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Fine Dining Italian Style at Sergio's

sergio1Sergio's Ristorante in Pelham, recently celebrated its one year anniversary. I was very impressed with it at its opening, and upon revisiting last week, I was delighted to find it better than ever. Pansies and tulips were starting to add color to the perimeter of Sergio's to welcome the arrival of spring.

We were shown to our white linen clad table in the elegant main dining room. A large floral arrangement which is freshened weekly, was the centerpiece of the room. The walls are enhanced with large black and white photographs of Italy. Separated by a staircase leading up to an additional dining room is the bar and lounge area. Mellow Frank Sinatra music was playing in the background.

Co-owners are Sergio Gashi and his cousin Nick Gashi of TuttaBella fame. I had the pleasure of savoring a delicious meal with General Manager Alban Gashi, the eldest son of Sergio. He has been honing his skills in the restaurant business since his early teens under the tutelage of his experienced father, Sergio. From busboy at Latanzi in the theater district, to Valbella Steakhouse and TuttaBella in Scarsdale, he possesses all the skills of a seasoned host and manager. " It is important to make our guests feel special. We aim to be a sophisticated staple in the Westchester community. Our guests often comment that dining at Sergio's is like getting away and dining in the city, without the traffic. Serving our guests is like theater. We are putting on a show for them and they enjoy being entertained. The best part of my work is meeting people. Dealing with volume on weekends causes some pressure but we deal with the hustle and bustle with a smile. I have learned the importance of having a positive attitude, being a leader, working with my staff and teaching by example so the staff becomes motivated and optimistic, as well."

Ventura Nava, the executive chef, has workedportobella his way up in the kitchen and has added many new dishes to the original menu. We nibbled on crunchy country bread, house-made flatbread, and chunks of cheese as we perused the menu. The antipasti included favorites that I enjoyed at its opening, grilled octopus, clams oreganata and a tower of grilled vegetables. Upon this visit, I couldn't resist the ostriche con spinaci. The large ruffled shells encased whole bluepoint oysters and spinach mixed with cream and brandy. The combination was elegant and just divine. Beef carpaccio was another winner. The thinly sliced filet mignon was topped with tart arugula, onion and capers and shaved parmesan and drizzled with a touch of truffle oil, a classic dish so beautifully executed. New to the menu is the popular tuna tartar. Here, the coarsely chopped fresh tuna was layered with avocado and a citrus dressing. Triangles of fried won ton skins were the perfect scoops for this fresh from the sea delight. Other starters include sautéed baby artichokes, fried calamari, shrimp cocktail and clams casino. The common thread in all of the dishes is the use of the freshest fine ingredients. A salad of fresh beets and goat cheese, seafood salad and a creative combination of endives, apples, walnuts and gorgonzola with a champagne vinaigrette are lighter starters.

The choice of pasta dishes is varied. The gnocchi Pomodoro is excellent. The delicate sergio3morsels of potato gnocchi are bathed in tomato sauce and topped with fresh ricotta and basil, classic and tasty. A fine choice is the taglioine nero e biano. The strands of black and white pasta mingle with shrimp, radicchio and zucchini strips in a light garlic and olive oil sauce. It was colorful and delicious. Other good choices are pappardelle with Bolognese sauce, mushroom ravioli in brandy cream sauce, and cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage. Several risotto choices are offered as well.

Entrees of chicken, meat, fish and grilled offerings are numerous. We indulged in cotoletta contandina, a huge tender veal chop, grilled on the bone and surrounded by sliced potatoes, onions and red and yellow bell peppers, a dish fit for a queen.... with a very good appetite. I have enjoyed their porterhouse steak on a previous visit and each dish reinforces the fact that top quality ingredients are insisted upon here. From the fish selections, we chose a classic shrimp scampi. The jumbo shrimp rested on a bed of risotto and just enough garlic was in the sauce. It was perfection on a plate. Other possibilities are chicken martini, veal with artichokes, veal saltimbocca, baked branzino, zuppe de pesce, and a variety of grilled steaks and chops. Daily specials may include gnocchi with lamb ragu, veal ravioli with butter sage sauce and lamb chops martini.
Lunch specials are designed to accommodate people with a time limit, with choices of appetizer, entrée and coffee. Dinner is a more leisurely affair.

