Photograph by Bob Capazzo
Just over the border in Pound Ridge, New York, is the hamlet of Scotts Corners. Its antiques stores will make you stop and browse, but North Star, a New American restaurant that opened about five years ago, will make you stay awhile.
The red clapboard, porch-lined exterior invites. Inside, dusky walls, velvet curtains and worn-wood floorboards add to the dining room’s warm and relaxed atmosphere. The food ranges from casual—wings and burgers at the bar—to upscale dishes like muscovy duck breast with roasted figs and rhubarb-ginger sauce. Live music—acoustic on Wednesdays, electric on Fridays and jazz on Sundays—adds a convivial tone to the cozy space.
The menu is small and well chosen. The organic free-range roast chicken comes from John Boy, one my favorite organic farmers, who also raises excellent free-range quail and squab. North Star’s menu smartly, and not excessively, matches meat, fowl and fish with starches, vegetables and sauces to reflect the Asian-Mediterranean influences of New American cuisine. I immediately fell for an appetizer of honey-fennel roasted pork belly, the candy of the savory world. The sweet, caramelized skin gave way to rich, meltingly decadent meat. A puddle of puréed soybeans added a healthful note to the plate, also showered with slivers of jicama and green apple, a delicate contrast to the meat and the purée.
An entrée of soy-glazed Chilean sea bass presented a seared, yet moist, piece of fish placed upon a benign beurre blanc that added richness without competing with the mild flavor of the fish. Fresh snow peas, bright green and tender, crunched slightly. Accompanying basmati rice was fragrant and elegant.
North Star’s spot-on rendition of spaghetti bolognese married ground veal and plum tomatoes into a bright, flavorful sauce that was entwined and absorbed into each strand of the al dente pasta. Simple, comforting and delicious.
My garlic-averse friend (how dull life must be for her!) chose the turkey meatloaf. It came with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots. It was fine, but she kept exclaiming over the spaghetti bolognese and the sea bass, which despite her fears, were not overpowered by garlic.
The least successful of the dishes we tried was an appetizer of macaroni and cheese. The little shells, properly cooked and bathed in a sauce of artisan cheddar, fontina and Swiss cheeses, was topped with browned panko crumbs. But the flavor of truffle oil overwhelmed. I pray for the day when the public and restaurateurs lose their affection for this artificially flavored oil. Mushrooms are a better way to impart earthiness. This truffle Mac & Cheese elicited ennui. We each tried one bite and didn’t want more.
Desserts are made in-house. And the chocolate chocolate chocolate brioche bread pudding with warm chocolate-hazelnut sauce was a triple winner—light textured, creamy, deeply chocolatey. In contrast, the caramelized banana crepe with toasted hazelnuts and Nutella was very sweet, and the crêpe was missing a gentle elasticity.
North Star has a devoted following of customers who love their favorite dishes, and it’s easy to see why.