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February 27

Chef Chat: Interview with Serge Madikians with Flavor Matters

I sat down to write about all the things we have been working on in the kitchen like new menus, James Beard dinners, the Boston Globe Travel Show, WWLP News segments but then I thought WAIT!
I had such a fortunate opportunity to be interviewed on Robin Hood Radio by a local chef  that I admire and respect, at the smallest NPR station in the country! After all was said and done, I listened to the interview I found that it really talked about my beliefs and views as a chef. I thought that anyone that was interested in my blog would enjoy that background and candor that this interview gives…plus it saved me from sitting at my laptop for a little bit!
Hope you enjoy,
Later B
Click here to listen to segment #1
Click here to listen to segment #2
Click here to listen to segment #3
For more information on Robin Hood Radio (really is the smallest NPR station!) click below:
whddrobinhoodblog
January 24

The Red Lion Inn’s Apple Pie

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Red Lion Inn Apple Pie
President Calvin Coolidge said he never ate anything half as good as the pork apple pies his stepmother made.  One hopes he and Mrs. Coolidge tried the Red Lion Inn apple pie on one of their visits.  We bet it’s every bit as good as his Mom’s.
Red Lion Inn owner Nancy Fitzpatrick shares the origins of our apple pie recipe:
“The recipe is based on my grandmother, Mary Pratt’s apple pie, and was the pie my mother (occasionally, for company) made when I was growing up. I remember hearing that when we first opened, Nana May (as we called her), went out to the kitchen and showed the chef how she made her pie. She was a wonderful cook. There was always dessert at her house. My grandfather had a huge vegetable garden that she made great use of.”
Recipe:
5 pounds McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
(if McIntosh are not available, substitute another tart apple such as Cortland)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Crust for a two-crust pie (recipe follows)
 1 tablespoon butter
 1 egg
 1 tablespoon milk
1. Preheat the oven to 375º.
2. Place the apples in a large bowl. Combine 1 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon, and add to the apples. Toss until well mixed.
3. Fill the unbaked pie shell with the apple mixture, and dot with the butter. Fit the top crust over the filling, and crimp the top and bottom edges together to seal the apples in.
4. Whisk together the egg and the milk. Brush the top crust with this egg wash, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.  Pierce the top crust in several places with a sharp knife.
5. Bake at 375º for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the apples are tender when tested with a thin knife.
Yields 1 pie.
Pie Crust for Two-Crust Pie
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup shortening
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk, cold

1. Blend the butter and shortening together with a wooden spoon in a small bowl.
2. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening, using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the cold milk, and blend until absorbed. Divid the dough in half and roll each half into a ball. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. (Or, if using a food processor, place the butter, shortening, flour, and salt in the bowl; fit with a steel blade. Process until the mixture reaches the consistency of cornmeal. With the processor on, add the milk slowly through the funnel until the dough forms a ball.)
3. When you are ready to bake the pie, roll each half of the chilled pie dough out on a floured board until it is slightly larger than the pie plate. Fit one half into the pie plate, place a filling inside, add the top crust, and flute the edges together.

Yields 2 crusts.

(From The Red Lion Inn cookbook)
January 11

Recipe: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Corn Whiskey & Fire Cider Hot Toddy

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Corn Whiskey & Fire Cider Hot Toddy
Recipe by Red Lion Inn Sommelier Dan Thomas

Recipe makes one Hot Toddy

 1 ½ oz Berkshire Mountain Distillers Corn Whiskey
½ oz Shire City Herbal Fire Cider 
1 tsp Local Honey
1 oz Local Apple Cider
6 oz Spiced Toddy Water

 To make “Spiced Toddy Water”

Combine in a French press or teapot: Hot Water, Orange Slices, 1 Cinnamon Stick, 6 Cloves. Allow to Steep for 10 minutes.
Combine First 4 ingredients in a mug and fill with “Spiced Toddy Water.” Enjoy.

Perfect for National Hot Toddy Day (January 11) or any time of the year!

 

 

January 10

Alberg Rants…about comfort food

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Ahhhhh… quiet time
! The moment when we finally catch a break from the constant slam of holiday visitors and get a chance to relax and evaluate what just happened. We plan how to make the next rush a little bit smoother, which dishes can be tweaked to taste a little better and how we can improve the guest experience more.

