Friday, October 29, 2010

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Last week I turned thirty. 

I have always looked forward to getting older but there was something about this particular birthday that depressed me. Not the number, I love that I'm through with my twenties. The problem was, I couldn't throw a party. Two is a party in the room Chris and I live in so there was no way I could spend a few days cooking wonderful little dishes and invite people over for food and a good time unless we did it in shifts, and that's no fun. And every restaurant or bar I thought of had so many restrictions, weird owners or expensive drinks, I couldn't be bothered. So over the course of the week I celebrated here and there with family and friends, was thoroughly spoiled with kitchen related items, and that was that.

However, Chris being the wonderful husband that he is, had picked up on a little hint I'd dropped a few months earlier, that wouldn't it be nice to have a meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Holy Shit.

If you have never been, you should go, and if you've been, how long did you wait before you went again?

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is Dan Barber's restaurant located right on the Stone Barns farm, a sprawling 80 acre farm 25 miles north of Manhattan. The farm provides educational outreach and a farmers market to the public, and the restaurant sources all of it's ingredients from Stone Barns farm, Blue Hill farm (Dan Barber's farm up in Massachusetts) and other local, Hudson Valley farms. This place is a locavore's dream.

I didn't take pictures of the food because I find that to be a little like texting while driving. This is the kind of meal you save up for and only have every few years, if that, so I snapped as many pictures as I could right before the first amuse bouche arrived and then let myself be whisked away into a food wonderland.

I will try to describe the whole meal we had. But it's almost impossible. So I'll breeze through in hopes of whetting your appetite because if you like food, and I'm guessing you do, you just have to go experience the restaurant for yourself. 

I think my thirties are off to a good start.

There is no menu at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, instead you get to choose between a six course or an eight course Farmer's Feast of local and seasonal ingredients. Chris and I chose the eight course meal and told our waiter we had no restrictions, meaning we would eat whatever they put in front of us.

We were very hungry when we were seated at 5pm and I'm not sure if the wait staff picked up on that but we were presented, one by one, with seven or eight different amuses bouches; fennel soup, vegetables on a fence, salsify with panchetta, pork terrine with chocolate, thinly sliced cured pork with parmesan crisps, grilled snow peas, kale chips, veal bone marrow with bread crumbs and I know I'm forgetting a few more. Halfway through, Chris wondered if we were already on the fourth or fifth course and would we still be hungry after the meal? I gently pointed out that they had not even begun the courses. This was just the seduction. 

Because Stone Barns is foremost about education, the staff at Blue Hill at Stone Barns incorporates that into the meal. So in between courses someone would arrive with a basket of eggs and talk about the chickens, or a platter of charcoal made from pork and veal bones, corn cobs and wood from felled trees, and describe how their flavors had infused the soup we just ate. There was never a dull moment and I mean that in the best possible way.

Our first course was a plate of thinly sliced beets, briefly pickled in herb infused vinegars, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and grated with egg yolks that had been cured with salt and sugar. The second course was a smoked tomato soup that was poured over a bowl, cradling small spoonfuls of caviar, wild mushrooms, plums, a parmesan crisp and something else. By this point I gave up trying to remember everything. The soup was heaven. The third course was the most flavorful piece of wild sea bass I've ever had, nestled in a bowl of pea shoot puree. 

Everyone gets an egg at BHSB and the fourth course was a slow poached egg, rolled in bread crumbs and lightly deep fried, resting pastorally on a bed of slivered beans with a smear of sweet potato puree on the side of the bowl with a finely sliced chicken heart on top. Before the next course arrived we were presented with a basket of piping hot potato and onion bread, perhaps some of the best bread I've ever had in my life, with a small stick of fresh butter and two flavored salts, one shitake and one tomato to accompany it. 

The fifth course was a butternut squash pasta with a smear of balsamic reduction. We were getting quite full. And the sixth course, which just about killed both of us, was a piece of fatty lamb's neck on a bed of vegetables. Dan Barber wrote a wonderful article about cleaning your plate, which I had done with every course up until now. I wanted to eat that lamb's neck like nobody's business but my body was saying, no more! And so I left half on my plate. 

And then came dessert.

The seventh course, which was quite refreshing, was a trio of small glass cups. One cup had a spoon of greek yogurt sitting on blueberry compote, sprinkled with granola. The center cup was utterly divine, a pear sorbet with a honey and eucalyptus granita on top, and the third was a barely sweet concord grape jelly with a spoon of fromage blanc ice cream. Finally, the eighth and last course was an apple cake with a soft meringue on top for each of us and a slice of dark bitter chocolate cake with a spoon of apricot sorbet to share. We could only taste the final course we were so full. And then they brought a plate of maple fudge and dark chocolate, and after that a plate of concord grapes, honeycomb and more fudge and dark chocolate. Throughout the meal we had wine and some coffee to finish.

Chris and I were giddy the whole time, I felt utterly spoiled and now I'm dreaming of what spring must taste like on the farm. Thanks hon, I'll have to take you next time.


  1. When the food is as good as that sounds, it's always worth going all out. So glad you had a great birthday! I hope we can still take you out for a great meal the next time we're in nyc.

  2. Erica, it's been a long time.. I was excited to find your wonderful food blog and I love it. I hope you are doing very well. My husband is also a cook/foodie and we have a little farmhouse dinner business during the summer. Sort of like the Barns on a tiny scale... we hope that you and Chris might join us one day! Dillon