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Blue Hill (NYC)


Mao
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To follow up on Cabrales' post, here are my observations.

This was my first visit to Blue Hill, and I was quite impressed. The room has a fairly tranquil feel, and never got particularly loud, despite some of the tables being close together as has previously been mentioned. Service seemed to be very friendly, although we didn't press very hard with questions, unusual requests, or surly attitudes. (Of course, it is a given that the post-meal visit from Mike brought the overall level of service for the evening to a tremendous crescendo.)

I enjoyed both of the amuses quite a bit. Often, I like neither beets nor anchovies, yet the first amuse managed to play the two flavors off of one another so the negative characteristics of each were negated on my palate. The corn soup was slightly thick, but incredibly smooth on the tongue. A strong, clear corn flavor was dominant, but the initial note was nutty, as was a long aftertaste once the corn had faded. Good amuses; they left me wanting to get on with the meal.

As Mike wrote on the board, the tomatoes in the next dish were outstanding. A variety of tomatoes was presented, some bursting with sweetness and some with a slight sourness. The accompanying tomato water was a mysterious blend that was at different moments sweet, slightly bitter, and even occassionally presenting a little spciy heat from the ginger. The water, combined with the bitterness of the upland cress, was a counterpoint that enhanced, rather than competed with, the flavor of the tomatoes.

Warm foie gras is not one of my favorite menu items, but our dish was quite palatable. The cocoa nibs provided only the slightest underlying hint of chocolate flavor--the dominant burnt nuttiness kept the fattiness of the foie gras in check. The wine pairing here was particularly astute, with the nutty tones of the madeira a goodmatch for the nibs; the sweetness doing its usual thing in accompaniment to the foie gras.

The New Zealand hamachi was quite dense, with a distinct fish flavor that seemed to melt off of the fish to fill the mouth. At times, this fishiness was quite intense, verging on unpleasant, but never quite crossing that line. We both found it surprising that the cucumbers in this dish were served warm, almost the same temperature of the fish, but as a result they provided a temperature and texture match to the hamachi while brining clean freshenss to the palate.

As with the foie gras, pork is not my favorite meat, but the Berkshire pork was an exceptional example. Slightly sweet, lush, and incredibly tender, this meat could certainly help to convince me of the merits of pork. A piece of belly was particularly nice, with just enough flavor to mellow the layers of fat that gave the piece its intenese richness.

Overall, I like this food. It rarely dazzles the way some places do, but it's interesting and provides a lot of room for thought while tasting really good. I can understand why some might find it slightly understated, and think that in time the chefs do have room to turn out dishes that make the mouth more obviously happy, but I found dinner to be tasteful, thoughtful and of really excellent quality.

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Cabrales-

I agree with you that the presence of one or two dominant flavors can be wonderful, and have no objections to the idea. For me it was a matter of degree on that evening and that meal. In the case of one dish, I believe there was one flavor that dominated the fish to the extent that I was no longer aware I was eating fish and all the other ingrediants, which I assumed were intended to add up to something more, seemed to have no purpose, and got lost. Maybe that was the intention. Let me be clear that a) I do not intend this as a critique of Blue Hill (one meal does not a proper judgement make), b) that my comments pertain only to my one dining experience there, c) my personal preferences for fine dining vary a great deal.

There are times when I want something that is strong and in your face like a meal at Babbo. There are times I want a meal where the focus is largely textural or simple and there are very few ingredients modestly prepared--whether that means a trip to Kuruma sushi or home grown sweet summer tomatoes with nothing but a bit of sea salt. And there are also times that I yearn for something a bit more symphonic. And I will confess that the best dishes and meals that I have enjoyed have what I would call a symphonic quality to them. The meal I had at Le Grand Vefour, one meal at Bouley this spring and one rabbit dish that came out of Gramercy Tavern. These meals worked on multiple subtle levels--tastes, juxtapositions, textures were both pleasurably identifiable and balanced together so as to create something richer than any one piece and produce something that for me was simultansously sensual and intellectually intriguing. I could not eat this way all the time, for among other budgetary reasons, but I guess this is the way I would aspire to eat with some regularity, probably because it so rarely happens for me. Maybe I don't yet appreciate the style of food work that Blue Hill does. I guess I consider eating an educational process, but on this particular night and meal--unintended imbalance was the impression of the meal.

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Best dinner I've had yet at Blue Hill on Saturday night.

Peppery shot of corn soup. A tiny daub of warm goat cheese on a little tuile. Buttery salmon belly accompanied by a powerful tomato and basil terrine and an intricate white tomato jelly (like a stiff foam), topped with what seemed to be a disk of pureed yellow tomato. Very big flavors.

