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There Are Options To Packing A Picnic At Tanglewood

Yes, we know that the picnic culture at Tanglewood is one of the great joys of the season, something many of us wait and plan for all year. But if on occasion schlepping all that stuff through the parking lot to the lawn feels like too much, you should know that there are tasty and convenient alternatives to the bring-your-own food fest.

In fact, there are more this year than ever before. Enough that Tanglewood has a name for its lineup of restaurants, beverage and ice cream purveyors: Taste of the Berkshires. These local favorites join the Tanglewood Café and concessions stands that have been mainstays of the campus.

The Taste of the Berkshires at the Tanglewood Grille, located just inside the Main Gate next to the Glass House 1 (gift shop), offers items from the Meat Market (all natural grass-fed burgers and hot dogs), Mad Jack’s (ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and various side dishes), Rubiner’s (cheese boards and grilled cheese sandwiches) and Firefly (fresh salads and soups). You can sit at tables outside the Grille, or have everything packed to transfer over to your chosen space on the lawn.

Back again this summer is No. Six Depot, with its cold brew cart, and there’s ice cream from The Scoop and Blondie’s dotting the grounds. Craft beer drinkers can choose from Wandering Star Craft Brewery, Big Elm Brewing and Berkshire Brewing Company. Berkshire Mountain Distillers is on site offering its gin and vodka. Local vendors supplying ingredients include Cricket Creek Farm, Hilltop Orchards, Farm Girl Farm, Mill River Farm, Taft Farms, Pittsfield Rye, Equinox Farms and BerkShore Fish.

The vendors are doing a great business, and for good reason: It’s the Rural Intelligence trifecta. “Taste of the Berkshires is successful because it allows Tanglewood patrons the opportunity to experience a music festival and the local food and beverage scene simultaneously,” says Kyle Ronayne, the director of event administration.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/18/16 at 02:52 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About New Lebanon

The Kendall House

By Lisa Green

In 1787, the Shakers settled in New Lebanon, NY and established a thriving community that today is still a pretty bustling scene, sans the Shakers. If you’ve only thought of the town as the place you pass through as you make your way to the Interstate or Albany, it’s time to slow down and look around. There’s a lot to see.

1. The History
This town has a diverse backstory, and the more you delve into it, the more fascinating it becomes. There’s the Shaker side of it; Mount Lebanon was the largest and most important Shaker community (more on that follows). And there’s a second chapter that brings in Lebanon Springs and its healing properties, which ushered in its era as one of the most fashionable spas in the United States between the 1860s and World War I. Opulent spa hotels brought in high society; these were followed by the emergence of local hotels that catered to the middle class. Other businesses emerged, most notably the first thermometer and barometer factories and the first U.S. pharmaceutical firm, an outgrowth of an existing herbal medicine business that used the medicinal herbs grown in the warm spring feeds of the Shaker Swamp. Though many of the landmarks have been torn down, there are still plenty remaining and it’s worth a drive to explore them.

Photo by Markley Boyer.

2. Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon
We love the Shaker heritage in our region, and one of the largest communities settled in Mount Lebanon. They’re no longer here, of course, but the Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon tells their story with a collection of over 56,000 Shaker items, the most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world. With more than 6,000 acres and 100 buildings, this village, a National Historic Landmark, lets us imagine the daily lives of one of the most successful utopian communal societies, which ran from 1787 to 1947. Explore the grounds and exhibits on your own, or take a guided tour of various parts of the site. A highlight is the Great Stone Barn, believed to be the largest stone barn of its kind when it was built. It’s currently undergoing renovation due to a 1972 fire that left just the masonry walls, but the guides can tell you of the Shakers’ advanced systems in dairy processes and what the complete renovation will look like. The current exhibit, “Wash: There is no dirt in heaven” brings to life the day-to-day work of the Shakers as they carried out the chore of weekly communal laundry — in typical ingenious Shaker style. 

3. Behold! New Lebanon
We wrote about the town’s newest venture: Behold! New Lebanon, in its inaugural season. Now in its third, Behold! is the first living museum of contemporary rural life in America, and the guides are the townspeople of New Lebanon who invite you to experience rural life as they live it. Created by Ruth Abram, the founding president of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in NYC (and a New Lebanon resident), Behold! New Lebanon goes beyond being just a window into country life with its immersive activities. More than 50 townspeople introduce visitors to their farms, studios and workspaces, where they practice cooking, farming, cattle raising, automobile racing and mechanics, woodworking, foraging and much more. Events take place every Saturday through October 15. A Visitors Center in a historic house located on Route 20 is the rendezvous point for all tours, on-site ticket sales, a gift shop with items from local artisans and a depot for information on Columbia County attractions.   

In memoriam: Nikolai, Christian Steiner’s pup, who loved music, sat in on all rehearsals for 14 years, and greeted the audiences at Tannery Pond. Photo by Christian Steiner.

4. Tannery Pond Concerts
The music presented by this concert series is world class, but the hall it’s emanating from makes this 26-year-old concert series extra special. Founded and directed by Christian Steiner, a concert pianist and professional photographer, the concerts are held in the barnlike Tannery, built by the Shakers in 1834 (it’s part of the Darrow School campus, the only school in the country located on the site of an historic Shaker Village). The Shakers were known for the beauty and simplicity of their design, but whether they intended to or not, they created a structure that’s as acoustically superb as the music. Think of the biggest names in classical music and chamber groups and they’ve probably performed here. Concerts run between May and September and this season include pianist Stephen Hough and the Miro and St. Lawrence String quartets, among others.   

