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booksTime is winding down to donate books and DVDs to The Friends of the Scarsdale Library Annual Book Sale. Donations will be accepted through Friday, August 25, and should be left just inside the gray door to the side of the library entrance at 54 Olmsted Road, at Post Road.

This is the last chance for a couple of years to clean out unwanted books as the book sale will go on a hiatus during the library's planned renovation.

The annual book sale, which attracts thousands of buyers from throughout Westchester, kicks off Friday, September 8, with a Members Preview Night. The book sale opens to the public Saturday, September 9, and runs until Sunday, September 17. The full schedule is listed on The Friends webpage at

Books should be in saleable condition. Damaged, moldy or dog-chewed books will not be accepted; nor will textbooks, encyclopedias, magazines or VCR tapes.

Volunteers are still needed to help sort books and organize materials until the sale and to assist during the sale. For information about volunteering or questions about donations, contact Kathy Steves, Book Sale Manager, at

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143 Park Bistro 2Bronxville is an area that boasts many beautiful homes. It is also the home of many delightful restaurants. On one of their charming streets, lined with brick-faced retail shops and colorful well manicured planters, directly across from the train station, is one of my favorite dining spots, Park 143 Bistro & Fish. It opened several years ago as Park 143 Bistro and within a few years, owner Wayne Chessler added "And Fish" to its name. The unique menu now offers a fabulous selection of innovative fish and seafood dishes, served in a sophisticated yet comfortable setting.

The atmosphere at Park 143 Bistro & Fish is warm and inviting with a New York City modern vibe. Seating about 70, the busy bar with its striking red upholstered stools greets you. Lit with pendant lighting it's a friendly place for interesting cocktails. Beyond the bar, zebra patterned covered banquettes line the walls. Black tabletops are adorned with fresh flowers of interesting varieties. Silver framed mirrors add to the setting. Not to be missed is the artwork of Manhattan artist Nick Stavrides. His childhood summers in Montauk inspired his marine series of paintings that adorn the walls. They are for sale. A few comfortable tables are offered outside, weather permitting.

Owner, the enthusiastic Wayne Chessler, is a familiar face in the culinary field. Through the years, he has managed The Assembly Steak House in Manhattan, Underhills Crossing in Bronxville and Harrys of Hartsdale. "I love coming to work and I never get bored. Each week, I visit restaurants around the city to keep up with current trends. Simplicity and freshness are very important. The formal high end dining spots of the past are waning in number and more casual dining options are becoming popular. Park 143 Bistro & Fish is unique among bistros because of its modern, warm and casual ambiance. We use top quality ingredients, make everything to order, and we keep up with current trends that our clients desire. I'm so proud of our food and there is nothing more exciting than being host on a busy night. I would love to host a dinner at Park 143 Bistro and Fish and invite 5 chefs, both young and old, and watch their reactions as they take their first bites."

scallopsThe kitchen is headed by Chef Andrew Hopkins. His creativity is evident in his musical talent, on the guitar, as well as in the preparation of the interesting menu choices. He worked his way up in the culinary field from dishwasher to chef. After graduating from Johnson and Wales, he honed his skills in Chappaqua, The Hamptons, Argentina and Brazil. "For me, heading the kitchen is an extension of my artistic expression. I love the pressure of the kitchen. And I am inspired by the ingredients. "

burgerOn the day of my visit, Hopkins was deciding what type of sauce to prepare to enhance the freshly arrived sea scallops.
I just loved the menu. So many interesting choices. Our opening acts were selections from the "In the Pot" section. A large silver pot arrived, filled with mussels, perfectly cooked, just until the shells opened and revealed their tender contents. We loved the parm mussels in a nicely spiced sauce of parmesan, cream, lemon, scallions, toasted garlic and crispy shallots. We removed the cover and used it for our discarded shells. A small ladle and a seafood fork allowed us to savor these morsels, as well as the flavorful broth. A nicely grilled crouton absorbed the fine broth. Another pot arrived, this one filled with mussels in an aromatic broth of ginger, garlic, sake, chilies, soy and butter. The Asian flavors were enticing. Mexican mussels, drunken mussels with tequila and little neck clams, classically prepared were other In the Pot options.

shrimpFrom the numerous starters, we enjoyed Park Shrimp, in an individual cast iron skillet. The rubber-covered handle was a thoughtful touch since it prevented us from burning our hands on the sizzling pan. Olive oil, sherry, garlic and red pepper strips mixed with the shrimp for a lovely taste and presentation. Fried oysters should not be missed. With their mild semolina crust, the flavor of the bluepoint oysters shone through. Tarragon remoulade and chipotle aioli shared the plate. Next a most unusual dish of many textures, our crispy octopus arrived. The rings of octopus sat on a bed of potato puree. Salsa verde, strips of sweet peppers, and slices of tomatillo, completed the plate, an explosion of color, taste and texture. The octopus was carefully cooked to retain its tenderness.

