Thursday, Dec 14th

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O Mandarin for Culture and Cuisine

mandarin5Newly opened O Mandarin, is situated a few doors from H Mart Asian Market in Hartsdale. According to owner Peter Liu, the O in its name stands for original. With the beauty of both its décor and its food, I would add outstanding and overwhelming.

Owner Peter Liu came to the United States at the age of 18, with a passion for food, inspired by his grandparents. He settled in New Orleans where he received a degree in hotel management. He worked at many restaurants and was also involved in the culinary field in Rhode Island as well as Austin Texas. Upon arriving in New York, he worked in Portchester. Says Liu, "At O Mandarin, I hope to invite prominent visiting Chinese chefs who will arrange tasting menus for our guests. One of my goals is to have O Mandarin get a Michelin rating." His passion is evident in both décor and food. Catering is offered, as well. When I inquired about take out and delivery, he indicated that his food is at its best when eaten immediately after preparation. If Liu could invite anyone to O Mandarin, it would be his parents. "My goal is to introduce America to authentic Chinese cuisine."

Exquisitely decorated, O Mandarin is filled with mandarin2Chinese antiques and wall hangings. Liu travelled extensively in China to amass this collection of Chinese decorative art and furniture. From the carved dragon door handles to the elaborately carved stone hitching posts, meant to park your horse, the details inform us of the history of China. We arrived by car and parked in the ample parking lot. We entered O Mandarin and were transported to a world of authentic Chinese culture. Floral painted scrolls, antique kitchen utensils, elaborate headboards and ancient sand paintings are among the antiquities that line the walls. Large round tables, raised booths and banquettes, as well as a separate area with a large private table are your seating options. Bird cake inspired chandeliers subtly light the room. The setting is reminiscent of the dining room in an emperor's home. I even sat in the pair of Qin Dynasty chairs meant for the emperor and empress. It was in this elegant history filled space, that I proceeded to experience the authentic Mandarin cuisine as prepared by Chef Eric Gao, a protégé of esteemed chef Peter Chang. Comfortably seated at a large round elmwood table, Peter Liu and I savored a true banquet of authentic specialties. One could not help but note the imported Chinese dinnerware, the classic tea pot and the lacquered chopsticks. Red napkins added a pop of color.

Liu explained each dish and indicated that authenticity is the name of the game. Among the dim sum choices were flounder cilantro rolls, Shanghai spring rolls, and Sichuan crispy buns. We opted for soup dumplings and Sichuan wontons. In each dish, the delicate dough wrappers were prepared on site. We carefully punctured the soup dumpling and allowed the fragrant broth to fill our mouth. The flavor of ginger and vinegar was utter perfection. The Sichuan wontons filled with chicken and pork were perfectly spiced, with just enough seasoning to awaken your taste buds. The soup selections included cilantro tofu, wild mushroom and riblet and chicken corn. We enjoyed the famous Chengdu fish soup. It arrived as a meal in a bowl with flounder, vermicelli, and Chinese mustard cabbage. The freshness of the fish added beautiful flavor to the broth. Brought to the table in a lovely covered tureen, it maintained its temperature as it was spooned into our bowls.

mandarin3There were several cold appetizers to choose from. Liu suggested his favorite, lotus root and sticky rice, and it was a fine choice. It was crisp and slightly sweet, a nice light beginning. Other cold appetizers such as Sichuan peppercorn tofu skin, wild peppercorn and wood-ear mushrooms, and minced garlic and pork belly await future visits. The hot appetizers included familiar chicken lettuce wraps as well as mussels in black bean broth and wok fried eggplant. I opted for the glazed spareribs, meaty and finger licking good.

Many of us have tried the famous Peking Duck at various Chinese restaurants. Do try this dish at O Mandarin where it is painstakingly prepared from scratch in the traditional manner. The tender organic duck is encased in homemade flour crepes along with scallions, cucumber and homemade hoisin sauce. It was one of the best renditions of the dish I have ever had. Liu explained that it started out as an imperial delicacy a thousand years ago. Savoring it at O Mandarin will make you feel like royalty as well.

