RI-Region Bike Trails: Explore The Beauty On Two Wheels
Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
By Amy Krzanik
You’ve driven through miles and miles of stunning RI countryside, and have taken the train into our area along the picturesque Hudson River, but there’s a way to get even closer to the view and get your heart rate up, too. Tune up your bicycle (or rent one — links are included below) and don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the colors, as well as the bunnies, toads, turtles, deer and other animals you’ll meet on your ride. Although this article is focused on biking, most of these trails allow walking (including the walking of dogs), running, cross-country skiing, inline skating and even fishing. Check individual websites for parking and wheelchair accessibility information.
Hard to pronounce, but easy to love, the 11-mile paved Ashuwillticook Rail Trail extends from downtown Adams to the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough. Taking its name from the Native American word meaning “at the in-between pleasant river,” the trail passes by the Cheshire Reservoir and through its surrounding wetlands.
For mountain bikers, the area’s many state forests offer a plethora of options. These include Beartown in Monterey, October Mountain in Lee, Tolland State Forest in Otis, Savoy Mountain, Mt. Washington, Pittsfield State Forest, Windsor State Forest and Mt. Greylock State Reservation.
This Sunday, Sept. 25, join a group for a leisurely 19-mile Housatonic Heritage ride through Tyringham.
Harlem Valley Rail Trail photo by Caitlin O’Brien
You can catch the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in Hillsdale, Millerton or Wassaic and choose how much of its 15-plus miles to tackle. Still a work in progress, the trail, when completed, will span a total of 46 miles and end in Chatham.
This Saturday, Sept. 24 in Copake, you can take part in the Roe-Jan Ramble, a bike tour for all ages that raises funds for the extension of the trail.
Dutchess County Rail Trail photo by Fred Schaeffer
Forest lovers will find 20 miles of wooded trails in the 909-acre Taconic-Hereford Multiple Use Area located in Pleasant Valley.
Rent A Bike:
Leisure Ride Bike Rental in Poughkeepsie
Although short in length, clocking it at just 1.7 miles, the Railroad Ramble is long on beauty, passing through woodlands and wetlands on its way through Salisbury and Lakeville.
Railroad Ramble photo from Trail Link
A slightly longer trail, just shy of 3 miles, the Sue Grossman Still River Greenway is a paved trail that runs through Torrington and Winchester.
The Billings Trail, which runs through Canaan and Norfolk, is slightly over 3 miles and unpaved. You can choose to follow the length of it or use it to link up to the forest trails in Barbour Woods.
The Housatonic Covered Bridge Trail (Houbike Trail) links the Berkshires (Ashley Falls, Mass.) to Connecticut (New Milford) along the Housatonic River. Unlike the rail trails, the 45-mile Houbike runs along existing roads and is not recommended for beginning bikers.
Rent A Bike:
The Bicycle Tour Company in Kent
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Walk & Roll: Rhinebeck Jams Out At Porchfest
Some of the porches on the festival lineup.
By Andrea Pyros
If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with Rhinebeck’s lovely historic homes, the first inaugural Rhinebeck Porchfest music festival on Saturday, September 17 is your chance to walk right up to the front steps. The rocking chairs may be removed for the day, but they’ll be replaced by bands of all kinds. Organized by Rhinebeck resident Elizabeth Mazzarella with the goal of creating “a wonderful day of celebration” for our area, Porchfest will feature over 45 musical acts, performing free on 18 different porches located on Platt, Livingston and Chestnut, from Route 9 to Mulberry Street.
Mazzarella visited her daughter, then a first year student at Ithaca College, on the same weekend as Ithaca’s Porchfest. Seeing how fun the free outdoor music festival was inspired her. “It was an amazing community event, with all ages strolling the streets and listening to music, and everyone was just so happy,” says Mazzarella. Afterwards, she decided that Rhinebeck’s walkable village with “all these historic homes with gorgeous porches” would be the perfect community to export Porchfest.
Setting out to create the Hudson Valley’s own version, she worked with Rhinebeck’s village board, police and fire departments, local-area vendors, and her own neighbors to make the day happen. “I went door to door and asked [residents] if they’d be willing to donate their porches for the day and people were really excited. It’s been amazing,” she says.
Assorted approvals set, not-for-profit status secured, Mazzarella and a team of Porchfest committee members (including Mazzarella’s music-loving husband, Allen Decotiis) then brainstormed musical acts, reaching out to local artists and bands. Genres range wildly, so whether you like jazz or rock or classical or a crazy mash-up of all three, Mazzarella assures us that there will be performances for you, including eagerly anticipated sets from Gilda Lyons & Ruth Cunningham (folk/neo-baroque), the jazz combo of Ann Osmond and Dennis Yerry, and a kids’ group (as in, kids performing) called Chalk. All the musicians are donating their time to the day.
