Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a not-for-profit farm in Pocantico Hills. It took us about 35 minutes to drive there from the Upper West Side (no traffic), but the anticipation grows as the sounds of the gray city fade away and the site of tall green trees appear.  Once you enter the property, you’ll see animals grazing and neat rows of crops. But when you pull up to the main building, the valets greet you. It’s almost a city touch but they are not dressed in uniform or suits. They look like they could also work a plough.

Sadly, the Farm Market was closed when we arrived (10 minutes to 6pm) but we walked around the mini garden that seems to be displayed for guests. Tall snow pea plants, tons of almost ready raspberries, salad greens, and stuff I don’t recognize seem to be showing off. For the first time, I understood why some people talk to plants (not that I did of course). A sign in the dirt invites you to try a leaf from the Bronze Fennel and you must. A teeny sprig that looks like dill tastes like licorice candy. It just blows me away.

Bronze Fennel

The short walk up to Blue Hill 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, NY 10591 gives you more time to just breathe in air, look up to the clear blue sky, and if no one was looking, I would’ve spun around with my arms spread out (clearly I’ve been in Manhattan too long). The clean inviting space has lots of windows, relying heavily on natural light, but otherwise, this could be a Manhattan restaurant. Here, the greeters and wait staff are smartly dressed. It is clear that service was not going to be farm-style. There is only two menu choices, a 5 course tasting or the Farmer’s Feast (an undecided amount of courses). If at all possible, Lon will always go for the largest. Luckily, Bill, Emily, and Tim were ready for the challenge. Lon chose that Gewurztraminer, that I fell in love with, and hours flew from there.

Chamomile Spritzer,  a refreshing way to start but not my thing, got mixed reviews from our table.

chamomille spritzer

I couldn’t think of a better amuse at Blue Hill than farm vegetables. We saw that different tables sometimes got different vegetables. I would not have traded the season’s first tomatoes for anything.

farm fresh vegetables

The Pea Burgers were delicious, especially for Bill and I, who are both a little obsessed with peas. The buns were almost light sesame cookies, a tad sweet and airy. They reminded me of snacks you could find in Asian markets. The pea salad was creamy and screamed spring. Of course, any time anyone said “Pea Burger”, our whole table burst out laughing and it remained the on-going joke of the night. We’re clearly a mature bunch.

pea burgers

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus is one of those crowd pleasers. The sesame crust was a nice twist but Lon felt that it was too much and masked the other flavors. I’d have to agree but might not have thought that if it wasn’t brought up.

prosciutto wrapped asparagus with sesame crust

Just the sight of house-made charcuterie nearly made me jump out of my seats and clap my hands. The Salami was heavily dotted with very tasty fat. The bologna, well, it was impressive for bologna. The braseola fell short, but actually that was sourced (but I can’t remember form where).

house charcuterie

Ahh the bread. I almost wish (but don’t) that great restaurants didn’t have such good bread, because I inevitably fill myself up with bread. The butter, softened to the perfect temperature, ricotta, and parsnip salt make it even harder to resist. When we finished the butter, they brought out more butter but it was from Ronnybrook Farms. I guess they only have enough to give a little to each table.

bread, butter, ricotta, parsnip salt

The next course was the only I did not like, and neither did Lon. It looks like a little potted plant, but the top is removed to show a chilled soup inside. The top has a dull but salty cracker topped with bright fava beans and Johnny Jump-ups. Mostly to the fault of the cracker, I didn’t care for it.

Favas on cracker

I’m never into chilled soups so this was no different. The cucumber made it refreshing, the peas were bright and fresh, but still it was thick like a smoothie and didn’t work in my mind, although it came closer than any other cold soup. Emily and I gave Bill our portions and Lon just left his. Seeing his bowl full, the waiter asked if he should replace the course. Lon said no because he didn’t feel that the chefs had done anything wrong. It’s important to recognize that it was as perfect as could be, but just not our taste (and it’s so rare that we will say that).

Chilled bean soup with favas on cracker

After the soup was cleared, a waitress came around with a plate of Piracicaba, explaining this broccoli-like crop that is easier for farmers to handle. It looks like long thin broccoli, and it’s supposed to taste even better. It would be in our next dish.


