Red Lion Inn 30 Main Street, Stockbridge MA (413) 298-5545
Photos: John Michael Flores
I love big old grand hotels and crossroads inns, those relics of another age when men grew thick beards without irony and women could ride horses for transportation. Those days are long gone, unfortunately, but tucked away in small towns and villages around the country you can still find those old places in various states of repair or disrepair.
Up in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts is the Red Lion Inn of Stockbridge, a fine example of the genre. When the first inn was built on this site (there have been several iterations), Stockbridge was a Western outpost of a young nation. Now, it’s a weekend getaway for New Yorkers and New Englanders alike.
Step inside and step back in time. Wander down the rambling hallways, stopping at the occasional curio cabinet filled with memorabilia of the past. Admire the period feel of every piece of furniture, every fabric, and every square inch of wallpaper in the rooms and public spaces, and imagine what life was like a century ago. The rooms themselves are well appointed and have a certain authenticity and charm that newer places strive for but rarely achieve.
And while you are there treating yourself to a weekend in the country (perhaps a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum or the Hancock Shaker Village), then by all means include a meal in the formal dining room, run impeccably by Executive Chef Brian J. Alberg and his team. Like the rest of the Inn, the dining room is a slice of the past, right down to the pewter chargers. Alberg works hard to create a menu that respects the traditions of the inn and relies upon locally sourced ingredients.
On an early summer day, I toured some of the local farms with Alberg and spoke with local farmers working the land much like the way they had always been worked-at human scale and with human hands. Which is precisely the way food was prepared when the Red Lion Inn first opened over two centuries ago. Back then there was no “slow” food because there wasn’t “fast” food. It was just “food.” And you’d ride your horse there. And if you were a guy, there was a decent chance you had a beard. But outside of these wall, times have changed, so much so that it takes a conscious effort to bring back real, honest-to-goodness food.
Dinner that evening was delightful, starting with a smoked lamb mousse and followed by a flight of New England cheeses (thumbs up to the Vermont Ayr from the Crawford Family Farm in VT, Bayley Hazen Blue, and the Vermont Wildflower Honey). The entree, lamb meatballs, was served with greens and toast and was subtle and flavorful. This was dining as a pastime, a visceral experience to be savored slowly.
Later that evening, I wandered onto the porch where I struck a conversation with two older gentlemen. Brothers originally from Michigan, both had recently lost their wives, one two years ago and the other just two months prior. Now widowers, they spend their evenings sampling the porches and pubs of the Berkshire Mountains. We chatted a bit, enjoyed the cool summer evening, and then parted ways. Such is the way of the Red Lion Inn, a comfortable stop for weary travelers to rest, recharge, and enjoy a good meal.