I suspect that it is always a good time to visit the Berkshires. You start by reading Edith Wharton and an have an appreciation of Norman Rockwell--both are center stage up here. You then learn you can visit Van Gogh and meet Whistler's Mother. The icing on the cake of the summer is the cultural institutions--Tanglewood and Jacob's Pillow-- which offer music and dance respectively. The Berkshires is an area in Western Massachusetts dominated by a part of the Appalachian Trail range of mountains. Towns include Lenox, Becket, Great Barrington and West Stockbridge to name a few.
I've had the pleasure of visiting the Berkshires both in the winter and summer. Long a summer escape for Bostonians and New Yorkers, the area is teeming with cultural institutions, great restaurants and outdoor adventure. There are many guides to the area, so I will offer a mix of things to do that I've tried and thoroughly enjoyed:
Where to Eat More Than Once
- A former Brooklyn chef who chucked it all to settle his family in a more bucolic setting, runs this four star worthy kitchen. But the call of a restaurant done well, moved this former Marlow and Son's owner back to the kitchen. 178 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA, 413.528.5050
- Another former Brooklyn chef, by way of France, who opened his own eclectic French/American bistro. His wife Maggie is the host. 3 Center Street, West Stockbridge, MA, 413-232-4111
The Six Depot roasts their own coffee as well as serves a light menu of delicious sandwiches, salads and baked goods. The stop also offers a gallery space and ice cream shop. 6 Depot Street, West Stockbridge, MA, 413.232.0205
National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer owns this coffee shop, which also serves a gallery for his work. 2 Main Street, West Stockbridge, MA 413.232.7707
This little gem expands to twice it's size in the summer. Tucked in the Kemble Inn (which is going through a name change this fall), Table Six offers a prix fixe menu of local food in sophisticated plates. 2 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA 413.637.4113
For breakfast and lunch, two reliable spots in Lenox, MA are Spoon and the Haven bakery.
Expand Your Mind, Soothe Your Sou
Since fall is upon us, I will call out the year round options.
The Clark houses the collection of Sterling and Francine Clark. The Clark money dates back to his father's employment as patent attorney for the Singer Sewing Company. A wisely invested inheritance allowed the Clark son's to pursue their passions. Sterling's was art including a love of Winslow Homer and Renoir. Traveling collections this summer included Van Gogh and nature as well as Whistler's Mother, which is on display through September 27. The grounds and setting are beautiful to enjoy along with the art. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA, 413-458.2303
I wrote about Kripalu Yoga center after my visit last year. Click above to read about this idyllic spot in Lenox, MA
A manageable hike with a couple of routes up the mountain is a great way to get some exercise while exploring. There are several other hiking spots but this one offers gorgeous view plus some options depending on how fit you are feeling that day.
Some other thoughts:
The first time I was here I ran into Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself! The crew here make amazing breads, soups and pizzas. They are also experts on grain, and they offer scrupulous detail about their product ingredients.
Wine is usually my alcohol of choice, but the clean craftsmanship of BMDs Ice Glen Vodka has turned me into a believer. They also make sublime gin, rum and whiskey. Request them when you dine out at the Berkshires and stop at the distillery to pick some up for your liquor cabinet.
There is more, but we'd love to hear about your favorite spots.