I was at a culinary conference in New York earlier this year, where I booked an optional tour to Blue Hill. Chef Dan Barber was to lead the tour; following the tour, he was to engage in a discussion panel led by former food columnist for the New York Times, Molly O'Neill, while we enjoyed a wonderful luncheon. This was a very expensive optional tour, which I attempted to justify to my husband by showing him that Food and Wine Magazine had honored this restaurant by including them in their list of the “world's top ten life changing restaurants.”
After a scenic train ride up the Hudson, we arrived at the picturesque setting in Pocantico for an informative tour. It appears that there is virtually nothing here that this farm does not produce, it is a marvelously self-sustaining property. The green house alone is 22,000 square feet. The people working here had an incredible amount of knowledge about their work, and apparently many are interns. Just like a high end kitchen has people lined up to do a stage for what they might learn, this farm has highly educated people out of agricultural colleges also vying to work at Stone Barns, gratis, for this amazing opportunity of the potential knowledge into which they might tap. They seemed excited to show us their three composting areas, we were told composting is really like cooking! Ironically, in this whole beautiful enormous life-as-art farm, our guide was most excited by the new smoker they had just purchased. I have seem this excitement for a new smoker, or love for an existing smoker, among many chefs, it seems to be primarily a guy thing!
We met Craig the pig farmer, who told us all sorts of interesting tidbits about breeding Berkshire pigs. Here is a recipe for happy pigs. Happy pigs also made for a very happy group of lunch guests! It was just one wow dish after another. They had everything, no matter how minute, figured out from the roots up, including making their own sugar from beets, and charcoal from deer antlers and lobster shells. Spices might be about the only thing they were not growing there. Green houses could produce spices but because of the height needed for some of the tall trees, this would have to be prohibitively expensive. Yet I would not be surprised if at some point they tackle this also.
“Life changing” may be going a little too far, and amazing might fall a bit short, but if you ever have a chance to go here, take it. You will not be disappointed.