Summer Getaway | Hampshire County, Massachusetts

Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst, Massachusetts

While Boston and the coastal towns and islands of Massachusetts are generally the first options that spring to mind while envisioning a summer vacation in the Commonwealth, the picturesque, green hilltowns of Western Massachusetts offer a beautifully alluring alternative.

Hampshire county, in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, is a flourishing hub for higher learning. Known as home to the Five Colleges, Hampshire county offers a vibrant, intellectual atmosphere that fosters art, historic preservation, unique shopping and dining, and countless stimulating opportunities and activities. All of this in a beautiful, quaint New England setting.

Farmers Market in Amherst Common

Hosted by the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council, I was introduced to many things that I had no idea this area offered. It was all so captivating and has left me wanting to return to find other Pioneer Valley hidden gems.

I spent my weekend staying at The Lord Jeffery Inn, which sits right across the street from bustling Amherst Common. Built in 1926, the historic feel and architecture was right up my alley. I love a true classic, and the white-washed brick of the exterior caught my eye and charmed me immediately.

I fell in love with architecture of the inn

My room

A perfect greeting!

Lord Jeffery Inn's library room

In the library

Beautiful Lord Jeffery Inn

I love the outdoor dining and bar at the inn!

Rooftop fireside at Lord Jeffery Inn

The Lord Jeffery Inn is large, rambling down the block, and architecturally charming

Just outside the doors of the inn, the weekly Amherst Farmers Market was in full-swing, and we quickly got swept up in the local shopping, music, and ice cream being served on that hot summer's day. A friendly, relaxed atmosphere settled on the market crowd, and its clear the residents of Pioneer Valley appreciate and feel completely at home in this joyful, creative, and engaged community nestled in the scenic green hills.

After leisurely wandering through the colorful, interesting market stalls and picking up a few treasures, we headed out to Hatfield, Massachusetts. Hatfield is a town with all the charm you'd envision a historic New England, farming town in the lush Connecticut River countryside to provide. It was there that we would attend a cooking class at Good Stock Farm.

Indonesian was on the agenda for the class that night

I had no idea what to expect from this class, and, frankly, as an unenthusiastic cook, I didn't expect it to draw me in other than on a strictly detached, observational level. I was completely wrong! It was fascinating. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and I found myself absorbed in the lessons, the smells, the textures, the tastes, and in the night's interesting conversations. 

Good Stock Farm cooking classes are held in the stunning home of Sanford D'Amato - Sandy, for short - and his wife, Angie. After buying their home, which boasts a bucolic view of the Connecticut River, they meticulously renovated it with an emphasis on creating a chef's dream kitchen and a workable space for their classes. And they hit the exact right note. With its open living, kitchen, and dining area, and a wall of glass doors that overlooks their land and river, you feel both in awe of the surroundings and cozy in their homey space.

A perfectly set table

In the Good Stock Farm gardens

Sandy and Angie show around their small garden area, explaining the flavors, and letting us sample fresh veggies straight from the earth

Though thoroughly informative, the classes are conducted in a casual, intimate style, with a small group of people. This encourages a good-humored camaraderie around the table, as you learn, chop, slice, mix, and prepare the recipes with those around you. 

Learning around the stove

My husband helping with dessert, as Sandy explains some of the finer points.

It's not just that the classes are enjoyable that make them time well spent, but with Sandy as the teacher, you also get the rare opportunity to work with a legitimate culinary master. As a 1974 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and with a long, illustrious career as a chef and successful restaurateur, Sandy has achieved national recognition and countless awards for his talents. One of the most interesting of these recognitions is when he was personally handpicked by Julia Child to be one of only 12 chefs to cook for her 80th birthday celebration in Boston.

Angie rewards us with post-cooking glasses of wine.

Each dish was spectacular!

Spending hours with my classmates and Sandy and Angie in cooking the meal and then dining was such a joy. We learned of each others' lives, laughed over Sandy's amusing anecdotes around the dinner table, and engaged in the interesting stories we all shared. I think we all had a hard time getting up from that table to go home. It was just such an enjoyable night. I'm already planning on finding a way to get back here for their pizza class in November. If you can find a chance to attend one of their classes or retreats, do it. Trust me, you'll have the time of your life!

Day two in Hampshire county began for me with a delicious brunch at Lord Jeffery Inn and a visit to the Emily Dickinson Museum before heading out to take advantage of the unique shopping in the area.

Brunch with a view of Amherst Common

The Homestead was the home to Emily Dickinson and was originally built in 1813.

Emily Dickinson, the brilliant 19th century poet and arguably Amherst, Massachusett's most celebrated resident, was a native to this town and lived out most of her life in the Homestead. Her home, the Homestead, and the Evergreens, home to her brother Austin Dickinson, can be visited at the Emily Dickinson Museum in downtown Amherst. Since I have visited the museum before and hadn't much time, I made a quick stop in to only see the Homestead. I just can't resist returning to this place whenever I'm in the area. A long visit, or short, the museum is always worth stopping in!

Before leaving Western Massachusetts, I visited Northampton for some shopping. Northampton, also part of the Pioneer Valley and Hampshire county, is a richly diverse, artistic, vibrant city with a palpable energy. It is always an invigorating place to visit!

Named America's Coolest Store by Instore Magazine, the dmg, which excels as a jewelry and craft gallery, is a must-stop while in the area! The colors and artistry which greet you as you enter are pure eye candy. I couldn't stop looking at each piece as I wandered the store.

Each handcrafted piece is a delight to the senses!

For next week's Cocktail Friday post, I will feature more of the dmg. I'll share more photos and the story of this beautiful gallery and store. While there, I received two of the most gorgeous hand-blown martini glasses ever! I treasure them and prominently display them like the art that they are on my dining room bar cart. They are stunning pieces. (So, next week look for more about the dmg and a delicious cocktail recipe here!)

The coast of Massachusetts has its beauty and irresistible allure in the warm months, you'll get no arguments here, but a summer trip to Western Massachusetts is such a treat! There's nothing quite like the lush green hills, the farmlands brimming with the color of a summer harvest, the beckoning water of the Connecticut River that invigorates you as you dip your feet in on a warm day. It is the very postcard image of bucolic New England, and whatever the season, it's worth a visit. The beauty, history, and energy of this area is simply unmatched.

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