Last week, my friend Genevieve went to Blue Hill at Stone Barns and it reminded me of a post I started writing in October but never finished because I was in the middle of a production period. 14 hours of standing on your feet and lifting heavy things in the freezing cold doesn’t leave you with much energy to blog at night. (Making movies is really hard work and I mean that in the most literal sense.) Anyway, I’ve decided to finish it finally, if only because I’m supposed to be writing a script and love nothing more than to procrastinate.
So here we go… better late than never:
(started October 2008)
One of my favorite men in my life is my eating partner. Every girl should be so lucky to have an eating partner like mine. He loves food as much as I do and when we go out to dinner, he orders everything appealing on a menu just so we can taste it.
For his 30th birthday, he put worries of a global economic collapse aside and invited me and my brother to an intimate birthday brunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. For those of you who’ve heard of the place, its reputation precedes itself. For those of you who haven’t, Serious Eats dubbed it (in all seriousness and sincerity) “The Most Important Restaurant in America.”
First of all, let’s talk about the place itself. It’s amazing how, if you live in New York for a long time, how unwittingly isolated you become. You forget there is anything outside of the city and as soon as you start to see trees, you feel like you’ve been magically transported to some other world. The drive was lovely and just the right length– long enough so that we could enjoy the foliage and the experience of being in a car that didn’t smell like b.o. and wasn’t screeching to a jerky stop every five seconds and short enough that we didn’t feel antsy or have to stop to use the bathroom. (A small bladder like mine is a real liability on road trips.)
When we arrived, we were led to a lovely private room and greeted with champagne. The waiter invited us to enjoy the terrace. Glasses in hand, we walked outside and strolled around the grounds. I saw the most beautiful cows I’ve ever seen. They looked like they were wrapped in black velvet. When we returned, the birthday boy, his boyfriend Patrick and the other guests were already enjoying hors d’oeuvres, my favorite being homemade pancetta wrapped around eggplant and coated in sesame seeds.
The lunch menu (handpicked by my eating partner) was as follows:
Maine crabmeat salad with green tomato marmalade
Stone Barns chicken with butternut squash and farro
Roasted black mission figs with lemon verbena and pecan ice cream for dessert.
The chicken was unlike any chicken I’d ever had. It almost didn’t even taste like chicken. It was glistening and so juicy and so tender, it almost tasted like an entirely different animal… it almost had the consistency of pork and I mean that in the best way possible.
Because the chickens are from the farm on the restaurant’s grounds, only a couple days pass from when the chicken is running around and when it ends up on your plate tasting like no chicken you’ve ever eaten. The extraordinary skin was paper thin and crispy and a great complement to the juicy meat.
After lunch, we toured the rest of the farm, which is an absolute must. Eating at Blue Hill at Stone Barns is an experience that fills you full of Marie-Antoinette-type fantasies of being a milkmaid enjoying the simple pleasures of a pastoral life. I personally don’t have the heaving bosoms nessary to entertain such fantasies seriously. What is a milkmaid (even a pretend one) without gigantic milky white breasts stuffed into a peasant blouse?
I’m not sure if you can tell from this photo, but these things were really well-fed and bigger than an NBA regulation-size basketball. The best was the pimp rooster who, with his crazy mane of long feathers, looked like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth.
The great thing about Stone Barns is that they have a snout to tail approach to cooking, so nothing is really wasted and each pig yields a tremendous amount of food. Genevieve had the pig ear and said it was nice and crispy and not cartilagey. I’ll have to try that the next time I go.
I learned a great lesson about persistence from the adorable tiny piglets. Two enormous sows were each nursing half a dozen piglets and one of them apparently had enough and rolled over so her teats were on the ground.
Not to be denied, two of the piglets ran up and kept bothering her and trying to nurse until she finally gave up and turned on her side. Those two had a satisfying and stress-free lunch, unlike the ones struggling and crowded at the other sow like suckers (no pun intended.) The next time I go to a restaurant and I can’t get reservations or they’re “closed,” I’m just going to employ the techniques I gleaned from infant swine. They don’t take no for an answer.