My aunt opened a restaurant in Wisconsin some thirty-plus years ago and made quite a name for herself. She was way out in front of what’s become the eat-local-and-organic movement, and she did it really well, if I do say so myself.
She’s earned some well-deserved accolades over the years, and especially since selling the restaurant several years ago, she’s been running in high-end-dining circles. Yesterday she came to town for some meetings, and she invited Kate and me to come along to dinner at a restaurant run by a guy she’s working with on an upcoming project: Dan Barber’s “Blue Hill at Stone Barns .”
Kate was working, and I was desperately in need of one evening away from school work, so I grabbed a Metro North up to Tarrytown once class was over, and Karen and I tucked into dinner.
This was a “Holy Crap” dinner. I cannot possibly recommend this restaurant (and specifically, Dan Barber’s sense of food, which is also on display at Blue Hill in Manhattan, his first restaurant) highly enough.
Stone Barns is a working farm and agricultural center. The food served in the restaurants is mostly raised and grown on the premises, and anything which isn’t, comes from other local purveyors.
Here, as best as I can remember it this morning, is what we had. Names and preps are according to my memory, as we never saw a menu at all.
* Paper thin chips of root vegetables, dehydrated * Vertical baby vegetables on spikes
little carrot, little bok choy, little white turnip the most delicate salt/pepper application ever, “as if it had been sneezed onto the vegetables by elves” – Adam
* Two potato chips with paprika dusting and a sage leaf woven in * Parmesan lollipop tuiles with herbs * Salsify on sticks, wrapped in prosciutto and quick-battered * Beet "burgers" -- little baked bread buns the size of vanilla wafers, with a beet puree between them which served as both "beef" and "ketchup" * Charcuterie -- venison "pepperoni," fennel pork sausage, paper-thin slices of pork loin and pork shoulder * "Bread and Butters" -- little whole-grain toasts next to two salts and three fats: carrot salt, arugula salt, whipped lardo, ricotta, and butter. We picked at this for quite a while. * A thumbnail of pork heart-liver pate between two sheets of salty chocolate tuile (wow. just wow. The texture combination was fun, the salt in the chocolate plus the faintly meaty lingering of the pate on the tongue was totally new to me.) *
Oyster “shooter” - a shot glass of oyster soup with cauliflower, herb oil and a little teeny puff of marshmallow. Yes, marshmallow. Rich, salty, and vegetal.
Teeny buttermilk panna cotta with beets, beet puree and a little walnut butter within, served in a tall, small, martini glass
* Carrot "schnitzel" -- a single carrot, schnitzeled with crumbs from pain d'epices, over a spicy carrot puree. Autumnal. * Salad on slate : baby greens and beets and home made yogurt and pine nut butter * Buckwheat noodles, semi-dried shiitakes, more "bonsai" bok choy, mushroom broth. (Mushroom broth doesn't really do it justice -- this broth was profoundly and intensely mushroomy. If a mushroom were working out on a treadmill, this is what its sweat would taste like. *
Fish: Braised Hake (in a sous vide bag) over green puree, capers, a bean or two “I feel like I’m tasting this hake like a dolphin would taste this hake.” – Karen
* "Naked" (really, more sneezed-on-by-elves) greens next to a perfectly poached egg covered in red and orange dehydrated vegetable chips * Meat course: pork cheek (Guanciale), ear, snout, loin -- a little seared spinach and mushroom, and an elongated dollop of date puree. My first time having Guanciale: "like being french-kissed by an angel made of pork." * Buttermilk ice cream with little bits of meyer lemon shortbread in it, green puree and a single leaf of arugula * Chocolate cake with peanut butter sorbet
* Gimonnet blanc de blanc, Champagne * 94 Riesling Spatlese, Wegeler, from Wehlener Sonnenuhr. * 06 Riesling Kabinett-style, Herman Wiemer from the New York Finger Lakes. ("The Wiemer goes to the gym. The Wegeler goes to the opera." -- Karen) * 02 Vosne-Romanee, Burgundy
* ingredients, ingredients, ingredients. There were some very refined techniques used in some of the dishes, (mostly some awesome sous vide) but the techniques were utterly in service to (and frequently subsumed by) the sheer, shouting, awesomeness of the ingredients. Fresh vegetables raised in hoop houses in the dead of winter, happy egg laying chickens, healthy pigs and sheep... It's hard to imagine preps that would have made these things taste anything other than extraordinary. * "Rich dairy + vegetal" was a recurring theme for the night, and it absolutely worked for me. * In remembering all these dishes the morning after, I'm surprised that we didn't get to the same state of palate fatigue we had when eating at Alinea. But we didn't, despite a 4 hour duration. Excellent pacing on the dishes. *
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is full of muted greys and photographs and beiges inside, and slightly too-dim lights. Reminded me of Mistral, lighting-wise. I would have liked to have seen things a little better.
Impeccable, funny, knowledgeable service, and some excellent food chit-chat with Dan Barber as he drove us from Tarrytown back to Manhattan. A surprisingly short ride.