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.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Some people bond over martinis, others find their connection through grueling bike rides up mountains. Common denominators are rare, unless, of course, we are talking about pie. Say what you will, good tasty pie is what makes the world go 'round. Political differences are forgotten, screaming children are placated and "piece" is enjoyed by all.
At least, this is what happened at the first-ever "Anything Goes Pie Contest," held on Sunday at the Route 7 Grill.
More than 40 entrants, including crust novices and meringue extraordinaires, tried their hand at sweet and savory to the delight of tasters and judges. The delicious desserts made their home under a tent, where folks of all ages and walks of life – writers, grandmothers, sunburnt toddlers – lingered over strawberry chiffon, vegan sweet potato and triple ginger like kids in a candy store. The contest coordinator, Gina Hyams, author of the recently released "Pie Contest in a Box" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2011), stood amidst a flurry of pies and sharpies, signing books and handing out judging cards for all who wanted a little taste of Berkshire heaven.
While the stakes were not high for the entrants, the contest itself supported more than just local taste buds. Proceeds from the contest (each person who would judge the pies was asked to make a donation of $5 or $10) went toWBCR-97.7, Great Barrington's local and very diverse radio station. More than $700 was raised for the station and according to station manager Paul Rapp, "a new Berkshire tradition was in the making." Good news for everyone as they waited with bated breath to dig into the pies and begin the judging.
Once Hyams gave the go-ahead, the hovering, chattering crowd became a silent, well-oiled machine, each taster intent on the task of finding the pies they had chosen to judge and letting the flavors of chocolate, ricotta, cherry and even beets, roll around on their tongues before making that final decision.
What a tough decision it was, too. I elected to try five very different pies. Amidst the swirl of sweet and savory and tart and syrupy it was difficult to pinpoint my "favorite." The judging categories ranged from 1-Inedible to 10-Sublime, and I can assure you my clean plate was a testament to the "feasibility" of eating every pie without prejudice. Having myself made a pie for the contest, I could taste the hard work, nostalgia and generosity that went into creating each delectable disk.
But, all good things must come to an end and all contests must eventually have a winner. This pie-for-all was no exception. Third place went to Kilian and Tiernan Ramer (a very young brother and sister team) for their no-bake Butter Hazelnut Chocolate Pie. Second was swept up by Amy Rudnick for her Sour Cherry Almond Streussel Pie. The grand pie queen of the day was another young contestant, Liv Korth, for her Chocolate Raspberry Pie. Each winner received a custom-made apron from MoHo Designs.
Of course, the best part, aside from watching a bunch of kids "take the cake" in the winner's circle, was watching everyone go back for more once the judging ended. By the end of the afternoon, most of the entries were reduced to crumbs and memories. A community radio station walked away with the reassurance that the show would go on and all of us walked away with a smile, most to steal a quick cat nap and dream of pie.
Mayor Richard Alcombright was picking up apple brownies from Rona Brandt at the farmers' market. Below, the market offers fresh produce, flowers and jewelry and other handmade items.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Looking for local fruits and vegetables? Don't want to drive all over the area to get them? Well, there's a solution for that.
The first of many weekly farmers' markets took place in North Adams on Saturday morning in the St. Anthony Municipal Parking Lot near the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Farmers from around the region gathered for the city's first market of the season to sell the fruits of their labors. They'll be there from 8 to noon on Saturdays until the end of October. Several other local markets, including Williamstown's on Spring Street on Saturdays, have already opened.
Market manager Diana Cirillo said she hopes to expand the market over the course of the summer. Her mission is to make healthy, locally grown food accessible to all residents of North Adams. "People can use their SNAP benefits in the market to give them more choices for healthier eating."
The market is able to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program digital cards as well as coupons for the Women, Infants and Children food prograM.
Cirillo is also hoping to grow the market as the season progresses. "I'm hoping to bring more locally grown food to the attention of the community," she said. "We have room for more farmers. We're always looking for farmers who want to come and sell their fruits, vegetables, honey, maple syrup, eggs, meat — whatever they produce. It would be awesome if we could fill the whole lot.
"Eventually what we'd like to do is bring a learning experience into it, have local recipes, give information on growing food, what it takes to produce it, where things come from, things like that," she continued.