Filet of Brook trout, stuffed with frsh herbs, on a tomato broth. Lamb chop with intensely flavored lamb canneloni. Only disappointing note was a dessert of sliced peach with a peach granite, which had no strong taste. But then a great little warm chocolate cake.

Nice service. Strength to strength. And all while answering questions on eGullet with the other hand. :wink:

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And there are also times that I yearn for something a bit more symphonic.  And I will confess that the best dishes and meals that I have enjoyed have what I would call a symphonic quality to them.

The more I read of posts by amateur, (in the best sense) diners with sophisticated communicative skills, the more I understand the subjective nature of restaurant appreciation. Some of us have a wider range of appreciation than others, perhaps, but we don't all want the same thing and we're not all excited by the same foods or music. I'm frequently put off by Wagner, I enjoy Beethoven but Bach can get my full attention with a single intstrument, better than most composers can with an army of musicians--call it an orchestra, if you will.

Blue Hill's food is like that for me. It's not so much that the food is pared down as much as that another flavor would be extraneous.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Only disappointing note was a dessert of sliced peach with a peach granite, which had no strong taste.  But then a great little warm chocolate cake.

I've had a variety of interesting desserts there, but with the exception of the rice pudding and chocolate bread pudding, only the simple pre-desserts of fruit soups with sorbets, stir me the way the savory courses frequently do.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Another week, another Blue Hill report. Matt Zito, a non eGulleter, and I had dinner at Blue Hill last night. We went without our eGullet logo polo shirts so as not to tip off the staff as to our celebrity status, so we experienced a "normal" meal.

Here are the dishes I was served as part of the tasting menu. Matt required the kitchen to prepare him a special vegetarian tasting menu

1) Amuse. Shot of cucumber soup. Clear cucumber flavor, very smooth, but without the complexity of flavor that I enjoyed from the corn soup during my last visit.

2) Tuna. Raw or very rare tuna over a green gazpacho composed of various summer vegetables. This was nice in that the gazpacho presented a fairly bright initial flavor on the tongue, which gradually tailed off to the taste of the tuna. Some sea salt was also present, which served to bind the two flavors together.

3) Sea bass over corn and lobster. This was nice. A strong, crisp corn flavor was the overwhelming feature of the dish, although the lobster lent the corn a degree of richness. The fish itself was quite nice, with an extremely soft texture that actually provided less resistance while chewing than the corn did.

4) Berkshire pork loin. Extremely simply presented, this was the best pork I've had. I had sampled the Berkshire pork on my previous trip to Blue Hill as well as at March a few months back; both of those specimins were quite good, but pale in comparison to the wonderful piece of pork loin I sampled last night. Presented fairly rare, the pork was intensely flavorfull, somewhat sweet, a little bit spicy (perhaps through the addition of pepper, although there was none evident) and extremely tender. A piece of meat like this needs no accompaniment.

5) Peaches with rose water and peach granite. As Wilfrid described. I found it more flavorful than he did, apparently. Nothing special, but it cleansed the palate.

6) Some sort of chocolate cake with chocolate sorbet and vanilla ice cream (I'm actually not 100% sure whether the vanilla was actually ice cream). This was underwhelming. The cake itself was a bit mushy, and lacked a really resonant flavor; the cold accompaniments were fairly good. The one interesting part of the cake was that it had a crunchy bottom that seemed to be made of a dense sugar-wafer like substance (imagine wheat puff cereal crushed into a pie crust-like layer).

Overall, I was happy with the food. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be enough of it. This is a complaint I virtually never raise as I don't have a particularly hearty appetite, but I could have eaten more when we got done, and felt that another course would have been about right in terms of delivering an appropriate amount of food. Those with big appetites would probably have been sorely disappointed.

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Matt Zito is most certainly an egulleteer ...

There were three of us - me, Jordyn, AND a non-egulleter. Please forgive jordyn's grammar - he's not so swift. :biggrin:

Though I definitely appreciate the support, Nina.

(edited to add appreciation for Nina)

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Hrm. I went back and tried to re-write the sentence to make the "a non-eGulleter" a clear separate individual as opposed to a description of Matt Zito. But I couldn't come up with anything. I'll hope the subsequent clarifications will do.

(It would be...odd...for me to randomly mention the names of non eGullet dining companions, but I do appreciate how I may have caused some confusion in this case.)

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Matt -- When you have a chance, could you consider discussing the vegetarian menu you received?  :wink:

Yep, was just about to.

1) Amuse - Same cucumber soup. I liked it as an amuse - very clean, very simple. I think I ended up getting what was the amuse from the last meal for my first course which was...

