If you’re like us, and/or any New Yorker that spends some of their free time and all of their money at restaurants, then you probably have this magical farm outside of town on your hit list. We most definitely did, and we finally made an Infatuation Field Trip out of the city to check it out. Here’s what we can tell you that you don’t already know: not much. Blue Hill at Stone Barns is outstanding. But while you might already know the facts, you don’t have Infatuation perspective on the place, and that’s really all that matters isn’t it? Let’s discuss.
New York City has developed quite the obsession with local and sustainable food over the last few years. Ramps show up for the first time of the season at The Union Square Greenmarket, and people buzz about it like someone just figured out time travel. Every year. Those kind of people and that kind of culture has to exist for a place like Blue Hill to be truly appreciated. If you still eat more Fruit By The Foot than actual fruit, this might not be the best way for you to spend a few hundred bucks and four hours of your life. But if you’re the type of person that desperately wants to meet a pig in person and then eat it, rent a car.
As for the facts, you probably know that chef and owner Dan Barber is a badass. You probably also know that the majority of what you eat at Blue Hill comes from the farm that the restaurant is situated on. This makes for an incredible meal that you leave in the chef’s hands, known as the Farmer’s Feast. It’s a marathon of a dinner (ours lasted well into the next morning and we sat at 9:00), but it will blow your mind. The quality of the ingredients and the creativity in which they are presented is unparalleled, and as good as advertised. What really impressed us though, was the attention to the experience as a whole, and the over-the-top efforts that the staff made to ensure that we learned something. Want to know what was in that incredible brioche thing you just had? Suddenly some dude comes out of nowhere and puts a bowl of grains and an ostrich egg on the table. Curious about that watercress? It just so happens that the poor kid that picked it this morning is putting in a shift at the restaurant just so he can serve it to you. That’s dedication to the cause, and it’s executed with class on all levels. We highly recommend that you make your own field trip to Stone Barns, and if you want to get the most out of your journey, we suggest going well ahead of your reservation time. Roam the grounds, have a drink on the terrace, maybe help that kid pick some watercress. He looked like he could use it.
Something that is important to know for endurance purposes: If it wasn’t put in front of you on your own plate, it probably doesn’t count as a course. We were probably served five or six different things before we actually hit the main event, and the pre-game was awesome. Things kicked off with some fresh carrots and radishes, an amazing pancetta wrapped and sesame crusted asparagus, deep fried whole smelt, a charcuterie plate of veal salami and coppa, and tiny asparagus “burgers” that were sweet like an apple Jolly Rancher.
Not that a perfectly roasted veal bone needs anything on it, but caviar and coarse salt does not make it worse, that’s for sure. It definitely makes it saltier, but we loved everything about it - including the handy bone scraping tool we were given.
This is the aforementioned dish that was followed by a short lesson on grains and why ostrich eggs are the perfect binder for said grains. Red Fife is a kind of wheat, and this was basically a perfect, dense piece of fresh bread made from the stuff, and topped with fresh ricotta cheese. So buttery, and so good.
It feels strange to be writing about what was essentially our bread basket, but we need to discuss carrot salt, which is a powdered carrot mixed with salt. It’s bright orange, and it makes fresh baked bread taste even better. It’s actually so good that I’ve been trying to figure out how to powder a carrot in my apartment for the last week and all I have to show for it are orange fingers and failure.
This was a small bowl of incredibly good soup with shrimp, mussels and clams. At the beginning of your feast, the server will ask you what you don’t like or can’t eat, and they’ll plan accordingly. One person at our table received a mushroom soup instead of the shellfish, and it was also awesome. Impressive.
Asparagus is in season, and we had A LOT of it while we were at Blue Hill. Almost too much. This dish was incredible though. The crab was some of the sweetest crab we’ve ever tasted.
This one came with another lecture about eggs, and why a pullet egg is so good. Unfortunately it was like two in the morning at that point, and I remember nothing other than breaking the egg into the fresh vegetable broth and being very happy.
A tightly wrapped, thin cannelloni with asparagus, which is then dusted with the shavings from a dried and cured embryonic egg. It looks pretty gross, but it tastes a bit like a rich and salty cheese. This was one of my favorite dishes.
We were actually a bit disappointed that our meal was light on the pig. I had sort of imagined going into the barn, picking one out, and riding him into the kitchen. Maybe next time. At any rate, this was an unbelievable cut of pork served with a sliver of pork fat and some of the best carrots I’ve ever had.