5. George Rickey Sculptures
World-famous Rickey was one of the two major 20th-century artists to make movement a central interest in sculpture (the other being, of course, Alexander Calder). In 1960 he moved to the East Chatham/New Lebanon area until the end of his life, in 2002. Although his home and studio are strictly private, you can see some of his famous works from the road. Or you can take advantage of a rare opportunity to tour Rickey’s studio and outside sculpture garden offered by Behold! New Lebanon on July 16 and August 6. Philip Rickey, son of the artist and a sculptor in his own right, will be the guide.

6. Meissner’s Auction Service
Friends introduced us to this weekly country auction when we first moved here, and I fell in love — with the family who runs it, the serio-comic auctioneer patter, and the history lessons imbued in the merchandise, much of it gleaned from estate sales that turn up furniture that they just don’t make today. The auction starts at 5 p.m. every Saturday, but you have the whole day to preview the enormous selection of furniture (period, oak, pine, mahogany and Victorian walnut), glassware, pottery, quilts, stoneware and artwork. I’ve seen buyers walk away with entire bedroom sets for $100, but prices run the gamut. One of my favorite parts is the boxlot auction, tables of boxes offering a curious jumbled mix of books, glassware, prints, frames, costume jewelry and things that make you say “huh.” Go to furnish your place or enjoy some free, edifying entertainment. Food is available for sale and I’m told the macaroni and cheese is pretty delicious. 

7. Blueberry Hill Market Café
When this breakfast/lunch place and small market (primarily locally made items), opened four years ago, our reviewer wrote that owner Melanie Hunt “hoped the market would attract folks on their way home from work and that both the café and market would suit the needs of those just passing through.” It’s more than done that, evidenced by the busy parking lot. It still oozes “ample charm” (what is it about mismatched tables and chairs — handsome wood tables and ‘50s dinette sets — that make a sit more inviting?). The offerings of creatively executed soups, sandwiches and locally roasted coffee have expanded, and the desserts that pull you in to the pastry case like a magnet still include Hunt’s famous slab pies — double-crusted squares bursting with fresh fruit (on the day I visited, sour cherry, apple and blueberry-peach). The chocolate croissant bread pudding rendered me speechless.

8. Kendall House Roast Beef Sandwich Shop and Antiques/Uniques
If the name of this shop doesn’t draw you in, the front yard of The Kendall House will catch your eye. A whimsical arrangement of furniture and vintage curiosities welcome you as you drive up to the former home of Thomas Kendall Jr., the inventor of the thermometer and its namesake factory. The building is festooned with old-timey signs announcing that there is food and more fun going on inside. (The town’s Zoning Board is insisting on removal of supplementary exterior signage, whether decorative or directional, for this and other businesses, which seems short-sighted in a town that’s dependent upon traffic streaming by, but I digress.) Glen and Pat Farnan opened an antiques business about five years ago, then added the deli with a knockout rotisserie-cooked roast beef made on premises. “You won’t get a better roast beef sandwich around here,” he says, and I believe him. There’s a full menu of other sandwiches, burgers, soups and Perry’s ice cream, and before or after you’ve shopped you can enjoy your lunch in the café among the collectibles or at the picnic table down by the creek in back. 

(Note: There’s another unusual pairing of food and commerce just down the road at the New Lebanon Minimart and gas station, which offers, along with Boar’s Head products, Indian takeout made by the owners.)

9. Mario’s
Every town needs a restaurant that feels like it’s been there forever, and Mario’s is that one in New Lebanon. Mario and Julia Soldato opened a restaurant devoted to authentic Italian cuisine in the early 1960s, and their children now run it, with some updates to the fine dining experience. Today the menu is more “Italian-inspired” and seasonally appropriate, and the CIA-trained chef (and son) Mickey Soldato uses local ingredients whenever possible. Mario’s is celebrating 50 years in business, and the soul-satisfying food, the to-die-for popovers and friendly atmosphere insure that it might be there another half century. It can get crowded on the weekends, so we suggest you make reservations. 

10. The View
Technically, you approach the breathtaking vista from the Berkshires side, but why quibble? The ride into New Lebanon is a treat in itself. If you’re heading out of Pittsfield going north on Route 20, you pass the other Shaker site, Hancock Shaker Village, and begin ascending the mountain (Pittsfield State Forest is on your right). Just as the terrain starts its descent, almost directly above the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, there’s a scenic overview on the left where you can pull in and park. That’s when you hear the angel chorus; the entire valley is spread before you, verdant and peaceful as if a distant kingdom, an open-arms welcome to Columbia County.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/28/16 at 10:42 AM • Permalink

Roads Less Traveled: Out of the Way Places We Love, Part 2

By Jamie Larson

Last week we explored some of our favorite out-of-the-way main streets on the New England side of the RI region. This week we’re over in New York, giving due credit to some less-talked-about town centers in Columbia and Dutchess counties. One of the things we love most about the area is how agrarian heritage and a growing metropolitan cultural influence have blended (even if not always easily) to build communities that support all types of enterprises, from farms to art galleries. The binding thread seems to be a passion for quality.

Columbia County


Philmont is the little village that could. Climbing along the sides of Philmont’s steep Main Street are businesses supported by a community that has been keeping the town chugging along with an admirable amount of civic tenacity. Philmont Beautification is a grass roots organization that has been working hard on major revitalization plans, hosting events, cleaning up the town and promoting business growth. They host the Farmers Market, one of the best around, and the Philmont Market Co-op and Cafe is coming soon. Though the store isn’t open yet, its mobile, bright green Curbside Café offers some simple, delicious food that reflects the local farm fresh values of the future Co-Op.

