Il Laboratorio del Gelato and Teany, Mar. 25, 2005

Il Laboratorio del Gelato
95 Orchard Street

Danna just loves gelato. Ever since her first business trip to Milan, she's talked about how good the gelato over there was and how different and underwhelming the gelato was here in NYC. So having read about Il Laboratorio del Gelato on another blog somewhere as well as on Chowhound, I decided to make a date of it.

So on Friday, we headed on down to the Lower East Side and found ourselves at the tiny lab across the street from the Tenement Museum.

We ordered the "smaller" medium cups and got the following:

Honey Lavendar gelato
green tea gelato

Mint Chip gelato
White Chocolate Chip gelato

Not only were all four excellent in texture, flavor, color and smell, they really went together well with one another.

I'm not really sure which one was the best, but I think the Honey Lavendar was the most sublime of the all. Really a great dessert. The chips in the Mint Chip had a perfect crunch to their perfectly cut size. The chunks of white chocolate in the W.C. gelato was just the right amount and wasn't overkill either.

It must have been 40 degrees with a pretty cool breeze the day we had these and we still enjoyed them immensely walking down the recently rained on streets of the LES.

I can't wait to go back to try their sorbets and the fresh mint gelato. Yum.

As we walked around with our gelatos, and getting quite cold because of the drop in temperature plus the fact that we were eating frozen, flavored milk, we walked by Teany, Moby's Tea Shop. The place was overflowing with the stereotypical LES inhabitants. And I literally mean overflowing. People were outside sitting down, hanging out all around both the main store entrance as well as that of the take out nook. I went ahead and got the #11, a Chinese Annam (?)black tea of some kind or another. It was the tall, female barista's favorite, of the black teas, so I went for it. It was actually very good and a safe bet for those newer to such a long list of tea options. Quite a big, warm (but nearly immediately drinkable) to-go cup of some tasty tea. No sign of Moby, but then again, I didn't look hard enough. A perfect pick-me-up on such a rotten day.

Punch & Judy, Mar. 18, 2005

Punch & Judy
26 Clinton Street

This meal, and restaurant in general, was a breath of fresh air.

The restaurant area is pretty small, maybe cozy is the right word, but the bar area is quite large, and as I was dining by myself (Danna was in Seattle), I found myself at the far end of the bar looking out onto the street.

The barstaff isn't as knowlegeable or perhaps professional as they are at Lupa, let's say, but nice enough so that you get what you want in the longrun.

I started off with a flight of reds:

2002 Costa del Sol, Benessere Vineyards (Napa). My notes say that this had hints of cherry, had a slightly astringent bouquet (and first sip) but "relaxed" shortly after. It had an airy/faint finish and would go great with ricotta gnocchi or maybe a goat cheese with black cherries (see Otto review). This did go very well with the feta and blood orange marmalade in the cheese course.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paringa (South Australia)
I liked this wine but it seemed unstable. Almost too much of a bounce from initial taste to finish.

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Claar Cellars (Columbia Valley, Washington)
At first I thought this was too big for the lamb rillets I ordered, but the finish changed my mind. This went perfectly with the epoisses and banana butter.

Full Bottle
2001 Troc, Babcock, Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Barbara)
Weak/Lacking bouquet, medium body and an excellent post-dinner wine. Very drinkable. The best of the lot this evening.


White Asparagus Soup, Melon in wildflowers, lavender infused honey
This is Easter. Really refreshing. This is what a day at the spa would taste like. A wonderful cold soup that screams Spring Time in look, feel and taste.

Crispy Lamb Rillets, light Spanish Stew, Muscat-marinated currants
The stew was made of black olives, poached grapes, chorizo, almonds (full and bleached) and squash and was very tasty. The lamb rillet let out a puff of steam when first cutting into it. The one drawback to this dish was that it was tough to break apart. Hardly a problem, really. Nice peppery notes throughout the dish. Overall very good, although maybe a bit muddied in color (as a whole).

Cheese Plate
Epoisses, paired with banana butter
Young Manchego, paired with meyer lemon marmalade
Castelrosso, paired with blood orange mostardo
Goat Feta, paired with golden pineapple jam (which was really thick)
Shropshire, paired with apple caramel (which was nice but too creamy. The cheese was very cheddary in texture).
Anything is easily overpowered by epoisses, but the banana butter toned it down nicely. All of these pairings worked well. Not one that didn't work, maybe the shropshire was a bit weak, but otherwise a nice cheese plate.

