I have a general rule about Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the Barber-family-run restaurant within Stone Barn Center in bucolic Pocantico Hills, just about 30 minutes north of the tip of Manhattan. The rule is, if someone asks me to go, I say yes. The answer becomes even more emphatic — Yes! — when the request involves something called the 8th Annual Sausage & Beer Dinner, which took place Sunday afternoon and evening.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns doesn’t host a lot of events like this, suprisingly. Which makes it that much more special. The Sausage & Beer Fest started with afternoon sessions featuring the five craft brewers and the farmers whose products would be used in the dinner. After the sipping, chatting and nibbling, guests went upstairs to the HayLoft at Stone Barns Center, which has to be one of the most attractive private dining rooms in the state of New York. Its soaring ceilings and dramatic lighting set the stage for the meat and beer–fueled festivities.
Guests seated at long tables (see the photo below) enjoyed family-style servings of meats such as marinated andouille, coppa and country-style ham while sipping on pairings specially chosen by the craft brewers. Which craft brewers? KelSo, Captain Lawrence, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Bronx Brewery and Maine Beer Co. How were the pairings? Insanely good.
The setting, lively yet elegant, and the presentation would suggest that craft beer pairings could give wine pairings a serious fight, if they were conducted like this more often (though it comes at a cost: a seat was almost $200). Things started off with KelSo’s Rauchbier, a smoky beer that accompanied crackling focaccia, lard & honey (to spread on the focaccia), preserved vegetables and subtly spiced andouille. Next were two rounds of charcuterie: the first paired with a stately wheat that Captain Lawrence produced for Stone Barns; the second, a truly bold combo that featured a blood sausage empanada and Stillwater’s inky A Saison Darkly. Dracula would definitely approve. Bronx’s Black P.A. brought a bit of eccentricity to the sausage platter, which also featured insanely delicious potatoes and a bean and ham hock soup that had previously agreeable tablemates elbowing each other to get to, and sauerkraut and the dinner’s namesake sausage.
Before I get to dessert, I should note that the Sausage & Beer Dinner was noticeably, almost willfully not focused on sausage. Our host for the evening, Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ affable Vice President Irene Hamburger, explained that the event started out years ago with mostly sausage, but it’s evolved into a showcase for Blue Hill’s own farmers as well as purveyors that have a long-standing relationship with Dan Barber. Case in point: Matt Halloran, a part-time nurse and farmer who works with Barber and his kitchen team to create the most tender, tasty venison you’ll ever eat. How do I know? One of the charcuterie plates featured “deer in dough,” a sort of venison-in-a-blanket snack that had not a trace of gaminess. It was one of the night’s many highlights for me.
Which brings me to dessert. Before the grand finale, the Blue Hill at Stone Barns team invited the brewers up to say a few words about their featured beers, and Maine Beer Co.’s David Kleban had the audience cracking up with a story about how his charismatic uncle was the inspiration for the final beer of the night, “Mean Old Tom.” The Portland brewers’ stout-style ale washed down apricot doughnuts, beer-battered apples and a beer and barley malt float. In other words, a fitting end to a fantastical night.