Snagging a reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills (Westchester County), New York isn’t easy. But it’s well worth the effort for a unique farm-to-table experience just 25 miles north of Manhattan. The restaurant, which has been a mecca for serious foodies since it opened in 2004, sits on a piece of land embracing an 80-acre working farm and a non-profit educational center called the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.
We had made lunch reservations to celebrate my husband’s birthday on what turned out to be a perfect summer day. But regardless of the season, just getting to Blue Hill is a treat. Nestled on an expansive piece of land in the Hudson Valley once owned by the Rockefeller family, the ride takes you along bucolic two-lane country roads where cattle graze in the fields.
As you drive past the unassuming neo-Gothic Union Church built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1921, you catch a glimpse of ten remarkable stained glass windows, nine of them created by Marc Chagall and a rose window designed by Henri Matisse. (The memorial windows are also a legacy of the Rockefellers who worshipped here.)
Both city dwellers and suburbanites are bound to feel a thrill as they set foot on a real farm so close to home. Using a rotation system, this one grows 200 varieties of produce over four seasons, and raises chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, pigs and bees. Guests are welcome to stop at a visitor center and amble around the sprawling, mapped trails to see the greenhouse, terraced gardens, livestock shelters, cattle pastures, and more. You’re likely to see several cows and their offspring sleeping under a big tree.
The 75-seat restaurant and an elegant bar are housed inside a beautifully restored, contemporary stone barn with a dramatic trussed roof. But once you enter the elegant room, it’s all about eating and learning about good food. Everything on the plate is organic, local, and sustainable, and much of it is raised on the verdant land just outside the restaurant’s large sunlit windows. The wait staff is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and eager to share information about the origins of each dish.
On Sundays, the one day a week the restaurant is open for lunch, the cook creates a special Farmer’s Feast, a four-course tasting menu (priced at $88 per person), selected from the day’s harvest. Overseen by Executive Chef Dan Barber (a recognized leader in the “slow food” movement), the continually changing menu features inventive, intensely flavorful, and attractive dishes that showcase ingredients at their peak of freshness.
Reminiscent of a meal at the Adria brothers’ Tickets Bar in Barcelona, food becomes art and serving becomes theatre as each course comes out of the kitchen carried by a parade of servers. Wine pairings are available but we ordered a reasonably priced $40 bottle of cava, German Gilabert, which complemented our meal beautifully.
The performance began with a series of amuse bouche that arrived at the table with near precision timing. Karen, our main server, whimsically called them the “snacks” before the meal. These included peas in the pod with smoked salt, and chorizo and cured pork loin (both served on stone slabs); herbal spritzers; and lollypops of eggplant wrapped in pancetta. The four tasting courses offered small, delectable plates of fish, egg, pork, and dessert; they were right-sized so we were able to enjoy the entire meal without feeling overstuffed or hungry.
While our lunch was a bit pricey, it was an excellent value. Not only does a meal at Blue Hill make for a memorable, one-of-a-kind celebration, it also serves as a vital reminder of the integral ties between food and farming. It firmed up our resolve to find another excuse to return to savor seasonal offerings from the earth’s bounty.
IF YOU GO
30 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, New York 10591
Reservations and General information – 1-914-366-9600
Directions from Manhattan by car or by train on Metro North are available on the website. Phone reservations can be made by phone or through OpenTable, up to 60 days in advance. If at first you don’t succeed, check back often.
*A version of this post was previously published by NBC Universal.
Also on More Time to Travel:
- Equus Restaurant: Fit for royalty
- Blue Hill at Stone Barns: A restaurant worth the trip
- Dining at Blue Hill: 13 Things you should know
- Le Jardin du Roi: A quintessential French bistro in Chappaqua
OUR PHOTO GALLERY – SUNDAY BRUNCH AT BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS
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