10 Can't Miss Dishes



(page 7 of 10)

duck confit

Duck Confit

Zephs’
638 Central Ave., Peekskill
914-736-2159 or www.zephsrestaurant.com

“Global Soul Food” declares the tagline on Vicky Zeph’s highly eclectic menu, where, on a single day, you might find Vietnamese shrimp fritters, sauerkraut pierogi, Moroccan lamb, and Creole oyster cassoulette. “I stole it from a restaurant with a sign saying ‘Italian Soul Food,’ because I thought it makes you want to eat there,” says Zeph, in her wry, understated way. “Our theme is to take classics from different countries and do them really well. Or that’s our goal... It’s better than home cooking, all fresh. I try not to make it typical restaurant food.”

Zeph says the duck confit is the only dish that has consistently appeared on the ever-changing menu: “I think we’d go out of business if we took it off.” She gives the legs and thighs of Crescent Long Island duck a dry marinade, and then simmers them in duck fat until the meat’s tender. Crisped up, they’re served along with homemade fruit chutney, a potato cake, and maybe shredded Brussels sprouts and celery root. (“That’s a good way to get people to eat their Brussels sprouts,” she notes. “As long as they don’t see those little balls on their plate, they’re happy.”)

Zeph graduated from college “with a degree in mathematics and no plan. It was the 1970s,” she says, by way of explanation. “I really wanted to cook, and when I found out there was a school for it, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll go to school again.’ ” Off she went to the CIA, and then spent two years cooking in France. She and her brother, Michael, who serves as the congenial host, opened Zephs’ 20 years ago, as Peekskill was in the nascent stages of its revival. The restaurant, housed in an old mill building, is relaxed (“funkier rather than plush,” says Michael), with mismatched chairs, gold walls, and wood floors. One decadent touch is Zeph’s creative desserts. She’s enthusiastic about a recent concoction — an orange almond cake. “It’s simple, just eggs, oranges, almonds, and a little bit of sugar. You take whole oranges and boil them for two hours, then grind them up and put the other stuff in. I’m serving it with date ice cream. It’s really neat.”

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