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Shrimp FreebirdShrimp and gritsCraig Claiborne, the renowned food writer who grew up in Mississippi, wrote, “ Nothing rekindles my spirits and gives comfort to my heart and mind than thoughts of a platter of fried chicken, field peas, collard greens and a wedge of freshly baked pecan pie.” The recently opened Freebird Kitchen and Bar, a new restaurant with tastes of our American South offers many of the comfort dishes of this part of our country, right here in White Plains.

As I entered this new dining spot, I was impressed with its rustic and comfortable atmosphere. Wood and brick with a beige and brown color palate gave it a country feel. On the main level, where I dined, there were many wooden topped tables, a large bar, seating 30 and many high top tables, as well. This dining room and bar area seats about 120 guests. Upstairs, there is rooftop dining, perfect for celebrations and seating about 120, as well, with its own bar. In warm weather, seating is set up for about 40 guests along Mamaroneck Avenue. The focal point of the main dining room, is a handcrafted mobile of about 250 origami birds suspended from the wood planked ceiling.

Owner Nick Fusco Jr. indicated that food was very important in his family as he grew up. He gained experience in the restaurant business at Mulino’s and at his family owned Iron Tomato and earned a college degree in finance along the way. “I wanted to open my own restaurant and knew it had to be something different, not of the very popular Italian variety. A southern style seemed to be the next cool thing and our southern inspired idea led to the opening of Freebird Kitchen and Bar. As a restauranteur, it is most important to enjoy people and have good service so our guests enjoy a great experience while enjoying the well-prepared food. Being there is very important, as well.”

We made ourselves comfortable at a wood planked topped table and spread our no-nonsense kitchen towels on our lap and proceeded to enjoy the warm house madeimage1Chicken and Wafflescornbread. As we checked out the menu, the flock of origami birds were swaying overhead.

Heading the kitchen is Chef James McCue who graduated from The Culinary Institute of America. His interest in food started at a very early age when he accidentally broke a window in a pizza shop. The owner invited him in and proceeded to teach him some kitchen skills. His skills led him to culinary school and work at the kitchens of Crabtree Kittle House, ABC Kitchen, The Castle, and most recently at Kee Oyster House. His dishes at Freebird show off his ability to prepare dishes of the American South with his own special flair.

We started with selections from the snack and share section of the menu. Pei mussels were mingled with house-made crumbled sausage resting in a white wine sauce. Grilled bread slices absorbed the well-flavored sauce and provided a perfect shared appetizer. We enjoyed some very fresh grilled oysters with garlic butter. These juicy morsels had us picking up the shell and slurping down the fresh from the sea liquid they emitted. The oysters are delivered daily from a Connecticut oyster farm. A traditional lump crab cake was embellished with a creamy tomato and horseradish sauce. Arugula salad added another dimension to this classic dish. Other enticing starters are burnt ends chili, fried green tomatoes, house wings with a choice of sauces and rubs, and a trio of sliders allowing you to sample several appetizers. I tasted a variety of house-made sauces, as well, from Mississippi Comeback, a thousand island variety, Alabama BBQ, quite hot, dirty south, a creamy cheese sauce and hot pepper jelly both sweet and hot. Don’t ignore the salads here. Kale and apple, BBQ bourbon and BLT salad sound quite good. We savored the candy-striped beet salad. Here, the sweet small fresh beets were presented with fresh blueberries and pistachio nuts and a few dollops of yogurt with a lemon vinaigrette. It was an excellent and refreshing combination that probably would even appeal to nonbeet lovers.

From the plates section, we enjoyed a classic of shrimp and grits. The tender tail on shrimp were seasoned with Cajun spices and sat atop cheesy grits along with andouille sausage, cherry tomatoes, and fresh spinach. The slices of spicy sausage added zest to this southern favorite and the grits calmed down the spicy taste of the sausages. Chicken and waffles seem to appear on many menus these days. At Freebird, they start with the exceptional Freebird chickens. The secret lies in the brining process for 2 days. Well coated and fried, the resulting chicken is crisp on the outside and very moist within. A drizzle of the nicely spiced maple syrup both sweet and savory and homemade waffles are a fine combination. Cubes of cooling watermelon completed this plate of many tastes. The dish can be ordered in Nashville Hot Style, as well as a spicier version. Among the plates offered I was very impressed with the off the bone bourbon-braised short rib. This mammoth slow cooked short rib was fork tender, no knife needed here. The flavorful juices permeated the steel cut oats and long-cooked collard greens that accompanied it. Although many would consider this a cold weather dish, I would be comforted by it all through the year. Grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, grilled salmon with roasted red pepper sauce and seared cod are yet to be tried. For the burger lover, try the Freebird burger with pepper jack cheese, the pimento cheeseburger on Texas toast, or a comforting burger with buttermilk drop biscuit, cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes and country gravy. On the side try brisket disco fries, roasted Brussels sprouts, or string beans with house smoked bacon.

