The Briary

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Wednesday April 11, 2012

The Briarcliff Motel

It's a while since we posted, what with the motel being increasingly busy, plus renovation and building filling the spaces in between. Our contractor, bless him – his heart's in the right place but he's messier than a sulky teenager. So with such little time for blogging, why am I digressing? Old habits.

What I really wanted to talk about is culinary and agri-tourism, which are attracting increasing attention around here. And we're doing our bit – immersing ourselves in the fabulous farm to table food culture by eating and drinking as much as possible. All in the interests of research. The food is amazing and so are the people.

Matt, the blessed cheesemonger who owns Rubiners in Great Barrington, imparts passionate knowledge, acerbic wit and wedges of smelly heaven in equal proportions. He's the nicest guy as long as you don't ask him where he keeps the cans of squirty cheese. Through Matt we met Bjorn Somlo, chef owner of Nudel in Lenox and one of the most inventive young cooks anywhere. Bjorn is inspiring, he really is that guy who can take any old leftovers lurking in the corner of your fridge, and turn them into something incredible. We just went to a special beer'n'cheese evening, curated by Matt Rubiner with dishes created by Bjorn, and the food was totally amazing.

Then there's our pal Angela, who we met through another favourite restaurant, Allium in Great Barrington. Angela helps businesses in the farm to table movement 'get out there', because it impassions her. We told her a couple of guest stories: the guys from Brooklyn who came up to go ice-fishing. And the guest who foraged for mushrooms in the woods out back, which was quite 'normal' for someone brought up in the countryside of his native Russia.

This was what started us thinking about how city folk are decompressing by doing the things that country folk have done for centuries in order to stay alive: forage for their own food. Which is why we decided to participate in a series of mushroom foraging weekends during this and next month: If you'd like to learn how to find mushrooms somewhere other than your local supermarket, our package includes bed, breakfast (all home-made and our own small contribution to feeding people better) and one registration to the walk of your choice. Call us for more details.


A musical interlude…

Friday September 2, 2011

The Briarcliff Motel

The last violin string pings, the last tenor trills his last note, YoYo Ma grins his final, widest grin of the season, and the curtain falls on a blustery Tanglewood for 2011. The Berkshires heads for ten months of drowsy, musical slumber. Or does it?

Of course not! Or why blog about it? This area is rich in music year round with a ton of venues featuring talented local musicians and open mic nights. Local music will crop up often in our blogs, so here’s an introduction.

We discovered The Dreamaway over a decade ago – a place so remote that the owner, Daniel, makes a virtue of it not showing up on GDS systems. Choose your favorite legend about this funky old roadhouse: Marilyn Monroe visited/it used to be a flophouse/part of Bob Dylan's Renaldo and Clara was filmed here. Arlo Guthrie was in there last time we visited. My story is of going to their Wednesday open mic night, guitar in hand to join the tight circle of wannabees. First rule: keep it simple; second rule: don’t get drunk.

That night, a monopolistic 20-something was working his way through the Bruce Springsteen songbook and by the time my turn finally came I was in a whisky-induced stupor and went into an old blues song with a lot of chord changes. I realized half way through that I was singing and playing okay – just not at the same time. Through my whisky haze I figured I’d be okay if I brought the singing and playing back together by the end. I think I got away with it. Although whenever I turn up there now I feel like Kay in the closing scene of Godfather #1. You know, that moment when she peeps through the door and meets Michael’s gaze with the final realization that he’s a chip off the old block? The door shuts quietly in her face, leaving her, forever, on the outside. I know how you feel, love.

You can hang out with the drunken hopeless on Wednesdays at The Dreamaway or watch named local acts at the weekend.  

Elsewhere, my guitar teacher, Steve, is a Big Cheese local guitarist and plays all over the region. He’s one of those annoying types that can play many styles, but his band the BTUs (pictured) mixes up blues, jazz and funk. Catch them in Great Barrington at the Castle Street Café, the lively Gypsy Joynt and The Brick House Pub in Housatonic, where new owners are booking acts from further afield: upstate New York and New England.

Going north, The Red Lion Inn is a Berkshires landmark and its basement bar, The Lion’s Den, has long been a cozy winter haven for locals to eat meatloaf and watch blokes with beards strumming acoustic guitars. But we hear that they’ve been stepping it up lately and as it’s right on our doorstep, we’ll find out more and let you know what’s on offer during the fall.

Our final stop-off for today is The Mission in Pittsfield. This cool tapas bar mixes up Iberian wine, Spanish-inspired food and live music. Last Monday a quartet of enthusiastic kids cranked out some decent cool jazz. But come in expecting to give yourself over to the music – a quiet conversation will be out of the question.