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Blue Hill ~ Stone Barns ~ your thoughts !

Finally went on Saturday night after waiting 2 months for a reservation.
I really enjoyed my meal there last summer.
They are now serving " farm feasts " from the kitchen, there is NO menu.
There is a very comprehensive list of local ingredients for you to view.
Or waiter ( very stiff ) asked us for our food allergies and food dislikes.
Oh boy, one in our party does not eat butter or heavy cream.
A few others chimed in with ingredients from cabbage to cilantro.
Instead of asking us what we would not like to have, how about what
we WOULD like to enjoy ? I mentioned this, the waiter informed me there are NO requests.
I was salivating for ivory king salmon, bronze fennel, and dancer eggplant ...
So the five courses started arriving, all with a strong salt hand from the kitchen.
The food ranged from good, to I cook much better.
The desserts were disapointing, yuck to local beer ice cream.
Who has been here with this " non menu theme " ??
It did not work with a party of six with different restrictions.
I love the variety of local and heirloom ingredients but ...
Please write back with any opinions !
Any one else think they should also lighten up a little on the attitude ?

Oh, the potato & onion bread was fabulous !
~ chefkks

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  1. I was there on Friday with a party of 6 and we had a similar experience. We were talked into the harvest menu which was 6 courses. We thought the food was interesting.
    It's interesting though that there is, in my opinion, a conceptual flaw in the experience. The concept of everything fresh from the harvest, or the farm to the plate is distorted by the amount of manipulation that takes place from the raw ingredient to the final served product. Most dishes were handled, manipulated, changed, distorted to bring out new flavor but were different from the natural flavors of the raw ingrediens. An example is blue fish that is salted and sugared and seasoned and handled and the final little 2 oz piece of fish tastes nothing like bluefish. The same was true for an eggplant dish, a pork dish, a lamb dish, a mushroom dish, and a few others.......

    The service was probably the finest service I've ever experienced in a restaurant. The staff was knowledgable, polished, graceful, friendly without excess, and on the ball.

    One other comment. The captain on several occasions referred to the Pastry chef. Doesnt a pastry chef make pastry sometimes? None of the desserts were pastries or cakes of any kind. They were fruits and sorbets and ice creams.... None blew us away.

    The tea service was wonderful. All fresh herbs to choose from. Spectacular.

    One thing that did blow us away was the cost. Our check came to $200 per person incl tax and tip and we only had one drink each. The wine was exhorbitant. I think the average bottle of wine cost about $450. Way out of our price range.

    Im glad to have had an opportunity to try Blue Hill but I dont think we will be back. This was out of our league.

    1. Blue Hill up at Stone Barns is clearly still working out kinks. I think they've had a hard time narrowing down their mission even though you'd think it would be pretty clear. Grow and serve the freshest/best ingredients. I went last Friday as a couple with a nut allergy. I've been there a few times before, and while the service has really improved over the years, I didn't feel like our waiter was as "into it" as a place like that should have all their staff trained to act. (I ate at Per Se a few months ago and it ruined me forever. The staff there, even the busboys, are really into it, and their service is absolutely impeccable, synchronized even. Given the price tag is higher, but worth every penny I think, for a once in a lifetime experience.)

      After we got the bill at BH, we both felt like it wasn't even close in flavors and creativity, and it came out to $180 per person. I think eating at BH takes a certain amount of trust that most people who are "into it" have, but I believe that's also ruined by too many tastes. I agree that they should have asked what you WOULD be into. I do that in my place and it helps a lot when you have limiting factors from the customer's end.

      At this point, I'm done with BH, but I understand and applaud the ideas I believe they are trying to convey even if they don't always deliver. The tomato burger (I believe featured in Gourmet this month) is still rockin, as is the eggplant with prosciutto and sesame. I think I would be disappointed if they tried to serve me items that hadn't really been manipulated too much, as what's the point of paying someone else that much to just put some tomatoes on a little fence made of nails and nothing else? Also, their meats were all very juicy and delicious, especially the turkey. To sum up, I wasn't remarking over anything at the meal this time, mostly talking about things other than food, because the food wasn't as interesting as the conversation.

      1. I completely agree that the service is a bit stiff. I'm definitely not looking to make friends with the waitstaff, but you can be very professional AND have a little personality at the same time. On my first visit, I thought it was just the sommelier who was a bit of a social retard. Then on our 2nd visit, exactly one week after visiting Eleven Madison where both the food and service really enchanted me, I again found myself perplexed by the server's and sommelier's lack of personality. They must be trained to be that way?!

        I haven't been there since they started the farm feasts. I'm wondering if they began this to allow more freedom to the chef to work with whatever is the freshest ingredients that day. I think that's cool, but it seems like it's appeal has a very limited audience. It would probably work better in a small restaurant. Maybe if the dishes were not quite so unorthodox, it would hold more mass appeal. But as you discovered, it certainly can't work with a large party with lots of different dietary restrictions.

