I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure that if there is a heaven, it’s a lot like Blue Hill Stone Barns. You arrive by train, the water of the Hudson glistening as you glide along the tracks. The cabs waiting for you to take you to the restaurant aren’t normal cabs: these cabs are clean, the drivers are careful–this must be heaven indeed.
As you enter the grounds, everything is green and bright and welcoming. You get out of the car and you begin to stroll; you’re in no hurry, you got there early so you can take it all in. You walk down stairs and study the Greenhouse: it reminds you of something out of a fairy tale. You continue your walk and you see turkeys in a pen: one of them’s escape and you take a picture.
“Menu for Hope,” Pim’s extraordinary food blog fundraiser, raised $60,000 last year for the UN World Food Programme. This year we’re raising money for the UN again only the money is being directed to a wonderful cause: the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. Says Pim: “We chose to support the program in Lesotho because it is a model program in local procurement – buying food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the WFP is buying directly from local subsistent farmers who practice conservation farming methods in Lesotho to feed the children there. We feed the kids, keep them in school, and support their parents and community farming. This sustainable approach to aid is something we believe in and strongly support.”
This year I wanted a prize that’d raise the most money possible. And while the previous prizes I’ve offered have been fun–New York in a Box comes to mind–I know that my cooking and shopping skills, however laudable, are not the kind of skills that inspire the masses to open their wallets.
So whose would?
The answer came easy: Dan Barber. Here’s a chef at the top of his game, foodies adore him, and his restaurant–Blue Hill at Stone Barns–is a restaurant I once called my new favorite restaurant. Now it’s my absolute favorite restaurant, Craig’s too, and in the interest of giving you, my beloved readers, a chance to make it YOUR favorite restaurant, I reached out to them.
And would you believe it, Blue Hill at Stone Barns saw me reaching out, said “hey!” and is now generously donating a dinner for two PLUS a tour of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. The prize is for food only and the reservation can only be for a Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday at 5 PM or 9 PM. Those are the only stipulations. Otherwise, a dinner for two at Blue Hill Stone Barns can be YOURS for as little as $10–all you need is the prize code: UE01.
2. Specify which prize you’d like in the “Personal Message” using the prize code (UE01). The amount you donate correlates to how many times you’ll be entered: each “entry” costs $10, so you can enter 1000 times for $10,000.
Now to those of you who say, “Adam, I love that you got this awesome awesome prize for your readers, but you live far far away from me–I live in Iceland, my name is Bjork–and I can’t go eat dinner in a barn in New York. I’d rather you sent me two autographed copies of your book and a homemade pastry. Can you do that?’
Well, Bjork, unfortunately I can’t ship pastries to Iceland: that’d be too expensive. But if you live in America I will send you 2 autographed copies of my book and a homemade pastry with prize code UE02. And if you’re international, I’ll send you two autographed copies of my book and some souveniers from my kitchen. Hey, that’s not fancy but it’s fun, isn’t it?
For the full list of East Coast prizes click here (thanks to Adam Kuban and Serious Eats for organizing the east coast) and for a full world-wide list of prizes, head to Chez Pim.
Here’s hoping we raise lots and lots of money. Thanks to Pim and to all the other food bloggers participating: it’s an honor to do this again.
Can you imagine going to a restaurant 10 or 15 years ago, sitting down at the table, glancing at the wine list and enjoying the surroundings, only to have the server set down a plate–no, not a plate, a wooden box–with spikes jutting out and on the top of each spike a tiny tomato? That’s precisely what happened last night to Craig and I at Blue Hill Stone Barns, now officially our favorite restaurant. “I’ve never been to a better restaurant,” Craig declared halfway through our meal. “This is as good as it gets.”
Tomatoes on spikes as good as it gets? Were we out of our minds? What happened to cooking–good old fashioned cooking–where ingredients matter far less than technique, execution, saucing, plating, style? Is this seasonal food movement just a fad, the new “pink,” a craze with as much staying power as slap bracelets or Tickle Me Elmo? Without question, seasonal has become trendy: we saw Katie Couric at BLT Market when I went there with my family last week; and Park Avenue Summer, where we had brunch on Sunday, seems more concerned with the farm as a design motif than a philosophical conceit. Check out this bowl of fruit that came with my “seasonal” brunch:
Sure, peaches are still in season, and figs are too, but were these grown locally? The strawberries look supermarket plump and the taste made me think that some of these guys had spent the night before in the fridge; compare that to the tomatoes in the top picture and you can see how a concept travels from pure expression (fresh farm tomatoes, picked that morning) to empty posturing (a sad, flavorless fruit bowl). Is this what’s in store for the seasonal food movement? Disingenuous branding that taps into a collective need to return to the earth?