Foxtown Diner, Shelburne Falls – Cheeseburger and potato chips
We took a brief roadtrip to the western portion of Massachusetts over the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day. Our daughter goes to college in North Adams, and she is graduating in just a few weeks, so we wanted to spend some time with her out there to see the places she has come to know before she likely says goodbye to them to begin a new adventure elsewhere.
Our first stop was in Shelburne Falls, and the first order of business was lunch at the Foxtown Diner. You could hardly get more small-town breakfast-and-lunch than this. The woman in the kitchen was cooking up huge pots of boiled corned beef and cabbage that no one was ordering, and the whole place had the gentle farty scent of cooking cabbage. A lady at a table in fron tof us ordered what she thought was a corned beef sandwich and was voluably disappointed. My cheeseburger was excellent other than being on a bulkie roll instead of a proper hambyrger bun. After lunch, we popped in and out of a couple of shops, bought a few things, and drove on to North Adams to do a car swap with the kid.
From North Adams we drove through Pittsfield to Lenox, where we had a room at a country inn for the two nights of the roadtrip. Lenox is a very popular summer tourist spot for exceedingly rich people, but in the depth of winter the hotel rates come down enough for mere mortals to afford lodging. The inn itself was sort of a corporate vision of what a country inn should be, but definitely better than the Marriott or the HoJoMoLo down the street. Once I had a chance to get in a little nap, we used Yelp to find a tapas place called Brava for dinner.
Brava, Lenox – olives and wine
Brava, Lenox – white anchovies with lemon and olive oil
Brava, Lenox – calamari with spicy remoulade
Brava, Lenox – gambas al ajillo
Brava, Lenox – prosciutto, Fontina and arugula pizza
Everything was good except the shrimp, which were not bad per se, but I have had much better elsewhere. The anchovies were especially good. Somehow I managed not to take a picture of the roasted Brussels sprouts. Charlotte ordered the pizza for herself and only ate a couple of slices. My glass of Rioja was perfect with the marinated olives.
Haven Cafe, Lenox – ham, tomato and cheddar omelet with home fries and salad
We started Friday with breakfast at Haven Cafe and Bakery. I was anticipating nothing more than coffee and a pastry, but they serve actual breakfast food and turned out this nicely folded omelet along with some home fries and a little pile of dressed lettuce. It was tasty and filling enough on top of the previous night’s dinner, that I felt no need for lunch later in the day.
We spent the morning at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. Bridget and I had been there one time many years ago, but not with Charlotte. They have some of his originals – the Four Freedoms paintings, the Ruby Bridges painting, and some others – as well as some original magazine covers and reproductions of all of his Saturday Evening Post covers. On our earlier visit, we were able to go into the little house that was his studio that now sits on the museum’s grounds, but it was closed for the winter on this visit.
Even though we weren’t hungry for lunch, we did drive into Stockbridge and have some mid-afternoon pie.
Tiffany’s Cafe, Stockbridge – chocolate cream pie
Made the short drive back to Lenox and took a guided tour of Ventfort Hall, a “summer cottage” mansion owned by the sister of J.P. Morgan, and now open as a museum of Gilded Age luxury. Though not as remarkably ostentatious as the “cottages” in Newport, RI, this is a large, stately home that sits next door to Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends its summers today. The tour guide was a lovely lady who was exceptionally knowledgable about the Morgans, the house, and the local history. The house passed through several sets of hands after the Morgans and was in disrepair and danger of being destroyed by a local developer, but the town rallied to save it and the restoration project is still ongoing.
Appropriately enough, we chose a place called Morgan’s Tavern in Lee for dinner, though I doubt they were the same set of Morgans. This place featured a “traditional” menu of old-fashioned stuff like meatloaf, turkey dinner, and pot roast alongside some burgers and a few other things.
Morgan’s Tavern, Lee – pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, broiled asparagus
Yum. Classic comfort food. I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish my dinner, considering everything else I ate that day, but I devoured this. Bridget had the turkey dinner (turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing). Charlotte ordered pasta bolognese and barely touched it. Lesson – do not order pasta bolognese in a place that specializes in pot roast and turkey dinner. Oh, and since it was St. Patrick’s Day, I was obliged to have a glass of Jameson’s.
The final food stop was Otto’s Kitchen in Pittsfield for breakfast on Saturday morning. It’s a place that Charlotte and her college friends like to go to for weekend breakfast, so she wanted to take us there. We arrived just ahead of the crowd and got a table before people had to start waiting.
Otto’s Kitchen, Pittsfield – “The Late Night” two eggs, bacon, English muffin, French toast
I went with another basic breakfast, though there were more elaborate choices available. Bridget and Charlotte both went with bowls that were combos of eggs, cheese, tater tots, and assorted veg. They were both well-pleased with their breakfast, and mine was good, but definitely basic.
We drove on to Williamstown to see the Clark Art Museum as the last stop before Bridget and I dropped Charlotte back at her dorm and headed home. None of us had the slightest clue that we found find such a treasure trove of Impressionist paintings – so many Renoirs, and also Manet, Monet, Pisarro, Degas, even an early Van Gogh. A world-class museum out in the middle of nowhere. Amazing.
To be candid with you, I had not really wanted to go on this road trip, but ended up enjoying myself a lot more than I expected. Every stop had something good, whether it was the food or the museums or the adorable little shops in Shelburne Falls. I think three days was just the right amount of time to hit the highlights, especially in March, when the weather in the Berkshires is still very much winter. We’ll be back out there in early May for Charlotte’s graduation and to help her haul all of her stuff back home, so there won’t be the time to see anything, so this trip was well worthwhile.