Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blue Hill

Finally time for the Blue Hill post.

Alex, Alex's mom Meg, and I had a wonderful dinner at Blue Hill last Wednesday night. I've been out of town and really busy at work since then and my memory of the meal is fading. I've recently been wondering, "can I use a camera and a note pad in a nice restaurant?" I think the answer is no. The note pad, maybe, but the camera, no way. If I was out at a nice restaurant and the guy sitting next to me started snapping pictures of his food it would probably bother me. I also know that if I was eating with Alex (I always am) and I started taking pictures, I would come out of it with a bloody shin and some verbal abuse. So, next time I'll try to remember a note pad which will improve the quality of these posts.

Blue Hill is a small American (with a side of French) restaurant located in the lower level of a historic brownstone in Greenwich Village. The restaurant is known for using only the freshest seasonal ingredients, most of which are grown/raised on the owner's family farm (Blue Hill at Stone Barns) in Pocantico Hills, NY. Most of the chicken, pork, lamb, herbs, and veggies served at Blue Hill in New York City are raised on the farm. Because of the freshness of the ingredients, Dan Barber avoids overly complicated dishes or unusual flavor combinations, preferring for each dish to focus on the natural flavor of one individual ingredient. He does this with great success.

Each meal at Blue Hill starts with two Amuse Bouches served in shot glasses. One shot is always of a fresh fruit juice, the other is always a vegetable soup. Our combination for Wednesday night was a chilled ginger apple juice and a sunchoke puree soup. I really enjoyed the ginger apple juice as it was a combination of two of my favorite (non-alcoholic) beverages: apple juice and ginger ale. The flavor was very fresh and clean, not too sweet.

Following the amuse bouche was a seafood medley focusing on a single plump, perfectly cooked scallop complemented by calamari and clams. This dish was delicious, served with a touch of a light sauce. The scallop was absolutely delicious, incredibly fresh and perfectly cooked. I tend to not order scallops because so frequently they are gritty and overcooked, but not at Blue Hill.

The main course of the tasting menu was a trio of Berkshire pork. The thick slice of pancetta was incredible, bold flavor and a delicious crispy skin. There were two other preparations, but my memory fails me as to the details. This dish was delicious, but disappointing compared to the venison and short rib main courses from our previous two meals at Blue Hill.

To finish the meal we were served a fresh citrus salad consisting mostly of blood orange and grapefruit and a dab of sorbet. The dish was very refreshing and the tangy, sour flavors were a good follow up to the robust flavors of the pork, calming the palette for the dessert.

The dessert was incredible. The chef that came up with it is either a mad genius or made the most fortunate serendipitous discovery of his career. The menu read "steamed cheesecake with caramel and peanuts." I thought it seemed strange for Blue Hill to serve a slice of pie for the dessert of their tasting menu. I couldn't imagine that Blue Hill's cheesecake could be any better than other cheesecake in New York City.

I was wrong on so many counts. To my surprise, the waiter dropped off a small sealed mason jar, not a slice of pie. Inside of the jar was the most wonderful cheesecake I have ever tasted. Topped with a touch of chocolate, caramel, and couple peanuts. The cheesecake was light and fluffy, but not too light and fluffy, it was cheesy, but not too cheesy. It really was perfect. Crust? Who needs crust with their cheesecake? Not me. They really need to put this on their regular menu. I would be tempted to go sit at the bar and just order dessert.

So, go to Blue Hill. You won't be disappointed, unless you hate fresh flavorful ingredients, in which case, there is a McDonald's around the corner, you can't miss it. But you can miss Blue Hill. Find it on the North side of Washington Place between 6th and Washington Square Park West. Reservations are available a couple weeks in advance on OpenTable.

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