Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Bite of the Berkshires

It’s like coming home again when I step into the entrance hall of the Rookwood Inn, a Victorian “Painted Lady” Bed & Breakfast in the heart of Lenox, Massachusetts. Fresh baked cookies and pink lemonade await me in the dining room.  I let out a sign of content.  It’s been too long. 
I first stayed at the Rookwood Inn in 1995, and kept returning each summer year after year.  But, eventually, various issues and commitments got in the way.  The Berkshires is a cultural mecca for theater, music, art and dance, once a retreat for literary luminaries like Edith Wharton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, William Cullen Bryant and Henry James.   Perhaps it’s the spirit of those writers that continues to invite me back.
My friend Amy Lindner-Lesser is innkeeper and proprietor of the Rookwood Inn.  In 1996, she and her late husband Steve purchased the inn.  Steve developed many of the recipes served at breakfast.  There’s always a lovely selection of stratas, frittatas, fruits and breakfast casseroles.  I’ve come to expect a warm and delicious, satisfying breakfast with plenty of strong coffee and good conversation, accented with a touch of classical music. 
In 2011, Amy published "The Rookwood Inn's Guide to Devouring the Berkshires -- One Cultural Bite at a Time."  The book contains many of the recipes served at the Rookwood Inn, and provides fascinating anecdotes on local cultural attractions. On this weekend – when independence is on the minds of visitors – the tables are decorated with American flags, and the breakfast offerings take on a patriotic flavor.
There’s a trifle of fruit, granola and yogurt and an oatmeal breakfast pie studded with blueberries and drizzled with maple syrup.
Every day in Lenox is filled adventures historic, literary and culinary.   I’m thrilled that my favorite antiques store, Coffman’s Antiques now has a new life in a store right in Lenox, and I marvel at the lovely arrangements of country artifacts. A selection of Shaker whiskbrooms, children’s play shovels and antique eggbeaters catches my eye.
At the Alta Wine Bar, I feast on salmon topped with olive tapenade.
I return to Charles Baldwin Extracts where I always buy my vanilla extract.  Charles Baldwin has been making vanilla extract on the premises for 125 years.

At the Mount, the home of Pulitzer Prize winning author Edith Wharton, I stroll through the formal gardens hoping to connect with the literary ghosts of Lily Bart, or Ethan Frome.  

Edith's dining room is the ultimate in Gilded Age elegance:
A number of wine bars have opened in Lenox, where a fantastic selection of vintages and small plates are available. At Brava Wine Bar, I sample of flight of crisp and crackling whites:
And, dine on lamb meatballs and roasted Brussels sprouts with Bacon:

The bartender Johnny convinces me that a couple of scoops of strawberry rhubarb sorbet would match beautifully with a bubbly Prosecco!  He is spot on.  
The Rookwood Inn is a short walk to Tanglewood, where violinist Joshua Bell leads an all Tchaikovsky program.  Many picnic on the lawn throughout the midsummer night evening.  
At the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, there is a charming culinary garden, and an exhibit on re-imagining the potting shed.
I can’t resist a return visit to Brava, where I dine on roasted beet salad and luscious steak and bacon sliders.  

Once again, Johnny makes a case that dessert is not optional, so I finish with Blueberry Pound Cake with Strawberry Trifle.
Before checking out, there is one more leisurely breakfast at the Rookwood Inn, featuring another red, white and blue fruit and yogurt trifle and a hearty spinach strata. 
Perhaps an autumn visit to the Berkshires is in order?
©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Deana Sidney said...

It's hard to believe it's going on 20 years since I shot a movie in Lenox. I remember being warned that such an upscale community would be unwelcoming to film folk –– it couldn't be further from the truth. Everyone showed such generosity and kindness I was bowled over.

Because we worked like dogs most of the week I didn't get out much but every Sunday a group of us would go to Wheatleigh for brunch. There we spent like drunken sailors and were treated like kings. It was the highlight of every grueling week.

You remind me I must go back again! Great piece.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I could take a summer night on the lawn listening to Tchaikovsky. Sounds very relaxing and what summer is really all about. What a great place to stay and the food looked magnificent, especially the fruit trifle. Thanks for taking us along TW. It's been much too long since we've been up that way.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

We're headed to the Berkshires next week. Thanks for the heads-up on some new wine bars to try. And yes, Baldwin is a must-stop for us every year. Best vanilla extract anywhere.

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Sunday T.W.

What a lovely stroll through the Berkshires, T.W. I am in awe of Edith Wharton's magnificent estate. Oh the stories those walls could tell:) The gardens must be lovely.

Each and every meal looks fabulous and I like that the bar tender nudged you into dessert. Good choice:)

Happy Friendship Day, T.W. Thanks for taking us along...

Gloria Baker said...

what lovely and beauty post T.W. I love the pictures, thanks by sharing this with us, gloria

Catherine said...

Well, T.W. I think that you should be re energized and well rested after that beautiful stroll from an elegant journey through time. It certainly is a beautiful vacation. The food and the scenery are just lovely.
Blessings, Catherin e

laura luciano said...

What a delicious visit! The lamb meatballs and Brussels sprouts look really yummy.

Axelle the french cook said...

A beautiful "saut dans le temps", as we say in french (to jump into the past ?). I do love the old whisk !
And all the dishes gave me water in mouth. Thank you for this trip, T.W.

Velva said...

Absolutely delightful! What a great way to getaway. Loved the photo journey. Thanks for sharing.


Sophies foodie files said...

What a fabulous & very interesting post!

Thanks for sharing your views & lovely pics of this beautiful place! What a fabulous get away indeed! :)

Beautiful too! I learned a lot here!