Where To Bite On Your Birthday – Blue Hill Farm [Greenwich Village]
Since the first of April, I have been honoring my family’s notorious “birth-month” tradition by repeatedly celebrating my twenty-third birthday. That means dining at a handful of my must-hit restaurants, indulging in spa treatments at Exhale Salon & Spa, and purchasing class packages so that I can frame my feasting with back-to-back Pure Barre, Core Fusion Barre + Cardio, Exhale Power Yoga, and Figure4 Barre at Pure Yoga. You name the studio, I’ve been there.
Eat, sweat, relax, sweat, repeat. That’s my idea of a perfect birthday.
Of course, the true celebration came last Sunday (thus the lack of a LWB-post) when my parents took me out on my actual birthday for the feast to end all feasts.
The Farmer’s Feast, specifically.
After scoping out New York’s restaurant scene upon my arrival almost a year ago, Blue Hill Farm immediately took the top spot on my list of places to eat. I’ve simply just been waiting for the right occasion (and enough notice to book a reservation). Their menu sports an impressive selection of Hudson Valley-sourced, seasonal vegetables – many of them grown on Blue Hill Farm, in nearby Great Barrington, and the restaurant’s own Bill Hill Farm at Stone Barns, 45 minutes upstate.
The cocktail menu highlights artisanal, local producers, and each meal is grounded with a strong sense of America’s agricultural heritage. Within each plate, there exists a tangible awareness of a season’s particular moment (not spring, exactly, but the thin air that breezes between a frigid, long winter and the gentle breaking-through of sunshine on the first mild Sunday afternoon).
Of course, when Blue Hill Farm called to confirm our reservation, they announced that their daily menu (always different, always inspired by what is most ripe that morning at the farm) was being replaced by a prix-fixe-only option. The restaurant is testing this new style of service. Not surprisingly, the selections were as diverse and inviting as the original spontaneous a la carte options. An added bonus? My parents and I were nudged to try things beyond our comfort zone – and to order more dishes than we probably would have dared to try originally.
Recommended Dishes: While the more elaborate Farmer’s Feast Tasting Menu is meat-driven, the team at Blue Hill Farm gladly accommodated the request for both vegetarian and vegan options. I chose this menu, while my parents both partook in the slightly-less decadent Daily Menu. Without question, my favorite dish was This Morning’s Farm Egg. The soup, found on both the Daily Menu, as well as my customized Tasting Menu, features a disarmingly green fighter spinach broth, hidden under an earthy mushroom foam and dehydrated chanterelles. Beneath this rests a single poached egg – a creamy contrast to the salty soup, filled with braised button mushrooms.
For the gluten-free diner, the Goose Egg Noodles was my father’s second course – and could easily have been kept vegetarian without the pancetta seasoning (plated on the side in the shell of the cracked-goose egg). Upon arrival, our server shaved cured goose-egg yolk over the thick, cold noodles, paired with parsnip peelings and green garlic shoots.
The Not-So-Good Bite: Throughout the meal, my parents and I agreed that each dish came just shy of being enough food. While you should never expect standard portions in a multi-course meal, some of the plates left us poking around for what we had paid for. My father’s polenta, for example, (topped with a thin streak of red cabbage and beet bolognese) came in a dainty skillet – and the golden cornmeal barely reached its edges. Both my mother and I received our own, too-bare dishes with our entrees – the vegetarian riff on steak. The Parsnip “Steak,” (dirt-aged 12 months) featured an adequate portion of the mildly sweet root vegetable, cooked under a brick until flat and charred like a steak. While delicious, the plating alone made the entree seem scanty. Three small ellipticals traced the edge of the otherwise empty white dish: a thin dollop of beet-ketchup, a quenelle of creamed spinach, and a small pile of crispy onions. Again – delicious – but not quite enough to constitute a main course.
The Good Bite: The meal did not consist only of what we selected from the menu. While we waited for our appetizers to arrive, we received a rapid assortment of amuse bouches: fresh-pulled baby radishes and Mokum carrots with house-made vegetable chips and a white chocolate parsnip dip; house-baked whole grain bread with fresh seeded butter; a sip of the fist maple tapped from the farm, flavored with chamomile; a variety of nut and seed crackers, planted firmly in a bed of fresh goat cheese studded with pistachios.
Before dessert, we cleansed our palates with a thin – nearly translucent – slice of green apple, with honey and a delicate, refreshing sorbet (that may very well have been Chef Dan Barber’s hundredth iteration of the parsnip) topped with thin ribbons of fennel.
It wasn’t just the additional plates which enhanced our experience – it was the plating. Slabs of slate and rounds of reclaimed wood carried many of our courses. The goose egg shell was the grandest example of Barber’s whimsy, and the importance of the restaurant’s connection with the farm and regional purveyors. It’s not just New American cuisine – it’s New York cuisine.
The Best Bite: I have been to few restaurants in my lifetime that were as accommodating and hospitable as Blue Hill Farm. Not only was the vegetarian-version of the Farmer’s Feast a fantastic display of flexibility and creativity – but they took it a step farther by allowing me to pull dishes I wanted to try from the Daily Menu and substitute in to the Farmer’s Feast. (Example: I wasn’t keen on the Mozzarella “cloud,” and asked instead for the Salanova Butter Lettuce salad – topped with thin ribbons of radish and fennel. They happily obliged, after confirming that yes, in fact, I did want to salad courses back-to-back. What else would LWB order?)
From my mixed-greens and herbs salad, plated on a bed of cooked mushrooms and with thin chanterelles flurried throughout, to the final complimentary plate of house-baked madeleines with a jar of marmalade, each detail was perfectly presented. It was the birthday feast I’ve been craving since my arrival in this delicious, bountiful world.
Each moment of our farm-to-table dinner was excellently orchestrated. The servers were warm, talkative, and informative. The bartender indulged my request for a “birthday surprise” cocktail (gin, champagne, a splash of rose water) and I received a lighter-than-air chocolate mousse with a candle, in true birthday-fashion.
I’m eager to take my next major celebration out of the city and to the farm itself – Blue Hill at Stone Barns – so that I can experience their multi-course, menu-less exploration of the day’s bounty.
Until then, I’m more than satisfied with the memory of my Farm-girl’s Feast.