We went to New York to escape from a coming Northern Winter.
The philosophy was, let's get so much stimuli from graffitied walls, colourful people, hot dog stands, intense theatre, fashion, architecture, depravity, sewage stink, fastfastfast... that gratitude for the land, the quiet, the solace, just falls into our laps when we come home to the Yukon.
Well, it worked. It worked a little too quickly.
One week into our trip, I was extremely relieved that I had had the foresight in the planning of the mielmoon, to make a reservation to Blue Hill at Stone Barn. Far away from the bustle of anything metropolitan, it is the epitome of a farm-to-table experience, in that the majority of the bounty and harvest served at dinner, are from just steps outside their kitchen door. It would mean taking a train ride away from the high rises of Manhattan proper, towards the greener things of Pocantico Hills.
(Don't get me wrong-- I was loving my urban getaway. It's just that I've turned into a bit of a rural mouse that feels a bit sideways in her heart, when she has to crane her neck for a view of the sky. )
|Grand Central never ceases to dazzle me.|
A subway, a train ride, and a hailed taxi later-- we were back in the throes of a simpler existence. We arrived with plenty of time before our 6pm dinner reservation, so we took the opportunity to meander amidst the animals and greenhouses nearby.
Wandering around the farm reminded us of the summer we worked for a bit as wwoofer's on Saltspring Island. The perfectly symmetrical lines of green and purple basil, the nostalgia of trellising tomatoes, the smell of manure. Those weeks were the start of connecting to the idea that the food I was buying at grocery stores came from somewhere. That potatoes are not born in plastic packages, but dug from the earth like hidden Christmas presents.
|from 2011 archives, "The Effect of Tomatoes"|
|from 2011 archives, "The Runts That No One Wanted"|
The interior of this place turned me into a bit of a schoolgirl with a huge crush. On the waitstaff that were better dressed than me; on the wood floors and exposed, industrial beams; on my one and only celebrity sighting in my time in NY (the lead from Entourage, with the curly head of hair. He was sitting at the bar in a bright t-shirt, with his manager or otherling from the industry.)
It took a while longer for the husband to warm up to it. It is a place, after all, where people push in your chair for you, and softly call you "sir" or "miss". We had just been in a fancy restaurant in Manhattan where we had felt clumsy and out of place, and I suspect he was wary that we were about to drop more dollars on Pretension.
The concept at Blue Hill, is that they serve you only what is in season-- and the month of August = Tomatoes. (Yay!) A head server comes up to you and asks you if you have any food intolerances, you tell them whatever it is you want to admit (I heard a gentleman at a table near ours tell his server that he hated mushrooms and tomatoes), and they take care of the rest. As in.... you don't specifically order anything.
Small plates of vibrantly coloured food just appear before you, in a well choreographed ballet of service. We estimate that there might have been about 15 plates-- ranging from amuse bouches to entrees-- that were parked under our noses.
This literally might be my new favourite way to dine.
|Blue Hill's signature starter. Veg subject to harvest. We had: bok choy, watermelon cucumber, gooseberry, radish, tomato. Bursting with Real Enzymes.|
|"Weeds From the Garden". You get little scissors with which to 'prune' your weeds, and you drag it into the lemon verbena-ed green sauce. And then you smile because you get to play with your food here!|
|Roasted sesame crusted, pancetta covered, eggplant popsicle.|
|Roasted, chilled cantaloupe soup with house-cured prosciutto wrapped watermelon.|
|Mini tomato burgers. (one of our favourites)|
|Charcoal-chocolate mint whoopie pies, tomato tartlets, eggplant on bird's nest|
|Pork liver terrine and caramelized dark chocolate.|
|A tomato 'granola' dish. I was two months ago, so I can't remember exactly what was going on, but suffice it to say that it was delicious.|
|Green garden gazpacho.|
|House made ricotta, wheat brioche, spring greens marmalade (The single best piece of bread I've ever had)|
|Note: image and memory quality going down. It has now been about 2 hours since the start of the meal.|
This was seared tuna.
|Simple pasta dish with a runny egg and parmesan.|
|Pork four ways.|
-- Not pictured: 5 or so more dishes. Including a parade of petit-fours and a tray of dessert near the end. Including a sizeable chunk of rustic bread with 'whipped lardo' that was yum to the me. Including a tisane of tea with roots from their farm, with honey from the hive.
-- Super not pictured: THREE AND A HALF HOURS FOR A MEAL! We started to eat at 6:30, and didn't finish everything until 10pm.
-- Speaking of pictures: I would love to learn how to take quality photos inside, in a low-lit room. (A hint to anyone who wants to get me a present in the future). These pictures pale in comparison to what our eyeballs and tastebuds witnessed. This flickr stream should convince you to go to Blue Hill, if you weren't bowled over by my testimony.
I'm not coming back to you, NY, anytime soon-- but when I do, I will definitely be taking a train ride to Tarrytown Station again. For now, we relish the memories of a green oasis amidst a urban fairytale, especially now that winter is here and our Yukon streets are covered in snow.