My (Early) Birthday Dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns
If you would like to read about the farm tour (with the adorable farm animals) I had prior to this dinner, please go back or click here. This dinner took place back on November 5th, 2010.
After watching the adorable, fluffy sheep grazing and chickens running around the farm in the brisk chill that day, my friend and I headed over to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for our dinner reservation. Walking through the fields, up the cobblestone path and courtyard, we finally made it.
Since we were fifteen minutes early, we took our seats at the cozy lounge that really looks like an upscale country home’s living room. One of the employees started the fire at the fireplace. We sat at the soft, comfortable couch where we tried to warm up a bit.
After many greetings by the host and the waitress when we walked to the dining room, we were warned that the kitchen will be cooking us a special meal and hope there isn’t any rush. Welcomed to that, as we were both hungry, we smiled and said we are not in a hurry and we are excited to try the food.
Being seated toward the back of the dining room, where I had a good view of the space, it is as what Mara told us about this particular building earlier in the tour. It was formerly a barn but converted to an upscale restaurant. It is elegant and with a rustic touch.
We were greeted by our waitress of the evening. She handed out a large menu that is succinct yet beautifully printed that lists three things: an 8-course or 5-course meal and you have an option to supplement with a cheese course. You do not pick anything but how many courses you want to eat. The waiter or waitress will ask you if you do have any food allergies, whether or not you like offal, or any other personal food vices.
We went for the 8-course meal and I let the kitchen choose what they want me to eat. My friend does not want offal.
The first amuse bouche that came out of the kitchen was the Vegetables on a Fence that were picked from the farm that morning. Quite dramatic to see baby vegetables nailed into an upright position. The day’s selection were raw heirloom purple and orange cauliflower florets, carrots, celery, and focea lettuce. All were sweet, crunchy and tender. I enjoyed the ethereal hint of vinaigrette sprayed onto a few of these vegetables (most were unadorned). It’s simply the best crudités I ever ate.
To follow along were the shot of fennel soup with mache hanging on the edge of the glass. It’s warm, creamy, flavorful and sublime to drink after encounter the nippy weather outside. Hints of anise flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the palate and the velvety soup works with the supple texture of the mache.
The amuse bouche train is still churning that we’re bestowed with a wooden tower holding these chips of kale, face bacon (made from Stone Barns’ Berkshire pig’s head), and heirloom potato chips. Wispy, salty crisps to counteract the smooth and creamy we had with the soup shot.
To give Stone Barns’ chickens a spotlight, the server presented us long skewers of a cube of egg crêpe. This fluffy yet firm millefeuille cube was a delightful bite. The farm fresh egg yolk wrapped in lardo was decadent but not too overtly rich.
Moving onto mini beet burgers that were dainty and cute but they have a earthy, sweet bite. Then we have a single salsify stick wrapped in lardo. The delicate oyster flavored root was delicious and having the toasted sesame seeds that encrusted onto the lardo added some nutty flavor.
Followed up was the roasted brussels sprouts on the stalk. I’m so used to having brussels sprouts cooked with bacon all the time that I found this version profoundly refreshing. It’s simply done by roasting it and gently dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.
The edible vegetable sheets hanging on a miniature version of a clothesline was very whimsical presented. Each sheet had a particular root vegetable flavor like beet, carrot, and parsnip. Crisp sheets of vegetable juice never tasted better.
Getting to the heavier side of the amuses were the pork liver pâté in chocolate crisps. These bites were sweet, savory, and minutely bitter to counteract the funk of the liver and whispers of crunch from the chocolate crisps. They were delicious.
Starting the actual first course, we had the cured coppa pizza with corn flat bread (the coppa was made in-house from the pigs raised in Stone Barns) was amazing. Salty, silky, melt in your mouth meets crunchy corn flavored flatbread.
Swinging back to the lighter side of things, we were presented with matsutaki mushrooms with fall fruit and vegetable salad. The salad was delightful. Paper-thin shavings of mushrooms, painstakingly arranged like fish scales on the plate, dotted with shavings of broccoli and squash and a fruit-based dressing, one can truly taste the freshness in the produce.
Progressing onto the Stone Barns’ veal bone marrow with Stone Barns’ pancetta, that was hinged onto this torture-looking device so it won’t move all over the place as you scoop. This was a refined version of marrow, unlike some NYC establishments would give you hunks of bones that’s oozing marrow fat all over the plate. The marrow was silky and salty with little hints of crunch from the melted pancetta. If anything, this particular marrow made me wanting for more.
