By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
You may not have realized it when reading some of my reviews here, but my dear husband Edgar--despite his preference for ordering hamburgers at many of the finer culinary places we have visited in the region-- is British. Which means, of course, that his family is British. And just lovely people. Unlike Edgar, they’re quite demanding and particular about where they go (and what they have) to eat; my niece Sybelle, in fact, just wrote and published a cookbook--and she’s only in her early twenties.
Well, it being the end of summer, the Richardson family descended upon us like the Murdochs on Parliament. (Not quite the right simile: the Murdochs were forced
to visit, whereas the Richardsons actually enjoy visiting here.) OK more like... locusts, and pretty demanding ones at that. Accustomed to sophisticated meals in far-flung spots, this branch of the family are international travelers who get a tad sniffy if a restaurant doesn’t have four stars or if it isn’t a discovery all their own in some side alley of Hong Kong or Kyoto.
This being the RI
region and all, I wasn’t too nervous about pleasing them. But I had read that John Andrew’s Farmhouse Restaurant
in South Egremont had just been selected as one of the world’s 25 Best Farmstead Experiences
in the noted blog The Daily Meal
. In fact only two restaurants in the North East had been selected. This was a great excuse to load the family into the car and make our way over to the restaurant that Chef Dan Smith has made into such an important part of the Berkshire dining experience. Edgar and I have always been fans and it was a perfect time for a revisit.
Set in an idyllic spot just outside of Great Barrington, John Andrews is a culinary experience all its own. Upon arrival, the sight of the front of the farmhouse is immediately welcoming, its large front windows set in a smoky blue-painted frame and complimented by beds of wildflowers. We were led through the busy interior and given a table in the greenest of gardens on wooden decking beneath a stream of fairy lights. Once seated and enjoying the summer’s evening with a bottle of Felines Jourdan’s chilled Picpoul de Pinet, our party of five poured excitedly over the menu.
Our server helpfully drew our attention to the featured prix fixe menu ($30), which offers an appetizer, entree, and dessert. To start, we selected a salad of local lettuces, radishes, blue cheese, and pickled cucumber that we were convinced would compliment our choice of wine. It was fresh, crunchy, salty, and delicious. The portion sizing was perfect and the family was delighted to be sampling produce hand picked and sourced from so close by.
Amongst the chosen appetizers at the table, the show-stopper was the mussels and garlic bruschetta, an absolute delight for $12. Issued steamy and fragrant, the mussels were piled high and perfectly cooked, the bruschetta fantastically chewy, and it was set off by a mildly peppered and deeply flavorsome roasted tomato sauce with salty bacon, fresh herbs, and pastis.
Then on to the entrees. The grilled chicken, pickled cabbage, bok choy, and rice noodles in shiitake broth was an amalgam of tastes: The acidity of the slightly piquant pickled cabbage mouthwateringly complimented the sweet tasting glazed chicken. The Diver scallops, risotto, and charred scallion oil ($28) was made up of cauliflower, leek and crunchy bacon, and the perfectly cooked scallops were more than sufficiently ample to be tasted by all. Other dishes marveled at included a seared duck breast with spiced lentils, kale, hazelnuts and red wine figs, succulent with a slight hint of curry ($28) and a grilled Pigasso pork chop with herbed orzo, peperonata, and grilled onions ($27).
By now, the variety of textures and flavor combinations had the family-in-law not only not sniffy but hooked.
British as they are, there are a lot of sweet tooths to satisfy, as it turns out every dessert dissolved into a free-for-all. Special mentions: the chocolate pot de crème and pistachio shortbread; genoise, hazelnut mousse, caramelized banana, and coffee anglaise; and a plum crisp with Berkshire wildflower honey Berle Farm yogurt ice cream.
“Simply gorgeous," "genius," and the topper--"the best meal I've ever had"--was all both Edgar and I heard on the way home, leaving both of us feeling a bit George Washington-ish about our victory over our kin's preconceptions of what we Yanks can accomplish, even in the “provinces."
John Andrews|A Farmhouse Restaurant
224 Hillsdale Rd
South Egremont, MA 01258
Open six nights a week at 5 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.