restaurant bring their oyster sampler. Take charge to find that oyster high. Live deeply and fully.

Consistently with the other Livanos Family restaurants, Oceana was fine but not outstanding.

This experience took place at

Oceana

120 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

Cellar 49 in Tarrytown, NY- A Weird Basement Restaurant in an Estate Mansion

I found myself at Cellar 49 in Tarrytown, NY. This is the on site restaurant for Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center, one of the Destination Hotels. This was a completely weird experience. The estate is large and well-manicured; the restaurant is located in the basement or the wine cellar of this majestic old house. All sounds great so far, right? image For a 8:30pm dinner, there were no other diner in the restaurant. The servers had nothing to do and were way too friendly. See this little hut in the photo? It was built to block the entrance to the kitchen. The picture in the middle of the wooden wall blocks the window into the kitchen.imageWINGS / sweet chili or honey buffalo. Surprise! These honey buffalo wings were excellent. Not really spicy but they were fried perfectly and seasoned with enough sugar to keep me going until tomorrow morning.imageBABY BEETS / smoked / yogurt / candied cashews / herb puree. Interesting plating and concept. Liked the color play but the beets were not seasoned properly. The herb puree did absolutely nothing.imageSMOKED PORK CHOP / grits / chard / peach preserves. The glaze and the execution were what made the dish stand out. The meat was tender, juicy and sweet- like all good tropical fruits. I was impressed by how tender it was because this chop was thick and wide.imageDUCK TACOS / chorizo / onion slaw. The concept was intriguing and worthy. The execution was terrible. The duck was dry. The combination of duck and taco was a no go. Did not taste the chorizo – perhaps it was masked in the slaw.

Although we were the only ones in the restaurant, the noise level was intolerable. The loud conversations from the bar were piped directly into the restaurant space. It was not just loud, it was crystal clear. I heard the entire conversation about someone they know between a woman and the server.

Overall, the food was a little awesome when they hit it right; when they didn’t, it was disappointing. Out of the four dishes, two were excellent. The entire experience of eating at a restaurant alone in the basement of an estate mansion while listening to loud conversations next door was just weird. I wonder how destination hotels stay in business with no one dining in their restaurants.

This experience took place at

Cellar 49
Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center

49 E Sunnyside Ln,
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Phone:(914) 591-3183

The Spread in South Norwalk, CT- Happy Friday! Hope Your Day Will Be Just Fine

The Spread in South Norwalk, CT is a popular restaurant for a Sunday brunch. When I went there with a friend, the restaurant was full and the noise level was high, filling with energy. We were sat down immediately next to a wall of plants.
French press coffee. It was a pleasant surprise when the decaf coffee I ordered came with a French press. Even not so great coffees can taste better with a French press. I was really tickled when the coffee and the cream were served in delicate bone china. I straightened my back and sat up properly! See the sugars?  The container for sugar was an electrical socket box.Bloody Maria with bacon, tequila-spiked! I think it’s a little weird but who am I to judge?
illy espresso. Bone china saucer plate with the thick illy cup.  ALASKAN BENNY: poached egg | smoked salmon hollandaise | English muffin. This was ok. Just ok.

The restaurant itself is an experience with the plants on the wall, the cute distressed wood tables and the fine china. It’s a little quirky, a lot adorable and very fine. For that, it’s worth going.

This experience took place at

The Spread

70 N Main St
Norwalk, CT 06854
Phone:(203) 939-1111

Brew Works in Fremont, Michigan – Population 4,000. Do You Know Where That Is?

Happy Leap Day! An extra day in the year… What to do?

My business trip takes me further into the heart of Michigan. I found myself at Fremont, Michigan, where the main road is only dense for a few blocks and there are only two options for lodging. Fremont is quite a shock for a girl who grew up in NYC but that’s where the beauty of Fremont comes in. I felt like I was in a foreign country although I was only a 2-hour direct flight away. People in Fremont are one of the best in the world- friendly, helpful and kind. I had dinner at Brew Works, a fairly new establishment next to a bowling alley. Brew Works restaurant serves pub food with 12 craft beers on tap.​​Fried Egg Burger – Egg cooked to order with bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Topped with garlic cracked pepper aioli. Garden Salad – Romaine with broccoli, cauliflower, peas, onion, tomato, carrots and smoked mozz. Dressing of your choice.

The food was awesome. I loved the fatty, cholesterol filled fried egg and beef patty burger. The salad was good, too, and cut down on the total proportion of grease that I put into my body. In addition, I tasted two different cider beers and they were both worthy. Brew Works is a gem in Fremont, Michigan.

This experience took place at

Brew Works

5909 S Warner Ave
Fremont, MI
Phone:(231) 924-6855

Reds on the River, Rockford, Michigan – Do You Know Where Rockford Is?

A business trip landed me at Reds on the River, in Rockford, Michigan, on a Monday afternoon at 4pm looking for lunch. Do you know where Rockford is? It has a population under 6k. Reds is the favorite restaurant of the gentleman who heads my company’s Contact Center. This is also the place where the company’s President’s Award would take place. The President’s Award celebrates the top agents and supervisors in the Call Center. The restaurant is upscale, contemporary and serves modern American cuisine.Artisan Midwest Cheese Plate: Three unique styles with traditional accoutrements. We were so hungry when we arrived that everything tasted fantastic. The goat cheese on far left was excellent. The cheddar on right was pedestrian. I still couldn’t figure out the what the beige nuts at bottom are – almonds?
Roasted Moroccan Cauliflower: Spinach, Marcona Almonds, Cumin Yogurt, Harissa Butter, Golden Raisins. This has the making of a happy Moroccan dish with cumin and harissa. The misstep comes from the yogurt. There was too much of it on the plate and softened up the roasted cauliflowers.  Calamari Fritti: Romesco Sauce and Lemon. My colleagues loved this. I had a slightly different opinion – I think they should have gone light on the Romesco sauce.Caesar Salad: Romaine, Garlic Croutons, Parmesan Reggiano.8 oz. Filet Mignon with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Excellent! Other than the minor issue of not exactly firing to the right temp. This seems to be the downfall of many restaurants. However, Reds were serving over 27 of us and I imagined that makes the temp control even more challenging.

In summary, I think Reds on the River is on par with those in the NYC which makes it more amazing since it is in Rockford, an hour north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Do you know where Grand Rapids is? 🙂  Grand Rapids has a population under 200k.

Although it’s hard for a New Yorker to wrap her head around towns and cities with such low population, I thoroughly enjoyed spending some freezing February days in Michigan and dinner at Reds.

This experience took place at

Reds on the River

8 E Bridge St,
Rockford, MI 49341
Phone:(616) 863-8181