Philmont is also home to the highly praised Local 111 restaurant, helmed by Josephine Proul. Her kitchen manages to create a heightened dining experience while letting the quality of local produce and meat shine through. Just down the hill is The Main Street Pub, run by Proul’s mother, Elizabeth Angello. The pub has been around for generations and is in many ways the social hub of the village. You can also grab a slice at Gabriel’s or eat and get a room at the beautifully restored Vanderbilt House, which is now back in the hands of the ancestors of the family that originally ran it.

Old Chatham

The center of Old Chatham is less of a main street and more of a crossroads where Albany Turnpike and Route 13 meet. Jackson’s and The Old Chatham Country Store and Café sit cattycorner from one another. Jackson’s is a county institution, old and cavernous with an ambience that somehow encapsulates vintage Columbia County. It has a great old bar and a dining room offering road house classics done right. The Country Store is as much a historic landmark but has undergone a bit more modernization. Its farm-to-table menu is as fresh and beautiful as the light that pours in from the big old windows. Make it a breakfast and lunch destination, and keep in mind that they offer a Sunday dinner-to-go (you need to order it by Wednesday night).

The name Old Chatham may be known to you because of the much-loved and widely distributed sheep cheese and yogurt produced at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Creamery just outside of town. If you’re in the mood to pick some up after lunch, they have a self-serve, honor-system shop at the farm. You can also go shopping for all your alpaca wool needs at Spruce Ridge Farm. The happy alpacas themselves surround the barn and shop, and make for a really cute place to visit (kids love it). And finally, if you need to work up an appetite or are just looking for some native birds to peep, the Wilson M. Powell Wildlife Sanctuary has a really enjoyable trail. It’s just long enough to make you feel like you’ve done something productive without knocking you out and the trail peaks at a splendid overlook. Afterwards you’ll have earned your lunch and/or cocktail back at the crossroads.

Dutchess County


Amenia feels like a distant border town where the edge of two kingdoms meet. It sits in the beautiful southern foothills of the Berkshires, yet is also home to the last train stop on the Metro North Harlem line from New York City. The tracks literally end a few yards north of the station. This convergence of cultures and socioeconomic classes has caused some chafing over the years (as evidenced by the fight over the creation of a massive gated resort community for the super rich). But Amenia is also home to some fabulous restaurants and attractions that appeal to both locals and train commuters alike.

One successful new addition is the Four Brothers Drive-In Theater next to the regional institution Greek restaurant and pizzeria of the same name. The family-run drive-in has been drawing in the crowds with blockbusters, classic movies, daytime events and a modern concession stand. And you can get anything from the restaurant next door brought to your car, which is so cool it feels like you’re doing something against the rules.

Amenia has a number of top-notch restaurant options as well. Serevan, in a historic farmhouse, uses local ingredients to craft dishes as delicious as they are beautiful. Monte’s Kitchen and Tap Room is a transplant from Brooklyn, run by the family that brought you Monte’s there, but offering a menu that’s more “Hudson valley farm to table” than red sauce over spaghetti. They also run the health food and specialty store, Monte’s Heath Nut Hut. Amenia may look sleepy, but there’s a lively current running through town that’s fun to ride.

Pine Plains

We spend a lot of time shopping and partying with the great folks at the Hammertown Barn, just a little down the road from Pine Plains’ Main Street. More than just a furniture and lifestyle store, Hammertown and its founder Joan Osofsky have been great champions of local businesses, farms and charities for nearly three decades. 

Another town institution you may already know is the Stissing House. Built in the 1700s and a way station for the likes of Presidents Washington and Roosevelt, the Inn is the historic heart of Pine Plains. The restaurant is perhaps the best French restaurant north of Yankee Stadium, thanks to Chef Michel Jean.

Church Street is where the action is. Along with the Stissing House there’s also the seriously good Schapira Coffee and Tea Co., Johanna’s Raw Foods and The Pine Plains Platter. One of the most interesting goings on other than food is the restoration of the historic Pine Plains Memorial Hall. Aiming to spur community development through arts and other civic programing, boosters of the project are extremely active. The hall, they say, will be a centerpiece that will draw even more attention to the town. They’re holding a benefit concert upstairs at the Stissing House featuring the Jacques Thibaud Trio and flutist Eugenia Zukerman on July 3 — yet another reason to pile into the car for a good old-fashioned day trip.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/20/16 at 08:35 AM • Permalink

Roads Less Traveled: Out of the Way Places We Love, Part 1

The West Cornwall Covered Bridge

By Jamie Larson

Over the years, we’ve crisscrossed the Rural Intelligence region highlighting the best our towns, villages and cities have to offer. But we have to admit that sometimes we wonder if we’re missing out on some hidden treasures as we’re driving through. So, while we may have touched upon some of these towns before, we thought it time to spotlight some of the main streets and town centers off the more beaten paths. This week we look at a couple of wonderful spots in Berkshire and Litchfield counties, and next week we’ll hop the New York State line to visit a few more less-publicized localities in Columbia and Dutchess. If you live in or frequent the places we visited, their virtues will come as no surprise, but the rest of you are in for some new discoveries the next time you’re out for a summer drive.

