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Blue Hill at Stone Barns: a wake-up call

9 years of Catholic schooling plus a name that means "God's blessing" in Chinese were no match for logic, skepticism and intellectual rebelliousness--- I still ended up being an agnostic. Being a proud cultural Catholic (Christmas is my favorite holiday and I love touring European cathedrals), the closest thing to pilgrimage I will ever do is to make special journeys to food meccas. Oops... did I just equate Islam with Christianity and make "food" into a religion? Yell at me for all I care, as long as I can become a High Priest of Food minus the celibacy.

In any case, there aren't too many American chefs to whom I will make pilgrimages, partly because I am blessed to be living in NYC where the majority of top American chefs are located and partly because America is still slightly behind Europe gastronomically. However, I have always wanted to visit Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns since he was named 100 most influential people in the world by the Time Magazine in 2009 in an article written by Ferran Adria of elBulli (Roses, Spain). I thought if Ferran Adria, arguably the most influential chef of the 21st century, was willing to stake his reputation on Dan Barber's cooking, a special journey to Westchester NY would be called for.

The main dining room is a converted stone barn, nested amidst the beautiful farm. You can even go into the fields to visit the gardens or play with the farm animals, as long as you are OK with the thought of them going down your belly as food in a couple of hours. We ordered the 8 course Farmer's Feast--- compliments, 6 savory dishes and 2 desserts. In general, the dishes were well-executed with minimal seasoning and sauces to bring out the freshness of the ingredients . We were told 30% of the ingredients came directly from the Blue Hill Farm, while the rest were locally-sourced. Only the highlights are shown here and thanks James Y. for providing some of the photos.

Sesame-crusted Summer Squashes. The sesame crust added an additional layer of crunchiness to the already crunchy squashes.

Mini Tomato Burgers. Bite-size burgers that packed out-sized flavors.

Foie Gras Pate wrapped in organic chocolate brittle. The subtle sweetness and bitterness from the cocoa was a welcoming contrast to the richness of the foie gras.

Garden Vegetable dipped in salt water. It was impossible to get any fresher. 

Cod Fish Head served whole. Dan Barber took a page out of Chinese seafood preparation. While the dish was admirable for its bold and dramatic presentation (in Western standards anyways), it was a bit over-cooked, slightly dry and could use more seasoning.

Chicken Breast prepared in two ways. This was the best dish of the night. I have never tried chicken breast that succulent, tender and flavorful.

Roasted pork tenderloin with spinach.

Summer Strawberries with brown sugar.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591

Epilogue: I was glad I didn't blog about this restaurant immediately after I tried it a few weeks ago. I didn't realize the significance of Dan Barber's work until I watched 2 life-changing documentaries recently:

The Future of Food
Food, Inc.

I want you to go watch these films, so I won't go into details here, only that they expose the grotesqueness of our modern-day food industry. While Dan Barber's food didn't blow me away, his mission to bring out the essence of his ingredients and his insistence on restoring the symbiosis among humans, animals and land were truly pioneering.

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