Glasses with wine at the cheese seminar at Highwood mansion given during the Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic in 2011. The Classic returns this weekend with dinners, tastings and seminars.
LENOX, Mass. — Tanglewood is home to some of the region's best classical fare — and not only the musical kind.
The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is inviting locavores to the 10th annual Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic's Berkshire Night, featuring "local chefs, libations, meats, breads and farms."
Happening a few weeks earlier than usual, the event starts off Thursday night with the Best of the Berkshires cocktail reception and Berkshire Night dinner — four Berkshire fine dining chefs, front and center. Three Berkshirites will present seminars throughout the weekend. Berkshire food and beverage businesses will take part in Saturday's tasting extravaganza. The local rare wine auction and dinner, "Bliss at Blantyre," nearby in Lenox will close the Classic.
In 2003, Denis Toner, wine and fine food connoisseur and Massachusetts native, started the Classic in what he called "the warm Berkshire green." He said he based it on "the Gastronomic Faire of medieval times which used to happen during the harvest."
Brian Alberg, executive chef and director of food and beverage at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, said he "did it 10 years ago when Denis Toner had it." Alberg is one of the chefs presenting the Berkshire Night dinner along with Nicholas Moulton, head chef at Mezze Bistro in Williamstown; Peter Platt, chef and co-owner of The Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough, and Daire Rooney, chef at Allium Restaurant in Great Barrington.
Although Berkshire food producers and restaurants have always been part of Tanglewood's Wine & Food Classic mix, they were seldom the major players.
"They went to all Boston chefs," Alberg said. "The only reason I'm participating is because they brought it back to local chefs."
These Berkshire chefs have worked with each other in various local and out-of-the-area settings, such as teaching culinary skills to teens as part of Great Barrington's Railroad Street Youth Project, catering local parties and events, preparing Outstanding in the Field dinners and dinners at the James Beard House in New York City.
"We each took a course," Alberg said, which is typically what they do. "My course is a ragout of Lila's Mountain Lamb and trippa di porcini with bone marrow gremolata and Berry Patch escarole."
That's a thick lamb stew with beef tripe and porcini mushrooms garnished with bone marrow and bitter escarole greens.
Alberg said he was told they are expecting 75 guests Thursday tonight.
"It's always fun at the Classic," said Rooney who is making the soup course using produce from local farms.
"I'm making a chilled beet and cucumber and Berle Farm yogurt soup with lemon verbena-poached salmon, cold as well, that will be floating in the center of the soup with a few little garnishes — I'm hoping to be doing nasturtium petals."
A note about Berkshire food and farm connections.
Lila, who raises the mountain lamb in Great Barrington, is Lila Berle, a member of the Wilde family who own High Lawn Farm, the successful dairy in Lee. She is also mother of Beatrice Berle, owner and farmer of the organic, diversified Berle Farm in Hoosick, N.Y., which specializes in yogurt and raw milk cheese.
"The cucumber is from Farm Girl Farm in Great Barrington with dill from Indian Line Farm in Egremont and Morningstar Farm pink Chioggia beets, from Copake, N.Y.," said Rooney.
Chioggia beets have red and white rings you can see when you cut them. They are very sweet and do not bleed like other beets.
"It's Berkshire Night," Moulton said. "Because everything is from the Berkshires. The chefs are from the Berkshires. It's where the products are harvested and grown."
Moulton said he would be "doing a small composed salad based on a panzanella, which is a bread salad. I'm using some really awesome cherry tomatoes from Bill and Susie Stinson's Peace Valley Farm here in Williamstown, five minutes from the restaurant. We're not gonna do too much to them."
"We'll dress them in some nice wine vinegar and really good olive oil with some whipped burrata cheese and some breadcrumbs. I'll be paying homage to some really great ingredients."
Moulton said he would be there with his catering chef Pete Jaenecke.
"I will be there in the hors d'ouvres tent. It's gonna be great! They're putting an emphasis on local food which I'm always more than happy to be part of," he said.
"Peter Platt is doing the dessert and Nick Moulton, the chef from our sister restaurant Mezze, will be doing the hors d'ouvres. I hear it is a melon and tomato panzanella salad," Rooney.
Platt's dessert will be made by his executive pastry chef Amanda Perrault, a Dalton native who has worked with quite a few current Berkshire star chefs.
Perrault spent six years as sous chef to Shirl Gard, the previous executive pastry chef at The Old Inn on the Green's Southfield Store dessert kitchen. She had been working as chocolatier Joshua Needleman's sous chef at Chocolate Springs in Lenox for the last two years, "so I could learn more about chocolate and chocolate techniques," and just returned in June when Gard retired.
"I got here two months ago, right in time for the busy season," Perrault said with a laugh. "It was like I never left. I'm so happy to be back and have this opportunity. It feels like home."
"Tonight we're doing individual bittersweet chocolate tarts," Perrault said. "They're going to be served with a black plum syrup — they're not local plums they're only organic. And we're using local blackberries and Rainer cherries. We're also featuring blackberry gelato and black cherry gelato for which we're using High Lawn Farm cream. And we're using red currants from The Old Inn garden for a garnish — they're a little tart, they're a little sour. They're very good, though."
Perrault said she and Platt would be at tonight's dinner plating desserts. Immediately after she got back into the Southfield Store kitchen the two catered the opening of Jacob's Pillow in Becket for 600 guests.
Joshua Needleman, chocolate maker, pastry chef and owner of Chocolate Springs in Lenox, in 2011. He will present a chocolate and port and sherry wines seminar Thursday. Below right, a Chocolate Springs creation garnished with flakes of chili peppers.