Nothing helps to stimulate thoughts more than the feeling of comfort. And at this time of year, easy comfort comes in the form of food — the aromas and tastes of long-cooking stews and braises simmering for hours, sipping aromatic libations with spice and citrus.

My childhood memories involve my mom starting the crock-pot at 7 am (just before booting me out in the cold to catch the school bus), and filling it with chicken, thyme and root vegetables from the cellar – a hodgepodge of color and texture.

Flash ahead 8 hours to running in the door — always through the kitchen — and catching the aromatics of chicken stock and thyme. I remember the anticipation of opening the cover to see the result of the morning’s ingredients and with every inhale of those delicious smells, I felt a moment of relaxed anticipation.

The coolest thing about being a latchkey kid was having first dibs on the crock-pot creation. Whether potpie, venison stew or beef chili, the smell and taste always warmed me inside.

Although I don’t use a crock-pot in the kitchen at the Red Lion Inn, the cooking technique is similar. We use great, fresh ingredients and cook them long and slow, a method that affords us to make lesser cuts of protein sing more loudly with time. Looking to get into the comfort food mood this winter? Take a look at our new prix-fixe Winter Warming Menu.

Check out our recipe for Chicken Pot Pie, one of my favorite childhood food memories. Enjoy!

Later,
B

December 5

In Memory: Jane Pratt Fitzpatrick, Founder of Country Curtains & Former owner of The Red Lion Inn

Jane Pratt Fitzpatrick, founder of Country Curtains and long time owner of The Red Lion Inn, died peacefully at her home
on Prospect Hill in Stockbridge on November 9th, ten days short of her 90th birthday.

Nancy Fitzpatrick, Jane Fitzpatrick, Sarah Eustis

She was born on November 18, 1923 in Shrewsbury, Vermont the daughter of Mary Townsend Pratt and Mayflower descendant, Carl Arthur Pratt. Hers was the last of several generations born on the Pratt family farm, a heritage that resonated proudly throughout her life. She attended a one-room schoolhouse for eight years and was the sole member of her class for seven of those years. Jane flourished at Rutland High School, where she met her future husband, John H. Fitzpatrick. Their first date was on her 15th birthday. Her competence and leadership abilities were evident early. She was the president of her senior class and at graduation she was elected “Most Likely to Succeed” as well as “Most Attractive”. She opted not to go to college and plunged into the workplace. Supporting herself from the age of 17, she soon became department supervisor of an Army Navy supply depot in Hartford, Connecticut.

She and Jack Fitzpatrick were married on September 7, 1944 at the Little Church Around the Corner in New York City.  Shortly after, Jack departed for a 20-month tour in Germany with the 102nd Infantry Division. After his return, they lived in Middlebury, Vermont and Brighton, Massachusetts as Jack completed his education.  Four moves later, the couple and their two daughters settled in Stockbridge, when Jack became manager of the Lincoln Stores in Pittsfield.

They moved into a large house on Main Street in November 1957, bringing with them their fledging home business, Country Curtains. Started two years prior in Whitman, MA, Jane handled every aspect of the mail order business, from opening the mail to wrapping packages and drawing ad illustrations. In Stockbridge, the tiny enterprise moved out of Jane’s dining room into its own one-room quarters.

Jane Fitzpatrick Photo

Soon after their arrival, the couple threw themselves into town activities and started a ski program for school children. In 1960, leaving a growing Country Curtains in the hands of Jane’s sister, Zoa, the family went to Europe for a year. While their daughters were in school in Switzerland, Jane and Jack criss-crossed the continent, giving Jane lots of ideas for curtains as well as hotel guest experiences that she would later put to good use. Back in the Berkshires, the robust growth of Country Curtains enabled them to pursue their business full-time.

In late 1968, they purchased the shuttered, seasonal Red Lion Inn, opening its doors year-round and making it the new home of Country Curtains. In 1980, they purchased Blantyre in Lenox, and transformed the former Berkshire cottage into an intimate country house resort that is on most lists of top lodging properties in the US. Jane’s eye for detail, her quest for excellence and her intuitive leadership style inspired admiration and respect. A formidable boss, “Mrs. Fitz” (as she was known to her employees) was as generous as she was demanding.

