March 19, 2011

(More Than) Four-Course Lunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns

This post originally took place on January 11. I guess I could've just skipped straight to my Norwegian vacation, but this mean was pretty epic. I MUST TELL YOU ABOUT IT. And then I'll be on to Norway time.

And now..it's dark
Good-bye Blue Hill. And good-bye, sun.

"Are we blindfolding and gagging d. the whole way there?" asked Greg.

"Why even do that? Just slip her a sedative, she won't even know what happennned."

Hahahahaha don't worry, we did nothing of the sort. Greg tossed out the idea as a joke (I...I think), as did I in my response, but when Greg, Kathy, and I neared the line of cabs outside the Tarrytown train station with birthday girl Diana in tow, we realized we should've at least given her earplugs to keep the birthday present meal a surprise. Or firmly clapped our hands around her ears. Or drugged her.

"BLUE HILL? ARE YOU GOING TO BLUE HILL?"

If getting off the Metro-North in Tarrytown hadn't already given the surprise away, the cab driver's shouts surely did. Oops.

Although I'm sure there are other nice places to go to in Tarrytown, it's not surprising that a cab driver would automatically assume your destination is Blue Hill at Stone Barns. To quickly fill you in, Blue Hill is known as one of the best restaurants in the country, helmed by renowned executive chef/co-owner Dan Barber (the other owners are Dan's brother David and David's wife Laureen) with a menu that takes the farm-to-table ethos a few steps closer to the source. Because...it's on a farm. (There's also a Blue Hill in the West Village, and while I've heard it's great, I feel like if you're going to go all out for a special meal you should get out of the city and choose the location that's on a farm.) They pluck whatever seasonal vegetables/pigs/etc. they need from Stone Barns, the Barber family farm, Blue Hill Farm in Massachusetts, or other nearby farms, then do something beautiful and deliciousness-ifying to them, and serve them to you in a comfortably refined environment. And then they spent the next three hours or so fattening you up and making your brain release happy chemicals.

menu from Blue Hill
This list of ingredients was the "menu" as marked up for our table. If you leave your address with the restaurant, they'll mail you your menu. I mean, snail mail. That's some nice service.

We went for a four course lunch (available only on Sundays), although you'll soon see that the number "four" doesn't prepare you for how much food you actually end up getting. For $85, it's a great deal (the next meal up is a 5-course dinner for $105). There's no set menu at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (there's an à la carte menu at the West Village location)—every meal is called a "Farmer's Feast" and your menu is tailored to the day's harvest. The waiter asks if there's anything you can't eat or if you have special requests, but otherwise your meal is in the chefs' hands. Kathy asked about foie gras, but since they haven't been able to grow it on the farm, they don't offer it. Not that a meal needs foie gras to be awesome.

I'm not sure where one course ended and the next began, but I'm making up groups for the sake of organization. Although the dishes I ate in January don't reflect what they'd be serving now, it'll give you an idea of what to expect. (That is, AWESOMENESS.)

First Course: Lots of Little Bits

fresh veggies on pointy things
Fresh vegetables.

Farm-fresh vegetables "on the fence": Start off the meal with a selection of artfully impaled vegetables. Ours included D'avignon radishes, Easter egg radishes, Mokum carrots, and cauliflower. Vegetables taste better when you pluck them off spikes jutting out of a wooden block.

Apple celery juice
Apple celery juice.

Apple celery juice: Tastes like what it says. Good combo.

Fried kale and face bacon
Fried kale and face bacon.

Fried kale and face bacon: Like eating kale and pork in chip-form.

Beet burgers
Beet burgers.

Beet burgers: Tiny sesame seeded buns filled with puréed beet and goat cheese spread. Yup, they're pretty adorable. And one bite later, they're DESTROYED.

Salsify wrapped in pancetta
Salsify wrapped in pancetta.

Salsify wrapped in pancetta and coated in sesame seeds: Salsify is a root vegetable known for having an oyster-like flavor. I can't say I detected any hints of bivalve, but since it was wrapped in pancetta I probably mostly noticed porkiness.

Steamed egg w/lardo
Steamed egg with lardo.

Steamed egg with lardo: It's egg yolk wrapped in pork fat. What's not to like. There's no question mark because it's not really a question.

1000 layer eggs w/coppa
Thousand-layer eggs with coppa.

Thousand-layer eggs with coppa: Yeah, it's not a thousand layers, but it's...it's a whole lot of layers. A lil' omelet cube topped with cured pork. More pork-on-egg action.

