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patriasIt has been said that," strong vibrant colors attract guests to the Spanish table and half the eating is in the eyes." A visit to Patria's confirms this. Patria's, as the name suggests, is an homage to one's country or homeland, in this case of its co - owners Chef Mariano Aznar from Spain, and his sister in law Yvon Rodriguez from Peru.

Remembering previous visits, Chef Aznar, a culinary star from Barcelona, was my host. He riceballsexplained, "I love cooking new dishes and presentations so my food is not monotonous. My traditional tapas have inspired touches. My goal is to see happy guests." He did an apprenticeship in Barcelona at the tender age of 15. He studied at culinary arts school and went on to work at many French and Mediterranean restaurants. He was quite experienced when he arrived in New York in 1990. After working at Solera in Manhattan for several years, he opened his own restaurant in Port Chester followed by Espana in Larchmont. This was followed by Patria's which opened about 5 years ago.

At my very recent visit, co- owner Yvon Rodriguez was my charming hostess. Chef Aznar was visiting family in Barcelona. With the help of waiter Marco Gutierrez, I was royally treated to the Patria's dining experience. Ms. Rodriguez said, "I love when we are busy. I have learned so much from Chef Aznar. I always wanted to open a tapas style restaurant and Patria's is a dream come true. I love when I enter the dining room from the kitchen and our guests say good things about their experience. I enjoy every facet of the business, from keeping the dining room in pristine condition to cooking. Through the years, my Mom has inspired me. She is my God. Some of the most popular dishes here are our seafood paella, tuna tartar and ceviche."

The intimate space has a black and white color scheme, with touches of red. A large blackboard on one wall announces the menu and opposite, a light framed blackboard let's us know "It is Tapas Time."

A third wall evokes Peru's Lineas de Nazca. This sets the mood for the combination of the thrilling Spanish dishes from Barcelona where Chef Aznar hails from, as well as the delightful Peruvian ceviches from Yvon Rodriguez homeland of Peru. Dark wood tables and cushioned chairs, as well as a fabric lined bench supply seating for about 40 guests. Modern cylinder shaped lighting give a glow to the space. The shiny clean dark wood floor, indicates how carefully Patria's is maintained. Enticing Spanish music played in the background.

So many choices ..... from Peru, we started with Mariscos Classic Ceviche. Shrimp, bay scallops, and rings of scungilli combine with red onion, tomatoes, cilantro and lemon juice and marinate until the flavors meld, for a refreshing taste. It was a lovely bright way to start our tasting. The very fresh seafood was enhanced rather than overpowered by the onion, tomato, lemon juice and cilantro. We also sampled Patria's version of tuna tartar. Here, chopped fresh tuna was dressed with wasabi oil and chopped scallions. This was set atop, sliced avocado, tomatoes, and cucumber slices. A sprinkling of sesame seeds garnished the tuna, and a duet of grilled croutons added crunch to this variation of tuna tartar with an Asian flair.

Over two dozen tapas are offered. Many are classic Spanish choices and some are creative lambchopcombinations. I have always savored gambas al ajillos in Latin restaurants. At Patria's a sizzling pottery crock arrived bubbling with minced garlic, and guindillas peppers turning golden amidst the peeled shrimp. White wine and Spanish olive oil added zest to the sauce. Nice warm baguettes arrived which we promptly dipped in the sauce. It was sooo delicious and would be wise for your dinner partner to share this fragrant dish with you since its flavor will remain with you for a bit of time. To change tastes, we sampled dates wrapped in bacon and filled with almonds and strong cheese. The cabarales cheese balanced the garlic from the shrimp that preceded it. A tortilla espanola, the classic Spanish omelet, combined potato, egg, piquillo peppers, chorizo and parsley arriving in a perfect six inch disc topped with a dab of aioli. Crusty and crisp on the outside and soft and succulent within, it was well seasoned and a nice addition to the selection of tapas. Among the meat selections of the tapas was a plate of simply grilled baby lamb chops. They were nicely trimmed and easy to eat by holding the bone and devouring them in a few bites. Potato gratin and chimichurri a dip of garlic, parsley, olive oil and chili peppers and oregano went well with the chops. My favorite of all the tapas I tried was pochas con almejas. Here, a full-bodied well spiced sauce of chorizo and white beans, combined with Manilla clams. The clams were cooked until the shells opened and were tossed with the chorizo sauce- an excellent choice. Future tapas might include lamb meatballs with curry jus, Basque sautéed sausage, Canelones with shrimp, shrimp, spinach, ricotta and manchego cheese, cod fritters , Galician style octopus and beef skewers Moroccan style. This is real party food. It is a fun place to visit with a group so you get to taste a large variety of dishes.