Jane became very active with local arts organizations in the 1970s and beyond.  She was determined to save the struggling Berkshire Theatre Festival. Her passion and grit were instrumental in making that happen. She was the BTF board chair for 22 years, and until her death, topped its masthead as honorary chair. She began a long tenure with Tanglewood and the Boston Symphony as Overseer, Trustee and Life Trustee. She served on the Buildings and Grounds Committee during the planning and construction of Ozawa Hall, and formed a close friendship with Seiji Ozawa, who called her mama-san.

The Norman Rockwell Museum counts Fitzpatrick as one of its founding board members and lead donors. She and Jack were not only friends of Norman Rockwell but models and later, collectors. The Fitzpatrick name can be found on walls from the Berkshire Botanical Garden to Berkshire Country Day School, The Colonial Theatre and MASS MoCA to name a few. Other boards she served include the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and the Austen Riggs Center. Through the High Meadow Foundation, their businesses and personally, Jane and Jack made leadership philanthropic investments in the Berkshires’ cultural life. ­

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The Fitzpatricks loved to travel. Jane and her sisters, Zoa and Mary Ann, took an annual bus tour for many years. She and Jack enjoyed repeated trips to Europe, several on tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Later, Lismore in Ireland became a cherished destination. While most of her time was occupied by business and community endeavors, Jane loved to shop for antiques and was a welcome regular at Berkshire auctions. She was also an avid reader, and had been looking forward to being Honorary Chair of the Stockbridge Library’s upcoming capital campaign.

She was awarded four honorary doctorates, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, North Adams State College (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts), American International College and Westfield State College. Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick were leaders in Republican politics. Jane was a force in Jack’s campaigns for Massachusetts State Senator. It has been said that when Jack decided to run, Jane decided to win. And he did, serving the First District in the State Senate from 1973 to 1980. They enjoyed attending several White House receptions for Republican donors.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick served on the Massachusetts Cultural Council and was the recipient of its first Commonwealth Award in 1993, honoring her as a patron of the arts and humanities. From 1998 to 2001, she was recognized in Working Woman magazine as CEO and Chair of one of the top 500 women-owned companies in the U.S. Among many awards she and Jack received together was the 1997 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for New England. In August 2010, Stockbridge celebrated Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick Day and dedicated the green next to The Red Lion Inn in their honor. She remained Chairman of Country Curtains until her death, taking great pride in its successful catalog, website and 26 stores.

In spite of declining health, she remained full of sparkle and joie de vivre. She was often seen at The Red Lion Inn where she enjoyed chatting with guests, friends and neighbors. With her snow-white hair, striking blue eyes and pink sweaters, it was not unusual for a total stranger to be struck by her beauty– and tell her! In recent years she became known for an upbeat toast of unknown origin:

Here’s to it and to it again,

If you ever get to it to do it and don’t do it,

You’ll never get to it to do it again.

Her husband of 66 years died on July 23, 2011. She leaves behind an adoring and grateful family: her sister Mary Ann Snyder of Largo FL, two daughters Nancy Jane Fitzpatrick (and husband Lincoln Russell) and Ann Fitzpatrick Brown, both of Stockbridge; two grandsons, Casey Meade Rothstein-Fitzpatrick and Alexander John Fitzpatrick Brown, and three step-grandchildren, Sarah Elsom Eustis (husband Timothy and sons Henry and Frederick), Michael O’Shea Rothstein and Morgan Harpin Russell. Aunt Jane loved and was loved by her 14 nieces and nephews and their families. She was preceded in death by her brother Carl A. Pratt Jr. and her sister Zoa Pratt Campetti.

December 1

New York Fashion Week Meets Norman Rockwell

Traditional, classic, and sophisticated are the perfect words that can be used to describe designer Michael Bastian’s new clothing line, “The Stockbridge” for GANT. Like the name suggests, this recently launched collection was inspired by various Norman Rockwell paintings as well as our very own town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

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Going off of the idea of returning to the roots of America, Bastian’s clothing line reflects American culture the way Rockwell showcased it in his various works of art. Using a rich color palette and utilitarian materials and fabrics, Bastian’s collection embodies Rockwell’s classic masterpieces, all while still keeping the clothes modern and current. To even further showcase his appreciation for Rockwell’s art and Stockbridge, Bastian and his 16-person crew from from Stockholm, Sweden and New York City, traveled to the Berkshires in the beginning of April to photograph and film his advertising campaign. GANT took photographs at different locations across the county including Rockwell’s Studio at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Hancock Shaker Village, and even on Main Street and at The Red Lion Inn.

