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Food for Thought – Westchester Magazines’ Wine & Food Festival Welcomes Tarrytown Chefs

By W.B. King

Babalu'Q and Little B's owners

Babalu’Q owner Bebe Gonzalez and Little B’s Burger Bar owner David Thomas

Tarrytown’s Little B’s Burger Bar and Babalu’Q, an authentic Cuban catering company, are among 100 of the County’s top eateries presenting at the 2016 Wine & Food Festival. Billed as Westchester’s best block party, the sixth annual event is sponsored by Westchester Magazine and runs Wednesday, June 8 through Sunday, June 12 at various locations.

“We expect that over the course of the five-day festival, which includes six different events that offer a little something for everyone, we will have around 5,000 people,” said Westchester Magazine’s Publisher Ralph Martinelli who added that 200 world-class wines will be featured.

The Thursday evening event, Burger & Beer Blast, will be held in Valhalla at the Kensico Dam Plaza. Little B’s owner, David Thomas, will be competing against more than 30 other restaurants for the coveted Blue Moon’s Best Burger Award.

“We are in it to win it,” said Thomas, a longtime Tarrytown resident.

Prior to opening Little B’s in 2010, Thomas, and his wife, Sharon, owned the upscale Jack & Dyl’s restaurant in the same location on Main Street. In 2006, Westchester Magazine awarded Jack & Dyl’s with its Best Short Ribs Award.

While Little B’s is well-known for its “build your own burger” and a myriad of inspired, tasty sliders, specialty burgers and side dishes, Thomas can only present one burger to the voting public.

“I can’t divulge all the ingredients, but pineapple coleslaw and honey sriracha bacon are involved,” said Thomas who graduated with honors from the California Culinary Academy in 1988 with a degree in Le Cardon Bleu Culinary Arts. He later went on to open Bridge Street in Irvington in the mid-1990s, which received an “excellent” four-star review from The New York Times.

Recipes Rooted in History

While not competing for a prize, Babalu’Q, owned and operated by native Tarrytown resident BeBe Gonzalez, will be a featured presenter at the Grand Tasting Village on Saturday at the Kensico Dam Plaza. Gonzalez explained that he will showcase his specialized approach to an authentic Cuban pig roast, a detailed and time consuming process that usually takes five hours (for a 75-pound pig).

“What we offer at this event will be unique because we will be doing an onsite pig roast, so attendees can see the whole process,” said Gonzalez. “This all came about because I was hired to do a pig roast for a person affiliated with the festival. They loved the concept and extended an invitation, which I gladly accepted.”

Gonzalez learned aspects of his trade from his late father, a well-respected business owner who operated restaurants in the Westchester Country Club and the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. He also owned the original Huddle and Scorpios; the former is now the Green Machine laundromat and the latter is home to the Tarry Tavern.

“The majority of the recipes I use were handed down to me from my parents both of whom came from Cuba,” said Gonzalez. Other dishes on his menu include sweet plantains, fried yucca, roasted chicken, roasted pork shoulders, and a variety of rice dishes and Caribbean salads.

Culinary Merriment

Martinelli said that each year the festival continues to grow. He noted that the Burger & Beer Blast is usually the most attended event, but that is relative to the growth of other events. For example, participants for An Evening with Westchester’s Tastemakers (Friday June 10 at The Ritz-Carlton in White Plains) doubled from last year and will feature 20 chefs and restaurants, including Tarrytown’s RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen. And while most events are 21 and over, this year there is a kid-friendly event: Use Your Noodle (Sunday June 12 at Cross County Shopping Center).

“This is where kids will have fun playing with their food and learning how to cook,” said Martinelli. “The entire festival is full of entertainment.”

As Thomas and Gonzalez prepare for the festival they do so as good friends. In recent years, they have seen an impressive transformation on Tarrytown’s Main Street, which they feel is due, in large part, to the varied food offerings. To this end, the Grand Tasting Village event will also include Tarrytown’s Coffee Labs Roasters, Cooper’s Mill, The Oath, The Taco Project and The Twisted Oak.

“Tarrytown finally has a good mix of restaurants,” said Thomas who added that he is proud to represent Tarrytown at the festival. “The quality of the food has definitely been elevated. There is now a little bit of everything for everybody.”

Gonzalez said its “fantastic” that other Tarrytown businesses will be participating at the festival and can’t wait to sample the mélange of dishes that will be offered to attendees.

“It’s wonderful to have the chance to work with your friends and neighbors,” said Gonzalez. “While my specialty is Cuban cuisine, I am a foodie and it’s going to be great to learn from other chefs that have different approaches.”

For Wine & Food Festival tickets, schedule and information: westchestermagazine.com/winefood. To contact Little B’s and Babalu Q, (914) 631-2228 and (845) 480-8133, respectively.

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