Towards the back of the main dining room is sergio4pastry chef Ardi Gashi working his magic. Chef Gashi has a gift for pastry preparation and started at a very young age. He is one of the younger members of the Gashi family. Italian cheesecake, tiramisu, white chocolate mousse cake, a killer zabaglione and the best almond encrusted napoleon in town are some of his specialties. If you order in advance, you might be lucky enough to have a souflee of coconut, pistachio, Grand Marnier or as I did, Bailey's Irish Crème. It was a heavenly cloudlike confection, a wonderful way to complete a glorious meal.
Alban Gashi describes Sergio's as, " fun, family friendly, with good food, good atmosphere and fair prices." Pay them a visit soon.

SERGIO'S RISTORANTE
503 Fifth Avenue
Pelham, NY
(914) 278 9771

Veal Saltimbocca –Serves 2

4 veal scallops, pounded to ¼ inch thick
4 thin slices prosciutto
3 Tbsps. dry marsala wine
2 cups chicken stock
4 slices fontina cheese
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Season veal on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large skillet. Press a slice of prosciutto on top of each scallop and saute in the butter for a total of 2 minute on both sides, until golden. While they are cooking add the wine and chicken stock. Top each with a slice of fontina cheese. Transfer the pan to a 250 degree oven until the cheese is melted. Place veal on a serving dish and pour sauce over it.

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.

Yefsi, Authentic Greek Cuisine in Eastchester

yefsichefIn an area where Italian restaurants abound, it is a breath of fresh air to savor the enticing fragrance of rosemary, mint and thyme that await you at the newly opened Greek restaurant, Yefsi Estiatorio in Eastchester.

Chef- owner Christos Christou traces his roots to Cyprus, where his family farm raised sheep and goats, grew vegetables and prepared yogurt and cheeses. His mother and grandmother cooked at the local taverna and young Christos was surrounded by the foods of Greece and developed a passion for the culinary field. In 1989, he came to New York as a student. He studied at The French Culinary Institute and apprenticed with Jacques Pepin, Alain Sailhac and Andre Soltner. Back in New York, he graced the kitchens of Molyvos and many other fine Greek restaurants." With the opening of Yefsi on the upper east side, I aimed to represent the food of Cyprus and Greece and expect to do the same here in Eastchester. Yefsi is upscale, yet casual and friendly. I love to see my guests smiling and happy. I divided my time between the kitchen and dining room. It's important for a restaurant owner to be open minded and democratic. Important ingredients in my kitchen include Greek olive oil, Greek vinegar, our native cheeses, and herbs and spices including rosemary, thyme, mint, cumin, cinnamon and cloves."

As I arrived for a recent dinner, a valet parked my car. psaro kroketesI entered the space through a comfortable bar area to the spacious dining room. Brown tufted leather banquettes, pale green walls and wine bottles lining the upper part of the walls. Additional dining rooms ajoin the main one, really nice for private gatherings. I was greeted by Executive Chef Owner Christos Christou, his partner Michael Parpoumas and manager Michael Savidis. Greek music playing in the background set the mood for our meal. It was tempting to get up and dance, but instead we remained seated and ate and ate and ate.

yefsiseafoodYefsi translates as taste. With over 25 exciting choices of mezedes (appetizers) and almost as many larger plates you can design a varied menu of many tastes. The attentive and well informed staff brought us a sampler of traditional Greek spreads. We topped the warm pita triangles with taramasalata, a fish roe dip, eggplant salad, tzatziki, a yogurt dip and a spicy feta spread with added kick from jalapenos. Very special was the grilled halloumi, a cheese firm enough to slice, from Cyprus, topped with a relish of tomato, onion and cucumber in a citrus vinaigrette. The cheese was just salty enough and was divine. There is nothing as delicious as freshly sliced beets. Here they were piled up like a napoleon and dressed with vinegar and snipped herbs..Skordalia, that amazing potato based dip, prepared with the addition of almonds gave it a crunchy texture. The skordalia was also paired with crisp shrimp and cod fritters, psarokeftedes, with a balsamic glaze.yefsisalad So many of Chef Christos dishes add a modern touch to the traditional fare. Diced shrimp and gigante beans, appeared next, in a mastic tomato sauce with grape tomato halves and topped with crumbled feta, a fine combination of ingredients. Most enjoyable was loukaniko, grilled lamb and beef country sausage. They were beautifully spiced and were paired with blackeyed peas. A special of the day was the classic spinach pie. Here the phyllo layers were crisp and delicate and the filling of fresh spinach, dill, leeks and feta cheese was a savory delight. Our last mezze selection was one of the best. Octapodi. Slices of grilled baby octopus were mingled with a red wine vinaigrette and sprinkled with capers, onion and red peppers. These tender morsels were outstanding. Yet to be sampled are Yefsi vegetable chips, saganaki, and mussels in a white wine, feta and ouzo sauce, and the list goes on.

