A field trip: The Berkshire Pilgrimage at The Beard House

It’s nice to have friends who do fun things.

And when one of those friends shoots you a text that says, “Hey wanna come hang out and help me sling hors d’oeuvres?” and that friend is Brian Alberg (Executive Chef at the Red Lion Inn and Eat on North in the Berkshires), and the event is at the Beard House, you don’t just say “yes.” You say “You bet! How soon should I be there?”

In the kitchen

On November 4th, I met Brian (don’t call him “chef”) and the rest of the crew in the Beard House kitchen. Known as The Berkshire Pilgrimage––the meal highlights produce and meat from western Massachusetts. It’s a collaborative effort managed by Berkshire Farm and Table and the Main Street Hospitality Group (The Red Lion Inn’s parent company).

Brian assembled a great group of Berkshires chefs: Adam Brassard, chef de cuisine at The Red Lion Inn (Stockbridge); Sean Corcoran, chef de cuisine at Eat on North (Pittsfield); Daire Rooney, chef of Mezze Catering + Events in the Berkshires; Dan Smith, chef-owner of John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant (South Egremont); and Adam Zieminski, chef-owner of Café Adam.

By the time I got there at noon, I felt like I was already behind schedule. The kitchen was buzzing with energy and good spirits. This a group that’s cooked together many times, and in a small space like the Beard House kitchen good interpersonal vibes are an essential ingredient. Brian threw me on fryer duty and I spent the rest of the afternoon channeling my deep-fryer mojo, labeling mise en place, and cutting up vegetables for family meal.

It’s a real pleasure to cook with a group like this. This dinner was the sixth Berkshires-focused Beard dinner that Brian has spearheaded, and his 12th visit to the House. As a result, everyone knew the idiosyncrasies of the space: where to find equipment, which burners run hot, where the paper towels are, etc. so we were all pretty relaxed and ready by 5:45, when we took a brief break to enjoy family meal with Beard House staff.

With the family fed and the first plates set to go out at 7:00, the kitchen started humming again immediately. Thanks to Clay Williams, we have plenty of pictures of the action, but here are some Instagram highlights of the multi-course experience:


Hors d’oeuvres (Brian Alberg, The Red Lion Inn and Eat on North)

  Sweet corn soup with mignonette peppers

 

Paddlefish caviar with apple butter and creme fraiche on a potato chip

Rabbit bratwurst with mustard

 Roasted vegetables and onion dip.


First course (Daire Rooney, Mezze Catering + Events)

Scallop crudo with Sweet Lightning squash, grapes, and a grape-habanero purée

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 12.12.57 PM

 


Second course (Adam Brassard, The Red Lion Inn)

“Pork and beans” Kielbasa, baked beans, smoked horseradish mustard, crispy onions

 


Third course (Sean Corcoran, Eat on North)

Duck confit, heirloom squash, maple gastrique, Farm Girl Farm greens


Fourth course (Adam Zieminski, Café Adam)

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Braised Lila’s Lamb stuffed cabbage with honeynut squash, crisped steel cut oats, pickled peppers


Dessert (Patrick Lacey, sous chef John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant who ably stood in for Chef Dan Smith, who was ill)

Kabocha squash cake, praline, ginger ice cream 


Ingredients for the dinner came from a multitude of producers across Western Massachusetts and just over the New York border. 

 Barrington Coffee Roasting Company

Berkshire Mountain Bakery

Berkshire Mountain Distillers

The Berry Patch

Big Elm Brewing

Farm Girl Farm

High Lawn Farm

 Hosta Hill

Ioka Valley Farm

Joshua’s Farm

Kitchen Garden Farm

La Belle Farm

Lakeview Orchard

Lila’s Farm 

 

Massachusetts 4-H

MX Morningstar Farm

Raven & Boar

Ronnybrook Farm

Taft Farms

Turner Farms

Windy Hill Farm


For more information about The Berkshire Pilgrimage and the Beard House visit:  http://www.jamesbeard.org/events/berkshire-pilgrimage

Berkshire Farm & Table promotes food culture in the Berkshires. The organization collaborates to cultivate tastemakers, produce events and foster dialogue in the media. By sharing the unique stories and expertise of culinary artisans, farmers and agritourism experiences, their work advances food as another reason to explore and savor the Berkshires. For more information, visit www.berkshirefarmandtable.org.