Know Thy Customer


One of my top-five favorite restaurants in the country is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, up the hill from Tarrytown, New York. For me living in Michigan it’s like a pilgrimage to go there because executive chef Dan Barber is more than a creative culinary artist. He’s an inspiration for home cooks and anyone who eats (that’s everyone!) by creating consciousness around everyday food choices. Three years ago I made the pilgrimage to Stone Barns with my friend and fellow home-chef, Cathy. When we visited this year, we brought Bill.

Arriving at our table we found a Field and Pasture Four Season Journal that lists the potential harvest by month. I loved reading the list and anticipating what we might be eating that night.

Field and Pasture Food Journal

Field and Pasture Food Journal - March

On the restaurant’s website there’s a phrase: Know Thy Farmer. Dan Barber’s philosophy is that great cooking starts with great ingredients. And great ingredients start with great farmers. You can find all the local farms that inspire the menus at both Stone Barns and Blue Hill New York (in Manhattan) by scrolling over a map on their webpage.

But I’d like to offer a new phrase that incorporates both restaurants’ philosophy: Know Thy Customer. The staff goes out of its way to accommodate people with food allergies, like Bill. At Stone Barns, where each meal is a “farmers’ feast” comprised of multi-course tastings from the day’s harvest, no meal is alike. It’s amazing to see how meals are customized for each person. It’s not just about food allergies; it’s about making your experience delightful by being attentive to your preferences–all within the confines of a seasonal harvest.

Here were our preferences for ingredients to avoid:

Bill: Wheat, corn, cow-dairy

Cathy: Mayonnaise

Marcia: Shellfish, mushrooms

We decided upon the 8-course feast, which means a variety of dishes keep coming out over a timespan of two to three hours.

The Vegetables on a Fence was the first to arrive, along with Pickled Asparagus and an egg-yolk dip (that I cannot remember the name of!). We were also given a pot of pea shoots, along with pruning shears (in foreground) with which to cut off the shoots. These were then dragged through the citrus-pepper oil shown on the white ceramic plank.

Vegetables on a Fence and Pickled Asparagus

One of the favorites among the three of us was the “make your own tacos” course served with celery root tortillas. Yes! Tortillas made from celery root! In the center was a nice arrangement of shrimp and mussels, which Cathy and Bill enjoyed. I got to have fresh spinach as a substitute for shellfish.

Make your own tacos

Celery root tortillas

And when Cathy and I were served Red Fife Bread with Marmalade of Greens and Fresh Ricotta, Bill had wedge of roasted rutabaga.

Roasted rutabaga

Because it’s not the time of year for beef, we enjoyed a Parsnip Steak instead, cut  tableside by our server. The way it was prepared, you would have thought you were eating steak. It was so delicious.

Parsnip Steak cut tableside

Parsnip Steak

To see the other courses we enjoyed, check out the slideshow below. We really enjoyed our meal and the excitement of wondering what would be served next.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

4 responses to “Know Thy Customer

  1. Interesting! Not sure about some of this–but a great concept. I’ll have to take Marcia’s word for it that it was good.

    http://www.wanderingnotlost.org 231.233.3011

    ________________________________

    • You mean you’re not sure about the food, Kate? It’s unbelievable….things you wouldn’t think of putting together and presented in unique ways. Quite yummy!

  2. Exactly what I need. To challange my pallate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s