On the Road (New York) with Chefs Charlie Kleinman and Jake Des Voignes

The three words every guy wants to hear… You know what I'm talking about: "pickled lamb's tongue." Lucky me, I got to hear those words just two courses into my meal at ~BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS~ (630 Bedford Hills, Pocantico Hills, NY, 914-366-9600) this week.

Perhaps I should back up a bit. Jake Des Voignes and I quit our jobs as the chefs at the Fifth Floor and have embarked on a two-week culinary tour of the Northeast. Five cities, two weeks, and all of the food and drink we can stuff in our bodies in that time.

We started in New York City, where, after getting off of the plane Jake and I headed straight to ~MOMOFUKU SSÄM BAR~ (207 2nd Ave., 212-254-3500). For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure, this is one of those must-sees in a city full of great food. So good in fact that Jake and I ate here twice in the last week. The ssäm bar is named after the Korean burrito-like sandwich that combines braised pork, kimchee, rice, edamame, and shiitakes in a tinfoil-wrapped delight. These ssäms are great and alone are worth the wait for a table, but are by no means the only stars on this menu.

The steamed pork buns are the thing I crave most when away from New York, and they couldn't be simpler: pork, steamed bun, cucumber, and hoisin sauce. I love these so much that after my last trip to the city when I ate at Momofuku, Per Se, and Babbo on consecutive nights, it was these little pockets of porky love that consumed my thoughts on the long flight back.

Other standouts here include the Brussels sprouts made with fish sauce and guanciale, and the pork and lemongrass sausage ssäm, which is a lighter version served in a butter lettuce wrap. If you notice a theme here, it's that everything has pork in it, and unapologetically so. In fact, my favorite thing about this restaurant might be that the menu states that no accommodations will be made for vegetarians.

Our next day was a marathon of eating and drinking, including brunch at ~PRUNE~ (54 East 1st St., 212-677-6221), and dinners at the ~SPOTTED PIG~ (314 W.11th St., 212-620-0393) and ~BARFRY~ (50 Carmine St., 212-929-5050). Prune is one of the best brunches in the city, which is why we waited for two hours for our table. However, tucking into the huevos rancheros made it worth it, as well as the vegetable-packed Bloody Mary served with a little side of beer. I love it when booze comes with more booze. Unfortunately, temperance was not the order of the day, and my hangover the next day could not be helped, even by Marcia's best hangover remedies.

This was my first time at the Spotted Pig but definitely not my last. Fried pig's ear with lemon and capers? 'Nuff said. From what I can see you can't go wrong at this place, we enjoyed the gnudi (ricotta dumplings), and the roll mops (pickled herring), along with our pig's ear. Make sure you try out the extensive beer list--I was drinking the cask-conditioned ales, a special treat when you can find them. Thank god for this meal, as our other dinner that night fell flat at BarFry.

While our dinner the next night at the ~FATTY CRAB~ (643 Hudson St., 212-620-0393) was as great as always. But I am running out of my allotted room and need to go back to where I started, those three little words.

Our pickled lamb's tongue came diced, under a gently poached egg laid that morning by the hens at the farm at Stone Barns, with the addition of tiny pickled mushrooms, shaved matsutakes, and some lardo thrown in for good measure. Dan Barber and his crew created one dish after another that highlighted the unique situation of cooking on a working farm where the food comes from the ground to the plate in record time.

While Stone Barns and its restaurant Blue Hill are a must-visit for anyone, for a chef it should be a required reading, so to speak. We all dream that we can have this bounty at our hands and can treat it with such dexterity. While I am not one to wax poetic, this restaurant simply exceeds expectations.

I feel I might have abused Marcia's generosity with my lack of brevity, so tune in next week for my tales of eating our way through Boston and Canada. [Ed. note: Yeah, like I'm one for brevity.]