The restaurant truly embraced the arrival of Spring, with forsythia's behind the bar, the ingrediants and the pairings.

The music was very different but worked for the most part. Galactic was a great fit, Sublime was out of place. The White Stripes kind of fit (yeah, I guess it did) and Jeff Buckley certainly did. The Riders of Storm (by the Doors) Spanish remix was a great treat as well.

I was seated at the same end of the bar as the ultra quiet dish/glassware washer, and despite a big cloud of steam when the cycle was through, it never actually reached the bar and carried no scent whatsoever. Everything is crisp, in running order and looks brand new.

The bar lights dimmed at 9:12pm, so I suggest getting there early to have a few drinks and then enjoy the low-key atmosphere. Especially single guys who like good food, sampling wine and women in their early 30s as there wasn't a shortage of any of them during my stay.


28 Carmine, Mar. 16, 2005

The following is a review in the New York Press, that features some of what I said about my dinner here...

They're not foodies or winos; they just eat and drink a lot.
By Jennifer Blowdryer

No. 28 Carmine
28 Carmine St. (betw. Bedford & Bleecker Sts.),

I met two Chowhounds, David Sprague and Michael Mahle, at No. 28 Carmine for some pizza. Chowhounds are not foodies, their web site is quick to explain. They can think for themselves, thank you.

Sprague feels that has devolved a bit: "It's mostly questions like, 'Where can I get the best sushi?' It's gotten more diluted as it's been written about."

There's a big trend of disdaining tomato sauce, and indeed our first pizza was topped with mozzarella, walnuts and thin slices of pear. It was also oblong, Roman style.

"They use Bosc pears, rather than Bartlett," Michael noted. "Could be buffalo mozzarella," he added, sampling the calzone-type half of the pizza.

Despite being with two chowhounds, I loved the new taste so much I piled a few squares on my little plate in a feral panic. Next came a pizza with potato, salmon and caviar. It wasn't working for me, but Chef Salvatore, who is from Naples and has never worked for anybody, wanted to mess around a bit.

Dave and Michael bantered:

"The potato alone gives it a southwestern France feel, but then you add the salmon and caviar, and it blows it all out. I don't think it's bad; it's a unique dish."

"It's interesting. I like everything that goes into it."

"The caviar wasn't noticeable in my bite."


"Okay, let me try a scoop—oh, it's a lot different. But what do you think of the potato? I find it almost slippery, almost like they didn't let it soak enough and it still has the starch on it. Definitely a different dish."

"I like the pear and walnut a lot."

"Best of the three, I agree."

"So, what about De Marco's?" I broke in. It's a new place on Houston Street that New York magazine is always raving about.

Dave clued me in: "He's some kind of relative of a guy in Brooklyn who has Di Fara, and it's the best pizza I ever had. De Marco's opened partly on their strength, but the carry-out made me sad, kind of like Julian Lennon."

"Well, part of the success of pizza is a seasoned oven…" Michael said, starting out charitably.

"True, but [Di Fara's owner] grows basil in his backyard," Dave pointed out.

"What about Arturo's Pizza?" I turned to chef Salvatore for his thoughts.

"A coal oven! You cook bread in a coal oven, pizza in a wood oven!" he shouted emphatically, free of the local need to constantly cover your ass.

"What about John's?" I asked, egging him on.

"Before they closed, they were giving people pizza cooked earlier! It's time for a new generation!"

We were stuffed, but tried a smidgen of lasagna. It was light, amazing, kick ass, and somebody, I'm not sure who, made a final point: Never eat meatball and pasta together. You heard me; I didn't stutter.


Coppola's, Mar. 11, 2005

378 Third Ave.

What an awful meal and horrendous service. I can't begin to tell you how bad this restaurant is. Actually, its fun to review a restaurant that is this awful from start to finish. Unfortunately after a long day of work I really wanted something good to eat - we all did.


