The Briary

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For we are jolly good fellers

Sunday April 7, 2013

The Briarcliff Motel

 After almost two years, we’ve finally got the chance to do something about the landscaping.

If you’ve stayed with us, you’ll know that Clare has hated the out-of-context-landscaping in front of the motel since the day we first drove up with our realtor to view the property. You may even have heard her early morning tirade – a bit like Muttley out of Wacky Races: ‘Rassin’ frassin’ bushes-ugly-landscaping’.

Sorry if it disturbed the peace of your breakfast.

Those strange, pointy shrubs (around 100 of them) divided local opinion somewhat. One local luminary told us that we shouldn’t touch them because they were ‘iconic’. Or she might have said ‘ironic’, we didn’t quite catch it. But it doesn’t matter, because they’re neither. Another told us that her sister felt so connected to those shrubs that she genuinely believed that her life force depended on them. Hmmm.

Well our patience finally ran out, and on Wednesday our pal Paul (who farms a beautiful corner of Alford, on the other side of Monument Mountain) drove the nine miles to the motel on his tractor. He got here in 45 minutes, which we thought was quite good. He popped up the shrubs in no time and by the end of the day it was as though they’d never been there.

Things are a bit barer for now but we hope that the new look will take shape quickly: it’ll be more connected to the mountain, more in keeping with the interior, with more and better outdoor seating and a fire pit to congregate around on chilly evenings. And importantly for us, it will make it clearer from the road that this isn’t just your usual run-of-the-mill motel. We hope you’ll all be as patient with our work-in-progress as you were when we were building our guest space last year. It’ll be worth it, we promise.

Local reaction was immediate. It looked as though the UPS guy was going to crash his truck as he sped down the driveway, his head on a swivel: ‘So you guys are taking out those bushes?’ ‘Yep.’  ‘Every one?’ ‘Every LAST one.’ ‘Good for you, I never liked them.’ Later in the day, we got a call from someone who introduced themself as a neighbor: ‘I see you’re having a big fire.’ Uh-oh. Here comes the complaint about smoke. ‘Yes, we’ve pulled out all the bushes from the front.’ ‘I just wanted to say well done. I hated those things.’

As yet, we haven’t heard from the sister whose life force is connected to the bushes.


Saturday March 16, 2013

The Briarcliff Motel

Blimey, it has to be a big deal if we’re doing a blog entry about it. I mean, for a couple of people who used to write for a living, we’re not exactly prolific are we? But we’re well into the local food scene and this is a REALLY BIG DEAL. Maybe you’ve heard of Outstanding In The Field – a mission to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honour the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it. Last year the event came to the Berkshires for the first time (tickets sold out in four hours), tipping its cap at some of the gifted chefs and outstanding produce to be found in this region. Briarcliffers who attended were rapturous about the whole experience. This year, amazingly, there are two Berkshires events on consecutive nights. Sunday 8 September sees beardie-biker-geezer and ubiquitous standard-bearer for Berkshires cuisine, Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn, wielding the melon-baller at Hancock Shaker Village. The previous night, Saturday 7 September, Dan Smith, owner-chef at terrific local restaurant John Andrews will take his corn peeler (we know all the technical terms) to Lila Berle’s farm just outside Great Barrington. We haven’t met Lila, but are on first name terms with a number of the family cows – they yield the wonderful local yogurt we serve at the motel – and they told us that this location has the best view in the Berkshires. No really. They also whispered in our ears that tickets will be available from Wednesday 20 March – and they’ll be red hot.

PS Stay posted for another great foodie event, this one in April, as chefs from Hudson, NY and the Berkshires swap kitchens for an evening - giving us all the chance to try a new place, without paying out on gas. Sweet!

PPS The Saturday date sold out in 20 minutes... but there are still some tix left for the Sunday night.

OITF image by John Dolan.