Jewish Penicillin Cures All Ills
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Spring, despite her reluctance, has finally arrived. The breeze is warm, the ground is soft and everyone I know all over hell and creation is ... sick?
It happens every year around this time, right as I am ready to dive into the dirt and get the garden rolling and right as the kids take their final week of rest before the two-month push to June.
My yearly catastrophic illness began to rear its ugly head at precisely 11 a.m. last Wednesday, while on a pilgrimage to the Bronx Zoo with five of my nieces and nephews and my own two children. What timing.
Lucian, my 7-year-old son, had no sooner shut the car door when he was off like Seabiscuit through the entrance gate. I yelled to him not to even attempt to climb over the fence to "visit" the American bison that seemed to be waiting for him on the other side. The attempted yell morphed quickly into a pathetic, nonthreatening bark.
By the day's end, several thousand dollars' worth of souvenirs and hot dogs and three Pepsis later, things did not improve. In fact, by nightfall I was sweating and no sound came out of me save for raspy squeaks and a spine-rattling cough, complete with phlegm.
By morning, it was official. I tried calling my doctor to make an appointment, but couldn't speak. The receptionist nearly hung up on me, but I managed after several tries to convey my name.
"Oooh my god," he said. "Don't talk. I'm pretty sure I know why you need an appointment."
They got me in early and the waiting room was packed, and very silent. It seemed that all of us poor souls – young, old, man, woman, carpenter and journalist – were there hoping for a cure to our miserable speechlessness. The nurse called my name and I simply smiled at her as she led me to the examining room.
"So what's the problem today, hon?"
I smiled my goofy smile again and wiped the sweat from my neck.
"I ... I ..." I pointed into my throat as if a Smurf had just jumped in. The nurse put her hand up, gesturing for me to stop. I think it hurt her to watch me attempt to speak.
"You sound like everyone else in Berkshire County."
If that's the case, then everyone in Berkshire County needs to know my secret to getting oneself on the mend – and quick. My diagnosis was laryngitis coupled with a sinus infection (and walking pneumonia because I'm lucky that way). As if being unable to speak wasn't bad enough, the coughing further eviscerated my vocal chords and the fever, despite the sun and beautiful sky, made me sweat and shiver at the same time.
What I needed I was not going to find at the prescription counter at Rite-Aid (although I was put on a very strong antibiotic, the side effects of which are almost worse than the illness). What I needed was right across the street from Rite-Aid. My good ol' friend and salvation: soup. Not just any soup, mind you. Nope, this plague was going to require some big guns.
After dropping my deadly horse pill script off at Rite Aid I dragged my sweaty self across the street to Great Barrington Bagel Co. I tried to order, but ended up pointing instead.
"Do you want that soup for here?"
I shook my head and pointed to the giant quart-sized container of chicken and matzo ball soup and gave the woman behind the counter a thumbs up. She handed me the warm amber liquid, filled with bits of chicken, golden matzo balls, carrots, dill and a random scattering of egg noodles. My heart filled with hope that I would be cured by dinner.
It took me a day to get through a quart of the self-proclaimed "Jewish penicillin." My body gathered strength with each slurp. It didn't hurt to eat the matzos, which weren't too salty and eased past my throat. It was almost as if the soup had a life of its own. It knew, or at least somebody at the bagel shop knew, exactly what needed to be done. My body was being nourished from the inside out and all I had to do was let the soup work its ancient magic.
Of course, I did not actually speak until Monday morning, having to conduct interviews via email or, as in the case with Gov. Deval Patrick, who was here on Saturday for a book signing, via written notes and hand gestures. Even the governor winced when I tried to thank him. He was, however, seemingly unafraid to shake my hand. I guess he doesn't mind the bubonic plague.
Or somebody already told him about the soup.
|Tags: Great Barrington Bagel, Matzo ball soup|
What's for Lunch?: Chicken & Flatbread at The Hub
We haven't commented on our lunch habits for awhile. We keep meaning to but the constant swirl of news keeps us pretty busy.
