Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located about a 20 minute train ride and 10 minute taxi ride from NYC. Blue Hill opened this location in 2004 based on the satellite operation in the Village of NYC (one star) that opened in 2000. It is a surprise tasting menu only and we were told that it does vary between tables. No written menu is provided at dinner but they promised to email me one which they actually did, however it didn’t contain a lot of detail, which you will see at the end of this article. The large dining room had a barrel vaulted ceiling, well spaced tables and a massive table of flowers in the center of the room. On one end of the room is a huge mural that about spans the width of room. It was originally a dining room for the Rockefeller family in the 1920’s. This building was where the cows were kept. Lighting is nice at the beginning when much natural light pours into the room but as the evening wears on the candle only lighting makes photography difficult. The portion control is good but the pacing is uneven.
Sometimes a large number of things would come out at once and all have lots of description which was impossible to get it all down without recording (which I did not do). Thus not everything we had has a lot of comment or description as there wasn’t time to get it down, photograph and eat it. Blue Hill has its own gardens, curing areas as well as places to raise animals. The kitchen, run by Chef Dan Barber, is huge and filled with employees and volunteer interns that want to study the process. The dining room looks out onto a good sized patio where the grill/smoker was set up. You’ll see the large stone barn where they prepare much of what you are served. It is worth the trip if you can get a reservation but it did not blow me away as I expected it to do, based on other reviews and ranking in polls. They have a thoughtful process to their food concept but I’d ditch some of the props and get more flavor back in the food.
Before you hardly get settled they start bringing snacks. First was a series of small raw vegetables from the garden including carrots, turnips, lettuce and radishes. Next was flowering bokchoy, where only the flowers are snipped onto the plate. They were good, mostly for the honey dotted sauce that came with them.
An asparagus burger was a tiny bun filled with cooked asparagus. It was fun to see, tasted a tad sweet but had surprisingly little asparagus flavor.
Kohlrabi, nasturtiums and pickled strawberries. This “course”ended with an arc of wire into which small weeds had been stuffed – all of which were edible. They came with a pickled pesto sauce.
A special pizza was a crisp flatbread covered with thin sliced ham. It was broken at the table at which time the ham went flying and all landed on one side.
Goose liver came with a sugary crisp. You’ll note the menu called it pork liver. Don’t know which is correct but it was tasty.
Popcorn came out in a brown bag cut open at the table. It had tiny ear that had popped, its kernels still intact, and some other popped corn. With it was a shaker of fennel salt. It tasted just like popcorn. This was more show than a new taste sensation.
Tender young raw rhubarb was presented and we were cut a tiny piece. It was really too tart to eat.
Hard sausages of pork, beef and mutton were left at the table for you to look at and then your choice was grated on the next dish. A potato baked in a hard shell was cracked with a chisel tableside. The center was scooped out and plated with honey yogurt. I could discern no difference in the taste of the mutton and pork sausages that we chose.
Tilefish and chickpea were served with American sturgeon caviar. The chickpeas were grown in South Dakota. It was an interesting combination of tastes and the chickpeas were particularly good.
Pork ribs were presented in the leaves they were cooked in. They were glazed with turmeric . Nicely cooked but they looked way great while they only tasted good.
Next was our tour and we got the kitchen. We were told that guests are invited to different areas. In the kitchen there were a ton of people working at discreet cooking stations. Chef Dan Barber was there and working the room to supervise what was happening. While there we were served asparagus cooked amongst the pine that had been decorating our table. It was grilled and tasty. They also served the broth that the pine was steeped in. It was okay, the kitchen show was the star here. We stood adjacent to the female chef whose job was to stuff the weeds in the wire frame for serving.
Foraged mushrooms and Blue Hill Farm Ricotta were served separately. The mushrooms included foraged ramps and were topped with grated smoked pheasant leg preserved from last year. Some of the ramps were pickled also. It was a good blend of things made better when mixed with the ricotta. The ricotta was made from milk from the Blue Hill Farm cows and was excellent – it really took the edge off the sharp taste of the pickled and fresh onions.
Freshly milled Barber wheat was turned into 100% whole grain sour dough bread. It had a very malty taste. The butter was from Massachusetts and made from grass fed cows. The last bit of churning was done at the table.
Milk fed 60 day old Katahdin lamb was served with spring greens.
Beef bone marrow and tallow from the candle on the table looked great but it was not quite cooked enough to make it tender and tasty. It was covered with a gremolata that was stronger than the flavor of the marrow. It was not a success.
A dry aged parsnip steak was covered with a meat sauce and plated with Fighter spinach, that had a nice chew, covered with fried potato.
Three different concentrations of maple sap came in vials inserted into a maple log. They were served with maple shaved ice and you could make your own maple creation. The darkest and highest concentration was the only one with much flavor. Alongside were bowls of pickled pear, coated nuts and preserved fruits. The nuts were good.
Pear granita was served with maple cream and it was tasty. It was a very mild pear taste.
Last was a ‘celebration of bees’ which was a tray of final treats presented on a tray of a bee farm. The nougat was good but none of the others stood out.