Three varieties of taco are a must here. We chose the fish tacos. The 6 inch tortillas sit on a paper lined plate. Ours was generously topped with beer battered mahi mahi, Asian slaw and chipotle aioli. Your fish can be grilled instead of fried. In the future, we will try the jerk chicken and bbq pork tacos.

salmonYet to be tried are chopped kale salad, the very popular shrimp and grits, crab cake and truffle mac 'n cheese. There is a burger bash section with offerings of a butcher burger, veggie burger, and a seafood burger with many varieties of fish in it, to name but a few possibilities.

It is hard to believe that we are just arriving at the entrees, which range from pasta primavera, gnocchi, seafood pasta, New York Strip Steak, a hearty short rib, and veal schnitzel with homemade potato pancakes and apple sauce. We tried the grilled wild Atlantic salmon, cooked rare, as requested, sitting aside a mound of wild and brown rice pilaf and a julienne of steamed vegetables. A fragrant citrus, dill butter completed this simply elegant dish.

Complete your meal with a classic carrot cake, a homemade brownie sundae, an innovative Nutella lasagna or a trio of ice cream or sorbets. My dessert of choice here is the seasonal mixed berries with freshly whipped cream.

If you choose to enjoy lunch or brunch at Park 143, the choices are varied from rustic frittata, huevos rancheros, lobster roll, and seafood salad, to name just a few choices. Monday through Friday lunch options include bbq pulled pork sandwich, fish and chips, seafood burger, fish tacos and Cobb salad and much more. There is also a happy hour menu of small bites available Monday through Friday from 4:30- 6:30. They can satisfy appetites for every meal.

A carefully thought out exciting and creative menu awaits you at Park 143 Bistro & Fish. It brings a New York City vibe to Westchester.

Park 143 Bistro & Fish
143 Parkway Road
914 337 5100

Aromatic Sake Steamed Mussels (serves 2)

2-3 pounds PEI Mussels
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup sake wine
1 Tbsp. tamari or light soy sauce
3 spring onions or scallions, finely sliced
1 red chilie finely sliced, or more if you wish
¼ bunch fresh Italian parsley, more if desired, chopped
Olive or preferred oil for sautéing

Clean and debeard the mussels. Tap any open mussels and discard any that do not close up. Place mussels in a bowl filled with ice until ready to use. In a large pan, over medium to low heat, soften the garlic in a bit of oil. Stir in the grated ginger and then add the sake. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add tamari and toss in the onions or scallions and chilies. Add the mussels and steam them for 3 to 5 minutes until they open. Take the pan off the heat and scatter with the chopped parsley. Serve in bowls and garnish with more parsley if desired. Some enjoy adding a bit of sweet butter to the sauce before serving which will give a creamy texture to the dish.

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vietnamscentralBalance between sweet and salty, fresh and fermented, cooling and warming, with hints of mint, cilantro, lemongrass and fish sauce.... Yes, I'm describing the vibrant cuisine of Vietnam as prepared at the new Vietnam's Central in Scarsdale. Our local Westchester communities offer a vast array of international restaurant choices. When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine the choices are not too great. How joyful it was to note the new Vietnam's Central which recently opened on Central Avenue in Scarsdale at the site of the former Pagoda Restaurant.

I was warmly greeted by the gracious owner and Chef Tuong Bui, aka Tom. The space, which seats about 70, is simply decorated with leather booths, banquettes and free standing tables. Bamboo screens, a tin ceiling, light wood floors and sheer white curtains give the room a clean, light appearance. There are no distractions as you concentrate on the terrific dishes offered. Tom describes his restaurant as eccentric and unique: "My menu combines traditional and creative dishes. In the future, I hope to open other similar dining spots." Owner Tuong Bui learned his craft from his mother and his brothers, who own restaurants in Dallas. Tuong moved on to Tribeca and most recently to Scarsdale. "I like the space in Westchester. It is not as congested as the city. My mother's instruction was hands on. She would let me cook on Sundays. She would give me the ingredients and I honed my skills under her guiding hands and I learned to cook our very diverse cuisine."

At Vietnam's Central Tom works with his wife Kim Doan and his sister in law Nhu Doan. "We do not overcook our food, and we use many raw vegetables. Our meats are cooked medium rare. Everything is cooked to order so we can adjust the spicing or eliminate ingredients upon our guest's requests. Most important is treating our guests well. My favorite part of my work is meeting many people and observe them enjoying their experience here." When asked whom he would like to serve, his answer was "Angelina Jolie and Richard Gere. They are both very successful in their careers and use their money to help people around the world."

van spring rollOur tasting was a selection of many dishes which first appealed to our eyes, then to our sense of smell and finally to our taste. Our exceptional starters included Van Spring Rolls. A rice paper wrapper encased mixed greens, a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu with lemon zest and a sweet orange sauce. It is a favorite of Tom's child Van. Exceptional lemon shrimp followed. The large shrimp were lightly breaded and fried and served with a house made lemon sauce. Lemon zest and the white part of the lemon beneath the skin lent a mild, smooth and very lemony taste. We cleansed our palate with a lovely calamari and avocado salad. A creamy mild avocado sauce acted as the base for mixed spring greens layered with lightly breaded fried rings of calamari. A light vinaigrette completed this refreshing salad.

