Monday, April 27, 2009

Eating Out: Blue Hill at Stone Barns

We've been rabid fans of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber's exquisite homage to the pastoral, ever since our first visits to this special restaurant set amid what were once actual stone barns on a Rockefeller-owned retreat in Tarrytown, NY. There's a location in the West Village, too, but we're so enamored of a trip to the close-by countryside -- to eat our vegetables next to the fields and greenhouses in which they were grown and our meat and eggs within sight of the animals that produced them -- that we've never ventured out to its urban cousin.

A meal at Blue Hill revolves around the most local, seasonal produce the earth and herds offer up, and one of our eating out goals is to visit at every possible turning point throughout the year, so we can experience their treatment of dozens of different vegetables, each at its peak of abundance and flavor. This is really the only restaurant in New York on which we'd splurge, though we're not averse to being taken there either.

Between our own devices and the generosity of others, we've now been there four times together (and I had been there once before without Jon). This, I'd have to imagine, makes us relative experts on Blue Hill and fair judges of the quality of any given experience there. When we made our first trip of the year up there on Saturday night, the resulting meal was a standout: spot-on and intriguing preparations of asparagus, lettuce, carrots, and ramps, the earliest signs of spring, evocative seafood, and the tenderest of grass-fed beef.

Here's a run-down of our menu, which begins with the typical profusion of amuse bouches:

Carrots and radishes on the fence
Emmer wheat and parmesan lollipops
Asparagus, pancetta, and sesame seeds
Yukon gold potato chips with sage, and farro crackers
Balthazar's potato bread with Blue Hill Farm butter and ricotta, and beet and carrot "salts"
Beet burgers (Second photo above)
Maine crab in carrot-dill broth with peppercorn sorbet
Asparagus with almonds, pistachios, caviar, and shaved preserved embryonic egg yolk (First photo above)
Crispino lettuce in lettuce broth with spring vegetables (Third photo above)
Maine lobster with ramps in fruit and vegetable sauce (Last photo above)
This morning's farm egg with speck and ramps on red wheat cake
Grass-fed beef with asparagus and parsnip puree
Citrus with milk jam and coconut sorbet (We got to eat dessert outside, which made this even more delicious than it looks below.)
Beet-chocolate cake with coffee sorbet
Pineapple with multi-grain cake and some sort of ice cream
Chestnut macarons
Cinnamon marshmallows, coffee meringue sticks, and chocolate-raspberry truffles

We were too overwhelmed by the time the second round of dessert came out to take in all the dessert descriptions... and it was too dark to get any good photos of them, but they were among the best desserts we've had there, for certain.


Anonymous April 29, 2009 at 12:51 PM  

Lovely dinner! I've heard so many great things about this place!

Ali April 29, 2009 at 12:59 PM  

Thanks! You have to try it. Better by far than so many of the 5-star places that I've been to, and refreshingly less formal :).

Nicole April 30, 2009 at 12:27 AM  

This meal reminds me of my favorite restaurant "Oleana" in Cambridge..I must try Bue Hill and you must try Oleana...Both of us would be pleased...

Ali April 30, 2009 at 11:42 AM  

Definitely, Nicole. I lived in Cambridge for four years, but never made it to Oleana, even though I heard wonderful things about it. Have you been to Lumiere in W. Newton? I've always loved that place :).

Teanna DiMicco April 30, 2009 at 2:00 PM  

Amazing. I am dying to go there. When I move back home to NYC, it is seriously going to be my first stop. A celebration dinner, if you will! :)

Ali April 30, 2009 at 2:11 PM  

I can't think of a better place to celebrate, Teanna! Jon and I have done that many times at Blue Hill :).

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