Blue Hill at Stone Barns was voted one of the world’s top 50 best restaurants – and it darn well deserves it! I’ve yet to hear somebody talk about their dining experience at Blue Hill at Stone Barns without it being followed by a “OMG-best-meal-of-my-life” type of reaction. Even Obama claims it’s one of his all time faves!
This farm-to-table institution has been on top of my bucket list for almost a decade, and I have been lucky enough to finally tick it off on January 2016: kick-starting the new year the way I like it! 🙂
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located at the Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a working four-season farm and educational facility about 30 miles north of Manhattan, up the Hudson River in scenic Westchester County, in Pocantico Hills. The Barns belonged to an old Rockefeller estate, so it goes without saying that the setting itself is stunning.
Planning to go to BHSB is not only about a great meal, it’s a whole experience. If you’re lucky enough to go to BHSB, here’s a guide to appreciate it to its fullest. Be advised this is an extensive review!
How to get a table:
First Let’s start with the hardest part: snagging a reservation. BHSB is considered one of the toughest tables in the Tri-State Area. Indeed, it ain’t easy but definitely not impossible. Reservations are available up to two months prior to the calendar date by calling or online. Apart from booking in advance, the best way to snatch a table is to frequently go online and check for openings. You’ll have a higher chance on weeknights, during the wintertime and by counting on last minute cancellations (especially on rainy days).
Seats at the bar counter are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with BHSB’s full tasting or a 3-course menu for $58!
- When to go:
The best way to enjoy the BHSB experience is by making a day trip out of it. Arrive early before the sun sets to wander around and plan a self-guided or private tour of the farm. The very best time of the year for such an excursion is during the fall to see the most beautiful foliage. Then head towards the restaurant for a cocktail on the porch overlooking the farm on warm days, or by the fireplace in the bar area if it’s still chilly out. I also love to take time to shop for new kitchen appliances at the farm’s cute market store.
If you didn’t score a reservation (or just can’t afford it), you can still make the trip and have some snacks at the Café!
The restaurant is open for dinner Wednesdays to Saturday from 5pm-10pm and on Sundays from 1pm to 10pm. We had booked a table at 3pm on a Sunday, and I must say it was the best way to appreciate such a long meal without being in a rush to go home – just make sure you skip lunch (and breakfast?).
- For what occasion:
- This is the sort of place you go to with a special someone or for a special occasion, may it be a birthday, anniversary, or family gathering. Parties up to 8 guests can be reserved in the main dining room.
For private dining, their Hay Loft overlooking the herb garden can accommodate parties up to 14 guests. Private dining options are great for family gatherings and corporate events, with possible custom team-building activities led by farmers and chefs.
Private event options are also available for larger parties and up to 260 guests! (BHSB is a popular [hem-pricey] wedding venue.)
This is a one-of-a-kind meal, perfect for a celebration. It’s a great gift idea as well (you can buy dining gift certificates).
- How to get there:
From Manhattan, expect a 40min-1h drive. It’s a gorgeous drive up the Hudson river, and I would definitely recommend going that route, especially in autumn. Heck, while you’re at it, stop by and walk around the Storm King Art Center before to build your appetite. The farm offers free valet parking.
For you public commuters (and drinkers!), BHSB is easily accessible by train: take the Metro North from Grand Central Station to Tarrytown ($20.50pp roundtrip ~45min) and a 10min taxi ride to the farm ($12-$20 depending on how many you are). The restaurant will call a cab for you at the end of your meal.
Now to the most important part – the dining experience:
Put on your Sunday best (dress code is elegant – jackets are preferred for gentlemen) and enter the dining room. You step into a welcoming and open space with high ceilings, cream-colored walls and large windows offering long views of the countryside. There is an earthy feel to the room to match what the restaurant is all about , with a big branch structure in the middle and tables spread around it. The environment is refined yet relaxed.
Without further ado, sit down and get ready for an unforgettable 4-hour dining experience. BHSB serves a unique $218 (gulp!), 20+ course “Grazing, Rooting, Pecking” tasting menu featuring the best offerings from the field and market. It’s a “surprise” menu, although each guest is presented with a booklet listing seasonal harvests as a preview of the potential ingredients to be served. Naturally, allergies and dietary restrictions will be taken into account .
Note that the tasting menu changes hourly and per table depending on when you’re seated and what is ready in the kitchen – so don’t be surprised if you don’t get the same dishes as your neighbors or get a bit of FFOMO (Food-Fear-Of-Missing-Out).
Chef Dan Barber is THE name when it comes to the farm-to-table dining movement and sustainable eating. The farm-to-table concept is evident throughout the whole meal: almost everything you eat at BHSB is grown on property or on Chef Barber’s family farm in the Berkshires.
The menu is a veggie paradise. Protein recipes will be very limited compared to a typical high-end tasting menu: vegetables are the star here. Dishes are prepared from the simplest ways, to the most complex and sophisticated concoctions. The first six or so courses are “finger food” amuses-bouches that do not require utensils, and surprisingly the most memorable for their authenticity and respect of the ingredient. The notable high quality makes even the most basic produce taste special.
All dishes All are unique, colorful and playful, ceremoniously presented to you with a story behind each ingredient: a true farm-to-table experience. The portioning, pacing and lightness of the whole fare is close to perfect.
Service is top notch: attentive and knowledgeable, as one would expect in place of this standard, without being too intrusive – overall relaxed while maintaining refinement.
If you’re lucky, your meal will be interrupted with an excursion around the premises. Some get to chat with the baker at the bread-making station, others go outside to the grill or the Herb Garden, and the super lucky ones will get a tour in the kitchen and maybe meet Chef Barber himself or, like me, sit down for a course or two at the uber romantic old manure shed (which is no longer used for that purpose – rest-assured!) That will most likely be the highlight of your meal.
Such an experience cannot be fully appreciated without good wine. If you’ve decided to go on a major splurge (at this point, who’s counting?!) you can order the wine pairing at $148pp. Otherwise, BHSB has a ginormous wine list you can choose from, with a very wide price range. You can also BYOB, with a limit of one bottle per 2 guests and a $90 corkage fee.
Ask for a special excursion around the restaurant as you make your reservation!
How to sum up such an epic culinary journey? Blue Hill at Stone Barns sets apart from all other New York fine dining experiences – it ticks all the boxes: food/service/scenery/quality/originality. Going to BHSB is a one-of-a-kind epicurean adventure.
I would make dining here a habit if it wasn’t so cost prohibitive! You definitely pay for the experience, but it’s one worth paying for.
And to think it has yet to get a star rating (what are you waiting for Mr. Michelin??)
Blue Hill also has NYC Greenwich Village location that is not even close to comparable to Stone Barns. Skip it and just save your money for BHSB.