Feb 27, 2012

It was February 14 and we decided to spend our evening at Lumber Yard restaurant in Amherst, MA where only four months earlier we had hung our permanent installation of Ben’s fine art portrait photographs. This would be our first time experiencing Lumber Yard alive as a bustling restaurant.

The co-owner, Cindy Nelson, warmly greeted us at the door. The musicians were setting up for Tuesday night jazz and all the tables were full, including the bar. We selected a Pinot Grigio from the menu of 25 wines by the glass and sat back to take in the environment. We were immediately struck by the soothing and inviting ambiance created by Ben’s photography installation. The warm and cool tones of the walls complemented the tonal range of the large black-and-white photographs. The carefully designed lighting illuminated each image. We were in an elegant gallery space about to embark on a culinary adventure.

As we reviewed the menu, our friendly waitress, a recent graduate of nearby Hampshire College, served us a basket of the most delicious bread baked in house every day. The bread is made using the leftover whey from their homemade ricotta, along with flax, hazelnuts, molasses and anise seed.  “It’s made traditionally using a Pate Fermentée technique, whereby you hold back some of the dough from the previous day’s batch to use as a firm starter.  It has a unique flavor that cannot be matched anywhere else in the Pioneer Valley”, wrote Christine Flynn, Chef de Cuisine at both Lumber Yard and the Nelson’s famed Sconset Café on Nantucket.

Christine’s unique pairing of flavors continued to delight us as we enjoyed our delicious entrees. We both had the seared salmon served atop a salad of purple and golden beets, homemade queso blanco, tarragon and blood orange supremes. The citrus was the perfect balance to the richness of the salmon. On the side, crispy brussels sprouts with a light lemon vinaigrette, crushed pistachios and pecorino romano was incredible. We tried a different wine, this time a “blow your socks off” Pinot Noir by Bergstrum in Oregon, suggested by co-owner Rolf Nelson, who personally selects all the wines, to accompany our salmon.

We indulged in the richly moist chocolate cake made with local Berkshire Brewing Company’s Nitro Porter, Homemade Bailey’s Ice Cream (using milk from a local dairy farm), and Whiskey Caramel Sauce.

We finished the evening at the bar with Robert, the delightfully knowledgeable bartender, who introduced us to a 21-year-old whiskey from the Isle of Jura, Scotland.

It was a delightful evening. We’re looking forward to coming back for another awesome meal, and to enjoy the warm, inviting environment and Ben’s inspiring photographic images.

For images of Ben’s photography installation visit our blog post: “Perfecting the Restaurant/Gallery Concept”

Vincent Palumbo Salon in Westport, Connecticut
Gates, New York, 2005

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