2) Corn Soup - an interesting visual feature of this soup was that it had a set of almost identical small green disks floating in it, which were revealed to be 50% asparagus slivers and 50% suspended drops of basil oil. The soup reminded me a lot of the cucumber soup, in that it was very unadorned and simple. People often make corn soup with dairy and/or chicken stock, but this was a surprisingly hearty corn soup with neither.

3) "Tomatoes" - this was a tasting-size portion of the dish I've heard so many people talk about. It was a really great change from the simple amuse and soup to this incredibly tangy and flavorful dish. Several different kinds of tomatoes, plus the tomato sorbet, and the sauce - excellent. The wine they served with this dish was a particularly good pairing, with a nice complexity and acidity to match the tomato.

4) Vegetable Lasagna - the most interesting imagining of a lasagna I think I've ever seen. It was two squares of pasta (more coarse than traditional pasta - perhaps made from a heavier flour?), with a wide variety of vegetables just sort of sandwiched in between. The whole affair was covered in a very thin green sauce, whose components were very hard to identify - there was definitely olive oil, pepper, possibly green tomatoes. I intended to ask the ingredients, but it slipped my mind. The vegetables included broccoli, peas, baby carrots as the primary ingredients, plus a few others. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasted as fresh as any I've ever had, while the pasta served as a heartier counterpart. I was ambivalent about the sauce - from a flavor perspective, I didn't feel it really added anything, though it ably took the place of butter or cream. The wine pairing, incidentally, was weakest here - we had a very full Italian red with hints of chocolate that was far more than the dish had to offer. I'm more than willing to attribute that to the fact that all of us got the same wine for each course, despite the different foods. I would imagine it would go extremely well with the pork, though, so at least Jordyn benefitted.

I then had the same palate cleanser and dessert as Jordyn. I liked the palate cleanser, but felt like the sauce actually detracted from the incredibly ripe peaches. I enjoyed chocolate a great deal - I agree the cake was mushy, but I feel like it contrasted nicely with the very crunchy crust. The ice creams were good, but the flavors were not as strong as the chocolate cake.

I agree with Jordyn - I felt like there ought to have been one more course. Part of that was because my dishes, by and large, were not very filling - lacking the usual complement of mushrooms, potatoes, etc. usually found in NY veggie dining. It also didn't help that I went into the meal pretty hungry to begin with. I definitely want to go back to Blue Hill at some point - the room is absolutely beautiful, the service excellent, and the food extremely inventive. I just wish there'd been more of it.....

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I had another very good meal at Blue Hill recently. I invited certain family members from out of town there, and they appreciated the cuisine as well. :laugh: Dan was cooking without Mike in the kitchen, and did a very good job -- just as Mike had without Dan when jordyn and I had visited.

-- I liked the amuse of a shotglass of cucumber soup, although I would agree with jordyn that I preferred the shotglass of corn soup with the peanut oil taste "sandwich" (see above). Note the cucumber actually worked better with the sequence of this particular meal. The refreshing tastes of cucumber were there, but also present was the unexpected hint of slight sweet-sour sensations within the soup itself. Included was slight acidity, perhaps from a process not dissimilar to pickling (?) or marination in vinegar. This hinted-at taste reminded me of pickled vegetables that might be served prior to a Shanghainese meal (not that there were connotations of Asian food). Above the soup was a small amount of frozen yoghurt sorbet, which was helpful to the amuse. I also liked the ensuing papdom with marinated octupus and a bit of pureed avocado. The above were taken with champagne.

-- "Tomatoes!". Can members believe that I received the dish I really wanted without specifically asking for it? :laugh: It was as previously described, with a nuanced and balanced broth, except that this time around (1) the heirloom tomatoes included were a bit sweeter intrinsically, lending the dish a different (and equally appealing) balance between acidity and sweetness, (2) more basil appeared to have been utilized, relative to mint, and (3) there was one or two segments of citrus fruit included in with the tomatoes, instead of merely in the liquid. I found such differences from the prior Tomatoes! dish fascinating, with the progression rendering each more appealing. This was paired with a white wine utilizing the Tiramasso (?) grape, from a small producer that the dining room team member assisting me on the night in question (a wonderfully professional and helpful woman team member, like other team members I have encountered at the restaurant) discussed appropriately.

The Tomatoes! dish also reminded me of the responsiveness of Blue Hill to available produce. It might have been the only dish that I have sampled more than once, on four visits there to date.