Litchfield County

West Cornwall

Cornwall Bridge Pottery

Let’s start our trip by crossing the Mill Brook on the historic West Cornwall Covered Bridge, where you’ll find yourself in its namesake village. The restaurants and businesses in West Cornwall are few, but are of high quality. It seems to be the theme of the area to blend comfortably into the surroundings, then wow you when you look closer. Just beyond the bridge you’ll find the Cornwall Bridge Pottery Store. The store’s well-known workshop down the road houses the kiln, built off a traditional Chinese design in the 1970s, which has been making some of the most beautiful and functional pieces you’ll find anywhere. Nearby, the Wish House has a wide assortment of gifts, clothes and a gallery that often hosts events. It’s a great place to wander if you’re looking for something but don’t know what it is.

There are two restaurants in town. The Wandering Moose Cafe is warm, rustic and authentic, with a long menu that’s extremely affordable. You’ll find everything from chicken fingers and burgers to duck confit and wild rice risotto. Then there is RSVP French Kitchen, a prix fixe BYOB place that the New York Times called “some of the most brilliant but simple country French food this side of the Atlantic.” Though you may not have heard of it, chef Guy Birster and co-owner Charles Cilona have been running the quirky 20-seat, informal, reservations 24 hours in advance, cash or check only, no vegetarian options, casual dress, no menu and much-praised restaurant since 2001. They get away with their eccentricities and inconveniences because the food is just that good, even if you won’t know what’s on the menu until you come in for dinner that weekend (they assume you’ll bring a bottle of wine and there’s no corkage fee). The $80 includes four courses. Why you’ll find it across the street from a former train station in West Cornwall, we don’t know, but be glad you have.


The Housatonic Trading Company

South of Cornwall, along route 202 is Bantam, technically a county borough. Surrounded by many fabulous homes and a beautiful lake, Bantam has an interesting and approachable variety of quality businesses and restaurants that range from the casual Wood’s Pit BBQ to the James Beard Award-nominated Arethusa al Tavolo. The care that goes into the quality of products there, at Arethusa’s dairy shop (next door to the restaurant), Mockingbird Kitchen and Bar, and other establishments like the Bantam Bread Co., is emblematic of a happy community. Between the above-mentioned, Zini’s, Jackie’s, La Cupola, The Market and more, Bantam is a real food destination just outside Litchfield.

Before or after you’ve eaten, head over to the Housatonic Trading Company, a former carriage factory filled with antiques and decorative items from all eras and parts of the world. We visited it last year, and love the diverse selection and the fact you can shop or relax with a cup of coffee and a pastry from the in-house café. The town also has a great capital “C” community theater. The inconspicuous Bantam Cinema, open since the 1920s, is not just a great place to catch a flick but also serves as a gathering place. It has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated moviehouse in the state. It also hosts events featuring actors and filmmakers who give talks after screenings. Daniel Day Lewis, who lives not far away, spoke at Bantam after a showing of Lincoln.

Berkshire County


A High Lawn Jersey inspects her ice cream.

Lee isn’t exactly as small a town as the others, but as you buzz by it on the turnpike or just pop in to go to the Lee Premium Outlets, it’s all too easy to forget that just north is a great Main Street. One of the things that Lee embodies is how diverse in sensibility a small business district can be, especially when it comes to food.

There’s terrific Indian at Mint (formerly Bombay) up on Laurel Street and Peruvian at Alpamayo, California fare at Baja Charlie’s and the area’s best crepes at Starving Artist Creperie & Café  (also a great place to just hang out). And there’s the reliably wonderful French offerings at Chez Nous Bistro. On Railroad Street, Moe’s Tavern is a popular craft beer bar and Pho Saigon is another local favorite.

Lee also offers a representation of New England-style modern and classical cuisine, with Cork ‘n Hearth, The Morgan House and Salmon Run Fish House. And High Lawn Farm, along Route 7, is making spectacular ice cream from some seriously happy cows. You can’t buy the ice cream there, but you can see the cows from the road above and that view is the very definition of “bucolic.”

West Stockbridge

Bisected by the Williams River, West Stockbridge has until recently been a bit overshadowed by Stockbridge proper. Now, the big draw is art and coffee. Award-winning National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer counts the Stanmeyer Gallery and Shaker Dam Coffeehouse as his home base when he’s not globe trotting. Stanmeyer seems to be as committed to pouring the perfect cup of coffee as he is to taking spellbinding photographs. The intimate coffeehouse uses only responsibly sourced coffee and a unique range of brewing techniques. The space, which houses the gallery upstairs and the café downstairs, hosts art and cultural events that reflect Stanmeyer’s globally informed social consciousness.

Concert in the gallery at Six Depot.

Just a few steps away is another acclaimed coffee house and artistic venue. No. Six Depot Roastery and Cafe is a stylish modern beans-to-cup operation in a hip contemporary setting. Also selling artisanal foods and apothecary items, Six Depot is already both a local treasure and a destination. Its concerts, art shows and live performances (including the very popular Inkless live storytelling Series) are often packed to overflowing. Right around the corner, step into Hotchkiss Mobiles to admire the arresting kinetic art, and across from Six Depot in the green cottage is Shaker Mill Books, which focuses on used, rare, discounted and out-of-print books as well as a good selection of books by local authors.

If you’re venturing out for an overnight, consider staying at the Shaker Mill Inn. Locals love to eat at Rouge Restaurant and Bistro (which hosts frequent wine dinners) and Truc Orient Express for Vietnamese cuisine. Don’t leave before checking out Truc’s meandering gift shop filled with Asian lacquerware, baskets, home furnishings, clothing and garden pottery.

