What a winter wonderland the Berkshires have become.
I came back to the county Monday after spending about five days in Miami and sailing on a cruise to the Bahamas and was beside myself going from 80-degree to 25-degree temperatures.
While catching up on Facebook, I noticed my friend Jill had posted a question about fun places to eat.
My response was, "Betty’s Pizza Shack in the winter, because the ambiance makes you feel like you’re in Cali."
But Jill’s question got me thinking about another: Where can you go in Berkshire County to beat the winter blues?
So here, in no particular order, I present you my top 10 choices to find warmth, ambiance and menus that make you feel like you’re someplace other than here: 1. For those of you who don’t know, Betty’s Pizza Shack is a Lenox pizza place with a tidal wave of warm colors, lights and lots of surf-theme décor. Plus, their pizza’s a mighty contender in my top 10 favorite pizza places in the world. You can get cold Coronas in a bucket and pizza by the whole pie or by the slice, along with other eats with a Southern California flair. My favorite slices include, "Surf the Goat," which is topped with goat cheese, grated garlic, strips of sundried tomato and caramelized onions atop a base of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. I also love the "Hawaii 5-Oh," with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh pineapple chunks and lots of crispy, shredded bacon.
2. Any place with a fireplace. There’s the Red Lion Inn and the Lion’s Den in Stockbridge, the Dream Away Lodge in Becket, the tavern at The Morgan House in Lee, The Olde Forge in Lanesborough. These are just a few that come to mind. What others can you think of?
3. Though they’re at the bottom of ski slopes, I do enjoy hanging out at the lodges and taverns at Jiminy Peak in Hancock and the bar at Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield, both with fireplaces and cozy environments designed to help people warm up. I’ve never been to the tavern at Catamount, nor have I hung out at Ski Butternut, but would love to hear your thoughts.
4. The Luau Hale in Lenox. With their Asian/Polynesian cuisine and exotic-looking lagoon room and umbrella drinks like piña coladas and Planters punch, you can’t help but relax and drift away. I’ve never been to Koi Chinese restaurant in Great Barrington, but I hear they have a waterfall.
5. Go for a taste of México. Pancho’s in Pittsfield, Xicohtencatl in Great Barrington, the Desperados restaurants in North Adams and Williamstown, and Coyote Flaco in Williamstown are places I enjoy visiting, because of their warm, vivacious décor, friendly service and delicious margaritas. Some of these spots also have occasional live guitarists to lighten your mood too. I’ve not yet been to Fiesta Bar and Grille in Great Barrington so I can’t make a call on it. But if you can’t travel, your eyes and your palate can take a field trip at these places.
6. For coffee and sweets, Chocolate Springs in Lenox and Sweets & Beans in Williamstown are welcome retreats. Both host evening hours past 8 p.m. and offer creative, sugar-scented environments that will melt your stress away. Chocolate Springs not only has its Serious Hot Chocolate, but also soft leather couches to cozy into. Sweets & Beans offers fresh espresso if you want to warm up after a cup of ice cream, and I love the bright colors of its candy shop setting.
7. La Fogata in Pittsfield. The Berkshires is definitely privileged to have a Colombian restaurant in these parts. In addition to treating your tastebuds to zesty carne asada or whole tilapia, you can also shop the small market inside and take some of your favorite flavors home.
8. Koto Hibachi Steak House in Pittsfield. They set food on fire. They serve rice in pineapple halves. They have swirling disco lights when it’s someone’s birthday. What more could you ask for?
9. Gypsy Joynt in Great Barrington. It’s super colorful and bohemic. It’s brimming with fresh food, wandering musicians and a whole lot of personality.
10. Moe’s Tavern in Lee. Maybe it’s the neon lights and chalkboard signs. Maybe it’s the perpetual ‘90s rock that takes me back to my youth. Moe’s has that je ne sais quoi, with just the right amount of space, a rotating range of both patrons and craft draft and bottle beers and an easy-going vibe that makes it a go-to gathering spot to get away from it all.
So there you have my picks for local places to find sunshine on a winter’s day. What’s in your top 10? Send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll post them on my Facebook page: Facebook.com/413Jenn. Cheers!