image2Beet saladYes, desserts are all house-made, as well. We loved the toasted angel cake. The angel cake was thinly sliced and toasted and layered with lightly simmered fresh berries in a Meyer lemon sauce. A sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar completed this light and delicious dessert. Lunch and happy hour menus are varied, as well. Specials are offered each day. The roomy bar invites you to sample at least 28 rotating craft beers on tap, as well as small batch whiskey and inventive house smoked cocktails. To add to the feeling of southern hospitality, Thursday evenings offer live acoustic music.

On an avenue where the bar scene prevails, it is a real treat to visit the new Freebird Kitchen and Bar where American cuisine with the warmth and flavor of our American south assures a delightful experience. Visit it soon.

Freebird Kitchen and Bar 
161 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains 
914 607 2476

Recipe for Crab Cakes: (4 Crab Cakes)
1 pound lump crab meat
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped scallion
1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
½ cup mayonnaise
2 eggs
I cup panko breadcrumbs for the crabcake
1 cup panko breadcrumbs for the coating
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup diced red pepper
¼ cup diced red onion
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil or canola oil for frying

In a bowl, mix together parsley, scallion, Old Bay seasoning, mayonnaise, eggs, 1 cup of panko crumbs, mustard, red pepper, red onion, lemon juice and salt and pepper. When they are well combined add the crabmeat and do not break it up too much. Form the mixture into four cakes and roll each in the extra cup of panko crumbs. Heat oil in a skillet and fry crab cakes until golden on both sides.

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NicksonFor years I have heard about a special private collection of art collected by William Louis-Dreyfus in Mount Kisco, but I had no idea how to get in to see it.

It sounded intriguing. Apparently Louis-Dreyfus, a successful businessman and the father of famed actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, had been building this unique collection for fifty years. He passed away at the age of 84 in September 2016 and left a lifetime of artworks, among them a number of important self-taught pieces, in an unassuming building in Mount Kisco. How would I get in to see these 4,000 works?

Fortunately a friend mentioned that the collection, now officially The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation, is open to the public by appointment and made a date for the two of us to tour it. When we arrived at the building, there were few signs from the outside that the former home of Ideal Electric had been converted into a 16,000 square foot museum.

Curator Christina Kee sat us down at a stunning Nakashima conference table and explained that Louis-Dreyfus was a unique collector who sought out unconventional works throughout his life, acquiring pieces from small auction houses and student exhibitions in addition to international galleries and art fairs. He assembled a diverse collection, purchasing the works of artists he admired throughout their careers. With an open mind and a discerning eye, he identified artists whose talent were not previously recognized or appreciated.

The result is an eclectic mix of drawings, paintings and sculpture, including a range of works from those who were once termed “outsider” artists, many who never attended traditional art schools and forged their own unique styles.

On view last week were the works of self-taught artists such as Bill Traylor, Thornton Dial, James Castle and Judith Scott – all with fascinating stories behind them.

We viewed a series of drawings by James Castle, who was born deaf in rural Idaho, who never learnedCastleFarmyard View with Sheds by James Castle to communicate through any conventional means. He drew using a mixture of soot from the fireplace and his own spit, creating a medium called “soot and spit” by Castle scholars. He depicts a bleak and simple rural life, often drawing on the backs of cartons and containers.

Bill Traylor from Alabama was born into slavery and for most of his life he was a sharecropper on a farm. In fact, he did not start his career as an artist until the age of 84 when he set up his studio under a tin room in a marketplace in Birmingham. In the remaining years of his life he created over 2,000 drawings. They are simple but expressive works, depicting his unique experience in the south.

Not all the works are small. Large colorful canvases by Graham Nickson depict beach scenes in brilliant hues, and an extensive collection of paintings by the Italian artist Leonardo Cremonini are also part of the mix. Also view the works of celebrated artists like George Grosz, Raymond Mason, Red Grooms, and Claes Oldenburg.

The Foundation intends through the eventual sale of its artworks to benefit the Harlem Children’s Zone, a New York non-profit that assists children in Harlem from toddlerhood through college. Founded by Geoffrey Canada the group seeks to end the cycle of poverty by positively impacting entire families over the course of their lives.

