I’m in desperate need to get out of this city and as with any other trip, I’m planning the destination and activities around food. But it seems restaurants in the woods of upstate NY are sparse, and if you’re not near a relatively big city you are out of luck. Do you have any good weekend food trip itineraries to share? (Good restaurants, farm visits/apple picking, interesting cuisines or groceries, etc.)
Well, I’m a country mouse and a city mouse, so here are two options. Readers, please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!
If you have a car:
Take a tip from our salad correspondent Natalie and spend a weekend in Northampton, Massachussetts—as she says, “Western Mass knows good food.” Less than three hours from New York, Northampton and its sister city Amherst will allow you to get your hiking fix on in the Berkshire mountains (or skiing/snowshoeing if you’re going later in the year) and sample some seriously good eats. Natalie recommends:
The Green Street Cafe (64 Green St., Northampton; 413-586-5650) is a greenmarket bistro with seasonal delicacies (they grow a good amount of their own produce) and great wine. Perfect for a chilly fall or cold winter’s dinner.[UPDATE: Green Street Cafe is closed as of January 2012.]
The Blue Heron (112 N. Main St., Sunderland; 413-665-2102) is truly a killer food experience – they catered Natalie and Robby’s wedding last year, and many of us are still obsessed with the sublime smoked trout spread. Blue Heron holds its own against any top-rated, established Manhattan restaurant, without the attitude or the price. If you’re looking to extend your weekend trip, the restaurant offers cooking classes with Chef Deborah Snow on select Monday nights. And as an added bonus, the building was formerly the Sunderland Old Town Hall and wears its history proudly.
The Black Sheep (79 Main St., Amherst; 413-253-3442) should be your must-stop if you’re gathering sustenance before your outdoor excursions. You could pull together a serious picnic basket with their made-from-scratch baked goods (including fresh bread for their deli sandwiches), quality coffee, and a few of the dense, fudgy chocolate Whopper cookies for good measure.
Finally, it’s not food-related, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite shop in Northampton, Essentials. The proprietors always have a lovely, eclectic selection of items – I’ve bought everything from a charm made from a printmaker’s letter “C” block to a wind-up plastic bison to psychedelic melamine serving platters.
If you’re a public transportation gal:
Athletics aside, Philadelphia is a wonderful town for food and art. You can splurge a bit and get there via Amtrak for about $90 round-trip (during off-peak hours) in an hour and a half, or spend about $25 and another 45 minutes on the train to travel via New Jersey Transit (my method of choice, because I am CHEAP.)
If you’ve got the stamina, you can walk across the city from the Delaware to the Schuylkill Rivers, from Independence Hall in the Old City neighborhood up to the Philadephia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Along the way, you’ll find so many things to munch on that you won’t have to eat a cheesesteak unless you really want to.
Tria (123 S. 18th St. at Sansom or 1137 Spruce St. at 12th) is my unabashed favorite in town. A cafe/bar devoted to the tastiness that comes through fermentation, it features cheese, wine, and beer prominently throughout its well-edited menu. Small bites offer lots of opportunities for snacking on new and unusual ingredients, although even with the copious plates, you could still easily get drunk trying all the beers and wines that catch your eye. Most of the cheeses come from Murray’s, my favorite NY cheesemonger, so if you see something you like, it’s easy to replicate your meal at home.
DiBruno Brothers (1730 Chestnut St. or 930 S. 9th St.; 215-665-9220) is a wonderfully-stocked grocery and specialty store, one location of which happens down the street from the 18th St. location of Tria. After sampling an insane mole-flavored chorizo one night at Tria, we were able to trot over and pick up a log (or three) the next day at the store. Fresh sandwiches, frittatas, and coffee are available at the front cafe for a great breakfast before you hit the road, and you can always grab some more items for your pantry or the train ride home.
However, the big deal is the Reading Terminal Market. An indoor public greenmarket in the tradition of Quincy Market or Pike Place, you’ll find hundreds of vendors here (check out this PDF) with flowers, seafood, produce from Amish farms in the area, and even an outpost of Rick’s Philly Steaks to get an authentic cheesesteak.
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