Nestled at the base of beautiful Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, New York, Blue Stone Bar & Grill is a glowing beacon for the culinary traveler. In the local Native American folklore, it is believed that Ithaca (which sits at the southernmost tip of the Finger Lakes) was the last place that the Great Spirit touched the earth as it was hurled out into the galaxy. With 13 waterfalls and five state parks, it is certainly a wonderland of beauty and one that I highly recommend for a visit.
Anchoring the bustling restaurant row on Ithaca’s Aurora Street, Chef Doug Gruen has created a wonderful atmosphere. Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America and armed with the experience of cooking at some of New York City’s finest 4-star restaurants, he swung open the doors in 2005 and has never looked back. After spending the better part of a day working up an appetite on the Finger Lakes wine trail, we journeyed into downtown Ithaca, moseyed across The Commons and into Blue Stone Bar & Grill. As a result of a glowing recommendation from one of my epicurean peers, my expectations were rather high.
Entering Blue Stone is akin to returning home. You are welcomed by a friendly staff, a warm and tastefully designed décor and the centerpiece from which its namesake is derived, a beautiful blue-stone bar. We started off our gastronomic extravaganza with their Infused Margarita (made with their own pineapple, mango and jalapeno infused tequila) and one of the best Classic Mojito’s in memory. To keep our drinks company we eagerly dove into a couple of the tasty sounding appetizers. The Beggar’s Purse (Brie, pistachios and sun-dried cranberries baked in a puff pastry and served over a cranberry ginger-orange glaze) and the Scallops wrapped in Bacon (served with a spicy green goddess dressing), were a delicious start and one that would only lead to more decadence.
To prepare us for the entrée portion of the meal, we uncorked a beautiful Hermann J. Wiemer Riesling, a local selection which was the perfect accompaniment to the Jamaican Jerk Catfish (seared jerk-rubbed catfish with cilantro-lime salsa, served with sweet potato hash, wilted spinach and fried ripe plantains). It was at about this time that the innovative prowess Head Chef and owner Doug Gruen started to become apparent. The next masterpiece to land on our plate was the Lobster Crab Ravioli (simmered in a tomato-fennel-leek cream sauce with langoustines). Expertly executed this was just one more thing that will assure a return visit in the near future. Blue Stone’s menu provides a wonderful selection of highly-inspired and seasonally coherent dishes ranging from the more casual grilled pizzas and burgers, to the delights residing in the deeper end of the pool. Although, the incredible selection of desserts was a bit more than we could handle on this visit, I feel confident that they will play a starring role upon our return.
From gourmet entrees, to a mixologist-inspired drink menu, Blue Stone is more than just a restaurant—it’s a lifestyle. As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time dining, this is the type of place that I would like to call home. Excellence without pretentiousness, top-notch service, expertly prepared cuisine with a comfort-food quality and best of all—smiles on everybody’s faces. A real winner!