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Mezze & Allium at the James Beard Foundation

The beginning of spring was glorious in our world. On Monday, March 9, members of our two kitchen teams traveled to the James Beard Foundation in New York to present our first dinner as a sister restaurant collaboration.

Hailing from the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Chefs Nicholas Moulton from Mezze Bistro and Daire Rooney of Allium, along with their respective crews, prepared dishes in complementary cooking styles for the “Berkshires’ First Taste of Spring” dinner.

It was hard work, the team was on point and the experience incredible. We were honored and grateful to be there.

Pictures speak louder than words. What follows is a photo essay of the evening.

All photos courtesy of Clay Williams and the James Beard Foundation.

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com  © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com © Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

 

© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com

Proprietors and co-founders of Mezze Restaurant Group Nancy Thomas and Bo Peabody

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Team Players Wanted

Summer is just around the corner! We are seeking enthusiastic individuals who celebrate life through good food and welcoming hospitality. In the restaurants and in the field, we work with a stellar team and want to include more stars.

Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown, Mass.
Allium Restaurant + Bar in Great Barrington, Mass.
Mezze Catering + Events, all around the Berkshires and beyond

Details on positions available:

Mezze Catering hiring Cooks
We are a full-service event company working throughout the Berkshire region looking to hire cooks experienced in seasonal farm-to-table cooking from scratch.  Our team loves to cook and we’re seeking like-minded players who are just as passionate about food. Email us with your resume copied in the body of the email along with a short note explaining why you feel you’re perfect for the job.  mezzebistro@mezzeinc.com

Mezze Catering hiring seasonal Servers, Bartenders and Captains
We are a full-service event company working throughout the Berkshire region looking to hire servers, bartenders and captains. If you are interested in joining our team, please contact staff@mezzeinc.com and let us know if you would like to work with our catering team.

Mezze Bistro hiring full-time Line Cook
We cook from scratch in our farm-to-table kitchen and are looking for others who have experience or want to learn how. Email us with your resume copied in the body of the email along with a short note explaining why you feel you’re perfect for the job.  mezzebistro@mezzeinc.com

Mezze Bistro hiring full-time Host
Administrative position working with Open Table, POS system, some computer work. Evening hours. Email us with your resume copied in the body of the email along with a short note explaining why you feel you’re perfect for the job.  mezzebistro@mezzeinc.com

Allium hiring front-of-house staff: Waiters, Bussers, Host
We’re ramping up for summer. Full- and part-time positions available. Email us with your resume copied in the body of the email along with a short note explaining why you feel you’re perfect for the job.  alliumbar@gmail.com

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Photo Credit From Parris with Love

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Photo Credit From Parris with Love

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Photo Credit Christopher Duggan

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Photo Credit From Parris with Love

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Join Us at the James Beard House on Monday, March 9!

On Monday, March 9, Mezze Restaurant Group will head to the James Beard Foundation in New York City to present a dinner with our talented chefs.

Hailing from the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Mezze Bistro Chef Nicholas Moulton and Allium Chef Daire Rooney will prepare dishes highlighting food produced in the region in complementary cooking styles for the “Berkshires’ First Taste of Spring.”

Please join us in celebration of this great honor!

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Looking Back… Forging Ahead

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

January is that moment when we reflect on the past year and recognize milestones and accomplishments of our awesome team. Following is a recap of a terrific 2014:

 

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Photo credit Jason Houston

HEY NINETEEN!
Finishing up our second decade… Mezze Bistro + Bar turns 19 this February.
In our third location and in our very own home!

 

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Photo credit ReadyLuck Photography

A BIG 4-0
Mezze Catering + Events planned and executed 40 weddings in 2014.
Blushing brides, beautiful settings, delicious food, fabulous flowers and happy guests. 

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

SIXTY
Mezze Restaurant Group employs 60 dedicated and attentive employees year-round.
We *love* our team!

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Photo credit Kevin Kennefick

8 IS GREAT!
Allium turns eight in May. Rockin’ the southern Berkshire universe!

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GIVING BACK
$10,000 donated to local charities in 2014.

