A ‘Babette’s Feast’ of a birthday

It was two years ago that we repaired to The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester in White Plains for the first of our fantasy staycation stories, an occasional series. It was the same weekend as the Brexit vote, and as the stock market plunged and nerves frayed, The Ritz was as cool as the indoor pool on its top floor.

So when the hotel invited us back for a birthday dinner in its Lobby Lounge last weekend, how could we say “no”? Amid a cozy setting replete with overstuff furnishings, abstract art and a roaring fire (contained and mostly for effect, given the heat outside), we whiled away a sumptuous late-summer evening. It was like something out of the movies “Chocolat” or “Babette’s Feast” – a once-in-a-lifetime meal not soon to be forgotten.

We began with Midori cocktails, a cool and refreshing complement to the spicy chipotle shrimp and avocado tostadas, the melt-in-your-mouth mini lobster rolls and the Mongolian barbecue chicken wings, The Ritz’s zesty take on buffalo wings.

Our salad course featured a cucumber and tomato salad as well as a strawberry and avocado salad, accompanied by Aperol spritzers, my sister Gina’s suggestion. This set the stage nicely for the main course – blackened barramundi with wilted bok choy, coconut banana, Thai basil peanut sauce and mango chutney; paired with Hungarian paprika roasted cauliflower steak with red quinoa, lacinato kale and tomato caper relish.

I was particularly impressed with the care lavished on my lactose-intolerant sister, right down to her dairy-free chocolate dessert. (I sampled two Turkish delights – a take on fried Mozzarella and Riccota with pistachio ice cream and a hazelnut mousse cake.)

We savored these with Pimm’s cups, the fruity cocktail favorite of polo, and coffee.

But as our wise waitress (the same one who offered a steadying presence throughout our Brexit stay) explained, lots of restaurants serve great food. Great service is what makes the difference. Throughout we were attended by her and a management staff that includes Manu Manikandan, food and beverage manager; Jennifer West, assistant director of food and beverage; Lia Buffa, sous chef; and Diana Garcia, public relations coordinator.

We departed with some lovely gifts – a Ritz water bottle; Asprey Purple Water body lotion, one of the products used in the hotel Spa; and a strawberry shortcake inscribed with “Happy Birthday, Georgette.”

If only our birthday came every day.

For more, visit ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/new-york/westchester. For more on food and hospitality, check out WAG’s July issue. And look for more on The Ritz in our September issue.

– Georgette Gouveia

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