Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

After several aborted attempts (heck, I've even tried to sign on as a volunteer there with no luck), Mrs. Hackknife and I were finally able to dine recently at the much-heralded Blue Hill at Stone Barns, one of America's top restaurants located a mere 30 minutes from the Chuck Wagon in Pocantico Hills. Chef Dan Barber and his crew moved into the non-profit Stone Barns Center (itself repurposed from an old working dairy farm owned by the Rockefeller Family into an agricultural research facility) in 2004 and have been a worldwide leader in farm-to-table cuisine and sustainability initiatives ever since.

Speaking of farm-to-table, you can't get any fresher than what's on the plates at Blue Hill - our vegetable-heavy Grazing/Pecking/Rooting tasting menu (reflecting the bounty of the current season) largely consisted of produce harvested straight from the greenhouses and fields a short walk from the dining room.  As is befitting of a restaurant integrated into a farm complex and its surrounding nature, stately wood beams and hanging plants dominate the space (which was a little dark for picture taking, I might add - forgive the sketchy photos).  All told, the wonderful experience struck me as a combination of Noma and Eleven Madison Park, with a dash of Alinea thrown in.

Assorted Fresh Radishes and Field Greens

Kale Chips (the stand of sticks was not edible)

Badger Flame Beet Pizza

Picnic platter featuring housemade bread and various goose parts, including Blue Hill's "failed goose liver" spread, made from the chef's attempt at sourcing cruelty-free foie gras

Our course in the old dairy shed, now used to grow mushrooms and microgreens

(it was a little chilly - it's New York in February, after all)

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Next (French Laundry Menu) - Chicago, IL

Our original plan for New Year's Eve was to dine at Naha, which is a Chicago institution that I've never had the pleasure to experience; by sheer luck, a few extra tickets were released for the current menu at Next (focusing on some of the most famous dishes of French Laundry around the time period 1996-1997) on that evening and, at the behest of my beloved, we ponied up the fee to go there instead.

Next founder Grant Achatz worked at French Laundry under iconic American chef Thomas Keller for several years and his time there greatly influenced his philosophies in the kitchen and dining room. Even to this day, tables at French Laundry (which is located in Napa and is currently undergoing a major renovation) are notoriously difficult to secure. Mrs. H. and I plan to visit the original someday, but this will likely be the closest we can get for the foreseeable future.

As is always the case with Next, the food, drinks, and service were impeccable. My only regret is that I was afflicted with a nasty case of heartburn (courtesy of Jolibee, I suspect - see my last posting) during our meal that was significantly exacerbated by some of the indulgent plates we were served (for example, the lobster and foie gras dish was dynamite, but couldn't have been better designed to induce gastrointestinal distress).

Cornet of Salmon Tartare and Red Onion Creme Fraiche

Gulf Shrimp and Avocado Salsa

Blinis with Bottarga and Dehydrated Pepper Sprinkles

Barbecued Eel with Sesame Seeds and Yuzu

Black Truffle Custard with Chive Potato Chip

The famous "Oysters and Pearls"
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Golden Osetra Caviar

The plating for this dish was somewhat elaborate...

Hawaiian Hearts of Palm with Medjool Date Vinaigrette, Cilantro Infused Oil, and Frisee

Pompano "Amandine" with Orzo, Pole Beans, and Preserved Meyer Lemon

Five-Spiced Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Moulard Duck Foie Gras

Storey Farms Chicken with Red Pepper Reduction, Confit Biyaldi, and Fines Herbs

"Pot au Feu"
Beef Short Rib with Root Vegetables and Sauteed Bone Marrow

Chaource Cheese with Bartlett Pears, Clove, and Lolla Rossa Lettuce

Northern Spy Apple Sorbet with Honeycrisp Butter Lattice, Cranberry, and Barley

Another signature dish "Coffee and Donuts"
Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts

Chocolate Truffle Mignardises

Assorted Mignardises (had to take these home - too full)