The Berkshires—once a respite for the country’s elite during the Gilded Age—has evolved into a welcoming array of food artisans, bespoke shops and innovative restaurants. For our inaugural issue, we have revisited local classics, discovered can’t-miss events of the season and unearthed the newest generation of entrepreneurs who embody the culinary ingenuity and spirit of the region.
The Red Lion Inn gets cheeky this summer with a twist on a summer classic. Chef Brian Alberg’s Jowl, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich riff s on the traditional BLT with smoked pork jowl from Bacon on the Side, heirloom tomatoes from Farm Girl Farm and summer greens from Equinox Farm. Add homemade chips and you’ll be roaring for more. RedLionInn.com
Head to Lenox to indulge in a Macaron Gelato Sandwich, the latest creation of Joshua Needleman’s Chocolate Springs Café. This new twist on a French classic comes in pistachio, double chocolate or chocolate and vanilla, and is rolled in “crunchy pearls”—miniature chocolate-coated malted milk balls. ChocolateSprings.com
Batch number six may be your lucky number as Berkshire Mountain Distillers releases Ethereal, their latest limited-edition gin. BMD distiller and owner Chris Weld says his latest libation “starts with a soft, silken glow on your tongue—citrus forward—then finishes with a bouquet of berries,” and is quickly becoming a collector’s item to spirit aficionados. Look for the turquoise label and grab it while you can. BerkshireMountainDistillers.com
Allium Restaurant + Bar’s new Executive Chef Dan Hardy brings a fresh perspective and a taste of his Vietnamese heritage to the menu at this Great Barrington hotspot. “This is how the guest experiences really delicious food as it’s cooked with a lot of heart,” says co-owner Nancy Thomas. Be sure to sample Chef Hardy’s homage to Asian street fare—locally sourced grilled chicken and pork skewers with a rice noodle and vegetable salad and traditional nuoc cham dressing. AlliumBerkshires.com
NEW IN TOWN
At the epicenter of the Berkshires, Pittsfield continues to surprise with new openings that bring an international perspective to the local food culture.
If you can’t make it across the pond for the Summer Olympics in London, plan your own Anglophile feast with a visit to Brits ’R’ Us. The store features more than 150 authentic products including marmite, clotted cream and fiery ginger beer. BritsRUs.com
If a real brew is more your style, Ybar offers more than 50 beers, an ever-changing menu of small plates and a calendar of happenings ranging from poetry readings and art receptions to meet-the-brewer events. YBarPittsfield.com
The Monterey General Store gets a makeover courtesy of Chef/Proprietor Scott Cole. Bringing 19 years of experience from his successful Caffe Pomo d’Oro, Cole jumped at the chance to reinvent this classic location as well as expand his catering business. Expect to find a well-curated selection of pantry staples, fresh regional produce, meats and cheese, essential dry goods and a café serving breakfast, lunch and prepared dinners to go. Monterey-General-Store.com
The key to a perfect loaf of bread is in the proofing. Bake like a professional with Brød & Taylor. The proofing machine, conceived and invented in Williamstown, regulates temperature and optimizes humidity for an array of baked goods from sourdough to gluten-free. And since everybody loves a multi-tasker, the unit also tempers chocolate and makes yogurt. BrodAndTaylor.com
Who says that your guiltiest pleasure can’t also be packed with nutrition? Cookiehead whole-grain baked goods are the invention of Lisa Newmann, developed in her Cookiehead lab in Housatonic. Don’t be fooled by the sprouted spelt, flaxseed and wheat germ, these goodies will satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth. CookieheadCookies.com
Berkshire Organics, 813 Dalton Division Road, Dalton, is now serving up lunch Tu–Sa, 11–3pm, using the same, local fresh ingredients, they pack up for 250 members enrolled in their modified CSA program. Have Eric whip up a wonderful Taco Salad with your choice of a cold beverage, sit outside and watch the world go by.
Mark Firth & Bettina Schwartz, of Monterey and Brooklyn restaurant fame, will be opening Bell & Anchor at 178 Main Street, Great Barrington, formerly the Country Dining Room. They expect to open by the end of July this summer. The restaurant will be feature farm-totable cuisine, supplied by their own farm in Monterey. It doesn’t get more authentic than that. Thank you, Alice Waters!
Cricket Creek Farm of Williamstown has announced a change in its community- supported agriculture (CSA) membership share program. If you are a member and your Great-Aunt Bessie from Des Moines is coming to visit, because she kept promising and doesn’t know how many more chances she might have, and you know how a farm girl can pack it away, no problem. You can “take what you need” if your share is a full share—take extra eggs, cream, butter, meat, veggies, whatever is required to feed Bessie during her stay. The premise revolves around the concept that you may have a need one week and after Bessie’s stay, you may decide to accompany her home to Des Moines, so she gets home safe and sound, and maybe you can take a quick look at her house full of antiques. So while you’re away you won’t need your usual share that week, bon appétit! Cricket Creek Farm: 1255 Oblong Road, Williamstown, MA, 413 458-5888
MATTHEW WEXLER is a food, travel and lifestyle writer as well as a trained chef. He has previously written about the Berkshires for Passport Magazine and Edge Media Network. Matthew’s work has been seen in Hamptons Magazine, Hemispheres, Go Magazine, Rendezvous en France and Out There and online for The Daily Meal, offMetro, Endless Simmer and his own blog, roodeloo.com. Matthew contributed the chapter on Austrian wine for the American Sommelier Association’s forthcoming revised textbook and is currently writing and recipe testing the Good Commons food memoir, Uncommonly Good, where he also appears as a guest chef. Follow Matthew on Twitter at @roodeloo.