The large plates include meat as well as fish offerings. We opted for the plaki, a fillet of pan-roasted striped bass. The perfectly cooked moist fish arrived with a white wine sauce, cherry tomatoes, Vidalia onions and potato halves. If lamb is your desire, try the arni youvesti. The braised lamb shank was fall off the bone tender and served with thin noodles tossed with a cinnamon flavored tomato sauce. Aged kefalograviera was shredded on top. I will return to try Greek orzo with seafood and melted feta, moussaka, and souvlaki. Side dishes of lemon potatoes, green beans, rice with spinach and Greek fries are fine accompaniments.

For your finale try house baked baklava, galatoboureko, Greek yogurt, walnut honey cake, or as I did, a special of loukoumades, cloudlike fritters drizzled with honey and dusted with sugar, just perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Enjoy a culinary journey through Greece at Yefsi , for a friendly and fabulous experience in Greek dining.

Yefsi Estiatorio
219 Main Street (former site of Casa Brusco)
Eastchester, New York
(914) 779 8988
Reservation accepted
Find them on Open Table

Recipe:

Plaki (Oven roasted striped bass)
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 striped bass fillets, 7 ounces each
¼ cup sliced garlic
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup cherry tomatos ,sliced
¼ cup chopped dill
1 bunch chopped scallions
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place olive oil in a large roasting pan. Place all of the ingredients including the four fillets in the pan. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes and serve immediately.

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.

Learning to Code: What You Or Your Kids Should Know

adrienneAre you or your kids curious about what it takes to learn to code? A Scarsdale High School grad was just interviewed about her experience learning to code by builtinNYC, an online community for NYC start-ups. Adrienne Fishman, SHS class of '10, is now a software engineer at the news website BuzzFeed in New York. Here is what Adrienne Fishman and Andrew Hogue, the Senior VP of Engineering at Foursquare said about what they wish they knew when learning to code:

Here is the article, as it appears on builtinnyc.com

There is no right way to learn how to code. Coding is a skill like any other — it incorporates language learning, problem solving and creativity. There's grammar and vocabulary to master, processes to work through and craftsmanship to hone.

This is why we've recently seen a swell of coding schools, bootcamps and interactive programs pop up that allure us with the promise of digital dexterity.

Coding is a means of communicating ideas and inventions, and in the face of the frustrating, lonely and tedious process that is learning how to do this, you must be determined and persevere.

In order to alleviate some of this pain, we caught up with some of of New York tech's top engineers to find out what they wish they knew while learning to code.andrewhogue

Adrienne Fishman is a full-time software engineer at BuzzFeed who started working for the company in 2013 as a product management intern. Over time, she learned how to code and worked her way up the media giant's ranks into her current position.

Andrew Hogue is the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Foursquare, leading the company's world-class engineering team that's turning ideas into reality. During his time at the company, Andrew has headed up Foursquare's search team, responsible for big data applications like Explore, Pilgrim, and Venue Search. Here's what they had to say:

Built In: Why did you decide to learn to code?

Adrienne Fishman: When I entered college, I wanted to have a liberal arts education. I had always been interested in politics and decided to major in government. At the time, my brother was several years out of college and worked in tech. He told me that engineers were in high demand and encouraged me to take a computer science course. I listened to his advice and took my first computer science course in MATLAB in the fall semester of my sophomore year. The professor was remarkable, and contrary to my expectations, I really enjoyed the course. As I continued to take courses for my major and minor, I also elected to take a computer science course each semester from then on.

