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Restaurant Week forges ahead

Red Hat Irvington

Red Hat in Irvington was flooded when the surge from the Hudson River covered the restaurant’s first floor.

The week began with an invitation. Residents of Westchester County and the surrounding region are being encouraged to support local eateries during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, a local tradition most foodies look forward to.

This is the first time the event is being held in the fall, but the timing has put a damper on things. Hurricane Sandy’s recent visit has made this celebration of local cuisine difficult for some to be a part of, having wreacked havoc across the region causing suffering in residential and commercial areas throughout the county.

A week after the storm hit, some restaurants had to accept defeat and withdraw from the event’s highly promoted lineup. Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry cancelled its participation and is only offering patrons a limited menu while it recovers from the storm. In Irvington, the much-beloved Red Hat on the River sustained enough damage to completely shut down the restaurant for the time being. Red Hat was flooded when the surge from the Hudson River poured four to five feet of water onto its first floor, ruining its wood floors and making an abnormal mess of its kitchen.

It’s been a struggle for proprietor Mary Beth Dooley. She co-owns the restaurant with partner Jim Parker and has been overseeing the cleanup effort at the restaurant. At the same, time she lived without power at her home for several days after the storm.

“It’s a difficult period,” Dooley said. “Coming home to a freezing house on top of this was a drag.” But her team is forging ahead working relentlessly to get the Red Hat back in form. Dooley says they’ve made progress with help of some friends. Neighbors in the Bridge Street complex, home to Red Hat, who have power are sharing that blessing. The Red Hat is able to run cables through the yard to power generators, humidifiers and other tools. Workers are busy cleansing and sanitizing the first floor to prepare rebuilding.

Dooley acknowledges it’s a process. She has flood insurance for Red Hat, but she insists they don’t have time to wait for an adjuster to assess the damage and deliver a check. “We’ve had to go, go, go, go, go. We can’t wait.” There’s a sincere urgency to get back to earning income, Dooley said, but it’s also about the clientele, who have provided a moral boost. Red Hat has relied on social media to maintain its relationship with customers.

Restaurants able to participate in Restaurant Week can get a significant sales boost ranging from a 20 percent to a 200 percent increase, according to Janet Crawshaw, publisher of The Valley Table and founder of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.

Crawshaw said that people are glad to be getting back to work although this event has running themes of rebuilding and neighborhood support. “There is a great sense of community and hope,” Crawshaw said. “It helps during this period.”

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week started as an event that offered a boost during a typically down time in the restaurant industry. Locals can get a gourmet meal at discount costs and owners enjoy an uptick in the customer volume. Post-Sandy, many proprietors are hoping hungry customers don’t stay home.

Proprietors remain acutely aware of the devastation as most are surrounded by communities that have felt the ill effects of the storm, even if they haven’t been directly impacted.

Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill in Cold Spring is benefiting from being a featured restaurant, but owner Cathryn Fadde is also using this period of increased foot traffic to make difference to those victimized by Hurricane Sandy. Fadde is selling a range of red wines priced between $35 to $185 on a sliding scale and donating a portion of each sale.

“It was a very spontaneous thing,” Fadde said. “(People) just need things. I thought if I could donate so they could (get) some of the necessities it’s better than not doing it.”

Fadde’s goal is to raise $1,000 for those in need. She raised $200 in the first three days. Fadde wants to continue raising money for victims through the sale of wine to the end of restaurant week, and wants to push Hudson Valley wines as part of the effort.

Fadde is optimistic clients will be supportive of both the week and raising money for a noble cause. As she put it, “going out to dinner can take your mind off the misery of the moment.”

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week will continue through Nov. 18.

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