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Blue Hill at Stone Barns

  • c

I'm posting this in response to a post on the Manhattan board, which asked for information about Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

I've been a few times now, and I've been meaning to post a more detailed review, but I keep failing to get my scribbled notes together so that I can say something specific.

In short... yes! I recommend BH@SB highly. I think that, if it were in Manhattan, it would be among the best restaurants in Manhattan currently. I think the cuisine is especially enhanced by their use of local ingredients from the farm (and nearby farms). So far I've been particularly impressed by their eggs, chicken, pork, and herbs that I think are picked moments before cooking.

The question of whether it's worth the money depends on how much you're willing to spend for dinner, of course. But I'd have to say that it's very fairly priced by Manhattan standards, at least, and much of the wine list seems to have unusually modest markups.

Link: http://www.stonebarnscenter.org

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  1. Is it better than Blue Hill in manhattan? IMO it's good but it's at different level than Daniel or Perse.
    What dishes you think is stellar there?
    Did you sit outside or in the main dining room?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Isabelle

      Isabelle: I think a comparison of Blue Hill at Stone Barns to Blue Hill in Manhattan would probably depend on which chef is in charge at either restaurant on a given night. But, based on my limited experience, yes, the food at the Stone Barns restaurant is definitely superior to that at the Greenwich Village restaurant.

      One excellent dish that stands out in my memory was a Bibb lettuce salad with a soft-boiled egg, warm chick peas, almonds, and pancetta vinaigrette. I'm getting the impression that the eggs that they serve are particularly wonderful, and I'm going to make a point of ordering egg dishes more often. The pancetta was particularly great as well. I think that the pigs that they're raising on the premises are not yet being slaughtered, but that they're using pigs raised on some very nearby farm. I'm also going to make a point of ordering pork dishes more often.

      In general, I've been very impressed by any dish that makes use of fresh herbs. I think that they're growing the herbs in their own herb garden, and picking them just before adding them to each dish. The freshness really manifests itself in the final product, in which the herb ingredients often have a power and precision that's quite remarkable. I'm particularly reminded of an excellent crab salad I had there, which was reminiscent of a similar dish that I had at the Greenwich Village Blue Hill once, except that this one was greatly enhanced by the use of the fresh herbs.

      Another highlight: a slowly-poached fish (can't remember which species of fish) with a mushroom-based sauce. I've encountered this method of cooking fish at Blue Hill before. I'm not sure exactly how they do it, but somehow the fish ends up with a buttery, velvety texture that's truly wonderful. The mushrooms, in this case, were equally dazzling. They had smoky, intense, complex flavors that I rarely find in mushroom dishes. I guess this may have been because they too were especially fresh, but I can't say for sure.

      I think the chicken portion of the menu deserves some exploration as well. I've had only one chicken dish there. The chicken was from the Blue Hill Farm. I'm not sure if this was because the meat itself was of especially high quality, or whether it was just prepared very well, but the meat achieved an unbelievably light, smooth texture that I hadn't previously experienced (admittedly, I rarely order chicken in a good restaurant). The saucing on the dish I had wasn't all that impressive, but the quality of the meat was so special that I'm going to make an effort to try some of the other chicken dishes too.

      I haven't been seated on the patio yet. It wasn't open on the nights when I was there. It does seem like a really nice place to enjoy a meal, amongst the gently rolling hills of the farm.

      1. re: Caseophile

        Will definitely try based on your rec. Thank you so much for taking the time to write, it's very informative excellent review.

        1. re: Isabelle

          Thanks! Somewhere I have some notes I took with more specifics, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding them.

          Hope you enjoy your meal!

          1. re: Caseophile

            I've eated at each only once, but I can add that for me the atmosphere at Stone Barns adds immeasurably to the experience; it's just more fun--there's more energy in that room.

            In my vast experience, I also found that the service was also better at Stone Barns. Everyone from the server to the sommelier to the guys busing the table were friendly and informative and helpful; in NYC it was just fine, but nothing special.