But a colleague and I had a chance on Friday to step away from the bustle for a sit-down at The Hub on Main Street in North Adams. We both used to go there too many years back when it was the The Capitol and Sprague workers were lined up to get in on a Thursday.
The Hub's proven pretty popular itself since opening three years ago under Kate and (chef) Matt Schilling. My usual selection to-go is the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese but the specials on Friday were to good to pass up.
Over the years, we've grown to love soup. This is Italian wedding at The Hub; you can also get good soup at Christo's (try the Greek) and Pizza Works on Ashland Street.
My colleague and I both selected a roasted chicken sandwich on herb flatbread with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil aioli dressing.
Verdict: pretty awesome. I'm not a fan of flatbread; it's often hard and chewy. This one was just right and a lot moister than expected. The chicken was pulled and tender, the cheese warm but not overpowering and the dressing, well, perfect. But then I'm a fan for anything with basil in it.
We also had the homemade Italian wedding soup — one of my favorites. The canned version by Progresso is a staple in my pantry. Matt's is far better and the cup was not enough.
We topped it off with homemade bread pudding and cream, another favorite of mine I rarely make anymore. (The kids weren't into it and eating a casseroleful by myself was a weighty affair.) It was served warm and had raisins in it. The texture was just right, not too creamy and not too chunky. It was a good-sized portion but didn't feel heavy.
Kate told us the restaurant will be changing the menu at the beginning of May. They've been experimenting hummus and plan to add a hummus sandwich and salad plate, along with a baby spinach salad. Given Matt changed our mind about flatbread, maybe he'll get us into hummus. We're willing to try.
The Hub also was given a permit last year for outside dining so expect to see some tables on the sidewalk once the weather warms up.
|Tags: lunch, Hub, soup|
Mezze Beverages Intrigue Globe Writer
Mezze Bistro and Bar got a shoutout this morning from The Boston Globe for its "cultural cocktails."
The bistro, now in its new location in the former Le Jardin on Route 7, is offering drinks to go with the Clark Art Institutes current exhibition "Picasso Looks at Degas."
Globe correspondent Luke O'Neil used nearly as many words on Mezze as he did on his review of the Clark exhibit, saying "nearby Mezze Bistro and Bar is a work of art in its own right."
Owner Nancy Thomas told him that the restaurant's cultural cocktails are in support of the local cultural venues and many have ingredients from here in the Berkshires, including from Berkshire Distillers. "Mezze Bistro is trying to help tell the story of our region, the Berkshires, and offer a sense of place," Thomas told the Globe.
Berkshire Living caught the reference and passed it on to readers in its daily e-letter group.
Mezze Group has been committed to supporting locally grown produce and inventive with the beverages. Its "Carhartts & Cocktails" dinners are becoming an annual event to bring together diners and the people who grow the food. Thomas' restaurants have also tried to stay on cutting edge of sophisticated cocktails. We tip our glass to her.
|Tags: Mezze, Review|
Street Food, Northern Berkshire Style
Colleen Taylor of FYP and Taylor's was chatting up Michael Gallagher of Square Roots Farm.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Food Festival on Sunday had easily its best showing in years, if not best ever. There were more restaurants, more variety, more music and more people — many more people — than the past few years.
The 9-year-old event has had its ups and downs, plagued by rain or searing temperatures and inconsistent participation. Some of the eateries from that first fest don't even exist anymore.
But there's always been a hardcore dozen or so restaurants and food vendors that set up under tents for an afternoon of dining.
Shish kabob & chicken jambalaya
This year, hundreds, likely well more than a thousand, packed Main Street from 1 to 4 to sample from 17 food purveyors. Rod Bunt of the Office of Tourism, which organizes the event, said more than 18,000 tickets (at 50 cents apiece) had been sold by 1:30. That's compared to nearly 15,000 total last year.
"I don't know how many people that is but I'd say it's a lot," said Bunt.
