Girls Night at Black Barn
April 27, 2017
I had the pleasure of dining at Black Barn Restaurant on Thursday April 27, 2017. It is located at the top of Madison Square Park on 23rd Street in Manhattan. I must admit, I had eaten at the Italian restaurant that previously occupied the space. I was curious to see how they transformed the spot from a modern Italian restaurant to a rustic, "bar-like" atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised.
At first glance, a very clear post-work watering hole, Black Barn in the bar area was packed with business associates who I assumed worked around the park. Known for their scrumptious cocktails, I had to have a go at this mixology goldmine.
The cocktails were carefully crafted, and well thought out. My libation of choice was the "Ranch's Hand." A concoction filled with Mescal, Agave, Lime and Pineapple juice.
As I entered the main dining hall, there was an immediate switch of tempo. I have officially entered “the barn.” High ceilings, countryside ambiance, red painted doors and even a “faux barn roof”; a different and fun décor for New York City. Black Barn is the perfect spot for private dining or an event. They have reserved rooms along the side of the main dining area with beautiful red sliding doors to make your dining experience that much more intimate and private.
The dining staff was wonderful in their knowledge of the menu. They passionately described to me their favorite dishes on the menu and suggested fantastic wines to pair with each dish.
Chef John suggested he present his favorite dishes on the menu to sample. After numerous courses, and a very full and satisfying meal, here are my recommendations when you dine at Black Barn.
WHAT TO ORDER AT BLACK BARN:
Grilled Baby Octopus - chickpea puree, fennel, or ange, sundried tomato gremolata
If you follow my blog, you know my thoughts on Grilled Octopus. It is always, a go-to order. Black Barn’s interpretation of Grilled Octopus is the superb balance of flavor. The charred Octopus is paired very nicely with the creaminess of the chickpea puree. Then you top it with the fresh, crisp flavor of the citrus. You've got a fan favorite right there!
Irwin Farm Foraged Mushroom Toast - 15 robiola, taleggio, parmesan, purple watercress salad
I find it funny, that I used to be terrified of mushrooms. Now, I could not live without them. A perfectly sliced piece of toast, not too thin, not to thick, topped with a medley of Mushrooms makes for a great sharing appetizer. Let’s not forget about that fresh parmesan cheese. The richness of the cheese works well with the mushrooms.
Bone Marrow - manila clams, lemon-herb crumb, shallot reduction
People tend to jump when the word bone marrow is mentioned. Do not run away from it! Embrace it! This Bone Marrow dish is very unique; containing succulent manila clams with a nice crunch of the lemon-herb crumb. When consuming this dish spread it on to one of the artisanal pieces of bread they provide for the table. The creamy consistency of the bone marrow goes on like butter!
Butternut Squash Ravioli - swiss chard, toasted pumpkin seeds, bacon lardons
With my first bite, I immediately thought, FALL. But you can serve this dish to me Spring, Summer or even Winter and it will never be out of season. You are presented with a good portion of ravioli, perfect for sharing. The richness of the squash pairs perfectly with the bacon and fixings that top the ravioli. One of my hands down favorite dishes from the night!
The Duck Breast – paired with a House Sausage and mixed vegetables
Perfectly cooked, perfectly plated. If you are a carnivore, like I am, I suggest the duck for your main course.
Diver Sea Scallops – paired with a water crest salad, served over risotto.
If you prefer fish over red meat, I suggest the scallops. Seared impeccably, this dish works very nicely with Risotto.
A great side dish for the table. I like to call Shishito Peppers “peppers roulette.” One out of every 10 peppers tends to have a little kick. If you like to live without fear, then I suggest ordering this delectable side.
Quick Fire Chef Chat with Chef John Doherty
1. Why did you decide to become a chef?
I fell in love with the ability to make people happy with something I crafted with my hands. From the beginning, I would feel a connection to the food I prepared. When someone loves what they do, it is always better because love is an energy that transposes to whatever it is you are doing.
2. Did you come from a family where cooking played a key factor?
My Grandmother was a great cook but that had little to do with my decision to cook. Recalling the depth of flavors, aromas and texture from her kitchen certainly inspired and helped me later.
3. Cooking is mostly taught in a kitchen from the masters. Who did you learn from/did you have a mentor? What skills did you learn or adapt from them in your own kitchen?
I learned different things from different people. My first boss, Husband and Wife cooks, I learned the art of hospitality- caring for others. The science of cooking from the Culinary Institute of America. Professionalism from Chef Arno Schmidt. I developed my Pallet with Chef Daniel Vigier. Passion and art from Chef Roger Souvereigns. Hard work and commitment from my father. Mental and physical toughness from my football coaches and gratitude from President Ronald Regan. I use all these skills today and I am grateful to all of them for what I have accomplished.
4. 90% of what a chef does is buying the best possible ingredients: how do you choose what is the best for your kitchen?
It’s not quite 90% but it’s very important. The menu is comprised of items that are as local and in season as makes sense. From there, you have to charge your guests enough to cover all costs. If an item is too expensive and you charge too much, guests won’t return. If you don’t charge enough, you won’t pay the rent and staff. A Chef has to engineer a menu to deliver great food, worth coming back for and make his or her margins to stay in business.
5. What is the key to harmony and balance when creating a dish?
Pick the star item of the dish and everything else must play a supporting role. Complexity is developed by adding ingredients to make a dish exciting i.e.. Heat, texture, sweet, acid. But balance occurs when after engineering complexity, the star is still the star.
6. What is your favorite and least favorite cuisine to cook?
I’m most comfortable with French because that is how I was trained. As much as I love to eat Indian food, I’m not comfortable cooking it with authority because I wasn’t trained so I have to figure it out for myself.
7. What is your biggest kitchen disaster that a first time chef could possibly relate to?
Not being ready for service. Write down a timeline of what has to be accomplished by what time and keep checking on the staff. New Chefs often believe that if they want things done correctly, they must do it themselves and that is impossible in a professional kitchen. So invest in your team because they can rise you up or take you down, no matter how much you do.
8. The toughest part of your job?
The same thing that makes everyone’s job in all businesses tough- getting people to see what you see, think what you think, talk and act how you think they should. Inspiring people to be their absolute best is a complicated subject and certainly more effective than “managing" people.
9. What is your favorite dish on the menu at Black Barn?
Could be the Foie Gras Terrine, or the Pork Shank- no, the White Pizza, Bone Marrow and Beef Ribs- no the Burger! That’s like asking who is my favorite child!
10. If you could have one last meal what would it be?
My last meal will be eaten with a spoon. Not because I have no teeth but because the meat will be falling off the bone. There will definitely be a fair number of Black Truffles, a touch of cream and parmesan cheese and of course a bottle of Chateau Margaux.