New York panache pairs with Berkshire-grown edibles at Castle Street Café
“I compare it to a magic show,” chef-proprietor Michael Ballon tells me as we flip through his Castle Street Café Cookbook. “When you go to a magic show and the magician sticks his hand in the hat, you don’t want to see him sweating, like ‘I hope there’s a rabbit in there.’ That’s what a restaurant is like. You don’t want to have a sense that it’s a miracle you got your food and it came out on time. It’s like, ‘Bah-moom! Here it is.’”
His cookbook is filled with recipes for soups, sauces, meats, desserts and everything in between. But at present, Ballon is directing my attention to his “Chef’s Essays.” “In many ways, running a restaurant is a performance art that has a lot in common with a Broadway show,” he writes. “The Berkshires, which outside of New York City or Los Angeles is perhaps America’s premier cultural destination, with world class dance, theatre and music, is also home to an unusually high number of high quality chef-owned restaurants, which serve distinctive cuisine made from locally raised ingredients. This is not a coincidence.”
This unique aesthetic of high-class rural refinement is a big reason why, over its twenty-three years, Ballon’s Castle Street Café has become a solid fixture in the idyllically small, culturally rich Berkshire town of Great Barrington.
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