Built In: What do you need to know before you learn to code?

Fishman: I don't think you need to know anything in particular before you learn to code. That being said, I had never been exposed to the concepts of computer science before taking that first class. Therefore, I think it is important to have an open mind and to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to be willing to accept that everything you learn in a computer science course is not going to make sense right away. However, if you put in the time, concepts will start to click and it is an extremely rewarding feeling.

Andrew Hogue: Frankly, not that much! There's some great material on the web these days—everything from courses on Code.org or Code Academy down to the tutorials for specific languages like Python or Ruby. If you have a computer and some determination, you can learn to code. The more important thing is to know that, like anything worth doing, it'll take some time. No one becomes an expert at chess or football or sales or design overnight, and the same applies to coding. Plan to be frustrated at first, and know that you'll break through and things will get easier. It's also a good idea to pick a project that you're excited about to keep you motivated. Something simple like a way to store your recipes or a simple game. Keep that project in mind as you read tutorials or take classes, and try to apply what you're learning along the way.

Built In: What's important to keep in mind when you're learning to code?

Fishman: I think it's important not to give up when concepts aren't making sense. Coding can be extremely difficult especially in the beginning when all of the topics are completely new. Learning to code can sound like a daunting task. However, coding is just like anything else; if you put in the time and effort, you can excel at it.

Hogue: It won't come easy at first, but it gets better. There are some amazing tools these days that "hide" a lot of the really complex stuff that goes on with coding, but there are still concepts that'll bend your brain a little the first time you run into them. Just relax and let it wash over you and know that eventually it'll all start to make sense.

Built In: How should you leverage other people (or resources) while learning to code?

Fishman: If you know anyone who can code, he/she can be an extremely valuable resource. Ask them questions about a particular topic that is giving you trouble. Explain a specific task to them and see how they would approach the problem. Their way of thinking can shape your perspective with future tasks. Another helpful resource is Stack Overflow. Most of the time, any questions that you have are already on Stack Overflow and you can read the threads. If you still can't find the answer anywhere, post a question yourself! Books are also a great resource. All of the O'Reilly books are comprehensive and are written in a way that is accessible. BuzzFeed recommends that people who want to learn Django read Two Scoops of Django, which is a good resource as well. Depending on what language or framework you are trying to learn, go to the bookstore and see what is out there. Programming books have been an invaluable resource for me over the last few years.

Hogue: Having a buddy who already knows how to code is probably the best possible thing — mentorship is a huge part of engineering and coding in general, at all levels. Someone who's been around the bend before can help you understand what's "hard" and what's "easy" when you're trying to undertake a project, since "hard" and "easy" for coding are often very different than they appear from the outside. There are also some amazing forums and groups out there for help with specific problems. Sites like StackOverflow contain answers to pretty much every problem you'll run into. Google is your friend—if you have an error, just paste it into Google and chances are someone else has already had the same problem, solved it, and posted the answer online.

Built In: Are there any lessons or experiences that will ensure your success as a coder?

Fishman: I believe in order to be a successful coder you have to be patient and persistent. Coding can be extremely frustrating at times. However, if you stick with a problem for long enough, you will figure out a creative way to solve it. You have to be willing to put in the time to test different solutions. I also think you think you have to know when to ask for help. If you are spending days trying to solve a problem and you aren't getting anywhere, it isn't beneficial to sit there stuck. Most of the time, talking to someone else about an issue won't just help you solve the problem at hand but will also help you in the future when you inevitably encounter a similar problem.

Hogue: I'm not sure anything can "ensure" success, but persistence will definitely pay off. Coding can be a very frustrating enterprise—computers still aren't very good at telling us what's wrong when they're broken. But it's also incredibly fulfilling to create something with your hands (and maybe, if you're lucky, get millions of people to use that thing you created as well).

(Full disclosure: Adrienne Fishman is the daughter of site owner Joanne Wallenstein.)

