Authors Posts by Joyce Wagner

Joyce Wagner

Joyce Wagner
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Gifts made only on Martha’s Vineyard.

When the last beach ball is deflated, when we’ve waved our last farewell to the summer visitors, when we’re already debating which restaurants are still open, there is still a wealth of creative talent on this Island. We poked our noses into festivals, co-op galleries, and pop-up shops to examine who is doing what for the holidays. And, more important, where can we get some?

Heidi Feldman, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt

Martha's Vineyard Sea Salt is now available in five varieties.
Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is now available in five varieties.

It started with a bag of chips. “Our shiitake [mushroom] operation failed because of all those moths and caterpillars that descended on the Island,” says Heidi Feldman. “I was sitting in my car outside of Alley’s eating a bag of vinegar and sea-salt potato chips when I realized nobody on the Island was making sea salt. I started asking around, and Curtis [Friedman, her husband and business partner at Down Island Farm] started asking around.” They started making test batches on their kitchen stove, but decided to use solar-powered evaporators to keep fuel costs down.

That was in 2013. Now available in five varieties and several package sizes, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is ubiquitous on the Island, used in five Island restaurants, in products for five Island companies, and sold in 20 Island stores. “It’s a sun-dried, premium-finish sea salt,” Heidi explains. “It’s 60% saltier than normal table salt.”

The couple have great plans for the holidays. In addition to their current retail outlets, like Juliska, Not Your Sugar Mamas and LeRoux, their products will be featured at the West Tisbury Farmers Market and many holiday events. “We’re doing all kinds of salty gifts for the holidays,” Heidi boasts. They’re putting together combinations that will include products from other Island creatives, like Scott Campbell’s clay spoons and bowls. “Everything will have an Island theme,” she says. “Everything that’s included will be from the Island.”

Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt/Down Island Farm products are for sale at West Tisbury Farmers Market (Saturdays, 10 am-1 pm), Vineyard Holiday Market on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven (this weekend through Christmas), Juliska, LeRoux, Cronig’s, Morning Glory, Rainy Day, Not Your Sugar Mamas — check website for complete listing. 508-560-3315; downislandfarm@gmail.com; mvseasalt.com.

Teresa Yuan, decorative wreaths

When Teresa Yuan can no longer landscape, she makes decorative wreaths from flowers and vines she dries herself.
When Teresa Yuan can no longer landscape, she makes decorative wreaths from flowers and vines she dries herself.

“I’m a very creative person,” Teresa Yuan says, her voice ringing with enthusiasm. “I can’t just sit still.” A landscaper under the name Yuan Gardens during the three growing seasons, Teresa continues her involvement with nature over the fourth. Using flowers and vines she dries herself, she constructs wreaths in many sizes, shapes, and colors. And they’re not just for the holidays. Scallop shells share space with ocean-blue hydrangeas and sunshine-yellow roses. Mini crabs cuddle up with dried sage and a big red gingham bow. These are Island-themed to the max, and much more durable than you would think. “If you keep them out of the sun, they can last four or five years,” she says.

A native New Yorker who came to the Island in 1978, Teresa is also a painter (her work is currently showing at Kennedy Studios) and has taught cooking classes. Flower drying was a trial-and-error process when she began. “You can dry too early,” she explains. “And you can pick too early.” Now her basement is hung with bunches of drying flowers, herbs, and vines, and the hum of dehumidifiers. “I just love flowers,” Teresa says. It shows.

Teresa Yuan’s wreaths will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and by appointment at her Edgartown home studio. She also takes custom orders for fresh holiday wreaths. 508-627-8428; yuangardens@gmail.com; teresayuan.com.

Sue Fairbanks, glass bead jewelry

Sue Fair makes beads.
Sue Fair makes beads.

Brave: That’s the word that comes to mind when speaking of Sue Fairbanks. Brave for buying an RV upon retirement to travel the country. Then brave to pick up a portable hobby that uses flame and hot glass. Sue’s stock-in-trade is lampwork beads — those glass globes that Pandora made so popular. She creates them in sizes that range from ¼″ to 2″, and in many color and design combinations. Some are etched to resemble beach glass, but most are pop-your-eye shiny.

It wasn’t easy learning the process, and there were a few minor injuries along the way. Sue explains, “I have never burned myself with the glass, but on the rod called a mandrel [around which the bead is formed]. I would heat up the mandrel before I put the glass on it, then realize I didn’t have the color I wanted to use, so I’d stand up and move, forgetting that I was holding a hot mandrel in my hand. So I would loosen my hand, and it would slide, and I’d grab it at the hot end.”

The process itself, even when not dangerous, is complicated. Learning how much flame to use with how much glass and for how long is a matter of trial and error — a product of experience and patience.

But it would seem that the growing pains Sue suffered were well worth it. She sells a lot of inventory over the summer in the festivals and flea markets, and her jewelry will be available over the holidays at several Christmas markets.

Sue Fairbanks’ jewelry will be available at the Featherstone Holiday Flea Market, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and at Moonstone in Vineyard Haven.

John Duryea, Krug & Ryan Co.