The new setup certainly helped the event's success. Instead of clumping the tents at the east end of the street the entire south side of Main Street was closed off and the tents spread down from about Hoosac Bank past Holden Street. The layout also offered far more seating than before and kept people walking along the street between the tents. The new benches also offered a spot to sit and listen to the musicians playing.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer, chairman of the Community Development Committee, said the idea was to include the galleries at the west end of the street and open the way to grow it next year.
"This was much better," said Kate Schilling of The Hub, whose booth was just a hop away. "It's much more spread along the street and it's a better layout."
The foot traffic also helped Creations, which owner and City Councilor Keith Bona had opened for the afternoon. (Sadder was the "almost free stuff" being picked over in front of Tangiers, which is closing at the end of the month.)
Romaine fresh from the field.
There was a lot of variety, too. Along with the usual pizza suspects, attendees could chose from Spanish, Italian, diner, fine dining, vegan and Indian. And, what seems an obvious addition, fresh root and early garden greens from Square Roots Farm in Clarksburg. I picked up bok choy and some nice-looking radishes; Bona was spotted munching on a stalk of romaine.
Being a regular customer of most of the downtown eateries, I opted to try something different: a beef shish kabob from Lucia's Latin Homestyle Spanish Cooking washed down with a pale ale from Girardi Distributors. The sausage tasted a lot like kielbasa. The beef was great — rare, moist and tender. I also tried some chicken jambalaya from Wild Oats Market that was a lot lighter than expected and had a nice spicy kick.
A half pan of jambalaya was all that was left, said chef Greg Roach, who figured he'd gone through more than 200 servings. The cookies were long gone. Many of the vendors ran out of one or more items by the end of the afternoon; Schilling was cleaned out and the final few bread puddings were given away.
Seven Blakeman of the Elf Parlor said she'd run out of everything by around 3 p.m. "I never did anything like this before," she said. "I didn't know what expect."
Make more mini food like these baby burgers.
Overall, the restaurant owners as well as the organizers were pleased with the turnout. There were plenty of politicians on hand, too. Both candidates for sheriff, Dan Bosley and Tom Bowler, were there with their T-shirted posses; all three candidates for 1st Berkshire District, Gailanne Cariddi, David Bissaillon and Edward MacDonald, were schmoozing. Also spotted in the crowd were a number Clark Art and Mass Moca stickers, a very good sign.
Organizers are hoping for even bigger and better next year. One suggestion, encourage the vendors to offer more small bites for fewer tickets: think amuse bouche. Supreme Pizza was offering its version of Bananas Foster (very sweet) on a toothpick ("That was perfect," said Blackmer,) for a ticket. Lickety Split had peewee cones (Blue Blazer) for two. I had both, and would tried more if I hadn't been full of shish kabob and jambalaya (mostly shish kabob). I forgot to go back and get a mango lassi from Spice Root but I'm not sure I could've fit it in.
What was the best dish in your opinion? Post here or on our Facebook page.
|Tags: Food Festival, North Adams|
Food Fest Slated in North Adams
Keith Bona came up with this mouth-watering banner.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's main drag is going to be turned into a gourmet thoroughfare this Sunday, June 27, for the ninth annual Northern Berkshire Food Festival.
From noon to 4, visitors can sample a wide variety of cuisines from local restaurants along with micro brew beer and wine. Tickets will be sold at kiosks for 50 cents each, and most of the food items served will cost between $1 and $4.
This year's participating restaurants include Big Shirl's Kitchen, Boston Sea Foods Restaurant, Bounti-Fare, Christo's Famous Pizza, Elf Parlor, Freight Yard Pub and Taylor's Restaurant, Gramercy Bistro, Lickety Split, Petrino's Cafe, Spice Root Modern Indian Cuisine, Supreme Pizza and Wings, Tastefully Simple, The Hub Restaurant, Red Herring, Village Pizza, Lucia's Latin Foods and Zucchero Dolce.
Berkshire Brewing, Girardi Distributors and West Fine Wines will provide the beer and wine sampling.
Tom Corrigan and the Reformers will provide music along with local band Miss Guided.
For more information, contact the North Adams Office of Tourism at 413-664-6180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Tags: Food Festival|