Jun 5, 2011

Fresh from the farm (blue hill at stone barns on film!)

I was a little crazy to shoot this whole meal on film, but I wanted to test the versatility of the Portra 400. Film guru Jonathan Canlas has been able to shoot this film two stops underexposed and still come out with great results. Of course, since I am doing my own scanning, my results were less than superb. I'm not sure what kind of adjustments my scanner is making behind the scenes, but it often leaves me with really inconsistent colors and contrast. The same scene, same exposure will get scanned differently - very frustrating.

I know I could have gotten fantastic results on digital, because we were sitting near decent window light, but I looked plenty insane already with the Contax at dinner. Towards the end, I was shooting handheld at 1/15s and it got a bit ugly. There happened to be a wedding going on in the patio area outside the restaurant and the photographer was slinging a Contax 645 and a Canon. I was dying to figure out who it was! I would've flipped out if it were Jose Villa (because those are the two cameras he uses at weddings!)...

Jimmy will take it from here:

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is one of the most distinctive restaurants in New York City (arguably). Chef Barber focuses on seasonality with intensity far beyond that of the dozens of “seasonal” restaurants in the city. Its relationship to the city is also unique. While Blue Hill at Stone Barns is generally classified as a New York City restaurant, it’s actually in Pocantico Hills, about an hour each way from Grand Central Terminal via Tarrytown. This creates a unique ambiance; many argue that the quiet of the countryside provides a far better backdrop than the distractions of the city for thoughtfully enjoying good food. Not even the most serene dining room in the city can fully take one away from the city.

Our menu at Stone Barns was heavily focused on vegetables. Of our six savories, only one unambiguously featured a protein as the main element. The bulk of the rest centered on the indisputably superb produce available to the restaurant. I don’t feel too much of a need to list our courses individually. The quality of the produce speaks for itself; while in some ways the meal reminded me of our meal at Kajitsu, the subtleties were in the depths of flavor in the spectacular ingredients, not in preparations that were complex on face. This isn’t to say that the cooking wasn’t fantastic. It was. My personal tastes tend toward more complex preparations, but the skill involved in getting just the right amount of seasoning or grilling to just the right level of doneness is indisputable. I just don’t really have the vocabulary to describe it. Perhaps the only element that drew attention to itself was a spectacular egg yolk pasta that was indescribably full of flavor.

A lot of chefs speak of letting the ingredients speak for themselves. In practice this usually ends up boring. Successful execution requires both immaculate sourcing and skill at cooking rivaling the most complicated modernist preparations. Blue Hill at Stone Barns is one of the rare restaurants that succeeds. I appreciate the meal only more in retrospect.

We had a 1987 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva with dinner. It rocked.

(Thanks, Jimmy!)


  1. Gorgeous shots. I love the last one especially - I'm a sucker for sweets. Stone Barns is so close to me that I felt a little hometown pride from this post.
    Also, Jimmy- you're a fantastic writer! Though I'm guessing you knew that already.

  2. The dishes are so delicate. I really like the one with all the different greens pinned in a row. Love how homey this place seems from your pictures.

  3. amazing shots....I love them all!

  4. oh yeah, you can tell the lighting is insane there. i think it all looks lovely and consistent. all the food seems so wee and miniature -- like that toast? and are those mini sliders? i'm so uncouth.

    btw, i bet you'd recognize jose villa if you saw him. :)

  5. It all looks very, very tasty. Great photos. In particular, I like that is not so much on the plates, which is very appetizing. The atmosphere is very inviting.

  6. You always take such beautiful photographs and these are no exception. This restaurant looks lovely, I hope you had fun :).

  7. Super cute! What a fantastic way to set a table! The presentation seems flawless.

  8. I definitely don't think you're crazy for shooting this in film! It is gorgeous - love the softness.

    And would *love* to see Jose Villa in action - I wonder if there would be any way to tell who it was??

  9. Wow, this place looks amazing and the photos are absolutely GORGEOUS! Wouldn't it have been amazing if it were Jose Villa! :D