Traditional Caesar Salad - average
Lentil Soup - average, more like a plopping of lentils with broth. Hardly a "soup". Lentils weren't blended, but I suppose that's not totally out of the ordinary.
Cheese plate for two - the worst display and quality of cheese that I have ever seen in a restaurant. For example, the sharp provolone was cut into the shape of hearts. Are you kidding me? The rest of the cheese was flavorless at best and remarkably dry, even for aged cheese. Terrible.


Filet of sole - average, with awful mashed turnips that were chunkier than what you'd get in a high school cafeteria.
Split Filet Mignon with fresh mozzarella and potato croquets. Awful piece of meat (it LOOKED bad, even covered (hidden?) in melted cheese. Flavorless meat that was frozen for quite some time before cooking. I'd bet anything on it. (Lobels delivery anyone?) Remarkably bad.
Veal Parm - The end of the chops had aluminum foil tassles hanging off of them like a New Year's horn. My dad barely got through half of it.
Papparadelle with short rib ragout. 3 thin slices of fat with some beef on it on top of definitely-not-as-they-claim-homemade pasta. A really lousy dish. Not even passable.


Do you want to be lied to over and over again about why it took 40 minutes to get your entree...then look no farther than Coppola's. Our waiter disappeared immediately after first seating us. The maitre d' kept telling us our entrees would be right out, making the biggest bullshit excuses I've ever heard.

"Our computer says that your meal will be out shortly".

What? Ten minutes later...

"You have to wait a little longer. 2 minutes. We always bring out food in order of seating."

They got worse and worse from there. The place was a caricature of itself. It even had a "bouncer" of sorts, who had a habit of going to the bathroom every five minutes and terrible phlegm problem afterwards. Odd. I plead for you all to avoid this place. I Trulli looks like Babbo after this experience, and you all know how I feel about I Trulli. Blech. Lousy.


Eleven Madison Park (Brunch), Mar. 5, 2005

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave.

After the tasting menu the night before, I needed more of what Eleven Madison Park had to offer. So I hit up brunch the following morning and was able to use that last RW coupon that was burning a hole in my wallet.

I ordered the Griddled Chicken and St. Andre on Sourdough. It came with bacon, tomato and mesclun greens. I opted to order a side of sage dusted frites as well.

The sandwich was perfect. Not too light, not to heavy, nothing fancy but with excellent tasting and rich smelling St. Andre. The bacon was crisp enough and the tomato and greens were fresh. But for $17...yikes.

The sage dusted frites that came with an herbed aioli of sorts were perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. One of favorite renderings of the classic.

The bloody mary, however, was pretty awful. A real shame too because I was certainly looking for a good one after such a long night of eating and drinking...especially after those lousy wines at I Trulli.

Service was fine, I was even welcomed back by Giuli Perri the following morning. I would swear that I saw Courtney Cox having brunch as well, but I'm not always the best with real life celeb encounters.

Overall good, but not a brunch I would go out of my way to go to. If I had the money to be more of a regular here, I would go back often for brunch, but at $17 for a chicken sandwich, I'll have to move on for now.

Griddled Chicken & St. André on Sourdough
Bacon, Tomato and Mesclun Greens 17.


Enoteca at I Trulli, Mar. 4, 2005

Enoteca at I Trulli
122 E. 27th St.

So after dinner at Eleven Madison Park, I decided to stop by I Trulli Enoteca for a glass of wine before heading to an empty home - with Danna still in Orlando. I sit down at one of the two empty barstools next to a woman who seemed to be enjoying her wine and looking for someone to talk to -- as the bar was filled with younger couples on 2nd or 3rd dates or recently married. I sit down and right away am greeted by this woman to my right, Deb. Deb is remarkably funny, has an infectious laugh but gets on the nerves of the bartender and I can imagine that I was a relief to the others in the bar as a "blocker". I was happy to be that person. She was good company with endless stories about wine.

Now, my track record at I Trulli has been mediocre at best. I am never fully satisfied with their food and never at all satisfied with their service. What was I doing there? Giving it a fifth chance I suppose. Well, tonight was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I will never return to this restaurant or any of its sibling outlets. The bartender was so rude and unfriendly and genuinely unprofessional that it hurt me to stay through my flight of wines. I explained to him that I didn't need a series of very big wines, just a step below. Here is what I got for $13.00:

1) Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Vigna Le Coste 2000, Comachia/Abruzzi
2) Lacrima di Morro D'Alba 2003, Stefano Mancinelli/March
3) Salice Selentino Cantalupi 2001, Cont. Zecca/Puglia

The first one, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo...tasted okay but it smelled like Muenster cheese. But really old muenster cheese. It was horrible. Absolutely foul for a wine. How can anyone like this?

