For at least a month or so, I have been on OpenTable
trying to get a weekend reservation for Blue Hill at Stone Barns
. Finally after weeks of trying, I succeeded with a Saturday evening slot. As all good planning seems to go, Marty had to be out of town that weekend. So, I tried again and felt pretty lucky to score a Friday evening reservation. I plotted out our journey – from Grand Central Station take the Hudson Line to Tarrytown ($7-9.25 each way), then cab it to the restaurant ($7-9 each way). The route from downtown Manhattan takes about an hour and fifteen minutes thanks to the express train (it’s another 15-20 minutes more on the local train). I had visions in my head of a relaxing train ride along the Hudson capped off with bucolic farmhouses surrounded by pastures filled with livestock and hand harvested gardens. Instead, the remnants of hurricane Ivan obscured what wasn’t already cloaked by darkness at our 7:30 p.m. arrival to the farm. From what I’ve read, Stone Barns is a lovely 80-acre farm and agricultural center donated by the Rockefellers that consists of restored 1930s barns, silos, and farmhouses spread out on rolling hills.
In the restaurant dining room, the white walls blend seamlessly into the soaring ceilings contrasting with the exposed metal rafters. It is a simplistic design that allows the grounds to be the highlight. To me, both my fellow diners and the space reminded me of the fine dining establishments in Midwestern suburbs. That might not mean much to most people, but to me...it kind of made me smile. Anyway, it’s spacious and pleasant without pretense. The staff is enthusiastic, informative, and happy to answer questions.
The untraditional menu is divided into four categories: Tomatoes, More Tomatoes, From the Pastures, and Hudson Valley Pastures (themes change with the seasons). You can select from the groups in any order and pay accordingly (two courses [$46], three courses [$56], four courses [$66]) - desserts are separate. Only the last dish in succession will be entrée sized with the preceding choices scaled down to appetizer portions.
Chefs Dan Barber and Michael Anthony have the resources at their fingertips and thankfully know how to use them. Our meal initiated with a shot of liquid corn, sweet and simple. I dove into the colorful heirloom tomato salad where the expected tomato flavors and textures were contrasted interestingly with a tomato sorbet and watermelon chunks. Marty’s baby romaine lettuce sat atop a fresh tasting eggplant-tomato tapenade and was served with a vinaigrette that danced with addictive bits of pancetta. It was topped with an egg that looked like a hard-boiled egg covered in breadcrumbs, actually it had been fried – great texture and flavor. Next the crabmeat arrived hiding under thin slices of cantaloupe and squash. The sweetness of the cantaloupe at times overpowered the crabmeat, but I still enjoyed the combination of fresh flavors. Marty’s cod was perhaps my favorite dish. It sat in a tomato-coriander sauce, almost like an Indian masala, with chanterelles. Finally, I had the pork trio, a combination including a thick slab of bacon, a slice of sausage, and small tenderloin. It was such a treat with every juicy and savory bite, especially those that included sausage. Marty’s duck with Asian greens and carrots was excellent, perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful. As it always seems to happen, we were too full for dessert – maybe next time…
I have to say, the meal was a knockout – the best I’ve had since moving to New York. I guess that means I agree with Frank Bruni’s three star review
. Considering the quality, it’s also be quite a bargain if you have a car. But, since we don’t, the $60 we spent on transportation certainly negates the overall value. Even so, with fall at our doorsteps, I can’t imagine a better way to spend an early Sunday dinner (that way you can actually see
the grounds and enjoy the views from the train).