This is generally a very positive, hopefully uplifting blog. However, it’s with regret that I share this tragic news about the passing away of Marcelo Azar, the owner and proprieter of Med Empandas. I quote here from a comment left by his mother-in-law, Jan Fields to my Empanada Guide.
Marcelo and his wife, Stacey Fields, loved to create good food and good conversation together. Over the past 7 years, they worked together in many restaurant ventures, from French Confessions ( Pleasantville), and their own restaurants; Broadway Cafe (Valhalla), and Med Empanadas (Briarcliff).
Marcelo’s memorable, booming voice could be heard through the restaurants, “HELLO MY FRIEND!, I made something special for you!”, and it was always an oversize portion.
The young couple shared a deep love for each other and their 3 month old son, Marcelo, “Marcelito”. In the last 3 years, they never left each others side.
In April ‘09, one month after Marcelito was born, Marcelo was diagnosed with 4th Stage Melanoma. Together, Marcelo and Stacey fought this cancer positively and aggressively. Marcelo’s entire family came from Uruguay to join Stacey’s family in supporting them through the next 2 months.
As the treatment was having encouraging results, the couple’s plan was to re-locate to Uruguay by August for a less stressful life. Marcelo’s health depended on dramatic life changes.
In a sudden, unforeseen turn, Marcelo died on Sunday,07/05/09, due to complications from chemotherapy. He was 36 years old.
Jan Fields, mother-in-law
The eulogy above accurately reflects my limited experiences with Marcelo. Every time I visited MED during my Westchester Empanada excursions, he was always very outgoing and eager to talk to me about his business. He was outgoing, friendly and clearly took great pride in his product. On top of that, he was very talented at his craft. Those are three qualities one would hope more people would emulate.
Finally, when I visited MED the last time, with Liz Johnson of the Journal News to complete the Journal News write up of my guide, he spent considerable time with us and was genuinely thrilled at the attention his little empanada store had been garnering. I have no idea what the future of MED will be; it may already be closed at this point. I’ll try and find out more details.
My sincere condolences and prayers for his family, and particular his wife and three month old baby.
After more than two months of stringing together lunch hours and stealing away for random “errands” as much as possible, I feel I’ve finally tried enough places to put together a somewhat comprehensive guide to empanadas in Westchester County. One thing I’ve learned though is that as much as I might try, this list isn’t totally comprehensive. It seems like every day I find another place worth exploring. So rather than putting up a new blog post every time I find a new place, I’ve instead created a whole new page that can be updated at will. Here it is: The Empanada Lover’s Guide to Westchester County, complete with a detailed description of every place I tried, ranked by one, two or three stars, as well as a color-coded Google map showing all the locations.
My hope is that as I – or any of you – find new places I’ll continue to update this list. Just leave comments here or on that page if you have any suggestions, additions or edits. Your input will make it much more complete.
So, head over to that page to check out the complete list.
On this post I just want to share some overall impressions. First, the good news is that you can find some great empanadas here in Westchester county, spanning varieties from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay. Not many places around the country can boast that kind of variety. In short, there are a lot of very good, very traditional, very diverse empanadas to be eaten in Westchester.
The biggest difference in quality from place to place was whether or not they made their empanadas on site, and whether you could easily order them freshly made. You simply can’t beat freshly made empanadas. Only a short amount of time separates great empanadas from mediocrity. So, of the places I’ve listed, only those who made them freshly (fried or baked) got three stars.
Now, I have to be totally honest. Looking back on all the places I tried, I’m still left wanting. It isn’t that I didn’t find great empanadas here and there. But I still feel like we can do better. I guess I feel like I still haven’t found the absolute empanada nirvana here. Maybe nostalgic feelings of meals with many South American friends in Australia and great food I’ve had in Buenos Aires, creates a bar impossible to reach. Maybe I’m chasing something unattainable? But whatever the case, it’s good motivation for me to keep looking.
So, I hope you enjoy the list. And please, be sure to let me know if I’ve missed any places and your impressions of any of the ones you’ve already tried.
Lately I’ve had a hankering to do some deep food exploration in Westchester. It has now been nearly a year since I wrote up the report for Westchester Magazine’s “Eater” blog about the State of the Taco in White Plains.
Feeling the itch to go much deeper in the exploration, I’ve decided to take it on myself to try every empanada humanly possible in Westchester County to find where – or if – greatness exists in the realm of the wonderful Latin American turnover.
As usual, I started this quest with a query to Chowhound. Based on some previous notes, and some of the suggestions coming from that thread, these are the places currently on my target list.
- Los Andes Bakery, Sleepy Hollow, NY (map)
- Asi es Colombia, Port Chester, NY (map)
- Pollo Ala Brasa Misti Restaurant, Port Chester, NY (map)
- Quimbaya, Ossining, NY (map)
- Med, Briarcliff Manor, NY (map)
- Chapines Deli, Mt. Kisco, NY (map)
- Inca y Gaucho, Port Chester, NY (map)
- Panaderia Uruguaya, Port Chester, NY (map)
- La Nueva Puebla, White Plains, NY (map)
- Little Paraguay Deli, White Plains, NY (map)
- Tango Grill, White Plains, NY (map)
I know there are more places with empanadas in Westchester County (afterall, pretty much every Latin restaurant of any kind has them), but these are the ones I’m focusing on right now.
Sadly, I’m less than half way through the list. In the past three weeks, I’ve tried Panaderia Uruguaya, La Nueva Puebla, Inca y Gaucho, Los Andes Bakery and Med.
I won’t go into specific notes, but here are a few observations.
There is simply no replacing empanadas that are cooked on site. And based on my recent excursions and prior visits, only about 1/4 of the restaurants around here actually make their empanadas on site. Quality suffers dramatically as a result. Also, I’ve noticed a distinction within this phenomenon. In general, fried empanadas are made on site, while baked empanadas are cooked somewhere else. As a result, the baked empanadas are really coming up short. That’s too bad, because a great baked empanada is one of the best treats in life.
So, I’ll have much more detail to my notes in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m sampling the untested places on my list, as well as exploring if I’ve missed some places on the list altogether. Ideas? Let me know…