Trippin’

Last week, L and I took a college town road trip through Western Mass. Our final (I should say westernmost) destination was Williamstown; on the way there we visited Amherst and Mt. Holyoke, and we made a pit stop at Wellesley on the way back. We B&B-ed it up, stepped inside some museums, slurped up some delicious lattes, conducted an impromptu photo op at the Montague Book Mill, gave ourselves a personal tour of The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Estate in Lenox. Of course, we ate well, too, despite L’s gluten allergy. For the duration of the trip, we were blessed with beautiful weather, panoramic views, and sumptuous mountain air.  If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought I was living in a late autumn snow globe, caught mid-jaunt through some pines with cascades of burnt orange sloping gently in the background, and the occasional falling leaf.

Though, contrary to both our m.o.’s, we did not do much restaurant hunting before the trip, we fared well.  It isn’t hard to find a good place to eat in Northampton, which has a booming culinary scene, and we settled on Paul and Elizabeth’s, an ingredient-driven eatery popular for their health-conscious approach to comfort food dining.  The restaurant is casual, unfussy, and family-friendly, but exudes a quiet and charming sophistication.

We started with the seasonal antipasto, which contained goat cheese, roasted garlic, avocado, artichokes, black olive tapenade, and apples, all of which lent their goodness to the salad bed beneath, which was heavy on the frisee.  I love frisee.

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Though tempted by the fried rice, L decided on the “Guatemalan-Style Shrimp Saute,” generously apportioned shrimp accompanied by a veritable cornucopia of vegetables and tossed in a light, bright pesto (cilantro and red pepper, their menu tells me).

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I ordered a special, the trout with roasted garlic and herb olive oil, mashed potatoes, and sauteed string beans.  They were not kidding about the garlic.  Between the antipasto and my main, I must have eaten ten cloves or more.  This was one of the better fish dishes I’ve had in awhile; the flesh was delicate and flaky, positively fresh, and contrasted nicely with the pleasantly charred exterior.  The string beans retained their snap, and managed to absorb a lot of umami flavor in what I imagine to be a very quick turn on the stove.

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I rose early the next morning to this lovely scene:
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…and snuck an apple turnover with my morning coffee before L joined me for breakfast.  In addition to the fresh-baked pastries, the B&B cooked eggs, sausage, bacon, and blueberry pancakes to order.  They made sure we left with sated stomachs.  That night, we had dinner at Elizabeth’s, a popular locals restaurant in Pittsfield.  I’ve never been to a restaurant like this one that made me think I was entering someone’s home.  The fact that it actually was a converted house helped, as did the cheerful yellow walls, unaffectedly open kitchen, and intimate dining space.  The husband was chilling by the door when we entered and led us to our seats, which were adjacent to the kitchen area, where wifey (I presume) was doing the cooking.

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We both started with the soup, a rustic tomato cream with corn and an intriguing dash of curry.  I frequently feel compelled to add curry to dishes, but when I do, I end up adding too much.  I think, at least with curry powder, the key is to add only enough to tickle people’s curiosities, and not a granule more.

Elizabeth’s does their own take on Italian-American food, and it works.  Everything from the starter salad to the soup to the mains contained unconventional elements that piqued our interests without denying us satisfaction.  For example, the meatloaf had quinoa, rather than bread crumbs, as well as pine nuts, neither of which I had never thought to put in meatloaf before.

Also, Elizabeth’s is apparently famous for their sauteed wild mushrooms, which they put on everything they can; I think they were listed under at least half the main courses on the menu.  They are ubiquitous to the point of being garnishes, but I’m not complaining.  Those are some meaty, succulent, downright tasty things.

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Eggplant with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and more of those crack mushrooms:

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I also took L to Thai Garden, where I must have eaten a quarter of my meals senior year, and Old Forge, which conveniently serves gluten-free beer and wings.  Good times all around, remembering the old and ringing in the new.  And only one week til Thanksgiving!!!

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