With Thanksgiving behind us, we’re in for it: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s, with all their trimmings and trappings and snowballing expenses. What would the Grinch do? If you can’t stop it from coming, you might as well join in the fun and the feasting. One way to dine out during the holidays while guarding your solvency is to perch at the bar in a high-end restaurant that either has a dedicated bar menu or lets bar patrons pick and choose from the main menu. A boon is that bartenders, in our experience, offer unusually attentive, companionable service.
RIVERMARKET BAR AND KITCHEN, 127 West Main Street, Tarrytown; 914-631-3100. Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 10 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 8 p.m.
The odds of securing one of the 36 cushy bar stools at the year-old RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen are in your favor — and once ensconced, you might be reluctant to relinquish your seat. The rectangular bar, made of black walnut with shiny copper inlays, sits in the heart of the lodgelike space, so bar patrons are swept up in the general good cheer.
Emilio Ugarte, whose enviable business card reads “Cocktails, Spirits and Beers,” set us up with neatly folded cocoa-colored linens, dark-crusted sourdough bread and excellent butter as we scanned the high-priced farm-to-table menu. Mr. Ugarte proved to be a regular bon vivant, sharing his enthusiasms for stout ales and Amazonian cuisine while taking very good care of us.
We ordered a round of warm roasted oysters ($18) trimmed with slow-roasted tomatoes, prosciutto and caramelized shallots, and a glass of Muscadet, a delicious, flinty 2011 Granite from Domaine de l’Écu ($12). Rich, velvety lobster bisque bore the scent of shell and sea — I could have eaten this and nothing else and been happy.
The burger ($18) had New York State pedigrees: Stone Broke Farms grass-fed beef, a thick rasher of Mountain Products Smokehouse bacon and oozy aged Cheddar from Adirondack Cheese Company — as well as beefsteak tomato, local farm lettuces and pickled red onion — all balanced on a Balthazar Bakery brioche bun. A worthy match for the burger would be Mr. Ugarte’s just-sweet-enough New Fashioned, made with Maker’s Mark, orange bitters, a wide band of orange peel and a little trove of liquor-infused dried cherries.
For dessert, we shared a luscious little pear cake soaked with brandy and pear vodka, and crowned with sugary poached plums steeped in Averell (Averell is a Finger Lakes liqueur made with small-batch gin and Damson plums). For merriment to go, you can buy a quart of eggnog from Battenkill Valley Creamery ($5.99) at the meticulously curated market in the foyer.