TraylorWoman Pointing at Man with Cane by Bill TraylorThe William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation is located in Mount Kisco and open year-round to the public by appointment, with tours regularly scheduled Mondays through Wednesdays. It will also be hosting an open house event on Sunday May, 20 from 1:00 – 4:00. To book a tour or attend the open house please contact Space for the open house may be limited. Learn more here:


DreyfusWilliam Louis-Dreyfus

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festivalballetNot even a fierce Nor' Easter that shut down many Village roads could stop the 2018 Scarsdale Chinese Association's Spring Festival on March 3, celebrating The Year of the Dog.

The festival was moved back to the Scarsdale Congregational Church after last year's larger festival celebrating the Year of the Rooster at Woodlands High School in Hartsdale.

The Scarsdale Chinese Association began 13 years ago with only 25 families and, as of last year, there were 250 families in the group. This years' festival was headed by Caroline Huang.

The festival began with the traditional Lion's Dance and included 11 additional performances of traditional dances martial festivaldarts, Tai Chi, and a violin solo. Children were involved in many of the acts, including a dance by beautiful young ballerinas.

Following the performances there were cultural activities including calligraphy, knot tying and lantern making. And of course no event is complete without food where there were spring rolls, dumplings, chocolate coins, tangerines and Chinese tea.

Commenting on the festival, SCA Chair Caroline Huang said, "The celebration was smooth and successful based on the feedback from the attendance. We had a good amount of turnout. We are thankful to our motivated and talented volunteers, Scarsdale Congregational Church and everyone who participated in the event."


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LukaDiningRoomIt seems as though Westchester County can never have its fill of Italian restaurants. They range from casual pizza spots to formal white tablecloth venues. A new and more formal opening is Luka's Italian Cuisine at the former location of the long time and very popular Ernesto's. The space has be completely redecorated. Steps away from the northern border of Scarsdale, with an adjacent parking lot, it is a convenient new Italian dining spot for diners from Scarsdale and other surrounding communities.

Luka's is owned by Luka Brucaj, a veteran restauranteur. His roots are in Montenegro, where his family had a market. When he arrived here in the early 1990's, he worked in the hospitality business at Coco Pazzo and Michael Jordan's Steakhouse in Manhattan. For many years after that, he worked at the popular, Tre Angelina, in White Plains with his brother. When the space on West Post Road became available, Luka thought it was a perfect spot for him to open his own establishment, and Luka's Italian Cuisine was born. As you enter the restaurant, there's a 100 seat party room is to your left, formally decorated with several sparkling crystal chandeliers, an oversized TV screen, and linen clad tables, making it a perfect party venue. A comfortable bar separates it from the 60 seat dining room. White linen cloths, and a single red rose in a bud vase, set the mood for your lunch or dinner. The ecru and white walls and large arch shaped windows overlook Post Road, and scenic gold framed landscapes grace the walls. On my recent visit the sun gave the room a nice glow. A wine cellar dining room is in the process of being created downstairs, providing another dining venue in the company of a large selection of international wines.

Owner Brucaj believes, "We must value our guests and treat them well with elegant service and fine food. Our menu is mostly traditional with creative touches. Everybody is welcome at our door. We accept reservations, but if people arrive without one, we try to accommodate them as they have a drink at the bar. I enjoy all areas of my work." It is obvious that Brucaj enjoys chatting with his guests. The wait staff is professional and attentive. Brucaj indicated that," We are very accommodating, and if the ingredients are available, we will suit our dishes to your taste."

Heading the kitchen is Chef Roger Bruci who worked with Brucaj for many years. With more than a dozen antipasti choices, it was difficult to decide on our starters. Clams casino, clams oreganata, fried calamari, mozzarella carrozza were some popular choices. Hot or cold antipasti for 2, give you the opportunity to sample several dishes. With seafood on my mind, I decided upon dishes based on clams, shrimp and mussels. Clams and shrimp posillipo was a wonderful combination of plump little neck clams arranged on a large platter with shrimp, enrobed in a sauce of fresh plum tomatoes and a fragrant combination of garlic, herbs and spices. This generous starter was just lovely. Our house made rustic bread was great for mopping up every last drop of the sauce. Mussels Blanco was a nice choice, as well. Here again a large platter arrived filled with fresh as could be steamed open mussels cooked in an herb infused white wine sauce and tossed with cannellini beans and a scattering of fresh zucchini half moons. These dishes were a nice introduction to the kitchen at Luka's.

