Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

I have to say that the meal I had at Blue Hill at Stone Barns this past weekend ranked in the top two meals I have ever eaten, and may quite possibly be the top one.  The other meal was at The French Laundry, on the last night of my internship, when the sous chef's sat me down in the chef's box and fed me until I could not eat another bite...maybe it's a tie...

Before I get to the menu, I'll share a couple of thoughts.  First, I really enjoyed the fact that the restaurant is located in an agricultural area with a working farm that the guests are encouraged to tour.  Many people grow up and live in suburbia or in cities, far removed from the food production system.  Even though the farms at Blue Hill are not exactly an accurate representation of our modern industrial agriculture, I think there is still great value in people getting to see a pig in the mud, a carrot in the ground, and a barn full of chickens.  It all looks quite different than these "products" do at the grocery store, wrapped in cellophane, and very much un-alive.  Second, I thought we received better, more attentive service here than at many "higher" rated restaurants.  The waiter:guest ratio was outstanding and their attention to detail was greatly appreciated.  Lastly, the way the chef composes meals is very interesting.  You choose the number of courses (5, 8, or 12), give any dietary restrictions/preferences, and they take it from there.  As we observed service as the night went on, we noticed that while there were some common dishes, almost every table had at least one unique dish.  This must be a huge burden on the prep staff, but it meant that every meal is completely different from the one before.  And, every table has a specific experience that is not shared by the rest of the night's guests.  That's pretty darn cool.  Now, on to the good stuff.  Please forgive the photography; I was using my phone, trying to be inconspicuous, then the sun went down, and I didn't want to be "that table" using the flash every time a course arrived...! 

The View From My Seat
Spring Vegetables (carrot, radish, red lettuce, bloomsdale spinach, icicle radish) brushed with Vinaigrette, and Sunchoke Puree Soup with Ale Foam
Baby Turnips with Brown-Butter Butter (yes, they are set in shot glasses over a bowl of dirt) 
Pea Shoots with Citrus Vinaigrette (each table gets it's own set of shears)

"Dried Vegetables" (sheets of carrot and parsnip, kale and sweet potato chips suspended on metal [bronze?] branches)
Fish Balls on Lettuce with Phytoplankton

Beet Yogurt with Homemade Grape Nuts and Grated Beet Sugar, Pig's Heart and Liver Terrine with Salt and Bittersweet Chocolate
Mullet with Crispy Skin, Purple Mizuna, Watermelon Pickle Brunoise (I think...), Watermelon Molasses

Donko Mushrooms (the first flush of shiitake in the spring), Ramp and Walnut Marmalade, Spring and Micro-Greens with Blossoms served  on a polished cross section of a tree

Grilled Ramps and Spinach with Chorizo Vinaigrette, Honey Almond Puree, and a Dry Vinaigrette of Shaved Lardo and Immature Eggs
Brioche with Spinach and Currants, Cracked Black Pepper, and Fresh Ricotta

The Ricotta of Fifteen Pampered Cows
An "Onion That Want's to be a Shallot," Charred, served with Yogurt and Pumpkin Seeds, Greens Vinaigrette, and Curried Almonds

Parsnip Steak with Beet Ketchup and some sort of cayenne-black pepper sauce

Butter Service: sweet corn salt, parsnip and sage salt, whipped lardo (this had the texture of soft meringue), local butter

At this point, it became too dark for the photos to be of any worth, so I will simply list further items below:

Soft Poached Hen's Egg, Cheesy Potato Puree, Fried Hops Shoots
Goose Egg Pasta, Balsamic Reduction
Pork Loin and Belly with Salsify and Hazelnut
Seared Sea Scallop (the size of my fist, I swear...), Lobster, Mussels, with a Parsley "Chowder" sauce
San Andreas with Three-Apple Gelee, some Creamy Gooey Cheese with a Cinnamon Poached Crab Apple, Pretzel Bread
Poached Slice of Apple, Apple Brunoise, Honey Gelee, Some Sorbet, Candied Fennel
Chocolate Honey Torte, Beet Gel, Candied Beet, Yogurt Sorbet, Chocolate Sticks
Chocolates with Pear Brandy, Honey-Chocolate Marshmallows, Flax Candy, Chocolate Sables
Lemongrass Infusion

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