Menu Movers & Shakers

Looking Forward to More Culinary Experiences in the New Year

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menu moversBy Morris Gut

We all know 2020 was a difficult year and we owe it to ourselves to find some personal nirvana.

Leslie Allicks, founder of The Tea Experience, a mobile tea party catering service, may have a soothing solution. She recently launched SimpliciTEA, an online presence for the retail sale of loose-leaf teas, and a tea of the month subscription box program.

Allicks grew up in St. Croix where there is a history of drinking and serving tea. She operated Lola’s Tea House in Pelham from 2007 to 2012. She honed her expertise by attending tea school, visiting teahouses throughout New York and Connecticut, interviewing teahouse owners and joining the world tea trade association.

You can blend in with Allicks and The Tea Experience at 914-772-0126 or by visiting

Forina Founder Featured on Food Network

A basket of supplies from The Tea Experience.

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri has produced a new documentary for the Food Network titled “Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line.” It follows several well-known chef-owners from coast to coast as they make their way through the pandemic.

Popular Westchester chef Christian Petroni, a founder of the La Fortina restaurant group with units in Armonk, Stamford, Yonkers and Brooklyn, is one. Another New York City-based chef-owner is Marcus Samuelsson.

I caught the premier recently and thought that it was well done. Apparently, they began shooting this early on in the pandemic, so you do get some perspective as the story moves forward. Four highly successful restaurant groups struggle through the crisis. By the end of the feature, they remain in a holding pattern, unsure what may happen to their business next.

That is exactly where the restaurant community is now. For many in the food service industry, it is already too late. Frustrating and sad. Those that are left forge ahead.

Turns out that Petroni used this platform to back out of the day-to-day business at his restaurants. COVID-19 burnout, I guess. He says he is planning to take off on what seems a mystical culinary journey in his custom-built pizza truck. Sounds a bit like “Chef,” the movie.

If you missed it, check out for future airings of the documentary.

White Plains Restaurant Month

Kicking off 2021, White Plains BID has launched White Plains Restaurant Month with a variety of dining options in the city’s downtown. Restaurants are expected to offer prix fixe specials for lunch for $20.95, dinner for $30.95 and/or what is being called a second-tier enhanced dinner for $40.95. Take-out is included.

If you want to take advantage, a list of participating eateries and their menus can be viewed at

Enjoy Baccala at Vivolo

The traditional baccala salad at Trattoria Vivolo in Harrison.

Seasonal baccala, also referred to as salt cod, has been a traditional staple in many ethnic kitchens, especially during the holiday season. Chef-owner Dean Vivolo of Trattoria Vivolo prepares several versions, and one of my favorites is baccala salad. It is delish! Vivolo also prepares it fried or in a stew with potatoes.

His paglia e fieno con funghi was also incredibly flavorful with its mix of mushroom ragu, scallions, crispy prosciutto and pecorino cheese. We enjoyed it with a side of tender broccoli rabe.

Vivolo and his friendly staff are on top of their game. His robust regional Italian cuisine is served out of a restored diner just across from Harrison’s Metro-North station. Sit at the counter, tuck into a booth or take a table in the rear greenhouse and enjoy the surprising contemporary and traditional flavors emanating from his kitchen: tasty thin-crusted pizza; fresh old-fashioned meatballs and sausage; rabbit cacciatore; crostini di polenta, topped with wild mushrooms, gorgonzola and tomato sauce; lasagna Bolognese al forno; osso buco, tender braised veal shank; and an occasional roasted porchetta.

There’s also a good wine list. Open seven days; parking is free. Trattoria Vivolo is located at 301 Halstead Ave. in Harrison. Info: 914-835-6199 or visit

Hudson Valley Bounty Online

Doorstep Market is an online platform for food and drink artisans throughout the Hudson Valley and across the country. It is a good source to shop for quality craft culinary products produced locally. It is sprinkled with profiles and appetizing product descriptions. A fine way to support local food service. To browse the offerings, visit

“Ratatouille” is Coming!

It is one of my favorite culinary-themed movies from 2007 produced by Disney/Pixar, albeit animated. It is an unlikely fable about Remy the Rat who dreams of becoming a Michelin star chef in an upscale restaurant kitchen in Paris. He sneaks into a bustling spot and begins to learn by hiding in a kitchen with a top chef. It is an extraordinary tour de force that brings smiles to everyone who sees it.

Emily Jacobsen, a Hartsdale schoolteacher, started a strong grassroots movement of screening “Ratatouille” on the web. She composed and posted an early melody using TikTok as a platform, and it grew from there. It finally began screening on Jan. 1, and it was a great way to start 2021.

The premiere was a benefit for The Actors Fund. Work is ongoing for future airings. A Broadway musical is also planned after the pandemic has abated. We can only hope so. Info: Visit

Chowhound Great for Foodies

Homebound a lot more during the pandemic? Here is a safe way to keep in touch with the culinary world. If you are passionate about your cooking and dining and you enjoy sharing your experiences, you may want to participate on the online discussion forum 

It was originally founded by Jim Leff and Bob Okumura in 1997, foodies with an unquenchable hunger for everything culinary. now sports a new colorful format and offers quick posting and response times on many of your favorite food-related topics, along with posts from regions across the country and abroad. There is a Westchester/Connecticut board, Hudson Valley board, Manhattan board, New Jersey board, and so on, and cooking forums as well. You are welcome to join the conversation or just look in from time to time. There is no cost to register. Visit

Please continue to follow COVID-19 protocols and stay safe.

Morris Gut is a restaurant marketing consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for 30 years. He may be reached at 914-235-6591 or

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