Saturday, December 28, 2013

Food Artistry

The concept of Food Artistry conjures different things for different people. 

To some, this brings to mind one of the many contests on Food Network, typically themed around a holiday like Halloween or Christmas, where chefs design and build elaborate edible displays.  “Edible art,” if you will.  While the displays are often actually made of fondant or spun sugar, nobody really ever intends to eat those displays.

To others, the notion of Food Artistry brings to mind dishes they’ve been served in restaurants where the plating of the food is statuesque.  Elements of the dish piled high or wide, the plate painted with a balsamic reduction or similar such material.  Tasty dishes all dolled up for their coming out party.

Tonight, our family experienced the ultimate in Food Artistry at a restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY.  Now, we’ve been to this restaurant before.  But it never fails to surprise and impress us.

Over the course of four hours (yes, really – 4 hours), we were served thirty-five (yes, really – 35) different plates or courses of food.  Each was different from what came before it.  Each was a small bite of a distinctive taste.  And aside from being delicious and distinctive in its own right, every single course was presented distinctively – from marinated vegetables on short metal spikes, on miniature gold trees, plated on a piece of slate, served on the bark of an oak tree, resting on a plate of sesame seeds, on a lazy Susan of assorted condiments and fixings, and in hexagonal stacked dishes that were unstacked by our waiter to form a honeycomb pattern of 12 dishes on the table at the same time. 

The quality and attention to detail were exquisite; the presentations were creative and inventive, and yet they were all completely in keeping with the farm atmosphere of the restaurant (which is situated on an actual farm from which many/most of the ingredients are sourced.

As each course was served, typically in unison by multiple waiters, we were given an explanation of each dish – the ingredients, how they were prepared and where they came from.  We were fascinated to try tastes we had never experienced before – and learned a lot about spices, roots, vegetables and other types of food in the process.

Through the entire meal, my daughter took notes about the dishes so she’d remember the experience.  Not sure we captured them all but here’s a list of what we think we ate tonight:

- Vegetables on spikes
- Orion fennel
- Pea shoots with lemon vinaigrette
- Homemade ginger ale (with a sharp, fresh ginger taste)
- Celery root jerky
- Herb potato chips, dried red cabbage, dried kale, seckle pear and pear bread slices served in a gold painted tree
- Beet sushi
- Pork pastrami
- Pickled vegetables with carrot mustard
- Black trumpet mushroom, vichyssoise, and sage and squash whoopie pies
- Chick pea and pancetta served on a stick
- Beet and goat cheese burger on almond bun
- Liver and chocolate
- Turmeric tea with green apple (tasted like mulled cider)
- Oysters (3 kinds -- Shiso, apple and moscato, and American sturgeon, sour cream and dill)
- Bone char cheese, preserved plum and bone marrow
- Celery root risotto with charcoal squid
- Brioche, kale & spinach marmalade, fresh ricotta, cracked pepper (served at a chef’s table in the middle of the bustling kitchen)
- Farm tacos – kohlrabi shells, bay scallops, mullet, broccoli guacamole, radish slaw, carrot yogurt, watermelon hot sauce, potted herbs (presented with scissors so you can cut what you want off of the plant itself), salt with lobster roe, and dehydrated corned beef
- Potato onion bread, farm butter, pig lard and celery salt
- Farm egg, speck, Swiss chard
- Hudson Valley duck and endive, smoked raisin sauce
- Berkshire pork, grains and carrot puree
- Ham and greenhouse herb salad
- Parsnips cooked in hay

And for dessert….
- Graham cracker, hibiscus and pumpkin
- Sprouted rye, pecans and apricot
- Spelt, apple and Stone Barns honey ice cream
- Squash jam with warm sourdough biscuits
- Shortbread biscuits
- Honey and sesame truffles
- Quince gelee
- Red delicious apple slices and honey
- Seckle pears
- Chocolate hazelnut needles in a (literal) haystack

If you want to experience true food artistry, we would strongly recommend a visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

-- Frosty

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