“I love my knives,” John Duryea admits, and “they’re the best thing for the knife,” he says fondly about the two butcher-block cutting boards he uses in his home kitchen. “Any other kind of cutting board damages the knife. I am a home cook, for sure, and they get used quite a bit. These are chef-quality. End-grain. The best kind.”

John began producing the handcrafted, hardwood end-grained butcher-block cutting boards in the winter of 2007, when he was asked to be in three wedding parties and a guest at three more. “That’s six wedding gifts,” he exclaims. He was working in construction, and things had slowed down for the winter. “I made these as wedding gifts to start with,” he recalls. “Here we are, seven seasons later, and I’m doing this full-time.”

The products are butcher-block-type boards, painstakingly cut and assembled. “Not many are being made this way,” John says. “It’s the old-school way of doing it. There was a lot of trial and error that winter of 2007.”

The boards come with a 20-year warranty and instructions on how to maintain the board. Krug & Ryan’s customers range from younger people who are also faced with buying wedding gifts for their friends to 40- to 60-somethings who love their kitchens and love to cook.

John Duryea’s work is available at the Thanksgiving Vineyard Artisans Festival, on his website, and by appointment. 508-388-9999; krugandryan.com.

Sarah Crittenden, silk and dyed wool accessories

Sarah Crittenden has been playing with dyes on wool for 15 years. “With the yarn, I like to do crochet — do different things and use my colors in yarn creations,” she says, “but with silk scarves, it’s all about the colors. Rather than having the color and doing something else with it, the goal is to get the color.” She speaks rhapsodically about madder root and Japanese indigo and scabiosa flowers, about the beautiful turquoise, deep blues and purples, and rosy reds they produce.

Sarah, who, with her “sweetie” Rusty Gordon runs Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury, grows most of the natural materials she uses to dye her 100% silk scarves. But the dying process seems more fun than work for her. “I have this playful spirit,” she says. “I really enjoy playing with the process and seeing what happens. It’s not that I don’t care if it’s a fail, I just don’t worry about it.” She frequently redyes colors that come out blah, and she’s been known to rip up unfortunate results to use as ribbons for bouquets.

Sarah Crittenden’s scarves will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and at the farm stand at Ghost Island Farm on State Road in West Tisbury.

Alice Thompson, Photos by Alice

An iPhone? Really? Who would think that one could take this kind of quality photo with an iPhone? Alice Thompson of Oak Bluffs, that’s who. “I’m totally intimidated by mechanical things,” Alice demurs. While some people have problems learning how to use an iPhone to make a phone call, she seems to have mastered it as a tool for her art.

“She’s known for having an eye,” says former co-worker Diane Hartmann. “Her work is beautiful.” Alice readily admits it: “I do have a really good gift from God. I like to photograph from my heart and what I’m led to.” The results are stunning, ready-to-frame matted photos in three sizes, and greeting cards that, she says, “sell like hotcakes.” The photos are mostly scenes of the Island and Italy and France, but include some snowy winter vistas that are perfect for holiday greetings.

With the exception of the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop, Alice prefers to sell in person at the festivals and flea markets, rather than place her work in retail stores. “You know, I really enjoy meeting the people,” she says. “I love the one-on-one contact, so I can tell them the stories behind my photos, as opposed to them going into a shop and picking out a card.”

Alice Thompson’s wares will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and at several of the holiday gift fairs on the Island. She can be reached at  june.cherokee945@gmail.com.

Robert and Debra Yapp, Miles from Mainland

These folks are a natural team. He makes the lamp base, she makes the shade. He pulls together a frame for a mirror, she decorates it. And they both consider their retirement enterprise “an adventure.”

Bob and Debra Yapp of West Tisbury were schoolteachers. She taught mostly third and fifth grade at Edgartown School, and he split his time between the industrial-arts shops of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. They taught for 68 years between them, sometimes finding ways to combine their efforts into projects for their students. Now retired, they’re working out of their home studio in West Tisbury. Bob creates inlaid-wood home furnishings, and Debra dries ferns, leaves, and flowers to decorate Bob-made mirror frames, trays, and picture frames. “We love working together,” says Debra. “It’s really fun. Especially operating out of our home. There’s really no stress if we don’t sell something. We have the space to do it, the time to do it.”

Her husband concurs: “We have a blast. There’s never a boring moment. We’re always excited about developing new things.”

The old standards comprise a large variety of home furnishings, from a mermaid-inlaid tissue box to a custom “live edge” coffee table — all made from natural materials, found and sourced on the Island. What’s new this year, by popular request, are napkin holders, desk accessories, and wooden deer for holiday tablescaping. And, like the Yapps, all are greater than the sum of their parts.

Miles from Mainland wares are available at Rainy Day in Vineyard Haven, the Holiday Craft Show in Edgartown, the Thanksgiving Vineyard Artisans Festival, and in the Yapps’ home studio by appointment. They are also on Facebook at Miles from Mainland. 508-693-4565;

milesfrommainland@gmail.com.

Celine Segel, CS Jewelry

The method is centuries old, but the product is new as the last second. Celine Segel, late of France, now residing and working in West Tisbury, has brought the ancient techniques of chainmaille to her modern jewelry.