Pork liver caramelized chocolate finished w/maldon
Pork liver and caramelized chocolate.

Pork liver and caramelized chocolate: A square of pork liver terrine sandwiched between thin, crispy sheets of caramelized chocolate, finished with Maldon sea salt. Liver and chocolate, together at last.

Second Course: Salad and Bread

Greens immature eggs for shaving Salad Salad
Greens with cured immature egg yolk.

Winter greenhouse greens salad with cured immature egg yolk: A whole bunch of young greens with beet roll (a log of some sort of creamy beet-based stuff) and mixed greens puré topped with freshly shaved cured immature egg. I think our server explained that despite not being a "winter" food, the greens are actually best in winter because that's when they have the highest concentration of sugar. The shavings of cured immature egg yolk added a bit of saltiness, sort of like cheese.

Grains Red fife bread Red fife bread ricotta
Red fife bread with homemade ricotta.

Red fife bread with Blue Hill Farm ricotta and greens mash: Give me a fat, toasted slice of bread accompanied with warm homemade ricotta and I'll be as happy as Maru and this giant box. I fell in love with that bread—probably because it was soaked in butter. That's mostly what I remembered. The bread had a hearty, tender crumb, not really like any typical bread I can think of. And while I'm sure the warm glop of ricotta went great with the bread, I mostly remember...the butter sponge.

Bread and butter
Bread and butter.

Bread and butter: More bread! Non-fancy wheat bread, I'd guess. Probably all good and chewy and crusty, with a soft brick of butter to smoosh into it.

Third Course: MEATS

farm fresh eggs! egg and delicious stuff
Egg and goose neck.

Egg, goose neck, goose gizzard, winter beans, and dehydrated winter vegetables: Ain't that the prettiest plastic-embalmed nest-thingy you've ever seen? Yeah. The chef wrote "this morning's eggs" on the menu to differentiate it from your run-of-the-mill eggs that had spent more than 24 hours out of their mothers' uteri. (After writing the previous sentence I read a five-page PDF about the avian female reproductive system. You see why these posts take so long? Research!...nah, it's mostly because I can't stop wasting time on the Internet. Anyway, in case you were wondering, an egg spends 20 or more hours in the uterus to develop its shell. Knowledge is power. Unfortunately, in this case the power is useless.) I can't say I could taste the freshly laid flavor, but the jiggly, barely set egg with a belly of rich yolk mixed with hearty, tender beans and goose meats was an awesomely comforting dish. Just the sort of stew-like thing you'd want on a cold day. (Note to self: Eat more stew.)

Veal!
Veal!

Blue Hill Farm grass fed veal with ginger kraut, Brussels sprouts, and apple: Oh sweet jebus, this was some incredibly tender, juicy veal. Among the tenderest of meat plops ever to be pulpified by my jaw. The veal tasted like it was cooked sous vide, but I can't remember the details of what we were told.

Fourth Course: Dessert

oatmeal
Oatmeal.

Cold oatmeal with Granny Smith sorbet and honey: This are more like a pre-dessert than a dessert-dessert. Even though I rarely eat oatmeal, I'm guessing this would kick the butt off regular ol' oatmeal. Oatmeal butt, obliterated. Maybe I'd eat oatmeal more often if I topped it with sorbet or ice cream. Yes. Yes I would.

chocolate strudel
Chocolate strudel.

Chocolate strudel with milk jam ice cream and chestnuts: And now the real dessert begins. I eat strudel less frequently than I eat oatmeal—so pretty much never. Blue Hill's version didn't win me over. I didn't dislike it, but I would've liked it more if there were more layers of phyllo dough around the chocolate filling.

almond shake
Almond shake.

Almond shake: Not sure if this was almond milk or almond mixed with milk. It was nice that they incorporated a drink into the dessert course (drinks are food too!). With metal "bendy" straws. Regular straws would never do here.

Austrian doughnuts
Austrian doughnuts.

Austrian doughnuts filled with apricot jam (faschingskrapfen?): By this point we were so full that we could barely eat this. I know—it's fried dough! There is always room for fried dough. Unless it's at the end of a nearly three-hour meal. I know we didn't all eat one, but I did, unsurprisingly. Unfortunately I don't remember much about how it tasted. Considering it was a lump of fried dough filled with jam, it was probably good.

