Westchester: From Farm to Table

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Westchester is the stuff of which American fairy tales are made. The winding streets are lined with stately homes edged with manicured lawns and lush expanses of fields for horses to run and trot. And the food on your table comes from places your childhood imagination would've conjured up—farms where hens roam freely (rather than being de-beaked and packed tightly in cages), lambs are herded by adorable (though not always effective) puppies, and pigs frolic in the mud and snack on farm-fresh eggs.

We drove a little over an hour out from the city to Westchester last Sunday to enjoy the farm-to-table experience, starting with brunch at The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges followed by a tour of the farm at Stone Barns. Stone Barns is best known as the site of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, with its phenomenal (in both taste and price) multi-course farmers feasts. While we weren't fortunate enough to dine there this time, I am definitely saving up for that special day! 

That said, I can't bemoan our alternative, which is a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant after all. Despite the flannel-clad servers and swathes of reclaimed wood, The Inn can't quite pull off barnyard rustic—it's pretty tough when the crowd is blond-and-blue-eyed country club chic (then again, if the chorus line is "everything local", then the country club vibe comes with). Posh jokes aside, dining at The Inn was a very lovely experience.
We ordered an impressive spread (reeling as we were from a late, cocktail-fueled night) so I'll focus on our favorites. The tuna tartare was a beautiful interplay of textures, with creamy avocado, succulent cubed tuna, and crisp radish slices molded into a puck and slid atop a mixture of soy and ginger sauce. Also delightful: delicate chunks of sweet Peekytoe crab meat, spiked with garlic aioli and piled up on crunchy crostini. As someone who grew up eating crab lovingly picked off the shell for me by grown-ups, I have a soft spot for Peekytoe crab, which requires painstaking cooking and picking by Maine lobstermen's wives to end up on restaurant tables (this New York Times article from 1998 hints from whence our Peekytoe crab came). The croque madame was also a showstopper—layers of bread and ham seductively slathered with melted comté and gruyère then topped with tiny sunny side up quail eggs. Another pleasant surprise: the parmesan crusted chicken, which did not look terribly exciting but was the tastiest dish of all. The meat was tender and flavorful underneath the addictive parmesan crust, and complemented perfectly by the artichokes in lemon-basil sauce. Our dessert, strawberry shortcake, would have been a letdown as the cake was quite dry, but Hudson Valley's beautiful strawberries and the delicious raspberry and lemon yoghurt sherberts accompanying it salvaged the dish and ended our meal on a sweeet note.

With full tummies, we ventured to Stone Barns next, where we had booked the Insider's Tour. The 2 1/2 hour tour excursion took us through the vast property, which was once part of the Rockefeller estate, Pocantico. John D. Rockefeller commissioned the barns to be used as a dairy farm and in the 1970s, Peggy Rockefeller started cattle breeding on the property. After her passing, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture was created in her memory and since 2004, it has advocated for a healthy and sustainable food system.

The tour took us through the farm plots, where we saw how the farmers practice crop rotation and take great pains to keep the soil rich and nourished. We visited with their livestock, giggling at the flock of heritage turkeys newly put out to graze and easily distracted by the mere wave of a colored flag. We watched the egg-laying hens, some of which sat and clucked in a row outside their sheds, as if they were chatting as young women do. 

We walked through the woods, snacking on wild wine berries picked right from the brambles. We said hello to the dashing Don Julio, a Spanish hog who bred with many a Berkshire dame in his younger days. We saw chicks grow from puffy little furballs to beautiful "teens", the redheads (hens) mingling with the elegantly cloaked heritage turkeys. We also wandered into the greenhouse where we saw rows of herbs, as well as my favorite shiso leaves and shishito peppers.  
On our way out, we stopped by the bee apiary to take a look at one of the more intriguing Seven Bells for Stone Barns. Sound artist Bruce Odland created seven installations throughout the property to highlight the way various ecosystems work. The bells at the bee farm tinkle according to the coming and going of the bees.

It was such a pleasant and dreamy afternoon in Westchester. I truly look forward to coming back to experience more—a visit to the Rockefeller estate Kykuit perhaps and a feast at Blue Hill at Stone Barns for sure. I can hear almost hear Snow White singing in my head ... I'm wishing ...

The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges is located at 258 Westchester Avenue,
Pound Ridge, New York.
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is located at 630 Bedford Road,
Pocantico Hills, New York.

You Might Also Like


  1. Bello!
    Passate anche da me: http://theroaronthecatwalk94.blogspot.it/ vi aspetto!

    That's nice!
    Also passed by me: http://theroaronthecatwalk94.blogspot.it/ you look!

  2. Wow! You're surely living the life. I want to do all this! Check out my blog please? Xxx