The second, Lacrima di Morro D'Alba...was okay. A bit bigger than the other two but really just an average wine. Nothing I would ever order again.

The last (thank god) was the Salice Salentino Riserva, Agricole Valone. It was so awful tasting - like 2 week old compost - that I had no choice but to ask for something else. Anything else. In return he gave me the Salice Salentino Cantalupi 2001, Cont. Zecca/Puglia. Still barely drinkable. Just not what works for my palate.

Its still kind of early, my food buzz was diminished by bad wines so I say I'll take a glass of one of your best, big wines by the glass. So what does the numbskull bartender do...he pours me a glass of the second wine I tried, the Lacrima. I taste it, recognize it, and say to him "Are you kidding me? I've already had this." His response was a mumbled "Well I thought you'd like another glass of this" - and he kind of moved away from the bar. Unbelievable. That was it. I said I won't drink this, get my bill for the flight of wines, said goodbye to Deb, thanked her for a good conversation and left, hopefully to never have to return to that awful bar again.

Now I suppose I shouldn't be surprised because the wine shop across the street that they own is run by one of the most miserable cast of characters I've ever witnessed working in a wine shop. You work in a wine shop...what is there to be unhappy about. My dream is to own a wine shop, yet these meatballs don't even greet customers (even if you are the only one in the store) when they walk in. Utterly despicable. Please do not patronize these businesses...for your own sake.

Eleven Madison Park (Tasting Menu), Mar. 4, 2005

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Park

Having been to
Eleven Madison Park several times before, thus having three $20.05 gift certificates (from Restaurant Week), I decided to return once more but this time to put my food choices in the hands of Chef Heffernan.

When Cleed (?), my waiter, came around to ask me for a drink order, I asked him if the tasting menu was at all substitutable - just to see. Because if I had a choice of what to eat or rather what not to eat, such as sweetbreads, I'd vote in favor of not trying the thymus gland of a baby cow. It's never been something I've had the urge to try. But as irony would have it (I think I'm using irony correctly, check the link and be sure to read the last example - very nutty), sweetbreads would later arrive at my table. As would another dish I have been avoiding for years.

With Danna out of town on a business retreat (at Disney World) and three gift certificates that are about to expire, I decided to cash them in...only to find out later that I could only use one of them. Ugh. An inexpensive meal got pricier in a snap.


I really wanted to try the Graves, Chateau du Seuil (Bordeaux) 2001 - thinking that I need to try more Bordeauxs. I know I like Burgundy's, so lets work on Bordeaux (still working on Italian wines as a whole, but that's another story) and see. So I get a glass, give it a swirl and check the bouquet. I check it again. Something isn't right. I taste it. No. I tell Cleed that I think it tastes corky. He says "really?" Uh oh. I haven't been here for more than five minutes and I'm haranguing the waiter over wine. I am the youngest person in the joint except for the college kid a few tables away who is eating dinner with his parents and I have the uneducated audacity to question this wine. Oh boy. In the distance I see my waiter hand off the bottle to the maitre d, a Dr. Niles Crane doppleganger, and say something to him."Niles" takes a smell. Then gets a glass from behind the bar, pours some in, smells again and takes both the bottle and glass through the kitchen doors.

Great, now there is a going to be a committee about this wine and I am going to look like the fool who doesn't know his wine other than recently reading about the war of traditional corks versus new technology corks in the recent/current edition of Wine Spectator.

Then Cleed comes back. I plead that I wasn't trying to be difficult, knowing that the wine was probably fine to an educated nose, and his response was - "You were right. It was corked. Second bottle of Graves in a row".

I almost couldn't hold in my smile as I felt vindicated, no, educated! Or just lucky. So quickly that smile can go back into hiding. But after Cleed left with my new request for a glass of the Margaux, Chateau Soussans (another Bordeaux), 1999. This one was drinkable, easy on the tannins but somewhat boring. Oh well. I'm not about to push my luck on this one.