At Rural Intelligence we are constantly in awe of the gems that await the curious. Perhaps this will inspire you to create some new destinations for yourself. Next week: the Hudson Valley.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/13/16 at 12:43 PM • Permalink

Learn And Taste At Maplefest (Plus Bake Sale) In Sharon

Just because this isn’t much of a mud season doesn’t mean there won’t be a maple sugar harvest to enjoy this year. In our region, you don’t need to go far to find a sugaring operation, and this weekend, Sharon Audubon Center in Sharon, Conn. hosts its annual Maplefest — and, new this year, adds a maple bake sale to sweeten the deal.

“All of the products will be made with our own maple syrup harvested and produced right here,” says Sharon Audubon’s director Sean Grace. “Our employees and dedicated volunteers will be the bakers. It’s a real community effort.”

Visitors will be able to tour the Center’s sugaring operation by hiking along the trail appropriately called “Maple Way,” lined with beautiful, aged trees — some more than 300 years old. A setup displays the traditional methods of sap collecting used by Native Americans and methods used by early colonials.

The sugar shack (formerly a traditional ice house) that holds a large evaporative stove gives visitors the opportunity to witness the process that turns sap into the center’s 50 to 80 gallons of syrup each year. That fresh syrup will be available for purchase – as long as supplies last.

The hiking trails will be open, as will the raptor aviaries, which house bald eagles, hawks, falcons and other birds of prey that wouldn’t be able to survive on their own in the wild. Interesting fact: as an emergency bird care facility, Sharon Audubon cares for about 350 birds a year.

“We recommend visitors wear boots,” Grace says. “It’s not bad, but it’s still a little ooey-gooey in some places.”

Maplefest and Maple Bake Sale
Saturday, March 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sharon Audubon Center
325 Cornwall Bridge Rd. (Route 4), Sharon, CT
(860) 364-0520
Admission: $6 Adults, $4 Children 12 and under

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/14/16 at 07:01 PM • Permalink

Never Mind The Temps, Jumpfest Goes On (And Turns 90)

Photo: Mel Morales

By Lauren Curran

Next weekend, when Satre Hill in Salisbury, Conn. is icy and slick and the first ski jumper there soars into flight, a time-honored, local tradition will turn 90. Ski jumping runs deep in the roots of Salisbury and, along with it, the coinciding winter festival known as Jumpfest, which runs through Feb. 14. As per tradition, the winter festival features everything from the zany — a human dogsled race — to old-fashioned fun: bonfires, a chili contest, karate and ice sculpture demonstrations, a bourbon tasting, restaurant specials and a Snow Ball Dance.

“It’s become part of the fabric of our community,” says John Sullivan, a member of the board of directors of the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA), the nonprofit group that sponsors Jumpfest and fosters ski jumping for all ages. 

The volunteer-run festival, with the ski jump competition at its core, attracts thousands of people — one year as many as 5,000. The activities begin on the 11th with sales, gallery openings and other community events. Then the flying begins. The schedule: Friday, Feb. 12 is the target ski competition; Sat., Feb. 13 is Salisbury Invitational ski jumping; Sunday, Feb. 14 holds the Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships, where competitors, some of whom you may see in the next winter Olympic Games, seek to earn a spot in the Junior Nationals held the following weekend. Three of the four ski jumpers on the last winter Olympics team competed here. 

Photo: Kate Erwin

“It’s such an extraordinary event right here in northwestern Connecticut. You can’t really see it anywhere else,” says Hallihan. “Each day has its own personality.”

Tucked between the scheduled ski jumps are events for kids and adults. On Friday, after target ski jumping, the human dogsled races kick off, featuring six-person teams with one lucky member chosen to ride inside the team-designed sled. The remaining members pull. “It’s a crowd favorite,” says Hallihan. One year, a competing team went with a Viking theme: helmets with horns and half of a canoe as the sled. The Falls Village Volunteer Ambulance also has competed with a sled design suited to the team: a mini ambulance.

With fun and frivolity so much a part of Jumpfest, it’s no wonder so many people turn out to cheer the skiers with cowbells in hand at the hill’s base.

“If you haven’t seen ski jumping live, you haven’t witnessed the sport,” Hallihan says.

Jumpfest, A Winter Festival
February 12-14 in Salisbury, CT

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/01/16 at 12:48 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Monterey

By Rachel Louchen

For some residents, the selling point of Monterey is proximity to Great Barrington and other Berkshire towns. To visitors less familiar, Monterey is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village with a big forest to hike. But it is so much more. There are active community members, great food, farms, hiking, swimming, camping, animals and world-class views. It’s really one of the most well-rounded towns in the Rural Intelligence region. There are many reasons it gets so much attention from the New York Times. Here are 10 of them.

1.) The cheese. Glorious, creamy, fresh, locally-sourced cheese comes out of Rawson Brook Farm. Appropriately named Monterey Chevre, the cheese comes in three varieties: plain, chives and garlic, and thyme and oil. Owner Susan Sellew pasteurizes the milk from her goats, makes the cheese by hand, then ladles it into cheesecloth to hang and incubate. The entire small-batch process is aided by the fresh goat’s milk, courtesy of healthy Monterey goats.

The Harvest Barn at Gould Farm.

2.) The mission. Gould Farm is known for its eggs, dairy and made-from-scratch bakery treats but, most importantly, it’s a psychiatric rehabilitation program for adults with mental illness. Founded in 1913, the residential community helps patients as they work together on the farm, learning new job skills in a supportive environment. The unique facility provides a safe environment and a sense of community for patients, aided by the clinical team that helps them manage symptoms of their mental health diseases. The fruits of their labor are available at the Harvest Barn, a retail bakery that serves bread and pastries made on site, plus their famous maple syrup, honey, cheddar cheese, jams and chocolates. Gould Farm and the positive work the residents and staff do is a leading factor in what makes Monterey such a special community.