patria4Larger plates include several varieties of paella to suit every taste. There is a paella de carne with chicken, chorizo, beef and pork, a vegetarian version with seasonal fresh vegetables, and as I enjoyed, paella de mariscos, saffron short grain imported rice studded with clams, mussels, scallops, squid and shrimp. Each component was properly cooked, and the bottom of the rice had a perfect crunch, while the rest remained tender. New to me was fideua, which I guess I would describe as a noodle paella. The imported small noodles were crisp and tossed with an abundance of seafood, all enveloped in squid ink, lending a black color to the dish. Other large plates include a Peruvian specialty of Lomo Saltado. Thin strips of hangar steak are sautéed in a wok with onions, tomatoes and fried potatoes. Flavored with cilantro and served with white rice it was a pleasant entrée. If you wish to stick to more familiar fare, strip steak and grilled tuna are offered, as well.

Crema Catalena, the Spanish rendition of crème brulee chocolate lava cake, classic flan, and a house made caramelized apple tart are some dessert options. Yvon Rodriguez learned to prepare this tart in her Mother's kitchen. One of these desserts with a glass of sweet wine, are a fine ending to your visit to Patria's. Spanish wines, sangria and beers are offered here.

Specials are offered each day. From Tuesday through Thursday you can enjoy Patria's happy hour where a selection of tapas, and house wine or sangria are $5 each.

A journey to Spain and Peru in one evening awaits you at the charming Patria's where tapas and sangria or a choice of paellas and other classic Spanish fare await you. Enjoy Patria's for a warm and welcoming dining experience where refined, yet lusty, simple yet sophisticated Spanish food is a celebration of Spanish culture.

Patria'spatrias 2
4 Lawton Street
New Rochelle
(914) 278-9811

Recipe: Gambas Al Ajillo
(Serves 4 as appetizers)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
10 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or guindilla peppers*
1 pound shrimp (25 to the pound)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 or 3 ounces Spanish brandy
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Baguette for dipping

In a sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes and sauté for about 1 minute or until garlic just begins to brown. Be careful not to let it burn. Raise heat to high and add the shrimp, lemon juice and brandy. If you are using paprika add that, as well .Stir well and sauté until shrimp turn pink and curl or about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the contents to a warm crock, or serve right from the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with baguette slices.
• Available at Latin Markets

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vincentandchefsScarsdale is home to the new and delightful Café Alaia. This cozy space on Garth Road that briefly housed Petra has been reborn and redesigned to become an intimate, welcoming and sophisticated Italian dining spot, well suited to our community. Owned by Vincenzo Alaia, it offers the same wonderful menu at both lunch and dinner. Seating about 40 guests the room was designed by Nancy Rosner in simple good taste. Dark wood chairs and tables, a beautiful beamed ceiling, golden lighting fixtures and white walls accented by one modern painting giving the room a pop of color.

According to owner Vincenzo Alaia,"We take our food seriously. Our meals are an important part of the day. One of my favorite meals might include pappardelle or linguine and branzino." Alaia grew up in a town near Naples. He was exposed to the food industry at meat, bakery and trattoria businesses of his family. He watched his Mom, aunt and grandmother prepare fresh pasta every day. He wanted "to see the world", worked on cruise ships and arrived in New York in 1997. He worked in the culinary field for years and his dream was "to do what I love." Thus, Café Alaia became a reality. "I love people and I welcome our guests the way I would in my home, with a warm greeting. I believe in simplicity and fresh ingredients. I aim to have our guests experience and taste the culture of Italy. Many of our ingredients are Italian as are all of our wines. I love serving the food I believe in and hope that my guests recognize my passion for the simple natural flavors and come to taste the culture that Café Alaia expresses."

