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Photo by: Shannon DeCelle

Next Stop, Flavor
By Laura Leon

Caffe Pomo D’Oro
6 Depot St., West Stockbridge, Mass., (413) 232-4616. Serving daily 8 AM-3 PM through the summer season; call for fall-winter hours. Cash only.
Cuisine: American
Entrée price range: $5.75 (Pancalus or French Toast) to $8.95 (smoked trout sandwich)
Ambiance: the artful peasant
Clientele: locals in the know, New Yorkers without a clue

Not that long ago, the village of West Stockbridge was something you passed through, at 15 mph, while traveling between New York state and Stockbridge or Great Barrington. You would have been hard-pressed to imagine that, nearly 200 years ago, this was a busy railroad stop and home to several iron works. A few antiques shops and two local markets seemed to be about all the little village had left to offer the weary traveler, who therefore saw no reason not to keep going.

Things change, of course, and with the influx over the last quarter-century of city folk yearning for more open spaces in which to grow families and hone their creative talents, West Stockbridge has become sort of like a mini-Woodstock, minus the Birkenstocks and tie-dye. In addition to even more antiques and crafts stores, there are restaurants catering to the crowds that flock to the area, including Truc Orient Express, La Bruschetta, Rouge, and, located at the site of the old train station, Caffe Pomo D’Oro. Owner Scott Cole (whom some might recall from the Albany music scene of a dozen or so years ago) opened the place a decade ago, and it immediately caught on with a local and transplant clientele ready for a fresh spin on simple food.

It’s not hard to see why. Open for breakfast and lunch (no dinner, as there was in an earlier era), Pomo D’Oro has an easy charm and an informal, inviting ambience—indeed, a centerpiece of the room is a table laden with the day’s baked goods. Works by regional artists—when we visited, it was landscape painter Harry Orlyk—hang on walls the color of freshly churned cream. Various-size tables are arranged in the room, and there are several more small ones outside on the deck. It’s a homey, comfy place—if it’s not too crowded. This is not the ideal location to bring that party of 12, just in for parents’ weekend at a local camp. But more on that later.

Cole, who mans the stove, prepares simple food from fresh, usually local, ingredients. For a recent breakfast, we tried a little bit of everything: omelets made with three organic eggs and stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, red onion and creamy chevre; a fruit platter of melons, kiwis, bananas, grapes, berries and citrus that was as aesthetically appealing as it was downright tasty (the menu promises the freshest available fruit they can find); buttermilk pancakes with Ioka Valley Farms maple syrup, and outrageously good pastries like scones and croissants, served with creamy butter and savory jams. The eggs can come with either a side of toast and herb-roasted potatoes, or lightly dressed baby greens. The multigrain bread is a sturdy, pleasingly chewy raft for butter or cream cheese, but the potatoes were a bit bland, all herb and not enough butteriness. The greens, on the other hand, were lovely and delicious.

In the same week, we challenged the space constraints of Pomo D’Oro when our party of eight, including three children, stopped by for lunch. This is where the kitchen truly shines, serving up hearty—but not too hearty—sandwiches on hearty bread from Rock Hill Bakehouse with top-quality ham (including parma), turkey, salami, beef tenderloin and salmon, not to mention exquisitely grilled vegetables like portobello and eggplant. These are straightforward sandwiches on which the toppings, condiments, etc., are delicious but understated: They satisfy without overdoing it, and they don’t leave a mess all over your plate, your hands, or your lap. We also enjoyed the soup of the day, mushroom barley, which benefited from an obviously homemade, well-seasoned base. Salads featured mixes of fresh organic baby or field greens, dressed lightly, and came with the option of warmed chevre or, in the case of the insalata pera, Berkshire Blue cheese. Everything save the soup ($4 for a cup or $5.50 for a bowl) ranged between $6.50 and $8.95.

In addition to decent coffee, the cafe also features an interesting selection of Izze Natural Sodas (blackberry, clementine, pear, etc.), Wild Fruitz Spritzers (try the huckleberry!) and birch and root beers. The cooler refreshments were welcome when, on both visits, we had to wait for some time to be seated. And herein lies one of Caffe Pomo D’Oro’s few, but glaring, problems: There seemingly is no system in place for handling queuing people. Hoping in vain to be able to give our name and the number of our party to somebody—anybody—we instead watched as recently vacated and still-unbussed tables were snatched up by later-arriving parties. It’s sort of a Manhattan dog-eat-dog mentality transported to the bucolic Berkshires, and it proved so frustrating that some parties during both our visits ended up going home for “toast on the patio.”

The smallness of the space, something that can’t be helped, contributes to the frustration you feel when waiting to get somebody’s attention in order to let them know you’ve got, say, a party of five. Waiters hurtle past you, clearly annoyed at having to navigate your presence, and having been in the business, I can empathize. But without even a waiting list, and with impatient city folks literally pushing past you to seat themselves at an uncleared table, you’re disinclined to clear out of the way and wait outside, or walk around this very pleasant neighborhood, for fear you’ll never get seated.

I highly recommend Pomo D’Oro, which translates to “apple of gold,” for quiet, early-morning breakfasts, midday lunches for two to four, or luxurious mid-afternoon noshes of the cafe’s mouthwatering desserts, perhaps with a pot of tea or café au lait. Whatever annoyance you might feel from having been scolded by a waitress for standing too close to the door is forgotten in a mouthful of freshly baked peach pie, its filling redolent of lush summer ripeness, its pastry divinely moist and buttery. I can forgive a restaurant nearly everything, with hopes that it’ll work out before my next visit, for a taste this good.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

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What you're saying...

I 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.

Mary Kurtz
Castleton

First, 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 the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I 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!

Peggy Van Deloo
Schenectady

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale
Albany

Your 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..

Barry Uznitsky
Guilderland



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