Monday, May 2, 2011
Not your average farm dinner
Friends, John & Leslie, treated us to dinner at Blue Hill Café at the Stone Barns in New York where an earlier generation of Rockefellers grew up. Now whoever owns the barns and acres around, whether it’s a public trust or private ownership, I don’t know. All the land in sight of this hill raises livestock, gardens and orchards specifically for the menus. The barn is magnificent with stone and timbers and arches and copulas and heavy doors built to last for centuries. They make you think being a dairy maid might have made you very happy (brilliant Margie). It’s now an event center and restaurant co-owned by Dan Barber, one of the first garden-to-table chefs. You might say his calling is about being conscious of food choices and the effort required to eat healthy, nourishing food, and how our options should include natural, organic, local and all those important, over-done, oft exploited words.
John and Leslie choose a multi-course meal built around what was overwintered or harvested in April. You don’t get a menu – you get what the chef wants to give you, although we were all a little relieved when the staff asked whether we had reservations about eating organ meats, and we all got shifty-eyed and gently said, may we pass, s’il vous plait. It began with amuse bouche – foofy French word used in restaurants I can’t afford, (thankfully the staff interpreted for me: snacks), and herbal infused elixirs (I grinned at “elixir” which I freely associate with fairy stories or poison – can go either way). Each was a wonderfully complex flavor of this flower or that herb. I hadn’t thought of drinking beets. Most of the bites were small tastes, appropriately brilliant or just sweetly, softly themselves. Loved them. Some were so simple, I fancied I could DO them myself if I got away from the peasant mentality of more is better. However, the square inch of congealed vichyssoise wrapped in a leek leaf would challenge my patience.
Smoked kale and a sweet potato chip
At the end this came out and we can’t remember what that little square was called. Chocolate, obviously, and something pistachio. The round things were chocolate covered hazelnuts. The white frothy drink - icy vanilla shake aka time to go home.
I kept wanting to stay in the moment, okay, the three hours. Trying to keep things real. Wanting to keep on talking about really important things like luh-ove and how to solve the world’s problems. I reminded myself this kind of celebration every day would not be possible nor wanted. But once, maybe in a lifetime? Mine, anyway? Eating at a 3 Star Michelin as a guest? You’d at least hope your conversation measured up. I doubt mine did. I know. Some things you can’t give back. This was a gift. A celebration. And like most graces you don’t get to deserve them, you should accept them gratefully, thankfully, and hope God will bless the giver(s), because you sure can’t.
Although we've been coddled and treated for a whole week, going home to rice and stir fry is way okay, too.