Creative Crepes at The Starving Artist in the Berkshires

If you believe that you dine with your eyes as well as your mouth, I know exactly where to send you for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast in the Berkshires.

20140913_091839 The Starving Artist Cafe seems at first o be just a cute creperie on Lee’s main drag. You order at the counter then go to sit down at a small table or a window-side bench…. 20140913_091843 and then get to look at the gorgeous art gallery in which the cafe is housed. You like it, you can buy it! Sure beats seeing football on 3 screens in the local bar.  20140913_092800 Hot chocolate

Gargantuan, incredibly creamy, and none too sweet. Be sure to get it topped with the barely sweetened whipped cream, which only adds to the richness. This might put you into a food coma. It’s such a decadent way to start your vacay weekend.  20140913_093027 Mexican crepe with scrambled local eggs, black beans, avocado, and scallions

Tasty, if lacking in the spice department.

20140913_093343

A really good counterpart to that hot chocolate. The crepe is crispy yet tender and chock full of scrambled eggs with melted cheese, soft avocado, and chewy black beans. Don’t skimp on the salsa, because the eggs aren’t spicy at all. But they are wholesome and delish.

20140913_093033 Fruit cup

A good size, with delicious Asian pears and homemade granola. Win.

Loved this joint (though the espresso is dreadful). Fair prices, delicious food, and good service. Plus, decorations that can’t be beat.

Dinner in the Berkshires at Chez Nous

I am a control freak. I  love hotels, I love eating out, and I love planning the perfect vacation experience – it’s hard for me to give up control.

So, when someone else chooses the restaurant and it turns out to not only be great, but REALLY reasonably priced…I’m shocked, I’m thrilled, and I’m a little weirded out…happily weirded out.

We spent the Berkshires weekend with some of our favorite people, and friend M chose Chez Nous for dinner. She had been there before and swore that it was worthwhile.

I love having smart friends.

20140913_194810 Chez Nous sounds fancy and has an eclectic menu, but it is extremely comfortable with a buzzy, chatty atmosphere. you can arrive in jeans, but they should be nice ones. And please make reservations…if you can’t tell from the picture, the small home in which the restaurant is housed, is positively packed.  20140913_201032 Cheese plate

This is an example of how something doesn’t need to be overly complicated in order to be delicious. The cheese plate isn’t large – if you are hungry, you won’t want to share it with more than one person – but it’s well designed. The blue cheese is mild and creamy, with a slightly umami, funky finish. The local goat cheese is te other big winner here – soft and crumbly – ideal with the sweet grapes or airy, tangy bread. The chutney is the standout here. It’s clearly homemade, loaded with sweet onions and plump raisins. It’s bright with vinegar and really piquant – it is so tasty that I ate it with a fork, no cheese necessary. I would absolutely get this again.   20140913_204243 Burger topped with sauteed foie gras

My husband got this…I wimped out. Trust me, I still hate myself for not getting it. Just had to include a shot because it is so gorgeous. The burger itself was undersalted but well cooked – juicy and pink throughout. The accompanying fries and aggressively garlicky aioli are excellent.  20140913_204326 Seared Scottish salmon with spinach and einkorn risotto

Exactly what you want on a cold night when you have already maxed out on junk food on the car trip up. I always prefer local fish, but they were out of the striped bas that day and I just didn’t feel like halibut. This fish was lovely – cooked until medium rare with a tender interior and a salty, crispy crust. It’s served on some silky spinach and einkorn risotto. I am pretty sure that einkorn is farro,which I love. It has a somewhat al dente texture and nutty taste. It’s creamy and served with man mixed mushrooms that work surprisingly well with the fish. In case you didn’t notice, this portion looks on the small side. That’s because every entree here has the option to be served in half portions. This is such a great idea – if you filled up at lunch or if you are on a budget, you can diner here for a fraction of the price and/or food waste. I love, love, LOVE the half portion thing and wish that other restaurants would take its cue.
20140913_213117 Lemon lavender posset

Ignore the threat of lavender, because this is all lemon meringue pie in a jar. Creamy, tart, sweet – delicious. Served with sugary macerated strawberries and a homemade cookie alongside, this is something that any lover of lemony desserts will be obsessed with. It’s the pudding of your dreams – the cookie adds a textural contrast but it’s just icing on the cake. This little pot of lemony goodness is pretty near perfect – don’t go for a half portion of this!

