Berkshires Road Trip 3/16-3/18/23

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.

Vienna Pastries

Apple strudel

Cardinal cake

Dobos torte

Here are a few more photos from Vienna. Even though we weren’t allowed to eat inside restuarants thanks to having Covid, many of Vienna’s cafes have outdoor seating, and the weather was agreeable while we were there, so we did get to go to a couple of cafes.

You undoubtedly know apple strudel, and this was a very good example of one. The filling is not unbearably sweet, which was appreciated. When I was in cooking school we did strudel, and I know what a pain it is to get the dough right.

The cardinal cake was a delightful surprise. The cake itself is extremely light. It’s a combo of yellw and white cake. Then there is a thick layer of patisserie creme, and a layer of raspberry jam (the red color of which is how it gets its name), then a final layer of yellow cake on the bottom. On this particular one, the jam layer was not spread all the way across the cake, but that helped to make a nice pocket of jam in the slice.

Dobos torte is thin layers of cake interspersed with thin layers of chocolate ganache and topped with a layer of crispy caramel. Decadent does not bgin to describe it. I had this with a melange coffee — the Viennese specialty coffee that is basically cafe au lait topped with a helthy dollop of whipped cream. TBH, it was all a bit much, but that didn’t stop me from eating and drinking all of it.

Dinner 10/15/22

Cafe Ansari,Vienna

First night in Vienna. We didn’t really get any sleep on the plane, but we did crash for the afternoon once we got into our hotel room so we would have enough energy to go out to dinner.

Cafe Ansari is a Georgian restaurant,recommended to me by my friend who lives here. We’ve never had Georgian cuisine before, so it seemed like a good adventure. Our goal is to not just have schnitzel all week,but to try a bit of whatever Vienna has to offer. Tomorrow night we’re going to a traditional Viennese place that specializes in those sorts of dishes.

It’s a cool,wet evening,but there were people dining outside. Luckily we were sealed inside. The atmosphere was warm and friendly.

Baba ghannoush, purple carrot,and sweet potato with sheep cheese spreads

We started with khatchapuri, which is a soft pita style bread stuffed with cheese ,sort of like a Middle Eastern quesadilla. With that, we also had a trio of spreads – a baba ghannoush, sweet potato with sheep cheese, and a purple carrot hummus. They were all delicious, but the sweet potato one was the best of the three.

Broiled eggplant with administration paste and mango yogurt sauce

Bridget chose this eggplant dish. As a non meat eater, traditional Viennese cuisine is not her thing, so I was glad this place had entree choices that were up her alley.


I had chachapuli, which is a braise of lamb,with quince slices and served with a side of buttery mashed turnip. The fruit really cut the richness of the braised lamb,and it was perfect for an October evening.

Destination: Vienna

I wantd to mention that my wife and I are going to Vienna for a week. We’re leaving Friday night and will be back the following Saturday. We’ve got a food tour booked, and dinner reservations at a number of different restaurants, so please stop by to see all the adventures in one of the greatest foodie destinations in the world. I am very excited to be traveling internationally again. Hopefully we won’t get the ‘vid while we’re there!

Barcelona 3/20

Meringue-topped cupcakes

Hot chocolate and chocolate cake

These pictues from our Barcelona trip popped up in my feed today. The top photo are some astonishing cupcakes we saw in a pastry shop. We didn’t buy them, but they just looked sooo incredible.

The hot choclate and cake I had at the Museum of Chocolate. It’s that super-thick, just-melted European hot chocolate that you might do better to eat with a spoon than try to drink. I probably did not need to have the cake as well, but, hey, you only live once.

D.C. Photos 4/16-4/23/22

A few more photos from our DC trip a couple of weeks ago.

We ended up having dinner in the hotel bar a couple of times, and the food was actually pretty good. The crispy pork belly bao were great, as a matter of fact. The charcuterie board was nothing amazing, but it was our last night in DC, we were tired, and everything was tasty if unremarkable.

