New Year’s in the Berkshires

Like most people, we spent the holiday season on the road. We discovered new traffic patterns and ate pretty well along the way: cider braised short ribs in Wake Forest, tasty goulash in Philadelphia, and sweet potato latkes in Westford, MA. At the end of a week of family fun, we decided to head west for some cozy downtime in the Berkshires.

We stayed at the Devonfield Inn, a charming farmhouse just minutes from ‘downtown’ Lee. With snow on the ground and falling gently from above, this was the perfect place to curl up in front of the fire. But first, we had to check out some local eateries.

Our first evening in the hills we went to neighboring Lenox for a tasty dinner at Firefly. After the roasted garlic plate we made a meal out of the braised veal short ribs (a theme of this holiday season, apparently) and the rustic autumn pizza. We skipped dessert in favor of homemade chocolates and port in front of the roaring fire back at the bed and breakfast.

The last day of the year found us at Animagic, a quirky and fun ‘museum’ in Lee dedicated to movie special effects, many of which you will probably recognize. We made a stop-action animation (video to come soon) in which our clay lovebirds danced their hearts out for approximately 37 seconds. Good fun!

As the snow fell, we headed to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. But first, lunch at the Red Lion Inn, an icon since before Rockwell’s day. In the Widow Bingham’s Tavern we shared lamb stew and mac and cheese—hearty fare to warm us up. Then back in time to Rockwell’s America, a perfect way to round out the afternoon.

For our last meal in 2008 we dined at Chez Nous in Lee. The holiday menu featured foie gras ballotine stuffed with dates, smoked salmon with crème fraiche, mesclun salad with roasted pears and champagne vinaigrette, venison ‘osso bucco,’ and roasted duck with kumquat sauce. For dessert we had to try the warm sticky toffee pudding and the Bûche de Noël. Such a rich and delicious way to end the year. Here’s to a tasty 2009!

Cider Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4


  • 2 – 3 lbs beef short ribs
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat the pan)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 10 – 12 sprigs thyme
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 large onion, rough chop
  • 3 – 4 large carrots, rough chop
  • l bulb fennel, rough chop
  • 1 sweet potato, rough chop
  • 7 garlic cloves


  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  • Heat oil in large pan and sear short ribs, about 2 minutes each side, then transfer browned ribs to large baking dish.
  • Deglaze pan with beef stock, red wine, and apple cider, 1 – 2 minutes.
  • Add thyme, brown sugar and cinnamon to pan and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Place chopped vegetables and garlic in baking dish around and on top of the ribs.
  • Pour seasoned liquid from pan into baking dish, then place dish in the preheated oven and cook for 4½ – 5 hours.
  • Remove dish from oven and skim fats off the top of the liquid. Serve and enjoy!


You can serve the cooked vegetables as a side with the short ribs, or you can make a thicker sauce by puréeing the vegetables and the liquid together.

You can also pull the meat off the bones and use the shredded meat in salads, wontons, or pasta dishes with or without the liquid and vegetables. To make wontons, place about 1 tablespoon of shredded meat in wonton wrappers, seal and cook according to package instructions. Serve with puréed sauce to dip.

Sweet Potato Latkes

Makes ~26 latkes


  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil


  • Stir together potatoes, onion, flour, eggs, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
  • Working in batches of 4, spoon 1/8 cup potato mixture per latke into oil and flatten to 3-inch diameter with a slotted spatula.
  • Reduce heat to moderate and cook until golden, about 1½ minutes on each side.
  • Transfer latkes with spatula to paper towels to drain.


This recipe uses flour because there’s not enough starch in the sweet potatoes to hold the latkes together. If you were making regular potato pancakes, you wouldn’t need to use flour.

You can also substitute the onion for 2 chopped scallions and add cinnamon for a different flavor. Try topping with sour cream or applesauce.

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Meaghan on 01.26.09 at 12:26 pm

James, those Latkes sound amazing. I am going to have to try them.

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