            Case in point: At Stone Barns, I noticed that the people next to us had a different amuse-bouche, asked about it and was served it (after we already had had another one) in a split second, with a smile. In NYC, I had a hard time choosing between two dishes because the dish I preferred wasn't served with the fennel I wanted that came with something else. The server listened to me go back and forth and finally order the fennel-less option. I asked if there was any way I could at least get a taste of the fennel anyway. Nope, not a chance. This is Not a Big Deal, but if she'd shown a willingness to go out of the way and get me a tiny portion of fennel, it would have endeared her (and the NYC restaurant) to me forever.

    2. I just wanted to make a comment on how difficult the process is for making a reservation. I intially called a few times on one day, and either the line was busy, or else I got a recorded message that said something like "we cannot take your call right now, please try again later". No option to leave a message. I tried again a few days later and finally got thru, and was told that they had no openings on a Saturday night for the next two months, and that if I wanted to make a reservation two months out (which would be for December 1 or beyond), that I could call on such-and-such a date "starting at 9:00 a.m." I called around 10:00 on that date and was told that all reservations for December 1 were now booked. So I said "OK, what about December 8 then?" I was told "we are not taking reservations yet for December 8. For that, you have to call again next Monday." (!!!) I'm sorry, don't most restaurants have computers? Is it that difficult for them to accept reservations now for the month of December? In any case, it left a bad taste in my mouth, as I refuse to patronize any restaurant that makes its clientele jump thru hoops to get a coveted reservation. I don't care how much buzz the restaurant may have... there are far too many other good restaurants for me to choose from.

      15 Replies
      1. re: yippee1999

        I had the same problem too. Yes it is a serious pain in the ___.

        I would recommend to you - SHOULD you choose to give it another shot - put yourself on a waitlist. I've been dying to go and was really bummed we couldn't get in for my b-day (in 3 weeks) when we called at the beginning of Sept. My brother called back, put us on a wait list, and we've got a Saturday night ressie.

        I think they're *trying* to give everyone a fair shot at getting a ressie by not booking more than 2 mos out, a la Per Se for example.

        It is definitely a HUGE hassle, so fingers crossed it will be worth it.

          1. re: intrepid

            There's no chance on opentable - esp for a wknd. You have to call.

            1. re: amanda3571

              opentable says fri 10/26, 930 pm, fri nite

              1. re: intrepid

                If you have an Amex platinum card you can try their concierge service . . .

                I hate the calling and confirming process in top NYC restaurants. More often than not we choose to avoid it altogether or dine out on weeknights or early (Degustation at 6 PM). Some restaurants don't use opentable.com. As RGR mentions below, being flexible helps a great deal.

          2. re: yippee1999

            Afaic, no restaurant on the face of the earth is worth going through those hoops that require you to call exactly x days to the day of your your target date and then leave you dialing for hours. However, unfortunately, as long as there are people willing to go along with that process, nothing is going to change, so railing about it is an execise in futility.

            When we decided that we wanted to go to BHSB, I used OpenTable. We were entirely flexible about the day. As for the time, we were willing to accept any that was not later than 9 p.m. It didn't take me very long to secure a reservation about 3 weeks out for mid-week at 5 p.m.

            This is all by way of saying, if you are going to be adament that it be a Saturday night at prime time, the going will be tough. On the other hand, using OpenTable and being flexible with regard to day and time will make it relatively easy to obtain a reservation at BHSB.

            1. re: RGR

              I've heard many good things about this place (and the one in NYC as well). I have been planning to go but haven't been able to put it together yet. As far as the reservation issue -- there are several restuarants, mostly NYC, that have the same policy and often present the same issues when trying to make reservations. First, it's difficult to get through to a person and you cannot leave a reservation request on a voice mail message. Second, many places only take reservations 30 days out, so you have to call within the timeframe, and if you don't call on the first day out of the timeframe, they are often booked.

              Eric

              1. re: ELA

                I think the emperor wears no clothes. The food is underseasoned,as if the fact the ingredients are fresh alleviates the need for interesting recipes. The portions are small, the prices are too high and the vibe is high Westchester foot in the grave. Anytime you see a chef as skinny as Barber, look elsewhere.

                PBB

                1. re: PBB

                  Um, perhaps he is slim because he dines on fresh whole foods rather than processed garbage laoded with salt.

                  The food is not underseasoned, it is fresh. They don't disguise the food with salt and heavy sauces.

                  Maybe you just don't like fresh-as in plucked from the ground that AM- food.