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In August 2013, the entire ad campaign was launched online to great reviews and sales. “The Stockbridge” GANT by Michael Bastian collection can be purchased in GANT clothing stores or on its online retail site at www.gant.com.

November 27

5 Holiday Wines for under $50: The Red, The White & The Bubbly

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The holidays are stressful: fighting the crowds to find the perfect gift, holiday parties to attend or host, decorating and baking that can make the joy of the holidays not so joyful. At The Red Lion Inn, we will welcome around 15,000 guests over the next 6 weeks, so we know a bit about entertaining. In an effort to alleviate the stress of decision making this season, here are my top 5 food-friendly wines to enjoy here at the Inn or in your own home. With Thanksgiving around the corner, these all-American wines honor of our forefathers as well as pair with many holiday staples.

1. Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, Brut

Nothing is more festive then sparkling wine and champagne. While I love true champagne, my pocketbook does not. Prosecco and Cava are nice but I crave the purity and richness of methode champenoise sparklers. Domaine Carneros is located in the Carneros region of California a region known for producing fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Taittinger family has been producing Champagne in France since 1734 so this bottling has all of the knowledge and attention to detail that go into more costly cuvees.

2. Ravines Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York

I have loved these wines since I first tasted them years ago and they are starting to get the attention they deserve. Named to the 2013 Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World and according to Eric Asimov of The New York Times,  produces one of the best Rieslings in America. Bone dry, crisp and refreshing with minerality and focus, this wine should be on every table to help cut through the richness of most holiday dishes.

3. Steele Vineyards, Zinfandel, Pacini Vineyard, Mendocino, California

No grape is as rooted in American wine culture like the Zinfandel, so it’s a very appropriate selection for a Thanksgiving feast. Pacini Vineyard was planted in the 1940’s and produces wines with great brambly fruit with spice and bacon on the nose. Medium alcohol levels help to prevent palate fatigue.

4. Hermann J. Weimer, Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes, NY

Back to the Finger Lakes for this pretty red: Cabernet Franc is Cabernet Sauvignon’s hip little brother. Weimer is best known for the making the long lived Chinon from France’s Loire Valley. Soft on tannins, big on fruit and acidity, perfect for roast meats and fowl. Not a hedonistic wine it requires a little thought but is well worth it.

5. The Troublemaker by Austin Hope, Syrah/Grenache/Petit Syrah, Paso Robles, CA

Quite the opposite of my last wine The Troublemaker is big, ripe, lush and viscous. The blend is similar to many Chateauneuf Du Pape or Cotes Du Rhone in southern France. Both elegant and powerful flavors of black cherry, vanilla, mocha and tobacco make this multi-vintage wine unique and very drinkable.

November 19

Alberg Rants…about Thanksgiving

November is turkey time although at The Red Lion Inn it’s always turkey time! We serve more than 10,000 turkey dinners annually.

Days off in my line of work are few and (sometimes) far between, so when I am preparing T-Day dinner for my family (which is never on the actual holiday), I want it to be effortless so visiting time isn’t spent with my head in the oven.

Just 3 words… MISE EN PLACE. Translated to American or, in layman’s terms, having one’s shit together! That is the way to make Turkey Day service for 600-plus guests at the inn or the family meal at home effortless. Take the time in days prior to prepare your dishes. Here are some hints to help make turkey day as smooth as that golden-brown crispy breast in your oven!

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HASH.

Days prior: Dice, season and roast root vegetables. Cool then store in sealed Ziploc bags.
DAY OF… Render bacon, add root vegetables, stock and butter.

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POACH.
Days prior: Clean and dice turnips or use baby hakurei turnips. Cover with olive oil and poach until tender, then store in oil.
DAY OF: Remove from oil, place in an ovenproof container and warm in oven or on the stove top.
(Yes, you can use a microwave to reheat… just don’t tell anyone!)

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BRAISE.
Days prior: Halve Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, bacon, onions, chicken broth and thyme. Sauté and simmer in stock for 45 minutes until fork-tender, remove from heat and cool.
DAY OF: Reheat.