Several of the pastas here are house made. The Gnocchi SicilianoLukasRavioli was rich and divine. The gnocchi was tossed with cubed eggplant, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Topped with a dollop of ricotta cheese, it was a filling and tasty pasta choice. The house made cavatelli primavera was mixed with zucchini, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli for a colorful dish. A light sauce brought out the garden fresh flavors. We look I look forward to sampling the house made fettuccine Bolognese, lobster ravioli in lobster sauce, bowties with chunks of salmon, sun dried tomatoes and peas in a pink sauce as well as the popular penne alla vodka or linguine alla vongole.

Classic soups of escarole and beans, minestrone, pasta fagioli and stracciatella ala romana are tempting starters, as I think of the snow falling out my window, as I write. To be optimistic, spring will arrive soon and one of the salads at Luka's would just hit the spot.

Risottos, chicken, meat fish and grilled dishes are offered as main courses. From the fish selections, shrimp, filet of sole, swordfish and lobster tail and sea bass await your tasting. We decided upon salmone alla mostardo. Here, the cream enhanced Dijon mustard sauce added flavor to the salmon which was cooked as requested, on the rare side. Sharing the plate were some al dente cooked cauliflower florets, carrot matchsticks and roasted potatoes. The dish was delicious in its lukas Fishsimplicity, and proved that starting with quality ingredients is important. Among the chicken and veal entrees the classics were all represented from veal piccata, Milanese and marsala to chicken scarpariello and martini. We tried Vitello Sorrentino. The scallopine of veal was layered with prosciutto, eggplant and mozzarella, a pleasing combination. Future visits may include a grilled dish, perhaps rib eye steak with polenta or pork chop topped with cherry peppers in a light balsamic sauce.

Desserts range from assorted sorbets, profiteroles, tiramisu and raspberry linzer torte. We opted for the chocolate soufflé, crisp on the outside and creamy within. It shared the plate with whipped cream, a sprig of fresh mint and a crunchy caramel ornament. The desserts are all prepared in house.
Luka's offers a varied lunch menu, as well. Many of the dinner choices are available at lunch, as well. Each day, the waiter will recite the daily specials, as well. The most difficult part of having a leisurely lunch at Luka's will be going back to work.

Welcome our new neighbor by paying a visit to Luka's Italian Cuisine, where traditional Italian dishes and a warm friendly atmosphere await you.

Luka's Italian CuisineLukas Dessert
130 West Post Road
White Plains, NY

914 607 3535

Veal Chop Milanese (serves 1)

For The Veal
1 Double Cut Veal Chop On The Bone
1 Egg, Well Beaten
½ Cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
2 Tbsps. Olive Oil
For The Salad
1 Cup Arugula, Stems Trimmed
1 Tomato, In Half Inch Cubes
¼ Red Onion, Chopped
¼ cup olive oil mixed with 2 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
½ Avocado, sliced or diced
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine tomato and red onion with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss together and let it marinate. In another bowl, place the arugula. Toss the marinated vegetables with the arugula and the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Top with avocado and serve with the veal chop, either next to or on top of. Reserve extra salad for another dish.

Heat 2 Tbsps. oil in skillet. Pound veal thinly and dip in egg, and crumbs, so the coating adheres to the veal well. Pan fry to desired doneness. Remove from pan and serve with salad.

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Burrito PoblanoMain Street in Tuckahoe has seen many changes in recent years, with new businesses and residential buildings arising. Along with its convenient location near the train station, it has become a perfect spot for restaurants to thrive.

If thoughts of burritos, quesadillas, tacos, fajitas enchiladas, chimichangas and tamales cause your taste buds to tingle, may I suggest a trip to Main Street in Tuckahoe, where the casual and unassuming Burrito Poblano Mexican Restaurant is serving some of the best authentic Mexican fare in the area. The Burrito Poblano has been treating us to Mexican food for about 18 years. The adjoin space was just vacated and Burrito Poblano has now expanded. From a small storefront with a counter and a few tables, it now seats about 60 guests. The new space has cactus in the windows and large murals of Mexican dancers and landscapes on the colorful walls. It is in this very simple atmosphere with dark wood tables and chairs that you can enjoy some terrific Mexican fare.burrito poblano tables

