If pushed to pinpoint one restaurant that I consider to be the “best” in America, I will time and again name Dan Barber’s Westchester County destination, the centerpiece of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Four-hour-plus meals here are elegant, interactive experiences: They begin with the front-of-house staff asking about interests and appetites, and then the first bites comprise a procession of “vegetables from the field” served raw and impaled on spikes with the lightest gloss of vinaigrette. From there… who knows? Barber and his seasoned improvisers run the show, orchestrating scenarios of experimental squash varietals and no-waste animal cookery; perhaps there’s a mid-evening field trip to the bakery or a course or two in the refurbished manure shed (yes, it’s a thing) or the kitchen. Diners ultimately leave with altered definitions of place and time around food. What Barber creates is a life-affirming reset of what a restaurant can and should be.
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