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Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

FORTY-FIVE
That’s how many hard-working farmers and local foodmakers are our partners.

$200,000
What we spend on local food annually.
Fresh, delicious, high-quality food from our neighbors.

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

 

 100 PERCENT
Cooking from scratch. At every turn.

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Farewell to Chef Joji Sumi

The following blog post is excerpted from our weekly newsletter,
published on October 6, 2013.

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

Farewell to Chef Joji

Mezze Bistro + Bar has been at a few different locations over the years, with a handful of chefs during its progression to a restaurant focused on seasonal, regional cuisine. For the past six years, Chef Joji Sumi has been at the helm running the kitchen and directing the food. On October 15, Joji will leave us and head west, first to Michigan to visit with family and then on to exciting adventures in San Francisco.

Photo credit Angela Cardinali

 

Joji was, from the beginning, a supporter of the Mezze philosophy using local ingredients in season. He worked with a small group of farmers, developing strong relationships and helping farms succeed. He began our program of purchasing whole animals and butchering them in house, with complete dedication to the nose-to-tail cooking philosophy that keeps our kitchen sustainable and our menus delicious. While Joji has the same passion for food common to more notorious chefs, he has never shared their love for the spotlight. We think it’s time to recognize his hard work that helped us arrive at an excellent place.

Farewell Chef Joji. We will miss your dedication to our farmers, your commitment to excellence and the consistently amazing food you have put on our plates over the last six years. We wish you well on your next adventure, hopefully after a long break.

We hope to see you soon at Mezze Bistro to join us in this moment as we send off one of our favorite chefs. Come visit in the next week to wish Joji* well and send him thanks for feeding us deliciously for so many years!

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A Smooth Transition

Change is part of history. As a restaurant that has been around for more than 15 years, we are always growing and gearing up for the next experience. We welcome new farmers joining the ranks of our seasoned ones to offer us a wider selection of produce, pasture-raised animals and artisan-crafted foods. Menu selections are as important to us as the sourcing of our ingredients and we are fortunate to be evolving during a food revolution of great chefs who truly care about their craft and a following of diners who appreciate the philosophy and all of this hard work. Alongside this progression, we too, are evolving and embracing the next step.

We are excited to announce the arrival of Chef Pedro Rangel who has been working in the kitchen with Joji for a smooth transition. More about Chef Pedro coming soon!

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* Although we have previously honored Joji’s request to not publish photos of him for the last six years, this occasion warrants the consequences.

All photos courtesy of Angela Cardinali (who is risking her own hide by publishing these images.)

Laughing in Detail at Solid Sound at MASS MoCA

Amazing. Pure and simple.

The music and festivities at the Solid Sound Festival this past weekend were enough to bliss out thousands. We could feel the energy through the walls and windows while the catering team prepped for Laughing in Detail I, a local food tasting at 5 pm. I had the privilege of hanging around and taking pictures of all things kitchen. My most favorite room in the house.

Both events about to take place were curated and orchestrated by Nancy Thomas, the woman who began Mezze when it was a small bistro on Water Street in Williamstown more than 17 years ago and now the fearless leader of Mezze Restaurant Group. Nancy worked for many months designing the MASS MoCA events — the look and feel of the rooms, the farms represented, the awesome chef team and the all-local menus. Nancy has been a huge local food advocate for this region and was the ultimate ambassador for the role.

Chef Daire Rooney from Allium and Chef Brian Alberg of The Red Lion Inn, perfect partners in this catering crime, cooked for a few long days and nights preceding the Wilco event at MASS MoCA. Daire and Brian catered two delicious events during the festival on Saturday. One was a really cool, all-local tasting menu at 5 p.m. in Jeff Tweedy’s Loft installation, a re-creation of Wilco’s Chicago music studio.

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Guests who signed up for this event had the pleasure of coming inside to cool off for two hours while dining on fresh strawberries and cream from The Berry Patch and High Lawn Farm. Allium turned up the heat with their delicious Steamed Buns made with East Mountain Farm Pork Belly and Daire’s famous kale salad with greens from The Berry Patch. Chef Brian of The Red Lion Inn cooked up Braised Lila’s Mountain Lamb with Berry Patch Kale and Smoked Farm Girl Farm Tomato Purée served over Risotto.