        I'm not anxious to return. I think the restaurant is extremely handsome, the setting beautiful. And I love the whole idea of eating local, organic foods. But I just haven't found that they execute in taste. Some things have been very good, but somethings have just been plain weird and unpleasant. I just don't get how the place can look so perfect AND have such incredible ingredients, yet have the food and service both be a bit of a downer.

        1. I feel like I must be missing something. Every comment I ever read about Blue Hill is dripping with respect for no obvious reason. Chefkk clearly WANTS to like the place, but the only good thing in the meal was the bread!?! I just don't get it. When I ate there it wasn't my bushel basket of cash being handed over for food I didn't much care for, but I gotta say there's something weird about people feeling a need to hand the Rockefellers, who I'm positive don't need any of my money, as much cash as possible, as quickly as possible, for a negative overall dining experience, and then feel apologetic about not liking it.

          8 Replies
          1. re: rpk

            Interesting point and one that I ma in agreement with. Failure to execute is failure plain and simple. Sure the "concept" may be worthwhile but that is not enough. There are enough "superstar chefs" with huge egos that are making people feel it is a privilege to dine in their restaurants.

            You can't eat a mission statement............................

            1. re: rpk

              There is something about the ambiance and the concept and the Idea of Blue Hill, that makes you WANT to like it and love it...... It just simply didn't meed my expectation for paying $400 per couple for dinner.

              It didn't help that, without a clue how much it was going to cost before hand, I estimated it would be expensive and told my friends to expect to pay $200 a couple. That's what i mean by expectation. I ended up paying double and im not sure any experience with that expectation failure could live up.

              Unless money doesnt mean that much to you, and judging by the other people there when I went, there seemed to be a lot that fit that description, you expect to be wow'ed for that price.... I wanted to say, "Yes, that was worth every penny." Ive never been to Per Se but I have the feeling most come out of there thinking it's worth it.

              I just didn't feel that way walking out the door of Blue Hill.

              Just my opinion.

              1. re: frequentdiner

                Not just your opinion, I agree completely. Except for a fabulous pre-dinner cocktail, we were hugely disappointed in the food, and the service..and our dinner was a mere $300 a couple.

                1. re: Marge

                  Maybe many people are embarrassed to admit the experience wasnt the greatest of their lives. They feel they are supposed to be wowed so they keep their mouth's shut.

                  The Emperor Has No Clothes Phenomenon

                  1. re: frequentdiner

                    I think it was ok, not great, kind of over rated.

                2. re: frequentdiner

                  I've been to BH@SB once...for brunch in Oct '04. I just revisited the post I put up on another food site after I had been there, as I've always said I was underwhelmed after that meal. In addition to the lovely setting, the one thing that stands out in my brain was the purple basil mojito; what does that say about the food?
                  We certainly didn't spend big $ (the post indicates it was $42pp for a 3-course brunch), but it was a big deal to take the ride up there and I was certainly not as 'wowed' as I expected to be. My post also mentions over-salting and service that was lacking; interesting that this is still what folks are posting about.

                  1. re: Curlz

                    The King has no clothes? I have to agree. My experience with BH left me wanting more. More food and more of my money back. Also, if you do go, bring a salt shaker. Everything I ate was under-seasoned.

                  2. re: frequentdiner

                    I agree completely. We haven't been in over a year, but went 3 times in the year before. You do want to like the place, but I really did not think the food was worth the price. And, though I have not been to Per Se, I have been to the French Laundry - several times in the days before Chef Keller left to open Per Se and we walked out feeling that the meal was worth every penny we paid for it. Every dish was a masterpiece. Not so at Blue Hill. I have no desire to ever go back there.

                3. Let's not get carried away, guys. After 4 visits I can say the following: The food is always delicious, inventive, fresh, local, oraganic and beautifully presented. The service is professional, knowledegeable, impeccable. The setting is serence, comfortable and nearly idyllic. Everything is perfection...until the bill comes. That, I agree, is way off the charts. But every once in a while you just gotta say "What the Hell? and treat yourself.

                  1. That's a lot of bashing for one place... I'm a contrarian and high five this place..when i went to eat there in spring of 2006 the tasting menu (farmer feast?) was probably one the the best meals i've ever eaten..ever....Everything, and truly do mean everything, was spot on from the first sip of the amuse bouche to dessert....At the time, the feast was 95 bucks, the service was stellar (and staff seemed actually happy to be there), and wine service was great (we told the sommolier we wanted a reasonable 30-45$ bottle of wine that wouldn't compete with any dish and he oblidged us with a fantastic 35$ pairing).Yes it was expensive, but i'll be damned if that wasn't the best executed meal i had had in a long time- or since.