Moving on to our next course, our waitress brought out a tray of carbonized bones and shells. This is not meant for eating, obviously. She told us that the chefs were experimenting the idea to utilize everything possible from the farm, which includes the shells and bones of animals they’ve broken down for dinner service. The idea was to put these carcasses in the fire so it would flavor the food.
After that little depiction as to what’s to come, we’re bestowed with a wee, slow cooked, purple Kelsae onion that’s on the grill for ten to twelve hours. This onion comes with four condiments to play around with in terms of textures and flavors. I had ground peas, pork liver pâté, pickled cabbage, and chopped, pitted black olives. My friend had everything but the pâté and they swapped in with dried figs that’s been rehydrated and flavored with balsamic vinegar.
Marching on with the meal, the waitress presented us with a tray of heirloom seeds for their heirloom brioche with in-house made ricotta cheese. This was amazing slice of brioche that’s nutty and buttery with sweet ricotta.
Losing count as to what course we’re both in, we finally having substantial food that would be considered toward the ending – seafood. The King Ivory salmon with crab and fall vegetables was braised in olive oil resulting in a buttery and silky salmon. The crab was more for gentle hints of flavor to accentuate the salmon’s sweetness and the vegetables gave it some texture.
Strangely enough, we had another round of bread service but this is the standard version consisting of a basket of warm onion bread and vegetable flavored salts, and butter made from the milk of Stone Barns’ cows.
This particular course is considered one of my favorites of the evening: This Morning’s Egg. Somehow they managed to poach an egg (picked this morning), deep fried and coated in panko and crushed almonds while having the seductively oozy yolk. The egg was served along sweet potatoes and other farm vegetables.
The final savory course of the evening was Berkshire pork with radicchio, pistachio and preserved smoked cherries. The pork shoulder and the pork belly (the little cube found on the right on this photo) were sous vided. It’s tender, the flavor of the pig stand out and it’s juicy. The bits of bitter radicchio, sour cherries, crunchy pistachios worked well to contrast and accentuate the flavor of the pig.
Before heading to dessert, we ordered a pot of Elderflower tea to settle our stomachs a bit to make room for dessert and we’re intrigued as to how elderflower tea taste like. This tea was similar to chamomile but a gentle floral flavor and sweeter. If you ever tasted St. Germain elderflower liqueur straight up before, it tastes like that but without the alcohol and sugar content.
For the first dessert, we had an ice cream and sorbet flight: concord sorbet with fromage blanc sorbet, candied ginger with bartene squash ice cream, and Pawpaw ice cream with coffee granite. The concord sorbet was excellent; smooth and creamy like ice cream and the concord’s flavor was robust and floral. The candied ginger with bartene squash ice cream tasted like a tropical sundae. The pawpaw ice cream worked well with the coffee’s bitterness.
The next dessert course was seckel pear tart with maple syrup, ginger, and apple cider. It’s sort of deconstructed presentation of a tart. The crisp, tuile cookie that represents the tart crust, that’s gingerly sitting on top of poached slices of seckel pear and ginger. The combination screams fall and every bite was savored.
The waiters also brought out a birthday cake for me. We’re told it’s a chocolate macaroon cake. This cake is for the chocoholic. Rich, fudgy and it had a touch of a fruit center.
Unexpectedly, we had a fruit and honey platter after those desserts. This tray featured Stone Barns’ honeycomb, Golden Russet apple, and Lakemont grapes. The grapes were juicy and had complex wine tones similar to a Chardonnay but sweet and floral like honey. This simple but very well done fruit platter was arguably the best of the desserts of the night.
This entire evening lasted three and half hours. By then, my dining companion was stuffed and I was on the verge of hitting a food coma (in a good way). This entire dinner is considered one of my favorite dining experiences in my life. The freshness of Stone Barns’ produce, meats and other products and how it’s been prepared in an innovative way with some whimsical presentation, it’s a great combination. I cannot wait until spring or summer comes and I would come back when everything is blooming.
Before I left the restaurant, I have asked my waitress if I could have a copy of the menu of everything we ate. She said to leave my e-mail address and they’ll send it over to me the next day, which is what you see below. If you look at it, it looks like a football strategy plan to satiate my hunger with all the circles and the names of the dishes.
Please see the slideshow below for more photos of this dinner:
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