Local farmers on hand were selling garlic, raspberries, beets, radishes, carrots and salad greens as well as beans and peas and all manner of early summer vegetables. There were also cut flowers, home-baked goods and even some jewelry available — all of it produced right here in the Berkshires or close by.
Emma Morin has been a vendor at the market for 12 years. She doesn't have a farm but her home garden is large enough to produce an abundance of vegetables and she makes jams, jellies and knitted goods to sell as well.
As early as 9 a.m., some stands were beginning to run low. Rona Brandt brings baked goods and said she runs out of stock every week, so you might want to arrive early if you have a particular favorite – like her whoopie pies or her apple brownies (before Mayor Richard Alcombright scoops them up).
The farmers' market has room for more booths; $10 will get you a spot on the lot for the day.
If you missed the market or you just want to sleep late on Saturdays, some of the farmers will be at next week's Northern Berkshire Food Festival, which takes place on Main Street from noon until 4 on Sunday, July 17.
This dancing chicken welcomed nearly 1,000 people to the annual Wing Fling competition.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Sometimes in life you have to make some sacrifices. On Saturday, this iBerkshires reporter sacrificed his taste buds to help judge the 20th annual Wing Fling.
The fundraiser for the YMCA drew about 1,000 people to the Berkshire Community College campus to meet with friends, listen to a live band and, most importantly, chow down on the best chicken wings in the county.
According to Pittsfield Family YMCA Executive Director Randy Kinnas, the event raises about $40,000 to for youth programs through entrance fees, silent auction and a few raffles.
"We have a $1.7 million budget so it's not a huge portion but it's significant," Kinnas said. "It really helps."
Saturday looked to be no different, when a huge line for the event spanned from BCC's field house all the way back to nearly West Street. And when the gates opened, the hungry crowd was off, filing through the lines of servers from an array of restaurants providing samples.
But for us at the judges tables - things went a little differently. Since Saturday, I have been asked what I thought of each restaurant's wings and my answer is simple - I do not know.
The long judges table was broken into each category and the 17 judges all chose a category to judge. I chose the hot category.
The YMCA numbered various bowls of wings and the judges – spanning for local politicians to people like me – ranked the top three by the numbers. I still do not know if the wings I voted for won.
The one wing whose origins I suspect I know may have come from Halpins Grub and Grog. (It definitely was hot.)
Halpins ranked third in the category and I believe third in mine as well. But it reeled in the people's choice for hottness. While I did like Halpins, I thought it was mostly the heat that made it stand out and we were reminded to judge on the best "flavor."
Bennigans won the hot category and the Skyline Country Club came in second. The judging really came down to a debate – not just with me but with the other judges in the category – between those two.
The one I voted for first I thought had the most full flavor. It was not about the wing, it was not about the sauce, it was the whole package. It was not super-hot but it had its kick and it tingled on the tongue in a few different ways. It was a great wing to eat all the way through.
My second-place vote went to a great sauce. That sauce was fantastic. It had a great flavor of barbecue, sweetness and then the kick at the end. However, just as I voted Halpins third for hotness due to our instructions to judge on flavor, I put this one in second. However, it really could have gone either way. Even after casting the vote I was second-guessing my decision for first and second.
In the other categories, there were some new winners. Best traditional wings went to Liberty Pizza; best original wings went to The Well; best barbecue ribs went to The Olde Forge and best original ribs went to Flavors.
While not all of the 23 restaurants took homes plaques, bragging rights and new patrons, I think they all deserve high praise for participating. They are the main attraction and they help raise money for the county's youth.
Kinnas said one of the biggest programs the YMCA is involved in is the child care voucher system. The state recently froze issuing new vouchers and the YMCA now subsidizes $120 of the $220 cost. The organization also is adding youth football and gymnastics programs. So for all the people who got fat on chicken wings and the restaurants that showed off their chefs, there is a real benefit to the community.
The YMCA also worked out some of the kinks from last year's event. Last year, all the food was gone in a hurry but this year, there was a limit on how many wings (12) a person could take at a time. But that does not mean you couldn't got back for seconds. A friend of mine ate 35 on Saturday.
So with the sun setting, people dancing and nearly 1,000 people enjoying spending time with one another, I would consider the 20th annual Wing Fling a flying success.