I was amped to get to work. The plan was to walk the farm, check out charcuterie, and then see how the Blue Hill kitchen executes a wedding. Big agenda, and damn if it didn’t deliver.
The farm is amazing. Johnny, the liaison for the restaurant and farm operation who also goes to the markets in the city, was cool enough to take the time and walk me around. We started in the field, and fortunately, Zach, the field manager, happened to be there. He was crazy knowledgeable and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. On that day, the fields displayed brussel sprouts, different brassicas, tomatoes, table grapes, okra, carrots, fennel, leeks, cabbage and just tons of beautiful stuff.
To top it off, I learned a new way to weed after seeing a patch that had obviously been burned. Turns out, one of the farm apprentices was weed burning, and it ended up getting mildly out of hand. The crew uses propane tanks with an attachment and burn weeds down. Zach informed me that the procedure precedes planting because new weeds can’t grow back since the top layer of the soil is covered by the burnt weeds. I can’t wait to try it bu if you happen to be driving down Route 59 in the next week or so, don’t mind me. I’ll be out there in my garden looking like one of the Ghostbusters kicking some weed a**!
From the field, we traveled over to the green house area—20,000 square feet. Some really beautiful greens grow in the greenhouse. They also have tomato plants. These beauties are grown vertically by training them from a young age. They have cords that are about 7-8 feet high, and they have rocks dangling down to about a foot off the ground. The tomato plants essentially just crawl up these cords—genius!
We tasted some of the tri star strawberries that are beautiful right now, and then headed into the woods to check out the pigs. These guys are living the dream – a wooded area where pigs can be pigs. It’s just awesome to see. The really cool thing is that the Stone Barns center has made walking paths where everyone can come out and see this stuff. There were people walking around everywhere, many of them families with the kids getting a first-hand education of agriculture.
After the tour, I was as happy as those pigs, and then got to chat with Chef Adam about charcuterie. Very cool conversation, and it led us to talking even more about pigs. It just so happens that they recently received three Ossabaw Island pigs, a variety that accompanied Spanish explorers some 400 years ago to Georgia. Emile DeFelice of Caw Caw Creek has been raising them for some time, and I think the world of his country prosciutto as well as his other products. I love this pig. The folks at Blue Hill had refrained from them because of their temperament and their proximity to families was a concern. However, when Adam took all of the cooks up to check the pigs out today, they, along with the Berkshires were just lounging in the shaded dirt looking like they were having the best time. The plan for these three boars is to crossbreed them with the Berkshire sows. However, as of now, they are too small to, well, sire the much longer sows. Good luck fellas!
After all of this sensory overload, there was actually work to be done. The wedding had some amazing food. The hors d’ouevres were passed on beautiful and unique wooden and slate dishes. Then, the dinner was an assembly line style plate-up with the food being cooked to order. For those novices out there, this is the exception. All too often, banquet style food is put in hot boxes and then served looking less than spectacular. Of course, this is not that kind of place. The dinner was in the restored barn center, and the staff all worked together to make this happen. Awesome to see. All in all, one helluva day. Tomorrow will be my last. I’m going to work in the pastry department with Chef Alex. It’s always fun to work in areas and in situations that you may not be as strong at as you are with others. It’s how you get better, and I look forward to getting better tomorrow.