Gateways Inn: Grand entrées
LENOX -- Beside a vintage "Romeo and Juliet" poster under a gilded chandelier, a jazz trio -- clarinetist Paul Green accompanied on baby grand and upright bass -- launched into a jaunty Dixieland tune at the Gateways Inn.
Soft candles lit round, marble-topped cocktail tables in the elegant piano bar lounge. Pa trons seated in leather loungers, plush swivel chairs and padded couches laden with cushions sipped drinks and snacked on exotic dips and cheeses.
In its 100th year, Gateways Inn reopened in May under the new ownership of Michele and Eiran Gazit, formerly of Israel. In a phone conversation following a recent late-night visit, Eiran Gazit -- a tourism-industry consultant by profession -- ex plained that they had visited family in the Berkshires for a decade before he and his wife moved to the area seven years ago.
After temporarily running the nearby Cornell Inn on behalf of a bank, the Gazits decided to open their own establishment. Some Cornell Inn guests im pressed by Gazit's hospitality and business skills helped him finance the purchase of Gateways Inn.
Michele Gazit oversees food operations with the help of the chef and staff of the inn's former owners. She began learning the art of cooking as a small child from family members, moving on to international classes and a multitude of cook books as she got older, she said.
"I'm happiest when I can feed people," she said. "I strive for home cooking with a gourmet twist."
She designed the piano bar menu around Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. "There's no food that's healthier," her husband said.
The goal is to offer "light bites for late nights," she said.
She makes her own hummus, tabouli and tehina, as well as labane -- a soft cheese made from organic goat yogurt she buys from a farmer in Vermont.
She also serves the same hot pastrami and corned beef as the legendary Zabar's.
"I love New York deli," she said. "It's the real deal."
Back at the piano bar, the trio finished playing Dizzy Gil lespie's "Night in Tunisia," and Green introduced the Berkshire premiere of "So Nu?" a Yid dish-style rendering of the Miles Davis classic, "So What."
The band took a short break at 10:30 p.m. -- a time when many other bands are done for the night -- in preparation for the third set of the evening.
The Athens Plate sampler ($13) arrived, the cool tsatsiki cucumber and dill yogurt complementing bite-sized warm spinach and cheese-filled filo pastry spanikopitas and rustic lavash crispbread brushed with oil and bold salty seasoning. Herbed feta cheese was a creamy partner to rice-stuffed vine leaves and richly flavored roasted tomatoes.
Minty-fresh tabouli accompanied a crusty French bread sandwich ($16) with a generous grilled chicken breast -- substituting for the sliced steak that other diners beat me to, finishing off the day's supply -- dressed in juicy roasted tomatoes and sweet caramelized onions.
The band struck up "Avalon" -- a jaunty Al Jolson number with spirited piano acrobatics - as guests continued to arrive for post-show dining and drinking in the convivial atmosphere. A smattering of conversations discussed the various merits of that evening's Tanglewood concert and a dramatic performance of "King Lear" at Shakespeare & Company.
A crust of bread mopped up remaining tsatsiki dip as "Bye Bye Blackbird" filled the lounge. Over the clarinet rhythm of a lively klezmer tune -- Green is known for his eclectic musical skills -- we tackled a rich slice of Chocolate Hazelnut Tart ($7), nutty chunks smothered in dense chocolate on a fluffy bed of crushed hazelnuts.
The Raspberry Lemon Drop Torte ($7) was a light, layered tower of yellow cake and cream with tangy raspberry jam and lemon curd accents, garnished with fresh sliced strawberries and white chocolate curls. (Sweets fans should note that the piano bar menu offers more choices than the regular dessert menu.)
Couples and small groups continued to share themed taster platters and desserts even at this late hour. While many patrons come and go, some spend the entire evening at the piano bar enjoying the fine fare, live entertainment and mellow ambiance, returning often to hear the likes of chanteuses Sherri Buxton and Katherine Anderson.
At well past 11:30 p.m., the trio ended with Charlie Parker's take on Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm," sending satisfied listeners to bed in the elegant guest rooms upstairs and out into the night to nearby inns and homes.
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