We always planned to celebrate our 2nd birthday as food bloggers somewhere special and were really excited to visit Blue Hill at Stonebarns in Pocantico Hills, NY (@bluehillstonebarns) to mark the occasion. Simon lives nearby and we have both visited the farm & cafe several times
Lindsey managed to get us a table for the date and something ‘extra’ after meeting & chatting with one of the chefs, Adam, at WastED London, Chef Dan Barber’s pop up where he and his team transformed Selfridges rooftop into a fantastic venue to highlight how beautiful tasting food can be created from leftovers.
So just weeks later, suited and booted we arrived at Stonebarns to be greeted by Philippe, the General Manager and Irene the Vice President. We were given a personal tour of the farm by Andrew, an agriculture graduate, who has worked for 18 months as the farm coordinator liaising with the chefs to choose the best crops, ready to pick and create the seasonal menu. We tasted some new varieties of squash developed with Michael Mazourek, a horticulturist from Cornell University that will eventually feature on the menu. We had a great introduction into the ethos of the farm and restaurant where crops are grown, taking into consideration the local climate & terrain. Resilient agriculture is the philosophy used where soil is allowed to recover by crop rotation and food is grown for optimum taste rather than yield. Andrew told us a great story about a wheat variety originating from NY that was taken & grown in Bologna, Italy and then recently brought back to its origin and replanted on the farm. We also got to see the bakery, and taste the bread made from said wheat (but more of that later).
After a fascinating & informative tour, we went into the restaurant for a drink. Simon chose a non-alcoholic garden cocktail of cucumber & celery juices with a jalapeño infusion and Lindsey had a Bluehill Horchata- mezcal, triple sec, malted grain, almond & beer syrup. It was an interesting taste combo of malty, orange & hoppy flavours with a vegetal lively kick from the mezcal. Our tastebuds refreshed, we were ready for our meal. With great anticipation we then entered the dining room created out of the old milking barn in what was the Rockefeller family’s dairy farm. The restaurant does not have a menu, you let them know any dietary restrictions before hand and then they create a set of personal, seasonal dishes for you that are organised under the general headings of grazing, pecking and rooting.
The first part of the meal was very hands on, literally! They served us a a series of freshly picked vegetables simply prepared and stunningly presented. With mixed greens, including baby zucchini with their flowers still attached, and other tasty leaves presented like an art sculpture
An arbor of edible weeds from the farm & sea
Baby kohlrabi, nasturtium leaves with a preserved peach chutney delicately spiced to dip into.
Vibrant orange pickled habanada peppers slightly crunchy with a little subtle warmth afterwards; charred fava / broadbeans smoked on corn husks gently imbued with their flavor and pretty carrot & rhubarb sushi
We then had some new varieties of baby cucumbers charred which added a slight smokiness, served with a fish cream to dip, and the skin presented as a vibrant green soup with soft, melt in the mouth, farmers cheese
One of the highlight dishes served to us then, was the pickled yellow beets finely sliced with chili flakes & pickled shallot rings, served on top of levain seeded spiced crackers. Slightly sweet, sour with a hint of warm spices such as cumin – a vibrant orange delicious taste combo!
Then there were a couple of plates one called: ‘needle in a haystack’ where we had to forage for our food, involving a faux birds nest in which were hidden super thin parmesan grissini and another, where tiny delicate pastry tarts of fiddlehead ferns and morel mushrooms were buried in a bed of leaves.
There was a focus on different varieties of squash that the farm had been developing including ‘Tondo’ that was served in the style of miniature parma ham & melon with waste-fed pork speck for Lindsey and cured sea bass for Simon. We then had an avocado squash served recreating its namesake as a half a pear along with an avocado stone filled with tiny cubes of the squash.
The ethos of not wasting any part of the plant was reflecting in the use of zucchini stems, as mini cannelloni stuffed with zucchini stem bolognese and cured egg.
