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Restaurant Review: Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Whether you’re inspired by the philosophy behind a farm-to-table experience or looking for a delightful meal in a fairy tale setting, Blue Hill in Pocantico Hills should not be missed. 



Haute Cuisine Down on the Farm

Whether you’re inspired by the philosophy behind a farm-to-table experience or looking for a delightful meal in a fairy tale setting, Blue Hill in Pocantico Hills should not be missed. 

 

You’ve been soothed by the bucolic approach and awed by the beauty of the renovated stone barns, but nothing prepares you for the enthusiasm and fervent belief the staff at Blue Hill exudes when talking about the restaurant’s mission

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Sepia tones prevail in the industrial-meets-farmland décor, and are carried through in the staff’s chic SoHo-style ensembles. The shades of brown enhance the message and meaning of this 80-acre Rockefeller farm: Food has a life that starts long before it reaches our plates, and it can all be traced back to the earth on which it is grown or raised.

 

The dining room—its magnificently high ceilings reinforced with steel beams the color of milk chocolate— looks out through a long glass wall onto an impossibly perfect setting: a rolling green hill, grayed wood fence and an occasional grazing animal. You are looking into a painting and eating inside a fairytale world of earth and sky and creatures large and small.

 

From the moment the cherubic-faced waiter approaches, we are charmed. When he speaks, the awe and excitement of a young boy bubbles forth. Lovingly, he describes each dish: which ingredients have come from the Blue Hill gardens and why some have not (growing season, etc). Like the best disciple, he passes on a thrill about the mission—and our anticipation grows.

 

Does it all sound like much too much more than a pleasant dinner out at a nearby and beautifully situated restaurant? Fear not; you can also just go for the food. You don’t need to pay attention—or subscribe—to the mission. You don’t have to worry about growing season, or think about the climate to enjoy Blue Hill. Eat, drink and be happy.

 

Sweet asparagus ravioli, garnished with thin shavings of bright green stalks and tiny bits of purple clover, were made brazen with shoots of new spring garlic called scape (which is usually more mild than in this dish). Even better was the mildly smoked trout, the tender pink flesh set against bright bits of sautéed garden escarole and meaty hen-of-the-woods mushrooms—all atop a surprisingly smooth Meyer lemon sauce, with little bits of the sweet-tart fruit lacing the plate. The mushrooms were a sleight of hand you might expect to hate. They certainly didn’t sound like they would belong, yet they were the key to the dish, the element that bound the others.

 

On a chef’s tasting menu, my dining companion and I were surprised when lightly smoked trout was followed by lightly smoked salmon. Odd, but the salmon dish may well have been our favorite of the night, thanks to the mound of first-of-the-season peas alongside the fish. The peas popped in our mouths in a burst of bright sweet green.

 

Not every dish thrilled us, though all were pleasing. A deep and rich chicken soup had more intense chicken flavor than even the most assiduous Jewish mother is likely to wrest from her hens, thanks in part to the care with which Blue Hill chickens are raised. A tiny dice of parsnip hid between the matzo balls and (be still my heart!) a slice of foie gras, but the soup was sweeter than we wanted.

 

Desserts, on the other hand, were decidedly restrained when it came to sweetness. On two occasions, my dining companions and I sampled the mint and fromage blanc ice milks in rhubarb broth, and twice we found the bright herbaceous mint, the creamy fromage blanc and the little bits of mild and slightly crunchy rhubarb in broth to be an intriguing and compelling dish.

 

This adds up to a dining experience that exists apart from the important mission of the Stone Barns complex (for more on Stone Barns, see page 70). Dan Barber, owner and chef, set a precedent and level of expectation at Blue Hill in New York City, and he and co-owners David and Laureen Barber, have successfully fit culinary talent and vision with this very different environment. Similarly, Executive Chef Michael Anthony, who also worked at Blue Hill in New York City, takes his passion for and creativity with food and sustainable agriculture and intertwines them to the immediate benefit of the diner. 

 

So go ready to be inspired by the need for sustainable agriculture and community growing; go because you want to truly understand what happens when food goes directly from pasture to table; or go because you want to dine on interesting food in a beautiful environment. But go.

 

BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS

630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills

(914) 366-9600

 

HOURS:  

Dinner, Wed. to Thur. and Sun. 5-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5-11 pm

Sunday brunch, 11-2 pm

 

PRICES:

Dinner pre-fixe: $46 and up

Brunch pre-fixe: $42 and up