Insatiable Critic, August 09, 2012

No Rooms, but Good Grub at the Inn in Purdys

Beyond the pearly gates of foodie heaven sits The Box Tree, a late '70s inn and restaurant, once known more for its charming 1750 converted farmhouse, antique-stuffed rooms and Rolls-Royce car service from Manhattan to Purdys, than the menu.   We summer in the area - a gourmet wasteland - and have seen this spot change hands, ever hopeful, but until now, disappointed.  
Happily, after the falterings in recent years, comes Purdy's Farmer & the Fish with a trio of seafood veterans who seem to have found the secret sauce for this rustic gem in Northern Westchester.  Edward Taylor, owner of Bronx-based wholesale Down East Seafood and  Fish Restaurant on Bleecker Street has teamed here with chef Michael Kaphan, a Peter Kump Chef School graduate with a degree in agriculture, and Michael's wife Suzie, the energy at the door and more. Their devotion extends to an enormous terraced garden next door, where they grow most of their vegetables.
Open less than four months, the joint was jumping the three evenings we went, especially the bar, two-deep with guzzlers. Clutches of blonde septuagenarians, thirty-something fashionistas, middle-agers in pastel polo shirts against glowing tans, starter couples, and wait staff zipping around, created a racket that sent me reeling. Wait a sec. I'm in the country, in a country inn, not in Manhattan, where din is de rigeur. Maybe I'm hearing the sound of joy discovering great food north of the city.   Maybe it's just a low ceiling, wooden beams, old farmhouse acoustics and frenzy in the raw bar.

 As its name suggests, seafood is center stage, and needless to say, Taylor and the Kaphans get their goods from the top of the pile.   The raw bar could compete with any in the city. My half-dozen littlenecks - a buck a pop - were so good, I had six more.   This also means exquisite sea scallops on frisee salad ($12), plumped with lardons and a perfectly fried egg on top, a starter that could easily be an entree.   Wild king salmon is a steal at $23, with one dissent. Our friend who had it  was  muttering the roasted garlic vinaigrette overwhelmed the velvety filet.   Fish and chips (Icelandic cod), beer-battered to a crunch and tender inside, with addictive charred fries ($16) have me wanting to keep coming back. And so we do. 
Next outing, our foursome had Nova Scotia halibut ($28), undercooked just right, sweet and crispy soft shell crabs ($25) sizzling off the pan. Fighting my bias against cream soups, I went for the New England clam chowder ($5/$8) and made quick work of a steamy mug of clam-filled, briny, lightly creamed chowder. Bias be gone. My only real disappointment was the lobster roll ($19).   Geared up for mayonnaise indulgence and big chunks of lobster, I got neither. Small bits mixed with shallots, cucumbers, basil, chives, slicked with lemon aioli on a toasted potato roll left me wanting.   It could use a tweak for more richness. Entrees all arrive with a green or grain, and portions are generous.   A few desserts round out the menu. The salted caramel ice cream (Soho Creamery) needs attention. It was ice cream soup both times we ordered it. Great for kids, maybe. For us, not so much. 
Next on deck, a fish and produce stand adjacent to the restaurant. We'll be back, competing for a table.
Purdy's Farmer & the Fish, 100 Titicus Road, North Salem, NY 914 617 8380.
Lunch seven days, noon to 3pm; bar menu seven days 3 to 5:30pm; dinner Friday - Saturday 5:30pm to Midnight; dinner Sunday - Thursday   5:30 - 11pm. Reservations a must. 
Photos by Tim Shea.  May not be used without permission.

Written by Vicki Polon on August 09, 2012
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