A Poem for Scarsdale's Pot Mom

weedsThis week, the New York Post reported that Scarsdale's "Pot Mom" Andrea Sanderlin who was arrested for growing and selling marijuana in a Queens warehouse, had found religion. Her lawyer Corey Winograd is asking Judge Brian Cogan to spare her from serving jail time, now that she is an active congregant at church.

Scarsdale poetess and author of "100 Days of Scarsdale Satire," Deborah Skolnik finds levity in Sanderlin's turn from smoke to scripture. Here's an original poem on the transformation.

Scarsdale's famous Pot Mom
insists she's changed indeed.
Now she's growing in her faith,
instead of growing weed.

She's at church on the regular;
the folks there say she's humble.
They've asked the court to kindly
try to overlook her stumble.

Her lawyer says she shouldn't
"be defined by her crime."
(Of course he's also angling
for her to get less time!)

He's asking that we try to see her
through a different lens,
forgetting her old mansion
and her sleek Mercedes Benz.

Perhaps this carefully made display
of regret and repentance
will actually help our old pal to
achieve a lighter sentence.

Then she can come back to the 'Dale
and take a look around,
and inhale (then quickly exhale!)
and report on what she's found:

"More stores have closed,skolnikheadshot
the taxes rose,
the Homestead Act got shot.
I think the 'Dale, not I,
am now the one who's gone to pot!"

Read more of Skolnik's hilarious reflections on life in the dale in her book, "100 Days of Scarsdale Satire."

Deans Guide Students and Families through the High School Experience

AndreaOGorman 3They're the first to greet students at the beginning of high school and the last to say goodbye as they handout diplomas at graduation. In between there are conferences, workshops and help with the college search. Scarsdale High School Deans follow students from ninth grade orientation through four years of adolescence and help them plot out plans for their new lives as young adults. The Dean is often the face of the high school for parents and students who turn to them for advice and help in resolving any questions or issues.

At a study session preceding the March 21 meeting of the Board of Education, Scarsdale's Director of Counseling Andrea O'Gorman gave an impressive presentation about the role of the SHS Counseling Department, outlining the many programs and services that impact students and parents. Viewed in its totality, the long list of department responsibilities and functions seemed to be more than a staff of nine deans and five support staffers could accomplish. But as anyone who has had a student matriculate through SHS knows, the counseling department is the center of the school, helping families to navigate the high school years, leading planning for college applications and the post-high school years.

For freshmen, Deans are active in freshman seminars and the Civ Ed program. They hold individual family conferences and track student progress. Tenth grade brings a sophomore seminar, a values clarification exercise and individual student conferences. In eleventh grade, the Deans begin preparing students for the future, helping them with the college search, essay writing, a standardized testing plan and instruction on how to use Naviance, to research college options. Students craft a personal bio, consider whom to ask for college recommendations and work on a timeline for the application process.

The Deans also hold workshops on financial aid, applying as an athlete, using the common application, preparing for interviews and offer programs to multicultural families, those with learning differences and students wishing to do a gap year.

The deans stay current by actively visiting a wide range of schools each year. In the last year, the nine deans visited 50 colleges and universities around the country. In addition, colleges seek out Scarsdale students, as 200 representatives visited SHS this past year.

The result of their efforts is impressive. O'Gorman reported that the office processes 5,000 college applications a year. Here are the most recent statistics on college applicants:

  • 98-99% go to college
  • 97-99% attend 4-year institutions
  • Over 60% are accepted at the most competitive schools
  • 96% apply before November 1
  • 88% apply to an early decision or early action plan

O'Gorman also shared some interesting news about college applications.

She cited a movement called Turning the Tide from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to humanize the college admissions process and teach students to value the high school experience. Rather than build a college resume, new thinking encourages them to do what's meaningful to them. O'Gorman said, "more is not always more," meaning that a long list of activities is not necessarily better than a few that a student feels passionate about.

She also mentioned a new college application called The Coalition Application which is aimed at low and moderate-income students and offers an option to the Common Application. It is designed to increase access and allows students to assemble a digital portfolio. Colleges can draft custom questions that meet their needs and include college-specific essay prompts.

In a relatively short presentation, O'Gorman offered much vital information about the high school experience. View it on the Scarsdale Schools website.

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