Chez Nous is delightful. The vibe is casual but still celebratory, the food is delicious, and those half portions are awesome. The one dark spot was the service. I’m so sorry, but our server was out to lunch. She was new, but…like…new to this planet? She was really nice and friendly, but when we would remind her of dishes that were wrong or drinks that were totally forgotten, she sort of chuckled and gave us a friendly shoulder pat like “oh yeah…haha!” Not my favorite way to correct multiple mistakes. On the upside, this meal was SO reasonably priced. Part of that is because I’m from NYC, where everything is overpriced, and part of it is because of the half portioned entrees. It’s such a great way to keep down costs while still enjoying a delicious meal. Regardless of the scatterbrained service, I would return.

Sometimes giving up control can be a beautiful thing. 

Surf’s Up at Betty’s Pizza in The Berkshires

The Berkshires might not be the first place you would think of treating yourself to a taco or a slice of pizza, but you would be thinking wrong.

20140913_134909 Betty’s Pizza looks like Gidget met Jerry Garcia in Tijuana. I mean that in a good way, in case that isn’t clear. The space is super casual and covered in bright paint, surfboards, and quirky movie posters. This is a great spot for families – we saw a ton of kids there, coloring with crayons that the restaurant provides.  20140913_135124 However, if you want to come by for a slice or 2, just stop by the counter and get something to go.  20140913_141220 Betty’s chopped salad with hopped Iceberg, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Grilled Chicken, Mozzarella Cheese, and Roasted Red Peppers

This looks mundane and tastes AWESOME! Yes, the dressing is in a little prepackaged cup, but in Betty’s defense, Ken’s really is some of the greatest bottled dressing on the market. It’s creamy, properly funky, and doesn’t have any weird gummy texture that lesser blue cheese dressings have. The lettuce is finely shredded, the peppers must be roasted in house (they are silky and have a smoky flavor), and the chicken is juicy and still warm. The eggs are a little overcooked, but it’s still an excellent combination of flavors and textures and this take on a cobb salad is really tasty and a great counterpart to the pizza.
20140913_141612 Half sausage, half mushroom pizza

Really satisfying – and I’m saying this after 8 years of New York City pies. Thin, lightly burnished crust with a tangy, bright sauce and plenty of cheese. Teh mushroom pie is studded with meaty shrooms and the sausage half was gobbled so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to try it…RUDE.  20140913_141756 A little pale, but still delicious.

Betty’s is the perfect lunch spot in Lenox. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and it’s so tasty. Get the longboard if you want 8 pieces of pie – and oh, you do.

Next up: Another morning, another brekfast

Otto’s Breakfast Deli and Church Street Bistro – Berkshires Break

After this weekend, I’m pretty sure I’m a yuppie from the movie Baby Boom. 

After all, I spent it in the Berkshires. 

This comfy, sleepy, totally relaxed section of Western MA is about 3 hours from NYC and though I didn’t find it as picturesque as Cape Cod or as foodie-centric as Maine – well, it was still a relaxing and pretty tasty weekend!

Check out our desserts at Church Street Cafe:

20140912_212104 Chocolate cake with espresso ice cream

As fudgy and familiar as you could hope. Dense and sweet, with a buttery, rather than bitter, finish. The espresso ice cream adds the pleasantly bitter edge that makes chocolate desserts so delicious on every flavor facet. It’s served warm, and the combination of moist cake and creamy, cold ice cream is pretty damned unbeatable. 
20140912_212111 Tiramisu

The lightest version of this dessert that I can remember. The mascarpone cheese is incredibly airy – it practically dissolves on the tongue. It has a light hand with the liquer, so the taste is mostly creamy, rich mascarpone which is not overwhelming, since it has been so aerated. The biscotti alongside is unmemorable, but if you love creamy desserts or tiramisu in general, this is one worth trying.
20140914_074803 We hit up Otto’s before we left town. It is a sweet little diner with the MOST kick ass wait staff (a million coffee refills, running outside to release the shade so the sun wouldn’t get in our eyes, offering substitutions and sharing plates without prompting…seriously, wonderful service) and a menu that is not especially memorable but especially well executed.
20140914_080242 Tomato and spinach two egg omelette with fruit plate

Not innovative, but well prepared and served quickly and with a smile and some hot sauce. The fruit alongside is fresh (the pineapple is especially delicious) and the pumpernickel toast is thick and pleasantly sour.