About 20 Mandarin classics are offered. I loved the shredded pork with bamboo. Combined with smoked bean curd, leeks and baby bamboo it was a nicely seasoned and multi textured dish. Future choices may include Sichuan seafood clay pot, sweet pea prawns, basil chicken or lions head meatballs. Among the chef's signature dishes we enjoyed Mandarin smoked pork. Cilantro added a fine taste to the pork, leeks, red peppers and celery. It was beautifully presented in a bamboo serving dish. We also play to try the Sichuan lamb chops, Dungeness crab or a variety of steamed or crisp whole fish.

Along with our entrees we loved fresh pineapple fried rice served in half of a fresh pineapple. Several varieties of rice including jasmine made this dish special. Healthy vegetable and tofu dishes and several rice and noodle options are offered, as well. Complete your meal with a taro spring roll, pumpkin cake or sweet sticky rice soup.
If lunch is your meal of choice, many more familiar dishes are offered. For the less adventuresome there is wonton, egg drop or hot and sour soup and entrees of General Tso's Chicken, orange peel chicken, Asian vegetables and tofu and shredded pork in sweet bean sauce to name but a few.

Much thought and passion went into planning O Mandarin and the result is a unique and sophisticated experience in Chinese culture and dining where a happy spirit fills the air.

As we exited the restaurant and entered the reality of busy Central Avenue, we looked forward to many more visits to the serenity and sophistication of O Mandarin.

O Mandarin Chinese Cuisine
361 North Central Avenue
Hartsdale, NY
(914) 437 9168

Contributor Judie Dweck has been writing about restaurants and food for many publications. She teaches creative cooking to children at Scarsdale elementary schools. Through the years, her articles have appeared in Jack and Jill Magazine, Spotlight, The Pleasure of Cooking and The Scarsdale Inquirer. She balances her restaurant tastings with daily ballet classes.

Tales from the 'Dale: Scarsdale Storytellers Tell All

SandiMarxI love listening to The Moth Radio Hour on NPR and sometimes find myself sitting outside in the car waiting to hear the end of these funny and often heart wrenching stories. Moth storytellers bare their most intimate secrets and share their embarrassing moments with thousands of listeners who they've never met. It's highly entertaining and often mind blowing.

That's why I was so excited when I found out that Scarsdale would have its own version of the story slam. Presented by the Scarsdale Adult School and hosted by former Scarsdale resident and StorySLAM champ Sandi Marx, "Tales From the "Dale And Beyond" promised to be a lot more fun than the usual gatherings I cover on weeknights, and the performance did not disappoint.

Each of the performers for the April 5th event at the Heathcote Auditorium was selected by Sandi Marx with Ann Sacher and Leesa Suzman, co-chairs of the Scarsdale Adult School Board of Trustees. They managed to attract some first rate talent, not surprising since most of the performers either grew up in Scarsdale or work or live here now.

Sandi Marx, served as host and storyteller and opened the night with a tale called "Race to Nowhere" about her early days in Scarsdale when she found herself outside her comfort zone in the pool of a local country club. Though she was trying to impress her small twins by participating in a race, it ultimately became evident that she didn't know how to swim!

Marx was followed by SHS English teacher Denise Del Balzo. suzmanIt was easy to see why she's a favorite among students and parents. In a story called, "When a Stranger Calls," she recounted her experience during a kidnapping that rocked New York in 1993. At the time, she was dating her future husband  whose mother's boyfriend went missing. It was later determined that he had been kidnapped and buried alive next to the West Side Highway. The New York Times called it a "bizarre case with flashes of Edgar Allan Poe," and Del Balzo's expertly delivered rendition of the family's wait for his return was one of the highlights of the night.

handelmanHigh school buddies Lori Weitzner and David Handelman made the return trip to Scarsdale to let us in on what happened way back when. It turns out that Lori was an associate editor of the yearbook when David was the editor. When it came time for the end of year dinner, rather than inviting Weitzner to the celebration, he told her that she had to cook the dinner. Outraged, Weitzner and her friend came up with a plan to set things right. In this riotous tale of revenge, the girls cooked up a special lasagna laced with dog food for Handelman ... but in a strange turn of events, Handelman's two younger brothers became the unknowing victims and eat the purloined pasta.

