PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thursday night it started to rain. Driving home from Lee to North Adams, stopping somewhere for a quick, inexpensive dinner seemed like a pretty good idea. On the advice of a friend in Lenox, we decided to try Lucia's Latin Kitchen.
Convention has it, you should not make up your mind about a restaurant until you've eaten there at least twice. However, as it turns out, my partner-in-life and I had already tried Lucia's delicious "home-cooking" at last year's Northern Berkshire Food Festival. Thursday night was actually our second time trying Lucia's cuisine.
Open for just 18 months, Lucia's Latin Kitchen specializes in Ecuadorian food but Lucia also makes plain "Latin home cooking." If you're in the mood for handmade tortillas, this would be a great place to go.
It was very hard to decide what to order on Lucia's menu. There's a lot offered, from paella-like rice dishes to roasted pork or lamb, to breaded shrimp, but we both chose beef dishes and were not disappointed.
Lucia's cooking is homey in the best way. Perfectly cooked rice accompanied my wonderfully seasoned, grilled sirloin. The rice was topped with four pieces of fried plantain, a staple in the countries where it grows. Plantain tastes pleasantly like a mild, less-sweet banana but holds its shape well when cooked and is generally considered a starch. The beans beside the rice were delicious as well, tiny pieces of roast pork floated in the savory sauce surrounding perfectly cooked navy beans — all of it obviously cooked from scratch. The beans and rice alone would have made a great weekday meal, especially accompanied by Lucia's citrus, greens and onions salad, a piece of bread and some plantains.
My partner's dish included french fries and rice, and also came with two fried eggs on the side. His steak was also cut thin, seasoned and grilled but unlike mine, it was topped with stewed onions and tomatoes. I'm not sure he would have ordered it under any other circumstances but as we came into the tiny room, a table full of joggers were tucking into this dinner and it looked too good to miss.
As we began our meal, our server brought a little dish of hot sauce to the table. It looked innocent enough, a little watery with visible herbs and onions floating in the dish, but if you go, (and you should) a little of this sauce goes a very long way. I had a little dab of it on my rice, it was tasty but a bit over my hot tolerance. I was glad I hadn't slavered my steak in the stuff.
Top, a belly-filling steak and eggs for supper. Left, enjoying a meal.
Prices were extremely reasonable. Our meal for two came in at just under $30. You'd be very hard pressed to spend more than $50.
We accompanied our meal with Mexican soda, his in tamerind flavor and mine in apple. Happily full, we set off on our way north without dessert but I am saving up my appetite for next time, which will be sooner than later given the quality of the food.
Lucia's is tiny, the kitchen is wide open to the rest of the room and the whole place seats maybe 15 on a very busy night. As people discover this place (where you can get a whole roasted chicken with all the trimmings for under $20.) it is guaranteed to become more and more crowded. So get there before the summer people arrive and don't blab it all over the place, OK? I'm kind of attached to the corner table by the window.
Lucia's Latin Kitchen is located at 239 Onota St., Pittsfield; 413-442-4440
From time to time, grocery stores seem to end up with a surplus of certain products. In the produce aisle, you can often find packages of fruits and veggies that are right on the verge of being overripe.
Sometimes these are best avoided but they can present an opportunity to try out something that might seem too expensive to waste were you to buy it at full price.
This week, Guido's Market in Pittsfield seemed to be having a tough time selling poblano peppers. I love Mexican food and Chile Rellenos are easily one of my favorites. But because poblanos don't grow in New England, they tend to be expensive and as a cook who grew up in the north, the chances of my being able to do justice to these beauties seemed pretty slim.
At $1.35 for three good-sized peppers, I could be a sport. Time to try my hand at a Mexican pepper dish.
Chile Rellenos are usually breaded and deep fried — that's too much work and anyway, my husband won't eat a big chunk of deep fried anything. That meant they had to be baked, which is healthier. But would it still be tasty? Had to be, otherwise, I wouldn't eat it.
Next, I had to face the fact that we are always short on time and our kitchen is, shall we say, unsophisticated, so they had to be simple.
I decided to bake the peppers with a Mexican stuffing and see if they would satisfy my craving. The results were surprisingly delicious so now I have another budget supper dish that is relatively healthy and dead cheap. Here it is:
First, wash three mid-sized peppers and pop the tops off. You do this by pushing the stem of the pepper down into hollow center. The stem and part of the top will break off in a neat little circle and usually the seeds will still be attached. It's kinda fun.
Shake the topless pepper out over the compost bin, the rest of the seeds will fall out. Doesn't matter if you don't get them all, you'll never notice a few little seeds in the end.
Set the peppers aside.
Cut a medium-large sized onion in half, take the skin off and cut it into a bowl. You can dice it as fine as you like; I just cut little chunks off until it's all gone. It's easy and clean.
