On my way in, I meet a sculptor I talked with a couple of weeks ago in his studio in the hills. The chef is working in an open kitchen behind the counter and talking with a customer about the joyful rush of holiday travelers heading home for New Year festivals.

Her name is Phornphimon Ezinga, though she often goes by Jem, and in summer 2018 she and her husband opened the Steam Noodle Cafe in a cluster of restaurants on the main street in Great Barrington. It’s a cheerful place for a journalist looking for a late lunch alone on a cold winter afternoon. The savory scents draw passers by gently in, and the menu is pure comfort food — soups and dumplings, steamed buns, spring rolls.

A bowl of Thai noodle soup comes in a generous portion, ample for many meals, mild on the spice and rich with chicken and vegetables. The steamed bun is silken, the dough pleasantly whole wheat and the filling salty and sweet and gracefully balanced; I make my own bread, and this looks and tastes homemade. Conversation wraps me round, and I am warmly content.

BTW Berkshires