Somehow Weitzner and Handelman survived that scuffle and to become lifelong friends. In his performance, "You Can Go Home Again," Handelman described the summer after his graduation from Harvard. Unable to figure out how to pursue his dream to be a writer, he retreated to his room at home in Scarsdale, and much to his parents dismay, took a job at Ramsey's Farm. Now a successful television producer and writer, he looked back to the time when he had to explain to his parent's friends why he was bagging tomatoes at a farm stand.

I was instantly won over by Victoria Assa, who wasassa born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to Rego Park, Queens at the age of six. Anxious to appear American like her classmates, she was mortified by the appearance and customs of her parents and grandmother, who would pick her up at school with a chicken cutlet in her hand. Assa was determined to learn to speak English and dress like a New Yorker. Though she tried to escape her past, when she met the man who was to become her husband, it turned out that he had emigrated from Cuba. Victoria and her beau worried what their two sets of parents would have in common. But lo and behold, the in-laws met and realized they all knew the same communist song, but in different languages. Assa ended by saying, "We are all immigrants. Our unique stories don't tear us apart – they bring us together."

finksThe performers also included a father-daughter team – radio personality Jimmy Fink from the Peak with his daughter Lucie Fink, a video producer at Refinery29. Together they shared a story of what can happen when social media goes wrong. While appearing as a guest on the Today Show at NBC Lucie met Matt Lauer, and when he offered to take her to lunch to offer some career advice, Lucie was so excited that she tweeted out the news to her followers. Her tweet was picked up by the National Inquirer, who gave it a salacious spin. After Lucie ended up on the cover of the tabloid her story spiraled out of control. The brave duo explained what happened and how they repaired the damage.

Another member of the SHS faculty, Rashid Silvera took the stage, rashidsaying he "was raised by a fellowship of raconteurs." He told a story of his own evolutions saying, "You do not find the right people until you become the right person." He took us back to wild times at Studio 54 when Silvera was moonlighting as a GQ model. Only in his first year of teaching at SHS, he wasn't quite sure what the parents would think of his second career. He decided to test the waters when he was given a handful of VIP tickets to Studio 54 – which he called the "Tabernacle of Temptation." On open school night, while other teachers were conferring with parents about student's performance, he scoped out the crowd and distributed the free tickets to parents he thought might venture downtown. When the big night arrived, he was thrilled to find the parents "partying their heads off" on the dance floor. He was so happy to find the right people in Scarsdale, where he has stayed for three decades.

There were more great stories from Fran Scheffler-Siegel, June C. Sambol and Polish emigree, actress, writer and Moth GrandSLAM winner Danusia Trevino. The show was recorded and can be viewed on Scarsdale Public Television (Cablevision Channel 76 and Verizon Fios 42.

Hats off to Sacher, Suzman, Marx and the Scarsdale Adult School for producing great entertainment in the 'Dale. Let's hope it becomes an annual event.


Village Election Highlights the Need for a 21st Century Election System in New York

votingmachineDo you know what you're missing when it comes to your right to vote under the current NYS election laws – or what do about it? Most of us don't, and now is the time to get educated and let your state representatives know what changes you want them to make, like early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, electronic voter rolls, Election Day registration and automatic voter registration, to name a few.

Fortunately, there's an upcoming local opportunity to get informed and to engage directly with a panel of experts on NYS voting and elections, as members of the public are invited to the League of Women Voters of White Plains forum on "Voting Issues and Reform in New York" on Wednesday, April 19th at 7 pm. For the event flier, click here.

Following the last month's Scarsdale village elections, the Mayor justly praised our Village staff for their efficiency and professionalism in handling the historic voter turnout. But how much more quickly and efficiently could staff have processed the lines of Scarsdale voters at the Library using electronic voter rolls? And how many more Scarsdalians might have participated in this and other elections had New York State allowed early in-person voting on multiple days, including weekends, Election Day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and "no excuse" absentee voting?

"New York has long been a bastion of democracy," says New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, "but our state's current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy." For example, when it comes to efficient, fair and accessible voting, New York currently lags well behind the District of Columbia and many other states, including:
• 37 states that already allow early in-person voting; and
• 27 states that already allow "no-excuse" absentee voting.