Among the soups, the classic "pho" is a specialty of the house. Here, it is prepared with a broth that simmers with beef bones for 8-10 hours. Rice noodles, cilantro, onions and scallions add flavor and a choice of chicken, shrimp, beef or pork are offered. The dish is garnished with bean sprouts, basil and lime. The summer day of our visit reached in the mid nineties so we will sample this flavorful bowlful on a cooler day. Hot and sour soup and chili noodle soup are other options.

A starter of catfish mango was quite delicious and is only offered when green mango is available. The catfish filet is lightly breaded and fried in canola oil. Topping the fish is a chopped mixture of green mango, cilantro, shallots and chili sauce, creating a perky and delicious dish. The Vietnam's ribs were a favorite. As you pick up the sesame seed encrusted ribs, be sure to keep your plate beneath them, as the succulent meat will surely fall right off the bone and into the plate. Served with pickled daikon and cucumber they were a taste to behold. A future visit may include Vietnamese beef carpaccio marinated in lime juice with crushed peanuts or charbroiled pork and fried shrimp rolls that are assembled at the table.

From the entrees, we sampled the grilled marinated pork chop. The marination on the pork brings out flavors of honey and lemongrass. Salt and pepper calamari served on a bed of iceberg lettuce was another fine choice. Sautéed with onions and scallions and generously seasoned, it was tasty and simple.

stir fried noodle chickenVietnam is an important exporter of rice and we enjoyed their jasmine variety. In Vietnam, rice appears at every meal in the form of rice noodles, rice paper, sticky rice or fried rice. We loved the jasmine fried rice with vegetables and chicken. Unlike Vietnam's Chinese neighbors, no soy sauce is used in this dish. Stir fried egg noodles with a variety of crisp, lightly cooked vegetables was a dish of many textures. Rather than pouring it over all of the noodles, the homemade sauce should be used as a dipping sauce in order to savor the many levels of taste. Yet to be tried are the many vegetarian choices. Tofu in the flavor of shrimp, beef, fish or chicken is available in many dishes. Even the pho can be prepared in a vegetarian manner. Everything here is prepared to ensure freshness.

Desserts include a Vietnamese version of caramel flan with a caramelized coffee syrup, halo with ice cream and nuts, evaporated milk on shaved ice and an intriguing taro pudding. This coconut flavored taro confection was served warm and topped with crushed peanuts. It was truly a dessert soup, soothing and unique.

Whether you are a veteran of Vietnamese cuisine or a newcomer, I believe you will find your dining experience at Vietnam's Central very pleasant. Owner Tuong Bui indicated that his singular goal is "to leave you wanting for more." For me, his goal was fulfilled, as I plan to return very soon.

Vietnam's Central
694 Central Park Avenue
914 723 7222


Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Shrimp {Serves 2}

salt pepper shrimpIngredients:
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 scallion cut into knuckle sized slices
1 onion cut into small wedges
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup canola oil
Salt and crushed black pepper to taste
¼ ounce butter
Lettuce in small wedges

Wash and dry shrimp and lightly dip in flour. Heat oil in wok or skillet. Stir fry onions and scallions. Add shrimp and stir fry until golden. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper to taste. Drain off excess oil. Toss in butter until it melts and mingles with the ingredients. Serve with lettuce wedges.

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comefromawayWe live so close to Broadway and world class theater, that some of us forget to take advantage of the shows and restaurants that are just a short train rider away. Here's a play - and a restaurant - that are too good to miss:

I had the opportunity to see Come From Away , a Tony Award winning new musical and dine beforehand at Striphouse, a top-rated steakhouse.

Come From Away is not a musical about 9/11. Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein (who also wrote the music and lyrics), Come From Away is a heartwarming masterpiece about the human heart and soul triumphing over a horrifying event. The 16-member ensemble cast stars no one in particular which in and of itself is unusual for a Broadway musical; each cast member also plays more than one character. Directed by Christopher Ashley who won the Tony Award for best direction of a musical, Come From Away has taken non-traditional risks and has earned its place on the Schoenfeld Theater stage for what will likely be a long-term engagement.

