Joel and I celebrated our one year anniversary with a trip upstate to do what we love best – eat! We wanted our anniversary to be just as special as our wedding but East Coast style. So we chose the best restaurant we knew of east of Napa Valley, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Let me start by saying that you really have to jump on those reservations. Exactly one month to the hour (!), Joel tried for a reservation and ended up with the 10:00 seating. We weren’t deterred, we are New Yorkers after all; late night meals never stop us from enjoying ourselves.
We began our anniversary evening with drinks at the bar. The best part about Blue Hill is that they grow everything on their farm. From the chicken to the whiskey to the vegetables, it’s the epitome of a local meal. Every cocktail at the bar looked incredible with garden features such as pickled ramps, chocolate mint and rhubarb. Choosing was difficult, but we finally decided and two drinks in and our table was ready.
The menu is not necessarily a menu. You chose either the 5-course or 8-course tasting. And you like what you get as it’s chef’s choice (my kind of place). Typically, we tend to be the ‘big eyed, small stomach’ kinds of eaters so we opted for the 5-course which we had read before going, was more than enough. And the reviews were correct; I could barely stand up when the meal was over.
Dinner commenced with several ‘teasers’ as I called them – smoked kale, herb spritzers, headcheese pate, sweet pea sliders, pea shoots (which actually came in dirt, on the plate. HEAVEN), fresh garden veggies with salt, and chicharróns. The amuse-bouches were an outstanding way to tell the diner what was in season and what was to come for the rest of the meal.
After the gratifying teasers, dinner had begun. I should also mention that Joel and I chose the wine pairing menu so each dish would be paired appropriately, and that it was. The first of five course was a beautiful, fresh garden gazpacho. The flavors were incredibly bright and acidic. Paired with a tangy local goat cheese and peanuts it was a refreshing start to a long meal. I was also impressed by the easy yet delicious combo of the goat cheese and peanuts. Joel was especially taken by it so I plan to pair them at home.
What could top such a gratifying soup? Maine Halibut. Course two served up a pearly white piece of Maine halibut over beautiful swiss chard. The chard was bitter and the prefect balance to the mild white flesh of the halibut. Shitaki mushrooms topped off the dish rounding out the woodsy and earthy flavors.
The third course was my favorite of the evening – a soft poached Blue Hill egg on homemade brioche toast (butter!) wrapped in a salty, paper thin wafer of speck and topped with fresh, sweet peas. The egg was perfection; cooked to the exact temperature that the allowed for golden yolk to delicately spill out onto the rich brioche and salty speck making for the most decadent third course I’ve ever tried!
The fourth course was a bit more involved. This is actually when the bread came to the table, which I was notably excited about. The bread was homemade potato bread that came to the table piping hot and served along with goat butter and two flavored salts – carrot and broccoli rabe. Only a restaurant of this caliber would make the salts so complicated yet enjoyable at the same time. And although I can make bread a full course alone, it was not the end of course four. We were treated to a healthy portion of grass fed beef, all parts included. I quite enjoyed the bits of chewy heart and tongue. The chewiness of the heart actually translated to crispness and the heart actually highlighted the beef. I was very appreciative of the odd part usage, it made for a well-rounded meat dish.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, I opted in for the cheese course. I actually wasn’t that impressed with it. in fact, I don’t even remember the cheese names and there were only two of them. So, next!
Dessert was however, very memorable. The pastry chef should be considered a genius for creating a frozen latte. We dug into the cup only to discover frozen steam, frozen coffee and frozen milk. The coffee flavor was very actually quite subtle and more sweet than bitter. I am also a sucker for iced milk so all in all, the dish was a grand end to the evening.
Although we did enjoy a fantastic anniversary meal, something must be said about the service. It is just plain cold. Freezing cold. I have no complaints regarding the promptness of the dishes as the were delivered. No complaints about the speed and stealthness by which they cleared our plates. I do however not like that any conversation was dismissed on their end. When you enjoy a meal at a farm-to-table restaurant, you typically want nothing more than to know about the food and engage someone in conversation about it. Blue Hill’s staff does not give the diner’s that privilege and for that, I was disappointed. But again, the food was exceptional so I will overlook the icy service and take the restaurant for what it is – farm-to-table food at it’s best.