“You might be more familiar with chainmaille from seeing the knights’ armor,” Celine tells us. “It dates back to 2,700 years ago. They’ve found traces of jewelry used by the Vikings and even the Egyptians. They don’t really know how far [back] it goes, but it’s very ancient.”

The process, as she explains it, goes like this: You coil metal wire (gold, silver, etc.) around a rod, then hand-cut it with a saw to create “jump rings” – open circles. Using pliers, you pull the ends apart and weave them into one another. Sounds elementary, but the results can be very complicated — and beautiful. And yet Celine started working at her trade in a very simple way: “I just wanted to make myself a chain,” she says. “I stumbled on the technique and took some workshops, and the rest I taught myself.”

CS Jewelry comes in silver, gold, and coated rings, and ranges from an uncomplicated suspended-pearl teardrop necklace to frantic and colorful Byzantine bracelets. Celine sells a triple-decker coated-wire bracelet that comes in stunning colors. The dilemma becomes, Which to buy?

Celine Segel’s work is available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and on her website. celine.segel@gmail.com; celinesegeljewelry.com.

Irene Fox, Simple Joy Herbals

Many of Irene Fox’s formulas came about by necessity. She’s a West Tisbury gardener and landscaper, and she suffered the slings and arrows of extended periods on her knees in the brush. “You’re landscaping!” she laughs. “You get cuts and scrapes. Here’s the perfect balm to make for that. You’re landscaping! Your muscles hurt, so I created an arthritis muscle salve. It’s like 20 different herbs that heal and take the pain away from achy muscles. I have dry hands! I want to make a moisturizer.” Soon she was producing for other people and selling at farmers’ markets — the logical venue for such things.

Now her inventory has expanded far beyond the needs of the dig-in-the-dirt set. Every product, from balms to splashes to butters, is made from 100% natural ingredients — even the preservatives. And her market has expanded. “Now it’s different,” Irene says. “Selling at the Farmers Market, you have the full range of demographics. You’ve got people from Washington. You’ve got people from California. You get a lot of people who have not a clue what natural healing is all about, but because they’re at the Farmers Market, they stop and ask what you’re doing. It turns on a lot of people who would never go into a health food store.”

Irene Fox’s natural products are available at Morning Glory Farms, Healthy Additions (Cronig’s), Ghost Island Farm, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and various holiday events. 508-388-9793; simplejoyherbals.com.

Laura Silber, Demolition Revival Furniture

What Laura Silber doesn’t do: rework or refinish existing furniture. What Laura Silber does do: create furniture and furnishings of her own design made from reclaimed board (decking, siding, flooring) and repurposed hardware. The result is fun, often colorful, and always surprising. Cabinet doors will be fashioned from Victorian metal heating grates. An antique in-door mailbox serves as a drawer pull. Old tin ceiling tiles form a decorative panel on a cabinet.

Laura learned her craft by building her own house. “It’s always surprising to people that I’m a woman and I’m doing this, and I work the power tools,” she says. “I do all the stuff on my own. There’s an assumption that the heavy cutting and heavy labor isn’t done by me. I do, every once in a while, have to call in somebody to hold up the end of the board.”

But there is one man involved. Laura trained under Island cabinetmaker Ralph Braun. “He’s an amazing, amazing, cabinetmaker,” she says. “Because he trained in Germany, he worked with old, old materials and houses. He has an amazing understanding of vintage materials.”

Laura Silber’s work can be found at Vineyard Artisans Festivals, on her website, and in her West Tisbury studio by appointment. 508-696-8475; info@demolitionrevival.com; demolitionrevival.com.

Berta Welch, Aquinnah Wampum

Tourists wear Black Dog. Islanders wear wampum — as do “in the know” tourists.

Some of the best wampum comes almost directly from the source. Berta Welch is a native Aquinnah Wampanoag — the original creators of the coveted purple and white beads. In fact, one of her favorite things to do is correct the misconception that wampum was used as currency by the tribe. “Early colonists of New England mistook the offering of wampum to establish peaceful relations as payment,” she says. “The English assigned value to the beads as currency.”

Berta’s creations are prettier than any shiny coin. Her technique mixes the quahog shell beads with other stones and shells, or she creates inlays of wampum on wampum. Her bracelets, necklaces, and earrings sport a unique contemporary style unlike that of other Island producers.

Ironically, it was her husband, Vern Welch, a native of Rhode Island, who started making wampum. Now it’s a family affair, with their son Giles and daughter Sophia adding to the mix. “We all work in our own styles,” Berta says. The work of all four artisans is featured in the family-owned shop, Stony Creek Gifts, on the cliffs of Aquinnah.

Berta Welch’s work can be found at Allen Farms, Claudia’s in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, and at Stony Creek in Aquinnah on weekends through Thanksgiving, and by appointment. 508-645-3595; bertawelch@hotmail.com.

Laura Hearn, MV Treasures

“I started because my daughter told me how beautiful I was when I wore earrings,” recalls Laura Hearn. “She was about 2. Of course, it started me wearing more earrings and more bracelets, and that’s what got me into jewelry.” That was five years ago.

Laura’s current passion, leather and bead wrap bracelets, came about because she saw one she liked, but couldn’t afford it. So she bought an inexpensive one and took it apart to learn how to make it.

