By LIZ BUTTON
To kick-off the start of the eighth annual Hudson Valley Restaurant Week and commemorate the 330th year since the county’s founding, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino celebrated the dual occasions on Nov. 1 by blowing out the candles on a gourmet birthday cake.
Astorino visited the newly-opened farm-to-table restaurant RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen in Tarrytown to inaugurate the annual foodie event.
Presented by The Valley Table, a regional cuisine magazine, Restaurant Week, which runs from Nov. 4 to 17, is hosted by 185 restaurants. More than 100 of the participating establishments are in Westchester, but Restaurant Week also includes eateries from across Columbia, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Ulster and Dutchess counties.
To provide access to the region’s agricultural riches to a broader spectrum of the public, participating restaurants will serve three-course prix fixe meals over two weeks; not including beverage, tax and tip, dinners cost $29.95 and lunches are $20.95.
The participating restaurants collaborate with Hudson Valley Restaurant Week to showcase the efforts of local farmers, growers, wine makers and chefs as well as the region’s distributors, producers, purveyors, breweries and cheese makers.
The history of Westchester has involved farming since the county’s beginnings in 1683, when New York—a British crown colony at the time—was divided into 12 counties. Mirroring the early days when Westchester residents still grew all their food on their own, farm-to-table meals and sustainable farming practices are still a part of county culture.
“Today in a way, we’ve come full circle, where farm-to-table is at the heart of our county’s dining experience,” Astorino said.
The informal birthday celebration was a way to honor “what [the county] has become and where it is today,” Laura Lee Holmbo, manager of sales relations for The Valley Table and Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, said.
The event was founded in 2006 by Janet Crawshaw and Jerry Novesky, publishers of The Valley Table, in the spirit of the region’s local food movement.
Since its inception, “[Restaurant Week] has really evolved in size and scope, including geography for that matter,” Holmbo said. There are a lot of farms in Westchester that not only provide ingredients to the participating restaurants, but to the greater community as well, which can translate well in a tourism perspective,” Holmbo said.
Participating farms include Hemlock Hills Farm in Cortlandt Manor, Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown Heights and the Thompson Cider Mill in Croton-on-Hudson.
Westchester Tourism and Hudson Valley Restaurant Week have worked hand in hand from the beginning to publicize and organize the two-week event, Holmbo said, and Westchester County has the largest representation at the event.
Because of the event’s relationship with the Westchester tourism board, participation from Westchester has also increased over the years, she said.
Natasha Caputo, director of Westchester County Tourism & Film, said the tourism department works closely with the participating restaurants, sending out press releases to promote the event, which gives a big boost to the local economy.
The county’s celebration of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week also ties in with the department’s “Meet Me in Westchester” campaign, which was created to encourage residents to invite their families and friends to visit Westchester to experience different aspects of the county’s hospitality. The tourism department is a division of the county’s Office of Economic Development that is funded by a portion of the county’s hotel occupancy tax.
While a full roster of Restaurant Week regulars will be on hand, such as Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua and the Bedford Post Inn in Bedford, this year there are 14 Westchester restaurants that are participating for the first time.
“The slate of Westchester restaurants “really runs the gamut,” Caputo said, and guests over the next two weeks can look forward to diversity of choices.
With a wide variety of cheaper meals at desirable restaurants around the county, the week “allows you the opportunity to go to perhaps a restaurant in another part of the county,” Caputo said.
Some of the event’s first-time participants include a few newly-opened restaurants as well.
RiverMarket, the sister restaurant to Crabtree’s Kittle House, which opened in September, and Pinch at the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, which had its grand opening in June.
Other new participants include established destinations like burger emporium Dan Rooney’s at Empire City, Saint George Bistro in Hastings-On-Hudson and farm-to-table enclave Farmer & The Fish in Purdys.