First, I got a basket of the gougeres, which as always, were excellent. Forget M&Ms, these truly "melt in your mouth" almost like cotton candy. The Margaux's best quality was bringing out the flavor of the Ementhaler used to make the gougeres. I did everything in my power not to eat all of them. I don't want to look like a pig, and I enjoy keeping the staff and other diners guessing as to who I am. If I ate all of them, I'd be a dead giveaway for a novice. Ah, the art of dining alone.

The real amuse was a Tuna tartare with lemon vinaigrette on a wheat crisp. Simple, perfect. Nothing crazy going on, as it should be. A good tidbit.

First Course

Braised Root Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese

The vegetables included some frisee, cippoline onions, baby carrots (clearly from Union Square Greenmarket), parsnips and my recent favorite, beets. The vegetables were braised using truffle butter and also included a lump of goat cheese (which almost looked parfait-like, with a shade of gray ring on the bottom) with truffles sprinkled on top. A really good salad - one I probably wouldn't order on my own, but very solid. The truffle butter wasn't overpowering and brought out the best in each of the vegetables. The colors were nice as well, but even better after the plate was cleared.

Second Course

Sauteed Sweetbreads

So here we are. I'm face to face with the one dish I really and truly did not want to face. Of course I was up for the challenge though. Why else would I put myself in this position. I somehow knew this would happen, and heaven knows I wouldn't order it myself. This dish also came with frisee, haricots verts and a single verjus grape. All of which were fine, the madeira wine glaze that accompanied it being memorable. The sweetbreads themselves had a crunchy texture with a hint of thyme, and a flavor that I will not soon forget. Once it hit my lips, some slight shock went through my body. My body seemed to know I didn't want this, but I had to get it over with. Overall the taste was better than I thought. A slightly creamy taste/mouthfeel once you got passed the crunchy exterior and had a pretty nice taste to it...or rather, it was cooked as it should be. You could discern that much. As for ordering it again. I don't think so. I'll rack it up there with Uni and Vegemite on items to try, and to try only once.

Mid Course

There was a bit of a gap in getting my next course but that gave me time to confer with my waiter about my upcoming wine selections. I asked him to help guide me, as he was privvy to the tasting menu. He told me my next course would be a fish course and the following would be a beef couse. So he chose a Chablis, Moreau Pere & Fils, Burgundy, 2002. It was full bodied, crisp, and went pretty well with the next course...

Third Course

Sauteed Skate Wing "Grenobloise"

Another first - skate wing. For whatever reason, I've been avoiding this. Probably because I love to swim with the stingrays down off of Grand Cayman, and it seems too cannibalistic since I enjoy their company so much. But anyway, here we are. It was served with a brown butter sauce, caperberries (which apparently is why it is called "Grenobloise". Without these, it isn't "Grenobloise".), wilted spinich and bacon beurre fondue. Another waiter came over and deboned the wing for me...allowing the crusty underside to be accessible. This was actually quite good. Its flavor and smell was very "flounder/fluke"-like to me. Was never my favorite as a kid, but reminded me of it. The caperberries were spicy and the wilted spinach was perfectly cooked. They really know how to cook their greens at EMP. Overall, a good dish. Again, not something I would return to order, but a good dish. Very well executed, just not my type of fish.

Mid Course

A quick transition this time around. I asked for Cleed's help once again, this time he brought out the big guns. He gave me a taste of the Alexis, Swanson, Oakville Estate, 2001. Wow. Big and bold. This will do perfectly. It was so good that I ordered a second glass for dessert. Instead of the 3 oz that I'd been given all night, Cleed generously poured me a good 5 oz. Cheers. He returned the formality...and even more surprisingly, gave me the label at the end of my meal. He told me that it was the best Cab that they served and was new to the restaurant.

