WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Berkshire restaurants are taking their food seriously, and outsiders are taking notice.
Mezze Bistro and Bar, which opened its new location on Cold Spring Road 10 months ago, received a mention in this month's issue of Food & Wine on Dana Cowin's Editor's Letter page. Cowin writes that Mezze Bistro and Bar (founded by Nancy Thomas, who is also owner of the Mezze Group Inc.) "executed simple dishes magnificently, like a pan-roasted salmon served with tomato, beans and olives." It is this simplicity that is putting local farm-to-table eateries, including Mezze, Nudel in Lenox and the Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington, on the Northeastern food map.
Photo by Jason Houston
The interior of the new Mezze on Cold Spring Road in Williamstown.
"Mezze's menu is very much focused on the farm-to-table movement, sourcing local ingredients whenever possible," said communications director Angela Cardinali. "Changes to our dinner menu are made daily by our chef, depending on what is available at local farms and from artisan producers. The mention in Food & Wine magazine may impact the restaurant in visitor season as potential new patrons visit the area and may be looking for a restaurant they have 'heard about'. Some F&W readers take Dana Cowin's recommendations very seriously. The mention by the editor provides validation for Mezze Bistro for people interested in a reputable restaurant if they happen to be visiting the region."
While visitors to the area may be discovering Mezze for the first time, local residents including business owners and area chefs continue to demand local ingredients for their meals. Many area restaurants (such as Mezze and its sister restaurant Allium in Great Barrington) and some markets are active sponsors of Berkshire Grown, and have developed strong relationships with local farmers.
"Mezze's involvement with the locavore scene is that Nancy Thomas, founder, is an active member of the board of Berkshire Grown. We sponsor and produce many of the food-related events that take place for Berkshire Grown," Cardinali said. "Future plans include the implementation of an edible garden on the Mezze Bistro property and creating additional opportunities to tell the Berkshire 'food culture' story. We believe the food story of our region is one that should parallel the arts and culture position we are able to project so well today. We are at the beginning stages of creating Berkshire Farm & Table, an organization whose mission is to share the story of the Berkshires' culinary artisans, farming values and agritourism experiences."
As Mezze moves forward and will most likely receive more accolades for its sustainable menu, Cardinali said the restaurant is preparing for a busy summer season as well as many Berkshire Grown events that it has come to sponsor.
"Guests come from the surrounding colleges, visitors to the Clark, WCMA and Mass MoCA and the Williamstown Theatre Festival as well as Jiminy Peak. We have a very busy season in summer, fall foliage and ski season," she said. "We sponsor and produce many of the food-related events that take place for Berkshire Grown including 'Farmed + Foraged: A Weekend of Spring Flavors' (taking place May 20-22), 'Preserving the Bounty" (Aug.-Sept.) and the very successful Holiday Farmers' Markets.
"We recently sent two of our chefs down to the James Beard Foundation in NYC along with four other talented Berkshire chefs to present 'The Whole Berkshire Hog' in early February. We are planning on participating in Berkshire Farm & Table's 'Where the Wild Things Are' – foraging walks led by experts throughout the month of May – as well as a whole bunch of other events with a focus on local food and farming."
Restaurateurs Gill Rubenstein and David Aldecoa spoke to the Selectmen on Monday night with their attorney, Adams Filson.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The owners of the new restaurant Hops and Vines, in the former Mezze building, said they are bringing the "city trendiness to the country friendliness."
The new Water Street restaurant received its liquor license Monday and the owners presented the Selectmen its idea of a mix between fine and casual dining.
"The idea is to renovate it into two sections. One side will be the hops — the causal side — and the other will be vines — the fine side," owner Gill Rubenstein said. "It's a trendy but friendly concept."
The owners are renovating the inside of the building with a new fireplace, tasting room and a partition to divide the two types of dining. But the real draw, they said, will be the outdoor beer garden.
Rubenstein said it will carry a "sizeable" beer list, on draft and in bottles, that will feature international and local micro brews and a large wine selection. Co-owner David Aldecoa said he is a certified sommelier.
The restaurant will feature seating on two outside porches with seating for up to 92 people as well as live music. It is expected to be open between May 16 and June 1. When the restaurant opens it will start with only dinners, opening at 5 p.m., but the owners said they would like to expand into brunch service, too. However, more serviceable parking would need to be created.
Foodwise, the owners have yet to decide exactly the angle. Rubenstein said they are leaning toward French-American food but it will depend on which chef they hire.
The owners said they both have extensive restaurant experience. Aldecoa said he got started when he opened a restaurant with his brother in Arizona more than a decade ago. He then worked at a resort casino in Las Vegas, where he first began working with Rubenstein. The two both moved to New York City and worked in various places there including the Essex House.
Aldecoa worked his way through the ranks on the food and beverage management side while Rubenstein's career is in financial consulting. Rubenstein said he worked with top chefs as a consultant in asset management.
"The capacity was more to make the chef's artistic side better on the financial side," Rubenstein said after presenting to the selectmen.
Rubenstein has opened other restaurants before, the most recent being Unwined in New York City.
Owner Nancy Thomas told him that the restaurant's cultural cocktails are in support of the local cultural venues and many have ingredients from here in the Berkshires, including from Berkshire Distillers. "Mezze Bistro is trying to help tell the story of our region, the Berkshires, and offer a sense of place," Thomas told the Globe.
Berkshire Living caught the reference and passed it on to readers in its daily e-letter group.
Mezze Group has been committed to supporting locally grown produce and inventive with the beverages. Its "Carhartts & Cocktails" dinners are becoming an annual event to bring together diners and the people who grow the food. Thomas' restaurants have also tried to stay on cutting edge of sophisticated cocktails. We tip our glass to her.