Her business actually began with making and selling necklaces of knotted hemp: “A friend of mine saw one and loved it, and purchased two for presents. That’s what made me realize I could make them and people could buy them. I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time. This was something I could sell online and in stores, and not have to leave the house and worry about childcare.”

Now her daughter is 7½ years old, and thanks to the Internet — her Etsy shop, and Facebook — MV Treasures has customers all over the world. And because of Laura’s placement in Citrine and Slip 77, she has a lot of Island customers. She’s done custom bridal jewelry, and will create bracelets to order.

508-696-8759; 1Woman2Worlds.com.

Donna Michalski, Aunt Ollie’s Soap

You can’t go wrong with soap. Hostess gift, something for that fussy aunt, your hard-to-buy-for brother, the boss — everyone washes. And if they don’t, we don’t hang around with them, right? Donna Michalski, AKA Aunt Ollie, produces two kinds of soap — melt-and-pour fancy glycerin soaps, and cold-process, from-scratch (using lye and oils) specialty soaps. And she is truly an artist — one could almost say a chef. Many of her glycerin creations are shaped like layer cakes, cupcakes, and candies.  “I learned cake decorating in college and,” she chuckles, “I’ve always been interested in food.”

She began producing soap for profit two years ago when she was asked to make up some baskets for a silent auction. “I had fooled around with soap for myself, then thought, Why not?” Donna recalls. She posted pictures on Facebook, and people began to ask if they could buy it. “Now I paste everything I make on Facebook,” she says.

For now, she’s focusing on soaps with holiday themes — including gingerbread men, Christmas trees, holly, and peppermint — but she also carries a line of Island- and beach-themed soaps, including one that is shaped like the Island. And she’s working on other bath items like fizzies, bars, and bombs.

Donna Michalski’s soaps can be found at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and MV Florist. She also takes custom orders for showers, weddings, reunions, and other events. She’s on Facebook as Aunt Ollie.508-696-8759.

Randi Hadley, retro aprons

When Randi Hadley of Vineyard Haven moved to the Island in 1981, she brought her sewing machine with her on the plane. She made all of her own clothes in high school (“I was very fashionable,” she confides), and started making aprons about five years ago. And they are clever. Besides being very vintage-looking — some are actually made from vintage patterns — they are reversible. One side is pure retro. Randi uses up to four different fabrics, and buttons with shapes like chickens, teacups, mermaids, or roosters. Some even include wampum.

The other side is plain fabric. “My idea is that you cook with the plain side out,” she explains. “Then, when you’re ready for dinner, you flip it around and you can wear it to the table.” For a final practical flourish, she attaches a hand towel.

But her aprons are not always for the kitchen. “I wear mine out, sometimes,” she says. And customers have been known to hang them as artwork on the walls of their kitchens. They’ve taken blue ribbons at the Ag Fair four years out of five.

Randi Hadley’s aprons are available at Alley Cat in Vineyard Haven, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and by appointment. Custom aprons can be ordered.508-696-9215.

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After the formal Salsa dancing lessons, instructors Saskia and David Vanderhoop (at right), let loose. —Photo by Siobhan Beasley

It’s hot. It’s spicy. It comes from Cuba and Africa and New York City. It’s salsa, and every Wednesday evening, it’s on the menu, that is, the dance floor at The Ritz.

Salsa lessons begin at 7 pm at the Circuit Ave. establishment, with a sort of conga line that snakes into the bar area, back into the dance area, and continues in a circle there. A boom box thumps out a loud Latin beat. The wooden floor squeaks and groans under the bouncing weight of the dancers, and workday fatigue appears to disappear. The dancers range in age from 20-something to golden years. Retirees join construction workers and fitness experts. The dress-code is Island casual — mostly denim and tees.

The music ends and the 19 students are divided into two groups based upon their ability to perform a “right hand turn.” David Vanderhoop, one of the teachers, guides the advanced participants toward the front of the room and his wife, Saskia Vanderhoop — the other teacher — corrals the beginners into the back. The groups are further divided and the leaders — a few of them women because of a shortage of men – face the followers. A deep voice from one group rings out “Go!” The followers turn under the arms of their partners. And the music pounds again.

David gets his charges moving back and forth in the basic step, then shouts “Go!” The leaders raise their arms and the followers duck under and turn. This is week two. They know the drill. He shouts again, his low voice competing with the loud thump of the music. The leaders turn.

From the other group comes Saskia’s high-pitched directive: “This time I want to see hips! Now shoulders!”

Hips swivel, feet tangle, and people laugh their embarrassment at turning the wrong way or bumping into their neighbors.

“Cross body lead!” David trumpets.

“Okay, pair up!” Saskia shouts.

Saskia Vanderhoop, who, with David, founded and continues to teach at Sassafras Earth Education in Aquinnah, landed on the Island 16 years ago. She was born and raised in the Netherlands, and at 18 she began learning social dance, but salsa was still a distant dream. “When I moved to the Dutch Antilles for about a year,” she explains, “that’s when I really got in the groove.” Later, she studied in Amsterdam where she organized the first salsa event there. She studied jazz dance. She went to Cuba to learn folk dance and African dance — all of it feeding her salsa skills. “For a good 30 years now,” she says, “I’ve been studying salsa dancing.”