Photo courtesy of the Bidwell House Museum.

3.) The history. Settled in 1739 and incorporated in 1847, Monterey’s Colonial times are alive and well, thanks in part to the Bidwell House Museum, an authentic 1750 Georgian Saltbox. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was the residence of Reverend Adonijah Bidwell and today serves as a museum, open for tours from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The house is appointed with original 18th- and 19th-century furnishings that include collections of artwork, quilts, furniture, silver, needlework, baskets and rugs. Bidwell House is also notable for its surrounding 192 acres of hiking trails, with extensive perennial beds and stone walls scattered throughout the property. The entire town can be considered historic: the first United States Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, passed through Monterey in 1776 on his way to end the Siege of Boston. The route he took is now known as the Henry Knox Trail.

4.) The forest. A popular hiking spot is Beartown State Forest, which offers more than 12,000 acres of trails. The extensive paths lead you (with options from beginner to advanced) through the forest inhabited by abundant wildlife: deer, bobcats, and even black bears — the forest’s namesake. Beartown is well known for its fall foliage display, especially on the 1.5-mile Benedict Pond Loop Trail. Camping year round is an option here and it’s camping in the truest sense of the word: there are no bathroom or shower facilities. But that doesn’t deter campers who want to be near water and trails. As the snow begins to fall, winter hiking gives way to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

5.) The water. Lake Garfield is one of the largest (262 acres) and most picturesque lakes in the Berkshires. It’s also one of the few lakes in our region with a public beach that doesn’t require resident parking passes. In the summer, it’s populated by swimmers and boaters, and in the colder weather, ice skaters. It has over a dozen species of fish, most notably rainbow trout, so the lake attracts fishermen from far and wide. The nearby Benedict Pond at Beartown State Forest is a popular canoeing spot for its relatively short length and undeveloped shoreline surrounded by thickly settled woodland. Lake Buel is known for its many beaches, waterfront cottages and summer camps.

Mount Hunger image courtesy of The Monterey Preservation Land Trust.

6.) The land. Farmland and rolling acres abound in Monterey. That’s because 67 percent of the land is protected, thanks to the Monterey Preservation Land Trust. The highlight of the MPLT’s conservation land is Mount Hunger, a 385-acre property open to the public. Mount Hunger has it all, offering the best in hiking trails, long-range views and natural landscapes. The three miles of trails pass by wetlands, scenic vistas, charcoal pits and stone walls.

7.) The books. Like many historic towns, Monterey has a cherished library; it was established in 1891 and moved to its current location on Main Street in 1931. Located in the heart of the village near the post office, general store, town hall and Monterey United Church, the Monterey Public Library is an anchor of the town. There are adult book discussions, stitching circles, book sales and art exhibits. The Knox Gallery, an exhibition space and community meeting spot inside the library, hosts eight shows a year featuring the work of local artists. Until January 30, 4 elements — a community group exhibit featuring works from nearly 40 artists — explores the themes of earth, fire, water and air.

8.) The pancakes. When The Huffington Post recently included the Roadside Cafe on its list of 11 best pancakes in America, Monterey residents weren’t surprised; the cafe is one of the town’s best-kept secrets. Located on Route 23, it looks, from the outside, like your standard greasy spoon, but guests will be blown away at the quality of the ingredients, which are sourced right down the road at the cafe’s owner, Gould Farm. The eggs are farm fresh, as is the cheese, and the granola, maple syrup and yogurt are all homemade. The staff is made up of guests transitioning from their time at the Farm, so you’re also supporting a great cause with your meal. The famous pancakes are offered in buckwheat and buttermilk, and come in three sizes, the largest of which calls to mind those needing to be flipped by a shovel in the movie Uncle Buck. The rest of the menu is filled with staples like Belgian waffles, breakfast burritos, huge omelets and really tasty lunch options.

9.) The general store. The village of Monterey exudes classic New England charm, all white buildings and black shutters. The centerpiece of the town is the Monterey General Store, which looks like your typical country village store, but inside is so much more. The décor pays tribute to the year it was built, 1780, with its exposed posts and beams and authentic wood floors. But the vibe is distinctly cool, selling important as-needed goods like milk, bread and eggs along with fun gifts, stationary, postcards and lotions. Freshly baked pies, bread and pastries are made daily, and there is a small but satisfying breakfast and lunch menu filled with staples like egg, lox, turkey and tuna sandwiches. It’s the ideal people-watching spot; pretty much everyone in town wanders in at some point, and the back patio overlooks a brook shaded with greenery in the summer. The front porch of the store has a helpful bulletin board where you can get information about upcoming yoga classes, babysitting services, and bikes and snowplows for sale. It’s truly Monterey’s community hub and is a good first stop to learn about the town.

