With an abundance of local and organic farms, specialty crafted foods, microbreweries, distillers, and with so many restaurants taking pride in sourcing food locally, dining has always been a peak experience in the Berkshires. As awareness for localvore dining grows, the Berkshires’ star can only shine brighter. Ironically, just as the cobbler’s children have no shoes, so it is that many of the Berkshires’ best restaurants are often out of range for many who live here year round. The heaviest season for tourists – the king of seasons – is of course summer – and it’s relentless too. It doesn’t really slow down until November. By January we’re well hunkered in for winter – the thronging crush of summer crowds a cold dim memory. As the temperatures drop and we wait out the sluggish winter season indoors, something subtle and kind of special happens here. With travelers gone, many restaurants turn their attention to serving their local, home town crowd. So if you are looking for a “real” Berkshire experience this is a great time to come and visit!
Hops and Vines Beer Garden and Brasserie in Williamstown, Alta in Lenox, and Rouge of West Stockbridge are all offering monthly wine tasting dinners. The January 24th, 4-course wine tasting dinner at Hops and Vines Beer Garden and Brasserie at $59 per person featured Spanish food and wine. I sat with a small crowd of 15 people or so in a toasty warm room, aglow with convivial company, excellent food and wine – all made even better by Hops and Vines’ amiable and informative wine steward Dominic Fera. Executive chef Robert Beuth and chef partner Megan Beuth did a great job. The final course of mignardise (bite sized deserts) were so delicious and charmingly plated they brought applause.
It is such a luxury to eat well, in peace, with good company, and in good cheer. And its so simple, often educational, and like a great massage, totally worth it.
Many restaurants also offer fixed price menus in the winter months, some like Mill on the Flossin New Ashford have extended the fixed price menu into the summer season as well. John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant in South Egremont has worked with more than 30 local farms since opening in 1990. Chef and owner Dan Smith offers a fixed price special and lively menu every week that features one area farm and its bounty. For local, seasonal food, its hard to beat at $30 per person. Or what about the $5.00 burger deal at Firefly?? If you love to cook and want to splurge, treat yourself to an entire weekend of gastronomic delights with a Culinary Retreat Weekend at the Gateways Inn in Lenox. They offer options with and without lodging.
Restaurants here are some of the best and great food is part of our Berkshire cultural heritage. So as cabin-fever peaks, emerge from this dark slow season, step out, be festive. Celebrate another winter! And take advantage of some of the Berkshires’ best offerings.