Owner Gilberto Garcia offers a large menu of dishes from his native Puebla. Both his wife and his nephew are busy at work with him in the kitchen." We prepare everything from scratch. Fresh jalapenos, tomatillos, and avocados are some of the prime ingredients in our kitchen. Poblano peppers of green color are less ripe and not as hot as red poblanos which are riper. Our dishes are traditional and many of my recipes originated in my mother's kitchen in Puebla. Since our expansion, we are open for longer hours to accommodate our hungry guests. We do a brisk take out business, as well. Given the opportunity, I would love to continue serving my lawyer, John Roman, one of my first customers. One of my goals for the future, is to open another restaurant in the county. "Garcia arrived here in 1985 and worked at many restaurants in lower Manhattan. He learned all aspects of restaurant ownership, from dining room to kitchen and eventually open his own spot here in Tuckahoe. If Garcia was savoring a meal at his restaurant, he might start with a chorizo tostada and follow that with an enchilada with green sauce. Dessert might be chocolate mousse.

burrito poblano meal 1The colorful menu with mouth watering photos starts with several appetizers. On a cool day you may wish to try their tortilla soup or a steaming bowl of chicken or beef vegetable soup. A variety of nachos, guacamole with chips or on a tostada, or several choices of tostadas. We started our tasting with irresistible Mexican tamales. These labor intensive packets were among the best I have eaten. Cornmeal and a generous portion of shredded cooked chicken were wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. We enjoyed home made green sauce with it. Like many dishes on the menu these are prepared fresh every day. Here they are truly a classic. We passed on the salads and moved on to tacos. There were many choices ranging from shredded chicken, grilled chicken, grilled steak, Mexican sausage, spicy pork and shrimp and the list goes on. Choose soft flour or corn tortillas or hard shell tacos. We loved our soft corn Mexican style tacos topped with chopped onion, shredded pork and lots of fresh minced cilantro and a wedge of lime which added wonderful flavor to the tender pork.

Enchiladas are varied. A plate of three soft corn tortillas can be filled with vegetables, shredded orburrito poblano meal 2 grilled chicken, ground beef, steak or spicy pork. Topped with mild queso fresca, lettuce, onion, tomato cilantro and a slice of radish and a choice of red green or mole sauce, they were very satisfying. Garcia explained that chili peppers can vary in their spice level making the sauce more or less pungent. The mole sauce is an integral part of Mexican cuisine. This complex sauce includes Mexican unsweetened chocolate and chill peppers. At Burrito Poblano it is an exquisite addition to many dishes and like everything here, it is made from scratch.

If your appetite is craving a super sized entrée, try the burritos enchiladas. You might opt to share this generous dish. Ours was filled with chicken and steak strips as well as rice and beans. It was rolled up and topped with melted Monterey cheese and surrounded with that outstanding mole sauce. Chorizo, spicy pork, or ground beef are other possible fillings. Open wide and bite into this tasty treat. Our chimichanga arrived as a flour tortilla filled with sautéed red and green bell peppers, onion and grilled shrimp. Rolled up and deep fried in vegetable oil, it was crisp and accompanied by shredded lettuce and corn niblets as well as nicely seasoned guacamole, which was combined with onion, tomatoes and fresh jalapenos and cilantro. This colorful offering can be filled with different varieties of chicken, meat or vegetables. Freshly prepared red and green sauce and sour cream are at your table, if you wish to enhance any of your dishes.

Burrito Poblano set up Future visits may include chile relleno, the roasted poblano stuffed with cheese, chicken flautas, grilled shell steak, chicken mole, pork chop in green sauce or a selection of fajitas as well as several shrimp entrees.

The desserts at The Burrito Poblano are all home made as well. Both the classic flan and coconut flan were smooth in texture and just sweet enough to please the palate. They were not drowning in syrup. The homemade tres leches cake rested in the three milk mixture and was accompanied by freshly whipped cream and berries. The cake absorbed the milk mixture and supplied a satisfying finale to our Mexican feast. Margeritas, mojitos and sangria will add to your dining pleasure here.

Some new additions will be added to the menu soon including ceviche and fish tacos. Enjoy lunch or dinner seven days a week where you can concentrate on classic traditional dishes freshly prepared in a simple atmosphere.

The Burrito Poblano Mexican Restaurant burrito poblano tacos
85 Main Street
(914) 3377900

Green Sauce Recipe {about 2 cups}
10 Jalapeno pepper, boilded or raw, stems removed
¼ Of an onion, chopped
1 Bunch of cilantro
1 Clove of garlic, chopped
10 Tomatillos, peeled, boiled or raw
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Place first 5 ingredients in blender container. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Enjoy with your Mexican meal. Store in refrigerator.

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