Flee the City; Savor the Region

‘Tis the season that most people are itching to take flight from their routines, regimented work days…nothing spells regeneration more than travel and holidays.

But if your travel this season is already behind you or you decided to forgo travel in favor of rehabilitating the finances this summer, then a local escape might be just the antidote.

View of the Hudson from Dobbs Ferry

View of the Hudson from Dobbs Ferry

So how local is a local escape, you might be wondering? As short as a 30 minute drive up the New York State Thruway or a 40 minute ride on the Metro North from Grand Central Station.

The destination?: Dobbs Ferry.

Attractions?: Spectacular views of the Hudson and the Palisades, the Manhattan skyline and beautiful blue expanses framed at certain points by the George Washington Bridge and the Tappan Zee Bridge. Visit charming shops, take in a tour of The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow,  writer, Washington Irving’s house,  the Sunnyside Home and enjoy pristine parks and picnic grounds.

Where to eat?:

Half Moon
1 High St.
Dobbs Ferry, NY
914.693.4130
Why? Expansive indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks the scenic Hudson. Elegant interior appropriate for formal  Refined and casual Spanish-inflected Contemporary American fare, courteous, attentive service and reasonable prices. While the vibe at Half Moon is relaxed and the attire smart casual, it’s also available as a venue for weddings and formal affairs.

I’ve been there several times and each time was more enjoyable than the next. As you would imagine, table reservations are a must, especially for the period between the Memorial- and Labor Day holidays. However, should you decide to go there on a whim, it’s possible to enjoy inspired bar fare in the comfortable lounge and bar area.

Here are some of the dishes that I can enthusiastically recommend:

India Pale Ale Steamed Mussels

India Pale Ale Steamed Mussels

The India Pale Ale steamed mussels is an excellent starter. A plentiful bucket of  meaty mollusks, steamed piping hot, clean on the palate and cooked to snappy perfection in a tantalizing ale-blond aromatic broth can be savored alone or in accompaniment with the generous basket of crusty Tuscan bread. Congratulations to you if you can resist the temptation to soak.

The Arugula Radicchio salad dressed with sherry wine and the shrimp ceviche are also winning choices.

Starters are well within the $10-$15 range.

Main courses:

Day Boat Scallops

Day Boat Scallops

The day boat scallops are stellar. Large, juicy and tender like velvet,  they are gently seared and coated in subtle brown butter sauce that provides delicate finish and does not in anyway diminish the flavors of seafood freshness. It comes with a generous side of patatas bravas and snap peas. The dish is fairly priced in the low $20 range.

Other inspired main course options include: halibut and mahi mahi a la plancha and the brick half chicken. All courses come with an inventive vegetarian side. Portions veer toward generous.

Desserts are fresh and elegantly presented. My only critique is that the dessert menu limited as it is composed of extremes like cheese cake and root bear float contrasted with seasonal berries with whipped cream. During my last two visits I was too full for most of the desserts and not quite in the mood for fruit. A light tart would have foundered my resistance.

If you come by car and want to make a day of it, it’s worth driving up to the village of Sleepy Hollow, where you can enjoy hiking, forests, lakes, scenic stretches of the Hudson and tour the famed 1913 John D. Rockefeller mansion, Kykuit designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. And while your there, drive aboutanother half mile to take in the beautiful Matisse and Chagall painted windows in the Union Church of Pocantico Hills.

On your way up to Sleepy Hollow, stop in Tarrytown, off of Route 9,
for a scrumptious and inexpensive lunch at:

Sweetgrass Grill
24 Main St.
Tarrytown, NY
914-631-000

Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown New York

Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown New York

Sweet Grass Grill is a charming local gem that executed  a cheerful, calming ecological concept in menu and design without being obnoxious or self-righteous about it. Moderate vegan and carnivore can feel equally comfortable here. The organic fare is internationally inspired, the portions plentiful and the prices delightfully low…one of my wildest food drem is that they’d transplant this place to Manhattan without changing a single thing about it…

O.K. Here are some of the dishes that my day trip companions and I have relished there:

Baby watercress

Baby watercress

This baby watercress salad is easily the most exciting watercress salads I’ve ever had. Grilled shitake mushrooms, shredded parmesan, roasted asparagus and pine nuts punctuate the wonderfully fresh greens and aromatic dressing.  Not only was this a deliciously satisfying and guilt-free lunch, at $8,  it was a gourmet bargain!

Grilled asparagus on foccacia with wheat salad

Grilled asparagus on foccacia with wheat salad

On a heartier side of things, the grilled asparagus on foccacia was also transcendently good and a great $8 deal.

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries are an absolute hit! Roughly cut, crispy, tender on the inside and without the tiniest hint of grease, they feel righteous too!

The sweetgrass sliders on foccacia make a great starter or a wonderful light snack. For dinner the petite poulet, braised to a deep shade of gold with broccoli rabe, pine nuts in a bold wine broth  is a delicious well and well balanced meal.

Sweetgrass also has a bar menu, assorted desserts and a kid’s menu.
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