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Friday, May 04, 2012

AMBIANCE AND FINE DINING--A WINNING COMBINATION AT WARWICK'S CHATEAU HATHORN

Chateau Hathorn, Warwick, NY
The most exquisite restaurant in the Warwick Valley is Chateau Hathorn, an elegant, graceful mansion which catches the eye of anyone traveling through Warwick, New York.  What pleases the eye when passing by, however, is just a hint of the pleasures to be enjoyed within this extraordinary establishment. 

Years ago on a trip through Warwick, Dolph Zueger, fell in love with the building, reminiscent of a European chateau. He and his wife, Helene, left their successful restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, New York to spend a year painstakingly returning this neglected home to its former beauty.  Enter Chateau Hathorn today with its rich woods, beautiful fireplaces and staircases, and you will feel as if you’ve entered a luxurious world where meals fit for royalty are served.  You would be right.  You are the royalty. The Zuegers are still owners, and Dolph is the chef.

Rob and I first came here years ago after friends of ours, the Thorntons of Dobbs Ferry, learned of the Zuegers’ new enterprise.  Their respect for Dolph’s artistry led them to drive up here from Westchester, and our first visit with them was memorable.

Over the years, we enjoyed the Zuegers’ hospitality and delicious creations on many occasions.

We’ve also enjoyed a special, private, wine tasting/dinner hosted by Warwick friends, the Katzes.  That evening, in the incredibly magnificent wine cellar, Dolph offered an excellent array of superlative dishes accompanied by fine wines.  The beautiful award-winning wine cellar, btw, is stocked with over 12,000 bottles.

This latest visit, prompted by Rob’s birthday, was another incredible evening.  Frank Sinatra played softly in the background of the dimly lit room.  The atmosphere was romantic.  Our server was Sandra Zueger, Dolph and Helene’s daughter, and she served as our guide as well.

As we started with a cocktail, our first discussion had to do with available vodkas.  We drink our vodka straight with just a touch of ice.  The Chateau serves Tito's which Rob had heard of but which we had never tasted.  Sandra and Rob discussed its possibilities, and that was our choice.  EXCELLENT.  Tito's is produced in Austin, Texas, a favorite city, and it is distilled with 100% yellow corn. It is a bit sweeter than potato or wheat vodkas.  It is also rare to find Tito's, but Chateau Hathorn is a rare experience.

A server delivered crudités and a ranch dressing: carrots, cauliflower buds, olives, and celery.

For appetizers we each had Escargot “Café de Paris” in a light herb butter that begged to be sopped up by the accompanying warm rolls.

Rob and I went our separate ways with our entrées.  Everything on the menu tantalized, so once again we turned to Sandra for sound advice. 

Rob selected pan-seared pork tenderloin in a cabernet reduction sauce, Gruyere Risotto Béarnaise and Colossal Crabmeat, and a tomato concasse garnish.  Asparagus prepared exactly as Rob likes accompanied his meal. Exquisite. 

I vacillated because so much temptation appeared on that menu.  I finally decided on Broiled Halibut.  I’ve only had halibut fresh in Alaska, but my faith in Dolph’s skill led me to go with my instincts, and I was so right.  This was wonderful, meaty, flaky, fresh fish done to perfection.  Accompanying it were pan-sautéed baby spinach and the Gruyere Risotto Béarnaise.  My other vegetables included grilled zucchini and endive with mango salsa. 

Throughout the evening when Sandra stopped by to make sure we were satisfied, we’d chat about our Dobbs Ferry friends and how much we enjoyed coming to Chateau Hathorn.  By and by, her father, our chef, came out to say hello.  He wanted to know what we had decided upon for dessert.  We asked him which he thought was best, the apple strudel a la mode or the apple fritter a la mode.  He said they were both wonderful but that he had another special one.

When our coffee arrived, we began to sip and then a tray was brought with all three desserts.  Incredible!!!!!

1. The pleasantly warm apple strudel had a crisp outer layer.  The crust was perfect.  It was bursting with apples and alongside was delicious vanilla ice cream.  The strudel was soft enough to divide in half but not hot enough to melt all the ice cream.  Perfection.

2. The nice warm apple fritter was unlike any fritter I had ever seen (eaten).  It was puffed up, filled with fruit, and the dough just sweet enough without being overwhelmed by the vanilla ice cream.  We divided this too.  Perfection again.

3. The special dessert was Coupe Danemark (vanilla ice cream with melted swiss chocolate tolberone.) The truth is this desert almost defies description. It was served in a circular glass dish with, I think, a shell of white chocolate filled with a circular swirl of ice cream.  At the center of the swirl was a hollow into which melted chocolate was poured.  It was as delicious as it was beautiful.  Yes, we split and ate that too.  Perfection.

When Sandra came by and offered us after dinner drinks, we demurred.  If you know us, you know that kind of refusal is a rarity.  We were contentedly full.  If you follow our restaurant choices, you know more often than not we don’t have dessert.  At Chateau Hathorn we shared three.  This is quite an extraordinary place.  It is physically beautiful.  The staff is excellent, friendly and professional.  The chef is an artist who creates magnificently delicious memorable dishes.  You leave wanting to return quite soon.

Do yourself a favor and check out their beautiful web site.  It opens with a stunning view from the air.  Chateau Hathorn is also an inn offering special packages.  On Wednesdays there is a special dinner/wine package for two.  There are other events in season as well.  A visit here is a vacation in itself.

 






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