Sometimes we find hidden gems. Sometimes our guests do. Our blog is starting to sub-divide into larger themes.....Celebrity Guests at Hampton Terrace is one...but here is another: Berkshire Secrets.
I am occasionally asked if there is a place to ice skate in the Berkshires. Nope, I reply. And that is based on the knowledge that many parents drive their kids to Springfield multiple times per week for hockey practice. And there were plans to build a rink north of Lenox, which never raised adequate funding.
An exterior rink is a maintenance nightmare...always needing to be scraped of fresh snow and groomed.
So it is with great pleasure that I share that our guests last weekend, John Seeberg and Kathleen Griffin ventured out into snow-covered back roads and found ICE SKATING. These are their pictures.
Monterey is located west of Great Barrington, less than 30 minutes from us. It consists of not much more than an intersection and a general store. It apparently has a volunteer fire department, because they seem to be responsible for this rink.
From the pictures, it seems that this is basically a metal warehouse with the floor flooded. Since the temperature has not ventured above freezing since November, the ice is natural and the roof keeps it a usable rink. There is a warming room and ice skates on a shelf for anyone to borrow. How local is that?
And a sign that asks people to turn off the lights when they leave.
This reminds me of when we lived in Tyringham...the next town over from Monterey. They have a "swimming hole" that is also volunteer-maintained. I tell people all the time that we still live in Norman Rockwell's America.
Today is my sister-in-law's birthday, and we told her we'd take her ice skating to check it out.
I will take credit only for recognizing talent. One block from Hampton Terrace, Bjorn Somlo opened "Nudel," not much more than a year ago. This week, he was nominated for the James Beard Award for "Best Chef in the Northeast." Only four chefs from Massachusetts are in the running...and the other is Peter Platt, also from the Berkshires.
Peter is well-deserving: he is formerly of Wheatleigh and for years has owned the Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough. We have been a few times...and sent guests...but they are located 30 minutes from us, so the relationship is not the same.
Nudel...however...is our neighbor, and my daughter, Lauren is actually a waitress and hostess there now. The most incredible thing is the fact that Bjorn has been nominated for this award after literally a year. Prior to opening Nudel, he served anonymously in the kitchens of various local restaurants...although he certainly will credit each one with developing his obviously prodigious skills. He is NOT an alum from the CIA, French Culinary Institute, or any classroom. He is merely passionate about food.
Since our first meal there, we have aggressively sent guests to Nudel. And that is to take NOTHING away from any other Lenox restaurant. We continue to receive 100% positive feedback about many of them, and Nudel is not for everyone.
But Bjorn has wowed our guests....and apparently the food critics...with perfect execution of simple concepts: (1) buy local and sustainable food whenever possible, (2) prepare it, and combine it in ways which strike the imagination, and (3) change the menu virtually every night so that regular patrons have fresh reasons to sample often.
"When they bring their product through the door, I know it's not the kind of thing to be hidden by something else or served as an accoutrement," he said. "When I say beets, I mean beets. That should be the star of the show for that day. I enjoy all of the challenges of being seasonal. I'm happiest when I'm cooking."
Bjorn is also savvy enough to know that the new social networking paradigm can work for him. His daily menu is posted at 5 pm each day on his website, Facebook and Twitter. His many hundreds of fans get "pinged" at 5 with the latest list of "teases,".....
Foie Gras and Duck Liver Scrapple, maple syrup, French toast
Bluefish and Veal Sweetbread Sausage, capers, lentils and cauliflower
Split and Chickpea Soup, smoked paprika and caramelized yogurt
....three "small plate" choices from just last night. And I mean tease in this context: Anyone can feed you. Bjorn can entice you to leave your house and find out why he thought split pea soup, Korean bar-b-cued pork, parmesan fritters and raw cranberries might work in the same bowl.
The other thing about Nudel...its size. Smaller than our entry hallway, Nudel seats 28, and that includes the high stools at the kitchen counter. If you are lucky, you get (or wait) for a front row seat. Bjorn knocked out the wall between the dining area and the kitchen...and you are in the kitchen with him. Everthing is transparent...he is cooking in front of you. He is calm, organized and on top of every detail.