The kitchen is run by Chef Manuel Palaguachi and Chef Marcelo lambVictor Yubi, who execute the carefully planned menu items and daily specials. As we examined the menu, we were presented with warm and crusty country bread accompanied by a homemade sun dried tomato dip with hints of basil, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. This whet our appetites for the treats to come. A fine way to start your meal is with a selection of crostini. This grilled rustic bread can be topped with a classic mix of cherry tomatoes, scallions, basil and extra virgin olive oil, sautéed chicken livers, pearl onions and balsamic, a mix of imported cheeses or meats or burrata and prosciutto, or as I enjoyed a topping of mixed sautéed mushrooms and caciocavallo cheese. The combination of oyster and porcini mushrooms added a wonderful texture and woody taste to this terrific appetizer. The 4 large crostini, nicely grilled and crisp sat atop a wooden cutting board for a rustic presentation that was certainly ample enough to share.

As we moved on to selections from the antipasti, it became evident that each dish was thoughtfully conceived, with choices to suit every taste. We chose polpo alla griglia. The marinated grilled octopus was placed over a salad of potatoes, fresh green beans, parsley and olive oil. The combination was simple so the quality and freshness of the ingredients shone through. We considered house made tortellini in brodo, fried calamari and zucchini with aioli, beef meatballs with tomato sauce and buffalo ricotta, and grilled shrimp with sautéed cannellini beans and decided upon parmigiana blanca di zucchini as our second appetizer choice. The layered dish of zucchini and cheeses arrived bubbling in a small skillet resting on a wooden cutting board. A variety of cheeses and bread crumbs were layered with the sliced zucchini and a touch of fresh mint added a fine note. I look forward to sampling sformatino di melanzane a rich eggplant soufflé topped with burrata fondue and a light tomato sauce. On the lighter side, several salads are offered including a rainbow beet mix and a crispy artichoke salad.

pastaVery special here, are the pasta selections. The house made pappardelle al ragu di agnello was a dish to remember. The leg of lamb was braised and shredded and combined with red wine and tomato sauce. With a shaving of pecorino cheese this dish was just heavenly. House made potato gnocchi was light and excellent, as well. The bright green basil pesto that enveloped the gnocchi gave a spring like look on this cool winter day. Yet to experience is the very popular linguine alla vongole, house made tagliatelle alla Bolognese, spaghetti pescatora and home made tortellini with taleggio cheese sauce, ham and peas.

Secondi selections each served with daily fresh vegetables, include poultry, fish, lamb and beef offerings. We thoroughly enjoyed our salmone in padella. The hearty portion of wild salmon was perfectly pan seared perfectly and accompanied by a peppercorn, mustard lemon sauce. Fresh carrots and green beans added color to this delicious plate. For the lamb lover, I highly recommend the rack of lamb. The four grilled and trimmed chops were tender and filled with flavor. A reduction of balsamic, mint and herbs worked well with these glorious chops and carrots and green beans completed this plate. Future entrees may include orata marechiaro, branzino al forno, chicken Milanese or grilled sirloin with a rosemary and black pepper reduction. Several vegetable side dishes are offered, as well. Specials vary each day and may include stuffed squash blossoms or perhaps, potato crusted red snapper.

You can complete your meal with zabaglione, pear tart, or perhaps fig panna cotta.

Try this new dining experience at Café Alaia in Scarsdale soon, where the Cucina Italiana is simply superb.

Café Alaia
66/A Garth Road
(914) 725-3000

Recipe: Parmigiana Bianca Di Zucchine (Serves 2)zucchini

4 medium zucchini
6 cheese slices, mozzarella
About 2 Tbsps. romano cheese
About 2 Tbsps. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. butter
Bread crumbs, to taste
¼ cup water
Fresh mint for garnish

Rinse and cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices. Grease a rectangular baking pan with butter. Add a sprinkling of the bread crumbs. Start to assemble the white parmigiana into layers. First layer is raw zucchini. Next is mozzarella slices. Next is ½ Tbsp. each of romano and parmesan. Repeat and end with zucchini. Sprinkle the top layer with bread crumbs Add the ¼ cup of water to the corners of the baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 356 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes or until surface is golden brown. Remove from the oven. Cut into squares and let it cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with mint.

