Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I love the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge




My little niece Meghan and Ana at the Red Lion Inn

Here we are at my favorite inn, The Red Lion in Stockbridge.  I love this photo, because it reminds me of the TV character Gidget, played by Sally Field, a happy-go-lucky California teen whose zany adventures are morally instructive. 

What I like about inns and hotels is that they can transport you to another time and place like reading a book or watching a movie.  As a rule, I  like a mid-sized inn or hotel like the Red Lion best, because it's big enough that you can roam around and get lost among the other guests, but it's not so large as to be impersonal. (Another time I'll write about another favorite place - the very large Boca Raton Resort.) 

I don't like bed-and-breakfasts as much, because I feel like I'm in someone else's house and it's not as easy to imagine living there. I feel a special connection to the Red Lion because I worked as a waitress there for a few months after I graduated from college in 1979, before I joined VISTA and moved to Oklahoma.

Meghan and the Red Lion's house cat Simon

No matter what size the hotel or inn, I always look forward to the touches that make it a special experience. The Red Lion has a lot of them, including:
1) An affectionate house cat
2) Fresh flowers everywhere, including a single daisy in all the bathrooms
3) A fireplace that makes the inn smell homey
4) Friendly employees-- KEY to a great experience!
5) Vintage decor and more antiques than any other inn I've ever seen
6) Locally made chocolates on your pillow at night
7) In-house pub 
8) Year-round heated outdoor pool and hot tub
9) Someone playing the piano near the lobby at intervals during the day
10) Herbal bath salts 


Ana and Meghan playing Clue in the lobby 

It's reasonably priced, too, especially during off-season. According to one of the friendly receptionists, it's good to check the website on Tuesdays, when discounts are offered if there are unreserved rooms.




Sunday, April 8, 2012

Favorite restaurants in and around Amherst

My LA-based daughter Ana is coming visit, so it's time to review the ever-changing local restaurant scene and write a list of where to go, beginning in Amherst and circling outwards. I know I've probably forgotten some great places and there are some others I haven't been to yet, but this is a start:

Nieces at Amherst Go Berry

AMHERST

High Horse -- Maybe our new favorite restaurant in Amherst. I've enjoyed the delicate trout with parsnip puree a couple of times; the winter vegetable curry is spicy and rich, and Brian likes the "classic daiquiris" - NOT FROZEN. We liked their desserts, but lately we skip dessert and go to Go Berry!

Go Berry -- I was never a frozen yogurt fan, now I love it -- thanks to the delicious Go Berry. The yogurt's made from local milk and available every day in the regular and two delicious flavors like key lime and chai tea. I always get berries and crushed Oreos for toppings -- but the plump whole figs I saw a couple of nights ago looked tempting. (There's a Go Berry in Northampton too.)

Johnny's Tavern -- In the Boltwood Walk area. I've been told the hamburgers are the best around; the sun dried tomato dipping sauce is great on the truffle fries and the butterscotch mousse is one of the best desserts I've ever had. Easygoing ambience.

Bertucci's -- So it's a chain, the rolls are great; I like the wood-fired pizza crust and I love the pizza with the arugula on top and the lemon cake.

Mission Cantina -- Love the Mexican food. I wish the restaurant weren't so tiny that you're almost guaranteed to have to wait for a seat.

Miss Saigon -- Fresh Vietnamese.
                                Vietnamese pancake at Miss Saigon

UMass Faculty Club - Really old Colonial ambience. I keep forgetting it's nearby!

Places I haven't tried yet: the new Chez Albert and Lumberyard.

I miss: The old Lord Jeff, the location of SO many good memories, including my dear late Dad's 75th birthday party. The authentic old colonial inn ambience has been ditched in favor of California wine bar-inspired.

HADLEY

Zoe's Fish House-- Good fish restaurant and not too expensive. I like the creamy seafood casserole. This appears to be THE PLACE TO GO FOR BRUNCH. There's an old-fashioned carving station, tons of steam trays with casseroles, blintzes, bread pudding etc.

Esselon Cafe-- Good coffee and lunch. I like the Mediterranean salad plate. Good beer selection. I like sitting on the porch in front of the radiant heaters.

Arizona Pizza -- A small chain, across from the movie theaters at the Hampshire Mall. The pizza is wood-fired; there's a good spinach salad, and it's got a comfortable ambience.

Carmelina's -- Upscale Italian, a little on the expensive side. I like the Sicilian pasta with nuts and raisins in it.

Mi Tierra -- Typico Mexican ambience and food. The Margaritas look delicious;  I wish they would make them with rum.

North Hadley Sugar Shack -- Don't miss it during maple season! You can watch the syrup boiling and the kids can visit the petting zoo out back.


SOUTH HADLEY

Food 101 -- Elegant, good food; a good place for lunch as it is expensive. I wish they would change up their menu a bit.


NORTHAMPTON

Sylvester's -- In Sylvester Graham, of Graham cracker fame's house. Only open through lunch. The coffee and pastries are so good and so are the pancakes and salads.
                                             Peanut butter latte at Sylvester's

Joe's Pizza -- Classic; strong salads. The pesto primavera pizza we get every time is greasy but in a good way.

India House -- Friendly and I love the mango lassis.

Amanouz -- Tasty and reasonably-priced Middle Eastern food.

Pizza Paradiso -- Wood-fired pizza and good salads.

Side Street Cafe -- Never disappoints. Great mousses.

EASTHAMPTON

Apollo Grill - Best retro theme! Check out their cool website with a tiny vintage TV that shows a YouTube video with retro space-themed music.

Tavern on the Hill - Great view, especially at sunset and a cozy fireplace.


WILLIAMSBURG

Brewmaster's Tavern -- Colonial atmosphere and Opa Opa Red Rock beer is one of my favorites.

Big Mamou -- Valley outpost of the Springfield original.

SUNDERLAND

Bub's Barbecue -- When you're really hungry. There's all-you-can eat sides and you can sit outside on the picnic tables under the tent when the weather's nice.

DEERFIELD

Berkshire Brewing Company -- Not a restaurant, but the tours they give on Saturday are really interesting and the beer samples afterward are generous.

GREENFIELD

Hope and Olive -- Maybe the best restaurant in the Valley! The food never disappoints and it's got a great living room-like nook for when you're waiting for a seat. Cool website!

People's Pint -- Where I usually want to go on my birthday. Great Salvadoran pupusas, salad dressings, beer and dessert. A triumph of a place.

SHELBURNE FALLS

Cafe Martin -- So sad it's closed!  Shelburne Falls is the prettiest town around.

SPRINGFIELD

Student Prince -- A Springfield landmark and a must-visit! Old world German atmosphere with an extraordinary collection of steins and bottle openers.
                               Just a few of the bottle openers on display at the Student Prince

Max's Tavern - Simple and elegant. In the same building as the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is a fun museum even for non-basketball fans like me.