All this being said.....Bjorn's primary talent is drawing the maximum flavor from each dish. We have been many, many times. Nudel does not have salt and pepper shakers at the tables. It has never occurred to me to ask for one.
So, sincere congratulations, Bjorn. Don't change a thing.
Before I get into this....congrats to our last featured Celebrity Guest, Ken Jennings, for his excellent but probably futile showing against "computer overlord" Watson. Given that Watson can understand questions without hearing or reading...and can push his button at the speed of electricity....it is not surprising that both human contestants found themselves vainly punching their button for questions Watson was already answering.
But I am already off the subject: interesting and/or famous people who have walked into our inn. And that is exactly the story behind Lauren Ambrose.
One day a young redhead and her taller brunette husband came in, asking for a room. They introduced themselves as Lauren and Sam...so I signed them up. As this was happening, my daughter Lauren walked down the main staircase...and I introduced her..."Lauren, this is Lauren."
She went out the front door...and no more than 60 seconds later my cell phone rang. "Dad! Do you know who that is?" I admitted I had no idea, and she told me that the girl at my front desk had starred in "Can't Hardly Wait," "Party of Five," and other shows my 20-something daughter would know.
At that point in time (2002), she was a main character, Claire, in HBO's "Six Feet Under," which had finished its first season. So she was not on my radar.
But she and Sam stayed a couple of nights and we really got along well. And she came back twice more. During those visits they expressed a love for the Berkshires and a desire to have a second home here. They had been married on the grounds of Tanglewood, and she is originally from New Haven, just a couple of hours away. At some point later, they called us to come see a house they had found in South County...east of Great Barrington. It was an 1800's era "eyebrow" colonial..meaning the roof slopes forward reducing the second floor front windows to slits, resembling eyebrows over the first floor windows.
The house needed a lot of work. As it turned out, my brother-in-law, Mike, was in the area helping us renovate portions of Hampton Terrace, so Mike went to work for Lauren and Sam. Upon completion, we dropped in with a bottle of house-warming champagne.
Over the years, Lauren and Sam have often run into my daughter Lauren again...and her husband Brad, who spent a couple of years as the bartender at Allium...a favorite Great Barrington hangout. Susan and I have seen them occasionally as well.
Lauren continues to do a LOT of film, tv and stagework, including Broadway. I won't go into that..but click on her link in the second paragraph and you will see her latest projects. She also sings in a band which performs frequently in Great Barrington. I guess in some respects she has become a "local." And we had a chance to be a bit involved in that. A perk of our jobs.
Facebook is wonderful. I resisted at first...even canceled my account at one point...but now that I am connected to hundreds of friends and fans, new stuff is hitting my radar daily.
Kevin Sprague has always been my friend, but as of last week, he is a Facebook friend, and I am getting daily revelations from him.
As owner of Studio Two in Lenox, Kevin does website, publication work, photography and marketing for many of the arts groups in the Berkshires. I think that is the tip of the iceberg actually. He is also on the boards of many organizations, including several with me.
I guess he is best known for creating the public face of Shakespeare & Company with photograph collages that have graced all of their posters and programs for a decade.
He is also on the Board of the Berkshire Creative Economy, and in this capacity, I assume, he has taken on the project (probably gratis, knowing him) of making theater-going in the Berkshires easier to wrap your arms around.
He has created a website called: http://berkshiretheaters.com
There are thirteen stages listed, and the home page is quite concise: What is COMING UP. And there is a tab for THIS WEEK and THIS MONTH. Simple clicks for "read more" and "buy tickets" for each show.
This is a great idea. At Hampton Terrace we are always asked "what is going on this weekend?," or even "is there any theater th weekend of June 6th when we will be there?" Problem solved.
