Friday, August 29, 2008

blue hill at stone barns

i've been wanting to go to blue hill at stone barns for quite some time. it is what it sounds like: a restaurant in a barn, on a farm. most of the things they serve you they grow and slaughter themselves. for instance, the egg you're served soft atop roasted tomatoes and mixed beans will be plucked from underneath the chicken that morning. they literally call it, "this morning's egg." dan barber (the chef) has a resturant in the city but it's just not the same. conversely, leaving the city (especially without a car) is always a bit of a palaver. but i'd decided that this year, for my birthday, i was going to take myself. i briefly considered eating alone and thought, "i don't want to travel 45 minutes from manhattan by myself so late at night" on the other hand, dinner there is wicked expensive and i didn't want to ask anyone else to spend that kind of money. solution: ask someone and pay for them myself. and who better to go with than justy, my partner in all culinary adventures. my go-to guy for when i get a first night resy at whatever hot spot there is. he always goes with me and who knows if he always wants to spend the money we end up spending at these trendy spots so it seemed just as well that i treat him for going on such an excursion with me. of course, he said he wasn't going to let me pay. and of course i shut up about it and, when justy stepped off to the bathroom,  gave the waiter my card with explicit instructions to let me, and only me, pay. 

the train out to tarrytown was painless and quick. cabs waiting at the trainstation to zip you over to the farm. the room is cavernous but still manages to seem cozy and sleek at the same time. 

the tragedy of the evening was the absolute darkness in which we ate. it was not conducive to any type of photo taking, no matter how much i slowed my shutter down or opened my aperture up. thus, i don't remember half the amuse bouches they brought (there were many, possibly as many as 8). i don't remember all the accompaniments to the meats (and often had a hard time seeing them). and they were aware of the darkness as justin was given a mini flashlight (one of those little guys you pinch that you sometimes find on keychains) in order to peruse the wine list. 

service was impeccable. i don't exaggerate when i say there were 3 people whose sole job it was to watch us and make sure there was nothing we needed, that our water glasses were never more than 1/3rd empty. it was weird being watched so. also, the "head" watcher was taking notes. jotting down times perhaps in order to decide how he wanted to course our meal. maybe to keep track of how many times we chewed before we swallowed. it is a mystery. what i do know is that they were delicate, unobtrusive and we didn't once need anything or look around to ask anyone for anything. whatever we needed just appeared. magic!

justin and i are huge fans for pork belly and so a 1x1inch cube with crispy delightful skin on top was what made me moan loud enough for the people at both tables to hear. other tables on each side of us were getting different foods, which was interesting but also a bit annoying and something i'll have to ask about next time i go. we had turkey, which was fine and good and i was happy with it until i heard the magic words "ricotta gnocchi" being spoken to the table to my right. my eyes grew wide. "did you hear that?!" i whisper to justin. "no," he responds. "they just got ricotta gnocchi! i LOVE ricotta gnocchi!" but alas, no gnocchi was to be found at our table. i thought that maybe they were vegetarians but then they got a fish dish that we also didn't get. so maybe they're that type of vegetarians that eat fish. i'm not sure what that's called but it must have a name. desserts went the same way. someone to my left had something with blueberries. i got some boring chocolate budino. it was a good budino, but it's hard to mess up a chocolate cake with molten center. 

it was also an educational trip. we were exposed to the 13 most popular tomato varieties they grow (of 35, i think) and were shown around a tray and had each one described to us. also, heirloom tomatoes just taste so good. makes me not want to eat any other kind but then i remember i NEED tomatoes in my salad and that i can't expect the deli to carry heirlooms and that i should stop being such an elitist. 

we had a 9pm resy but wanted to catch the 12:12 train back to the city and even though i didn't check my watch once, the dinner moved seamlessly, we weren't rushed and there was a cab waiting at midnight to take us to the train station. a perfect, though expensive evening. next time i need to go during the day. get a tour, see the animals, be able to enjoy the view from inside the restaurant (which had mostly glass walls. 

so i highly recommend this place. also, it makes me feel like i never want to go to ko again. spending the same amount of money for absolutely zero service now seems like the biggest joke ever. peace out chang. i heart you but i'm sticking to ssam bar. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

graffiti and convivio

graffiti is a gem. it is a teeny place, jehangir mehta is your chef. and your server. and your sommelier. and your waiter. and your busboy. and the guy who washes dishes.

we went there are a group of 10 which, looking back, seems ridiculous. the place is itsy. like, 100 square feet. but somehow, we managed to squeeze in. along with another party of 6, and a couple two-tops. i won't say it wasn't cramped but if we were sardines, we sure were cozy.

jehangir suggested we just let him start sending things over and we were all game. we had the green mango paneer (for every dish, they'll announce what is the savory part, the sweet part and the part that gives the dish some kick), chili pork dumplings, little sliders, duck rolls, chili shrimp and pork buns. and because he knew we were coming for a birthday, he offered to make a birthday cake. it was likely the nicest, most accomodating thing that's ever been done for me at a restaurant.

so 3 hours and 14 bottles of cava later (yes, 14.) we stumbled out of a dinner quite contented.

last week N (a blogger/person so afraid of identification that when people write posts and use his anon blogger name he proceeds to flip the fuck out) and i went out to dinner to belatedly celebrate my birthday. we went to michael white's new place in tudor city called convivio. this place has had a few changes of hands. michael white used to be at fiamma. scott conant was at l'impero. he left to open scarpetta (which i also recently went to and would recommend though i thought it was over-priced but it's in the goddamn meatpacking district so you get what you get) so convivio is in the old l'impero space. got that? let me just say that i fucking hate the east side above 14th st. so if i was going to schlep myself all the way over there, it had better be good. and lo, it was.

$59 for four healthy-sized courses. we would have split all our courses to maximize the tasting effort but N had gotten strep throat. because he made out with a guy. and is, apparently, back in 8th grade because what kind of adults are still getting strep throat from kissing people?! so anywho we had a good bottle of zin which wasn't overly fruity and had a non-existant finish (oh, and was marked up more than i'd have liked), i started with the quail (seved on a skewer, boneless, with tomatoes and porcini mushrooms); got the fusilli next (neapolitan pork shoulder ragu and a cheese sauce made with caciocavallo), the lamb chops (with escarole and white beans) and for dessert, an affogatto (espresso over vanilla gelato). but at that price, dinner was a steal and i can't remember wanting to go straight back to a restaurant the way i was dying to go to this place for a second night in a row...