Fourth Course

Cote de Boeuf with Swiss Chard, Potato-fennel gratin and onion crisps. They call them onion rings, but I think that is misleading. I have a new found respect for Swiss Chard. It, like the spinach, was cooked perfectly. It had the steamed flavor but still kept a crispness to the veins. Very good and perfectly matched for this dish. The gratin was skillfully made but in the end was average. The prime aged beef was very good and reminiscent of my Blue Hill at Stone Barns experience - but remarkably different at the same time. The presentation and quality of the cooking was nearly identical, but the flavors of beef versus the flavors of grass-only fed beef on an organic farm are very noticeable. Even at this level of cooking. Or perhaps especially at this level. Still, it was excellent. The one problem I had with the dish was the sauce it sat on. I think temperature might be an issue in the kitchen. The white wines are usually too cool and the sauces are often reduced 30 seconds too much. It was a very thick sauce in taste, but not visually. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious, but was heavy for a sauce. I did an experiment with this dish. I tried a bite of each individually and a bite with each of the ingrediants included. My opinion is that each worked much better individually. The gratin was indistinguishable except in mouthfeel, when combined with either the beef or the swiss chard. The swiss chard would be a bit strong with just the beef and all three together was confusing. So best to eat them individually.

Dessert Course #1

Well, I was only supposed to get one dessert, but as it turns out, they gave me two. The first one was the chocolate souffle, but a very miniature version of it, along with three melon-ball sized scoops of ice cream ( I can't recall the delicious varieties I'm afraid) topped with toasted coconut. Oh this was phenomenal, and I don't care for too much chocolate. The four top that sat down to my left during my cote de boeuf course said to me "Not to be rude, but that smells remarkable". It did, and I told them it was very good - also reminding them about the timeliness of your order if they chose to get it. Very good dish.

Dessert Course #2

What was this? More utensils? But what for? Cleed smiled and went back to the kitchen. Then to my surprise a long plate with a Dark Chocolate Dome (with chocolate mousse inside) atopped with gold leaf and a mini pineapple and toasted almond cheesecake and lemon sorbet. Good lord! This was fantastic. Hats off to pastry chef Nicole Kaplan for a double dose of dessert. Good thing I ordered that second glass of Alexis.

Petit Fours

More? Well, I knew they were coming. The lady to my left inquired, "Looks like the 7th course to me". Indeed. The only one I couldn't finish. I had a white sugared almond and two creamy chocolates but left two. I couldn't fit any more. Then I was given the bill and told that they could only honor one of the gift certificates. Which I think is bunk, but I wasn't about to put up a struggle. I'll just use it for brunch tomorrow and I gave one of them to the lady next to me, who's husband it turns out writes for a travel magazine. Didn't hurt to have my name and contact info on the gift certificate already. They were a very nice group of four that seemed remarkably familiar to me. Nonetheless, I hope they enjoyed their dinner as much as I did.


Service was good. You expect good from D.M's restaurants and staff. That's what you got. But one thing that stood out was that everyone that served me, Cleed, the fish deboner, the busboys - all of them were difficult to understand. I could barely decipher what they said were ingrediants for each dish. Fortunately I could tell on my own most of it or look it up online, but wow. Very challenging. The waiter to my left, the Jeremy Sisto lookalike, seems to be a staple of EMP. We've never had him as a waiter, but he seems like a pretty cool guy. The coatcheck and reservation staff were warm and welcoming as always.

Chef Heffernan came out to say hello and we talked about his hand which has healed up well. It was indeed from a surfing accident out in California...and it defintely was fine enough to cook up that meal. Thanks.


Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Feb. 27, 2005

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Pocantico Hills, NY

Never before have dining expectations been exceeded as they had for me at
Blue Hill @ Stone Barns.

My wife and I took the train from Grand Central to Tarrytown last night...and was picked up by my parents and sister to celebrate my birthday.

Getting a table at Blue Hill isn't the simplest feat, and thus my birthday dinner was a month after the actual date. Its true then...what they say about "all good things..."

The train ride out was quick - 45 minutes or so. The ride from the Tarrytown trainstation to BHSB was a nice, quiet, 7 minute drive through some windy turns in a residential area of fine homes. Driving down Rt. 448, you can see the restaurant/farm some distance off of the road. The entrance is clear and easy to detect but not obtrusive. Understated but noticeable.

The drive to the restaurant bisects extensive grazing land for the resident animals.

The valet attendants were bundled up in matching down jackets - both of whom were pleasant and welcoming. The walk, past some gardens and into the courtyard of several buildings (mostly attached) is a great tease. You know, just from this walk, how far removed you are from any dining experience in the city, and also how good you are about to have it.