Berkshire theaters are world-class. I mean really world-class. Both the Berkshire Theatre Festival and Williamstown Theatre Festivals have won Tony's for "Best Regional Theater." Barrington Stage Company won two Tony's for "Putnam County Spelling Bee," which started as an improv workshop and found its way to Broadway literally the next year. Shakespeare & Company has been around 30+ years doing nationally recognized productions, many having nothing to do with actual Shakespeare. The Colonial and Mahaiwe Theaters book national touring companies and performers.
People are always asking me, "Has anyone famous ever stayed at Hampton Terrace?"
Absolutely! And it is usually a serendipity because we don't go out looking for celebrity guests. We don't comp them rooms. We also know that famous people are more likely to end up at Blantyre, Wheatleigh or Canyon Ranch...all within a mile and all north of $1,000/night. At those places, celebrities are insulated. At Hampton Terrace, they are scooping up grits from the buffet like the rest of us.
So I thought I would dedicate a few blog entries to names you might know. First up? Ken Jennings.
Why Ken? Because in the next several weeks Ken will once again become a household name when Jeopardy matches him with Watson, the new IBM computer. I saw in a commercial that Watson has memorized 200 million pages of content and can do 80 trillion operations per second.
Ken Jennings? Well he HAS stayed at Hampton Terrace...so he is pretty damned smart.
I did blog about Ken when he stayed here, approximately two years ago. Here is what I said:
We’ve had relatively well-known people stay here before. But this was different. As someone who worked for Dick Clark, spent 20+ years in the concert promotion business, and was affiliated with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the National Music Foundation, it is not as if I have not met plenty of "celebrities." I have.
And it is not that Ken Jennings wants to be a celebrity, or acts like one. He does not, although he continues to maintain a high profile with books and television show appearances.
But I am among the millions who became addicted to the nightly drama of Ken’s relentless march through six months of daily victories and $2.6 million in earnings. Ken Jennings is someone whom I RESPECT.
And he and his wife Mindy were as nice and unassuming as the persona he projected while appearing on your television screen every night. Winning at Jeopardy is not about guessing cases or spinning a wheel. Over the months, you KNOW that some of the most intelligent people in the country sought out the challenge of being the one to wrestle the buzzer out of Ken’s hand…. As it turns out, the person who beat him ended up losing the next night…so if an occasional mulligan were ever allowed, he’d probably still be on the show.
So when I took a reservation from a Ken Jennings for a fall foliage mid-week stay, I made a mental note that the caller had the same name as the Jeopardy winner and then I forgot about it. But when Ken walked in the inn, and I pulled out the Ken Jennings paperwork, I knew it was him. We know that everyone who stays at our inn is here for a reason, and that reason NEVER includes being made to feel uncomfortable…..so I never let on that I knew who he was….and if any of our guests recognized him, they did not let on to me (or hopefully not to him).
After he left, however, I did e-mail him to see if he would mail a personalized and signed copy of his book, Brainiac, to us as a gift for my mother-in-law, one of the Jeopardy faithful since before Alex Trebek. It came today.
I do feel okay about putting him in my blog, however. If you look at his blog, you’ll find a list of the celebrities he saw during his vacation to the East Coast. Turnabout is fair play…
If anyone reading this would like to get an autographed copy of Ken’s books, read his daily blog, or hear of his upcoming appearances, I recommend his website, www.ken-jennings.com.
Tickets for Tanglewood's Popular Artist Concerts - James Taylor (June 30, July 1, 2 and 4), Earth Wind and Fire (June 25), Steely Dan (July 26), and Train (August 8) - go on sale TOMORROW, Sunday, February 7th.
8:00 a.m. Buy them on-line at the Tanglewood Website.
10:00 a.m. Buy them by phone at 888-266-1200
Ticket sales for the regular Tanglewood Season go on sale next week, February 13th - 8:00 a.m. on-line and 10:00 am by phone.
Since the 2011 Tanglewood season announcement in November, there have been several new additions to the summer schedule:
John Williams will conduct the Boston Pops concert with special guest artist James Taylor on July 1.
Morgan Freeman will narrate "The Reivers" during Film Night under the direction of John Williams on Aug. 20.
