Where to Go Next in The Berkshires, Martha's Vineyard, Napa & Sonoma
By Kate Sekules
Berkshire Mountain Bakery This 17-year-old bakery is an essential place to stock up for picnics. Owner Richard Bourdon has perfected the art of baking naturally leavened breads. His baguettes, ciabatta, multigrain, whole wheat and spelt loaves are superb, although his genius is most apparent in his signature loaves: soft potato-onion bread, cherry-pecan boule and Bread and Chocolatetwo-thirds hearty unbleached white loaf, one-third dark Callebaut chocolate. Note: The bakery is takeout and mail-order only (367 Park St. [Rte. 183], Housatonic, MA; 413-274-3412).
Pearl's From the owners of local hit Bistro Zinc comes this lively two-year-old restaurant with big-city style: fun, slightly retro menus and a room full of mahogany paneling, black leather armchairs and spotlights. Start with clams casino or a chilled iceberg wedge, and continue with a bacon-wrapped pork loin, plus sharing-size sides of rösti, onion rings, creamed spinach or fried okra (47 Railroad St., Great Barrington, MA; 413-528-7767).
Truc Orient Express Surprise: über-Vietnamese food in an area better known for red-sauce Italian and burgers. Housed in a bright art-filled space, Truc excels at the Vietnamese canon: papaya salad, pho (noodle soup), bun (rice vermicelli topped with meat or seafood) and Shaking Beeftender, spicy stir-fried beef with garlic (3 Harris St., West Stockbridge, MA; 413-232-4204).
Wheatleigh The elegant restaurant in this Italianate palazzo hotel is notable all over again now that chef Bryce Whittlesey has taken over from the lauded Peter Platt (now at New Marlborough's Old Inn on the Green). Raised in Latin America, Whittlesey perfected his technique during five years at Michelin-starred restaurants in France, and his menusincluding both fish and vegetable tastingsshow his eclectic influences. Last fall, he inaugurated a series of short culinary courses, from cheesemaking to regional French cuisine (Hawthorne Rd., Lenox, MA; 413-637-0610).
John Andrew's Chef and co-owner Dan Smith has turned this into one of the Berkshires' hottest restaurants with his skillful modern cuisine. The menu neatly sidesteps clichés with dishes like free-range strip steak with Swiss chard and a potato- and-Fontina gratin, and the so-called "risotto" of wild rice and wheat berries with scallops, asparagus and arugula oil. The settingtwo connected rooms of a country house, plus a gardenis romantic by night and sunny and serene for an early dinner (Rte. 23 at Blunt Rd., South Egremont, MA; 413-528-3469).
By Steven Raichlen
Alchemy The white, wood-framed building on a brick-paved street lit with lanterns captures the essence of Edgartown, a perfectly preserved 19th-century whaling town. Once the site of the local grocery shop, Alchemy offers plates of lobster shepherd's pie or seared foie gras with duck confit, toasted panettone and a sauce of port wine and seasonal fruits, all served at front-porch tables or in the bi-level dining room; at the bar, there are fried oysters and the Bucket o' Balls, a.k.a. risotto fritters (71 Main St., Edgartown, MA; 508-627-9999).
Atria Named for a navigational star and located in an 1890 sea captain's house, Atria has been a huge success ever since it opened three years ago. The rose garden has become a sought-after wedding spot, and the brick-lined cellar bar hosts live entertainment throughout the year. Chef and co-owner Christian Thornton's "farmer-driven menu" showcases local products in dishes like ahi tuna tempura with miso vinaigrette and seared scallops served on top of a summer corn pudding (137 Main St., Edgartown, MA; 508-627-5850).
Ice House Keith Korn, the restaurant's popular former chef and owner, died in a car accident last year, but co-owner Suzanne Provost has ably taken charge. In a white-on-white dining room with a lush back garden, chef Job Yacubian (Ice House's former sous-chef; he trained with New York City's Daniel Boulud and David Bouley), serves tuna tartare with preserved lemon relish, and impeccably fresh Georges Bank codfish with piquillo peppers and chorizo; as for the wine list, it's BYOB (688 State Rd., West Tisbury, MA; 508-696-3966).
Lattanzi's Pizzeria Edgartown's only wood-burning pizzeria serves smoky, crusty pies piled with toppings like Italian salami, sausage, capocollo and pepperoni (the Macellaio pizza), or herbed ricotta, red onion, black olives and hot peppers (the Piccante). Heaping bowls of steamed clams and mussels, and enormous, juicy Tuscan steaks round out the choices. Seating is first come, first served; arrive early for a table on the deck overlooking the pretty garden. The owners also run an elegant Italian restaurant next door, and last summer, they opened a café around the corner, which serves hefty Italian sandwiches and house-churned gelato (Old Post Office Sq., Edgartown, MA; 508-627-9084).
