John Gizzi and Diann Greco, the American Wine Society?certified wine judges at Make Wine With Us, teach wine aficionados to create their own wines using grapes harvested in Californian and Chilean vineyards. At the start of the nine-month process (California grapes in the fall, Chile grapes in the spring), winemakers-to-be assemble with fellow enthusiasts to learn the intricacies of the trade. Patrons learn to crush and destem grapes in a machine called a crusher-destemmer, named after the device's favorite Germanic metal band. Following the crushing process, a hydraulic press forces juice into barrels, where it shall remain until the conclusion of its sweet, sweet metamorphosis.
At the end of the nine-month period, newly minted winemakers lean on family and friends to fill, cork, and custom-label the finished product. Budding vintners then tote home their vintages to share with family, friends, and robot butlers with built-in carafes.
Star chef and restaurateur Peter Xaviar Kelly opened his first restaurant, Xaviar’s in Garrison, when he was only 23. Since then he has battled Bobby Flay, cooked at the James Beard House (and nominated for one of its namesake awards), introduced Anthony Bourdain to the Hudson Valley's bounty, and opened more restaurants. At Xaviars at Piermont, he presents a menu of inventive American cuisine, focusing on seafood, steaks, and duck.
The restaurant's appetizers set a high bar, with rotating selections that can include Hudson Valley foie gras, Coach Farm goat cheese risotto with black truffle, and yellowfin tuna tartare with miso-cured avocado. Entrees embody that same spirit, from the hoisin-glazed Hudson Valley duck breast to caraway-crusted pork tenderloin with ale-braised bacon and mustard jus. Throughout, wrote The New York Times in a 2003 review bearing an "excellent" rating, "the ingredients are seasonal and flawless, and the dishes are colorful and beautifully balanced." Zagat agrees, ranking its cuisine at 28 out of 30 possible points.
In the 40-seat dining room, chandelier lighting dances off Baccarat crystal figurines placed on each table. Versace china presents the cuisine and Riedel stemware accommodates selections from the massive 750-option wine list, which is so riveting it has become a staple in book clubs.
Geranium red walls and a seemingly endless supply of fresh Thai orchids contribute to the serene ambiance at Reka’s Thai Restaurant, where the kitchen staffers create classics of royal-style cuisine. With a focus on subtlety of flavors, they fuse both imported ingredients as well as those from local merchants when creating dishes like Escargot Thai Style, Green Papaya Salad, Crispy Duck with Crispy Kale, and Wild Boar Jungle Style, all of which are plated with an artful flair. To complement the leisurely dining style, chords from a classical guitarist permeate the dining room on every Friday and Saturday evening.
At Mulberry Street Italian Kitchen, the aromas of cured meats, sautéed shellfish, and grilled steaks waft past leather-cushioned booths and dark wood tables set against exposed brick walls. In a partially open kitchen that’s visible from a raised dining area, chefs blend traditional Italian recipes with modern techniques, realizing the dream Leonardo da Vinci birthed when he invented the convection oven. They specialize in New York-style brick-oven-fired pizzas topped with ingredients such as spicy cherry peppers, italian sausage, prosciutto di parma, arugula, and clams. They also toss traditional pastas, and create classic chicken, veal, and seafood dishes in styles such as parmigiana, milanese, and saltimbocca. At a long, polished bar set in front of a row of arched windows, bartenders pour vintages from an extensive wine list featuring bottles from Italy, France, and California.
Father-son restaurateurs Pasquale and Francesco Coli chose the name Massa' Italian Kitchen & Bar as a tribute to the southern Italian farmhouses, known as “masserias,” that line the countryside of their native Puglia, located on the heel of Italy. Their passion for the rustic, Old-World charm of Puglia permeates the kitchen, where chefs hand form pastas, chop local farm vegetables, and assemble housemade sausages. As a nod to Puglia's centuries-old maritime traditions, they also seek out fresh shipments of fish and seafood every day. Before diners embark on a gustatory expedition to Italy, servers suggest wine pairings from a list of more than 100 bottles, and bartenders mix signature cocktails with vodkas they infuse with vibrant fruits.
Today the restaurant continues to embrace its rustic roots, catering to diners and families who appreciate classic Italian cuisine and healthy portion sizes. The easy, dining-room evokes the feel of a rural cottage with its exposed-stone walls, floor-to-ceiling fireplace, and woodwork, which was constructed out of materials salvaged from century-old New England barns to created a relaxed dining experience. At each table, Old-World crafted entrees steam atop white plates, while families and friends breezily chatter amid the homey ambiance to the split-level dining room and wine bar.