10.) The community spirit. Ask anyone who lives in Monterey why they love it, and you’re sure to get a different story each time, but always a passionate response. One resident says Monterey has “truly the best road crew in the Berkshires, in terms of plowing and road maintenance.” Another notes the intriguing mix of diverse and passionate homeowners, some who live here year round and others who chose it for quiet, peaceful weekends. Two-thirds of Monterey residents are second homeowners who appreciate the opportunity to live on the water, and the bucolic sights make it an inspirational place for artists and writers. There’s mention of the dedicated farmers, the cute animals and the wonderful town clerk. One pragmatic resident said his favorite thing about Monterey is the very low taxes… and that the cell phone reception is getting better.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 12/29/15 at 08:56 PM • Permalink

Your Own Holiday Bubble — Made Of Glass, Made By You

By Lauren Curran

You must believe us when we say our intention is to cover every nook and cranny of the Rural Intelligence region. But, okay, there still might be some pockets of wonderfulness here or there in that wide swath we haven’t explored as much as we should. So we’re glad when the holiday season alerts us to a new place to share with our readers. Thank you, Christmas in Riverton, Conn.

This weekend, Dec. 4-6, way over on the eastern edge of Litchfield County, the village of Riverton in the town of Barkhamsted will celebrate the holidays with a candlelight wine tour, a festival of trees, horse-drawn wagon rides and — what really captured us — an opportunity to partake in an ancient art seldom available at holiday celebrations: glass blowing your own ornament. Resident glass blower Peter Greenwood will open his studio on Saturday, Dec. 4, allowing visitors to step inside to create a glass orb using the heat of a roaring furnace and a long, metal rod. If this doesn’t bring out your inner Chihuly, nothing will.

Located in a circa 1829 former Episcopal church that he and his wife now own, Greenwood’s studio and craft harkens back to an age when glass bottles and other vessels were hand blown through a long metal pipe with taffy-like molten glass stuck on at one end, with the other end reserved for the artist to blow into. And that’s precisely how you’ll make your ornament. But first, you get to choose the colored chips to be melted and swirled into the molten glass blob. Then you’ll blow into the rod held by Greenwood. That deep breath will create a glass bubble that when hardened is your ornament. It’s like breathing life into a shimmering piece of art.

Walk into Greenwood’s studio and the first thing you’ll notice is the warmth from the furnace used to melt the glass, a bonus on a cold, December day. The $32 cost to design the ornament includes all materials, and the process takes only about five minutes. While the activity might seem fleeting, it’s the process that people usually find most fascinating as they watch the orange-hued, molten glass miraculously harden into a work of art. Greenwood says his favorite part about working with customers is watching how nervousness in the beginning turns to awe. “The expression on their face…is precious,” he says.

Greenwood offers various glass blowing workshops, too, in which participants can make paper weights and glass flowers. Several companies have even hosted team-building workshops at his studio. On one particular day, the phone rang several times with people inquiring about coming in to attend one of the workshops. “Most people are intimidated when they come in,” Greenwood says. “After they make their paper weight they’re amazed at how easy it was.”

In addition to the studio downstairs, an airy gallery upstairs showcases Greenwood’s stunning work. A cobalt blue chandelier, a large table, lighting – all made of glass, of course – are on display and for sale, as well as smaller items such as water pitchers, goblets and pumpkins, a holdover from fall. Candy-colored swirls of glass can be seen in every part of the room. Items range in cost from $5 to $25,000. If you’re busy this weekend, it’s worth a visit on another day.

Born in Hartford, Greenwood is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and came to the glass blowing discipline in 1979. His work has been shown in museums and galleries throughout the world, including The Louvre in Paris, The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT and the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. His glassworks are also in numerous private collections.

Just as your self-made glass ornament can be a part of yours.

Glass-blown Holiday Ornament Workshop
Peter Greenwood Glass Blowing Studio and Gallery

Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
3 Robertsville Road, Riverton, CT
(860) 738-9464

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/01/15 at 08:15 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About New Milford

By Jacque Lynn Schiller

Of Connecticut’s largest town (in square miles), I was really only familiar with two New Milford attractions, The Silo at Hunt Hill Farm —where I’m determined to take a cooking class before the year is out — and the famed, funky Elephant Trunk’s Country Flea Market. But on my recent visit to the inspiring harts gallery, I was delighted to see that the downtown area was undergoing something of a renaissance. So while nearby Candlewood Lake is lovely, Pratt Nature Center is intriguing and I’m anxious to try newly opened American Kitchen, for this post I’m sticking close to the village green.

1. That Green
A quarter-mile-long rectangle dividing Main Street in two, the handsome village green boasts an iconic bandstand gazebo and is the site of popular Village Fair Days in July and annual Festival of Lights on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The city center is decked and trees adorned to create a magical Christmas in Connecticut scene. And, as you might expect, the town holds its farmers’ market there, too.

2. Fitbit Friendly
The New Milford Center Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, makes for a pleasant stroll and shopping sans car possible. Comprised of eight blocks with a major portion lying atop a plateau overlooking the Housatonic River, the setting “embodies the 18th and 19th century character and history of the typical Connecticut town.” Architecture lovers can make a game of spot the style, with examples ranging from Victorian to Art Moderne, Greek Revival to Craftsman all represented in the tree-filled area.

Dagwoods bianca flatbread with mozzarella, honey and pistachios.

3. Around the Culinary World in a Block
The restaurant offerings are equally diverse. I had the pleasure of dining at Dagwoods during their soft opening, and can report them at the top of their game. Jalapeno mac-n-cheese is my kind of comfort food. We’ve also heard great things about romantic Lucia, the farm-to-table goodness at Green Granary, inventive Tonios Panino paninis and in the liquid lunch category, Nelly O’s Whiskey Bar.

4. Mane Things
You know when you ask for recommended things to check out in a town and one of the suggestions that gets repeated is a hair salon, you can trust the place with your tresses. Joe’s Salon, says a local, is “very chic, very New York.”

