This time of year makes me homesick for northern Minnesota. Even though the temperatures dip to -20 degrees and it’s illegal to make a left hand turn on Main Street because the snowbanks are so high, I still miss it, and especially the traditional Christmas FOODS!
Many Scandinavians settled around Duluth, and during Christmastime my Norwegian mom made Lutefisk, which is a whitefish that is dried in lye to give it a gelatinous texture. The fish is then soaked in water to remove the lye, and it is renowned for its strong smell and its ability to destroy sterling silver upon contact! My dad was Slovenian, and strongly believed that no Christmas menu was complete without, poticia, a paper-thin sweet bread filled with walnuts, honey, butter and sugar. Sweet memories!
When I moved to New England I loved trying different ethnic foods that were unheard of in Minnesota, especially during Christmastime. I decided to hunt for the best places in the Hudson Valley to find some traditional, ethic foods served during the Holidays.
BUON APETITO! MANGIA! GUTEN APPETIT!
Lalibela is named after the holiest city in Ethiopia, where rock-hewn churches from the 12th century still exist today. The owner, Selamawit Tesfaye, is a native of Ethiopia and is excited about realizing her dream of bringing Ethiopian cuisine to Westchester.
At Lalibela you’ll find dishes for meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans! The menu embodies the full richness of slowly cooked meats, veggies, onions, fresh ginger, garlic, chilies and clarified butter with a distinctive variety of unique spices such as berbere and mitmita to create savory sautés. One of Ethiopia's staple food is injera. Injera is made from a grain called teff, a tiny round cereal grain closely resembling millet, native to east Africa, ground to powder and fermented.
During the Holidays, Lalibela will be serving Doro Wat, the most popular traditional Ethiopian delicacy. Wat means spicy stew or curry made with vegetables, lamb, chicken, or beef and cooked with a Berbere (an Ethiopian spice paste). Families eat the Wat as part of a group who share a communal bowl with a basket of injera. No utensils are needed, because the bread is used to scoop up the stew.
Lalibela, 37 South Moger Avenue, Mt. Kisco, NY. 914-864-1343
The mission of Florrie Kaye’s Tea Room and Gift Shop is to “Transport you back in time to a place of elegance… For you to be treated like royalty, if only for a short time.” Guests admire the period garments and bric-a-brac that adorn the walls, take photos with life-size standees of the royal family, and even adorn fancy, plumed hats crafted by the owner’s mother for high tea.
Florrie Kaye’s Tea Room will be serving Christmas favorites from the other side of the pond including potted shrimp braised in butter and prawns with a Marie Rose sauce, a British condiment made from a blend of tomatoes, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and pepper. There will also be a hearty chestnut soup and a delectable trifle.
Florrie Kaye’s Tea Room, 69 Gleneida Avenue, Carmel, NY. 845-225-8327
Il Barilotto Enoteca features a unique blend of modern technique and Italian flavors. ‘Enoteca,’ an Italian word used to describe a special type of wine shop (found frequently throughout Italy), is the perfect description for what Zagat reviewers called “sublime” and “romantic.” Wine Spectator has agreed for the past several years, recognizing Il Barilotto with an “Award of Excellence” for their collection of well-chosen producers and high quality wines.
All during December, Il Barilotto will serve their house specialty, fresh white truffles flown in from Italy, and shaved over pasta and paired with a Barbaresco. Truffle fans come from far and wide to savor this delicacy, so make your reservations early.
Il Barilotto, 1113 Main Street, Fishkill, NY. 845-897-4300
“This place is worth a trip from anywhere in the Hudson Valley, and I plan to get back as soon as possible.” The rave reviews for Panzur, a Spanish restaurant, keep coming.
Chef Rei Peraza’s grandfather loved to celebrate life with food, wine and a good cigar. He peeled grapes for his wife just because he knew she loved them. “That to me is the essence of why I do what I do,” said Peraza.
Panzur's menu, inspired by the bounty of the Hudson Valley, offers farm-to-table New American cuisine.
Only on Christmas Eve, Panzur’s Holiday entree will be a suckling pig with orange and laurel leaves.
Panzur, 89 Broadway, Tivoli, NY. 845-757-1071