JOHN ANDREWS: A FARMHOUSE RESTAURANT
JOHN ANDREWS: A FARMHOUSE RESTAURANT
(Originally published edibleBerkshires 2013)
Nestled on the side of the road on Route 23, heading west, just before the NY border, is a welcoming refuge for hungry locals and visitors. John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, has been around for so long, it's an indigenous part of the landscape in the Berkshires. (johnandrewsrestaurant.com)
Dan Smith, chef/owner, grew up on a farm in Iowa, then worked briefly as a sous-chef in Florida before relocating to Salisbury, CT, in the late 1980s. He and his former wife purchased a two-story house - at the time, Sebastiani's Restaurant - in 1990 on the outskirts of South Egremont, MA, and named the restaurant after his then father-in-law, John Andrews.
When Dan started out, his menu was American, with Northern Italian influences, and it's still that way. But, his connection to local farmers has developed and deepened over time. As Dan's culinary expertise evolved over the years, so has his menu. It is deeply rooted in local soil, imparting fresh flavors unique to the area; his style is sophisticated but simple. Here's a typical pick off the menu; House-Made Fettuccine, Barefoot Farm Sweet Peas, Duck Confit, Berleberg Cheese. Or this; Grass-Fed Ribeye, Zinke’s Scallion Butter, Lyonnaise Potatoes, Local Broccoli.
Early on, Dan developed close professional relationships with local farmers, like the Stosieks of Markristo Farm, located just down the road on Rte. 23. Over the years, Dan cultivated strong ties to many of the farmers here - meat farmers like Pigasso and Lila Berle; produce farmers like Indian Line and Farm Girl Farm; and mushroom farmers like the Zehrs - to such a degree that when he renovated in 2011, he expanded the restaurant’s name to include the expression: A FARMHOUSE RESTAURANT. And, that's what it is … a restaurant paying homage to local farms.
Dan recalls the early days of Berkshire Grown, when farmers and chefs began working events to get to know one another better. They started with an event called "Autumnal Table," a yearly event with produce from multiple farms and featuring local chefs. That concept of collaboration and camaraderie among farmers and chefs is popular in the Berkshires.
Events showcasing local farmers and chefs are held throughout the year. They include, for example, a benefit for Volunteers in Medicine, the James Beard dinners, Railroad Street Culinary events and Outstanding in the Field. Dan is involved in all of these events, while maintaining his thriving catering and restaurant business. He is highly respected for his quiet manner and dedication to simple yet sophisticated cuisine.
In 2009, Dan became the sole owner of John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, and that new brand marked the start of his Featured Farm Prix Fixe menus - available Thursdays through Sundays - that indulge in the rich, earthly gifts of what's seasonal. (He also has Dinner and Bar menus available every night but Wednesdays, when the restaurant’s closed.) The Prix Fixe menu features one farm each week, with a 3 course meal creatively designed around several seasonally fresh ingredients.
In October, the apple and fruit orchards will be leading the Prix Fixe menu. Farms that produce lamb and pork also figure prominently on the John Andrews menus – Pigasso, of Columbia County, and Lila Berle’s lamb of Bekshire County, are among them.
Locals already know to check out John Andrews’ weekly Farmhouse Prix Fixe menus on the restaurant’s Web site, to find out which farm is being featured – they’re all farms of local renown. There’s always palpable excitement about celebrating the hard work of our neighbors. Visitors to the Berkshires would do well to check the site as well.
One final mention … I find it remarkable that just about every time we've eaten at John Andrews restaurant, we notice chefs and bartenders from other restaurants in the Berkshires stopping by to dine at Dan’s place. That's the sign of an exceptional chef and a good friend to this community of food lovers.