The entrance to the restaurant is on the right, with a few flickering lanterns on the ground and a sign that says Blue Hill. We walk in and check our coats. In doing so, I look to my left (in the direction of the lounge and beyond that the main dining room) and come face to face with Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is casually pacing the lounge - feeling remarkably comfortable about herself but also anxiously awaiting someone. I'm a bit star struck (it was Oscar night afterall) - she notices, and smiles back, then goes about her business.

We move to the lounge, ordered some drinks. I had a glass of the Schneider Cabernet Franc 'Le Breton', North Fork, New York 2002 and have to say that it wasn't that great. This needs to hold for at least another year. Very grassy. Very immature.

And then we see Ms. Clinton excited at the arrival of Chelsea and three of her girlfriends. They are about to sit in the lounge but are told their table is ready. Ours is soon ready as well, so we make our way into the dining room...a renovated barn with modern but clean and simple appointments including new exposed beams, unobtrusive service counters in the corners, a large central table for waitstaff to place water carafes and utensils and the like as well as a large floral display with colors echoing the farm this time of year. The back wall has a large farm/Westchester scene (regrettably, I only took a quick look at the back of the room - so this is not completely accurate) mural that seemed to go the width of the room.

The ceilings are very tall, which allowed the noise level to be large, but again, unobtrusive. It was loud, but we had no trouble hearing each other. The voices of others seemed to rise to the rafters making it a very acoustically pleasant experience as well.

On to the food...

We chose to have 4 courses each, and in doing so, I was able to at least try almost everything they had to offer. I will list all of the food we had as a group and then will describe the items we had. For those that don't know how the menu works, I'll quickly describe it. There are 4 sections of the menu. Tonights were: "Greenhouse", "Seasonal (Mushrooms)", "Handmade Pasta" and "The Pasture". You can order anything at any time. So for example, if you want to order something from the Pasta menu first, then the pasture then the greenhouse and then the seasonal...that's fine. However...the first dish you order will be small. The second bigger. The third bigger still, etc. So here goes.

The Wine

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS Artemis Napa 2001A very nice wine. We got two bottles which worked just fine for our dishes.

Bread and Butter

The bread was in the shape of individual "books" with several "pages". Unique presentation that allowed you to take a page out of the book to eat at a time. The butter was good, but nothing to really wright about. Perhaps I expected more from it?

The Amuse

Chickpea puree with syrian pepper flakesServed in a shotglass, perfect temperature and a terrific blend of chickpeas and very flavorful pepper. Not your average chile pepper flake.

{The Greenhouse}

Maine Crab (with ferona beets, panther soybeans and lime sorbet)
Baby Romaine Lettuce (w/pine nuts, soft/fried egg and warm pancetta vinaigrette)
Parsnip Soup (apples and American caviar)
The maine crab dish was small, but later on I'm glad it was. The panther soybeans, which were to the side of the main dish, had a slight crunch to them, adding a different texture to the very fresh crab, delicate beets underneath and the lime sorbet that crowned the dish. A simple but complex dish that I did question at first...but wished there was more of afterwards.
The Parsnip soup, by two accounts, was fabulous. I unfortunately didn't get a taste.
The salad's big winner was the egg. The egg, most likely laid just hours earlier, was encrusted with panko and lightly fried. It tasted like no other egg, but how god intended eggs to taste like. So fresh, so big and so full of "fresh egg" flavor. I can only imagine what breakfast would be like at BHSB.

photo of house salad with eggs courtesy of Debbie


Striped bass (w/ organic maitake mushrooms, caramelized cauliflower, almond and caper vinaigrette)
Poached Cod (w/local musrooms, braised leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and squash sauce)

Dad had the poached cod and wouldn't share. He isn't the sharing type but did share his enjoyment for the dish.