                  1. re: intrepid

                    Yeah Hip Hop Pocantico Hills style! One more generalization.... if one spends tens of millions building a farm, is it sustainable farming?

                    I live part of the year on an organic farm where we eat fresh unprocessed food that is well seasoned and where ingredients are respected and not fetishized.

                    But everyone's tastes in food is different and I can see why a meal at Stone Barns is special for those who like it, but I know more than a few people who have been disappointed.

                    1. re: PBB

                      managing expectation levels is critical for any kind of success, food, music, business, life in general, they spent milions building stone barns yes..whats your point..its a great venue, food some like, some dont.. not sure why some people take blue hill so seriously, in a negative way

                      1. re: intrepid

                        The reason I take Blue Hill so seriously, in a negative way, is because I felt extraordinarily ripped off--for over $300 a couple (farmer's feast with wine), I thought the food was fair, the portions were too small, and the service was amateurish. Except for a fabulous cocktail made with fresh juice and herbs (consumed at the bar before dinner, not included in the $300+ price tag) and a delicious egg, our food was quite ordinary, yes, underseasoned (and I can't tolerate saltiness), and in some cases, poorly cooked (to wit, undercooked hard beans). For caviar prices, I expect caviar--nope, quite pedestrian offerings in our farmer's "feast". And Chef Barber's girth, or lack thereof notwithstanding, for $300+ for dinner, I expect my belly to be full. Not so here! I love fresh from the ground food--indeed, I am fortunate to have a sizeable organic vegetable garden of my own--but again, for the price and the hype, I agree that the emperor is naked. And my question is, why do some people take Blue Hill so seriously in a positive way--is it because of the dearth of good restaurants in Westchester? At half the price, I would not recommend nor return to BHSB, except maybe for a cocktail at the bar.

                          1. re: Marge

                            My very positive opinon of our farmer's feast dinner at BHSB had nothing to do with the restaurant situation in Westchester because we don't live there. And since it's a "destination" restaurant, I doubt it would be a determining factor for many others either. I think your views on BHSB are a classic case of "chacun a son gout."

              2. Holy literal organic cow!! What a fun debate...has local/sustainable reached its nexus?

                I agree with the last poster about the how organic/sustainable agfood has become fetishsized (it kind of reminds me of when low/no carb was everywhere and A&P starting posting NO CARBS stickers on everything without carbohydrates - including, and i kid you now, CRISCO shortening..

                However tiring it may be to hear it fetishized in every source of media I subscribe to (Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Apetit, NYtimes, etc...) I do embrace it and I'm glad for places like BHSB that bring the hype to something I believe in...it's a trade off....will it become Disneyfied in the next few years, I don't doubt, but as for now, after having eaten at Blue hill once and BHSB twice, overall I've been pleased with what Dan Barber is doing, and can disreguard the hoopla.

                1. This place is totally NOT worth the trip to Briarcliff [for you out-of-towners], the hassle of reservations or the uber-elitist pricetag. The food is bland, the atmosphere is kinda dull and the service is just plain blah. But as previous posters have noted, as long as there are people out there willing to pay for bourgeois "heir" of farm fresh foods, places like this will be sustained.

                  Its funny... people will pay hundreds for a dinner for 4, but the idea of going to the local farm stand and following a simple recipe in their own kitchen is practically appalling. Ah Westchester...

                  1 Reply
                  1. Yes! A great time today. Not for the food, but for being with kids and for being outdoors on incredible Fall day. As a local, I have eaten at Stone Barns several times, and while I enjoy the restaurant... what I really love is the Rockefeller property and what they have done to make this whole experience available to the public, it is spectacular!! My love for this place has enabled me to take something special away from the dining experience. And this, perhaps, is the secret to Stone Barns. Worth driving out from Manhattan simply to catch your 9 pm reservation? Hardly. Worth spending the day in Pocantico, touring Kykuit, enjoying the Hudson, and then taking a leisurely early dinner? Absolutely!

                  2. The bar at BHSB has about 9 seats where you can eat dinner. First come, first served. Sometimes you have to wait a long time. I was lucky, arrived at 7PM on a Friday a month ago and was seated immediately. Sometimes you get lucky - we had a wonderful meal.