The roots of salsa, popular in the U.S. since the 1970s, are deep in Latin forms as well as Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean dances. There are also elements of earlier dance forms such as cha-cha and mambo and a step or two of swing and hustle.

When Saskia met and married David Vanderhoop, a native of Martha’s Vineyard and member of the Wampanoag Tribe, she taught him to salsa and they have been tag-teaming since. “We used to go out to New York and sometimes took workshops together,” she relates. “We studied both salsa and mambo.”

The dance is kind of a moving target on the Island. Lessons are sporadic. Another couple, Esther Deming and Sergio Racig, frequently teach in their home studio. Ballroom Dance MV, which meets on Sunday nights, includes salsa in their open dancing and occasionally in their pre-dance lessons. The lessons at The Ritz ($10 per one-hour session) are, at press time, in their third week out of eight. The couples give private lessons upon request.

As the class at The Ritz shakes into its second half-hour, the room is getting hot — with energy and Fahrenheit. David’s volume increases as he directs, “Cross body lead! Underarm turn!”

In the beginners group, a young woman wearing a purple top beams as she nails a move. She’s one of the few who seem sure enough in her steps to be able to hear the rhythm. She’s a natural and, no doubt, will be moving up to David’s group within the next week or so. Most of the others have, thanks to Saskia’s enthusiastic repetitions, caught on, but most are still stepping more than dancing. The men tend to be stiff and there’s counting in their eyes. But the beat of the music is strong, and they are becoming looser by the moment. Some of the women have already caught the groove and their shoulders dip in opposition to their hips.

The advanced group is also sporting more sway than when they arrived. There’s more lead-and-follow than choreography now and, with little variation, wrong turns and collisions with other dancers have been replaced by smooth precision.

Karen and David Kolb of Oak Bluffs dance with the advanced learners. They’ve had some experience with other social dances and taken lessons from the Vanderhoops before. “They’re fun and relaxed,” Ms. Kolb said. “They’re a good team. They work well together.”

And the draw of Salsa? “I’ve just always liked salsa and Latin dancing,” she said. “When you go to a dance it gives you another style you can do.”

The class is close to ending. The purple shirt girl is dancing with Saskia, watching her feet with determination. She’s going to get the step. You know it.

People are beginning to arrive for the open dancing. Jose Sanabria — grey-haired, and Latin-handsome — arrives for his weekly salsa fix. “I was dancing in my mother’s womb,” he insisted. A strength and conditioning coach at the YMCA, he speaks of growing up in Mexico City. “There were no parties that didn’t end with dancing. We would eat, and we would talk,” he added, his face expanding into a grin, “and then we would dance.”

Back at The Ritz, more dancers arrive and wait out the lesson in the bar or around the periphery of the room. Saskia announces that the time has come for everyone to show off what they learned. The advanced group clears the floor and the beginners move to the center. Saskia, all long legs and blond hair, towers over many of her charges. “Remember when you were little kids and made up dances and went all out?” she asks. “That’s what I want to see!”

Both groups perform with varying degrees of nervousness and competency, but all are forgiven and the applause is generous. Then the lights dim and the DJ takes his place. Saskia and David begin to dance together and, with their long limbs and her flying blond hair, become the floor show. Some of the students retreat to the bar for refreshment and liquid fortitude, while veterans join newbies on the boards. Soon the space is hip-to-gyrating-hip with dancers.

Just another off-season Wednesday night at the Ritz.

Foxwoods is a good bet to start with.

The Seastreak fast ferry shown leaving New Bedford. — Photo courtesy of Seastreak

The good news is, I didn’t lose. Well, not too badly anyway. The bad news is, they’re done for the season. But more good news – they’re going to do it again next year and it’s going to be even more convenient.

On Columbus Day, a friend and I boarded the Seastreak out of Vineyard Haven at 8 am for their monthly (during the season) excursion to Foxwoods. This was such a great deal. For $45 you get round trip ferry to and from New Bedford, roundtrip bus (very comfortable) to and from Foxwoods, a $15 gambling voucher and a voucher good for a free buffet lunch (a $22.50 value). If you’re getting your first Foxwoods Reward card – which you need for the $15 gambling voucher – you also get a scratch ticket for additional gambling funds. Mine was for $5, but one of our fellow gamblers got $20. When you consider that the usual roundtrip charge just for the ferry to and from New Bedford is $70 ($60 for Island residents), this is quite the windfall.

I plied the slots and it was your typical play — 60 cents and win back a dime, except the few times I scored free spins and it brought me nearly back to even. I brought $100 to gamble and came home with $60. My friend – one of the spiritual gurus of the Island – spent most of her time at the Blackjack table. She went home $50 poorer, proving that the Law of Attraction doesn’t always work. But the buffet was huge and she, even as a vegan, found tons of stuff to eat.

This is a good, cheap, and fun day trip for year-rounders who need a break from the Island during the season. They will be starting up again in June and continuing monthly through October. According to John Silvia in the Seastreak office, it will still be $45, but will be scheduled on Saturdays instead of Fridays. And, instead of leaving from Vineyard Haven and returning to Oak Bluffs, it will be in and out of OB.

