Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bits and Morsels stops by Blue Hill

Baked cheesecake with raspberries, an almond crust and pistachios at Blue Hill.

This past Saturday night was filled with a dinner fit for a president, a stroll in a beautiful park, and a nightcap of scrumptious cupcakes.

First stop was Blue Hill for dinner. This wasn’t planned and so we did not have a reservation. With that said, you really should make one or plan on going early enough to grab a seat at the bar. We went at 6:00 and snagged the last two seats at the bar. The bar is pleasant and you are guaranteed attentive service as you are always in front of the bartender and vice versa. It’s almost as if he is your dining companion; making you drinks and talking you through each dish on the menu. And there really is a story for almost every dish on the menu. Blue Hill has an exciting cocktail and wine list, but on a hot summer night nothing beats cold bubbly champagne. We tried out a couple flutes of Pierre Peters Blanc de Blanc nonvintage Champagne.

The atmosphere is warm and welcoming if a bit mellow. Blue Hill is not the place to go for a quick meal. Dinner will take at least 2 hours. Blue Hill is located at 75 Washington Place, and is one of two locations. The other, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, is located in Pocantico Hills on the old Rockefeller estate a few miles outside of New York City.
Stinging nettle and ricotta gnocchi.
The farm at Stone Barns provides much of the produce and meat that is served in the restaurant. The Executive Chef and Co-Owner of the Blue Hills is Dan Barber, who besides being on the Time 100 list, is a big advocate for the farm to table movement and was part of it before it became 'hip.'

To start, every diner receives warm bread with homemade butter and lardo, a selection of farm fresh vegetables, and a cute bite (a mini green pea burger on this night). The homemade butter was startling it was so good. It made me realize my tastebuds have been scarred from all the added preservatives it has become accustomed to.

The simple pleasures: A cup of coffee at Blue Hill.
I suggest you begin your meal with the spring vegetable salad, the grilled asparagus, or the farm egg. The way in which the salad is composed is breathtaking. My dining companion, who had eaten at Blue Hill before, has a few specific food allergies and the restaurant was very accommodating in making a lovely plate with asparagus, mushrooms and other farm fresh vegetables and edible flowers. I had the stinging nettle and ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms. The gnocchi, made of ricotta cheese and flour (not potato), was nearly perfect in its texture and buoyancy, wanting to float from my mouth like Mammatus clouds.

For dessert: order a cup of coffee with the chocolate bread pudding and the raspberry cheesecake. Coffee is an excellent indication of how good a restaurant is; the coffee at Blue Hill was exceptional. Now I know why the Obamas dined here. And just like like President Obama, dinner at Blue Hill is calm, inspiring and thoughtful.

Blue Hill
75 Washington Place
Outside and inside Blue Hill.
Clockwise from top left: Pouring Pierre Peters Blanc de Blanc nonvintage Champagne; Spring vegetable salad marinated and raw vegetables, pistachios and stone barn greens with homemade ricotta cheese; A beautiful plate composed of asparagus, squash and mushrooms; Pea burger.
homemade butter and lardo. Farm fresh vegetables: carrots and radishes.
This morning's farm egg with morels, peas and pine nuts. Berkshire pig with sugar snap peas, shitake mushrooms and pistachios.
Fava beans. Grilled asparagus.
Baked cheesecake with raspberries, an almond crust and pistachios. Chocolate bread pudding.
As you dear readers can tell, Blue Hill is very downtown for me. I’m not in that neighborhood too often, so after dinner I went for a walk in Washington Square Park with my digital. It was especially pleasant to walk around the park and see some of our urban greenery, take in the sweet summer air, and reflect on dinner.

On my way home, I spotted a cupcake truck on 12th street and Third Avenue. And they were giving out free cupcakes! Now I know I shouldn’t be going for a cupcake after such a splendid dinner ... but they were free and my dinner consisted of mainly vegetables and a couple bites of dessert (I think). The Cupcake Stop is a new addition to the city and it travels around town selling quality cupcakes in a variety of flavors. On Saturday night they had: red velvet, Boston cream, hummingbird and Oreo crumb. [The Cupcake Stop]
Cupcake Stop, on 12th street and Third Avenue. From the top: Hummingbird, Boston Cream, Oreo Crumb, and Red Velvet.
NYC's first mobile cupcake shoppe. The menu.
Red velvet. Cupcakes to go.
Here is a detailed list of where to get tasty vegetarian meals in New York. The list includes places that you would typically think of as being more appropiate for meat lovers, like Otto and Caracas. It’s good to know that Caracas will replace meat with tofu in all of their arepas. The way the world stands now, unless you know where it’s coming from, going meat-free is the way to go. [Restaurant Girl]

Here are some tips from restaurateur Donatella Arpaia on how to dine out and watch your budget. She used to tip 25%, but now if the service is lacking, that tip is no longer automatic. Another tip: go to fine dining restaurants for lunch. You will get the same quality food, but will spend less and most likely won't be rushed out the door. Also, don’t feel obligated to order an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Sometimes you can make an exciting meal just from the appetizer menu. [The Wall Street Journal]

Here is an easy recipe for chocolate sherbet that is sure to cool you off as the weather heats up. Sherbet, unlike sorbet, has eggs and dairy, but is still much lower in fat than ice cream. [David Lebovitz]

This article about picnicking in Paris makes me want to book a flight this minute. There is even a pizza parlor that will deliver to your picnic spot. How do they find you? They give you a pink balloon. Ah, Paris! [The New York Times]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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