His Life in Food

New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton chronicles a week in the life, complete with calorie counts.

Changes on Diner's Journal

The New York Times meshes "The Minimalist" and "The Pour" with "Diner's Journal."

Blue Hill at Stone Barns


Although it is housed in a building that formerly served as a cow barn, the dining room of Blue Hill at Stone Barns has shed any sign of dinersjournal.jpgits former farmstead life in favor of a lofty, modernist design. With a high, vaulted ceiling criss-crossed by beams, the room, decorated in dark woods, earth tones, and soft gray upholstered chairs, exudes a relaxed quietude.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, operated by the team behind Blue Hill in New York City, is located at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a non-profit devoted to sustainable food production. We capped an afternoon visiting the Center with dinner in the restaurant.

The unusual menu is divided into four categories: “Farm Eggs,” “From the Sea,” “Our Pasture,” and “Hudson Valley Pastures.” Choose any combination from any of the groups, our waiter instructed, and pay as you go (two courses [$46], three courses [$56], four courses [$66]). The dishes hover somewhere between appetizer and entrée size portions.

We were eager to taste some of the food that came directly from the farms at Stone Barns. At this early stage, in addition to vegetables, only eggs and chicken were available directly from the farm. The pork, lamb, and duck on the menu did not come from the property, but did have a Hudson Valley pedigree.

The restaurant has a massive wine list, but after spending the afternoon hiking around the grounds in the sun, we opted to cool off with beer.

My wife, Danielle, had an excellent shrimp cake followed by a chicken roulade served with asparagus, and roasted duck with wilted greens. As a first course, I had the mixed green salad -- 11 types of lettuces and herbs -- coated with a creamy dressing of warm eggs and lemonette. For my second course, I had braised Atlantic halibut, which was served with a meyer lemon and vodka sauce. The third and final course was braised bacon and roasted pig -- a few slices of succulent roast pork with an incredible cube of braised pork belly. The folks at Blue Hill seem to have a thing for braised pork belly, which, in their hands, is transformed into a meaty little layer cake of creamy fat and juicy pork.

While our dinner constituted an entirely pleasant evening, be sure to check out food writer Andrea Strong’s hilarious account of her rather bizarre dining experience at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Luckily, we seemed to hit all of the restaurant’s high points while (unintentionally) navigating past any of the rough spots she and her companion experienced. If there was anything amiss, perhaps it was the service, which was a little jittery (after our second course -- and before our third -- the table was completely cleared, and we were handed dessert menus), but a shortcoming like this is to be expected in a brand new restaurant.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, New York (914.366.9600).


Behold the Gastropub

With the recent opening of The Spotted Pig on a quiet corner of West 11th and Greenwich Streets in the West Village, New York welcomes the first gastropub to its restaurant landscape. dinersjournal.jpgBut what is a gastropub exactly? I turned to London-based Jackie at The Daily Bread for an on-the-ground definition. A correspondent of hers, with connections to one of the original gastropubs to open in London, provided the obvious answer (“a pub that serves high quality food”), along with some additional details in an email message that she passed along to me.

Gastropubs, he explained, tend to be genuine old pubs that have been overhauled, yet retain the character of a traditional English pub. The furnishings are simple, and the food is “usually Modern European, with a dash of sexed-up traditional British.” The prices, though moderate for the type of dishes being served, are higher than what you might expect for a typical pub. Moreover, “you probably order at the bar,” though the plates will be brought to your table, and like a pub, should you choose not to eat, you may drink without ordering food.

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