After getting a quick little tour of the dining area and the kitchen—methinks they offered because my camera drew some attention and we asked a bunch of questions about the dishes—it was time to head home, four and a half hours after we had arrived (we got there a bit early to check out the cafe and store). Factoring in the train ride to and from Manhattan, your whole day is pretty much devoted to this meal. It's worth the time, of course. I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Couch time
Kathy, Diana, me, and Greg.

And next time, we won't all unintentionally coordinate with black. (At least I'm wearing red tights!) :)

Address

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road, Tarrytown, NY 10591 (map)
914-366-9600; bluehillfarm.com‎
Take the Metro-North to Tarrytown (schedules), unless you have a car, in which case you'd just..drive. Unless you want booze, in which case, don't.

Posted by roboppy at 6:08 PM

Tags: Blue Hill, Diana, Greg, Kathy, New York, prix fixe

Comments

while this entire meal is entirely adorbs, I can't help but feel like I would leaving completely unsatisfied... I can't believe that the amount food shown would leave me that stuffed!

props on the red tights too... O.G.

Posted by: Nicholas at March 19, 2011 7:59 PM [#]

DRINKS ARE FOOD TOO!
Let's make almond shakes! Wonder if they'd give us the recipe. (Also, I'm super-jealous of this gorgeous meal.)

Posted by: Maggie at March 19, 2011 8:33 PM [#]

I wish I had known they could mail the menu upon request! I had taken lots of notes during my dinner there back in October, but I feel like a lot slipped through the cracks. Great to know--thanks for sharing! :)

Posted by: Stefie at March 19, 2011 11:59 PM [#]

It looks amazing, but I agree with Nicholas, it doesn't look like it would leave you stuffed. I like that they asked about what you can't eat. I'm hideously allergic to mushrooms, and too many places just don't care about food allergies.

Posted by: Kate at March 20, 2011 1:23 AM [#]

Nick and Kate: I think these kinds of meals can be deceptive because there are so many things that look small, but it all adds up in your stomach. If you have a normal stomach, this will leave you full. If you don't...maybe not. :) I'd say the four of us are pretty normal eaters. I could eat more, but what I've learned over the past few years is that I really don't need much to feel satisfied; I'm just used to eating a crapload and subsequently feeling like crap. We took our time with each course (something I rarely do) and when you eat that slowly I think it's more satisfying. Admittedly, I took home the leftovers (like..a strudel or two and a doughnut) and ate em later that night. Mmm snacky.

Maggie: Ahh methinks I will add in a link to SE Drinks. :) And yeah, should do some nut milk making on the site! And maybe some taste testing of different brands?

Stefie: Greg took some notes too, but the printed menu helped a lot. :) Take advantage of that menu, yeah! It comes in a nice envelope.

Posted by: roboppy at March 20, 2011 2:09 AM [#]

gollyy, you and your friends are an attractive bunch! the meal looks gorgeous too; those are some intense bites.

Posted by: c at March 20, 2011 3:17 AM [#]

Vegetables always taste better eaten off spikes. I once had tempura squash served on a bed of nails at a fancy hipster restaurant that played club music and we ate off of a coffee table and sat on couches. The server warned us not to drink too much before eating the tempura off the nails. Needless to say I had to touch the nails to see how sharp they were.

I think the first course(s) looked the most interesting but the entire meal looked awesome.

Next time I'm in New York (which will hopefully be soon), I'll have to check out the West Village location.

Posted by: Angeline at March 20, 2011 8:34 AM [#]

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a great way to celebrate any special occasion! But sweet jeebus, they will stuff you like Thanksgiving turkey. I had the Farmer's Feast dinner for my birthday and even when I'm dressed in a semi-body conscious (in other words, tight) dress, it felt the restraints were pulling in. Not a good thing. :P

Have you wandered around the farm? It's totally cute, fun and cool to watch the animals graze and be their cute or kooky selves.

Posted by: Tina at March 20, 2011 8:54 AM [#]

How wonderful! Blue Hill has been on my eating-bucket-list and if I ever make it back over to the States in the future I'm heading here without a doubt!

Posted by: Shan at March 21, 2011 12:47 AM [#]

kinda makes you wonder how they wash that metal straw right?

:P i'm just sayin'. curious!

Posted by: shihui at March 21, 2011 1:15 AM [#]

Yay, glad to see you wrote about this meal. Blue Hill is such an awesome experience each time. Did you tour the farm?