And…if you have kids…they’re adding a similar excursion to Six Flags New England.

Now, isn’t THAT good luck!

Contact the Seastreak office at 1-800-BOATRIDE (1-800-262-8743) or contact@seastreak.com for details.

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Do we explore cheese, charcuterie, and wine at the Black Sheep, or check out the steak and wine at Winnetu? Maybe eat oysters and drink wine at the Atlantic? Or learn about locavore and northern Italian wines at the Port Hunter? Fortunately, there’s that Grand Tasting at 1 pm, so we’ll get to try out the wares of numerous on- and off-Island chefs. But there’s that Wine and Chocolate Pairings seminar at the same time, right? The tasting runs until five, so maybe we can hit both. But will we miss the chefs’ cooking demos?

That’s the dilemma we face at the second day of the Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival, held last weekend in Edgartown. So much to do, and all so interesting that we’d need beam-me-up-Scottie technology to do it justice.

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Cow tongue, which Morning Glory kitchen manager Pete Gilligan used to cook cider braised beef tongue. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Morning Glory kitchen manager Pete Gilligan plates one of their dishes, crispy pork cheek. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Honeysuckle Oyster Farm owner Nic Turner, left, prepares oysters he harvested early that day. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Freshley harvested oysters prepared by Nic Turner. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Olivia Pattison, of Beetlebung, puts the finishing touch on her spinich tarts. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Spinich tarts with house made ricotta were available courtesy of Beetlebung Farm. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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From left, Sophi Thanhauser, Eleanor Fischer and Lila Neubert smile behind their deviled eggs. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Sean Ready reaches for a dish prepared by “lunch ladies.” — Photo by Michael Cummo

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From left, Mercedes Ferreira, Raymond Lincoln and Jenny Devivo smile behind an example of the food they provide to up-Island schools in Chilmark and West Tisbury. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Good Night Louise were on hand playing live music. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Chef Justin Melnick of The Terrace describes his bluefish pate, one of three dishes he prepared. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Graphic designer Libby Ellis holds up one of her tee-towels.

Graphic designer Libby Ellis holds up one of her tee-towels. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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Heidi Feldman, one of the owners of MV Sea Salt, stands at her booth during the Grand Tasting. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Tom Olcott and Henry Crosby were on hand to represent Motto Sparkling Matchi drink. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Alex and Ani representatives (from left) Paulina Cordova, Vanessa Palacio and Emily Rattenni sold jewlery during the Grand Tasting. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Some of the Alex and Ani jewelry available.

Some of the Alex and Ani jewelry available. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Chef Chris Fischer’s Berkshire pork on focaccia.

Chef Chris Fischer’s Berkshire pork on focaccia. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Tina Miller and chef Chris Fischer.

Tina Miller and chef Chris Fischer. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Matt Reese of Vermont Creamery.

Matt Reese of Vermont Creamery. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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Chris Coombs’ Colorado crepes with pork. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Chris Coombs, left, and Ryan Marcoux prepare Colorado crepes filled with pork.

Chris Coombs, left, and Ryan Marcoux prepare Colorado crepes filled with pork. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Victoria Daley, of Water Street Restaurant, smiles behind their chicken livers.

Victoria Daley, of Water Street Restaurant, smiles behind their chicken livers. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Matt Reese of Vermont Creamery hands out some of his cheese.

Matt Reese of Vermont Creamery hands out some of his cheese. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Iain Kelly puts the finishing touches on bluefish pate.

Iain Kelly puts the finishing touches on bluefish pate. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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From left, Iain Kelly, Richard Maldonado and Joshua Jackson represented the Terrace. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Jan Buhrman and Gary Stubert, of Stoddard Organic Farm, with their organic chicken liver. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Chef Joseph Montiero with his duck confit tartlets.

Chef Joseph Montiero with his duck confit tartlets. —Photo by Michael Cummo

John Robert Hill, left, and Doug “Bubbles” Sabin.

John Robert Hill, left, and Doug “Bubbles” Sabin. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Semi-crudo flounder.

Semi-crudo flounder. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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The Grand Tasting drew a large crowd to the tent on Mayhew Lane. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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Chef Jason Santos, right, and Jim McGloin put the finishing touches on their dish. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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A twist on deviled eggs. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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Jim McGloin adds a finishing touch to his samples. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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Pouring at the Grand Tasting. —Michael Cummo

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Nathan Gould, of Water Street Restaurant, prepared lamb loin and carrot gnudi during a live demonstration. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival wine director Dan Michaud MC’d Nathan Gould’s live cooking demonstration. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Nathan Gould, of Water Street Restaurant, prepared lamb loin and carrot gnudi during a live demonstration. — Photo by Michael Cummo

A bluefish before chef Chris Fischer prepared it during a demonstration.

Fresh bluefish in a demonstration by Chris Fischer. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Chef Chris Fischer during a live demonstration at the Grand Tasting.

