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Blue Hill at Stone Barns


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Whether it was because my friend was ordering a thousand dollars worth of wine, or because anybody at the restaurant knew or cared I was there, or just on account of a genuine fondness for shoe repair, we got what was surely the VIP progression of canapes.

Thing is, I'm not sure you *did* receive a VIP version of the canapes. My girlfriend and I are foodie nobodies, and on our first visit to Stone Barns, without ordering much in the way of alcohol, we experienced pretty much the same thing: just wave after wave of amuses, none of which were on the menu.

---

al wang

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... Second, there's the issue of repetition of ingredients. Somehow repetition of ingredients in a tasting menu is something that gourmets look down upon, unless the menu is specifically a theme menu built around a single ingredient. And I do think sometimes repetition of ingredients can reflect sloppy thinking in the kitchen, especially when the offending item is something like a generic, non-seasonal starch. But at Blue Hill at Stone Barns it seems like much more of a calculated choice: there is unapologetic repetition of whatever happen to be the best ingredients available. To me this is a good thing. I'd rather just have whatever is best than be hemmed in by a form-over-substance objection to repetition.

From your description of the food, I fail to see what repetition you encountered.

Dishes served to me at my last meal at BH@SB, in early June, were repetitive. I wouldn't say it it struck me as "sloppy thinking," as much as it struck me as "unimaginative." I think the issue I take with repetition at BH@SB (more than at other restaurants) is that they tantalize and taunt you with a litany - a whole inventory - of the fresh produce they have at their fingertips, most of them, quite unfamiliar and esoteric to the dining public. Why do this and then serve me three or four courses with asparagus, a vegetable I can get at my local, non-organic, wholesale, mass-distributing market?

There's nothing wrong with asparagus; in fact, good asparagus is great. But presumably, the types of diners that make the effort to visit BH@SB are looking for a different type of farm experience. It's clear that they can deliver one. So, why don't they? Your meal sounds closer to the apex of BH@SB's capabilities. My recent one was the nadir.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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But to play the devil's advocate, truly good asparagus is just as good as truly good anything.

Your position sounds perilously close to my father's saying that he couldn't see why anyone would be stupid enough to go to an expensive steakhouse, when my mother could make supermarket steak for much less money at home.

You wouldn't want BHSB to serve "weird" ingredients just for the sake of being different, would you?

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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But to play the devil's advocate, truly good asparagus is just as good as truly good anything.

Your position sounds perilously close to my father's saying that he couldn't see why anyone would be stupid enough to go to an expensive steakhouse, when my mother could make supermarket steak for much less money at home.

You wouldn't want BHSB to serve "weird" ingredients just for the sake of being different, would you?

No, of course not.

I think, my position is more akin to, "Why go to an expensive steakhouse if the chef is going to send out multiple courses of flank steak?"

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I think, my position is more akin to, "Why go to an expensive steakhouse if the chef is going to send out multiple courses of flank steak?"

Is the flank steak farm-raised by the restaurant, of discernably higher quality than that available elsewhere, and guaranteed to be unavailable in two weeks' time? That is what Blue Hill's asparagus provides.

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I think, my position is more akin to, "Why go to an expensive steakhouse if the chef is going to send out multiple courses of flank steak?"

Is the flank steak farm-raised by the restaurant, of discernably higher quality than that available elsewhere, and guaranteed to be unavailable in two weeks' time? That is what Blue Hill's asparagus provides.

Sure, for the sake of argument, that flank steak, and all the other steaks in that restaurant, are farm-raised by the restaurateur, discernibly higher quality than what is available elsewhere, and guaranteed to be unavialbalbe in two weeks' time.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Sure, for the sake of argument, that flank steak, and all the other steaks in that restaurant, are farm-raised by the restaurateur, discernibly higher quality than what is available elsewhere, and guaranteed to be unavialbalbe in two weeks' time.

Well, then, yeah. I would go to that steakhouse.

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Yea, the idea of having a single ingredient appear throughout a tasting is off-putting. Regardless how expertly prepared, fresh, unique each preparation I don’t want any one flavor reoccurring and possibly diverting attention from other components.

That wasn't chicken

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Sure, for the sake of argument, that flank steak, and all the other steaks in that restaurant, are farm-raised by the restaurateur, discernibly higher quality than what is available elsewhere, and guaranteed to be unavialbalbe in two weeks' time.

