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."
Photo courtesy of Guido's Fresh Marketplace, Jamie O'Brien, photographer.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — In celebration of the spring season, Berkshire Grown will host "Farmed and Foraged: A Weekend of Spring Flavors," a culinary celebration of farmed and foraged seasonal foods at area restaurants from Friday, May 21, through Sunday, May 23.
The celebration highlights Berkshire Grown restaurants that have made a commitment to source wild and local edibles from area forests, fields and farms at the start of the growing season, which is a challenge for chefs in the Northeast.
This year, Berkshire Grown will feature 23 restaurants throughout the region. Participants will offer an array of prix fixe menus and a la carte selections to celebrate this farm-to-table dining event. Menus will feature wild edibles, locally grown produce, Berkshire artisan cheeses, heritage breed meats, locally made bread and chocolate, and Berkshire-crafted beer and spirits. Dates of participation, menu and a la carte offerings and pricing will vary at each location.
"We’re excited to see many more restaurants participating in this year’s Farmed and Foraged event," said Barbara Zheutlin, executive director of Berkshire Grown. "This is an opportunity for community members to celebrate spring by supporting our local restaurants and farms and tasting some wild edibles they’ve been hearing about but may not have tried before."
Participating restaurants include Allium Restaurant and Bar, Baba Louie’s, Brix Wine Bar, Castle Street Café, EnlightenNext, Gramercy Bistro@Mass MoCA, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Gypsy Joynt, Haven Cafe & Bakery, John Andrews Restaurant, La Terrazza Restaurant at Gateways Inn, Mexican Radio, Mezze Bistro and Bar, Mission Bar and Tapas, Napa Wine Bar and Restaurant, Nudel, Perigee, Stagecoach Tavern, The Inn at Sweet Water Farm, The Old Inn on the Green, The Red Lion Inn and The Williamsville Inn.
"We are encouraging everyone to come out and try delicious dishes highlighting the local harvest. Although our crops are limited at this time of year, the fiddleheads and ramps, the maple syrup and mushrooms, and the meats, cheeses and breads make for an exceptional meal, especially when prepared by our region’s extraordinarily talented chefs," said Zheutlin. "Berkshire Grown member restaurants are committed to the ‘buy local’ mission and this enticing event is one not to be missed."
Baba Louie’s, Castle Street Cafe, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Mezze Restaurant Group, The Red Lion Inn, Williams College Dining Services and the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives at Williams College are official sponsors.
A full listing of offerings from participating restaurants is here.
Last year’s event inspired the Pioneer Valley to participate. This year, Bistro Les Gras of Northampton and Hope and Olive of Greenfield will offer Farmed and Foraged menus. For more information, contact the restaurants directly.