I've become unhealthily obsessed with the Pork liver and Caramelized chocolate amuse bouche. I had the red fife bread too...have you seen it used anywhere else? (Oh, and I think when I asked about the addictive bread basket, they said it was potato bread from Balthazar.)

(Happy belated to D.!)

Posted by: Melissa at March 21, 2011 11:55 AM [#]

WOW - looks and sounds amazing. I've been to the W Village Blue Hill several times, and I'm always blown away by the food, though Stone Barns sounds way cooler. I love the intro course of baby veg on spikes. It's like a torture rack for vegetables. Delicious, delicious torture.

Posted by: Chris H at March 21, 2011 1:12 PM [#]

c: Hehe, thanks! Compared to everyone else I need to take some lessons in "crossing my legs and not sitting funnily" though. ;)

Angeline: The first courses were the most fun, yeah. Especially when you don't know how many dishes are coming...THE PARTY JUST KEEPS GOINNN.

Tina: We didn't get to wander around the farm, unfortunately! Didn't get there early enough. Then again, it was pretty cold and everything was covered in snow, so that'd probably be more fun in the spring/summer.

Shan: Come baaack! Bucket list beckons you.

shihui: Tiny pipe cleaners! :) I googled it, came up with this set of straws + cleaner.

Melissa: Didn't get a farm tour, unfortunately. Next time, hopefully! I've never seen red fife used anywhere else, but I like it. And the other bread. I mean, I like any combo of bread and butter, yuuup.

Chris: Aw, I hadn't thought of it as veg torture before but now all I see are little pained looks on their faces. Gotta put them our of their misery by eating them.

Posted by: roboppy at March 21, 2011 2:26 PM [#]

AHHHH I've been DYING to go to Blue Hill. Dying. Looks amazing!

Posted by: serena at March 23, 2011 3:01 PM [#]

I actually utilize oatmeal as a dessert most of the time. I mix it with peanut butter, chocolate chips, cream cheese, marscapone, ice cream, nuts, butter, whatever I feel like. Oh, and sugar. Duh-hur. It makes a really awesomely satisfying dessertfood =D

Posted by: Nathalie at March 24, 2011 11:22 PM [#]

This meal sounds fantastic - it's on my list of places to eat if I ever go back to NY!

Posted by: Susan in HK at March 26, 2011 3:54 AM [#]

This place looks awesome - and I hear what you say about many courses of little food being really filling. And with the excellent (for me) exchange rate from Australia...this is really good value degustation. I would go on rambling about how excited your blogpost makes me but I'm just going to spread the links to various other people on the internet :D (in a non-viral, "i am excited about this" way)

Posted by: Charlene at March 27, 2011 4:08 AM [#]

serena: Don't die, gooo! ;)

Nathalie: Whoa, so many possibilities! And to think for dessert I've only been eating it in cookies all this time. :O

Susan: Definitely a good choice!

Charlene: Rambling is totally cool. That's how I write. ;) Hope you can take advantage of the good exchange rate sometime, hehe.

Posted by: roboppy at March 28, 2011 5:09 PM [#]

Thanks for blogging! I enjoy living vicariously through your stomach/camera. Also Greg is pretty damn attractive. It's always nice when he pops up in your adventures!

Posted by: A at March 29, 2011 12:05 AM [#]

this post is awesome. i love the pictures and damn if tarrytown isn't closer! gotta find a way to get there.

Posted by: Danny at March 30, 2011 11:19 AM [#]

gahhh! A meal at Blue Hill is on my Food Bucket List! I'm so jealous :)

Posted by: Noya at March 31, 2011 10:39 PM [#]

A: Hehe, I'm glad Greg would be happy to hear how appreciated his presence is. Maybe if I put more photos of him on this blog I'LL GET MORE HITS!!

Danny: Thanks! YOU SHALL FIND YOUR WAAAY!

Noya: Hope you can cross it off your list soon!

Posted by: roboppy at April 5, 2011 10:40 AM [#]

amazing! i just went here two weeks ago for the big big farmer's feast and i can't stop thinking about it!!! i want to go back every day. and i was just thinking how there's no way i could possibly put it's amazingness into a blog post, but you did!! phew. we got a lot of similar little bites (the little burgers... omg) but i went at the height of asparagus season, so everything was green :-) yay!

Posted by: molly yeh at June 3, 2011 10:31 AM [#]

sign me up for the oatmeal & almond shake - yum yum yum! this is one of the few american restaurants i can't believe i haven't been to

Posted by: ChuckEats at October 24, 2011 4:20 PM [#]

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