The cast for the BSO’s first-ever concert performance of Gershwin’s "Porgy and Bess" on Aug. 26 will be bass-baritone Alfred Walker as Porgy and soprano Laquita Mitchell as Bess, with additional cast members sopranos Nicole Cabell and Marquita Lister, contralto Gwendolyn Brown, tenors Clavin Lee and Jermaine Smith, and baritone Gregg Baker.
In addition, The Tanglewood Food and Wine Classic returns as part of the Labor Day Weekend Jazz Festival, Sept. 2-4.
The Boston Symphony begins its summer at Tanglewood July 8 with an all-Italian opening night program under the direction of James Levine.
Four appearances by Yo-Yo Ma (June 28 and 29; Aug. 13 and 14);
A Boston Pops Cole Porter tribute led by Keith Lockhart (July 17);
The returns of Itzhak Perlman (Aug. 27) and Christoph Eschenbach (July 31 and Aug. 2);
And special appearances by Joshua Bell (July 10); Stephanie Blythe (Aug. 10 and 14); Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (Aug. 5, 12 and 14); Christoph von Dohnányi (Aug. 13 and 19), Kurt Masur (July 15 and 17), and Peter Serkin (July 30); and the closing BSO performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the direction of Lorin Maazel (Aug. 28).
The BSO’s opening concert July 8 will feature soprano Angela Meade, mezzo-soprano Kristine Jepson, and bass-baritone James Morris in excerpts from Bellini’s "Norma" and Verdi’s "I lombardi" on a program with overtures by Verdi and Rossini, and Respighi’s "Pines of Rome."
Levine will also lead the BSO in Berlioz’s Requiem with tenor Russell Thomas (July 9) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 (July 29), as well as a Tanglewood Music Center program of Debussy’s "Pelléas and Mélisande," with baritone José van Dam as Golaud, with some of the TMC’s most gifted vocal alumni, including Layla Claire as Mélisande, bass-baritone Evan Hughes as Arkel, and baritone Elliot Madore as Pelléas, filling out the rest of the cast on July 25.
The season-ending Labor Day Weekend Jazz Festival, which this year will host the return of Tanglewood’s Wine Festival (Sept. 2-4), will include five-time Grammy-nominated percussionist John Santos (Sept. 3), Grammy award-winning Angelique Kidjo (Sept. 4), four-time Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves (Sept. 4), gospel artist Lizz Wright (Sept. 4), as well as and NEA Jazz MastersGunther Schuller and Jimmy Cobb, with Schuller also conducting the Mingus Orchestra (also Sept. 4).
Regular season ticket prices range from $9-$102. Tickets for Saturday morning rehearsals are $10-$30. All ticket prices include a $1 Tanglewood grounds maintenance fee.
Further information and box office hours are available by telephone at (617) 266-1492 or online at www.bso.org
CHECK AVAILABILITY AT HAMPTON TERRACE
Is it possible to make a visit to the Berkshires even better? Apparently. Add CHOCOLATE!
From the top to the bottom of Berkshire County, scores of businesses are featuring chocolate in a hundred different ways, to draw more visitors to the area.
A special CHOCOLATE BERKSHIRES website has been created to showcase all we have to offer.
Of course, Hampton Terrace is thrilled with any promotions that bring more people to our area, and here is how we will participate:
Any two-night stay at Hampton Terrace includes
- A warm, romantic room with a fireplace and Jacuzzi or antique soaking tub
- Full breakfast buffet by candlelight, including our Chocolate French Toast...featured in USA Today!
- A $30 Gift Card to either (1) Nejaimes, Lenox's wonderful wine/gourmet food shop, or (2) Chocolate Springs Cafe, featuring hand-crafted chocolate in many forms.
- #1 Rated on Trip Advisor and all for less than $189/night, mid-week or weekend.
CHOCOLATE BERKSHIRES is SUCH A GOOD IDEA we will honor this special until June 15th!
CLICK HERE FOR THE HAMPTON TERRACE HOMEPAGE
CLICK HERE TO CHECK AVAILABILITY