BTW expedition — Tramping in mud time

I looked carefully for the goat. It was a raw early spring afternoon when I coasted to a stop in the driveway at Clover Hill. Standing with the barn on my right and the paddocks beyond, I could see clear across the valley to Pine Cobble. It felt like the the beginning of one of my old By the Way expeditions in my days with the Eagle. The air smelled gently of horses, and the goat, who often ranges on the lawn, had found a warmer place to be.

So had the beagles, who greeted me from the living room. I walked down familiar stairs, and there we all were: My parents, who have stayed here at the B&B many times since my brother came to Williams, and their old college friends. When had we last sat down together in Williamstown? My college graduation, we said — more than 16 years ago.

It was going to be a weekend of classics. A time for revisiting well-loved places. And it would also be proof, if any of us need it, that a raw weekend in March over spring break could keep us more than busy.

Within a few miles of my house, we found places with international and deeply local ties — scenes in the streets of Tokyo and along the Hokkaido road, and maple butter at Ioka Valley Farm. (And we didn’t even get to hear Mavis Staples in concert. Though we did make our way to Mass MoCA to walk along a timeline of the universe.)

And it’s fitting for me that the weekend began at Elizabeth’s, on the second floor of the house with electric blue trim that holds a Zagat-rated restaurant in the endless-mill corner of Pittsfield. The menu is warmly Italian-inspired, and the descriptions are whimsical. They tease the senses like wood smoke and black coffee.

We passed around the generous bowl of salad with romaine and greens, three cheeses and fresh pineapple, and we talked about border collies who herd Canada geese off of sheltered ponds to protect the rarer water birds the geese will drive away. We dipped sourdough bread into bagna coada, a warm bath of olive oil, anchovies and garlic. And for a time we felt at peace.

This is the first in a set of explorations of the Northern Berkshires, continuing at Tunnel City Coffee and at the Clark Art Institute. The weekend continues with Japanese impressions, duck confit, hand-knitted shawls, maple cream ad the formation of the universe

In the photo at the top, Yoshida Hiroshi’s A Little Restaurant (at Night) appears as part of Japanese Impressions at The Clark Art Institute. (Photo by Kate Abbott with permission from staff at The Clark.)

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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BTW Berkshires