I didn’t have enough Piracicaba in my dish to make a distinct impression other than seeming like young broccoli. We were surprised at the lack of uniformity in this dish. I had way more asparagus and only a teeny bit of Piracicaba, while Lon’s plate seemed to have plenty. Bill’s plate was missing the thin leaves that garnished the plate, completely.

asparagus and Piracicaba

The Piracicaba and Asparagus dish was sprinkled with unborn egg, grated over it like a cheese, adding a little heartiness.

unfertilized egg asparagus and Piracicaba 2

Our seafood course included shrimp and tiny pieces of octopus, topped with tender Albino White Salmon. While the salmon was delicious, it was unnecessary in the dish. I also noticed that the fish and shellfish both tasted better if you picked it up with a fork, out of the broth when you ate it. If you eat it on a spoon with too much broth, it’s too tart.

seafood course albino white salmon with shellfish

Next, we were shown some nice fresh eggs, while we learned more about how the chickens feed and roam.


A soft-boiled egg, crusted in panko, sits in a pea pistou (another joke). Besides being the most perfectly and evenly cooked egg ever, the yolk (ooh runny yolk) was worthy of licking every drop off the plate. Even the egg whites had flavor.

panko crusted soft boiled egg in pea pistou panko crusted soft boiled egg in pea pistou 2

The Pork Jowl was Lon’s and Tim’s favorite, fattier and richer than pork belly. Imagine skin, a thin layer of meat, and nearly an inch and a half of just fat. I enjoyed the plump porcini and spring onion more and would’ve preferred smaller piece of this much concentrated fat. Mouthful after mouthful got too heavy for me.

pork jowl with porcini

The lamb came in a surprisingly large portion for a tasting menu but felt relatively light. Each generous slice was a perfectly even medium rare but a few bites were tendonous. The farro, peas, and baby choy sitting in demi-glace was so simple and something I could eat bowls of. (At this point, it’s dark out and the pictures are suffering.)

lamb, farro, peas

Coffee and tea is forgettable. The quark sorbet and strawberry granita was the perfect way to show off seasonal strawberries. I was completely satisfied with this but more dessert was coming.

quark sorbet with strawberry granita

Alternating between us, some got these little pots with awful asparagus ice cream. I scooped out the strawberries and chunks of rhubarb, trying to salvage them before the asparagus ice cream melted. I didn’t care for the egg-y foamy and soupy stuff either.

Asparagus Ice Cream, strawberry and rhubarb

Others got a Cheesecake Ice Cream (didn’t taste like cheesecake) with blueberry compote, mascarpone, and pieces of meringue-like cookies. It was a good simple mix of flavors and textures.

blueberry compote, cheesecake ice cream, marscapone 2

Two plates of Minty Strawberry stuff was placed in the center to share. The circular discs are airy with a nice strawberry flavor in the center, but the outer circle is minty. The sorbet is minty too, all in all way too minty, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was eating a toothpaste flavored dessert.

minty strawberry dessert

The cherries were surprisingly flavorless and Lon called the chocolate, passover chocolates, which isn’t too flattering. The cinnamon was  distinct in the marshmallows, but at this point, no one wants to eat anymore. I was completely stuffed but it’s not the same feeling you get from being stuffed with pizza or burgers. I didn’t feel disgusting or heavy.

Marshmallow, Cherry, Chocolate

At the end, we’re invited to see the kitchen where Dan Barber took a few minutes to say hi. To know that he is there made us all really happy. It’s a big kitchen for the number of tables in the dining room, but it must be challenging to fulfill their concept. Many places may do seasonal menus but Blue Hill varies their menu daily depending on that day’s harvest. Many items will not be abundant enough to serve all the diners so many different dishes are made at the same time in this kitchen. Add to that, some diners do not want certain items, and a semi-custom dinner is crafted for each table.

Although I did not love everything, $125 is an incredible deal to eat such fresh ingredients prepared by such forward thinking chefs. It’s so interesting to think that each month, the meal will be so completely different. I can’t wait to go again.

posted by jessica at 08:07 AM Filed under American and New American, Favorites, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.