Monday, August 23, 2010

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Last week, on our way from Boston to New York, D and I stopped by Blue Hill at Stone Barns at a friend's recommendation.

Stone Barns is a 80+ acre non-profit farm/educational center that teaches visitors about healthy and sustainable food. All of their food comes from the surrounding land, Blue Hill Farm (in Massachusetts, owned by the same family), or from other local farms in the Hudson Valley. There is a Blue Hill restaurant in the Village as well, but after having been to the one at Stone Barns, I'm fairly certain that it's much more worth it to make the trek out to Pocantico Hills to experience the farm as well as the food.

(amusing aside: We didn't want to spend all day driving in nice clothes as the restaurant is "jacket recommended", so we stopped at a Courtyard Marriott about fifteen minutes out, traipsed into the lobby restroom, changed, and left. I wonder what the hotel staff thought...)

As we arrived at the property, we were greeted by sheep pastures, herb gardens, and a rustic-looking farmhouse complex.

The dining room is spacious and airy and has a nice view of the surrounding fields. D was especially enamored with the pastoral painting at the far end.

The tasting menu started with a variety of "tastes" which were heavy on fruits and vegetables (the tomatoes were delicious!) but also showcased their own cured meats, eggs, poultry, lamb, and even veal marrow. The mini tomato burgers were my favorite out of this sequence.

garden vegetables with shots of chilled tomato juice:

baby zucchini wrapped in prosciutto and mini tomato burgers:

"space bacon" (super crispy!):

home-cured charcuterie:

veal marrow and caviar:

The "real" courses started with this lobster and "wahoo" (fish) dish. I did not eat the fish, but the lobster and the tomatoes underneath were tasty.

The next dish was particularly interesting; it consisted of a slow-roasted onion which was cooked with homemade charcoal that was produced by heating wood, bone, & other organic material to a very high temperature.

The onion (served with accompaniments of summer vegetables, beets, blueberries, and olive tapenade):

The charcoal:

This one was described to us as "grilled celtuce" with almond and pinenut butter. It was my favorite vegetarian dish.

The service was excellent; not stuffy, very attentive, and quite educational. The waiter even brought by this display of eggs and identified the various types for us...

...before serving a delicious curry, egg, and summer bean dish. I am not that fond of egg and I made D eat my yolk, but the flavors were fantastic.

To my surprise, my favorite meat dish was the chicken and not the lamb. The chicken was extremely tender, and the accompanying peaches and tomatoes were perfectly sweet and ripe. To be fair, I am also not the biggest fan of eggplant.

The chicken:

The lamb:

The tasting menu consisted of eight courses, of which six were savory. After we finished with the meat dishes, we were invited to go out on the patio to enjoy our dessert courses. The view was even better from outside.

We were given the option to add a cheese course, which I did (D did not, although he tried a few bites of mine). They were both American sheep's milk cheeses (one Vermont and one New York), served with peach chutney and pickled ramp. They were both fine but I was not super-impressed.

The first dessert was very light: blueberry, goat cheese, and honey "granite".

I liked the second one much better; it paired sweet corn ice cream with grilled peach, fresh raspberries, and a non-descript sort of cake. The sweet corn flavor was extremely strong and surprisingly good. I think the cake was really just to sop up the melted ice cream. The peach was also very good.

Finally, we wrapped up dinner with red jacket apricots, local sugared currents, and chocolate covered almonds. The almonds were meh but the fruits were yummy.

We had booked a very early reservation as we had to return our rental car to midtown Manhattan before 11pm that night, but it was still well after 9pm by the time we left, on a warm (but not hot) beautiful evening. We had a great time and I highly recommend a visit.

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