BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS
Pocantico Hills, New York
In the month of August, Blue Hill goes menuless. That means there are no a la carte offerings, you are basically at the hands of the chef and are asked to let your servers know of any food allergies. We don’t have any food allergies or dislike any particular food groups so I like to think of our little party of two as a chef’s dream table.
At night, Blue Hill takes on a bit of a magical quality. Once owned by David Rockefeller as an estate and farm, many of the old stone buildings are still there. At night the buildings are gently illuminated and to get to the main entrance, you walk through a beautiful cobblestone courtyard. If you came upon this place unexpectedly, (it’s pretty remote) you could swear you were in France.
The Food and the Wine
As Lynn and I have aged, we’ve had problems reading restaurant menus. Even with a new multi-focal prescription, I was having trouble seeing the wine list. I looked around the room and saw the Sommelier pointing a pen-like flashlight over the pages. Ok, so it wasn’t just us.
The wine list at Blue Hill is very expensive, annoyingly so. We struggled to find a decent bottle for under $100 until the Sommelier came to our rescue. Since we actually didn’t know what we would be eating that evening, we settled on a Crocker Starr Pinot Noir. But first we ordered two glasses of Prosecco, followed by an assortment of amuse bouche:
Fried zucchini coated with panko breadcrumbs
Mini tomato burgers on homemade rolls
Shots glasses filled with corn chowder
Homemade beet chips with fried sage leaves
First course up: their house-made charcuterie plate of prosciutto, bologna (really!) made from veal and pork, salami, and a pork liver terrine. There was a pat of homemade butter, eggplant puree, some flavored sea salt, a very intense spicy mustard and bread to round it out.
To clear our palette we had a tomato watermelon gazpacho followed by an heirloom tomato salad with homemade yogurt. We also had one of Chef Barber’s signature salads: greens with a farm fresh egg that’s poached but then fried in panko breadcrumbs. Next up was something described as a “weak” fish in a variation of the corn chowder we’d consumed before. (Researching “weak” fish, it’s similar to halibut and mild and tasty.)
Next course up: small beet flavored tortellini with homemade ricotta.
At this point I need to talk a little bit about sous vide cooking. I know this is the wave of the future for many chefs and the press has jumped on it as the ultimate cooking technique to “concentrate flavors so nothing is lost.” This technique however, does not work with all food groups. Turkey to be precise.
Our final dish that night was turkey sous vide with a few vegetables on the side. The turkey was so white it looked raw. Guess what, it was nearly raw. I actually couldn’t eat it. I know there are many people who send things back that a) they don’t like or b) are not cooked the way they like it. We are not those people.
They took our plates away and we moved on to dessert. Or numerous desserts I should say since they laid out a spread before us of: olive oil ice cream with fresh berries, poached apricots, and the ever popular but overly copied individual molten chocolate cake with even more ice cream.
And yes, besides the turkey sous vide and the annoying wine list, everything else was perfect.