5. Main Attractions
See what I did there? A true cinema treasure, the black and white Carrara glass façade of the Bank Street Theater is as review worthy as the films shown inside. With four screens (and state of the art digital projection) playing the latest blockbusters along with the occasional indie, there is talk of expanding programming and eventually hosting a festival.

6. All Aboard
Okay, so it may be a while before passenger trains run again connecting New Milford commuters with nearby towns, but one can imagine the quaint days of riding the rails as the historic old train station still stands. You can read all about the Danbury line extension on the HVCEO improvements page or check in with the Chamber of Commerce, now housed in the depot.

7. Amazing Space
I love a thoughtful renovation and by the looks of 19 Main Street, developer Gary Goldring put in a lot of time and consideration into the elegant building’s recent restoration. If you’re looking for an event space in Litchfield County, I highly recommend you venture over for a look at the mixed-use venue now known as United Bank.

Interior of 19 Main Street; Village Center for the Arts.

Resplendent with original details like mosaic floors in the lobby and floor to ceiling windows, the impressive stone structure has already hosted several tastings and is ideal for an eclectic wedding.

8. Creative Play
Cultivating culture for all ages, New Milford offers multiple opportunities for both hands-on and audience-only enjoyment of the arts. TheatreWorks is an award-winning, non-Equity company, presenting excellent regional performances.Buck’s Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp is a unique self-directed sleepaway where artists aged 9-16 are encouraged to follow their passions at their own pace. At the Village Center for the Arts, classes in various arts and crafts are provided to the community and the harts gallery has announced a roster of thought-provoking workshops.

9. Ready-Made Fun
For more than years, this Nordica Toys has been a one-stop-shop for memorable gifts and games, both modern and nostalgic. With its massive inventory, be ready to spend a while in the varied and whimsical sections. I like its old-fashioned vibe, but they carry current “Dear Santa” requests too. Gift wrapping is free, by the way.

Event space at Ameico.

10. Trad over Fad
On the very modern front, behind a very old front actually, is design shop Ameico. Located in a landmark building, which once operated as the town’s telephone company, 29 Church St now connects customers with 20th century design classics along with contemporary creations. The airy upstairs is also used as a gallery space, with exhibits such as Interaction of Color and Form: Works by Josef and Anni Albers (closing October 31). My own “Dear Santa” letter will be a link to their product catalog.


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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/26/15 at 02:22 PM • Permalink

Four Brothers Drive-In Updates the Classic

By Jamie Larson

The drive-in movie theater experience is back in a whole new way in Amenia, NY. With a style that’s classic nostalgia crossed with rustic modern, community events in the daylight, a progressive slate of movies beyond the blockbuster and a full restaurant menu, two sons of the Four Brothers Pizza Inn dynasty are redefining what a drive-in can and should be.

“We wanted to build a drive-in that’s classic Americana but with some modern elements,” says John Stephanopoulos, who runs the Four Brothers Drive In with brother Paul, both sons of William and nephews of the other three founding Brothers. “People can relate to it no matter what their age. We wanted to make it a place you could come and hang out with your family or on a date.”

Paul and John Stephanopoulos, (Images courtesy of John Stephanopoulos)

Though the idea of a drive-in may be old, the two brothers’ execution at their year-old drive-in is keenly in tune with a modern regional aesthetic. There’s unapologetic kitsch and whimsical elements that let you know you’re in movie land, but by using a lot of rustic materials and reclaimed vintage signage and decor, the design comes across as intentional, knowing and sophisticatedly irreverent.

John is primarily responsible for creating the flashy yet unified design elements that make up the look of the place and the drive-in’s attractive web and social media presence. With a master’s degree in accounting, his impressive execution of the drive-in’s branding is a testament to his personal love of art and the style elements he’s seen while traveling. Once you learn he has an affinity for Miami, the vibrant Art Deco lines and colors at the drive-in begin to wink out at you.

“We tried to make it subtle,” John says. “We want to bring you to a place in time. We find that a lot of people come here early and end up hanging out for a long time.”

On weekend days, the drive-in hosts community events. They offer live music, a farmers’ market and kids’ activities including pony rides, magicians and clowns. John says people sometimes show up in the afternoon and stay until the end of the last showing. They even hosted a wedding once, and after the sun went down on the reception — catered by the restaurant — the party watched a scary movie.

The one-screen theater is on a lot right beside the true family business, the Armenia Four Brother’s Restaurant. One of the most distinguishing aspects of the drive-in is that, along with expected fare from the snack bar, the theater encourages visitors to get any item from the entire Four Brothers menu — and it’s served by a car hop. “If you want, you can get an all-organic fruit smoothie from the concession stand and a chicken parm from the restaurant brought right to your car,” John says.

Did we mention they show movies? They’re doing that their own way, too. The Stephanopoulos family is in a uniquely independent position when it comes to showing movies. Because the drive-in was conceived to bring people to the restaurant, rather than having its success tied heavily to ticket sales alone, they can do things other drive-ins can’t, like show two top-billed movies on their opening weekend in a double feature. They also do special screenings of independent movies and host a hugely successful “Throwback Thursday” night where they show older movies.

John and Paul’s patriarchs, the four Stephanopoulos brothers, often told their children that one of the first things they did when they came to America in the 1970s was go to the drive-in. They had a dream in the back of their minds that someday they would open their own.

Now, the next generation of the successful family has made that dream a reality, honoring the past and looking to the future with style.

Four Brothers Drive-In
4957 Route 22, Amenia, NY
Mon - Thu: 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Fri - Sun: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/29/15 at 12:03 PM • Permalink