The Sweet Life Café Co-owner Mary Kenworth spent her teenage summers on the Vineyard. Now, with husband Jackson, she's running one of the island's most appealing restaurants. In a Civil Warperiod mansion with three intimate dining rooms and a garden terrace, the Kenworths serve delicious updated classics like mushroom Stroganoff alongside less common dishes like shrimp frittella (shrimp wrapped in shredded phyllo dough and flash-fried), grilled marrow-crusted sirloin, and Jonah crab fondue. The duo's stellar desserts include rose-petal panna cotta with amaretti cookies, and a hazelnut torte with gianduja and dried-cherry ice cream. This summer, the Kenworths are opening a nearby café and bakery called Slice of Life (63 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs, MA; 508-696-0200).
Larsen's Fish Market Since 1969, the Larsen family of Martha's Vineyard has steamed sweet local lobsters to order, serving them with icy oysters and littlenecks on the half shell and piping-hot steamers and mussels. Eat your lunch at one of the makeshift picnic tables (inverted lobster pots) and buy some freshly harpooned swordfish or a beefy tuna steak to take home. In the unlikely event you're still hungry, stop at The Bite, a fry shack up the street, for the best fried clamsplump-bellied and audibly crispon the island (Basin Rd., Menemsha, MA; 508-645-2680).
Napa & Sonoma
By Erika Lenkert
Bouchon Bakery For his latest project, slated to open this month, Thomas Keller, superstar chef-owner of the French Laundry and Bouchon, stole one of the top baking instructors at Manhattan's French Culinary Institute, Amy Quazza. She's destined to gain a West Coast following with her traditional baguettes, classic brioches, ham and Gruyère sandwiches, fromage-blanc tartlets and soft potato bread made with unpeeled roasted potatoes. Adam Tihany designed Bouchon Bakery's interior; outdoors, an ice cream stand is planned for this summer (6528 Washington St., Yountville, CA; 707-944-BAKE).
Market Famed San Francisco maitre d' Nick Peyton (formerly at Restaurant Gary Danko) and chef Douglas Keane (of Jardinière) have Napa talking. In its first few months, their joint venture is already drawing huge crowds, despite a slightly disorienting concept: simple, inexpensive foodmeaty Dungeness crab cakes with dill-avocado mayo, barbecue sauceglazed meat loaf over gravy, and toast-'em-yourself s'mores with homemade graham crackersserved in a white-tablecloth dining room. The wine list comes courtesy of French Laundry alum Bobby Stuckey (1347 Main St., St. Helena, CA; 707-963-3799).
Napa General Store In the 19th century, downtown's Historic Napa Mill (a.k.a. the Hatt building) produced livestock feed. Today, the windowed warehouse is a specialty-foods shop selling artisanal olive oils, jams, mustards and homemade fondue; 100 cheeses, including gold standards like Humboldt Fog and Laura Chenel goat cheese; brick-oven pizzas; and rotisserie meats. The space also houses a coffee bar and a wine bar, and in summer the patio, with its Napa River view, is a prime spot for live music and barbecues (540 Main St., Napa, CA; 707-259-0762).
La Poste The original Williams-Sonoma storefront is now downtown Sonoma's tiniest dining room, with 26 chairs, maple banquette seats and just enough space for front man François de Tessan (of San Francisco's bygone City of Paris) to roam, greeting diners and refilling wineglasses. Chef Rob Larman departs from the down-home menu at his other Sonoma restaurant, Rob's Rib Shack, to serve seared scallops seasoned with tomato-herb vinaigrette over truffled mashed potatoes and braised veal cheeks with cream, Calvados, English peas and chanterelles (599 Broadway, Sonoma, CA; 707-939-3663).
Underwood Bar & Bistro At their Willow Wood Market Café, owners Matthew Greenbaum and Sally Spittles helped put the town of Graton on the epicurean map, with giant sandwiches and huge helpings of soft polenta. The pair's new tapas bar and restaurant is even more reason to make a detour. Just a few of the fabulous dishes to come out of the crescent-shaped open kitchen: chunky roasted beets sprinkled with walnuts, endive and Israeli sheep's-milk feta cheese; flat bread with caramelized onions, blue cheese, walnut and sage; and harissa-rubbed Moroccan spiced lamb with saffron couscous, sautéed spinach and pine nuts (9113 Graton Rd., Graton, CA; 707-823-7023).
Willi's Wine Bar A generous list of 45 wines available by the two-ounce pour, glass or half-bottle carafe has made Willi's the most popular new winemaker hangout. Chef Mark Stark and his wife, Terri, have put together an internationally inspired small-plates menu filled with surprises: brandade spring rolls with herb salad; potato gnocchi with lobster Bolognese and basil essence; and wonton-skin-wrapped scallop dumplings seasoned with lemongrass butter and pancetta (4404 Old Redwood Hwy., Santa Rosa, CA; 707-526-3096).
Angèle From Auberge du Soleil founder Claude Rouas and his daughters Bettina and Claudia comes this chic, rustic room with raw concrete floors and bright yellow leather bar stools. Chef Christophe Gerard (who trained at Paris's Taillevent and New York City's Lespinasse) matches the mood with his country-French menu of oxtail and lentil salad perked up with ravigote (a caper-onion-parsley vinaigrette); steamed mussels in a light fennel broth; and braised chicken with chestnuts, celery root and foie gras butter (540 Main St., Napa, CA; 707-252-8115).