There’s something about the changing seasons that makes me want to shout out ROAD TRIP.
So I was game when my bestie from Boston suggested that we find a scenic spot with rural, winding roads and some really great eats, midway between Boston and coastal CT.
We landed in THE perfect spot called The Inn at Sweet Water Farm in Great Barrington, MA, just down the road a piece from Tanglewood, the Berkshires Botanical Gardens, and Chesterwood (the country home, studio, gardens and deep woods that were a retreat for Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC). Kripalu and Canyon Ranch are in that neck of the woods, too.
Ever the culinary researcher and planner, I began by checking out innkeeper Lynda Fisher’s site to see what she had to say about her lovingly restored inn, built in 1804.
It was two thumbs up as I quickly discovered that she and husband, Andrei Vankov, are super eco-conscious, source ingredients from local farmers whenever possible, pluck fresh eggs from the chickens wandering freely outside of their backyard coop and dry bedsheets on the backyard clothesline. They even give a discount to guests who drive hybrid cars. Lists of local farmers, restaurants that support them, and favorite hikes are all on the site for guests to peruse before arriving.
Fisher’s background is an interesting one and between rolling the fragrant dough for freshly baked croissants (served warm with chocolate oozing), greeting guests, receiving local product delivered to the back door and hanging those sheets out to dry, she shared her story with me.
But the best part of staying two nights at the Inn at Sweet Water was the creative and ample breakfasts served with attention, joy and pride by Fisher herself. We had arrived on the weekend of the Autumnal Equinox, a marker that reminds Fisher to honor the rhythm of the seasons and the ingredients that are available.
We dug into Buckwheat Crepes (new on the fall menu and meant to replace the French toast with fresh fruit) folded over smoked gouda and topped with apples. We hung out with Fisher by her old black stove as she ladled the batter into her sizzling pan, alternating raw, prettily sliced apples with others that had been gently sautéed and lightly seasoned with warming spices like cinnamon and ginger.
The mildly smoky gouda (from just up the road in Grafton, VT), hearty buckwheat and snap of fresh apples was just what we needed after having climbed Baldwin Hill and taking our time enjoying the wide open, 360 degrees views at the top. I even had my first walk through a corn field, where the stalks were as “high as an elephant’s eye” and surprisingly dense and fragrant of soil.
After our 3.5 mile walk we didn’t hesitate to order more.
Two soft cooked eggs, just plucked from the coop out back, were sunny yellow and richly flavored. We mopped up every bit with toast “soldiers”.
The next morning we opted for the Plain and Simple Ruski, a deconstructed peasant omelet gently folded into steamed potatoes, moistened with sour cream and mixed with just snipped dill and garlic chive blossoms from the herb bed out back. Russian salmon caviar was a great bonus.
Lemon Ginger muffins, glazed in tangy freshly squeezed lemon juice, warm, perfectly flaky croissants, buttery vegetable tarts with the last of the summer squash, were all offered on the sideboard for early risers, along with freshly brewed coffee and a healthy hunk o’ camembert with local honey.
Pre-breakfast or breakfast number one before the post-hike sit-down? Yes, please and thank you very much.
For vegetarians, or those loving local, veg centric eats, check out this lovely six bedroom inn with the passionate, energetic and attentive Lynda Fisher at the helm. And don’t forget to spend some time perusing her enormous cookbook collection, spanning 10 feet of floor to ceiling shelves. Her collection covers every subject imaginable.
It lines an entire wall of the cozy sitting room where the fireplace crackles and removes the chill along with some help from Andrei’s selection of ports and nips.
Interestingly, Fisher told me that she learned to bake bread from Andrei’s Mom. “Bread is the boss of you” she explained to me. “It is a mystical, living thing. You wait for it to rise, and never try to rush it. Oh, I hear something calling from the kitchen…..”
And off she skipped, to punch it down and give it a turn for the lucky guests who would eat it the next morning.
Lynda gladly shared her most requested recipe with me. These perfectly textured and not too sweet scones are truly out of this world. Look at how creative you can get by adding morsels of dried fruit and maybe even chocolate, if you’re that kind of breakfast eater, ahem.
Tips from Lynda: "I love dried currents and fresh currents too when I can get them. Dried cherries and white chocolate are another favorite. I have been playing around with dried cranberries and pecans and the zest of an orange in with the flour at the beginning of the recipe. Sometimes I add walnuts with the apricots. And dates would rock...."
"Here's a happy surprise. You can FREEZE them right now on a baking sheet!!! Stash them in a ziplock bag when they are frozen and bake them right from the freezer whenever you want scones for breakfast! Domestic Gods and Goddesses one and all!"
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/4 c. plain full fat yogurt
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. dried apricots, snipped to bits, or any mix in of choice
- Pre-heat oven to 425F.
- Mix together in a magical bowl or in a food processor. (I gave up the processor years ago in the morning out of respect for Room #5 above the kitchen. Now I love making them by hand and I know I can do it in my sleep because I have!)
- Cut in 1 stick of unsalted butter (that's 8 tablespoons).
- You can blitz in the food processor until it looks like coarse corn meal or cut the butter small and then rub the flour mixture and butter between your thumb and your other four fingers until you get the same results.
- Cut in 1/4 cup of plain full fat yogurt and ¼ cup of heavy cream.
- I use a small sharp pairing knife to cut it in. Sometimes it's too dry, as is the way of flour on any given day. If that's the case, add cream or yogurt by the tablespoon until the dough stays together but is not too wet. Tricky, yes I know.
- If you're going food processor, give it the old pulse ... 10 times? If it's too dry, add cream or yogurt by the tablespoon until the dough forms a ball in the processor.
- Add the goodies ... here at the Inn you love dried apricots. I cut them up with scissors, about a cup full.
- Pat the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 8 or 9 inches in diameter. I fold it over a few times along the way. Go old school and cut into 12 wedges or use a biscuit cutter and cut them into what ever shape you like, ovals, rounds....
- If you are carrying on with the baking, place them on a baking sheet. They don't often stick but I use a silpat (awww ... save it) or parchment paper (thank you).
- Brush only the tops of the scones with a beaten egg and into the oven they go ... 12 minutes? Sometimes 14 ... You'll figure it out.
This recipe was provided by Lynda Fisher, owner of The Inn at Sweet Water Farm, Great Barrington, MA.
She says it is BY FAR, the most requested recipe at the Inn.