Next up: who wants pizza for lunch?

Top Notch Breakfast at the Hob Knob

Okay, it’s time for just one more Martha’s Vineyard restaurant.

It isn’t really a restaurant, it’s the breakfast part of the bed and breakfast where my mom, sister and I stayed while we were there.

The Hob Knob is an adorable bed and breakfast in Edgartown. It has individually decorated rooms, luxurious linens and bath products, and a nearby farm where it gets nearly all of its produce and dairy.

Plus, there is wifi in every room. This is a bed and breakfast done right.

Especially the breakfast part.

Each stay here includes the first meal of the day in the room price, and with a meal this good, it really is the most important one. Check out the food porn:

Fresh Fruit

As you sit in the eccentric-upscale-homey (yes, that’s actually how I would describe it) dining room, you will be brought fruit. It isn’t anything exceptional, but he attention to detail and presentation is lovely.

Blueberry scone

Don’t bother to count carbs here. The scones are things of beauty. Soft, airy, and served warm, they are on the sweeter side of scones. They taste like the top of a blueberry crumb muffin – sugary, buttery, perfect with a pat of melting butter.

Eggs and bacon

The soft boiled eggs, served in vintage egg cups, are served alongside sourdough bread and thick slices of salty, smoky bacon. Like all the meat here, the bacon is locally produced and the eggs are procured from the farm down the street. They are truly delicious – creamy, firm white surrounding a fluorescent orange yolk, intensely buttery and rich.

Rum Soaked French Toast

The french toast is custardy and almost spicy, spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg. It is served with coarsely ground sausage that is moist and porky without being overly greasy or fatty. Dunk  a piece of the toast in the real maple syrup and the spicy, sweet, intense taste of the rum fairly explodes.

The Mag-a-Muffin

This take on eggs Benedict is a little lighter than the original. Fresh farm eggs are poached and served atop ripe tomatoes, Canadian bacon, and an English muffin. It’s satisfying without being heavy and it’s very tasty. That’s what having such fresh ingredients does – it elevates everything. All the tastes are crystal clear and sharp – rich egg, sweet tomato, salty meat, and yeasty bread. Totally in sync and totally delightful.

The entire Hob Knob experience is totally delightful. It isn’t cheap, but the service is excellent, the rooms are lovely, and the food is really delicious. The next time you head to Martha’s Vineyard, book yourself a room here, because the only way that you get the breakfast is to book the bed.

Martha’s Vineyard Must Eats

A few dishes to be sure to try on Martha’s Vineyard:

Grilled Edgartown Oysters at Henry’s

This Harborview Hotel restaurant has a casual pub room where you can get a glass of beer and an order of these oysters. Broiled with spicy garlic butter, these have a smoky, herby taste and the oysters themselves are bursting with liquor. A lighter version of Oysters Rockefeller, these are not to be missed.

Menemsha Cafe has delicious homemade soups and daily specials (The lamb stew, made with local lamb, is especially delicious), but you come here for the…

Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Freshly baked, hot, and gooey. One of these and you will need a food nap.

Head to this local butcher shop for exotic ingredients like ostrich, cold cut staples, and…

The Cuban Sub.

This unconventional Cuban sandwich, made with bacon, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, spicy mustard, and some other ingredients, is a gut bomb of a sandwich. Salty, savory, hearty, and served on the most delicious freshly baked bread. This is everything indulgent in a handheld package.

That’s what she said.

The Scottish Bakehouse.

You know what to get here, right?

Everything. Especially the most luscious lemon bar I have ever had, with smooth, tart filling atop incredibly buttery, crumbly crust.

You may get sunburnt during your time on Martha’s Vineyard, but you surely won’t go hungry!

Lattanzi’s Pizzeria, Edgartown

When I hear Martha’s Vineyard, I think lobster rolls, B&Bs, and Jaws. I really don’t think pizza.

Lattanzi’s Pizzeria changed all that for me. Lattanzi’s is an elegant Italian restaurant in the upscale community of Edgartown and the pizzeria is the restaurant’s casual offshoot.

Open year round, it is a relaxed place where you can come in jeans, order a glass of wine, and chow down on some seriously great ‘za.

Bread

Baked in the wood burning oven, the bread is really worth mentioning. Sour and dense, with a pleasantly floury crust, it is great when dipped in the spicy garlic olive oil.

