Saturday, January 30, 2010
Blue Hill At Stone Barns
With both of our husbands otherwise engaged, my friend Peggy and I scooped up a last minute reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and had our own date night- complete with side-by-side seating. Under the first full moon of 2010 (also predicted to be the biggest and brightest of the year), we embarked on the 35 minute journey on the Metro-North and indulged in some of the most memorable food we have ever eaten.
Traditional menus do not exist at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant housed on a beautiful working four-season farm. Diners are provided with a list of over one hundred of the freshest ingredients that are either harvested daily from the farm's fields and pasture, or sourced from other local farms. They are then instructed to choose either a 5 course or 8 course "Farmer's Feast" designed by the restaurant's executive chef and co-owner Dan Barber. Not only has Dan Barber's culinary genius helped him garner an invitation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (the only chef to receive such an honor), it has also caused him to be recognized as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2009 and has earned Blue Hill at Stone Barns a spot on Food & Wine Magazine's list of the World's Top 10 Life-Changing Restaurants.
We were seated in the restaurant's elegant candle-lit dining room and began our meal (the 5 course Farmer's Feast with wine pairings- 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 ice wine) with several small bites including homemade bread with cottage cheese, butter, and parsnip and carrot salts; dehydrated beets, yukon potato chips with sage, and smoked kale; salsify covered with buckwheat and served on long skewers; mini beet burgers with farmer's cheese; crunchy potato cups overflowing with greens and topped with parmesan; and sardines over smoked oysters on multigrain toast.
Each of the 5 successive courses built on the last and the layers of flavor and meticulous presentations served to enhance our gastronomic adventure. The dining room staff worked like a finely tuned machine to present us with a colorful beet salad with yogurt and pine nut butter (if I had a spoon and a vat of this stuff I would be in heaven); braised hake with finely diced calamari, mussels and mustard greens; a soft-boiled farm fresh egg that had been lightly breaded and fried to a crisp perfection, paired with green sauce and hearty lentils; a slightly chewy baby lamb with braised endive, greens and peanut puree; and a tender white fish with olives and mokum carrots. With several small bites and four courses behind us, we somehow managed to feast on two satisfying desserts (an apple cake topped with warm marshmallow- reminiscent of a campfire s'more- and elderflower ice cream; and a chocolate wafer cake topped with maple ice cream enrobed with chocolate crispies- one of the most delicious desserts I have ever devoured) and one plate with mini pastry bites (mint meringues, flax brittle, and sesame brownies), bringing our grand total to well over the 5 courses we initially ordered. The food, service and atmosphere at Blue Hill at Stone Barns are beyond stellar. Dinner in the main dining room is a must-have experience- and one that I would happily have again and again.
At the entrance to the restaurant
Warm, crusty bread was served with butter, lemony cottage cheese with flecks of ground peppercorns, and colorful parsnip and carrot salts
A fresh sage leaf was woven through a yukon potato crisp and was served alongside thinly sliced dehydrated red beets and long pieces of smoked kale
One of my favorite parts of the meal- mini beet burgers, mache, and farmer's cheese on freshly baked buns
The beet salad with yogurt and garlic oil/pine nut butter was the perfect first course
Before our third course (a farm-fresh soft-boiled egg that was breaded/fried and served over lentils with a sauce made from fresh greens) a member of the waitstaff presented us with a basket of speckled hen eggs and provided information on the farm's egg gathering process
The fourth course- a beautifully roasted white fish with carrots, olives and greens
One of our two desserts- an apple cake topped with a browned marshmallow and served with elderflower ice cream
A pot of chocolate-mint tea to end the evening