I was part of the first ever "public" tour of Blue Hill's Stone Barn facility at Pocantico Hills, near Tarrytown NY, yesterday. It was part of a dinner organized by "Outstanding in the Field", served in the outdoors close to the Stone Barn facility. Of course, Dan and Mike were on hand to ensure everything went perfectly -- which, of course, was the case :)
>> Background; Stone Barn Project
The event began around 2 pm. It was an easy Metro North train ride from Grand Central to Tarrytown. There were taxis on hand for the short ride to the first road on the left after the third entrance of the Pocantico Hills school is passed on the right (fare waas under $7). The Blue Hill at Stone Barn restaurant and certain other parts of the large Stone Barn facility are scheduled to open on May 1, 2004. Other parts include: an educational facility; a courtyard that will serve as a community center of sorts; the Hay Barn Learning Center; various greenhouses and farmlands that will be organic certified. There will be certain animals on the property, including free-moving pigs that will eventually become -- DINNER :) It is possible that the ideas of Joel Salafin, with respect to the stacking of animal grazing on land (i.e., have a rotation of animals graze on the same land, so that different animals will take different products from the land), may be implemented at Stone Barn.
We received an extensive tour of the construction site at Stone Barn. I, of course, was particularly fascinated by the decent-sized, separate room, bar area with a fireplace, that would become the lounge to the restaurant. The restaurant is intended to seat 95 in the main dining room, with a potential for 40 more outside when the weather is right, as well as a private dining room served by the main, large kitchen. Separate from this, but likely not to be available in May 2004, is a conference facility which will be capable of housing more than 200 guests and which will be supoprted by its own kitchen.
Interestingly, the former cow barn will become the site of the primary restaurant. Exposed ceiling beams to the high ceiling are expected to remain in place. The dairy would become the bar.
The property is huge, and gorgeous, and enveloped by open lands. It is going to be a fascinating community that would serve as a model for sustainable agriculture (including sustainability in the economic sense). An expansive project with the goals of promoting an understanding of the benefits of local, fresh produce and of the significance of community in the sourcing of food. And, obviously, because of the Blue Hill restaurant there, the wonderful flavors and other taste components of fresh produce :) The Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture will play a central role in the organization of the project.
>> Participating Farmers and Community Members
The West-Coast-based organization, "Outstanding in the Field", conducts similar farm-to-table dinners primarily on the West Coast. Eliot Coleman, who operates a year-round farm in Maine and who supervises the expansive greenhouses to be placed on these lands. The product providers on hand included:(1) Paul Dench-Layton of Violet Hill Farms in Livingston Manor, NY (BH in Washington Sq. frequently uses poultry from this provider and it's good); (2) Don Homer from Hudson Pines Farm, Pocantico Hills; (3) Amy Nicolson from Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, NY (red jackets are a type of apricot; pastry chef Pierre Reboul has made preserves from them); (4) Lydia Radcliff from Rupert, Vermont; (5) Franca Tantillo, of Berried Treasures Farm, Cooks Falls, NY (provider of beans); and (6) Joanthan White from Bobolinks Dairy, Vernon, NJ. Wine representatives included (1) Trent Preszel from Bedell Cellars, Cutchogue, NY, and (2) Christopher Tracy, winemaker from Channing Daughters Winery, Bridehampton, NY (a former pastry chef at March, where he got to know Mike).
>> Meal Description
The outdoors dinner achieved was of course a perfect beginning to the "farm to table" program espoused by Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, and a wonderful next step in Dan and Mike's emphasis on the utilization of the freshest local produce in their cuisine.
Dan of course has significant experience with off-site catering, from the Dan Barber catering facility.
"Outstanding in the Field" has a tradition of having diners bring their own meal plates. Conforming to that tradition, I brought a plate from Maison Troisgros. However, few of the other diners brought plates.
The meal was really out in the middle of fields. Due to the slight rain that preceded the meal, we sat inside a translucent, white-toped, humongous tent. :)
[Dish by dish description to come]