When it comes to voter registration modernization, according to state data compiled by NYU Law School's Brennan Center, New York trails the District of Columbia and many other states, including:
• 34 states that use electronic voter rolls to process voters at the polls;
• 14 states that allow 16-17 year-olds to pre-register to vote before turning 18;
• 14 states that allow Election Day voter registration; and
• 6 states with automatic voter registration of eligible citizens thru interaction with government agencies, unless they "opt out."

New York voter turnout also ranks among the lowest in the nation, with only 57.3% of eligible New Yorkers reportedly casting ballots in the 2016 general election – the tenth-lowest voter turnout among all states.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act, a comprehensive reform bill, drafted to simplify the voting process and increase New York voter registration and turnout. Governor Cuomo also indicated support for reforms such as early voting and same-day voter registration; however, he has since postponed addressing New York's outdated voting laws until the April-June legislative session, after the state budget has been adopted.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization working to promote civic responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government.
The right of every citizen to vote has been a basic principle of the League since its origin in 1920, and the League has been fighting for equal access to the polls ever since. Nationwide, we register voters, provide nonpartisan election information, and fight for elections systems that are fair and accessible.

On Wednesday, April 19th at 7:00 pm the League of Women Voters of White Plains welcomes the public to learn about "Voting Issues and Reform in New York" and what can be done to bring the election process in New York into the 21st century.

Sally Robinson, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of New York State will moderate the discussion with three expert panelists: Tomas Lopez, Counsel for NYU's Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program; Jennifer Wilson, League of Women Voters of New York State Director of Program and Policy; and New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald, Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement.

The event is free and takes place at the Church Street School Auditorium, 295 Church Street, White Plains. For the event flier, click here. For more information, email:

Mary Beth Evans, Advocacy Chair
Deb Morel, President
League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

Starbucks Opens in the Golden Horseshoe

starbucks1Big news at the Golden Horseshoe: The spacious Starbucks has opened in an all-new building that will also include Chopt – which is set to open in just a few weeks.

The new Starbucks is large and offers their signature coffees, tea and iced drinks along with pastries, sandwiches in bistro boxes, snacks and smoothies. The large location has indoor and outdoor tables as well as counter seating. Probably most appreciated is the drive-through window so that customers can order without getting out of the car.

The Starbucks will be the only location in the area serving Nitro Cold Brew Iced Coffee which is cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen to create a smooth, naturally sweet beverage. Also available will be Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew.starbucks3

Starbucks Store Manager Sabryna Gerdon says, "So far we are very happy with the business and the community has been great! We are very excited to be here and we have received a warm welcome from the area. This location is one of the only drive-throughs in the area, and we are very proud of that. We will also be serving the new Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew Iced Coffee next week.

The store opens early – 5:30 am Monday – Friday, and 6 am on the weekend. It stays open late too .... 'til 10 pm on weekdays and 11 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

starbucks2Make new friends but keep the old. If you're in the area don't forget Bagel Power for fresh bagels, flavored cream cheese and great iced coffee with frozen coffee ice cubes too.

Watch for the opening of Chopt on April 28 and the big new CVS in June.

Fire Strikes on Stonewall Lane

stonewall1The Scarsdale Fire Department responded to a residential fire alarm at 34 Stonewall Lane on Friday afternoon, March 24 at 2:28 pm. They found heavy fire in the attic and additional pockets of fire in the walls of the basement, the first and second floors. The fire was burning in space in the walls for ductwork for air conditioning. Smoke was visible on the roof near the chimney. At the time of the fire, work was being done on the house.

The Scarsdale Fire Department called for mutual aid and trucks from Hartsdale and Greenville arrived to assist with units from White Plains and Fairview stationed at Scarsdale Fire Headquarters in case there was another emergency at the same time. Con Edison and SVAC were also on the scene.


The main body of fire was knocked out within the first 45 minutes of the incident, Afterwards, units continued an extensive overhaul of the fire areas. Volunteer members were directed to the first floor for salvage operations and water removal. Salvage and overhaul operations continued under the direction of the Westchester County Cause and Origin Team who investigated the cause of the fire. The Scarsdale Building Department responded to perform a check of the structure and to touch base with the homeowner.

Firefighters remained on the scene until just after six pm.

This was the fourth major house fire in the area in just four months.

Photos by Jon Thaler – see more here.