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Hiking on Hillsdale’s Back Roads Posted September 26, 2012 | Tags: ,

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Hiking on Hillsdale's Back Roads

I am working on exploring Hillsdale’s back roads and when the perfect fall afternoon – clear blue sky and crisp temperatures – beckoned,  I had to go hiking. I headed to Shunpike Road, so named because it was a pass over the ridge which avoided the toll house on Route 23 just to the south, hence shunning the turnpike. The toll house building on Route 23 is still there, right on the side of the road, although a bit bedraggled. There is also another road going over the ridge that separates Hillsdale, NY from Egremont, MA, and that is called Shun Toll Road. Those colonists didn’t like paying taxes and road tolls!

I drove south Route 22 and along Mitchell Street to reach the base of Shunpike Road. It is a pretty drive, and just about 7 miles from my bed and breakfast, the Inn at Green River. This walk is a bit strenuous, as you are climbing a fairly steep hill. The photo above doesn’t really illustrate just how steep the road is, but I did it, and you can, too. The only sounds you will hear will be birds, as almost no cars attempt this road. It is actually closed in the winter months. Check the Inn’s Things to Do page for links to other hiking trails and state parks when planning your next visit.

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For a rural, sparsely populated area, we are blessed with many excellent restaurants, and are doubly blessed that there are so many local farms to supply those restaurants with everything from meat and dairy to fruit and vegetables. One of my favorite restaurants, and one which takes great advantage of our locally grown food, is John Andrews Restaurant in South Egremont, Massachusetts.

More Fun with Food in the Berkshires

The gaily painted restaurant is surrounded by extensive gardens.

More Fun with Food in the Berkshires

In nice weather, the back deck beckons – a relaxing spot to have a drink and enjoy the gardens, several sculptures, and old out buildings that date from when the place was a farm.

More Fun with Food in the Berkshires

The restaurant describes itself as a farmhouse restaurant, and a special midweek prix fixe menu shines the spotlight on a different farm supplier each week. One week it might be Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, one of the first CSA’s in the country. Another week it might be Cool Whisper Farm, just down the road from the Inn in Hillsdale, which raises pigs, chickens and Highlander cattle – you know those beautiful cattle with the long horns, and shaggy red coats. And if you haven’t ever seen one, I will show you the way to that farm.

More Fun with Food in the Berkshires

The restaurant has a modern vibe inside, with Venetian plastered walls, and simple sconces. The back room has the feeling of a porch, with large floor to ceiling windows opening out onto the pretty back gardens.

More Fun with Food in the Berkshires

Of course, the main reason to visit John Andrews is to enjoy the inventive meals created by chef/owner, Dan Smith. I am one of those people who finds a favorite dish, and tends to order it over and over. I have a hard time straying from the delicious duck, served rare, and the sweet breads, which no one does better. However lately, my favorite dinner option is to sit in the bar and order the mussel appetizer and a salad. The mussels are served in a bacon, roast tomato and pastis broth, and I can assure you, none of that broth goes back to the kitchen! Did I mention all the pasta served at the restaurant is house made, as is the ice cream? Whatever you order, the food is delicious. So let me make a reservation for you the next time you are visiting the Inn at Green River!

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A Great Lunch Spot in Chatham

If you are visiting Chatham, New York, be sure to stop in at Ralph’s
Pretty Good Cafe for breakfast or lunch. How did it get its name? When
Ralph first bought the former Summit Cafe, his response to people asking
“How is the food?” would be an off-handed “pretty good”.  After awhile, it seemed an apt name.

A Great Lunch Spot in Chatham

It’s more than pretty good. As one reviewer put it, it is “pretty damn good!” I am partial to the grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, served with tasty greens. The food is always fresh, made from good, local ingredients. One can sit outside under the umbrellas in nice weather or at small table inside, reading one of the local papers left on the counter for customers, and watching the activity on Chatham’s Main Street. People actually talk to each other here, as there is a sign celebrating the “lap top free environment”!   It’s a cheery place with yellow walls, and the work of local artists providing a revolving exhibit on the walls.

