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FOOD & WINE

Dining at Blue Hill at Stone Barns: 13 things you should know

July 17, 2014
Rhode Island Red pullet eggs in a metal dish with foods eaten by chickens
Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Entrance to Blue Hill at Stone Barns

View of the farm from the patio

View of the farm from the patio

Dining at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills (Westchester County), New York is a unique culinary experience: The meal is unconventional, creative, irreverent…and delightfully unpredictable. While some elements are reminiscent of meals at other fine restaurants, taken as a whole Blue Hill at Stone Barns has no equal.

The pictures interspersed below capture some of the dishes served during our most recent meal. Bear in mind, we missed taking some photos, others weren’t good enough to publish, and we may have inadvertently confused the order—but we hope this montage of 27 different presentations offers a glimpse of an extraordinary meal.

Ready to take the plunge and make a reservation? We have listed 13 defining characteristics of dining at Blue Hill that you should know before you go:

1-  The menu is seasonally driven, emphasizing foods that are fresh and local.

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables including the first cherry tomatoes of the season served on a glass plate over garden soil

Baby greens and dressing

Baby greens to dip in tarragon pea stew dressing

Fennel served on bark

Fennel served on bark

2-  There is no written menu, per se. Instead, each guest receives a small journal identifying the foods harvested every month categorized by their source: from the field, pasture and forest, greenhouse, Blue Hill Farm (the Barber family farm in the Berkshires) and cellar.

Flowering cucumber

Flowering cucumber

 

Milkweed soda

Milkweed soda

Cucumber with sturgeon caviar and fish cream

Cucumber with sturgeon caviar and fish cream

3-  Diners aren’t asked what they want—only if they have allergies, insensitivities or food aversions. Yet, the meal is highly personalized and you can trust that Chef Dan Barber and his team will make the right choices for you. Wine pairings are optional.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Delicately battered elderflower served on wood

Delicately battered elderflower

Cherry tomatoes on seeds

Cherry tomatoes on seeds

4-  The scenic views from the dining room (a former barn) are constant reminders that the restaurant sits on a working farm. The fragrances of the first-picked fruits and vegetables of the season are intoxicating.

Green garden gazpacho

Green garden gazpacho

Cherry tomatoes and Blue Hill yogurt

Cherry tomatoes and Blue Hill yogurt

Fava beans and tri-star strawberries in an onion sauce

Fava beans and tri-star strawberries in an onion sauce

5-  There is no set number of courses. Even on the same evening, the number varies from table to table. Despite having a camera, and pencil and pad in hand, it was impossible to count or keep track of everything we tasted. 

"Ham Sandwiches" on a corn chip

Corn chip “ham sandwiches”

6-  Most dishes are vegetable-centric rather than meat-heavy, a healthier more sustainable way to eat. Bread is served later in the meal, as a course, rather than at the beginning.

Two cheese dishes: One with goat cheese and one with farmer cheese

Two cheese plates: One with goat cheese and one with farmer cheese

Oops we forgot served on stone

“Oops we forgot” served on stone

7-  Presentation is raised to an art form. Multiple dishes appear around a common theme. The serving pieces themselves are visual reminders that food is connected to the earth. For example, the tomato dish in one of the collages at the beginning of this post whimsically uses soil-as-a-doily underneath its glass plate. The one below features a pullet egg surrounded by the foods (seeds and berries) eaten by its producer, a Rhode Island Red chicken.

Rhode Island Red pullet eggs in a metal dish with foods eaten by chickens

An egg from a Rhode Island Red pullet in a metal dish surrounded by foods eaten by the chicken

Visual displays that complemented our meal

Visual displays that complemented our meal

8-  Like fine art is carefully framed, utensils and serving dishes complement the foods. Some are eaten with fingers rather than utensils; thankfully, the wait staff offers guidance.

Crusty Potato-Onion Bread served with country butter or lard

Crusty potato-onion bread served with country butter, lard and seabean salt

9-  During the meal, it’s not unusual to be invited to eat one or more courses outdoors on the patio before you return to your table for your next course.

The outside grill on the patio

The outside grill on the patio

Grilled red beet and pork hot dogs

Grilled red beet and pork hot dogs

Grilled vegetables with dip

Grilled vegetables with artistic dip painted on slate

10- Portion size is modest but sufficient for savoring the delectable food on your plate. You’ll feel satiated without feeling stuffed.

First-catch Montauk black fish

Medallions of first-catch Montauk blackfish served atop its spine

11- The meal is leisurely and relaxed. Time becomes irrelevant to both servers and guests. Although the dining room is limited to 75 seats, it’s not uncommon for a meal to last as long as four hours.

Duck with cherries, berries and lovage; roast beef with bok choy and eggplant

Duck with cherries, berries and lovage & Roast beef with bok choy and eggplant

12- Staff are extremely knowledgeable and well-trained about farming, sourcing and food preparation. They function as tableside educators, patiently explaining your meal and answering questions.

Variations on a theme: Multiple desserts with cherries and cream

Variations on a theme: Multiple desserts in stacked hexagonal dishes with cherries and cream

13- The ambiance is sophisticated but informal. Service is attentive but unobtrusive. Highly professional wait staff buzz around the room like dancers on a stage anticipating your every need. 

To appreciate an unforgettable experience like this, you need to be a serious food-lover and come prepared with an appetite for education and entertainment.


IF YOU GO

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills (Westchester County, New York).  Reservations can be made on Open Table.

The prix fixe Grazing, Pecking and Rooting Menu is $198 per person.


Prior stories on More Time To Travel about Blue Hill at Stone Barns:

Other reviews of Blue Hill at Stone Barns worth reading:

To read more about food activist and chef Dan Barber’s vision for the future of food, see his new book, The Third Plate, available in print and Kindle editions at booksellers and on Amazon. 

The Third Plate

The Third Plate

  • Reply
    Laura E. Kelly
    July 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    An amazing vicarious dining experience; thanks, Irene! I wish EVERY restaurant did this: “Bread is served later in the meal, as a course, rather than at the beginning.” I’m tired of being tempted by and then filling up on bread at the beginning of dining out.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      I thought it was a great idea, too. Certainly cuts down on excess bread consumption:-)

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    July 18, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    The $198 price is a bit pricey :-). But it sure looks like the meal is worth it if, as you say, you’re a foodie. The delicately battered elderflower looks interesting – not tasted that before. And the idea of moving around between courses (going out on the patio) is a great one…

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Yes, but in NY, you can pay more than that for theater tickets. Great for a celebratory event!

  • Reply
    Muza-chan
    July 21, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Looks delicious, Irene 🙂

  • Reply
    Brianna
    July 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Blue Hill at Stone Farm is on my dream dining list. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Jamie
    October 18, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Can you recommend a place to stay after our meal? The Tarrytown House Estate is closed the days we would like to go.

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