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.

Brussels Sprouts So Tasty, They’re Newsworthy

This morning James appeared on the Channel 9 News at 9 to showcase a delicious fall side dish: Brussels sprouts with sweet potatoes, apples, and bacon. Watch the video and see how easy it is to create this colorful masterpiece in your own kitchen!

Autumn Bounty Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4 – 6


  • 1½ – 2 lbs large Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
  • 8 – 10 sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and small diced
  • 1 Honeycrip apple, peeled, cored, and small diced
  • ½ cup red onion, small diced
  • 6 strips thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • Cook Brussels sprouts in boiling water until nearly done (still crunchy), drain and set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in large sauté pan on high heat. Add diced bacon, reduce heat to medium, sauté until done. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and set aside, keeping oil in pan.
  • Add diced red onion and sweet potatoes to oil in pan, sauté about 5 or 6 minutes over medium heat until sweet potatoes are tender and onions translucent.
  • Add par-cooked Brussels sprouts to pan, toss with onion and sweet potatoes, and cook 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Add cider to pan and reduce until liquid is almost gone. Add apples, and cook another 2 minutes.
  • Add reserved bacon and sage and toss together. Add salt and pepper to taste.


You can also make this dish kosher or vegetarian by using turkey bacon or soy substitute instead of applewood smoked bacon.

To save time, you can par-cook the Brussels sprouts a day in advance—just keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. Or you can contact Main Course—we offer holiday help for events both large and small.

Fall Weekend at Home

Fall is our favorite season, and having a weekend at home to enjoy nearby places is sort of a luxury. This past weekend was no exception.

Friday night we met newlyweds Becca and Jason at Coco Sala and enjoyed a decadent meal. Nearly every dish involves chocolate in some way, and small plates mean you can sample many things from the menu without breaking the bank. We especially loved the goat cheese and beet salad, the coconut crabcake, and the bacon mac and cheese (topped with a chocolate covered piece of bacony goodness, mmm). And you can’t leave without sampling the cocojito: a chocolaty version of the delicious mojito that’s just divine.

Saturday we enjoyed the crisp fall air in nearby Glen Echo Park , a former Chautauqua turned amusement park turned art center/theater/playground. After exploring the site we walked over to the Irish Inn at Glen Echo for lunch: a fig salad (with arugula, spiced pecans, blue cheese, and prosciutto) and a grilled Kildare melt (Irish ham, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Irish cheddar, and a Guinness mustard spread). Delish!

On Sunday we went to the lovely neighborhood of Del Ray in Alexandria to check out the shops and the newly expanded Cheesetique. In addition to being a specialty cheese shop, they are also a café featuring delightful dishes. We sampled the Guinness cheddar (mmm), a creamy camembert with cranberries, and the ménage (made with goat, sheep, and cow’s milk). Then we stopped by Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections to indulge in some truffles. Between the snacks and the window shopping – if you haven’t been to Del Ray in a while, it’s totally worth the trip.

Two Prizes and a Wedding

What a festive weekend!

While James and Shana were out on the Eastern Shore celebrating a family wedding, half of team Smokin’ Somethin’ strutted their stuff at Pickin’ in the Panhandle, the WV State BBQ & Bluegrass Festival.

Clearly, the lessons learned from COF-A-Que held true: Erich and Zerek brought home the first place prize for ribs and the second place prize for the overall competition! Now we’ll have some hardware to display at our next event! (Will it be Dover or Rocky Mount? Or both?!)

We’re so proud. Way to go, guys! And congrats to Becca and Jason on their wedding!

Welcome to The Side Dish

Cheers! We’re excited to kick off The Side Dish as the summer winds to a close. Published as often as something interesting happens, Chef James Main and wife Shana Brown will be sharing mouth-watering news of events, travels, recipes, and whatever else strikes our fancy. Big thanks to Siobhan at Imbibe Magazine for divining the perfect name for our blog!

August is birthday month in Main Course world: James celebrated his birthday, along with Shana’s mom, our sister-in-law Lauren, niece Sophia, nephew Nathan, and our cat, Stella Blue. Happy birthday, family!

The month began with the US Personal Chef Association’s annual conference in Tucson, AZ. We spent time with family in Bisbee and in Scottsdale, had some tasty meals at La Fuente and Beyond Bread, and sampled the refreshing beverages at Nimbus Brewing Company. Shana enjoyed the pool while James learned some tips of the trade from seasoned personal chefs. All in all, a very good trip.

James and friends Erich, Chad, and Zerek also entered their first barbeque competition. Team name: Smokin’ Somethin’. COF-A-Que was a stellar event – live music, great food, nice people. Sponsored by the organization Circle of Friends (hence the COF), this charity event benefits Hungry For Music, a fantastic non-profit helping kids grow creatively with the amazing power of music. Good mission, good times – we will definitely be returning next year.

The Side Dish is part of a big update to the Main Course site (thanks, Dr. Webstein!). Take a spin through to see what’s new!

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