The show is not impressive for the set nor costumes nor stars with name recognition. It's impressive for its theme and its execution of that theme. So it was hard to understand why the audience began giving a standing ovation at the beginning of the show. My husband and I ran through Times Square with our dinner leftovers and made it just in time to realize that the show had a delayed start. (Note to self: no matter how good they tasted 30 minutes ago, brussels sprouts in your leftover bag do not smell good to your seat mates.) As it turned out, the hardy standing ovation was for Broadway regulars Hillary and Bill Clinton who were in the audience. We joined in, of course, and reveled in the fact that it was a great night to be at the theater.

On September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked America, 38 planes were forced to land in Gander, New Foundland, a town of 7,000 people. The passengers and crews essentially doubled the population of Gander overnight ("38 Planes.") The townsfolk rose to the occasion with endearing Canadian accents and personalities and welcomed the thousands of international passengers and crew members who were stranded in their small town for five days. They sing "blankets and bedding" as they put their daily lives aside to get toilet paper, diapers and tampons from local stores donating their entire inventories to those who had "come from away."

It's a feel-good story with feel-good music and most of the audience had a smile on their face for the entire show. Passengers fall in love, break up, become friends with each other, experience minor conflict and develop friendships with the locals. And the locals feed, clothe and house all of them. Wouldn't we all like to think we'd do the same thing- give of ourselves relentlessly and unconditionally without a second thought? The New Foundlanders in Gander and nearby towns did this with no idea of the possibility that, well, one day their story could be made into a successful, entertaining and important Broadway Musical.

My favorite song was "Me and the Sky" sung by Jenn Colella as Beverley, the first female American Airlines Captain who was grounded with her passengers and crew in Gander on 9/11. If there was an ensemble star of Come From Away, it was Ms. Colella and it was this song that brought the audience applause to life more than any other 

The standing ovation at the end of Come From Away was surely for the show and not for the Clintons as Hillary managed to sneak out undetected underneath the audience's applause; Bill Clinton, on the other hand, shook hands and let people take photos with him as he exited the theater. And he clapped for the cast and crew as he did.

And those aromatic leftovers? I can't think of another steakhouseseafood in Manhattan (or Vegas for that matter) that does steak AND seafood the way Striphouse does A crowd pleaser from the second you walk through the entrance into the siren red elegant but not stuffy interior, I've never encountered a waiter who so poetically described menu specials. To start, we were talked into the half seafood plateau which came out looking so fresh I felt like we'd feel the restaurant docking any second. We indulged in a lobster claw, tuna tartare, calamari, oysters, clams, mussels, and super jumbo sized shrimp. Next, we had the NY Strip cooked to perfection as well as the Kobe/Wagyu steak special. The NY Strip was crisp and seasoned on the outside and somehow perfectly tender in the middle. The Kobe/Wagyu special was served sliced with our waiter-recommended sides. We ordered brussels sprouts roasted with Asian pears and black truffle creamed spinach which I have been craving ever since. A Wine Spectator award winner, Striphouse has a generous wine list including reserve wines (from their cellar) served by the glass. House cocktails were absolutely delectable, particularly the Hibiscus Julep and the Manhattan which came in a fun brass cup. We couldn't resist dessert when it was sold to us as one of the most famous chocolate cakes in America; the 24-layer chocolate cake. (And we counted- it's definitely 23 layers and there was probably a 24th layer in there somewhere.) It is worthy of its accolades and is served impressively non-collapsed and weighing what felt like a good five pounds. Worth every calorie consumed.

chocolatecakeCome From Away: Gerald Schoenfeld Theare, 236 W. 45th Street, New York, NY. Tickets available online  at the box office or by phone at telecharge 212-239-6200

Striphouse Midtown: 15 W. 44th Street, New York, NY. Open for lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner weekends. 212-336-5454 

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sopranosFour graduating sopranos from Scarsdale High School gave a recital at Hoff –Barthelson on Monday night June 19, presenting a delightful array of classical and contemporary selections. The concert was the culmination of years of music and voice lessons at Hoff-Barthelson, celebrating their considerable accomplishments.

The performers included sisters and twins Josie and Louisa Blatt with Jane Glaser and Caroline Kaufman. Each performed as a soloist, in duets and as a group when they sung Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and completed the concert with a medley of Disney songs.

Along the way, there were two songs from Hamilton, the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a musical rendition of the poems of Emily Dickinson, and a performance of Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by Josie Blatt who played the piano to accompany herself singing the well-loved song.

Louisa Blatt used her powerful voice and dramatic presentation skills to sing Franz Schubert's "Die Forelle" in German as well as "Happy to Keep his Dinner Warm" from the show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Jane Glaser charmed the audience with her rendition of Carmichael's "Skylark" and Caroline Kaufman gave a beautiful and moving performance of the song "Reflection" from Mulan, also by Lin Manuel Miranda.

The concert was a treat for everyone lucky enough to be there. Bravo to the vocalists.

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