"Tonight is 75. It's much different," Perrault explained. "We have lots of time to make the plates pretty."
Two of the three seminars at the Classic will be about wine pairings, the third will be a wine tasting with a talk.
Thursday night will be Needleman's third year offering a chocolate pairing seminar. He will sample and discuss his latest chocolates with Sandeman porto and sherry pairings.
He will bring a late bottle vintage/LBV, a 20-year-old tawny port and Armada cream sherry.
He also will bring his chipotle dolce dark, whose caramelized bittersweet chocolate ganache interior is offset by crushed chipotle peppers sprinkled liberally on the top of the outer chocolate coating. And his chai tea, Chai This. And his hazelnut praline dark with caramelized hazelnut garnish.
His most recent chocolates are his palettes, thin disks of dark chocolate, flavored and garnished.
He will probably bring his salty caramel truffles. And his Classic: pure dark cocoa rush with chocolate nibs in it for crunch.
And, probably, also something with raspberry. It's summer. It's berry time. How can he not bring something raspberry?
"Being part of the Classic, hosting a seminar, being at the Grand Tasting, is always fun, exciting and it's nice to interact with people, to see how they do food and wine together," Needleman said.
He said he would definitely bring his salted olive oil palettes with Maldon sea salt crystals and organic extra virgin olive oil to Saturday's Grand Tasting. And his brand-new dark chocolate with crunchy basil palettes — basil and sugar crystallized together, as in crystallized flowers.
"There's lots of crunch there," he laughed.
And, well, other chocolates.
"I gotta have a few surprises in there, too," Needleman concluded.
Friday evening, Jeremy Stanton of Fire Roasted Catering and The Meat Market in Great Barrington will "be doing housemade charcuterie; we'll be doing a demonstration of our cured meats. We're very excited."
"We're doing the Grand Tasting as well. This will be the second year we've done it," Stanton said. "We're gonna do an all-out charcuterie display — towers of charcuterie! It's fun to be perfect those products. It's definitely a labor of love. And it’s a great opportunity to get our products to an appreciative audience of wine lovers and food lovers."
The third seminar, just before Saturday's Grand Tasting, will be a talk about the history of wine and its place in the arts given by distinguished wine historian Nina Wemyss. Lenox wine merchant Jim Nejaime of Spirited Wines will pair summer wines with the talk.
"After the seminar, we will go straight to the tent for the Grand Tasting," Nejaime said. "There, we'll have a table filled with some wonderful artisan cheeses as well as some very special wines to taste. We'll be there to talk and teach, to talk about the wine and the cheese."
Thursday and Friday afternoons, Spirited will host two wine tastings.
"Winemakers are already here," he said. "We're gonna be doing two wine tastings here at the shop for those who cannot go to Tanglewood.
Last summer, Richard Bourdon, baker and proprietor of Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, gave a demonstration of his sourdough bread baking techniques at the Grand Tasting event.
"I was just sampling a little bread last year. I did a little talk. It was not the kind of event to do a class on bread baking. You know how it is? At wine tastings, people get high. I would have done better to do a comedy act," Bourdon said ruefully. "I don't do these things much anymore.
"But, it's nice to be with people. I'm doing a little pizza this year."
Berkshire Mountain Bakery is known for its fabulous pizza crusts — Tanglewood uses them for their Café and Grill pizzas. They even have a 'you-take-it-home-to-bake-it' pizza shop in the bakery.
Paul Tawczynski, second generation of the Taft Farms family in Great Barrington and now the farm chef, was happy to say, "This is the fourth year in a row that we're up at the Grand Tasting."
Known nationally as a one-on-one ice fishing guide, Tawczynski is also a commercial fisherman and licensed charter boat captain. He said he'd be bringing one of his farm kitchen signature dishes, "Baked stuffed baby bell pepper with our wicked tuna salad and heirloom tomato.
"We use fresh whole tuna," he said. "It could be albacore or yellow fin. It could be bigeye."
He had been waiting for Gloucester fisherman to catch some tuna after a week or more with none.
"We have relationship with some boats off Gloucester," said Tawczynski. "We get whole tuna delivered to us once a week. It takes me an hour or two to break down a 150 tuna. It takes one week to go through it."
Laura Shack, chef and owner of Firefly Restaurant in Lenox said, "We are doing chilled vichyssoise with fresh chives and a shrimp, mango and avocado salad."
An old friend of Classic founder Toner's, Shack is participating in the Grand Tasting for her second year. She said, "I've been going to it for years and it was very upbeat. I just thought it was a great event."
She said, last year, "We had a great time. People who came to it had a great time. It’s a really wonderful event. It brings people to Tanglewood. It's good for Tanglewood. It's good for the locals."
Berkshire participants at the 10th Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic:
Participating Vendors & Venues
Allium Restaurant+Bar, Great Barrington
Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Housatonic
Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Sheffield
Big Elm Brewery, Sheffield
Blantyre Hotel, Lenox
Boston Gourmet at Tanglewood, Lenox and Boston
Canyon Ranch, Lenox
Chocolate Springs, Lenox
Cranwell Resort, Lenox
Firefly Restaurant, Lenox
G2/Gary Goldsmith Photography, Great Barrington
Malaysian Flavours, Pittsfield
Mezze Bistro+Bar, Williamstown
Nejaime's Wine Cellars, Lenox and Stockbridge
Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge
SoCo Creamery, Great Barrington
Spirited Wines, Lenox
Taft Farms, Great Barrington
Tanglewood Gift Shop, Lenox
The Chef's Shop, Great Barrington
The Meat Market, Great Barrington
The Old Inn on the Green, New Marlborough and Southfield
Wandering Star Craft Brewery, Pittsfield