Zuppe alla Pesce

A nightly special, this shellfish soup was satisfying  in every way. It was an ample portion, spicy, fruity with tomatoes, and herby with parsley. The shellfish was fresh, salty, and juicy, and the result was a soup that was filling, well-rounded, and delicious with hunks of that delicious bread.

Vongole -Clam pie with Tomatoes, Herbs, Garlic, Spinach, and Asiago

When in Martha’s Vineyard, clams at every course are de rigueur. Here, topping wafer thin crust, they are adorned with garlicky spinach, sweet tomatoes, and salty shards of Parmesan cheese. The clams themself taste sweet and very fresh, tender atop the crunchy crust.

Though the crust could use some more charring, it still manages to be chewy at the edges, with enough heft at the middle to carry the toppings.

The price is a little steep, but it’s Martha’s Vineyard – in general, full service restaurants here are pricey. The food is delicious, the service is efficient, and the atmosphere is much more laid back than most of the sit down restaurants on the island. It’s a nice break from fried oysters (not that I ever need a break from fried oysters!).

Next up: Odds and Ends on the Vineyard

Lattanzi's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Net Result, Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard is a summer town. What does that mean? It means that in the chillier early spring months, hotel rooms can be had for a song, the beaches are perfect for private walks, and many of the island’s famous eateries are not yet open for the season. That is difficult to be sure, but in return for doing some research, you can enjoy the beauty of the Vineyard without the traffic, and you can dine very well. Case in point:

The Net Result. This seafood market and casual restaurant is open year round, serving the freshest fish and shellfish that the island has to offer. When the other clam shacks and lobster huts are closed, this one is open, offering pristine seafood that has been caught that morning.

Everything from live lobster to fresh sushi to refrigerated crab cakes can be bought and prepared at home.

Or, of course, you can order at the counter, and after waiting a short time…

bring a paper bag to one of the picnic tables outside and indulge in one of the most delectable seafood feasts on the East coast.

Fried Oyster Roll

So fresh that the oysters are still swimming in their briny liquor seconds before they are fried. The breading is thin and, though becomes a bit soggy from its short stint in foil wrapping, does not take away from the warm, salty, juicy oysters. These are oysters that are fresh enough to be eaten raw – they still taste wild and of the sea. Tucked into a warm buttered hot dog bun, they want for nothing except a spritz of lemon.

Lobster Roll

Maine style, with huge, sweet hunks of fresh claw and tail meat bound lightly by mayonnaise. Salt and pepper are the only other additions to this incredibly ample lobster roll. The lobster for your roll will be freshly caught and cooked that day, and the meat is cooked until it is just barely done . This way, the lobster is buttery and tender.

Lobster Dip

Don’t miss this fantastic dish, found in the cold case. Made with fresh lobster, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and spices, this is what you always imagine when you order sub par crab dip from restaurants. Creamy, meaty, and slightly salty, it is delightful with a hit of hot sauce.

Mussels

Simply steamed, with sweet morsels of mussel meat. Dipped in warm melted butter, you just won’t find mussels better than these anywhere.

Lobster

Fresh. The whole thing. With the roe and tomalley.  Just fantastic.

A messy meal, but an inexpensive and delicious one.

And the views just can’t be beat.

Next up: Pizza in the Vineyard? It’s possible and tasty!

