Fresh Take on History
The Berkshires offer summer homes to New Yorkers, many
of whom also spend year-round weekends there. You’ll also
find some Bostonians. But add to the year-round identity a
large number of artists, creating an intellectual level that’s
undimmed even by the warm-weather population boom. Thus the
quirky dining identity, unsullied, as yet, by too many of
the chain and chainlike places.
You can’t recall the Stockbridge area’s eatery history without
naming Alice’s Restaurant (which actually was on the road
between Stockbridge and Great Barrington); less-famous, but
nevertheless beloved, was Miss Ruby’s Café in West Stockbridge,
a free-form mecca for summer people, artist types, you name
it. You’ve endured my reminiscences about my days in the business;
Miss Ruby’s was where my wife put in her formative kitchen
years, before moving on to the old Beverwyck in Albany.
learned to cook from a classically trained chef, a technique-based
approach; Susan’s training, from the immensely talented Ruth
Bronz, was more ingredient-based, and included a food philosophy
well in line with what’s associated with Alice Waters and
This digression is to set the stage for Susan’s encounter
with Mary Feuer at the Card Lake Inn in West Stockbridge.
Did Mary remember Miss Ruby’s? Of course she did—and the women
set off on a reminiscence spree.
Feuer and her husband, Robert, joined forces with three others
to buy this place last year. They offer seven rooms in addition
to the dining, and they’re members of the Berkshire Grown
consortium that encourages members to buy locally grown ingredients.
With such a philosophy, I don’t think you can have anything
but a splendid restaurant. And what this restaurant also exemplifies
is the comfortable notion that fine dining need not be restricted
to a room decked out with fancy linens. As you enter, you’re
in the tavern, with a bar to your left and a scattering of
tables there and to the right. Also to the right is a stage
occupied by musicians when performances are scheduled (live
jazz takes place on Friday and Saturday nights, for example).
Through a set of doors you’ll find the main dining room, but
even here the feel is casual, almost rustic. A handsome display
of paintings covers the walls; antique furniture sets off
the corners of the room. Beyond this room is an outdoor, but
Choose your meal from one of the two single-page menus. Tavern
fare includes baby-back ribs ($16, half-rack for $8), burgers
(turkey or Angus beef, $10), a trio of crab cakes ($13), and
even those ubiquitous, anatomically dubious chicken tenders
The caprese salad ($9, also available as an appetizer) pairs
tomato slices (isn’t it a treat to be getting the real thing
again?) with fresh mozzarella and basil slices, tossed in
a light mix of oil and vinegar. Great flavors to kick off
Which brings us to the dinner menu. Five appetizers, a couple
of pasta dishes, and four entrees, abetted by daily specials.
One of which was coconut shrimp ($8), that odd combo of fried,
sweetened seafood. The bed of greens on which it (and other
dishes) appeared told you much about this place: a mixture
of fresh baby lettuce leaves, as good in its own way as that
which it accompanied. And the shrimp was tasty, as expected,
with a wasabi-spiked sauce in case you desire that extra fat
content to prolong the lingering flavor.
New England clam chowder (or “chowdah,” as the menu styles
it) is $4 or $2, so we opted for the former to allow the brew
to circulate around the table. Not as sauce-thick or seafood-crammed
as I expected, it still boasted a heady freshness of flavor
only cream can impart.
Those aforementioned greens show up again in the house salads
that precede most entrees, with the addition of homemade croutons
and a splendid basil vinaigrette.
Co-owner Liz Waldman is the chef, and she has won my undying
admiration for stuffing ravioli with broccoli rabe. What a
brilliant idea! I can speed through mounds of the stuff when
it’s lightly sautéed with plenty of garlic: to turn it into
a creamy filling gives it a whole new dimension. As an entrée
($15), the pasta is served with a tomato-cream sauce that
I found too distracting; a little garlic oil would have sufficed.
Susan, naturally, disagreed, and found the whole shebang entirely
to her liking.
We also sampled an entrée of lemon-caper chicken ($17), in
which a split breast is egg-battered and sautéed, then served
with a saute of artichoke hearts and tomatoes. And not presented
over pasta, which can be a relief. The sides of rice pilaf
and sautéed squash were just right.
Because I learned to cook in the classic French style, I have
drowned many an entrée in a succession of too-rich sauces.
I’m trying to move away from that, and Waldman’s swordfish
special ($17) showed an alternative. The fish itself had a
perfect, still-tender doneness, and was topped with a salsa
made with blueberry and peach. This allowed the fish a much
greater identity on the palate, and I hope to see more of
Peaches and raspberries starred in a dessert pie ($5), a fairly
unremarkable compote that nevertheless ended the meal with
The building started its life as a stagecoach stop, and has
always offered food through the years. For us, it was a stopping
point on a trip to Boston, and I see it beckoning with the
months of Tanglewood ahead.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
of the best in-state summer trips is a tour of
the Finger Lakes wine country, where you can set
up in a bed and breakfast and travel the length
of the lakes. Add another stop to your journey
by visiting the New York Wine and Culinary
Center in Canandaigua (right on the lake,
in fact). This newly opened facility features
a training kitchen, a 44-seat demonstration theater,
and a tasting room featuring the best of the state’s
wine. There is also the Taste of New York Lounge,
where you can pair food and wine samples, an outdoor
orchard and vineyard, an exhibit hall with interactive
displays and a retail center. It’s located at
800 South Main St., phone (585) 394-7070. . .
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..