I feel a little weird writing about my trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. For one thing, I can’t really afford to eat there — a kind friend gave me a gift certificate. Otherwise, it’s way out of my budget. Second, how do you review this kind of restaurant? The whole experience was transcendent, a multi-course tasting menu which seemed to never end. Plus we had a “connection,” and I think it’s likely we got a little bit extra during the course of our 3-hour-plus meal. Unrelated to that connection, I met Dan Barber once at a Share Our Strength benefit and instantly took a liking to him. Since then I’ve seen a Blue Hill table at this particular charity event year after year, and the dish they serve is always stunning, so I was biased from the moment I made the reservation. The service Blue Hill is beyond extraordinary, and yes, that’s important to me even though most weekends you can find me at a dive in Chinatown or eating from a food truck or cart. The food presentation is both rustic and artful, all at once. Of course I didn’t bring a camera to this meal, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. Lastly, I know everyone talks about things like sustainability and local food, but Blue Hill at Stone Barns takes it to an entirely different level. Every pork dish comes from one of “our pigs.” I tried butters from cows which were referenced by name. Not the name of the breed, but literally the name they’d given to the cow, to refer to her personally. Speaking of that, the “butter tasting” may have been a little something extra, and all of them were exquisite. The baby, fresh vegetables, of which there were very many, were all grown on the farm itself. So this isn’t a review at all, but I will say that my meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns was one of the greatest of my life.
As many of you probably already know, one of the best things about Blue Hill at Stone Barns is that you can visit the farm itself, and that’s what this post is really about. I’d urge anyone with a car to make the drive up. (There’s a small $5 parking charge, but you can recoup that at the cafe or gift shop.) The funny thing about my trip with Jen is that it was the weekend of that strange blizzard right before Halloween. You can probably tell from my photos that it was a little gray out. This was the morning before the storm. What you probably can’t tell is that we were literally freezing because we were so terribly underprepared for the weather (no hats or gloves) and that by the time we left to meet friends for a mind-blowing lunch at The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry, it was starting to snow quite a bit. Once we were heading home that afternoon, the snow was in full force, and I’m still trying to figure out why we didn’t make Margaret and Joe let us stay over their place for the night. The drive home took took over three hours instead of 30 minutes like normal. It was all in the name of great food, so it was worth it.
Once I saw the greenhouses, everything about the meal became clear. These run year round, which is how you can enjoy such young, delicate herbs and vegetables, even when the weather has turned chilly.
Touring the farm made me curious to visit again in the Spring and Summer, to see the different colors, but the turning Fall foliage was beautiful.
“Our pigs”… I loved hearing that throughout the meal. Meeting the pigs in person was another highlight. Photogenic, aren’t they? I’m surprised I got these cute photos since they seemed to have little interest in anything besides meal time.
The turkeys kept us laughing, even in the bitter cold and early snow because they (hundreds of them) would follow us along the fence, almost like a swarm of bees, wherever we walked.
The sheep however were much more stand-offish, maybe even dubious of us. Heck, they ran from the camera at times, but I was patient. They didn’t seem concerned at all about the coming storm. I tried (without success) capturing photos of the snow when it became quite heavy as we pulled away from the farm, but my images didn’t do it justice. I would have been curious to visit the farm the next day though, because it must have been covered in a beautiful blanket of white.