There. Three great side dishes that will only take minutes to serve on Turkey Day. Here’s one last Turkey Day Prep tip:

DAYS PRIOR: Soak cheesecloth in salted butter with fresh thyme sprigs.
DAY OF: Season breast, cover with cheesecloth and bake… The cloth helps the bird self-baste and then as the juices flow, it becomes a sponge for the basting juices…

Spend time enjoying your family rather than sweating in the kitchen. Of course, if you can’t stand your family, screw the Mise en Place and keep yourself hydrated with one of these cocktails, all made with local spirits from one of my favorite distilleries here in the Berkshires.

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Redrum

2 oz. Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ragged Mountain Rum
4 oz. Ronnybrook Eggnog
Pomegranate seeds to garnish
Serve on the rocks

 

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The Field

3 oz. Berkshire Mountain Distillers Corn Whiskey
4 rocks of frozen Hilltop Orchard Apple Cider
Stir with cinnamon stick

 

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The End Zone

3 oz. Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ethereal Gin
2 oz. St. Germain
1 oz. Aperol
Half an orange, juiced.
Pour juice over ice. Top with sparkling rose.

 

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The Cheerleader

2 oz. Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ice Glen Vodka
6 muddled raspberries
4 oz. Prosecco

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4 Fingers

1 rocks glass
1 rock
4 fingers of Berkshire Mountain Distillers Bourbon
(hands down, my fave)

Later,

B

November 13

Let the Holiday Season Begin!

With the colder weather fast approaching, we’re trading sun hats for snow caps, flip-flops for boots, shorts for snow pants, and lemonade for hot chocolate.  The leaves burst with bright colors before falling from the trees; and we tend to hit the snooze button on our alarms a little more frequently to stay snuggled in the comfort of our cozy beds in the morning.  Before we know it, the first snowfall of the season is upon us and everything becomes delicately covered in a blanket of white.

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Halloween comes and goes with spooky scares, clever costumes, and sticky fingers from chocolate and candies. Thanksgiving brings acknowledgment and appreciation for all of the everything in our lives as we gather our friends and family together for a day of seemingly endless food and overflowing gratitude. The Christmas season comes with joy, excitement and eagerness, which grow almost as quickly as the snow piles in our front yards. The New Year brings thoughtful reflection on another year passing, as well as cheerful anticipation and enthusiasm for new beginnings in the year to come.

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Though these months seem to fly off the calendar faster than we even think possible, here at The Red Lion Inn, we make sure that there are countless ways for our guests to fully take the time to appreciate their time spent with us. We transition from sitting in a rocking chair on our cherished Front Porch, and instead opt for kicking our feet up in the cozy warmth of our Front Lobby by the fire.

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If you’re in the mood for games, you can also play a round of chess or another board game on our Lincoln table downstairs.

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Or if you’d prefer, you can curl up with a good book and just relax with a cup of hot cocoa. And if you’re lucky, you may even get a chance to cuddle with Simon the Cat, our beloved and friendly Lobby Ambassador, who loves to make our guests feel welcomed.

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With all of these options and so much more, The Red Lion Inn is dedicated to making your holiday season extra special. So as the seasons change from summer to snowy and time seems to tick by a little bit faster, join us at The Red Lion Inn to keep nice and warm and start making unforgettable memories.

October 31

Alberg Rants: This is October

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Wow September is gone. October is over. I think the older I get, the faster time flies by… holy crap!

Just a brief wrap-up of October… the October issue of Berkshire Magazine came out and I was psyched the cover featured the second year Outstanding in the Field came to dinner in the Berkshires. This September, they joined us at Hancock Shaker Village and we had the pleasure of cooking up a classic all-local dinner featuring many regional farms and food makers. The cover shows Berkshire Mountain Bakery bread in the foreground, the iconic Shaker Round Barn in the background and yours truly in a kilt. (After a crazy experience earlier this year, I was able to convince my crew to wear kilts for this event and we had a blast, raising a few eyebrows all around.)

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Gearing up for James Beard 2014… Like-minded chefs gathered for a meeting to begin planning the next Berkshire Cure-All Dinner. This year’s team includes Adam Brassard, Daire Rooney, Josephine Proul, Jeremy Stanton,and Dan Smith. We sketched out a draft of next year’s menu and will post in a few weeks.

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Got to do an impromptu tasting menu for a couple of friends, one of which I met while doing the WGBH Food and Wine Festival a few weeks back. That was a great event and sparked some cool relationships. Being able to throw down a tasting menu and prepare it for friends who appreciate food is the thing I love most about my job.  Well, I love a few things about my job – it’s the one thing that relaxes me most.