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La Fontanella LobsterI recently decided to revisit an old favorite, La Fontanella in Pelham. It has been in business for over 20 years and seems to improve with every visit. The management has changed through the years, but the Executive Chef Joe Palaguachi still heads the kitchen. For the last few years, Alfredo Salazar has led the management team. He worked in restaurants while pursuing a college degree and loved the business. He worked in many restaurants including Harry's of Hartsdale for many years and went on to earn a degree in management. He describes La Fontanella as," an upscale Northern Italian and Adriatic restaurant with a bit of old school flair. Hygiene and keeping the restaurant neat and clean from kitchen to dining areas is of great importance. La Fontanella is welcoming where we serve nothing but the best. Our goal for the future are to be the talk of the county and the place to go."

From the dining room to the kitchen, La Fontanella is a detail oriented dining spot. A pleasant bar area greets you at the front of this charming spot. The formal yet comfortable dining room is divided into separate areas by draperies. We chose to dine at the intimate area towards the back, where the white linen clad tables, fresh flowers and mellow music set a relaxed but formal tone. Special sound proof panels along the walls muted any excess noise .This is a fine addition, which allows you to dine in a fine restaurant and actually enjoy a conversation with your guests without being interrupted by conversations surrounding you. The cream La Fontella colored walls were decorated with the original ornate moldings, lending an elegance to the area. The restaurant seats about 90 guests. In the warmer months a few tables are set at the entrance to La Fontanella. The area is filled with colorful flowers and plantings and give the spot a European flavor. They call it "the café".

Chef Joe Palaguachi has been lighting up the kitchens of New York since his arrival almost 30 years ago from his native Ecuador. He worked in many renowned Manhattan kitchens from Giambelli's to Il Nido, where he honed his natural skill and talent. He combines traditional and creative ideas in his dishes and has been at La Fontanella since it opened. "The ingredients I must have in my kitchen are garlic, onions, olive oil, basil and parsley. We offer many daily specials in addition to our menu selections and we have seasonal changes. Osso Bucco, beef short ribs, whole roasted branzino with garlic, olives and lemon are some favorite dishes."

At a recent tasting, I sampled many of the specials of the day as well as some menu items. I came to the conclusion that I probably could have closed my eyes and picked any item and been totally delighted. Our professional and knowledgeable waiter, Carmine helped to guide us through our multi course meal with expertise.

La Fontanella dishWe started with a special of vegetable quinoa with grilled shrimp and roasted pepper coulis. The creative combination of grains and seafood was quite good. Fresh lemon added zest to this dish. Another daily special was a picture perfect roasted vegetable napoleon. This may appear on many menus, but here it is special. The beets, Portobello mushrooms, eggplant and roasted pepper are layered and topped with the crowning glory of house made burrata- very impressive. Shrimp cocktail, octopus salad, seafood salad, eggplant rollatini, and clams oreganata are additional menu appetizers. Several salads are offered ranging from insalata di rucola with arugula, wild mushrooms, shaved parmesan and a citrus vinaigrette to insalata di iceberg with red onion, beefsteak tomatoes, crisp bacon and a creamy gorgonzola dressing. We enjoyed our special salad of microgreens, walnuts, apple slices, fresh supremes of orange with a balsamic vinaigrette. It refreshed our palate in preparation for our pasta course. Among the homemade pastas we enjoyed fusilli calabrese with lamb ragu. The pasta dough is rolled into thin strips and twisted. They are steps above the dry commercial variety of this pasta. Enrobed in a wonderful ragu of cubed lamb and topped with shaved parmesan, this was a dish to remember. Lobster ravioli was yet another winner among the pasta selections. The lobster filled pockets were surrounded by a delightful light creamy tomato sauce enhanced with grappa, garlic and olive oil for a tantalizing result. Chunks of crabmeat added a finishing touch. Gnocchi della Nonna with Bolognese sauce, linguine carbonara and cavatelli e rapa are yet to be tried. pasta la fontanella