That same day, we also had lunch at Mikko, a little Scandinavian cafe that was a short walk from the hotel. From that website, I was sort of expecting a fancy European restuarant, but it was a small walk-in with a couple of tables inside and on the sidewalk. We sat outdoors, since it was a very nice day. I had the Skagen, an open-faced shrimp salad sandwich. We also shared a bowl of the mushroom soup. The soup thoroughly exceeded my expectations. It was a thick puree rather than a creamy or brothy soup, full of deep mushroom flavor and almost nothing else.

We had a hard time finding food tours in DC. I don’t know if the pandemic killed hem off, or if it’s just not a thing there. There were only a couple we could find online: one that took people through the U Street neighborhood and focused on the Black ethnic cuisines there (Ethiopian and Jamaican, mainly), and one in Georgetown. We opted for the Georgetown tour, though I am sure we would have enjoyed either. We met up at District Doughnut and then very briskly walked through the gorgeous neighborhood, stopping at several spots that were involved in JFK’s time there pre-presidency. We enjoyed an excellent falafel from Falafel Inc., had the meatloaf special at the famous Martin’s Tavern, and a creme brulee at a newer restaurant whose name I now forget. Overall, the tour did not live up to some of our previous food tour experiences, but it was nice to walk around the neighborhood and sample some local favorites.

Somehow, when I posted the photos from Albi last week, I managed to forget to include the dessert tray, so I have added it here. Tiny little bites of wonder to finish off such a memorable meal. The baklava was especially good.

Dinner 4/20/22

We spent last week in Washington DC, and the highlight of the trip was our dinner at Albi – a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant that features a wood oven that they use for grilling, charring, etc. Absolutely one of the best dining experiences we have had in a long time. I found the restaurant on Eater DC’s “Essential DC Restaurants” list, and they were not wrong.

We both agreed that the baba ghannoush was almost too pretty to eat. The eggplant was charred in the wood oven, and it was served with smoked cauliflower, pine nuts, and tiny pickled peppers. The accompanying pita came fresh from the oven, still all puffed up, and sprinkled with za’atar and parsley.

My favorite dish was the charred “sweet & sumac” bok choy, served with whipped feta, apricot honey, and peanuts. They also make this dish with sweet potato and had just switched to bok choy as a more season-appropriate ingredient. I like bok choy, but am more familiar with it in stir-fry and other Chinese preparations, but now I can’t wait to try charring some on the grill this summer.

The barbecued black bass was outstanding, but by the time the entree came to the table, we were very full from the other courses and only ate about half. The waiter was afraid we hadn’t liked it, but there was just no more room in our tummies.

Cocktail 6/12/21

Smoked Rye Manhattan

We spent a wonderful weekend in Portland, Main back in June 2021. We lived in Portland for several years in the early 1990s, and we still like to go up and visit once in a while. My wife had some travel points on a credit card to score us a cheap hotel room (because, let me tell you, there is no such thing as a cheap hotel room in Maine in the summer), and we hit up some old haunts. We also met up for dinner and drinks with our friends Tony and Sharon, who live nearby and ended up at The Independent Ice Company, a whiskey bar in the Old Port. Our original plan was to go somewhere else for dinner, but it was hard to get a reservation anywhere, so we parked our butts in the bar, ordered off their small food menu, and made an evening of it.

This is one of their signature cocktails, a smoke-infused Manhattan. I love a good Manhattan, and the smoke infusion sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. As you can see from the photo, they literally bring a bottle of wood smoke to your table and “pour” it into the drink. Looking at their online menu just now, I see that they say the wood is “Knob Creek American oak chips”, so oak chips that have been soaked in the same Knob Creek rye that the drink is made from.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the novelty, but I don’t know if it really added that much to the experience of having a Manhattan. What I like about Manhattans is the interplay between the spicy rye and the sweet red vermouth, and smoke is kind of an easily overwhelming flavor/aroma component. We had a secound round of drinks, and I did not order a second one, I just had a whiskey on the rocks.