I had the striped bass, and make no mistake, the other dishes are all fantastic, but this might have been my favorite of the night. The hen of the woods (maitake) mushrooms were great and blended well with all of the other textures in this dish. A remarkably savory dish. So powerful but not forceful. Great depth in this dish and truly recommended for everyone. An incredible dish.

photo of striped bass

{Handmade Pasta}

Chicken Soup (w/rosemary dumplings, garden vegetables, fregola)
Cavatelli (w/guanciale, broccoli puree and italian parsley)
Braised chicken leg (with chestnut pasta and mushroom consomme)

Both the chicken soup and cavatelli were a bit salty, and this coming from my wife who loves salt. I have to agree. The chicken soup, which our waitress informed us has been written up about quite often (yet I haven't seen a word on it yet) was very salty. It almost seemed to keep reminding you of the salt content even afterwards. It almost tasted like it had a gelatin in it, because I felt like I had a salty "soup moustache" on my upper lip. Of course I didn't, but it really lingered on your mouth. Not necessarily in a bad way, just an odd way. My wife, who was not feeling well during the train ride out, was, mysteriously, feeling much better after she had this. No joke. The chicken meat in the dish was also quite tender, but perhaps awkward. It needed cutting (just a bit too big) and using a knife in soup seemed too we managed with our spoons.The braised chicken leg looked wonderful. I wish I got to try this.The chestnut pasta apparently stole the show from this course.

photo of cavatelli
{The Pasture}

Grass Fed Beef (with farro with roasted carnival and kabocha squash)
Cured Bacon and Roasted Berkshire Pig (with red ace beets, braised red cabbage and cotechino)
Baby Lamb (braised and roasted, amaranth crust and brussel sprout leaves, horseradish broth)
Crescent Duck (w/beet greens and sticks, stew of napoli carrots with toasted spices, fromage blanc spaetzle

photo of duck and spaetzle

I had to get the beef after our waitress' description. Apparently, BHSB rarely offers beef. Apparently a farm upstate grass fed some beef specifically for the use of Blue Hill and her guests. Yes. It was delicious. Cooked medium rare (closer to rare), it was incredibly tender, with a wonderful red similar to tuna sashimi and perfectly cooked. The farro added a great taste and texture as did the squash. An attractive dish in both visual display taste.
Pork, as it has been mentioned before, is not my favorite dish, unless it is in the form of Bacon. So I got chance to try both as well as some cured sausage. This was very good. Much better pork than what was offered at Lupa (see recent review on Manhattan board). But perhaps not enough for me to embrace pork the way others have. The bacon, which was served thick lardon style was nice and crunchy but also chewy.
The lamb came two ways and was also very tender and delicious. The amararynth crust was a nice compliment to the horseradish broth. I would have liked to have tried more of this.
The duck, I think, might have been the best dish of these four. I was in no mood for duck tonight for some reason. Which, when I think about it, is a silly approach for this restaurant. But in the end, I tried my wife's and can only say that it was the best duck I've had to date. It was breast meat cooked to perfection with such a rich, velvety flavor and texture. The spaetzle, served in a mini cast iron skillet on the side, was also a winner and made perfect sense as an accompaniment.
Every dish of the night offered great balances of textures, this was no exception. The stew underneath added flavor but brought out the best in the duck as well. Yum.

{Dug Today}

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

I'd never ordered these before and felt that the time to do so was now. Excellent starch, served warm (not hot) in a mini, oval cast iron skillet and roasted with butter(?) and I believe parsley. Very flavorful - allowing the vegetable to speak on its own behalf.

see below

Dessert wine

Unsure, but on the house. Very nice finishing touch

Petit Four
Chocolate covered sesame seeds. Crunchy, milk chocalatey and delish.


Service was very good but not great. Our waitress was very good. She knew her dishes, was accomodating, explained the menu well and was overall a pleasant host. The table service however, was quite sloppy. Spoons were given to the wrong people, plates never reached the table at the same time (although they tried to...just never got it right), we were sat a good half hour late and thus needed to skip dessert in order to get the train back to the city - but we were stuffed, so that's okay this time :)

The coat check girls were less than pleased to be doing their job and even put my sister's jacket downstairs (no room left upstairs)...which by the frigid temperature of her jacket on leaving, seemed to be the equivalent of being put outdoors. That is unforgiveable and I regret tipping her.

But alas, having dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns is not just having dinner. It is a full on experience that will, in my case, never be forgotten - sort of like the first time you fly first class. I cannot wait to return in the spring, for a new experience...or maybe I'll just have to head up on a Saturday for one of their give me a fix until then. I can't imagine anyone having an experience other than the one I've described. It really is a great place and reaches, if not exceeds anything I've been to in the city (or anywhere for that matter). I will accept 90% in service if it means getting 110% in food. That's the case here.