Pig’s Heart Pastrami, Phytoplankton, Pea Shoots: A Weekend at Blue Hill Stone Barns
This past Saturday morning my friend and I were walking into the courtyard at Blue Hill at Stone Barns frantically looking for the kitchen entrance for our first ever stage. After my Fundamentals class I mustered up the courage to request a stage at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns. We veered into the center of the courtyard, hoping to find someone to direct us. We looked up to find none other than Dan Barber, himself, approaching us with a stoic, determined look on his face – what are the odds!? He kindly stopped to shake our hands and introduce himself and then proceeded on his way. “Did that just happen?” my friend looked at me in shock. “Yes, my life is complete.” I responded.
That might sound a little extreme, however, since I started at the CIA my appreciation for Dan Barber’s work towards sustainable agriculture and responsible eating has increased exponentially. The concept of Blue Hill at Stone Barns aims to teach people about where their food is coming from. I guarantee, whether you are an avid foodie or not, a trip to Blue Hill will forever alter the way you think about food.
I had no idea what to expect from my stage. At school I hear everything from hours of chopping endless mounds of parsley and picking bain maries of thyme to the notorious omelet test on a stage. While the majority of my prep time included picking herbs and chopping vegetables, I was allowed to participate much more than I expected. I was also encouraged to ask tons of questions and try as many ingredients and dishes as possible. I tried so many new products from neon green phytoplankton to pig’s heart pastrami. It is typical for them to use the animal offals (usable byproducts) because they have the entire carcass available to them. This is sometime referred to as nose to tail cooking. Utilizing as much as the animal as possible with minimal waste.
Some of my favorite dishes that I tried included: pate with a dark chocolate brittle, sweet potato sage whoopie pies, house cured bresaola (beef loin) chips, squid ink risotto and honey comb chocolate bark. By the time it reached dinner service I was allowed to help plate and assemble dishes on the amuse bouche station.
It was my first experience watching and participating during a service in a high end kitchen – let’s just say I was blown away. It was terrifying, intimidating and exhilarating all at once. Dan Barber was present during the entire service, which I was not expecting! He checked every plate before it went out to the customers ensurin g they met his standards! Some might consider the kitchen at Blue Hill to be a silent kitchen. The only talking during service occurs when Chef Barber or the executive chef calls out an order and the rest of the staff responds with a loud resounding “YES!” Everyone in the kitchen at Blue Hill works remarkably fast and proficient. They are held to extremely high standards.
Prior to staging at Blue Hill, I had never visited the farm – which, I quickly learned was a big mistake! It is a must see for any chef! The next day I drove back to explore the farm on my own and eat lunch at their cafe. The overall experience was incredible. Today it is almost expected that restaurants participate in the farm-to-table movement. However, it is extremely rare to find a restaurant that sources all of its produce and livestock from a farm on the same property. Blue Hill defines farm-to-table. I do not know any other location where you can visually see the entire process from farm to fork. The restaurant does everything possible to utilize and showcase the ingredients and flavors of the current season. Even in the winter they pickle, preserve and cure to best utilize their products.
Stay posted for more updates on life at the CIA!