Tucked away on the quiet Studio Hill Road in Briarcliff Manor is a southern-style mansion that dates back to the 1900s.
"It looks like it could be in Gone with the Wind," said David Breschel, who co-owns the Haymount House along with David Darmanovic, William Gray and Joseph LaRosa.
"[Haymount House] was built in 1910 as a private residence for William Fuller," Breschel shared. "He was the first president of the American Tobacco Company. It was on 400 acres...with apple orchards down to the bottom of the hill as far as the whole mountain there."
It's not tough to picture what the summer home would have looked like back then, though about two-thirds of the building was destroyed in a fire in the 1950s.
Named for Fuller's North Carolina hometown, Haymount House is now not just being noticed for its distinct architecture and rich history.
This year, opened its doors as a farm-to-table restaurant in the home with an ever-changing menu created by Executive Chef Scott Riesenberger, who, over his 14-plus year career, has studied and cooked in France (he studied briefly at Le Corden Bleu), Spain, Italy and New York.
He joined Hudson at Haymount House after working as a private chef in Greenwich, CT. At the time, he was also looking to open his own restaurant in Connecticut.
"I stumbled upon the Haymount House and what they were doing here," he recalled. "It sounded like something I was interested in—an old mansion being renovated with a casual high-end concept. It fit into what I wanted to do with my career and my style of food."
Riesenberger relies heavily on seasonal ingredients from local farms to shape his menu—a challenge and opportunity he thoroughly enjoys. (Other local restaurants having great success with a similar farm-to-table approach include , , ).
"I seem to be on a flower kick lately," he said. "I use a farm in Bedford Hills [Amba Farms] that is not too far from us and I source a lot of things from them—baby carrots, lettuces, blueberries, radishes."
After sampling some flowers at Amba Farms, Riesenberger was inspired by everything from dill to lavender.
"They had this amazing quality. It's like an explosion of whatever the ingredient is," he said. I use them in a way that makes sense with the dish."
He has also been incorporating other seasonal fare into his recent creations that comes from about a dozen area farms.
"The corn and tomatoes are definitely influencing my menu now," he said. "I love summer and I love this time of year. I love the plethora of ingredients."
And while Riesenberger's menu has an upscale feel, Breschel said the restaurant is meant to have a "comfortable" atmosphere.
"We want you to feel like you are in somebody's living room," he explained. "We don't want anybody to feel like it's a stuffy place even though there are the big columns in the front."
Though Hudson has only been open for about four months, Nick Oddo and John Parks, , have been frequent diners.
"We've eaten there maybe half a dozen times already," said Oddo. It's delicious. What a great thing to have a restaurant right up the block."
Oddo and Parks, however, are not just neighbors of the historic mansion. Their home is a 1914 studio built for Fuller's daughter as an arts and crafts space with an exceptional Hudson River view.
"We have pictures of the original mansion and the layout," said Oddo. "These guys did a really great job renovating it."
He raved about the restaurant's use of farm egg in an appetizer and the smoked vanilla ice cream.
"I have never tasted ice cream as rich and delicious as that place," he said.
The restaurant also received a "Don't Miss" rating from The New York Times—news Riesenberger received the day his daughter was born.
"It was a pretty special day for me," he said. "For me, it's nice because as long as I keep doing what I'm doing and try to do it better each day, I know it's being received well by consumers and reviewers."
For Breschel, the restaurant is about offering a special occassion venue that can also serve a casual hamburger in a timeless setting. Diners can sit at the bar and watch a hockey game as easily as sit down for a meal with "high level food" or enjoy live music.
Moving forward, Riesenberger said he hopes to plant an organic garden on the property with flowers, vegetables and herbs to use in the food as well as up the restaurant's use of "greener alternatives." He will also begin incorporating items like squash, chestnuts and white truffles as fall begins.
"At the end of the day, the most important feedback is from our guests," the chef commented. "If they are treated as well as the New York Times is and if we can give them the same experience that earned us the high reviews, that's all I care about. That is what's going to keep us open as a restaurant and going forward as a business and keep our livelihood going. Without that, we are nothing."