iBerkshires.com Columnist SectionSue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush
"Spice" Added To Pittsfield's Revitilization RecipeBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, July 24, 2006
Pittsfield - Spice restaurant co-owner Joyce Bernstein appeared more florist than restaurateur as she carried several bunches of fresh flowers to the inside a walk-in cooler and then pulled some of the bright blooms out of the chilly space.
|Spice co-owner Joyce Bernstein|
360 degree views here
"I'm like a mad florist," she said as she set single blossoms into small glass table-top vases and arranged bouquets in large - some even floor-size - containers.
By the time she was finished, fresh flowers held court along cloth-covered dining tables, polished wood bar surfaces, bathroom counter spaces and window panes, and waitress stations.
Do not scoff at the floral fascination; it's those niceties, those final touches, that have iced the fledgling restaurant's proverbial cake and is helping to fill the dining room weekend after weekend, Bernstein said.
"The Phone Rings Crazy Here"
As the specially-arranged July 17 off-hours morning visit to the restaurant progressed, the telephone rang frequently, and in most cases, callers were seeking weekend reservations - which were already in short supply and it was only Tuesday.
Spice employee Laura Carchedi looked through pages of dinner reservations.
"The phone rings crazy here, which is good," Bernstein said. "We have been booked solid for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday since we opened. The reservations have been sold out, that's the only way I can think of to describe it."
Inquiries about hosting special events such as baby or wedding showers at the restaurant are also increasing, Bernstein said.
Spice opened at 297 North St. in June and it's success may be of vital importance to the city's downtown.
Bernstein and co-owner Lawrence Rosenthal bought the building, once the home of the Besse-Clark clothing store and a Goodwill Industries shopping outlet, for $270,000 in 2002 and have spent about $4.5 million in renovations.
A walk around the vast first floor revealed a stunning 135-seating capacity dining room accented with unique overhead lighting, large art prints on the walls, and ceilings specially treated to reduce noise levels. Two kitchens were part of the massive renovation process. The project included lavish renovations of the six bathrooms located inside the building's street level space and diaper-changing tables occupy men's and women's restrooms. One bathroom hosts, as a toilet surround, an ornate elevator cage once used inside the building; additional bathrooms are equipped with elegant lighting and framed art prints on the walls.
Mixed in with the prints, the paintings, the array of sparkling wall mirrors, is a framed original crayon drawing, a rendering of fresh fruits and vegetables that holds it own amidst the fine art. The picture's artist is the four-year-old daughter of Chef Douglas Luf, said Bernstein.
"Isn't it nice?" Bernstein said of the framed depiction. "It fits beautifully right there."
Even the smooth, polished floor seemed to radiate warm light. The flooring is Ipe, a Brazilian, sustainably farmed wood and "is so hard it can't be nailed, it has to be drilled first," Bernstein explained.
A lounge area situated in the same space as the dining tables and booths is illuminated by golden-colored globes suspended over the bar; a separate, adjacent space designated as a cocktail lounge is similarly lit with glass orbs of cinnamon-red hovering above the bar. Food is served in the lounge and reservations are not required, in fact, are not accepted, for the lounge.
General manager Thierry Breard at the restaurant's lounge bar.
The lounge offers its' own inventive charm, with a series of wooden chairs hung upside-down from one wall, and what might be best described as an open seating [translation: open conversation] plan at one end of a contemporary bistro-like room. There are booths and tables for those who wish to keep their conversations intimate. A television is in place at the bar.
"Sampler," "Bites" On The Menu
The menu is best described as fine dining and foods are offered and served as separate courses, with fresh flatware provided for each course.
There is a "sampler" menu that offers "crisp vegetables with dips" for $5 and "tasting of three cheeses" for $10. There are flatbreads, including a lobster and scallops, bacon and spinach creme fraiche for $13. A "bites" menu offers items such as lobster-stuffed deviled eggs for $9 and mini brioche burgers for $12. A "salad course" menu advertises frisee salad for $8 and a $7 celery heart salad among its' choices and a "first course" menu offers among the selections scallop and charred melon gazpacho for $8 and a $9 braised oxtail tamale.
Entrees include wood roasted trout with arugula bread salad and garni sauce [$18], grilled dry aged N.Y. strip steak with rustic stuffed potato and shaker butter [$29] and fillet of organic Scottish salmon with crushed potatoes and corn and leek chowder[$26].
Not Your Toddler's Chocolate Sundae
Desserts include mixed berry almond shortcake [$8], chocolate "oops" [$8], old-fashioned carrot cake [$7] and a chocolate sundae made with a dark chocolate raspberry brownie, spiced pecans, brandied cherries, ginger crumb and belgian chocolate sauce [$8].
Looking into the restaurant dining room from the lounge.
Children's Choice Menu
A children's menu for diners age 12 and under permits options via a "build-your-meal" concept. Chicken fingers, a hamburger, macaroni with butter and cheese or tomato sauce and meatballs or mini-mozzarella flatbread may be paired a choice of two sides, including applesauce, french fries, cucumbers with dip, grapes, and garden salad and topped off with a vanilla ice cream-and-cookie dessert for $5. The menu is printed on a large white sheet of paper that includes drawings that may be colored with an accompanying box of several crayons. Highchairs and booster seats are available at the restaurant.
Plans For Late Summer Lunching
Future plans include the opening of a banquet facility on the second floor, which is expected to host gatherings of up to 200 individuals, an ice cream-and-coffee shop, and a specialty market.
Bernstein said that the restaurant is planning to open for lunch during late summer.
Ready for diners
The restaurant has been given an 11-year property tax reprieve, which means that Bernstein and Rosenthal are exempt from paying property taxes on the renovations until 2016.
Spice operating hours are Mon.-Thurs. 5 p.m. - 11:30 p.m. and Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.. The restaurant is closed on Sunday. The restaurant telephone number is 413-443-1234.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.