Westchester Magzine, June 2006
"Good Things Come to Those Who Wait "
By Marge Perry and David Bonom
Long before it became peter Pratt’s Inn—centuries ago, when the mention of crème brûlée and a smoked trout-jicama tower might have led people to believe you were speaking in tongues—the building began its life as the foundation of a barn.Today, that same space, which serves as the inn’s main dining room, feels more like a Colonial tavern. Heavy chestnut beams overhead and original stone walls (now painted white) create a cozy atmosphere—one that’s made all the more inviting by the enormous stone fireplace at one end of the room. The physical space sets the stage; the congenial staff keeps the inviting, comfortable feeling going. Service, like the restaurant itself, is casual and often endearing. It felt like home when, upon approaching the host stand, we heard glass shatter. The young hostess rolled her eyes, then looked at us and said, “Sorry, but it’s my brother. He does that at home, too.” What parent of teenagers couldn’t relate? Tableside staff were similarly familial and pleasant.
As much as the “Hi-I’m-Bob-and-I’ll-be-your-server-tonight” approach used at so many restaurants feels like a grating intrusion, here the staff was friendly without violating boundaries; relaxed but attentive. It was impressive that, in the midst of a discussion with a dining companion about the building, a waitress quietly placed a page explaining the inn’s history on the table between us.
Given that level of attentiveness, one has to wonder why the food takes so long to get to the table. The kitchen is upstairs from this dining room (presumably closer to the more formal event space), but the distance to the kitchen doesn’t seem to be the issue. On one occasion, we waited an hour for our appetizers and another thirty minutes for dinner. On a very quiet night, two diners at our table waited—and waited—for their dinner to arrive for a full five minutes after the others had been served—long enough for the served meals to become tepid.
A decent wine list, while not extensive, offered some interesting, well-priced choices to help pass the time while we waited. The menu was similarly well balanced, with choices for adventurous eaters and traditionalists alike.
Traditionalists won’t be able to resist the enticing smell of the onion soup as it wafts by on its way to a neighboring table. This is the classic beefy onion soup topped with a generous amount of gratinée—sure to please enthusiasts. A signature dish, called foiejitas, was inventive and fun, if imperfect. Little batons of foie gras cooked on the way to the table in a sizzling cast-iron pan, in much the way fajitas cook. These tasty little gems were, amazingly, cooked to perfection when placed before us. Our quibbles with the dish had to do with the overly sweet candied shallots and bitingly sharp marinated peppers. When making the “foiejitas,” care should be taken to include only a small amount of each of these condiments, or they will overwhelm the foie gras.
The kitchen has a propensity for sweet. Perfectly browned, moist and tender scallops were accompanied by a praline crust that we found puzzling. Long-cooked, lightly seasoned baked lady apples on the plate lent plenty of sweet balance to the dish; the praline felt like a sideswipe. On another occasion, the scallops—still perfectly cooked—were accompanied by red beets, frisée, mushrooms, artichokes, and cauliflower purée: perfectly in balance and perfectly delicious.
Twice we tried the strip steak on this ever-changing menu, and twice we found it to be all we could want in a steak: thick, tender, juicy, beefy, marbled, and perfectly cooked. We loved it. Our dining companions loved it. The four people at the table next to us who all ordered it loved it.
A pan-roasted pork chop was also cooked to moist, tender perfection. A slightly sweet garlicky glaze flavored the meat nicely; bacon gave beet greens heft and smoky flavor, while a crunchy, tart apple-cabbage slaw and creamy fingerling potatoes completed another intelligently and pleasingly balanced plate.
Of the desserts we tried, the sticky date cake was the least appealing: it was very sweet (as these cakes tend to be) but lacked the requisite date flavor. No matter—there are plenty of better desserts to try. The maple-walnut sundae combined a scoop of creamy rich vanilla ice cream topped with candied walnuts, a pistachio tuille, and—the piece de résistance—a bowl of maple syrup tapped from trees on the property. Go for it. And, if not for that, then for the “deconstructed” black forest cake: chocolate cake plus a separate ganache, a ramekin of pot de crème, and a dried cherry compote. This was more fun, if not better, than the traditional “combined” version of black forest cake.Peter Pratt ’s Inn certainly is worth the trip up a long and winding road, but be aware: the MapQuest directions, as is noted on the restaurant’s website, are wrong.
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