Thursday, May 20, 2010
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
So, it has now been over two weeks since I had my favorite meal ever, and the memories of that night are still as fresh and delectable as every morsel that I ate there. On the most gorgeous of Spring afternoons, DrRuckus and I went to Tarrytown, NY to experience the perfection that is Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I am not sure exactly how to express how incredible this place is. Even one of my favorite food bloggers of all time made a cartoon after he first visited.
Growing up in northern New Jersey and spending a great deal of time in Vermont, I had no idea that idyllic, lush rolling hills and farmland exists right there, mere miles outside of NYC. Yet, it does! Located 30 miles from the city is the Stone Barn Center for Food and agriculture and this is the farm from which much of the food served at the restaurants (there is one in the city too) is grown.
We had just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and so heading to this farm to tour it and then really experience a "farm to table" meal was truly exciting for us. We walked around the farm, saw the happy and healthy animals, and acres of greenhouses and gardens where the herbs and vegetables for our dinner were growing.
After touring the farm, and admiring all of their techniques as well as the fruits of their labors, we wandered around the courtyard that is the heart of the Stone Barn Center. There is a great deal going on there, including frequent farmer's markets and a cafe, as well as many educational opportunities. Finally, it was time for our reservation!
We sat outside and admired the view, while indulging in a wild ramp margarita. (It was Cinqo de Mayo!) It was possibly the best margarita ever, out there, soaking up the scene.
Then, we entered the incredible space that is the restaurant. I have never been in such a beautiful room. High ceilings, exposed beams, rough hewn floors - it is stunning and warm. The centerpoint is a huge table overflowing with flowers and edibles. When we sat down, they presented us with a list of items from which the meal was be drawn, rather than a menu. The gracious staff then asked specific questions about our preferences. We chose the 8 course tasting and told them that we would eat anything that they brought us, that if they thought it was worthy of being served, we would lap it up. "Even offal?" YES. You make it, we eat it! They seemed glad that we were adventurous, but we overheard other diners expressing very specific preferences and all were taken into account. Vegetarians are obviously no problem, but some people had difficult allergies or aversions. A woman seated next to us actually told the server, "I LOVE caviar" and this was accommodated. (Why didn't I think of that?)
We found a bottle of an old favorite wine, a Riesling from the Finger Lakes, and settled in to enjoy the ride. We started with a presentation of fresh baby vegetables on tiny spikes, so creative, so simple, so delightfully fresh and beautiful. From there, we enjoyed 7(!!!!) other courses of amuses bouches before even beginning our 8 course tasting. Because they change it every night, and customize for every guest, I won't go into each course but will just list some highlights. One of the amuses was a pork liver pate sandwiched between caramelized chocolate and was so surprising, fun and delicious! We had a brioche made from heirloom red grains and ostrich eggs and topped with fresh, warm ricotta made from cows that had been feasting on the sweetest grasses of the spring. We had face bacon as an amuse and a trio of porky goodness (belly, loin and leg). The meat from the healthy, happy pigs that we had seen just hours before tasted like nothing I had ever had before. Our final savory course was goat with a sauce made from a variety of herbs that they brought to the table for us to touch and smell before being cooked into liquid gold. The timing, the service, the presentation, and the array of tastes were all spot on. But, the fact that each of 15 (7 amuses and 8 tasting) courses was wonderful is mind blowing!
If you haven't been to this restaurant, it should be on your bucket list. I can't wait to go back.