Marguerite’s – The Stuffie That Stole My Heart

After a relaxing trip to Martha’s Vineyard, it was time for the roadtrip home. People everywhere from Roadfood to Chowhound swore up and down that if we didn’t stop at Marguerite’s in Westport, MA, we were savage heathens who were missing a chance to experience really old fashioned, authentic New England fare.
We might be savage, but in NO WAY are we heathens.
We walked into a small, casual restaurant that was pretty empty at 11:45…
and by 12:30 the place was PACKED and there was a line out the door. Either there was an AARP drug smuggling situation going on here or the food was fantastic.
Either way, we were going to feel GREAT after lunch.
The clam chowder was in the upper echelon of clam chowders, for sure. Rich but not heavy, thick but not cloying, fresh and clam-y without being fishy or salty. Thick cut bacon and a heavy hand with the thyme added smoky and earthy notes to the incredibly fresh and comforting soup. We got the last cup of the day-at noon-and with good reason. If they had had more, I would have gotten at least one more cup, if not a bowl. It was that delicious.
Really, any time you can submerge crackers in pottery and come up with cream-injected carby goodness…it’s a great time.
You didn’t think I was ending this road trip without another stuffie, did you? And I am damn glad I didn’t. Because this was definitely the QUEEN OF THE QUAHOGS! The filling was incredibly moist, but not soggy or mushy. It had huge pieces of fresh and ridiculously tender clams, juicy and garlicky linguicia, sauteed peppers and onions, and enough spice in there to make me grab my water glass.
Yes, I know I should have reached for milk instead of water.
But since I’m not a 12 year old in the 1940′s…I don’t drink milk at meals.
The filling was homemade and might have even had cornbread in there…I detected a very earthy, hearty taste from the stuffing. The onions were properly translucent and the peppers still retained their snap and bite. This had a definite Latin flavor to it, with the heat and garlic from the linguicia. This was everything a stuffie should be-a symphony of clams, veggies, sausage and stuffing all combined into a moist but not gluten-y mixture that fills your mouth with the tastes of the sea and of the land.
Perfection.
I got the scallop Caesar salad, a special of the day that, under normal circumstances, I would NEVER have ordered. I feel strongly that Caesar salads with some type of protein on them in American cuisine-focused restaurants are one step up from ordering a hamburger at a taco place. But, something made me get this-perhaps the fact that the only vegetable I had eaten that week were potatoes in the fried form had something to do wit hit. And you know what? This was GREAT! Cheesy, lightly garlicky, lemony Caesar dressing that had none of the creamy gloop factor lesser dressings so often have. The Parmesan was nutty and sharp, the croutons were CLEARLY freshly made and the scallops were just outstanding. Sweet, meaty, almost tasting fatty in their smooth and rich quality. Truly the exception to the “don’t order the Caesar” rule.
And yet…I wouldn’t call Marguerite’s a destination restaurant. It was totally delicious, well priced and seemed to have something on the menu for everyone, but there wasn’t really a WOW factor, other than the quahogs. Those stuffies are definitely worth a stop, but paired with the rest of the food, this is more of a great stop on your way than a destination in and of itself. And I hope that you all do get a chance to visit Marguerite’s, which was the perfect way to end my Quahog Chronicles.
Marguerites Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A Local and Delightful Breakfast at the Hob Knob

When breakfast is included in the price of your hotel, it is really a shame not to take advantage of it. When the breakfast includes local and organic foods prepared to order, it is a SIN not to take advantage of it.
The Hob Knob bed and breakfast, a lovely small hotel in the heart of Edgartown, combined luxury with country warmth, and this showed in the lavish breakfast offered every morning.
The BEST grapefruit I have EVER eaten! Usually, grapefruits have an unpleasantly bitter edge to me, but this was incredibly sweet and bright, with none of the harsh taste I usually associate with grapefruits. I don’t know if they pumped this full of sugar or WHAT, but whatever they did, it was worth it! So incredibly delightful. There was also a very fresh, albeit less thrilling fruit salad.
Sorry, fruit salad, only the thrilling food gets photographed here.

Still warm from the oven blueberry-ginger scones. Buttery and almost impossibly light, this escaped the trap that so many scones fall into – being too dense or too sweet. This had a small, but not tight, crumb, which allowed it to be fluffy rather than leaden. Really remarkable. It was also not overly sweetened, and the juicy blueberries and slightly spicy chunks of candied ginger brought the necessary sweetness to the dish without making it a sugary overload. A smear of unsalted butter was all that was needed to bring this truly fantastic scone to the next level.
If that doesn’t make you swoon, you have a cold and unloving heart.
Soft boiled eggs, sourdough bread and thick cut, crispy bacon that was so incredibly porky that I almost wept with joy. It is so hard to get really thick cut bacon cooked perfectly, but this was simultaneously meaty and delicately crispy.
And that egg…
Oh, that egg. Procured from the Farm Institute up the road, it was local, organic, ethically produced and BEYOND delicious. The yolk was positively neon yellow, and the white was cooked just until it set, so it was velvety and smooth next to the thick viscosity of the runny yolk. Eggs are just so satisfying when they are really good eggs cooked really well, and this one really fit the bill.
My sister’s main dish of Eggs Benedict was none too shabby either.
If you have a chance, get yourself over to the Hob Knob. It is family owned and run, is eco-friendly, and is incredibly homey. Though they are quite expensive in season, off season their rooms are a steal! And any time, their breakfasts are affairs to remember.