A Western Massachusetts restaurant is receiving some international recognition for its devotion to local products.
The Daily Meal is a website dedicated to finding the best food and dining experiences across the globe. The site is now shining a light on John Andrews restaurant in South Egremont. The restaurant is ranked third on the website’s list of the World’s 25 Best Farmstead Restaurants. John Andrews joins New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns as the only other eatery in the Northeast on the list. Owner and Chef Dan Smith says he is speechless and completely surprised by the recognition.
“They had sent an email a couple weeks ago saying they had been in to dinner just recently and had a great experience," Smith said. "They were asking for images saying they were doing an article and wanted to include John Andrews. So that’s all I knew about it until yesterday.”
The list highlights global spots where discerning diners can partake in agri-adventures like a candlelit meal inside a barn, a pick-your-own-produce dinner and a pre-lunch tour of farms, cheese factories and vineyards. Restaurants were chosen and ranked based on overall value, critical acclaim, reflection of the local region and percentage of local ingredients on the menu. Smith opened the restaurant in May 1990 with a business partner before taking over sole ownership in December 2009. John Andrews partners with 30 regional farms. Smith says the restaurant has been using local products before it became trendy.
“I was doing this before it ever got coined, farm-to-table," he said. "Part of it is my background because I grew up in a farm in the Midwest and I studied agriculture in college, so it’s part of heritage.”
Another category used to rank the eateries is the atmosphere. Smith says the site’s 1790s farmhouse includes three acres, with the original ice-house still standing.
“The back garden room overlooks the property which part of it includes a building from when it was a farmstead," he said. "It’s a very country, peaceful, relaxing feel.”
Angela Cardinali is the founder of Berkshire Farm & Table, an organization that aims to bring attention to locally produced and prepared food in the Berkshires. She says the partnership between local farmers and restaurants is growing in the Berkshires and the Hudson Valley.
“A farmer going to a farmers market doesn’t really know who’s going to show up that day, what the weather’s going to be like and who the buyers will be," Cardinali said. "When you establish a strong relationship with a local chef you know what their general needs are.”
Cardinali says chefs like Smith design their menus around what their farming partners have on hand that day because they offer the best available product.
“The product is the freshest it can be," she said. "The food is not traveling very far. You’re usually getting it the day it’s picked so the freshness and the taste are so much better than something from farther away or that has been sitting in a truck for a couple days.”
Cardinali believes the trend will continue to grow locally.
“It’s really raising the bar a little bit," she said. "A lot more restaurants are participating in this and I think that’s helping the local farmers. I think there’s going to be more farmers that will begin to try to sell their product to local restaurants as opposed to shipping it out of the area or trying to do it through farmers markets. It’s an added outlet for them.”
Smith credits his team of chefs, cooks, and service staff for the quality food and environment his restaurant has to offer, along with the local products he relies on. Smith says he thinks the honor from The Daily Meal will bring people from outside the southwest corner of the state into his restaurant.