Well, then, yeah. I would go to that steakhouse.

And you won't be disappointed if the chef doesn't serve you different cuts?

I'm not arguing that BH@SB's produce isn't good. And I'm not saying that showcasing the best of what a restaurant has is a bad thing. But surely, out of the more than one-hundred items they showed us, they could have found a way to showcase more than just one or two. I presume that every product they bothered to list was not only something they grew, but something they were proud to serve.

But the redundancy was the least of my concerns on my last trip. The service was surprisingly bad.

Edited to add: Eatmywords, your little roast in the pot is adorable.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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From your description of the food, I fail to see what repetition you encountered.

I was referring to the three tomato dishes I listed as canapes, as well as some gripes from up-topic.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Yea, the idea of having a single ingredient appear throughout a tasting is off-putting.  Regardless how expertly prepared, fresh, unique each preparation I don’t want any one flavor reoccurring and possibly diverting attention from other components.

I think when you get a big list of California- and Mexico-grown ingredients from a produce wholesaler, there's no good excuse for repeating ingredients. You're free to construct a meal from anything available in the commercial distribution system, so you should emphasize diverse ideas. But if you create a restaurant where the whole proffer involves growing locally and working with the seasons, then it's not only an aesthetic but also a point of principle to use tomatoes, asparagus, squash, whatever, for all they're worth when they're in season.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think the issue the UE has is that the left side of the menu (I think) presents all the produce of the season grown on the farm. In a perfect world all these items might appear in a given meal. I do agree it can be a bit frustrating when first presented with dozens of items and then receive a meal that features the same product over and over, whether this repetition is intentional or not.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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I guess that's not the greatest marketing move. Because we had reserved online, a few days before we went for dinner we received a somewhat precious email listing what would be in season for August. The actual meal featured just some of those ingredients, and some that weren't listed. I didn't really care, but some people apparently do.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think the issue the UE has is that the left side of the menu (I think) presents all the produce of the season grown on the farm.  In a perfect world all these items might appear in a given meal.  I do agree it can be a bit frustrating when first presented with dozens of items and then receive a meal that features the same product over and over, whether this repetition is intentional or not.

In short, yes.

But not even in a perfect world would I expect ALL of these items to appear. And given that the list as probably near the century mark, nor would I imagine 30% of them would appear in the course of a seven to eight-course meal. But to serve asparagus course after course when they have (based on what they are advertising to diners) a good variety of produce, seems self-limiting. I think "unimaginative" was the word I used.

Really though, like I said, the repetition aside, our meal was plagued by larger issues. Service was uninformed, sloppy, and overall, disjointed. None of the wine pairings seemed quite right - to any of us. And at least one of our dishes was just deficient - and certainly unimaginative - any way you look at it (especially knowing what was supposed to be on that plate).

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I guess that's not the greatest marketing move.

No, it's not. And neither is telling every table within earshot that the "Farmer's Feast" is a special menu designed just for that table when it's clearly a standard fare for the room at large (VIPs excepted, of course).

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Look, I don't enjoy being the "bad guy" here, or the "party pooper." I know there are a lot of loyal BH@SB fans out there. I just wish that, between my two visits to the restaurant, I had at least one that even came close to convincing me that this place is worth the celebration. I suppose I'm Fat Guy before his latest meal described above.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Hey, I was just being a devil's advocate.  I'm so unimpressed by BHWS that I haven't even made it up to SB yet.

Oh, I know. I take full responsibility of taking your steakhouse analogy and running with it.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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It may be that BHSB is inconsistent. Since I've been once I can't possibly judge that. Even three or four visits can only give a statistically questionable answer to the question of consistency, unless every visit is bad.

What I do have confidence saying is that BHSB is capable of delivering a meal experience on par with what the world's best restaurants deliver. To me that's an important consideration, regardless of whether the restaurant delivers a meal experience that good day-in, day-out.

And then there's the question of the definition of a world-class meal. Poor utilization of ingredients is a problem, sure. I don't, however, give any credence to the argument that repetition of great ingredients is some sort of flaw, especially not in the context of a restaurant with BHSB's orientation. It's a form-over-substance objection, a holdover from the era when cuisine was much more regimented. I've heard it countless times over the years, and I've been with chefs who deliberately chose a worse dish for a tasting menu because "we already used corn." No. If corn is the best ingredient you have, use it often and well. Try to change up the preparations, etc., but don't run from your best ingredients just because of some outdated notion of menu design.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It may be that BHSB is inconsistent. Since I've been once I can't possibly judge that. Even three or four visits can only give a statistically questionable answer to the question of consistency, unless every visit is bad.

