The 34th Fall Festival of Shakespeare returns to Shakespeare & Company November 17 — 20! These two posters feature students from Lee Middle and High School and Springfield Central High School taken in 2021. Photos by Jaclyn C. Stevenson, poster design by Katie McKellick.
This was my first experience with DishCrawl, a community-based restaurant touring program with satellites all over the country. The evening was sponsored by DishCrawl Pioneer Valley, the most local branch of the program to me, this past Tuesday … and I believe I’m still digesting.
DishCrawl PV’s diligent Ambassador, Jenn, first got in touch with me on Twitter. It was my first introduction to DishCrawl, but of course, it’s right up my foodie alley. The mission is simple: In one night, dine at four restaurants that help to define a city. The twist is the initial meeting point isn’t revealed until a day or two before the event, and from there, the rest of the stops remain a mystery until it’s time to get up and go.
DishCrawl Pioneer Valley has plenty of communities to choose from in three counties; this month, the event was held in Easthampton, one of my favorite towns. I haven’t been back since BearFest and it was a great summer night to stroll.
Jon, my Partner in Calories for the night, and I met the rest of the group at our first stop of the evening: Christine’s Bean Sprout Juice Bar & Cafe. We donned our name tags and joined a table of fellow foodies while Easthampton-based blues act Eva Cappelli and Company serenaded the group. The duo actually accompanied us to every stop, setting up in a corner and picking up the set where they left off.
Christine’s Bean Sprout specializes in vegetarian and Vegan food, and also has a cool selection of coffee and tea accessories and gourmet treats — the ‘Garlic Buttah Popcorn’ caught my eye.
Soon, though, we had a spread of fresh dishes in front of us: Two cold soups — I had the Cucumber Avocado, the other was Beet Orange; aptly named ‘Awesome Paninis’ with cheese and veggies; a carrot, raisin, and quinoa salad; a spinach, goat cheese, and beet salad, and three Gluten-free cookies by Chef Sharlene Jaha of Creative Healthy Cooking. The soup was my favorite dish, but everything was great – local and fresh. Our plates cleared, Jenn let us know where we were headed next, and it was a complete departure from Christine’s earthy vibe.
Whiskerz, Easthampton’s de facto biker bar, was a great place to stretch out and order a beer, which I did right away. We were also served house-made burgers and hand-cut fries as we sipped our brews, which I’ll remember next time I’m in E’ton — probably for the next Open Studio sale. It’s always nice to have a good, quick place to nosh when you’re in town for a specific event.
Next stop! For the Italian in all of us … Nini’s Ristorante, waiting for us with plates of steaming rigatoni Bolognese. Nini’s is cute and very authenticky inside… a fabulous mural on the lounge wall, over-sized Italian advertisement posters in the dining room, and curved doorways carved into stucco walls. The rigatoni was amazing – a perfect blend of cheese, meat, and mild sauce.
If the evening ended there, I’d have been fine. I was stuffed to the gills and the variety had already sated my curiosity… but nay.
There’s dessert to be had.
A short walk — a merciful walk, as it provided a chance for the food in my stomach to shift slightly, creating a small anteroom of space — brought the group to Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream and Candy. I was excited to have a chance to try one of their many flavors — the last time I was in Easthampton, for BearFest, Mt. Tom’s made a special flavor that I never got the chance to try. I’d felt unrequited ever since.
After poring over the rows-upon-rows of candy jars, I moved on to the ice cream blackboard and stared at that for 10 minutes. I finally decided on a no-sugar-added caramel butter pecan… you can judge the taste from my reaction below.
Actually, to be fair, it’s kind of hard to tell from my expression. The ice cream is really good.
The overall verdict? DishCrawl is an affordable, fun night out with plenty of food and drink, as well as an opportunity for a night out with old friends or a chance to make new ones.
JaxRating: Four out of Five