Well, summer's the slow season in the wine business, so I've been planning for Fall and watching my expenses. Well, trying to do that last one. And, it's been brutally hot in New York, I mean just disgusting. So, an escape from the steamy city seemed in order last Saturday, damn the torpedoes. Of course, it just happened to also be one of the most beautiful days we've been blessed with in a long time, with barely a hint of humidity to glisten one's skin. Fantastic!
Heading north on the MetroNorth train, we found ourselves surrounded by lush greenery and a beautiful working farm, in all its colorful, smelly glory. It always amazes me that if you travel barely 20 miles due north of Manhattan and its steel and concrete canyons, you can find yourself in a wild oasis. Here, outside the picturesque town of Tarrytown, is the Blue Hill at Stone Barns farm complex.
Here, the "farm to table" concept is practiced to the utmost. Crops are rotated, animals change pastures with the seasons, and everything is self-sustaining. All the food grown here is used in the two Blue Hill restaurants, the one at the farm as well as the one down in the city.
As expected, the foodstuffs are incredibly tasty. In fact, looking at these tomatoes again, I know I'd do unholy things for more of them. Yes, they're that good, with snappy skin and juicy flesh that just screams REAL TOMATO.
Peppers were bright and alive, but man those tomatoes... I'm in love. Did I mention that I'd do very naughty things for more of them?
As we wandered the grounds, we were observed by a happy looking herd of black and brown cows, lazing in the afternoon sun.
Elsewhere, a shed full of seemingly very happy turkeys gobble-gobbled and hopped around, looking at us with curiosity. Maybe we were the main attraction to them?
Further down the road, very big Berkshire pigs rolled around in the mud and snorted and followed their keepers to get their meal, also seemingly quite happy to be out and about and free to roam their pens. I'm no animal expert, having grown up mainly in cities, but these seemed really content and relaxed, never fearing people. There was definitely a relaxed air about the whole place. This probably translates into the quality of what is grown and made here, as we would discover later that night.
There were other sheds and small barns, where different things were stored. Here, French Rose garlic was hung to dry, the door open to let the breeze tease them.
In a greenhouse, onions sat in long rows, drying out slowly.
Lettuce, bright and vibrant, sat happily in the dirt of the greenhouse, soaking up the heat and light.
The path back to the restaurant was lit by brightly colored flowers, a welcome invitation to enjoy all the farm has to offer.
We sat down for an early dinner, knowing that Blue Hill here has no menu. It's just a tasting of what's fresh that day. You can, however, choose 5 or 8 courses. As you can imagine, we chose the long dinner, and settled in for what was to become one of the best meals I've eaten this year. Everything was so alive with flavor and color and aromas, I just wanted to bask in almost every dish's glory. I won't put up pictures to tease you, plus I'll be honest and say that I don't recall all that we ate (there were, as you can imagine, more than a few bottles of wine consumed as none of us was driving).
BUT, the main take-away from this experience was that when vegetables are grown in healthy conditions, and when animals are free to explore and roam at their leisure, everything tastes better and fresher and frankly cleaner. It just feels RIGHT. And that's something we should all be striving for, even in the cities.