What I do have confidence saying is that BHSB is capable of delivering a meal experience on par with what the world's best restaurants deliver. To me that's an important consideration, regardless of whether the restaurant delivers a meal experience that good day-in, day-out.

And then there's the question of the definition of a world-class meal. Poor utilization of ingredients is a problem, sure. I don't, however, give any credence to the argument that repetition of great ingredients is some sort of flaw, especially not in the context of a restaurant with BHSB's orientation. It's a form-over-substance objection, a holdover from the era when cuisine was much more regimented. I've heard it countless times over the years, and I've been with chefs who deliberately chose a worse dish for a tasting menu because "we already used corn." No. If corn is the best ingredient you have, use it often and well. Try to change up the preparations, etc., but don't run from your best ingredients just because of some outdated notion of menu design.

No, no, I get what you and everyone else here is saying.

Let me put this another way. I have no way to prove this. But, instead of feeling like it was a celebration of certain ingredients, it felt like what we got was all that was left. Again, I can't say for certain that this was the case. That's just how it felt.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I'm so unimpressed by BHWS that I haven't even made it up to SB yet.

I haven't been to BHWS in years, but BHSB today doesn't seem even vaguely related to the BHWS I gave up on way back when, except perhaps on the service front -- I had great service at BHWS probably on account of the Gramercy Tavern-trained Franco running FOH there. But BHSB just has a lot more people on the floor and provides much more extensive service than BHWS.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It may be that BHSB is inconsistent. Since I've been once I can't possibly judge that. Even three or four visits can only give a statistically questionable answer to the question of consistency, unless every visit is bad.

What I do have confidence saying is that BHSB is capable of delivering a meal experience on par with what the world's best restaurants deliver. To me that's an important consideration, regardless of whether the restaurant delivers a meal experience that good day-in, day-out.

And then there's the question of the definition of a world-class meal. Poor utilization of ingredients is a problem, sure. I don't, however, give any credence to the argument that repetition of great ingredients is some sort of flaw, especially not in the context of a restaurant with BHSB's orientation. It's a form-over-substance objection, a holdover from the era when cuisine was much more regimented. I've heard it countless times over the years, and I've been with chefs who deliberately chose a worse dish for a tasting menu because "we already used corn." No. If corn is the best ingredient you have, use it often and well. Try to change up the preparations, etc., but don't run from your best ingredients just because of some outdated notion of menu design.

No, no, I get what you and everyone else here is saying.

Let me put this another way. I have no way to prove this. But, instead of feeling like it was a celebration of certain ingredients, it felt like what we got was all that was left. Again, I can't say for certain that this was the case. That's just how it felt.

For example:

At the beginning of the meal, they ask if anyone has any food allergies or dislikes. One member of out party said that she does not care for caviar, but emphasized that she did not want that to preclude the rest of the party from enjoying it if that is what the chef intended on serving.

So, we receive a salad as one of our courses. What kind of salad? A green salad. Here, I'll show you:

3508602995_3bdc9e1e73.jpg

Now, for those members of the board who know me well, they'll vouch for me when I say I love salads. I am not going to be the first person to complain about getting a salad in a high or low-end restaurant.

This dish was presented as "asparagus salad with pistachios." This salad was lightly dressed, with perhaps three or four halved pencil asparagus stalks and bits of apricot. I'm going to try really hard not to complain that it was extremely small (I actually took a picture of my friend's salad because it was fuller. Mine was about 2/3 the size of this one.)

Not that this salad was not good. But I found it somewhat of a throw-away course. One just doesn't expect to see a plain, simple salad on a "spontaneously-assembled" tasting menu. Later, of course, after our meal, when we saw the printed menu, we realized that they had purposely left the caviar out of the salad.

Why leave the caviar out of the rest of our salads? Why not just server the one member of our party who didn't care for caviar something different and give us the salads with the caviar, as intended? Or, if they wanted us to have all the same dish, why not just send out something else without compromising this salad as it was intended?

We felt like this was a dumbed down version of something that could have been potentially much more interesting.

There were no pistachios on my plate. At all. That just compounded my disappointment in this dish.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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