If you’re the youngest sibling in your family then you’ll know all about the box room. The box room is your bedroom when you’re the youngest. That’s the rule.
However, one Easter holiday while in high school, I decided I’d grown too big for the box. An upgrade was required and our shed was a decent size. So, much to the bemusement and bafflement of my parents, the next two weeks were spent sorting and shifting and eventually emigrating to the wooden wonderland at the top of the driveway.
I’m telling you this for a reason. It was between those four wooden walls that plans were plotted and a massive poster was purchased of the 50 far away states that make up America. And they did feel far away. But the distance didn’t deter me and my school pals from mapping out future road trips, fantasising about cruising through the country in a battered 1977 Ford LTD police car. We were young and daft and we wanted it all.
My main exposure to America in the years that followed revolved around food. Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares became an obsession, although it didn’t sell the cuisine all that much. That was down to Adam Richman, the original Man vs Food. Watching him tuck into Philly Cheesesteaks, burgers the size of bin lids, piles of pizza, and blow-your-head-off chicken wings not only made me a hungry boy but added fuel to the foodie fire inside of me to cross the Atlantic as soon as possible.
And so here we are, many moons later, in Massachusetts, wandering up a road just outside a sleepy town called Pittsfield. Earlier in the week I’d got chatting to a group of vintage men in the local Dunkin’ Donuts, who referred to the establishment as their “office”. We bonded over iced coffee and I used the opportunity to pick the blokes’ brains about where was good to eat. A man named Eric recommended a place called The Proprietor’s Lodge. Nuff said.
The Proprietor’s Lodge is a grand building. With its big shack-like structure, classy Romanesque columns at the entrance and a warm, welcoming glow from a pale yellow paint job, it would be the perfect place to get married (probably). With wedding bells ringing in my head, I opted for a seat outside overlooking Pontoosuc Lake, dotted with pontoon boats and water-skiers having fun in the sun.
On a stunner of a day like this, one my mood was (obviously) enhanced by ordering a pint of the local brew. The Berkshire Brewing Company’s Steel Rail Pale Ale does more than enough to quench the thirst created from my sweaty mission to this haven. Looking out at the lake, one thought overrides all others: what a beautiful view to get stuffed to.
Proceedings began with a local delicacy: New England Clam Chowder. The dish was served with Oyster Crackers on the side which added a lovely bit of crunch to the clam concoction. It tasted familiar, like a tin of Heinz soup, and the pang of familiar food made me feel fuzzy inside. It was thick, creamy and fishy. What more can you ask for?
Next up to the oche: Mac and Cheese. I’m a big Mac fan so my standards are high, and sadly this one missed the mark. Watery cheese sauce and not much taste left me regretting my order. I hardly touched it. But it was worth ordering just to revoke memories of my Gran’s Macaroni Cheese which she regularly made back in the day. Always served with bacon and tomato, she would bake it until the top was crispy. But lurking beneath the sumptuous surface remained a smooth cheese sauce slop surrounding the macaroni pasta, jiggling on the fork as you devoured as many mouthfuls as you could muster. Gran’s recipe is my benchmark and this didn’t come close.
All hope was not lost. The main event: Lobster Rolls. Another local delight served cold with mayonnaise or hot with butter. While mayo is the condiment closest to my heart, a steamy summer’s day necessitated hot buttery action on my plate. The headline act arrived with buttery brioche rolls topped with lobster, complemented by a pot of the melted gold stuff (specifically there for dousing purposes). Streams of hot liquid butter poured across the plate causing the fries on the side to get all buttery too.
Butter me up and take me with you Lobster Rolls! This was an amazing dish to mark my first proper plate of grub in Massachusetts. If they’re all like this, I’m in for a proper treat.