Fall in The Berkshires: Elegant, Serene and Colorful
I just returned from a quick trip to the Berkshires, to Lenox, Massachusetts with a stay at the peaceful Garden Gables Inn, dating from 1780. Classic New England and a great base for soaking in the colors of October’s finest foliage, the inn reminded me of my many summers and falls in this beautiful corner of Massachusetts and made me fall in love with bed and breakfasts all over again.
I welcome back guest blogger Judy Nayer who has just spent a month in the same area, making her home in the nearby town of Hillsdale.
If you're looking for the perfect place to stay while exploring the upper Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, I suggest you visit The Inn at Green River in Hillsdale. Just a 2 ½ hour drive from New York City and located in a scenic, pastoral setting 25 minutes from either Hudson or Great Barrington, the inn is one of only three Select Registry inns in the Hudson Valley.
This beautifully restored 1830 property combines the upscale elegance of a small country inn with the warmth and hospitality of the best of the bed & breakfasts. Each of the seven guestrooms is lovely and true to the website photos, and the breakfasts served in the sunroom and dining room are memorable. Among my favorites was the poached pear with goat cheese followed by very thin pear pancakes made from local artisanal flour. Also topping my list was the roasted plum with Greek yogurt and a local honey drizzle which preceded mini frittatas with tomato and spinach and a slice of polenta. Homemade scones, locally made jams and fresh fruit accompany each meal, leaving guests smiling and ready to begin their day.
The mastermind of all of this is owner/innkeeper Deborah Bowen whose talent and commitment to excellence began 25 years ago when she opened her doors to guests after renovating and expanding this Hudson Valley gem. Deborah is passionate about her guests, and it shows. From the moment you walk through the door she makes you feel as if you are at home. She helps you plan your days with suggestions for local outings and dinners (and maps how to get there), and always has a batch of homemade ginger molasses cookies and tea in the afternoons, perfect for relaxing in the living room, library, or outside in a hammock. We all crave authenticity in our lives, and here it is evident in myriad details: watercolors painted by Deb’s grandfather, sterling silver napkin holders that were Deb’s grandmother’s, lampshades handcrafted by Deb, a book collection well curated over time—just to name a few. There is nothing staged here. Even after 25 years, Deb’s labor of love is as obvious and passionate as ever and generously shared.
The setting is so lovely you may be tempted not to leave the inn at all, but there’s a lot to see and do. True to its name, Hillsdale is an area of rolling hills, with beautiful vistas at every turn, and Columbia County is blessed with more farmland than any other Hudson Valley county. The excellent farm-to-table restaurants have located here to take advantage of the relationships between chef and farmer in the state. Visit the farms, wineries, and bakeries throughout the region, and check out the local calendar for festivals and farmers’ markets. In this area, growing food while preserving the land is a passion. In Ghent, the Hawthorne Valley Farm is a biodynamic farm that spans 400 acres and includes a farm store and restaurant, and the Hudson-Chatham Winery is known for its award-winning wines. I really enjoyed the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, where you can see farmers make fresh cheese and yogurt.
Olana, courtesy: WikipediaNature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the many opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing in the area, including the trail system at Taconic State Park. Take the mile-long hike to see a dramatic waterfall at Bash Bish Falls, and in the winter, enjoy cross-country and downhill skiing at the Catamount Ski Area. This area is also rich in cultural and historic attractions. Plan a visit around Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, and don’t miss the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Hancock Shaker Village, and the Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. A little further, in Williamstown, is the renowned and recently renovated Clark Museum. And not to be missed is Olana, just outside of Hudson, the home of Hudson River Valley school painter Frederick Church. A guided tour will take you through a mansion that looks like a Persian palace, and outside around the grounds you will see some the area’s most spectacular scenery with breathtaking views of the Catskill Mountains.
When you are hungry after all this touring there are a great many options. Closest to the Inn at Green River, and my favorite choice for dinner, is the Old Mill Inn, with delicious fare and terrific hospitality. Sit at a table in the bar section and you will feel like a local within minutes, or enjoy the elegant dining room. I loved the organic salmon with crispy horseradish crust, parsnip puree, and beet coulis on one occasion, and returned to splurge for a classic filet mignon on another. If possible, save room for one of the decadent desserts. Nearby, I had an excellent dinner at John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, which emphasizes local seasonal ingredients. For lunch, right in Hillsdale is the Crossroads Food Shop, with baked goods and grilled sandwiches. The town of Great Barrington has many dining options. My favorite was Bizen, an organic Japanese restaurant that competes very well with the best in New York. When you visit the city of Hudson, go to Baba Louie’s Organic Sourdough Pizza Company for lunch (also in Great Barrington), and don’t miss Mexico Radio for the best fish tacos this side of the border. Among a plethora of restaurants here, I recommend the Italian Ca ‘Mea and the French bistro Café Le Perche, and there are dozens more to try. Plan your time so you can explore the numerous galleries, antiques, and boutique shops of this city—it has been undergoing a major revival in the last few years.