Since 2001, I’ve been dining at this intimately warm and enchanting home of exquisitely, crave-able farm-to-mouth creations of Chef Dan Barber, co-owned with his brother, David. Unbeknownst to mainstream, restaurant diners, Chef Barber set a precedent in Manhattan and the rest of the country for one of the first farm-to-mouth restaurants. In addition to sourcing from local producers, Chef Barber sources from Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, MA, which has been in his family for 3 generations, and from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a non-profit farm and education center in Pocantico Hills, NY. Stone Barns is a unique place of experimentation and exploration in solving the 21st Century’s agriculture challenges that will have an indelible impact on both diversified small and mid-sized farmers and consumers. It is also a place that is growing both edible natives (i.e., raspberries, elderberries) as well as innovative plantings, such as purple snow peas and hull-less summer squash as part of seed trials. In any case, these truly local sources of sustainably farmed produce are the inspiration of the infinitely delicious treasures that Chef Barber shares with his guests.
Although every meal I’ve eaten here has represented an “awe” moment for me in my dining experience, Blue Hill’s specially designed tasting menu on the evening of my birthday on May 6, 2012, culminated my enduring adoration for this holistically conscious restaurant motivated by sustainable and local sources for seasonal ingredients.
Joined by two dear friends of mine, we journeyed thru the Garden of Eden. Prior to starting our coursed meal, the kitchen brought out mini-beet sliders and a wood block with a series of individual raw vegetables suspended by nails to whet our appetite. Then, to further tease our palettes, the kitchen presented a bouquet of crispy, warm mini-baguettes accompanied by house-made ricotta cheese and farm butter and a vessel of carrot salt.
Our first course was Stone Barns’ Greenhouse Greens with fiddlehead ferns and asparagus. I first started seeing fiddlehead ferns on restaurant menus in New York last year and, finally, saw them on the West Coast this year. They not only taste delicious, especially roasted, but also look like an object in a Salvador Dali painting. Our second course was an unctuously divine Ostrich Egg Pasta with shitake mushrooms and ramps. Our third course was the irresistible egg dish---Blue Hill’s well-reputed “This Morning’s Farm Egg,” with morel mushrooms and asparagus. Our fourth course was the ultimate seasonal sojourn through the Garden of Eden---the Klaas Martens’ Emmer Wheat and Quinoa with Stone Barns spinach, collard greens, ramps and parsnips. Our main course was the Braised Hake with asparagus, watercress and almonds. Our final course was an exercise in sweet restraint---Steamed Goat Cheesecake with poached rhubarb, strawberries and yogurt sorbet. A magical meal to say the least.
In May of this year, Blue Hill received the coveted accolade from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Restaurant in the U.S. This commendation is a reflection of Blue Hill’s commitment to the purity of the ingredient, respect for the land for which the ingredient grows from, collaboration with the farmers that nurture the ingredient, and the relationship that all its staff has with their guests who, like me, feel like we are dining at our home away from home.
This is the first in a series of stories about special places to eat in Manhattan.
Blue Hill is located at 75 Washington Place, Greenwich Village, NYC, (212) 539-1776, open 7 days a week from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., www.bluehillfarm.com; other location at 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, NY (within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture), (914) 366-9600, open Wed through Sat from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Wine pairings with courses: First course paired with Esporao, ‘Monte Velho’ Alentejo, Portugal 2010, Roupeiro, Anato Vaz & Perrum. Second course was paired with The Red Hook Winery, Chardonnay 2009, One Woman Vineyard, Northfork of Long Island, New York. Third course was paired with Porta Del Vento ‘Saharay’ Sicily, Itlay 2008, Catarratto. Fourth course was paired with Domaine des Courtures, Saumur Champigny, Loire, France 2009, Cabernet Franc. Fifth course was paired with the perfectly balanced, Hirsch-Blue Hill ‘Special Release’ Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA 2010. Sixth course was paired with Royal Tokaji, 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji, Hungary 2007