Our first stop was Lenox, MA for a couple of nights. We stayed at the Cornell Inn, which is located on Main St. - a couple of blocks and an uphill walk from the center of town. If you go, say Hi to Lyn (with one "n" not two).
Lenox is the home of Tanglewood (the summer hang-out of the Boston Symphony) as well as numerous art galleries and high end retail shops. In fact, Casablanca, a clothing store for men and women, had some outrageous racks with equally over-the-top prices. It also boasted a male clerk with patent leather slides - one bright red and on black. Fascinating.
We were fortunate enough (for us, at least) to visit in the off-off season. Well beyond ski season, the arts scene did not begin until June/July, and no Fall colors. Some of the locals regaled us with traffic horrors in the Summer as well as rushed dining experiences in order to make the evening concert or play. We like the arts, but don't rush our dining experiences!
In Lenox there is also a hiking park near the Church on the Hill. Hubby and I decided to do a morning hike. We soon discovered locals jogging or walking their dogs in the early Spring scenery (early Spring at the beginning of May is a new one for us native Virginians!). We also admired the numerous horses that carried trail riders. Then we discovered the black flies. Tiny black insects that would buzz and light on you as soon as you stopped to take a picture or to peer at the spectacular view of the valley below. One must keep moving! What I enjoyed the most was the whiteness of the birch bark shining out against the blue sky and the newness of Spring.
Now, on to the food and wine. We ate at one-word places: Prime, Dish, and Zinc. Imagine that! All were within walking distance of the Cornell Inn - hooray!
Prime houses an Italian Steakhouse and Bar (by the way, all restaurants and bars are non-smoking in Massachusetts - you can't imagine how happy we were!). The really cool thing about Prime is that dividing the bar and the main dining area is an area set up as small, intimate, private dining areas - seating 2 - 6 patrons. The private area is separated by opaque glass. That seemed very chic to us. We were seated in the main area with a window view (not too shabby, either!). We both ordered the skirt steak which came with a salad and potatoes. We also ordered a Brunello di Montalcino. My husband and I enjoy Brunellos. Unfortunately, we have only experienced a few bottles because of the expense (normally, the retail shops we frequent sell these little gems for $40 and up). Prime offered a Brunello for $60 ( a bargain given restaurant mark-ups). We snapped it up and I would tell you exactly which bottle it was - we wrote the information on a little scrap of paper, I swear! Unfortunately, after two weeks traveling and a week back at home, we have lost the little scrap. Mea culpa! Anyway, it was heavenly and the restaurant manager even stopped by to confirm that we had chosen wisely. As for the rest of the meal. The salad was simple fare, but the Balsamic vinegar dressing was very well-balanced. The skirt steak was medium rare and more tender than expected. We indulged in cappuchinos for dessert (unfortunately, the coffees were so-so and way overpriced - I guess the this made up for the Brunello bargain).
For lunch the next day, after our black fly hike, we selected Dish. We had considered Dish for dinner the night before, but went with Prime instead. Tiny deep hallway-type space with some contemporary lighting touches (except for the god-awful colonial reproduction chandelier near the entrance). We ordered sandwiches for lunch. Lunch just wasn't the dish we were expecting. For the price, I expected fresher bread and tastier chicken. Maybe this is the downside to visiting in the off-off season.
We fared better for dinner. Zinc was located in what seemed to be a residence in the past. Huge bay windows fronted the restaurant and were open to let in the Spring air. The dining space was open with blond wood paneling. My husband started with the Peking Duck Rolls. It was served with a hoisin and sweet chili sauce. Since I enjoy duck even more so than my spouse, it was surprising that I did not even consider it. Instead, I ordered the Frisee Salad with Lardons. For some strange reason, I adore this dish. A place in Richmond, VA called Morgan's (sadly, now defunct) introduced me to this concoction, and I have been hooked ever since. Basically, it's frisee greens (which can be slightly bitter) mixed with chunks of thick bacon and served with a poached egg. A sweet/sour dressing, in this case, balsamic dressing, is then drizzled over the salad. Heaven! And Zinc did not disappoint. For entrees we both ordered Steak Frites. Not very imaginative as far as ordering on our part, but a great Black Angus New York strip perfectly grilled. The frites weren't half bad either. As for the wine, I know we have that little scribble of paper somewhere, but, alas, it is nowhere to be found. I believe it was a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape, and I know the wine definitely did not suck, but as to the name? It remains a mystery. My husband ended the night with a special treat - Armagnac. The last time we had the extremely strong nectar it was in Paris. We were at a little wine shop in the 6th arrondissment and the proprietor let us try a 1972 vintage. This non-vintage version at Zinc was not as smooth, but brought back happy memories of past travels together.