                    My dude and went back in summer 2007 and sat at the bar where we had the feast again...We were dissapointed with a couple of courses and the service was lame, but i take it in stride, it was, afterall, a bar, but i was dissapointed by the inattentiveness of the staff and some of the food pairing were out of whack.

                    Will I go back? Absolutely, though i would make sure i sat in the dining room. Assuming they have the $$ ,would I encourage a friend to go there? without a doubt.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sixelagogo

                      I wish I had your sommelier when i was there........ When I explained that we were intimidated by the wine list, and the pricing, I asked if it was possible to find a fairly dry white wine for less than $75 for us to try. He came back saying the best he could do was $5.00 MORE than our requirement and we were charged $80... It would have been nice to find a $35 bottle of wine. It didnt exist here. We skipped the second bottle we were going to order.

                      1. re: frequentdiner

                        Take a look at the website there are at least 10 bottles at the $35 price point and even a red from Chile for $28. Granted there are some big ticket prices but there are over 75 wines for $75 or less. Some really nice Sicilian wines at $50 or so.

                        I just had the pleasure of eating at the French Laundry about 2 months ago and I wouldn't put the two places in the same league but BH@SB is by far my favorite special occasion restaurant in the area.

                    2. You know what I experienced there in my three visits? The food is often so messed-with it loses its natural appeal, the price does not correlate to the service (we waited and waited for someone to come take out order, and then we waited for our drinks) and here is the biggie: NO ONE seemed to look happy to be there. It was like they were all taking the SATs or they were awaiting biopsy results. Seriously: If I spend 200 bucks on my meal, I had better feel like grinning like an idiot most of that time. I like to go walking on the farm. I do not enjoy the cafe or the restaurant. Too bad! I wanted to love it.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ajetreo

                        I felt the same way. It was as though everyone was trying to look serious and not relaxed... It was like a bio lab, with each guest disecting the food and discussing each component reverentially.

                        FrequentDiner Rule: Smiling and laughing is inversely related to menu price

                        1. re: frequentdiner

                          the many times ive been there, my table is happy and having a good time, as many tables were/are around us..intrepid rule: birds of a feather flock together..lololol

                          1. re: frequentdiner

                            i think the bio-lab statement is spot on (did you see my mother and i go at it??)...this happens when we're really pleased/intrigued by a menu...it's rare when a place inspires this sort of reverence, but when it does, it generally indicates awe and enthrallment.

                          2. re: ajetreo

                            Chef takes himself so seriously and it trickles down to the staff. It's a bit over-the-top to take something so pure and simple and screw it up with arrogance and greed.

                            1. re: godeats

                              godeats, when did you eat there last, how many times have you eaten there? how long do you know the chef, what restaurants do you like in the metro nyc area ? thanks

                          3. I"m so surprised to hear all of this negative talk about BHSB. My husband an dI eat there fairly often and we always leave completely happy and amazed. The food has always been fantastic and interesting, I always learn something about wither cooking or growing, and the staff is nothing short of perfect. Again, I'm just so shocked to read negative reviews. Maybe it's not for everyone, but if you care about eating local/organic this place is perfect for a "real" night out. And the wine list is to die for.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: OrganicLife

                              Perhaps if you eat there often, you are a lot richer than most of us. I spent over $400 for 2 people for dinner. I'll never be able to say I eat here "often".

                              If I was able to afford to eat here often, I, too, would be happy and amazed, and not leave the restaurant with a lump in my stomach from spending so much for a meal.

                              Its just food.

                              1. re: frequentdiner

                                lots of bashers her on Blue hill, it is quite common on chowhound. i am not sure if it is really about bashing the food, or bashing the people that can afford the food.

                                1. re: intrepid

                                  It's about the food. In my experience there, we had the farmers feast--the courses ranged from mediocre (and that's being generous, no excuse for hard undercooked beans), to ok, to great (and great was an egg on a salad). For $300 a couple, more than an egg should be great. And the service should not be as amateurish as we experienced. Really, some of my best friends are rich....

                                  1. re: Marge

                                    ive had many great meals at blue hill, and service has been fine, and really..some of your best friends are rich??? lolololo

                                    1. re: Marge

                                      I've only been twice and not recently, but both meals were excellent both in terms of food on the plate, service, and atmospherics. While quite expensive, I think it's reasonable value for what you get. Look forward to going back.

                                  2. re: frequentdiner

                                    Not that I need to defend our choices, but we DON'T eat out often becasue we take care to eat local organic only. So, if you look at what the average person spends on dining out in two months time vs. one meal at blue hill, it's really not all that much. And like I said, if others who watch their diets veyr closely need and want a fabulous evening out this place is perfect because you know the food is healthy, local, and the wine list is just amazing.