Jul 30 2010

Chickens, pigs, and the best dinner of my life

Yesterday, I browsed through some old archives on this blog and came across one dated July 25, 2009.  This post described how it would be my absolute dream to go to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, wander the property, and eat at Blue Hill.

I am one incredibly lucky girl.

In the year since I wrote that post, I've spent two incredible days in Pocantico Hills, the first on a tour of the property for What is Fresh, and the second, most recently, with my husband.

After seeing my impassioned blog post,  two of our friends gave us a gift certificate for Blue Hill at Stone Barns at our October wedding.  (I believe I shrieked upon opening the gift card).  As they said, "We really thought a night at Blue Hill would beat the heck out of semi-anonymously gifted housewares."

In the months following my March visit to Stone Barns (*if interested, you can read about the visit, complete with pictures HERE), I know Justin was relieved that I didn't limit our conversation topics only to Stone Barns (right, honey?).

During the dead of winter, we decided we wanted to eat at Blue Hill during the height of the summer season.  It was February and I was already dreaming about corn, tomatoes, and peaches.  You can't reserve a table more than 2 months ahead of time, so in May, exactly two months out from the date we wanted to go, I called.  I called at 9:30 am and the best time I could get was 9:30 pm! Clearly, others hadn't even bothered getting out bed before making their reservation phone call.

Because I knew the lay of the land, it was fun to show Justin around the Stone Barns property and see everything through his eyes.  Obviously Stone Barn has a different feel in March than it does in July.  In March, I saw baby pigs lounging in the barn, pregnant ewes, also in a barn, and no turkeys to speak of.  Daffodils were beginning to pop out and the vegetable garden had seeds but no growth.

In July, the sheep are on pasture, the chickens are literally all over the place, and the turkeys are both alive and growing by the second.  The baby Berkshire pigs are no longer babies and the garden is exploding with growth.  We wandered the property for a long time on Saturday, interacting with the chickens and visiting with the pigs in the woods.

Saturday night's dinner at Blue Hill is, without a doubt, the best dinner I have ever had.  From start to finish, the service and experience were impeccable.  We started with seasonal cocktails at the bar: mine had blackcurrants and Justin's had elderflower.

At dinner, we ordered the 8 course meal, complete with wine pairings.  Generous, bottomless wine pairings.  I tried to take notes on all of the courses (as there is no menu, just a long list of seasonal ingredients they might be serving), but looking at my notes right now is quite telling.  The notes are total chicken scratch by the end of the night due to the wine and food!

8 courses didn't translate to 8 plates.  Instead, our meal equaled 4 hours of continuous eating, with each component being brought separately.  Some dishes were quite small--just tastes--while others, especially near the end were complete dishes, with sides.

I had a few of the best tastes of my life!  Some of the standout dishes or tastes include:  a summer squash skewer, wrapped in pancetta and then seeded with its own squash seeds; mini tomato burgers; a salad consisting of tomatoes, beans, raspberries, homemade yogurt, snap peas, flowers, and peaches; and sockeyed salmon with Maine shellfish and corn chowder.

Everything was delightful and the morning after food (and wine) coma was completely worth it.  I can't see myself eating like that very often, but I think I could handle once a year (a girl can dream-I did before!)