First there was the wood stove. Then there was the mulled apple cider warming on the wood stove—some of the nicest I've ever had. Then there was the menu, full of Berkshire-grown food including pork from owner Mark Firth's own pigs.
If you weren't already jealous of Berkshires residents, you will be after a meal at Prairie Whale, Great Barrington's house-turned-rustic-kitchen formerly known as Bell and Anchor. The cozy laid-back atmosphere, ultra-fresh food, straightforward but thoughtful flavors, and pitch-perfect execution are a model for any restaurant, and I could have eaten up and down the menu.
What I ate, the Toulouse Sausage ($18), seemed emblematic of the restaurant's style and strengths. The housemade pork link was snappy and just a bit coarse, and ultra-meaty. So were the chunky potatoes, which were fried in bacon fat (but not greasy). As an antidote to all that richness, there was broccoli rabe—particularly fine and tender stalks that were almost wilted but still fresh and green—and lots of grainy mustard filling out the clean-tasting pork jus. I wish I'd had a chunk of crusty bread to sop it up, but I was just as happy to savor it by the spoonful.