THE ELEGANCE OF THE MAÎTRE D’ AT BLUE HILL

The restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns is to the north of New York…

First, you come to a village close by with a less-than-comfortable train from Manhattan. After that, you take a cab to get to the restaurant. Altogether, it takes approximately an hour-and-a-half.

Or you could drive to get there, although this might result in lost time depending on the traffic.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely!

The restaurant is on a big farm that once belonged to the Rockefellers … The complex is now called the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

One of the first to discover Blue Hill

The restaurant Blue Hill (don’t confuse it with the Blue Hill in Manhattan) inside the complex was opened in 2004. If I am not mistaken, we first went there in 2008. I remember me saying, “This place will earn a great reputation in the future,” just like my prediction for Eleven Mad.

I wasn’t wrong on either front!

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is now among the best restaurants in the world.

A huge main hall… Tables at a suitable distance from each other… Cozy chairs…

Specially designed plates… The little statuettes for the chips… Everything so delicate and special!

Just like the service!

Plus a maître d’hotel that is polite and runs a tight ship with his team … Well-informed waiters that never irritate anyone with their service…

Of course, the real talent is hidden in the meals!

Most of what goes into the meals is grown right on the farm – it’s all as fresh and organic as can be…

Herbs, vegetables, fruits… Tomatoes… Eggs…

And of course the meat… Goose, duck, pork, chicken…

What they pick from the garden and what they take from the coop determine the menu. Not you!

You are merely asked if you are allergic to anything, and then you leave the rest to them.

You have what they bring!

But what food! You’ll be left polishing off the plate!

Everything is very fresh, and if the cooks are under Dan Barber’s watch, then you’re in for a feast!

Why don’t you serve champagne?

Unless I’m mistaken, it was either in 2009 or in 2010 when we were waiting for the surprise of the day there, that I turned to maître d’ and said:

“Our last time here you offered us a ‘welcome cocktail.’ Are you not offering it anymore?”

“Sir, you must be mistaken; we have never served such a cocktail!”

Man, I recall drinking a glass of champagne or sparkling wine.

I didn’t say anything, but I started eating my meal with great disappointment.

Anyway, everything went well; we ate a delicious and pleasant meal.

The bottle of Chateau d’Yquem on our table

Toward the end, my son got a phone call from New York. A friend of his with a restaurant called us for a spot of Chateau d’Yquem to be accompanied by dessert.

My son drew attention to the fact that this little bottle would be enough for a round-trip journey to London!

I paid no attention! “We’ll at least have a glass,” I said as I ordered the drink!

Being a part of our little argument on the “welcome cocktail” at the beginning of the meal, the maître d’ himself brought a little bottle of d’Yquem.

Meanwhile, my wife said: “Not for me – it’s too much.” Displaying solidarity with her mother-in-law, my daughter-in-law proffered an excuse, choosing instead to make sacrifices for the family budget. My son and I paid them no heed. But I’ve always wondered if it would have been possible to survive financially without these women!

Anyway, we took a sip of our wine. The maître d’ asked,

“How did you find it, sir?”

“Perfect enough to make us lose ourselves,” I said as if I was a dab hand at tasting wines!

The epitome of minimalist elegance

Pleased, the maître d’ left the bottle of wine on the table and departed.

We liked it a lot, but we faced the prospect of hitchhiking back to New York if we were to drink another glass. Just like cats yearning for a morsel of food, we gazed longingly at the wine… But then came the maître d’, who had already been observing us from the corner of his eye, and poured the rest of the little bottle into our glasses!

While we were leaving the table, the waiter whispered to my son: “Wouldn’t you know it? Somehow or other this bottle looks like it’s going to disappear.” He offered the rest of the d’Yquem, which, while tiny, would cost at least 50 dollars!

At the Rockefeller farm
At the Rockefeller farm

My wife and daughter-in-law couldn’t pass up this opportunity!

Instead of a “welcome cocktail,” we were served a more expensive “one for the road.”

No one ever gets ahead of the other by standing still!

The same goes for an artist…

Or a doctor…

Or a restaurant…

There is a reason behind any success!