A Great Lunch Spot in Chatham

Here’s a friend and loyal Ralph fan, sitting in the small restaurant. Her favorite lunch is a quesadilla with whatever roasted vegetables they have on hand that day. That sounds good. I’ll have to try that next time.

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With my seven room bed and breakfast to furnish and decorate, I have thoroughly explored my region of eastern New York and western Massachusetts, hunting for great fabric at good prices. Also, I prefer to buy furniture at auction or in antique shops, and have it reupholstered, to coordinate with curtains and drapes that I have custom made, so I can always find an excuse to buy fabric.

Food and Fabric Shopping Expedition

My favorite place to shop for fabric is the enormous Osgood’s Textiles in West Springfield, Massachusetts, about an hour east of the Inn. Even in my years working for a large textile manufacturer, Milliken, I never saw so much fabric in one place! Be prepared to spend some time finding your way around the large warehouse, and getting to know where the particular types of fabrics are located. Soon you will know which aisles have the upholstery and drapery fabrics, which have the apparel fabrics, etc. The fabrics used in my room at the inn, shown above, came from Osgood’s. The floral on the wing chair, window seats and roman shades was just $7/yard – a great find as I needed over 30 yards!

After a few hours of fabric shopping, I always make time to enjoy lunch at The Student Prince in downtown Springfield.

Food and Fabric Shopping Expedition

This traditional German restaurant first opened in 1935, and the main bar room has the original woodwork with wonderful booths, carved wooden sconces, and an enormous beer stein collection.

Food and Fabric Shopping Expedition

They say the collection of beer steins is one of the largest in the country.

Food and Fabric Shopping Expedition

The menu is very retro, with inexpensive luncheon specials that start with a glass of tomato juice, move on to German fare like meatloaf or bratwurst, and end with a bowl of jello. As I said, retro! But I find it delightfully old fashioned.

Food and Fabric Shopping Expedition

Come visit the inn sometime in the off season, armed with paint chips and photos of a room or piece of furniture you want to redo, and we’ll head over to Springfield for a lunch and fabric outing! This could be the focus of a great girlfriend’s getaway, fabric shopping and antique shopping with the innkeeper showing you the way!

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Artist, Patricia Munson Gravett, always has several of her still life and landscape paintings on display at my bed and breakfast, the Inn at Green River.

Her works are influenced by the Italian and Dutch still life tradition and the Hudson River School of painting. She received a BFA from the University of Maryland; studied with Ray Goodbred and Robert Beverly Hale at the Art Students League; attended the National Academy of Design (NYC) and taught at Marymount Manhattan College. Her work has been exhibited regionally and is represented in many private collections. She lives in upstate New York, between the Hudson River and the Berkshire Mountains.

Artist displays her paintings at the Inn at Green River

This week we arranged an impromptu show in the sun room for some guests
who were trying to decide whether to buy one of her paintings.

Artist displays her paintings at the Inn at Green River

This video shows her love of our local landscape, and “the work of the old Dutch School Masters and the way they captured light in their still lifes.”

PS. They bought both!

 

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In the mood for a little political satire in this election season? Then head to a performance by The Capitol Steps, the musical satire group, at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Political Satire in the Berkshires

This group of musically talented former politicos got its start in December 1981 when staff members for Senator Charles Percy were working on entertainment for a Christmas party, and decided to spoof the very people they worked with and for.

I make it a point each summer to see the show at Cranwell. The musical skits are hilarious, although I find it’s always easier to laugh when the joke is on the party you didn’t vote for! But never fear, the Capitol Steps gleefully skewer both sides of the aisle. So mix a little politics in with your music and culture this summer in the Berkshires. Shows are performed nightly, except Tuesdays, now through Labor Day weekend.

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Map to Bard College at Simon's Rock

With Fall approaching, students are again returning to our region, which boasts many prep schools and colleges. One such is Bard College at Simon’s Rock, located just 6.5 miles or 12 minutes down a country road from the Inn at Green River. Please see the map for more details and directions. From their website: “WHERE INDEPENDENT MINDS GET THEIR START
If you’re on the verge of 11th or 12th grade and certain you don’t want more of the same, Simon’s Rock can show you what education is like when everyone shares your love of learning. We’re the only residential college experience designed for thoughtful, exceptionally motivated students who are ready to start college early.”