Chef Chris Fischer during a live demonstration. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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Lisa Kaplan and Judy Klumick —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Wine and charcuterie pairings at The Black Sheep. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Lisa Kaplan (rep for K Vintners). —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Chris and Nancy Fisher celebrate their anniversary at The Black Sheep. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Helen and Leroy Rieselbach at Black Sheep. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Cheers to a good time at The Port Hunter. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Jan Buhrman at The Port Hunter. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Diners at The Port Hunter. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Jan Buhrman and chef Jeremy Davis of The Port Hunter. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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an Buhrman and Lily Walter discuss Slip Away Farm at The Port Hunter. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

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Wine and chocolate pairings by Not Your Sugar Mama's. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

A Rock Star Adventure with Cheese, Charcuterie and Wine

This event is as much about personalities as gastronomy. As Lisa Kaplan, who oversees Charles Smith Wines, K Vinters, and Secco Italian Bubbles of Washington, explains, the “rock star” title comes partially from the bio of vintner Charles Smith, who began his career as an agent for rock talent. His personality and labels are bigger than life — “Kung Fu Girl,” “Boom Boom!” and “Vino.”

But the wines can’t outshine the California cheeses and international charcuterie, selected by The Black Sheep’s Judy Klumick. Nancy Fisher from Weymouth, who, with husband Chris Fisher is enjoying a first year wedding anniversary, is pleasantly surprised by the three chevres. “I was afraid of the goat cheese,” she tells us. “Most goat cheeses are sort of…” She wrinkles her nose to illustrate. “But these are good. They’re not as pungent.”

Encouraged by the delightfully unexpected flavors, she dives right in when the Proscuitto de Parma, Air-Dried Bresola, and Smoked Duck Breast were brought out with three red wines.

After, we ventured out into the sunlight and landed at…

Farm to Plate

At the Port Hunter, Ron Descheneaux of Oak Bluffs and Arlington, Va., gets teased for being the only man at a table full of women. He laughs and indicates an open seat. “There’s still a chance,” he says. The women, only a few of whom knew each other previously, connect quickly and engage in lively banter.

Laura Park of R.I., lifts her eyes from the menu when Amanda Spratley of New Bedford repeats a question. “I’m sorry,” Laura says. “I was distracted by the prospect of a mini-Pavlova with whipped cream, Chilmark blueberries, and birch bark syrup for dessert.” They continue to chat about food and health until Jan Buhrman, Jeremy Davis, Lily Walter, and Michael Goess-Enzenberg step to the microphone to talk about farming on the Island, seeking out local providers, and growing wine at the Manincor estate in Italy.

Everyone at the table raves about the rustic root salad, but the star of the show comes with the next course: the fried Allen Farm egg yolk that sits atop bluefin tuna tartar with Morning Glory purple potato chips, and wasabi greens from Mermaid Farm.

Unfortunately, we can’t stay for mini-Pavlova as we need to get to…

Shucks, it’s oysters!

We arrive at the Atlantic Fish & Chophouse as the event is winding down. Tables are practically overflowing with plates of oyster shells (seminar participants received a dozen each) from Sweet Neck Farms. Tablecloth real estate not covered by plates is occupied by empty wine glasses (eight per taster) until one little bump of hip could create a catastrophe. The previously full glasses were cleverly laid out on paper placemats with the names of the wines in guiding circles.

The participants are engrossed in Dan Michaud’s (of Ruby Wines) animated discussion of white wine vineyards throughout the world. Dan, who is the Festival Wine Director, is silver-haired, bespeckled, and gravelly voiced. His body language unmistakably transmits passion for his subject. Indeed, he seems almost a guru to his audience. They cheer when he ends with a sympathetic quote by Ernest Hemingway about cold white wine and oysters.

We recognize Lee and Gia Sroczenski of Weston and Oak Bluffs from the first seminar. They have, according to fellow foodie Natalie Conroy of West Tisbury, “run away for the day, left their children with their grandmother, and are enjoying a mini-honeymoon.” It’s the Weston’s third M.V. Food and Wine Festival and, when asked their favorite dish so far, they agree in unison, “the oysters.”

The participants reluctantly leave a few uneaten bivalves and continue on to…

The Grand Tasting

“Grand” doesn’t begin to describe it. About every second table is occupied by a wine company. Indeed, all of 26 are listed in the program. We get a second chance to taste the wonderful Manincor Moscato Giallo that we sipped at The Port Hunter, and the reds we missed because we had to skip out. Everywhere, chefs and assistants are doling out generous samples and explaining what’s stacked on what and why and where the ingredients came from. Treats like devilled duck egg with tuna tartare, black olive tapenade, micro greens and chive oil (Jason Santos, Abby Lane, Boston); chicken liver mousse, pickled butternut squash and toasted hazelnuts (Nathan Gould, Water Street, Edgartown); pork belly crepes with fig and lovage (Christopher Coombs, Deuxave, Boston) and duck confit with menjool dates, Spanish blue cheese and a pepper aioli (Rachel Klein, Liquid Art House, Boston). If you walk away hungry, you just aren’t trying.

Tucked in among the chefs and wines are tables touting bottled water, sea salt, soft drinks, health drinks, publications, jewelry, and a raffle.

We hear someone ask a young woman if she’s getting drunk. “No,” she says. I drink and spit.”

