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By certain lights, New Marlborough inn glows

Email|Print| Text size + By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / February 11, 2007

NEW MARLBOROUGH -- Candlelight is flattering -- maybe that's why people of a certain age choose to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries at the Old Inn on the Green. This 1760 stagecoach stop turned inn and restaurant doesn't overdo the electricity.

True to its name, the white clapboard building with a long, columned front porch sits at the head of the green in this tranquil southern Berkshires village. The wide, worn , and warped floorboards attest to its age. So does the steep staircase that leads from the front entry hall to the bedrooms on the second floor. "It's typical of old buildings," chef and co-owner Peter Platt told us as he lugged our bags to our room. "It's more like climbing a hill than a flight of stairs."

According to Platt, the structure has been a tavern, a store, a post office, and a boarding house. When previous owners opened the restaurant in 1982, they accentuated the building's venerable past by lighting the four dining rooms with candles and firelight only. All four, each with a fireplace, remain electricity-free.

Our room, No. 191, was situated on a back corner where the winter afternoon light streamed in the 12-over-12 windows along one wall. In fact, the modern world barely intruded. The white walls were trimmed with moldings in a teal green that would be right at home at Sturbridge Village. A woven beige and white coverlet was spread on the queen-size pencil post bed; at its foot sat a pine chest with the old-paint patina so favored by "Antiques Roadshow" appraisers. Modern hooked rugs accented the wide pine floorboards.

A cozy alcove held a single bed, while an armchair and sofa bed formed a little sitting area. Extra blankets and battery-powered lanterns were tucked in a handsome, country-style armoire.

Our room did have electricity, but the two wall-mounted reading lamps and two small table lamps were not especially intrusive. Only two items of modern technology marred the timeless set piece: a hair dryer mounted on the bathroom wall above a distressed wooden washstand (the room also had a pedestal sink and big shower with wooden walls), and two cordless phones in the bedroom.

Platt pointed to the phones. "I live next door," he said. "Just dial O if you need to reach me. I'll be around all afternoon, so come down if you want a drink."

The sun had set by the time we ventured downstairs and found the candlelit taproom where Windsor chairs were pulled up to round tables and bottles of wine were chilling in a discreetly electrified wooden icebox.

Stagecoach travelers would probably have felt right at home, though they might have marveled at the strange glowing device at the bar: a computer screen to track dining room orders.

No such modern intrusions marred the anachronistic aplomb of the dining rooms. White tapers flickered on the linen-covered tables and from iron chandeliers, and the brick or marble fireplaces in each room added a glow. The soft, warm light made every diner look ravishing. We were seated in front of the fireplace in the largest dining room, where an image of the inn figures prominently in a mural of the village center.

"Everybody loves the candlelight," our waiter agreed. "It's really nice, but I have to get stronger glasses every year!" It took a bit of twisting and turning to read the menu in the low light, but it wasn't hard to tell that Platt's midweek three-course dinner special was a good deal on artful fare from one of the Berkshires' most celebrated chefs. (Platt headed the kitchen at the famed Wheatleigh Hotel in Lenox for 12 years.)

Only two choices were offered for each course of the special, and we ordered them all. Our starters were a salad of winter greens bolstered with roasted beets, bacon, and blue cheese, and a roasted beet soup swirled with crème fraîche. The entrees were modestly portioned but perfectly executed: an herb-crusted block of cod and cod cake with clam sauce, and pepper-crusted roast beef with garlic mashed potatoes. The candle had burned low by the time we tucked into the only dessert choice: fallen chocolate cake with cinnamon caramel ice cream and crème anglaise .

New white tapers were already lighted when we returned to the dining room for breakfast. Co-owner Meredith Kennard poured juice, brewed carefully timed pots of French press coffee, and presented a basket of hot croissants, muffins, and scones included with the lodging. (Other cooked breakfast entrees are available a la carte.)

"How many candles do you use a year?" a guest asked. Kennard paused and tried to calculate.

"Lots," she finally replied. "It's much more expensive than electricity."

Contact Patricia Harris and David Lyon, freelance writers in Cambridge, at harris.lyon@verizon.net.

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