 

I was told later that there should have been Breathe courses throughout the meal… Lightweights, I say!

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Trekked out to Boston for the James Beard TasteAmerica photo shoot and got to meet all the participating chefs and tour Boston restaurants and markets. I love eating my way through different parts of a city. They have their own ‘terroir’ in a way… North End, Faneuil Hall, Cambridge, the Commons, Chinatown… I’m really starting to like this city. It isn’t New York, but it’s not Stockbridge either!

Speaking of NYC… my daughter Megan turned 21, and her brother and I trained into the city where she attends FIT majoring in Fashion Merchandising. (She’s trying to stay out of the restaurant biz like her brother and dad… she’s the smart one!) I am a huge believer that you can learn something every day no matter what. I decided to take my kids to one of my favorite places in the city and by the time I left, I decided I was over it! It was trying to be everything to everyone and while making that effort, it lost its identity and its niche. It made me take a really hard look at who I am and who we are as a restaurant and come back to work invigorated and driven to never let that happen to The Red Lion Inn! So… onto to the next favorite place in NYC… God knows, there are enough to choose from!

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Image Credit: Angela Cardinali

James Beard TasteAmerica Boston – This event was the highlight of my year! Maybe the last few years… What a great opportunity to meet so many foodies, not just the chefs but the guests as well. I was able to talk to almost every guest during cocktail hour. I was asked to present a stationary appetizer which was “Chilled Berry Patch Farm Ratatouille with Howden Farm Sweet Corn Puree Equinox Arugula & Crispy Fried Farm Girl Onions.” Not only vegan, it was the only 100-percent locally sourced item at the dinner! Momma Nature totally hooked us up this year and in the third week of October, I was still getting sweet corn and tomatoes! Crazy shit this global warming!

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Onto to November… Check out a couple of my favorite recipes to make during this time of year:

Poached Hakurei Turnips with Candied Bacon

For your Thanksgiving turkey, goose, capon or suckling pig… this stuffing recipe can be used with any poultry or pork dish.

Apple, Chestnut & Brussels Stuffing

½ pound bacon
1 onion, diced
2 cups celery, diced
½ cup chopped Italian Parsley
1 pound whole chestnuts, meat chopped
4 cups cooked wild rice
2 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 tablespoon chopped sage
½ pound Brussels sprouts, quartered
2 apples, diced
1 cup chicken broth

Render bacon, sauté all ingredients except apples. Remove and mix with apples and chicken broth. Stuff bird but, please note, do not stuff bird until it is ready to be roasted. Sew or skewer openings. Place bird breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 350F degree oven for 25 minutes per pound.

Always enjoy!

Later,
B

October 7

Alberg Rants: One Busy September

In September as tourism business slows in the Berkshires, I take a break from working the line and prepping for dinner service and focus on building awareness about the culinary strengths of our region. I do this with The Red Lion Inn supporting my efforts working alongside fellow like-minded restaurants because I believe the whole is made up of the sum of its parts.

My schedule this September made the month fly by; one day the leaves were green, the next day orange! Here’s a rundown of the regional food events that took place this past month. There’s more to come so stay tuned!1234795_10202007300209653_1683121774_n

The Cupcake Wars – On September 2, I got to judge Cupcake Wars at the Columbia County Fair alongside a few of my favorite chefs… Daire, Rachel and Josephine, all chefs at local restaurants here in the ‘Shire and Hudson Valley. All I have to say is 250 cupcakes is WAY too many cupcakes to have to taste in one day! Regardless, the judging will air on a popular food network giving cred to our region! Check out the winners here.

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Outstanding in the Field – On September 7 and 8, the Outstanding team returned to the ‘Shire – this year, adding a second event showcasing the local lamb and views of Lila Berle’s farm. This dinner was prepared by the caring hand of Dan Smith, chef-owner of John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant in South Egremont.

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It was a pleasure to work again with the Outstanding crew. My dinner took place at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, the home of the first farmers to package seeds to sell. Both dinners hosted 140-plus guests at each farm with about 80 percent of the guests coming from outside the Berkshire region in our ‘off-season’…that is a GREAT thing!

