As the darkness and chill of winter pick up pace here in the Berkshires, it’s time to fire up the stove, cozy up with a warm drink and take pleasure in some soul-satisfying food.
Every person has a favorite dish – one that evokes childhood memories and good feelings of yesteryear. The area you grew up in, the family you came from and your relationship with food helps define these much-loved comforts.
Comfort food takes on a different spin depending on which part of the world you hail from. Classics such as apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken and tomato soup are ambassadors of comfort across the U.S. – the all-American foods that resonate for many.
Every region has its own cuisine to satisfy the most intense cravings. In the Berkshires, we celebrate winter with dishes prepared in a simple or traditional way offering immense satisfaction. Borrowing from other cultures while honoring our agricultural heritage, the flavors are endless in these New England hills. A Berkshire chef’s interpretation of comfort ranges from succulent pork dishes and savory smoked soups to deep-dish apple pie served with cream and everything in between.
Serving up an Austrian favorite that warms the soul with its simplicity, Gramercy Bistro in North Adams offers a classically prepared Veal Schnitzel a la Holstein served with Sunny Egg, Anchovies, Capers, Spaetzle and French Beans. For lighter comfort fare, the Pan-roasted Trout with Swiss Chard, Fingerling Potatoes and Fennel is an all-time favorite with guests.
At Chez Nous in Lee, the chef and pastry chef team keep the very popular stick-to-your Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine on the menu year-round. A more recent addition is Organic Scottish Salmon in Chowder Sauce – a reduced fish stock finished with a splash of cream, dry vermouth, and loads of leeks, celery and red potatoes – receiving great reviews from regulars.
Lit by candlelight, the quintessential Old Inn on the Green (circa 1760) in New Marlborough offers comfort at dinner with its Braised Lamb Shank served over Creamy Mushroom Polenta and Lamb Jus accompanied by Winter Vegetables. Double the comfort with a warm chocolate dessert – Warm Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding or Molten Chocolate Cake will satisfy most cravings.
Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington serves Brandade of Cod with Brioche Toasts, a hot spreadable delicacy using housemade salt cod soaked in milk and pureed with garlic, mashed potatoes, cream, salt and pepper. On the sweeter side of comfort, the Mexican Chocolate Custard, a cinnamon and jalapeno pepper-infused dark chocolate pudding is sweet, warming and spicy, perfect for sharing by the fire on a cold winter’s night.
The Meat Market, the nose-to-tail butcher shop and café in Great Barrington, offers daily lunches evoking memories of childhood from the aromas alone, with specials like Smoked Chicken and White Bean Soup and Roast Pork Loin with Housemade Bacon and Sauerkraut, and Grained Apple Mustard on a Sub Roll.
The casually elegant Castle Street Café in Great Barrington offers a hearty and substantial Rustic Cabbage Soup to warm up followed by Cassoulet of Lamb, a slowly cooked peasant dish made with braised lamb shank and garlic sausage. Cassoulet is the classic French casserole of white beans, sausage, and duck or lamb, an ideal dish at this time of year for slow food.
With a welcoming fireplace and a cozy, historic tavern, the landmark Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge is the epitome of comfort in the Berkshires. Their menu offers many classics including Chicken Pot Pie with Root Vegetables and Yankee Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Mushroom Gravy plus a delectable Indian Bread Pudding to top off any meal.
And, the list goes on. Comfort food comes in many shapes and styles, and here in the Berkshires we celebrate the diversity of our chefs who are serving up memories and good feelings all around. Come explore these hills and satisfy a winter craving as the snow flies. There’s a warm fire waiting for you.
North County EATS! Restaurant Week 2014 runs from January 26-February 1 and is a joint effort between the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, the North Adams Chamber of Commerce and the City of North Adams’ Office of Tourism and Community Events. Restaurants throughout north Berkshire will offer prix fixe menu options during the week on January 26-February 2, 2014. Become a fan on Facebook.
This article is the first in a series highlighting TasteBerkshires, a campaign aiming to reconnect people with the pleasures of taste in our region. A crossroads of culture, the Berkshires attracts chefs and restaurateurs who are, in no uncertain terms, artists in their own right. Many of our chefs cook seasonally and offer farm-to-table cuisine featuring fresh, local products. Throughout 2014, we’ll be featuring food that is grown, artisan products that are crafted and the regional cuisine that is cooked here with a spotlight on chefs, farmers and foodmakers who bring good taste to our table.
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