Making it even easier and more pleasurable to roam the neighborhood freely for the afternoon, the streets will be blocked off, the Dutchess County Fairgrounds will offer free parking, and in addition to the music, local food vendors, including Frites of NY, Carol’s Hot Dogs, Spacey Tracy’s Gourmet Pickles and The Cup Takes the Cake will sell food. With the event ending at 5 p.m., the hope is that people will then stroll into the village and visit Rhinebeck’s shops and restaurants afterwards.
Planning Porchfest has been a ton of work, Mazzarella admits, but the organizer says planning the day has been fantastic and a great way to meet new people (“Isn’t that what this is all about?” she enthuses). “We’re hoping for a great day, and for people to have fun, and for this to become an annual event around Rhinebeck.”
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Weekend Of Wheels At Lime Rock (And A Parade, Too)
Photos courtesy Lime Rock Park.
By CB Wismar
For some, they are exquisite rolling sculptures – the finest representation of the designer’s art. For others, they’re nothing more than a necessity, like electricity and cable TV. Then there’s the group that just finds them a nuisance — members of the “it was better in the horse and buggy days” school of thought.
Whatever your particular perspective, from September 1-5, in and around Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., this is the weekend when incredible automobiles comes to visit.
The Lime Rock Park Historic Festival 34 starts on Thursday, as it should, with a parade. Through the valleys of the Salmon Kill and the Housatonic River, through Salisbury and the loop around Noble Horizons (tough to get a seat, there) then down to Falls Village for a street fair and a concert with the incomparable Wanda Houston filling the village green with song.
That’s just Thursday.
Friday is practice day at Lime Rock Park, and the vintage race cars will be out in force. Don’t know the difference between a 1953 Nash Healey Le Mans and a 1929 Bentley Blower 4.5? This is the weekend to find out.
The drivers of these miraculous machines don’t just come from a few miles away to show off their beautifully restored machines. They come from places like Diablo, Calif. Essex, England. Duffy’s Forest, New South Wales, Australia. Bogota, Columbia. And “On a Boat in the Caribbean,” all to drive in the 34th Historic Weekend at Lime Rock Park.
Sure, Lou Timolat will be there from Falls Village, and Art Herbert will make the short drive from Monterey, Mass. Frank Filangeri will be there, as well, from Lake Ronkonkoma, NY. (We know that Lake Ronkonkoma isn’t all that far away from Lime Rock Park; it’s just fun to say out loud.)
Racing is on Saturday and Monday. There are different classes of racing so that Peter Ross’s 1932 MG J2 doesn’t have to try and keep up with Robert Mirabile’s 1963 Shelby Cobra. In all, 263 cars will be ready to race for cups and trophies and ribbons and the delight of the fans scattered on the hillside.
On Sunday, the Lime Rock track is quiet. It’s a good thing, because there would be no room to race. This is Sunday in the Park … the “Concours” of historic automobiles and great marques parks on every straightaway and hairpin turn of the track.
Sunday is the day when hundreds of rolling sculptures stand still long enough for everyone to stroll around the track, meet Honored Guests racecar driver John Morton (who will be racing on Saturday and Monday) and designer, author, photographer and former racecar driver Peter Brock. You can get close enough to both see and appreciate these amazing automobiles.
The 34th Historic Festival has invited TV star (the host of Chasing Classic Cars on the Velocity Channel) Wayne Carini to bring some of his very private collection of carefully restored automobiles and motorcycles to be on display.
This is a rare moment. Carini doesn’t show his cars in public, much. But this Festival is different. “I am pretty private when it comes to my collection,” admitted Carini. “But it feels right to bring some of my favorites to Lime Rock.”
Part of this weekend will be rich with memories for Carini [left]. “It was in the early 1960s. I had just turned 10, and my birthday present was a trip to see the races at Lime Rock.” That trip was not in the Carini family station wagon. “We went up in my Dad’s 1928 Lincoln Touring Car.” The history lives on.
Festival Chairman Murray Smith, himself an internationally respected automobile aficionado, and Sunday Concours organizer Kent Bain invited Carini to be this year’s “Honored Collector,” a designation endorsed by Skip Barber, Lime Rock Park president, who also welcomed the Presenting Sponsors of this year’s Festival, The Prestige Family of Fine Cars.
“This is a wonderful weekend,” affirmed Barber. “Since 1983, Lime Rock Park has held this annual celebration. It’s an event unique to North America in that the racing and the concours are all on one property during one major vintage and historic event.”
And, if you’re still looking for something special to watch on this celebration weekend, we noticed that Simon Kirkby, the Director of the Lime Rock Driver’s Club, is bringing one of his cars to race. It’s a 1963 Hillman Imp. Who can’t root for a car called an “Imp?”
Lime Rock Park Historic Festival 34
Sunday in the Park, Concours, and Gathering of the Marques
Sept. 1-5, 2016
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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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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.)
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.”
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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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
Admission: $6 Adults, $4 Children 12 and under
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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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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.