As we completed the series of ‘grazing’ dishes, one of the front house team, whom Lindsey had met at WastED London appeared at our table and asked us to follow him. We strolled through a corridor and a couple of doors and we emerged in the hallowed heart of Blue Hills, it’s kitchen. There, we were greeted in unison with a chant of “hello chefs” by the entire Blue Hills team. We were absolutely gobsmacked! As a huge surprise, they had laid a table in the corner of the kitchen.
We watched in awe as the magic of preparing the dinner service unfolded before our very eyes. It was like watching a well orchestrated ballet but with food as the focus. Everyone busy in their section, moving in harmony with each other. There was a sense of calm as each section was busy preparing the dishes and the individual dishes were called out and checked at the pass by the Head Chef like a conductor leading his orchestra. Behind us on the shelves were recipe books from around the world, condiments and infusions in bottles all serving as inspiration for the chefs.
At the kitchen table they had placed two eggs in their shells. One of the Sous Chefs told us that chickens can eat grain with hot pepper purée, without noticing the spicy component capsaicin that gives chilis’ their heat.
We were then asked to pick an egg, ‘Russian Roulette’ style Once cracked open, one yolk was a vibrant red/ orange color from the hot pepper feed. They then cooked and presented them to us on a slice of malted rye bread with cover crops made into a pesto. Lindsey selected the ‘hot egg’ but in true taste2taste fashion we shared both!
We were escorted out of the kitchen to a chorus of ‘goodbye chefs’ and we thanked the crew and head chef as we returned to the main restaurant. We had a quick look in the bakery. They have their own mill shipped all the way from Austria, which was busy grinding the wheat variety we saw growing in the fields, ready to make bread.
Back in the restaurant, we moved onto the courses requiring cutlery, which the restaurant presented in a cool linen roll. We had slightly different courses due to dietary considerations. During a break in the proceedings, we ventured outside to watch fish, meat and other food smoking on the outdoor smoker as the sun set over the fields of produce in front of us.
On our return to the dining room, we were served some bread using home grown wheat accompanied with ‘single udder’ butters from two different cows named: ‘Gina’ (slightly sweeter in taste) and ‘Orka’ (more tangy and sour), which the waiter said aptly reflected their personalities! We also had freshly picked sugar snap peas and ricotta, along with some warm wheat brioche.
As a palate cleanser we then had the next of our ‘stand out’ dishes of the meal. Small cups of vibrant red cherry consommé topped with an array of tiny edible flowers reflecting the current trend with caramelized toasted nuts. Simply heavenly!
Then followed our dishes from the pasture (for Lindsey) & ocean (for Simon). The meat courses were succulent slices of pink duck with a burnished, crispy skin served with broccoli rabe topped with thin slices of apple & jus, and pink lamb loin and sticky rib served with a smoked cherry purée and charred radicchio
The fish courses were delicate bass accompanied by the first of the fava beans and halibut with green tomatoes
Onward we moved to the two desserts. The first reflected the heritage of the farm as a dairy farm and consisted of brown butter creme, milk ice cream, milk jam and a fantastic milk crepe, prepared by concentrating the milk until caramelized and then dehydrating to form a delicate, slightly salty savory ultra thin ‘cracker/crepe’. This was served with an array of berries such as strawberries infused with elder-flower and blackberries with basil all in little hexagonal glass dishes
The second dessert was a whole section of frame from the farm’s beehives with small sections of wax scraped away to reveal the glistening golden honey within, topped with a selection of cherries and berries to dip. There was also some cherry and dark chocolate bread served with rhubarb jam. Slightly tart, not too sweet, to compliment the amazing honey
After 4 hours of dining and countless courses, we finished our spectacular meal. We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces as it was an incredible way to celebrate our food blogger journey over the past 2 years. From a bet at a Time Out London Blog course to the kitchen of one of the world’s best 50 restaurants, it has been a fantastic journey!
Thanks to Philippe, Irene, Christine, Andrew, Adam, the front of house, chef’s crew and everyone else that made it a truly awesome experience that we will never forget