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Rave reviews all around. After cleanup, the team moved through large cavernous mill spaces with giant windows overlooking Solid Sound to yet another prep area for Laughing in Detail II, a 165-person sold-out dinner scheduled to take place when the clock struck midnight.

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After a short break and some kitchen set up, prep began for the candlelit supper under Xu Bing’s jaw-dropping Phoenix sculpture. While things were heating up in the kitchen, front-of-house staff staged the awesome red-draped ‘single table’ under the installation.

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Hours later, the dinner was ready to, dare I say, rise from the ashes.

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It was quite a highlight for Solid Sound guests to dine under these amazing 12-ton birds suspended mid-air.

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Members of Wilco stopped in to greet the excited guests pre-dinner and joined the table. After a brief introduction from MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson, a well-dressed service team from Mezze Catering + Events carried out the many platters for a family-style meal in a beautifully choreographed procession orchestrated by Nancy Thomas. Guests enjoyed the gorgeous food, sourced from more than 20 local farms and food producers in the Berkshires and Hudson Valley.

What a treat to sit down to this amazing meal after a whole day of great music and well-curated festivities. Given the internally illuminated Phoenix, Wilco and their fantastic vision for Solid Sound, MASS MoCA’s dedicated staff and volunteers, the glorious food from our farmers, the talented chefs, the hard-working catering staff… it was a once-in-a-lifetime event and we’re so glad to have been a part of it. Our team, including one very psyched behind-the-scenes photographer, cannot wait to do it again!

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All photos courtesy of Angela Cardinali

Allium Features New Work from Sean Riley

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If you are an Allium regular, you’ve probably noticed we like to change things up pretty regularly, especially the art. When you visit a restaurant to eat, you are not there just for the food, but the whole dining experience. Your experience as our guest is affected by everything that is happening at the restaurant, including what graces our walls.

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We also believe every decision we make in the restaurant helps to tell a story. Whatever that story is — and it changes — is based in community. And that is one of the reasons we love showcasing art on our walls — it gives us a chance to feature the work of talented artists who live right here in our region.

Violet__Fan_Folds copyRight now, we are excited to feature selected works from Berkshire-based artist Sean Riley. Sean is showing a new body of work at Allium including paintings on panel and dyed-paper collages. These colorful works evoke certain qualities of fabric and use patterns that fold in upon themselves in origami-like fashions that give rise to a tension between flat and three-dimensional space. In his new collage work, Sean brings together his painting and fabric disciplines. He uses tape as a “resist” to create patterns on the paper with watered-down acrylic paint. He then uses this new “raw material” to create new forms. Sean says “The collages are then glued and/or sewn together to create forms that now exist somewhere between a dwelling, an article of clothing and a shield.”

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To celebrate Sean’s new work hanging at Allium, we are hosting a reception Thursday, June 6th   from 5 pm to 7 pm. Please join us for some complimentary snacks, and raise a glass to his exciting new work.

Additional works by Sean Riley can be viewed at www.polaresolare.net

 

From the Nose to the Tail

Have you ever asked “WHY is there so much PORK on this menu?!” If one animal is represented in a few different dishes on a menu, there might be a very good explanation for it. The reason can often be summed up by the concept of “Nose-to-Tail Cooking.” This practice advocates honoring the animal’s life and using as much of the animal as possible to avoid wasting any parts. Additionally it can offer a chef the opportunity to celebrate less common ingredients and cuts of meat.

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Both Chef Joji Sumi of Mezze Bistro and Chef Daire Rooney of Allium employ a “nose-to-tail” philosophy for sustainability as well as culinary inventiveness. Our chefs work with local farmers to source whole animals that are butchered in house. This means that during any given week, the chefs are using many different components of a single animal that’s been raised locally. The presence of a ‘Pig Face + Trotter Torchon’ on the Allium menu is not meant to shock, but to introduce diners to delicious parts of the pig that are often overlooked. We are proud to have developed strong relationships with dedicated local farmers whose ideas about local, seasonal food are in line with our own. The nose-to-tail concept is a way to pay homage to both the animal and the farmer who raised it and allows chefs to make use of the bounty they’ve been given.