Fish dishes sparkle at La Fontanella. Chef Palaguachi personally chooses the freshest of fish at the market each morning. We had the pleasure of enjoying one of his specials of black sea bass served over saffron risotto studded with rounds of fresh zucchini. Slivers of garlic, shrimp and scallops added style to the presentation and a light scampi sauce completed this superb creation. A touch of lime juice brought out the flavors. Outstanding was the Tagliarini Fontanella house made with clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, tiger shrimp and Maine lobster. A light tomato sauce completed this elaborate dish where each seafood component was cooked to perfection. Other fish choices include wild salmon Provençale, bronzino filet, shrimp scampi and filet of sole almondine. Several chicken dishes are offered as well as pork, veal and New York Strip steak. We were presented with a special. Arriving on a large platter was a huge tomahawk steak for 2. On the bone, this thick rib eye was encrusted with crushed peppercorns and surrounded by roasted potatoes and sautéed onions, mushrooms and peppers. It was a dish fit for royalty.

If you have room for dessert, tiramisu, crème brulee are some of the house made possibilities. At lunch on Monday through Friday, choose from a la carte offerings or a price fixed 3 course meal. If you are craving upscale beautifully prepared Northern Italian dished where everything, even the pasta is prepared in house in formal but friendly surroundings, by a capable staff, then La Fontanella is a fine destination to savor the pleasure of dining. Try it soon.Lamb Chops at La Fontanella

La Fontanella
115 Wolfs Lane
914 738 3008

Recipe for the Salmon Alla Vinagreta {serves 2}:
1 pound salmon fillet [ in 2 pieces]
Pinch salt and pepper
2 tsps. olive oil
3 plum tomatoes
1 ounce scallions
1 tsp. chopped parsley
1 pinch pepper flakes
3 spoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tsps. balsamic vinegar

Preheat skillet. Add a couple of teaspoons of oil. Season salmon with salt and pepper and pan sear for a couple of minutes for a good medium rare. Keep longer if you wish it to be cooked more. For the sauce, chop the tomatoes, scallions, and parsley. Add pepper flakes. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with cooked fish.

JudieJudie 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.

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37 MusiciansIt was a feel-good, bustling afternoon in the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Public Library last Sunday, as Scarsdale students and their families came together to raise funds for Friends of Music & the Arts at this year's Winter Festival. FMA is the parent booster club that supports and enhances music and arts programming in Scarsdale schools. 37 Student musicians from Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale Middle School, and the Scarsdale elementary schools performed as soloists and in groups in a cafe setting to an enthusiastic audience of parents, friends, and members of the community. Musicians secured sponsors for their performances to support FMA. The event also featured an exhibit of student artwork selected by district art faculty from all 7 schools. Many people in attendance commented on the sense of warmth and community that filled the room and expressed their delight to be part of the fundraiser and celebration of student music and art. All families with students participating in district music and art programs are encouraged to join FMA. For more information and to make a donation, visit the website here.
Piano Soloist
Art center






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checkpleaseSupport friends and local community at the Scarsdale High School Drama Club's student-directed double feature TRACKS and CHECK PLEASE on stage at Scarsdale High School this weekend.

Fri, Jan 12th @ 7:30
Sat, Jan 13th @ 7:30

Here are synopses of the two plays:

Tracks (Directed by Alexa Trujillo and Steven Orlofsky):
A group of strangers meet in a dirty subway station. They have arrived with limited personal belongings, their watches have stopped and they all claim to be in different cities. Soon they learn there is no way out of the station, and the unfortunate truth is told to them: they are all dead. Since subway stations have two sides, they reason the train leaving from one platform must be bound for heaven, while the train leaving from the other platform must be bound for hell. But which platform are they on?tracks3

Check Please (Directed by Camila Tardif and Daniella Ashman): Dating can be hard. Especially when your date happens to be a raging kleptomaniac, your grandmother's bridge partner, or a mime. Check Please follows a series of blind dinner dates that couldn't get any worse -- until they do. Could there possibly be a light at the end of the tunnel?

Purchase tickets at the door or online here or at the door.


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