From farm to Tanglewood: Tanglewood revamps cafe, grille menus
LENOX -- The farm-to-table movement has a permanent place setting at the table, or more appropriately picnic blanket, at Tanglewood this summer.
"There is this Berkshire mystique," said Kyle Ronayne, director of events administration at Tanglewood. "People who come to Tanglewood wanted to try products in the area."
And so, the summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra made a decision to refocus its food offerings around the local food culture -- expanding and completely revamping the menus for the Tanglewood Café and Grille to highlight local food and beverage vendors from the Berkshires.
The list of local vendors reads like a Berkshire County who's-who of local farms, restaurants and specialty shops. Berkshore Fish, Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Big Elm Brewing, Pittsfield Rye Bakery, Taft Farms and, the old Tanglewood staple, SoCo Creamery are just a few of the names that excitedly rolled off the tongue of Tanglewood Executive Chef Joshua Ingraham has he went down his roster of summer contacts.
"It becomes addicting," said Ingraham of his daily interactions with people on the farms he's working with behind the scenes in preparation of the summer season, which officially kicks off this weekend, and is also the chef's first full season at Tanglewood.
So addicting, that Ingraham said he hopes the list of local vendors continues to grow as the summer goes on.
"We're going back to basics," he said. "I love to see local produce shine. It's a little more work, but we have a good [kitchen] schedule."
With offerings at the café ranging in price from $4 to $7 in the revamped Grab-n-go section -- offering kale Caesar salad, arugula and pear salad, or pan seared salmon -- to an expanded flatbread pizza station with dough from Housatonic's Berkshire Mountain Bakery for $11 to $12, Ronayne said the goal is to entice concertgoers into trying something new.
"We want people to come in and try something [from the café or grille] the next time they come in. Maybe say ‘Instead of bringing a picnic, I'll buy something there,'" he said. "Our amenities are a little different than what someone can bring in."
He points out that these menus won't look like what a typical concert venue offers -- no plain hotdogs and "hockey puck" hamburgers. At Tanglewood, you'll get your hotdog dressed with pulled pork, or apple carrot radish slaw -- your choice.
"The beet burger is my favorite offering so far," said Ronayne, of the "Give Me a Beet!" that is made of beets, black beans, corn and quinoa being sold at the Grille for $6.50. "Unfortunately, I'm going to gain a lot of weight this summer."
Also new to the Tanglewood food scene this summer is a satellite location for specialty coffee shop No. Six Depot, based out of West Stockbridge.
"It's super exciting," said Lisa Landry, co-owner of the café and gallery along with her husband Flavio Lichtenthal. "We're really grateful. It's so wonderful to be there."
The "stars aligned" for No. Six Depot, said Landry, when musicians from the BSO who stopped by for specialty coffee at their West Stockbridge café last summer told those in charge of Tanglewood food service they'd like to see something like that offered on campus. Once talks began about Tanglewood focusing more on local businesses, it just went from there, according to Landry.
While they'll leave the food up to Tanglewood, Landry listed an exotic menu of beverages -- including iced cappuccinos and lattes, ginger lemonade and Moroccan Mint ice tea -- that they plan to serve at their location adjacent to the Tanglewood Café.
"Our cold brew is our most popular right now," said Landry. "Flavio roasts a special blend. We brew it for 15 hours. It's really rich and chocolately."
Landry points out that two things compliment a picnic basket -- often concertgoers dinner of choice -- ice cream and coffee.
"Because neither travel well," she said with a laugh.
The Berkshire food movement is in almost every detail, as Ingraham jumps from dish to dish, passionately explaining the different vendors that go into creating each new menu offering. The Berkshire Mountain Bakery will be making the burger buns from natural whole wheat. Berkshore Fish will be handpicking fresh fish on the docks of Boston for Ingraham and his staff.
"If you think concession food, you get concession food," said Ingraham.
But this kind of fresh-from-the-farm offering does come with its own set of cooking challenges.
"Sometimes its hard to get a hold of [the vendors] because they are out working on the farm," Ingraham said. "It's a process. ... But I'm not gonna settle."
It also means that some weeks, Ingraham might not know what produce is ready, or when mother nature might foil dinner plans.
"It's taking more effort in the planning process by doing it this way," he said. "Menus will change, probably. But we want everything when it is ready to be picked."
It's an effort that isn't lost on the local food scene, according to Landry, who has heard positive feedback from other vendors working with Tanglewood too.
"It spreads good will," she said. "It lets people know that the Berkshires is not just a cultural destination, but also a culinary destination. It helps everybody."
If you're hungry ...
The Tanglewood Grille is located just inside the Main Gate next to the Gift Shop. The Grille is open 5:30 p.m. to intermission, Fridays; 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to intermission, Saturdays; noon to intermission, Sundays; and during Popular Artist concerts.
The Tanglewood Cafe is located between the Shed and the Lion's Gate. It is open noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and also 5:30 p.m. to intermission, Fridays; 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to intermission, Saturdays; noon to intermission, Sundays; and during Popular Artist concerts.
For more information, visit www.bso.org/Home
On the menu ...
Vendors will be added as the summer goes on, according to Tanglewood Executive Chef Joshua Ingraham.
n Here is a list of who is working with venue so far:
n Berkshore Fish
n Berkshire Mountain Bakery
n Big Elm Brewing
n Berkshire Brewing Company
n No. Six Depot
n Pittsfield Rye Bakery
n Taft Farms
n Mill River Farm
n Farm Girl Farm
n Moon on the Pond Farm
n Square Roots Farm
n Berkshire Mountain Distillers
n Wandering Star Brew Company
n SoCo Creamery
n The Meat Market
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