and I wasn’t invited, WTF. What’s the deal Gia?? Thought we were friends!
Not as good as Blue Hill’s Chocolate Bread Pudding eh?
Alright, so I might have been left out from Gia’s VIP list but luckily my Dining Club did not forget about me :). Very untrue to form, D, M, L, Shar, Sofs and I all managed to arrive at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village within 10 minutes reservation time. Once the nudging and whispering and a round of boobie/bobblehead jokes subsided (we love you Giada!), our waiter came by with a helping of ficelle-like breadsticks. Each cylinder was perfectly warm, porous with just enough air bubbles, chewy and enormously addictive. We simply lost count of how many baskets we went through…Dr. Atkins would’ve winced in disgust.
Then came six shot glasses of dubious, colorless liquid complimentary of the kitchen. “What is it?” Free alcohol?? “Ohhh, Tomato Water! Ahhhh!” With the drink’s identity revealed, we each took a sip and were all sort of caught off guard by the taste, the intensely savory tomato-ey taste. Amazing how such innocuous looking liquid could pack in so much flavor they might as well call it tomato essence or tomato potion. It was refreshingly tomato-ey, the way you wish all supermarket tomatoes would taste like instead of the insipid whatever we’re stuck with.
Among the three appetizers six of us shared — Stone Barns Greens Ravioli, Stone Barns Tomatoes and Maine Crabmeat — the tomatoes were my favorite: jewel-hued tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces, doused in olive oil and their own juices, then joined force with crunchy cucumber, basil, tomato sorbet and the lone meaty grilled peach. Party in my mouth! The ravioli was also popular with the girls, stuffed with shredded unidentifiable summer greens — let’s call it USG for short — and topped with yet another mound of wilted USG. But no matter, they were light and delicious, USG and all, the way you wish all ravioli could taste like in the summer months (if you even had the craving for ravioli during summer that is.)
Come to think if it, the shot of tomato water was a perfect way to induct diners into the Blue Hill experience — the pure taste of nature’s bounty and the vibrancy of the season distilled into two intensely provocative sips. Quite a rite of initiation into the not-so-secret society where seasonality and farm-fresh ingredients reign supreme.
And if that philosophy wasn’t clear in the shot of tomato sweat or the veggie-centric starters, the entrees would surely set you on the right course. My Poached Duck with Peas and Pistachios was just that: a heap of duck on a pool of peas. No vertical presentation. No unnecessary garnish. No usual squiggles of this sauce here and that sauce there. And I didn’t have to strain my tongue and hurt my brain trying to differentiate 10+ ingredients slyly disguised in a vertical stack, a squiggle or what have you (not that I hate doing that). At Blue Hill, duck looked like duck and tasted like duck, and it was extremely succulent and tender (sous vide?). Peas were sweet and plump and studded with pistachios and a hint of mint. The striped bass was accompanied by a piquant pistou of local summer vegetables that made me think rainbow and sunshine. Grilled cobia (a kind of fish) was startlingly meaty and tasted like chicken. Seasoning was spare, the virtue of fat and textural contrast downplayed, and the duckiness/vealiness/peaness took center stage. It was honest and straightforward and thoroughly enjoyable.
And then our clean-plate club got momentarily distracted by the candlelit chocolate cake coming from the kitchen. Wait…no way! It’s Giada’s Birthday!!! OMG happy birthday to youuuuuu! Then we clapped. Of course.
We tried all five desserts on the menu and I must say the Summer Berry Coupe was my personal favorite — if I had to choose one. The majority of our table seemed to like the Chocolate Bread Pudding which tasted more like a really dense, dark chocolate souffle and to me didn’t live up to the hype. (Even Giada said she didn’t want to eat her cake so she could save room for the chocolate bread pudding! No this is not called eavesdropping, it’s overhearing.) The other combinations like the blueberry cheesecake with corn ice cream just failed to strike a chord with us. Still, all the berries were plump and juicy. Maybe it was the lacking sense of decadence but I honestly couldn’t say I was satisfied with their desserts.
But again, it’s very possible that my palate was already unreliable by that point. Thanks to Clear Creek’s pear eau de vie. Thanks to Sofs and Eric Asimov.
Blue Hill Restaurant
75 Washington Pl. (between 6th Ave. & MacDougal)
New York, NY 10011