A few months ago, the Allium staff had the good fortune of participating in a butchering workshop led by Butcher Jake Levin of The Meat Market. The Meat Market is a locally sourced, nose-to-tail butcher shop and cafe located in Great Barrington. They buy directly from farmers within a 100-mile radius – at least 75 percent of the farms are within a 35-mile radius. They absolutely employ the same nose-to-tail philosophy that we do! Jake led the Allium staff through the process of butchering a whole pig from Kim Wells’ East Mountain Farm in Williamstown. From pork chops to ribs to ham cuts, the Allium crew learned a great deal and are continuing to employ those new skills every day.

To see some images from the event, continue reading. (Caution:  Raw meat images ahead!)

Continue reading “From the Nose to the Tail” »

All Is Full Of Love

Since the beginning of our courtship, my sweetheart (Kaya) has gifted me with beautiful and nostalgic mixes that always feature a handful of Scandinavian musicians.  Whether the songs are about romance, celebration, dreams or heartbreak they all evoke a sense of wonder.  I asked Kaya to create mix of entirely Scandinavian + Nordic artists in celebration of Valentine’s Day, to share with all of you here.  Both Mezze + Allium have been taking cues from Scandinavia to bring some light into these deep winter nights.  In addition to refreshing aquavit and smoked fish… these dreamy songs will help to keep you warm.

All is Full of Love from kaya.severson on 8tracks Radio.

 

1. Lead But Low — Honey Is Cool

2. All is Full of Love — Bjork

3. Two Boys — Sin Fang

4. Stars 4 Ever — Robyn

5. Oh Love — Ane Brun

6.  b — iamamiwhoami

7. Emmylou — First Aid Kit

8. Staralfur — Sigur Ros

 

Bonus Tracks!!! (Because where there are great songs, there are often great music videos)

The Lion’s Roar — First Aid Kit

When I Grow Up — Fever Ray

 

Happy Valentines Day! From, Kaya (left) and Sam (Mezze hostess with the mostest, and blogger)

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The Communal Winter Table

Winter is about getting close and cozy, keeping warm, and sticking together. If any population knows how to approach colder temps with an unmistakable air of grace and style, it’s the inhabitants of Scandinavian countries. In Sweden, the depths of winter are accompanied by a sunset at 3 pm! Swedes are experts at bringing light and joy into those cold, dark winters. During February at both Allium and Mezze Bistro, we’ll be sharing elements of Scandinavian food, drink, design and music that we find inspiring.

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In the interest of sticking together, we’ve teamed up with Deidre and Emma of VINTAGE and Connie of Griffin GB to redesign the Allium lounge area. We’re feeling very fortunate to be surrounded by local, creative businesses that share our spirit of collaboration and the desire to shake things up.

The new space is furnished with a nod to Scandinavian design and culture, but its main purpose is to bring people together. It’s fun to imagine the changing landscape of people that will come and go from the table along the windows. Whether strangers or friends, we hope that this area will allow people to enjoy the company of one another and take solace from the cold winter nights. Take a look…

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Libbey candleholders and vintage antlers

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A rustic workbench table with plenty of room

 

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Emma (from VINTAGE) puts the finishing touches on our fish friend

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Nancy (of Allium) sitting pretty on a simple, modern stool

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Nice work, Deidre (of VINTAGE)

A big thanks to our friends from VINTAGE and Griffin GB who have transformed the space with their beautiful wares. Can’t wait to join them for a glass of aquavit around the communal winter table!

To stay informed of special Scandinavian-inspired menu items (think smoked + cured fish, pickled things, vodka and aquavit) at both restaurants, be sure to “Like” the Allium Facebook and Mezze Bistro + Bar Facebook pages. Stay warm!

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