Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Adventures in the Land of Meh ...

It appears that I am in something of a culinary slump ... though not necessarily of my own doing. In evidence: the failed tahini cookies (which were so totally not my fault because it was not my recipe) and one ordinary meal at a previously thought extraordinary restaurant.

On Saturday night the husband and I had the pleasure of dining with a couple of long-time foodie friends. While the company was magnificent - the food, sadly, failed to astound. Odd too, because we dined at Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns. This was our third trip to the restaurant and, of the three meals, I'm sorry to say that Saturday night's was the least memorable.

Its not that the food was bad, more that it was unremarkable. I toted my camera along, took copious notes for a full review ... though now, as I sit down to write, I realize that I just wasn't that enthused about the meal ... not even enough to do a proper review. Frankly, that saddens me.

I remember with great pleasure the meal the four of us shared at Blue Hill last September. We happened to catch the very end of native tomato season and the tomato-based menu that evening was just silly with fresh flavor. I still long for the shot of cilantro spiked "tomato water" served that night - which in lesser hands could be seen as a throw-away frill, but under Barber's expert attention was nothing short of transcendent.

Sure, there was a shot of fresh juice on Saturday night as well - this time an apple/celery combo. Delightful to be sure, but not transcendent. And nothing I hadn't already tasted from my own brief affair with a juicer back in 1992. Seriously.

As the nine course meal was winding down - with a lamb chop that had been barely acquainted with a heat source, I might add - the four of us got to wondering if we'd just been there and done that one too many times. Have our palates become jaded by the wildly over-the-top meals we've shared? Or was Blue Hill at Stone Barns simply having an off night? I don't know.

Here's what I do know ... that potato chip pictured above was one of the highlights of the meal. Dusted with spice and slit through with a lively sprig of sage, it was a thing of beauty - gorgeous in both flavor and presentation ... yet still, a potato chip. Second to that was a lovely, violet bedecked salad of mixed greens, served atop a melange of savory sauteed mushrooms and just a hint of creamy dressing. Not quite transcendent, but almost. It was heavenly.

I wish I could say as much for the rest of the courses. I can't. Its especially disappointing given the two month wait for a reservation and our very long wait to be seated that night. The restaurant's setting and mission are magnificent, to be sure, but on this night the service was erratic and the dishes uninspired. I'm not at all slamming Blue Hills at Stone Barns, merely expressing some disappointment. Even the best of restaurants can have an off night. I still believe its well worth a visit, especially if you've not yet had the opportunity to dine there.

In all honesty, the most delicious thing I ate this weekend was a cheesesteak at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon. No reservations required ... just a heap full of napkins. Seriously. In retrospect, I should have taken my camera to the Yankee game and planned to review the food there instead. Next time for sure ... stay tuned.

So, have you had a disappointing meal at a famous restaurant? Or have you, too, become jaded by one too many OTT meals? Curious Diva wants to know.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for Thirsty Thursdays and get your drink on!

Bon appetit!

13 comments:

Veriance said...

While I cannot specifically speak to any disappointing meals at good restaurants, I imagine that having that disappointing meal is probably a lot like having disappointing sex with Brad Pitt. Where and how did it all go so wrong? Will I recover? I am strong, I will try again. ;)

5 Star Foodie said...

I'm sorry that your meal was disappointing. Our worst disappointment was Per se. We had huge expectations for this 5-star and although the meal started well, it soon went downhill and the service was just horrible. I really hope that this was an off night for them because a lot of people really love this restaurant.

doggybloggy said...

I have always heard such good things about this place - I trust you and now I am skeptical

The Diva on a Diet said...

Veri - brilliant analogy! You've got me laughing out loud for real. Thanks!

5 Star - You know you're not the first person to tell me that about Per Se. Because of that, I've held off trying it. Such a shame.

doggybloggy - I know, and really I do think it was an off night. The September meal was just spectacular in every way ... this one was OK. I feel a bit guilty that I couldn't see clear to gushing about it ... but I calls it like I sees it, ya know? :(

Kimizzy said...

We have a restaurant in Houston that marinates its porkchops for 14 days. Yes, you read correctly. It's proof God exists.

I went to that same restaurant and decided to deviate from the porkchops to a filet mignon, and was sorely disappointed. Like you, I wondered if I wasn't just spoiled from my previous experiences (and the 2 week marinated, melt-in-your-mouth pork that I am addicted to.)

duodishes.com said...

Nine courses and all you got out of it was a good potato chip? Houstn, we have a problem. Perhaps it was just an off night there...although there were 9 opportunities to get it right. Let's hope next time will be better...

stephchows said...

WOW a 2 month wait for that... ugggg sorry girl :(

The Blonde Duck said...

Cheesesteaks sound good to me! I hate being dissapointed at restaurants. I get so excited and buzz with anticipation for days!

Deb said...

Maybe the meal you had previously was sooo fantastic that any future meals paled in compariosn. Try to imagine Sat night was your first time there - was it so disappointing then? If so - just revel in the joy of past meals and don't go back!

I hate when you've had fabulous meals somewhere and then take someone else there and BAM - lousy food!

Eat on!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Kimizzy - that pork chop sounds amazing! I must try it!

Duo - I do hope it was an off night, the place has such a great reputation ... and usually well deserved.

Steph - I know, sad. :(

Blonde Duck - the cheese steak was awesome!

Deb - unfortunately, yes, still disappointing if I imagine it was my first night. I know how amazing this place can and should be. I'm chalking it up to a busy night. :/

Daily Spud said...

That's an impressive potato chip but so sorry to hear that the rest of the menu did not live up to expectations. I mean I know the potato is a hard act to follow, but, really...!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Spud - perhaps they should have done a potato theme that night instead ... complete with potato shakes and all! ;)

Tangled Noodle said...

I was wondering what that was . . .

My biggest meal disappoint was at a favorite restaurant (a local place) where the whole package was always consistent. It wasn't that the fexperience was absolutely awful but so out of character that we stopped going for months. We were pleased when we finally did return that things seemed back on track. My disappointment was hugely magnified by my expectations and my faith was only restored when I approached it with lesser esteem.

Hope you'll try Blue Hill again in a few months and see if it was an aberrant event!