-- "Maine Crabmeat Lasagne, Mussel and Grain Mustard Sauce". I really liked this dish as well, which appears to be among the better known dishes associated with the restaurant over time (?). Two appropriate pieces of lasagne revealed a middle area of "just right" crabmeat. The warm-plus temperature was just right as well, and the saucing excellent. Good mussel tastes as well. The green-colored sauce contained not only very gentle grain mustard, but also the tastes of possibly parsley (?), spinach or a similar vegetable (?) and very limited amounds of black pepper. The crabmeat lasagne was paired with a Chablis.

-- Skate in a ginger-based broth. One of my favorite fish varieties (together with turbot and certain bass), when done right. And here it was -- tender too. The broth was a nice accompaniment to the skate, and appeared to contain ginger. However, its composition was difficult to discern. The one area of possible improvement in the entire meal was that there appeared to have been too heavy a hand with the white pepper (or similar seasoning) in the skate. Nonetheless, a dish I liked. An interesting (in a good way) pairing with a Rose that was not sweet like many are.

-- Chicken in a mushroom-based broth. Ahh -- I couldn't think of an entree I would have appreciated more at this particular point in this meal. As members may know, I have a special interest in sampling chicken dishes. Bresse chicken from France has certain qualities that many chicken specimens in the US lacked. However, the chicken flesh in this dish was smooth, tender, flavorful (of chicken tastes, to be clear) and cooked just right. It pleased me so. :wink: What was wonderful is that there was (nicely) no skin on the flesh visible initially to the diner. Only when one looked beneath the top served sections did one find a single, slightly larger piece of chicken with the skin on. The skin was not crisp (appropriately); it was nice. I guess the chicken might have been poached, or otherwise cooked gently and/or at low temperature like certain other dishes at BH. Wonderful utilization of a sufficiently deeply flavored mushroom and soy-based broth that appropriately thin and of a brownish color. Nice elucidation of various included veggies, including zucchini (crisp in this dish, and in little chunks), small turnips (almost whole) and haricots vert.

A subjectively stunning dish (and objectively, at least very good). Paired with a Cote Rotie.

-- Peches de Vigne. Just when I thought everything about the meal had been so much to my liking, I received a further fascinating surprise. I have been thinking about peche de vigne, after having read a little blurb about them recently:

The current edition of Gourmet magazine describes a limited availability peach called Indian blood peach, or peche de vigne in French. It is apparently a deeper pink/burgundy color in the middle, and has very few purveyors. Have members sampled this peach (approx. $4/item, according to the magazine)?

Where in NYC can this peach be purchased?  :blink:

They are called peche de vigne because they are planted in vineyards in Burgandy. As I understand it, a non-grafted peach will revert to the older "heirloom" variety. They are grown to help the vines, and are rarely marketed. . . .

Imagine my pleasure when a dining room team member brought forth a predessert with dark pinkish/burgundy peach flesh, in a similarly-colored liquid. Fragrant, beautiful rendition. And my first sampling of peche de vigne.

-- Strawberries and lemon dessert. This was nice too, but I was still swooning from the peches de vigne. :laugh: I switched with another diner, away from the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding, due to my subjective quirk.

Miscellaneous

We were seated next to the large flower/plant arrangement. As on other visitsl, it was appealing, consisting of muted pinkish-toned leaves. As the tiny leaves were gently shed from time to time, they fell whimsically onto the ground and seating area close to me. The small flower arrangement on my table, including a dark pink-burgundy-colored orchid whose folds were nicely creased, was appealing as well.

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cabrales, your report sounds as if you are in love with Blue Hill. :wink:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jinmyo & Nina -- I appreciate your comments about my affection for this restaurant are said with "smilies" attached. But I think what you are seeing is conviction in my assessments of a restaurant's cuisine and its subjective fit for me. It's very rare for me to find a restaurant I like. :huh:

I have been thinking more about the Tomatoes! dish. It was strange that I found the very limited citrus segments in last night's version not unhelpful to the dish, but I reacted negatively to the inclusion of citrus segments in Alex Urena's dish sampled the night before at Marseilles. It speaks to how differences in composition and balance can make a large difference. :hmmm:

Nesita -- On the cheese plate, Dan and/or Mike were kind enough to have offered to cook for our table every time I have been at Blue Hill. I haven't asked for a cheese course, and, for the cuisine offered by the restaurant, I might even think twice about accepting one because it might not be ideal, for me, within the progression of the meal. :huh:

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I think what you are seeing is conviction in my assessments of a restaurant's cuisine and its subjective fit for me.

Uh. Yeah. That's what I meant. Like that. :laugh:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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cab,

Did they tell you they were peaches de vigne when you ate there last night? Because they didnt tell me and i was wondering why they were so red. I just assumed it was from being poached in rose.

Another question is do they serve a cheese course? I dont recall seeing anyone get one when i ate there on sunday.

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