Map to Bard College at Simon's Rock

We offer a 10% discount to the families of students visiting the school. Here is a map to help you navigate the quick trip to the campus which is just outside the center of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, at 84 Alford Road.


View Larger Map

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Since moving to Columbia County and opening the Inn at Green River, one of my favorite pastimes has been hunting for antiques, whether attending auctions or driving around the countryside visiting the many antique shops in our region. The Inn shows the results of these forays.

Multi dealer shops are my favorite, as you get to see the diverse
view points of a number of dealers. Just 15 minutes south of the Inn, on
Route 7, you will find the Great Barrington Antiques Center, in a long,
modern, one story building with large plate glass windows.

Antiques

The shop has many dealers,
each with their own booth space. I find the prices to be reasonable,
and the merchandise is quite diverse, including Oriental rugs, paintings, etchings, lamps, furniture, china, silverware and collectibles.

Antiques

And the periods of the antiques offered for sale range from Early American to Mid-Century Modern, with a little tramp art thrown in.

I remember this Bob Dylan poster: Not quite mid-century!

This photo of the Merrill room
at my inn shows some of my finds. The chest of drawers was a recent purchase at
the GBAC. The lamps, wing chair, and Moroccan style side table all came
from local shops or auctions.

So on your next visit, plan to attend an auction, and let me show you where my favorite shops are.

 

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Norman Rockwell's Bike Trail
From the Norman Rockwell Museum Blog

There are many wonderful bicycling routes in the beautiful rural Berkshire countryside near the Inn at Green River, but here is a new twist. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, just 20 minutes from the Inn, has a new exhibit – Norman Rockwell: Sports! which shows some of his rarely seen sports related art and objects, including his own bicycle. And the museum has posted a Google map showing one of his favorite bike routes which runs west out of Stockbridge, along Route 203, then north on Route 183 towards Tanglewood, and then west on Averic Road to Averic Lake. I never knew there was another lake south of the Stockbridge Bowl; a well kept secret as Averic Lake is the water source for Stockbridge.

After turning off Route 183 onto Averic Road, you quickly find yourself on a dirt road, with the usual potholes, and you know you are headed to a quiet spot. I took a video at the lake, and the day was rather windy, so I apologize for the sound track, but it still gives you a sense of how serene this lake is.

On the other side of the dirt road that goes along the edge of this lake is a quiet bog, filled with yellow and white, wild water lilies.

Norman Rockwell's Bike Trail

And if you want to make this route part of a longer ride, I can show you how to do it starting from the Inn!

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The many fans of chef David Wurth waited impatiently for the spring 2012 opening of his own restaurant in Hillsdale, the Cross Roads Food Shop.

 Cross Roads Food Shop and Restaurant

David had already collected many fans in our region when he was the chef at Local 111 when it first opened in Philmont, NY, and then when he helped get the restaurant Nudel started in Lenox, Massachusetts. And we knew his background included a stint at the Savoy in NYC. The man knows how to cook!

I most often get to Cross Roads for breakfast or lunch. Dinner is only
served on the weekends, so occasionally I can get there on a Sunday
night. The eclectic menu is designed around the freshest local
ingredients, and is a perfect choice for vegetarians. Here is a photo of
a beautiful vegetarian plate served to friends at a recent dinner.

 Cross Roads Food Shop and Restaurant

Here are the two vegetarian friends happily enjoying the pasta and that vegetarian plate above. I enjoyed the chicken, which is rumored to be seared in duck fat, or so the blog Rural Intelligence reports. Take a look at blogger Dan Shaw’s article on Cross Roads – the photos and interview say it better than I can.

 Cross Roads Food Shop and Restaurant

So on your next trip to the Inn at Green River, let me make a reservation for you at Cross Roads. You will be happy I did.