The Briary

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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.

Best reinvented motel in America?

Monday April 23, 2012

We’ve been all aquiver since The Smithsonian magazine declared Great Barrington to be number one on its list of the best small towns in America. Read about it here.

Among the reasons was the town’s cool mix of local focus ­– resistance to Walmart, commitment to locally grown produce – with big city savvy. This cocktail of small town charm and proximity to a major world city is exactly what attracted us to the Berkshires in general and to Great Barrington in particular.

But it wasn’t always thus. Oh no. In the 15 years during which we regularly visited the area from the UK, many locals told us of their memories of Great Barrington as a Hopperesque townscape with tough bars up and down Railroad Street. Before entering, customers were advised to punch themselves on the nose to save someone else the trouble. Considerate.

The sea-change came ten years or so ago when bibbed overalls gave way to Ray-Bans and fur headbands, as New Yorkers were drawn to the charm and easy two-plus hours commute. Over time this brought cooler stores, bars and restaurants, which happily have helped the focus on local. It’s also why we picked Great Barrington to launch our motel-to-hip-small-hotel idea at the Briarcliff. One year in and we’re also number #1 – in Great Barrington, on TripAdvisor – and we just racked up five ‘bubbles’ based on guest reviews. Making us the best hotel in the best town in America. Official.