Dining: Applause for Allium
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
I do so love going to the theater, and, as we all know, our area is chockablock with performing-arts events that take place in venues of every size and shape. None is grander looking to me than the Mahaiwe, the beautifully restored former movie palace in Great Barrington. I get so uplifted every time I walk into its main auditorium, that one time, when its restoration architect Hugh Hardy happened to be present there, I nearly jumped on him with praise and admiration. (He hardly knew what hit him, and frankly was at a loss for words. This also happened when I met Frank Gehry at Bard; I guess architects are a shy lot.)
Well, the last time I was able to pull Edgar away from “Beauty Queen Murders” on television to go out to see a show, we were part of a large, fussy (and just darling) group of Edgar’s English relatives (of whom I’ve spoken of fondly before). The problem: everyone was “simply famished” after the show (the Pilobolus dance troupe in all their nearly naked beauty, so who wouldn’t be?) which ended at 10:15 p.m. We had reservations at Allium just around the corner, but we were late (having assumed everything would be over at 9:45). How was the restaurant going to handle this invasion, especially as we assumed the kitchen and waitstaff were probably eager to get home after a long day’s work?
Well, it turned out that Allium was more than prepared. I actually received a message at 10 p.m. on my phone (luckily in “off” mode) “checking to confirm that we will be seeing you…” When I was able to respond after the show ended, I called to confirm that we would be there later than we had planned—and here came the extra rub—now we would be 7 instead of 6. Would that be a problem? “Not at all,” said that maître d’. “We will prepare the table now,” and sure enough, we walked in a few moments later to an efficient bustle as staff prepared for our onslaught.
Once settled, with wine and cocktails ordered, Allium and its menu, a lively locavore compilation of chef Daire Rooney’s creations, came to the fore. There was the “small plates/shared plates” section that seemed tailor made just for us, perfect for that late night nibble: not too much, not too little. Several of us opted for the excellent and ever popular raw kale salad with apples, croutons, and pecorino in a zesty lemon vinaigrette ($9, pictured above). The lemon heightened the sweetness of the apples and the young and tender kale had much more flavor and texture than most salads we’ve been accustomed to, although there were also plaudits for the Farm Girl Farm head lettuce salad, an amazement of size and color (coming from the accompanying radishes) and admired by everyone around the table ($8).
In short order came the Berry Patch cauliflower soup, creamy with truffled Rawson Brook chevre ($10), followed by lemon-grass pork sausage skewers (above), delicately flavored with cilantro and mint ($12); PEI mussels in a tasty broth made with Indian Line Farm leeks, tomatoes, and red verjus, topped off with herb butter ($14); and red-wine-braised short ribs, which fell off the bone onto a bed of Earthborn Garden braised carrots ($26), the rich red meat complemented by the bold sweetness of the carrots.
By now it was getting late, but there was no sign from the staff that they needed to get home. We chose a small selection of desserts (all at $8.50): an apple and berry crisp; a rich Blue Marble ice cream, and a chocolate hazelnut budino with olive oil and sea salt (at right). “Lovely” was the conclusion from all. By now it was past midnight and it was us, and not the staff, who were beginning to flag—time to hit the road after a warm and friendly visit, with definite plans to be back soon (before or after a show and with or without family).
Allium Restaurant and Bar
44 Railroad St., Great Barrington, MA
Dinner: Sunday – Thursday: 5 – 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5 – 10 p.m.
Bar is open until 2 a.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.