Monday, March 22, 2010

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week: X2O Xaviars On The Hudson

I love the idea of restaurant week. Something about a limited time, pre-fix menu really motivates you to get out and try someplace new. Or someplace that you've been dying to go, but couldn't justify the expense. So, in honor of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week(s), I drove a few miles south to X2O Xaviars On The Hudson. The restaurant, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Hudson Valley special, sits on top of an old pier near the Yonkers train station. We were seated in the smaller dining room on the highest level -- at a corner table by the window, looking south toward the GWB and Manhattan skyline. After starting with a Hudson Bubble Cocktail (sparkling wine, blood orange juice and elderflower liqueur), we perused the featured menu which had a ton of options. I started with the spicy tuna roll, and I don't even really like raw tuna. But the generous eight piece serving was delicious and totally not fishy at all. My table also ordered the fennel soup (looked nice) and the mushroom custard, which unfortunately was a little too reminiscent in look and taste to Campbell's cream of mushroom soup straight from the can (although I am sure only the finest wild mushrooms and cream made it into the dish!). We all went with the roasted sirloin for our entree. And it was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy (and this from someone who typically orders her meat medium well). Paired with two sauces, the sauce choron listed on the menu and a sweet and spicy red sauce, the portion was perfect -- filling but not overfilling. Leaving room for dessert! While some went for the rich Belgian chocolate dome... ...I went with an off menu special -- chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream, which was perfectly nice and actually quite light (which I appreciated after my surf and turf dinner). I wish the ice cream (which initially sold me on the selection) had a little more pistachio oomph (like the pistachio gelato I had in Milan last year) but at least it wasn't green!

All in all, I had a great time. Although I felt a tad bit rushed through our meal (I get it -- they need to turn the table), the service was great and as Restaurant Week patrons, I did not feel like we were treated like second class citizens (as some places have been known to do).

There are six more days of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2010 -- plenty of time to try to snag a reservation at X2O, or start planning your trip to Yonkers this time next year!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hastings on Hudson Indoor Market

Saturday morning. High winds. Torrential downpours. A sane person would stay in bed. I went to the Hastings on Hudson indoor farmers market.

The Hastings market, which has been running indoors the second Saturday of each month since January, is slated to move back outside next month. But I am pretty sure all of the vendors were happy to be inside the community center last weekend.

I had never been inside the community center before, and was impressed with the openness and light in the space. Like other indoor markets, the Hastings winter market is heavy on the prepared food and meats, but there were a number of produce vendors. The most popular was tucked into a corner. The farm, which I think is the same as the one I frequented at the Scarsdale market, had all bases covered -- from winter squash and sweet potatoes to greens and spring onions! After waiting patiently in line (the "stand" had a "single occupancy" set up, if you catch my drift), I snagged a several red onions, two sweet potatoes, and small bunch of cilantro. Next door was Red Jacket Orchards, the which I consider one of the more sophisticated farmers market vendors as it's a bigger operation than most. With no honey crisps available, I had to be satisfied with a bag of Fuji apples. Just before leaving, I spotted some blush pink breakfast radishes I had to have. I'm pretty sure they were from Honey Locust Farm, which has been profiled in Edible Manhattan, but I'm not really sure, as by this time I was getting hot and bothered (between the crowds and my non-breathable rain gear). So I picked up my radishes and a bag of chickweed, which I was told was good for my, verbatim, "female parts" (sold!) and especially nice in sandwiches. I have since learned chickweed in fact an edible weed that most people try to kill (except those who raise chickens or are in herbal medicine circles, apparently) but a few people pay to hunt it. Not sure what I'll do with it, especially given the concern over the nitrate levels, but you'll be the first to know. I'm thinking some kind of pesto that can possible double as a salve if I get bug bites...Seriously! Despite the rain, I was on the go most of the weekend, and did not cook much, so the only farmers market find I used was the cilantro on top a bowl of southwestern style chicken soup. But since the next market isn't until April 10, I have some time to use the rest.

Southwestern Style Chicken Soup
This is a great fridge-clean-out soup, especially when you have the less appetizing bits of leftover rotisserie chicken lingering on a shelf. It also freezes well (omit the garnishes).
1 T. Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, peeled and diced
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
1 Zucchini or 1 Cup green beans, chopped
1 Red pepper, chopped
1 Yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1 Can Diced tomatoes
4 Cups Low sodium chicken broth
1 Cup Corn kernels
1 Cup Black beans
2 Cups Cooked chicken, shredded
1 Cup Cooked brown rice
Chili seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Hot sauce, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, crushed corn chips, sour cream (for garnish)
Heat olive oil over a medium flame, add onions and saute until translucent.
Add garlic, celery and carrot and saute for three minutes.
Add chili seasoning, salt, black pepper, raw red/yellow/orange peppers and zucchini, if using, saute for another five minutes.
Add broth and diced tomatoes, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add green beans (if using), corn, black beans, cooked chicken and cooked rice and heat until warmed through.
Garnish with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, crushed corn chips and/or a dollop of sour cream.