630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills
Alexis: I planned this excursion about two months ago and had been waiting anxiously for the day to come. Only 45 minutes (1.5 hours in our case because my navi skills were off) out of Manhattan, the Stone Barns educational center houses extensive grounds and greenhouses where the farm to table ethic is fully enforced. Alex, David, Laurea, Chris, Andrew and I went there for lunch this past Sunday. It's a beautiful property and the day was sunny and bright. Perfect for farm dining. The deal at lunch - four courses for $68 with an optional cheese course before dessert for $16. When you sit down you are given a list of ingredients that are available that day and can then inform the waiter of any allergies or diet restrictions, or if there is anything in particular you would really love, and the menu then is left to the chef.
Alexis: I started with one of their seasonal cocktails, the Unbloody Mary. Grey Goose mixed with tomato water and garnished with two tiny tomatoes and horseradish gelee. Simply delicious. After we ate we took a walk through their garden and I stopped to rub some tomato greens. Laurea and I agreed that their smell was exactly how the cocktail tasted - very green and fragrant tomato with the tiniest hint of brine. It was mixed so well you couldn't taste any alcohol.
Alexis: After we were seated we left the task of ordering the wines up to Andrew, a recent graduate of culinary school. The name of it escapes me now but if I were to trust only one person based on taste buds, he would be the one. We had a delicious Gruner Vetliner from Alsace and a peppery Pinot Noir from California. Our amuse bouche was a shot of Blue Hill V8 - fresh, almost creamy gazpacho shot with celery and cucumber. We were also served some delicious, warm farm bread. Yeasty, crusty and heavenly.
Alex: This was my first hoity-toity fru-fru look at me I'm rich and saving the planet meal. I went in expecting a very stuffy atmosphere and super tiny portions. I was pleasantly surprised.
Alexis: Our first course, tomato salad with grilled summer fruit, edible flowers, and burrata. I hate to blow my wad all on the very first course of the meal but this was hands down my favorite. I LOVE tomatoes. Paired with grilled peach and watermelon, I could've eaten this for dessert as well. So many bright, complementary flavors in this dish.
Alex: Very good indeed. The tomatoes very juicy and flavorful. There was an interesting sorbet like concoction thrown in there that was a welcome surprise.
Alexis: Second course - barrel fish with sweet corn chowder. The fish was cooked perfectly, with a slightly crisp outside and medium-well inside. Very moist and delicate and went perfectly with the sweet corn chowder. Just the right balance of sweet and savory in this dish.
Alexis: Alex declined any seafood and for his second course got the ricotta gnocchi with chicken mushrooms in a tomato sauce.
Alex: I've never had gnocchi before so I didn't know what to expect. I can only compare it to ravioli. This dish was very average to me, nothing mind blowing. These small little pockets packed a big punch. Just a few had my stomach starting to bust at the seams.
Alexis: Third course, turkey breast with citrus and sweet corn. I was a little worried about this dish because it was back-to-back corn. It tasted different enough but I was a little disappointed that out of that huge list of ingredients they gave us, they decided to use corn twice. My only gripe, though it is a small one. The meat was succulent and so tasty! Normally I would never choose turkey because it is dry and bland but they must have brined this bird because the meat was juicy and flavorful.
Alex: This was probably my favorite course of the meal. I never thought that two pieces of turkey could taste so completely different from each other. The darker meat was more flavorful than the light meat, but both were very juicy. They must have used a good brine.
Alexis: Our cheese plate course. The theme for this plate was Old World vs. New World. On the left, two chevres, and on the right, two triple cremes. The first and third were my favorites, they being the Old World versions of the cheeses. For accompaniments we had fresh honey from their hives and pickled ramps, which I've never had before. Kind of like a light spring onion. It took a lot of restraint to not knock Laurea out of the way to gobble the honeycomb down.
Alex: I wasn't very impressed by the cheeses, and I am a pretty cheesy guy. I think I liked the last one the most (that tells you how much I paid attention). The honeycomb was really wild to me. I never had honey with the comb and the wax still in there. Picking wax out of my teeth wasn't exactly a good time. Ill take my honey straight please, thanks.
Alexis: Dessert! My favorite part of the meal, aside from the salad/appetizers. Since we were six, they gave us alternating plates of raspberry cake with fresh yogurt and chocolate mousse cake with ginger sorbet. Highly, highly gobble-able. The raspberry cake was only slightly better to me just because I was not too keen on the ginger sorbet on the mousse cake. They paired well together but I am not a big fan of ginger in the first place, and the flavors of the raspberry cake were just better to me. I'm not sure what it was topped with but it was cold and slightly sweet. And the creamy-tartness of the raspberry cake was perfectly accented by the homemade yogurt.
Alex: Which one did I have again? I remember them both being pretty good. It is dessert after all.
Alexis: After lunch we were quite full so we decided to take a walk around the farm, first stopping at the garden and greenhouse where we were able to sample some mustard greens, and then to the livestock where we watched a group of chicken devour one of their own. Then on to the pigs, and a short walk through a wooded area brought us back to where we had started.
I'd say it was a great experience and definitely worth the money to be able to eat delicious farm-raised food. In the midst of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, this farm fit right into his rule of the Perfect Meal. Far from the hordes of mass-produced food, it was a special day. Hoping to be back in the winter, friends and wallet permitting.
Alex: I guess the idea of a farm fresh restaurant is a cool idea. The servings were big enough to warrant the price (which was very reasonable minus the wine). And it was fun wandering around afterwards seeing where what we just ate came from. Too bad we couldn't pick out the animal we wanted to eat and then watch them slaughter it.