New York City can be an overwhelming experience and if the sights, people and sheer wealth of restaurants and eateries get a bit too much, why not go on a trip upstate and visit Dan Barber?
We’re taking the train from Grand Central Station and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the Hudson until we arrive in Tarrytown, only 35 minutes outside the city. We take a taxi through the countryside – past meadows, ponds and woods – and arrive at Blue Hills at Stone Barns where Dan Barber pursues his farm-to-table concept. Barber isn’t just the chef, he is an innovator. He experiments tirelessly to get the most beautiful flavours out of the simplest ingredients, just by caring for them, rearing them with love and then preparing them with the utmost respect. His menu is exclusively dictated by what the farming hands dug up from the fields that day, and particularly in the coldest winter, you get young vegetables that cannot be any sweeter and full of flavour. A simple salad leaf will cause a taste explosion in your mouth that you could never have imagined. The farmers at Stone Barns grow over 200 varieties of produce year-round and raise laying hens, broiler chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, pigs and bees on 80 acres of land. The farm also organises education days as well as gardening and tasting workshops. What cannot be grown on the farm will be bought from producers in the Hudson Valley area, people who Barber meets on a daily basis, to get the best organic produce possible.
Before we sit down in the restaurant, we take a walk round the farm and admire with how much care the animals are kept and the plants are cared for. A quick peak round the gift shop and I can hardly resist buying a pot of local jam and some honey. We enter the bar area and are served some rather curious cocktails for our aperitif. Smoked lemon and some other quite unusual ingredients prepare us for our upcoming flavour experience. As we take our seats in the restaurant, we are not handed the menu card, because there is none. Instead we leaf through a booklet to find the current month and discover the produce that is in season right now. Categorised into greenhouse, field, pasture, forest, farm and cellar, we are duly impressed with the wealth of produce that awaits us and are on the edge of our seats.
Preceding almost every course is a short but utterly impressive demonstration of the product’s development and how the taste is achieved, through harvesting, tapping, curing, crystallising, forcing, storing and, not forgetting, “compost cooking”. Barber and his incredibly friendly and caring service team made our meal an adventure, making us laugh with delight at the inventiveness, and sigh in awe of the utter brilliance of Dan Barber’s creations. When in New York, this is a culinary experience not to be missed.
In his new book,The Third Plate, Barber takes one-up on the farm-to-fork theory by introducing “the third plate” – a new pattern of eating rooted in celebrating the whole farm, vegetables, grains, livestock and all. It’s a monumental work of personal insight and global analysis that remakes the understanding of nutrition, agriculture and taste for the 21st century. Out today! us.penguingroup.com
630 Bedford Road