Next, get a few garlic cloves, three at least, more if you like, peel them and mash or cut them into the same bowl as the onion.
Take a slice or two of stale bread, any kind. The grainier it is, the better it will hold up. I like rye. Tear the bread into the bowl, (in fingertip-sized chunks.)
Find a few tomatoes or a zucchini or some mushrooms or a combination of the three but not a lot — one medium tomato, half a zucchini or half a dozen mushrooms are enough. Cut them into the bowl with your bread, onions and garlic, cut them small — once again, the size of your fingertip (just don't cut your fingertip!).
Cheese is next: use whatever you have in the fridge. I used about a half cup of very sharp cheddar, one called Coastal, that we like in just about everything. That said, it doesn't matter what kind of cheese you use as long as you like it. Your cheese pieces should be small, too,like everything else.
Next, dump in around a quarter cup of cumin. Yes, I know, it seems like a lot. Trust me, the second time you make it, you'll use even more. If you don't have cumin, use chili powder and use a little less maybe an 1/8 cup. If you don't have chili powder or cumin — are you sure you like Mexican food? Again, use whatever you have and like the most.
I add 1/3 cup of chicken stock, jellied. It’s something I usually have around but if you don’t have that, you can use canned stock or no stock at all — use a little olive oil and milk or vegetable stock or tomato juice or even a little bit of water. You just want it to be a bit moist, if you can add to the taste that’s great but it will still be good without.
You can also add some chopped chicken if you eat meat or a handful of nuts if you don’t.
Vegan? Leave the cheese out and substitute tofu or a cut-up avocado. If you like heat, now is the time to shake in some hot sauce, ditto for salsa.
Gluten-free? Use cooked rice instead of bread in the stuffing, and use gluten-free cheese or once, again, an avocado with a few pepitas (pumpkin seeds) inside.
Whichever was you go — now’s the time to toss the stuff in the bowl until it's evenly mixed and then, using a tablespoon, fill each one of the peppers as tightly as you can.
Once the peppers are filled, lay them on their side in a baking dish and put them in a 350 oven for an hour. You can cook any leftover stuffing in a dish alongside.
The result? The skins of the peppers will look black but the peppers will be sweet and mellow. Everything else melts together and the result is a simple main dish that looks and tastes like a summer dinner on the patio but feels warm and comforting.
Serve with rice and a salad, or rice and beans or roasted sweet potatoes and cole slaw, whatever you like. Easy yum.
Berkshire Distiller Doubling Production
By: Staff Reports On: 07:45PM / Friday August 19, 2011
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Talk about spirited growth. Berkshire Mountain Distillers produced about 30,000 bottles in 2010 and is expected to double its production this year, owner Chris Weld told ABC40.
Weld opened the distillery in 2007 at the site of the former H.H. Peck House, once known of its beneficial spring water and now for the award-winning liquors flowing out of it, including Ice Glen Vodka and Ragged Mountain Rum.
News Station ABC40 visited the distillery and talked to Weld about Berkshire Mountain's growth and its increasing profile in the spirits industry.
Longtime North Adams eatery Gringos reopens on Park Street in Adams to reunite with former regulars.
ADAMS, Mass. — Gringos owner David Nicholas did not advertise that he was reopening at the former Firehouse Cafe on Park Street in hopes to have a quiet time to work out any kinks. That did not happen.
"It was the talk to the town for about six months and when we opened it was mobbed. Absolutely mobbed," he said.
Gringos, a longtime North Adams staple, was forced to close four years ago when the city sold the North Adams Plaza. When the Firehouse Cafe closed, Nicholas and his friend Burton Kirk, owner of the firehouse that once housed the Adams Ambulance, teamed up to reopen. Despite being closed for four years, Gringos was not forgotten.
Gringos Owner David Nicholas is confident that a new Park Street location will be a success.
"It's just been a great response. You see a huge amount of familiar faces that I used to see four years ago," Nicholas said. "Gringos didn't close because of a lack of business."
Only a small sign on the front windows announces that the cafe is now Gringos, yet word of mouth has led to a busy six weeks since it opened, Nicholas said. A larger sign is currently being made.
"I think it'll be successful. It'll make money," he said. "It's just been a great response."
The former Firehouse Cafe recently closed down because of a lack of business. Kirk was leasing it out but when the cafe closed, it seemed it would sit empty.
The building is filled with history and character, Nicholas said. It was built in 1890 and served as the town's first firehouse. The restaurant seats patrons where the trucks used to be. The only drawback, he said, is that it is smaller than the North Adams location.
The restaurant has a smaller but similar menu with mostly Mexican but also some American food. It is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., and on Friday through Sunday, from 4 to 11 p.m.