At the side of a country road in the southern foothills of the Berkshires, Hidden Valley Eatery is open every day, but is especially popular among residents and visitors to Litchfield County as a weekend destination. From morning through mid-afternoon, you may have to wait for a table. Once seated in the snug, rustic dining room where the ceiling is covered with canvas like a tent, you get a menu that I find really troublesome. The problem? Do I want breakfast or lunch? Either is served any time, and both feature stand-out dishes.
A few items seem perfectly right for breakfast or lunch or, if you must, brunch. The breakfast pizza, for example, is a thin-crusted flatbread topped with pesto, mozzarella, tomato, and bacon with a couple of eggs on top. Magnificent! There’s a breakfast burrito, too; and a crabmeat quiche that I’d be happy to eat any time of day. Ditto the house-made corned beef hash, which is moist and spicy and accompanied by a curiously rectangular English muffin. The muffin has copious nooks to hold butter and is delightfully chewy.
Among lunch fare that I keep coming back for are a thick, juicy hamburger fashioned from locally raised Ox Hollow beef, an aristocratic hot dog (also from Ox Hollow), and very good artisan pizzas available red or white and with just about any topping imaginable. Another essential dish as a main course or as a side is mac ‘n’ cheese. It is a big deal here, the idea being that you start with the basic formula: elegant unridged rigatoni in a moderately sharp three-cheese sauce. It is delicious as-is, but for 75 cents to $2.50 more, you can add everything from roasted garlic and green chilies to sausage or smoked salmon.
Whatever meal you’re here for, do check out the blackboard of daily specials behind the short counter. Here we have found a fabulous meat loaf sandwich made from that good Ox Hollow beef, a splendid whole steamed artichoke perfumed with garlic and adorned with pesto, and seafood dishes that reflect what’s good at the market.
Desserts are handcrafted beauties: layer cakes and whoopie pies, macaroons and brownies, apple and pecan pie (a la mode or not), crème caramel and chocolate pot de crème. Plus cookies: seeded chocolate chip, cranberry oatmeal, peanut butter, and trail mix. Many of the desserts are gluten free; and I should mention that much of what precedes them is vegetarian friendly.
Note: Hidden Valley Eatery is open from 7am to 5pm Sunday through Thursday, and until 9pm Friday and Saturday.