I woke up last Saturday feeling sick and sluggish. My cold allergy was at its peak and I had a throbbing headache. Still I forced myself to get up because we had a brunch reservation at Blue Hill Stone Barns all the way upstate (particularly Pocantico Hills which is about 45 minutes from the city). I actually tried to move our reservations the night before because the weather forecast showed that it was going to rain the whole day Saturday. However, they told me that next available slot was in two months. (This gives you an idea of how difficult it is to get a reservation so you have to call months ahead!) With just a few more days here in the city, I had no choice. This was one of the things in my list of places to try before moving back to Manila. And so despite the gloomy weather and my allergies, off we went to the farm.
Thanks to my determination, it turned out to be a great decision! I've eaten in a long list of restaurants in the city but really this was one-of-a-kind. Let me walk you through our whole experience...
Blue Hills Stone Barns is a four season farm and educational center owned and operated by Dan Barber (one of my idol chefs) and his brother David who is the businessman. They created a philosophical framework that aimed to increase consciousness about the effect of making everyday food choices. The ingredients used in the restaurant are sourced from the farm itself and the surrounding pastures. Remarkable, isn't it? It highlights the "farm-to-table" movement which I've been very interested in lately.
We arrived there a bit early for our 11:30 reservation. It was a vast farmland of oh-so-green pastures. From the car, we saw various animals in different areas that were freely roaming and happily enjoying life (before they get to the table that is! oops!) . There was an available valet service but we opted to just use the customer parking area. As we walked towards the main courtyard, we passed the the greenhouse, the herb and vegetable garden and the small cafe beside the main dining barn.
green escape from the city
the courtyard leading to the main barn
the main entrance
The door didn't open until exactly 11:30 which was the first seating. We entered, checked in our coats and were promptly escorted to our table (together with the push and pull-in action as we sat - I noticed this because when I went to the restroom in the middle of the meal, our server did this again!). The main dining area was bright and homey - high ceiling with exposed iron beams which gave it a modern yet rustic feel. The mosaic painting of the actual farm on the back wall also caught my eye because it added to the bucolic ambiance. My husband Joel was in awe. Like a kid in Disneyland for the first time, he looked around in pure amazement.
As soon as we settled down, the server gave us our menus. He explained that they don't give the traditional menu but instead presented us with a list of ingredients that were in season and available from the farm. These ingredients were to be used to create the "Farmers Lunch" ($85) consisting of 4 courses. There were also supplementary tastings that were available - organic cocktails ($15 each) and cheese course ($14) which we got. We were also asked if we had any food allergies or dietary restrictions to make sure they pick ingredients that suited our taste and diet. It was pretty exciting not knowing what to expect.
We were offered soothing lemon balm spritzers to start the course...
Then a series of amuse bouche followed;
Skewered Asparagus Spears wrapped in Home-cured Pancetta and covered in Sesame Seeds Warm and lovely. Asparagus never tasted that good.
Mini Asparagus Burgers which I finished it in one bite.
Onion and Potato Bread with a block of butter
Prosciutto over Potato and Egg Fritata
Fiddlehead Ferns with Red buds and Homemade Yogurt over Wheat Crisps
Feminine, pretty and intricate ...a delightful sensation inside the mouth.
Spring Soup served with a spoonful of Ramp (tiny and delicate spring onions) Marmalade which we had to spread on the toasted Brioche. A warm and comforting treat.
Our server presented us this platter to explain the feature ingredient "Fiddlehead Ferns" for our last savory dish. These ferns are special because they are very seasonal. Fiddlehead ferns are unfurled fronds of a young fern which have to be harvested at a very specific time because once they "open" and straighten out, they are inedible.
Poulet Egg with Fiddlehead Ferns and Mushrooms mixed with Asparagus Broth
The glass bowl was covered with rice paper coating with petal and herb garnish. It hurt that I had to destroy the delicate crust to get into the soup.
This was the Supplemental Cheese Course ($14) served with apple jam and pickled fig
Berkshire Pork with Asparagus Puree
Different cuts of their farm-raised hog cooked to perfect tenderness albeit a bit salty.
Hazelnut Crunch with Coco nibs Ice-cream and CaramelJoel frowned when he saw the dessert platter because it meant that this was the last course. He didn't want it to end.
The whole experience was absolutely incredible. And I have to say with all honesty that this was one of my most amazing dining experiences ever. It was top notch from the breathtaking place, highly attentive service and the inventive and well-thought of food... in a FARM!
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, New York 10591