Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Before my dinner at the restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I had read about the impact the restaurant has had over the years, by connecting people with food. I knew the restaurant was a 45-minute train ride from New York City. I knew there was a chef named Dan Barber. I knew there was a farm. I knew they grew food. I knew there were animals. I knew Dan had a lot to do with the farm-to-table movement.
Greenhouse at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
What I didn’t know was the entire backstory to the parts of the name, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Blue Hill is the name of the two restaurants run by Dan Barber. One in Greenwich Village, New York City which opened in 2000. The other where I had my dinner, is located within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit organization “on a mission to create a healthy and and sustainable food system.” Hence the name, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The Rockefeller family owned this farm before the Barbers took over in 2006.
We were lucky to see the newly born piglets at Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns Center.
Barbers? Yes, there are more Barbers involved than chef Dan Barber. David Barber is Dan’s brother, co-owner of the Blue Hill restaurants and farms, as well as co-founder of Stone Barns Center. David’s wife, Laureen Barber, is also co-owner of Blue Hill and is in charge of all design projects.
And yes, there is more than one Blue Hill farm. The other one has been in the Barber family for four generations and is located in Massachusetts. Most of the dairy products served at the Blue Hill restaurants come from the Massachusetts farm.
Sourdough and buttermilk butter from Blue Hill farm of Great Barrington, MA
So, there are really two Blue Hill restaurants, two brothers and two farms. At the Stone Barns location is also a store, an education center, and a cafe. The Center also offers and hosts: tours, classes, a farmer’s market, exchange fellowships, weddings, outings, corporate team building retreats led by farmers and chefs, private dining, lectures, conferences, programs, wine dinners, festivals and culinary and farmer training.
Chicago’s Rick Bayless was on the premises for their Summer Nights series.
I’ve always been intrigued by the backstory of restaurants and the hows and whys. But to finally walk the grounds and taste what I had only read about is something I take more seriously than making a bucket list of restaurants I want to visit. I was even skeptical I could be swooned by a restaurant that served an opening course of raw vegetables. When my friend asked if I could join her for dinner, it was an opportunity, built out of curiosity, I didn’t want to pass up.
With chef Dan Barber.
As someone who didn’t eat lettuce until I was in my 20s and never grew to love it, it was the lettuce in my first course at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, that won me over.
1st Course: Vegetables From the Farm
Tasting Menu $258
2017 World’s 50 Best No. 11
Chef Dan Barber
– A 45-minute train ride from Grand Central Station offers a view of the Hudson River from the left side of the train.
– Arrive early to explore the farm, store, cafe and greenhouses.
The opah fish, also known as the moonfish, is served often in Hawaii. It doesn’t have a fishy odor or taste and can weigh as much as 200 pounds. To get a sense of scale, the servers hands are about the size of the moonfish’s eye. I can’t say I have ever had a fish this big rolled out to the table before and I appreciated seeing it’s grand scale and beautiful, vivid colors up close.
Moonfish (Opah) and Tomatoes
This was the coolest knife I’ve ever used. Made from antique farm equipment, these knives are made exclusively for the restaurant by a blacksmith in upstate New York. I loved the imperfect ridges on the handle, which told me that no two knives were alike. The weight felt so nice in my hand, the edge was so sharp and felt like it was custom made for me. If I owned one, I would use it every day for everything, even eggs and bananas.
Knife made out of an antique tractor tine.
Kitchen course with Dan Barber.
You Are What You Eat
You are what you eat but have your wondered if it matters what animals eat? Some of the free-roaming chickens at Blue Hill farm eat a specially-bred red pepper purée. Can you guess which egg came from those chickens?
Kitchen Course: Red Pepper Egg and the First of the Cranberry Beans
The candle at our table was melted beef tallow and poured over our last course.
After dinner, I took one more look at the gardens along the path we walked past when we entered the restaurant. The sun was about to fully set and the walkway was lit with tiny lights that twinkled if you squinted. The bright colors of the flowers were now muted by the sun’s absence, which left me wanting to see this walkway, and taste chef Dan Barber’s food, in all of the different seasons.