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Berkshire Grown’s Harvest Supper – This year’s supper featured local restaurants showcasing regional foods to local residents strengthening our relationships and demonstrating our love for community. The September 16 event was held at Ski Butternut and we welcomed 80 more guests than last year… it was a great success and all were happy with the new location. Learn more about Berkshire Grown here.

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WGBH Chef’s Gala for the Food and Wine Festival in Boston – As the only non-Boston chef playing with the fairly closed clique of the metropolitan chef scene, I tried to break down the perception to Bostonians that the world ends after Worcester. I think we made some headway on September 19! It was a very successful event and a great lead-in to the Artisan Taste and Live Cooking Demo that took place two days later. The amount of work, the distance we drove, and the overall sense of hospitality that my staff showed by being there was really worthwhile. We received great accolades from guests, chefs, restaurant owners and event coordinators… It is very rewarding to feed people who care about food and who are genuinely interested in our craft…

I LOVE and LIVE for this shit!

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We’re looking ahead to October for the James Beard Foundation’s Beard Taste America when we head to Boston to cook in one of the ten-city stops across America and and in November a Chefs Collaborative Dinner at Hotchkiss School for 800. Then, onto a little holiday called Thanksgiving when we serve up 80 turkeys to 675 guests followed by Christmas and New Year’s week. Following the holiday ‘break’ we move onto prepping for the Berkshire Cure-All Dinner at the James Beard Foundation in NYC. Save the date for Wednesday, March 12th!

Later,
B

October 3

It’s September: Time to Preserve the Berkshire Harvest!

September is the month — my favorite — that bridges the gap between summer and autumn. Business in the restaurant is usually down as students go off to school, the cultural venues reduce their hours and families put vacations behind them and settle back into reality.

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The farmers, on the other hand, are working harder than ever, harvesting the bulk of beautiful food from their demanding season. We, as chefs, take on the added responsibility of procuring product to can, freeze, smoke, and cure for the upcoming winter. This translates to hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, sweet corn, kale and cabbage coming to the back door of the kitchen daily. I absolutely love this time of year! (My staff, maybe, not so much.)

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We process these vegetables in various ways to extend the very short season here in the Berkshires and to help provide the farmers with income to carry them through the winter months when their sales are almost non-existent and they need to begin planning the following season.

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Why do we do all of this hard work? Why preserve local food when we can get fresh peas, kale, corn and tomatoes year round? To me, the answer is “Why the hell not?” Let’s break it down… People come to the Berkshires because it is a beautiful region. Yes, it has world-class museums, concert venues, art galleries and fine restaurants, but historically, people came here for the beauty of these hills, and the cultural organizations were borne out of those experiences.

As the community who lives and works here, it is our responsibility to keep the quality of the Berkshires intact. We need to secure our surroundings and maintain the land in such a way so the quality of life remains as it is now. We cannot allow black top development to move in and consume the very reason people come here. Farmers provide a productive and beautiful way of life that creates the backdrop for our thriving tourism industry. This, in turn, strengthens our local communities and provides our friends and families with opportunities to work and play here and most important, an awesome place to live.

Later,
B

August 20

Rocking Libations: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Gin & Tonic

Legend has it that a sommelier once asked Julia Child what her favorite wine was. Her response was simple: “Gin”.

Gin its’s what’s for dinner.
Gin the other white meat.
Gin and Sin
Gin Gin Gin I like Gin!
Gin vodka with flavor.

I’ll keep this one simple people. Our friend Chris Weld at Berkshire Mountain Distillers makes two killer gins. Greylock Gin is more of a traditional London Dry with a crisp, clean flavor.

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For a more floral taste, his Ethereal Gin is released in batches with each one having its own unique botanical recipe (think Bombay vs Bombay Sapphire)

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Chose one of these and pour a healthy portion into a collins glass, top with tonic water and a generous squeeze of lime (to prevent malaria and scurvy).

That’s it… don’t over think it, just enjoy.

August 5

Rocking Libations: Stockbridge Sangria

During the hustle and bustle of Summer in the Berkshires, sometimes we are in such a hurry to get to Tanglewood concerts, Berkshire Theater Festival shows, Jacob’s Pillow performances, that we forget about the art of relaxation. There is no better place to hone up on your relaxation skills than on the Front Porch of The Red Lion Inn. Some people prefer to take their morning coffee on the porch and watch Stockbridge wake up, while others prefer an after show nightcap.

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Either way you find an open rocking chair next to Simon the cat and settle in. The only other thing you need on a summer day is a cold refreshing beverage to enjoy. Throughout August we’ll show you a few of our favorites for you to try.

Stockbridge Sangria 

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Spiced wine has been around since the Romans brought viticulture through Europe. The practice of adding Brandy and fruit to red wine is thought to come from Southern Spain’s Andalusian(sp) territory. We lighten our Sangria up a bit using both rosé and white wine, Lillet, Elderflower Liqueur, and numerous other secret ingredients (if you ask nicely I’m sure we can get you the recipe). Next we add some fresh fruits- apple, strawberries, raspberries- and let the flavors mingle. The longer the flavors mix the better the sangria. Finish with some ice and a splash of soda and enjoy.

July 29

Leather & Glass: Third Anniversary Dinner for Nick & Kaley!

The only thing that gets me more pumped than cooking for friends is cooking for chef friends… This is the third year that my buddy and fellow chef Nick Moulton celebrated his anniversary dining in my kitchen with his lovely wife, Kaley – quite an adventurous soul when it comes to trying new foods. I met Nick when he worked as a sous chef at Mezze Bistro in Williamstown and, years later he now holds the position of chef at the popular Public Eat + Drink in North Adams.

Each year, I do a nine-course “his and hers” tasting menu (18 different tastes in all) themed around an inside joke or an important milestone. This year, the dinner took into account the fact that Kaley is expecting in January so her menu was based on baby and kid foods. The modern third anniversary gift is glass and crystal so we gave that a nod in Kaley’s menu presentation. The traditional third anniversary gift is leather and, with that in mind, I planned a menu of “guy” food for Nick.

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Below are some photos and descriptions of the tasting menu we served. I had a great time planning and executing this meal. It’s so great hosting guests who love food (and have no allergies or aversions!)

Peas and carrots for her whipped lardo with chips and pickled veg for him:

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Flight of chicken wings, stuffed with bacon and blue for him, pasta with butter goat cheese gnudi with herbed brown butter for her:

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Meat Market bacon and Joshua’s Farm eggs for her, Wanabea rabbit corn dogs with Berkshire beef chili for him:

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Salad course: Caesar for him, chopped for her:

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Foie Gras mousse seared maitake mushrooms, balsamic and smoked almonds for him/Grilled cheese with smoked tomato soup for her:

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Chicken tenders and tater tots with bbq for her, Lila’s lamb sausage & peppers with tomato micro basil salad for him:

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Dry aged strip with orange soy pork belly dipping sauce for him, tenderloin with potato purée & porcini demi for her:

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July 29

Artful Arrangements: Meet Jane Bailey, Red Lion Inn’s florist!

The Red Lion Inn’s ambiance, whether you are dining in our elegant Main Dining Room, resting in one of our plush guestrooms, or wandering our antique-filled halls, is immediately apparent. The floral arrangements spread throughout our inn, add a refined and subtle touch to that welcoming atmosphere.

Jane Bailey has been the resident florist for 20 years, creating beautiful pieces that blend seamlessly into the décor of the inn. The arrangements are made from flowers purchased from local vendors; handpicked greenery from the Berkshire wild, including Queen Ann’s lace or different grasses and pods; or unexpected accents from the kitchen, such as garlic scapes. Each arrangement is intended to enhance the atmosphere by matching burgundy flowers with the hues in our wallpaper and carpets, and soft yellows and whites to pair with our linens and lighting. Jane picks flowers that fit in with the historic, traditional New England presence of the inn so she tends to gravitate towards the flora that one would find in private gardens throughout the county.

The arrangement below was put together for a private meeting in the Treadway room. This arrangement includes spray roses, stock, gerbera daises, gooseneck, mini green hydrangea, hosta, and garlic scapes.

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Every table in the Main Dining Room has this same selection of alstroemeria, mini carnations, pompoms, garlic scape, grass, craspedia, myrtle and pachysandra.

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You can find this arrangement with alstroemeria, mini carnations, pompoms, and garlic scape at the front podium where you will be greeted before your meal.

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Jane arranged these spray roses, stock, alstroemeria, gerbera daisies, hosta, pachysandra, and plumose for a private party in our Hitchcock room.

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Next time you see Jane arranging the flowers feel free to say, “hi” and ask her about the current selections!

 

 

30 Main Street  Stockbridge, MA 01262
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