We run into the Sroczenskis again and they beam at the excitement and diversity of the offerings. We ask, now that they’ve been to other seminars, what’s the best thing they’ve eaten today. “The oysters,” they say.

“This is our third year with Dan (Michaud),” Lee explains. “Dan, by far, has to be the most intuitive and he explains all the regions.”

“He’s so knowledgeable,” Gia adds. “So passionate.”

We take a break from the crowds in the tent to slip over to the Kelley House for…

Wine & Chocolate Pairings Made by Mama

After the hubbub in the Grand Tasting, this seems a much more subdued event. Participants are assembled at large round tables, a white plate in front of each, dotted with squares of Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolates. Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan of Not Your Sugar Mamas play tag-team with Italian wine specialist Iris DiCicco of Palm Bay International to explain their contributions and why they paired this with that.

Iris talks about the muscato that accompanies the ginger pomegranate chocolate. “It’s a natural pairing,” she explains. “Pomegranates grow in the same region as the grapes.”

There’s an audible group intake of breath, followed by slurps of wine, when the participants taste the piquant ginger in the chocolate.

Then it’s back to the big tent for…

Cooking Demos

While Chef Nathan Gould of Water Street in Edgartown makes magic with gnocchi dough, Swiss chard, and a Vitamix, Dan Michaud relates the story of David Dolginow and Colin Davis, co-founders of Shacksbury Ciders. Their Lost Apple project is an attempt to revive New England’s old cider orchards to create “the perfect cider.”

Nathan pulls a steak from what looks like a vertical fish-tank and explains how it heats the meat to a controlled temperature, so that when the steak is grilled, it will be cooked evenly throughout.

Dan circulates among the audience with bottles of Shacksbury cider. After his first go-round, people hold out glasses with please-sir-I-want-some-more expressions. Someone close by comments that he hopes Dan doesn’t run out before he gets his second taste.

Outside for air and a break, we encounter Laura Park (from the cheese and charcuterie seminar) with her friend Karen Durante of Edgartown and Newbury. We ask if they had a good time.

Laura drops her head back, closes her eyes, and lets out a long sigh. “You can quote me.”

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Two Island women aid detainees in New Mexico.

Lynn Ditchfield, left, and Rebecca McCarthy brought their skill sets to New Mexico. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Government officials threaten them and call them names. They are crowded into insufficient housing with bad food and lack of medical care.They can be kept locked up in a room, with no bed, cot, or cover in frigid conditions for up to seven days. These are women and children,  refugees from Central America, and this is the treatment they receive on this side of the border. But they persevere because the alternative is going back to Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala — and likely to incarceration, torture, or death.

Islanders Lynn Ditchfield and Rebecca McCarthy recently volunteered for two weeks in an immigrant detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. On Thursday night, they will share their experiences with the public in a program at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Library (details below).

Ms. Ditchfield, founder and program director of ACE MV, and Ms. McCarthy, an immigration attorney who lives in Vineyard Haven, flew to Albuquerque several weeks ago, and, ultimately, to a makeshift prison in the middle of a desert. Lynn acted as interpreter while Ms. McCarthy assisted detainees in preparing for asylum hearings.

“I heard about it and volunteered,” Ms. McCarthy recalled in an interview with The Times. “I’ve had a lot of experience representing women and children while they’re in custody.”

Ms. Ditchfield had skills that fit right in. “I taught Spanish at MVRHS for 24 years,” she said.

“I think that one of the biggest misconceptions is that all of these women and children are ‘illegal,’ Ms. McCarthy said. “They are lawfully present in the United States while their proceedings remain ongoing. Under immigration law, all of the women and children in the facility have due process rights. Not all of the women will be granted asylum, but if they have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution upon returning to their country of citizenship, the U.S. is required to hear their claims.”

Although briefed beforehand by attorneys who had already made the trip, the two Islanders were not prepared for what they encountered when they arrived. “The facility is a detention center on a federal law enforcement training center,” Ms. McCarthy said. “It is basically mobile trailers pieced together. The average age of the detained child is six years old. Women describe how their children are not eating and how much weight they have lost. When the facility first opened many of the kids were getting physically ill from the food.”

“There are over 600 people in this makeshift facility made for half that many,” Ms. Ditchfield said. “There is no green area for the kids. They are given two changes of clothing; it has flooded with rain and they are getting sick and unable to change.”

Each day at the detention center began at 6:45 am, and they wrapped up their work on-site at around 6 pm. After a dinner break, they debriefed for a few more hours. After that, they prepared cases for the next day. Their day typically ended around midnight.

When she wasn’t needed for other functions, Ms. Ditchfield frequently gathered detainees for spontaneous English classes. “The hunger of both moms and kids to learn is amazing,” she said.

Ms. Ditchfield detailed some of the frustrations of the women “in process” at the facility. “The process is painfully slow,” she said. “Everyone here has family or friends willing to take them in and even pay a reasonable bond to get them out of detention, but the bonds have been set at ridiculously high rates ($20,000 or $30,000) making it impossible for some.”

“The takeaway from Artesia,” Ms. McCarthy said, “is that this ‘surge’ of women and children to the border is a humanitarian crisis. These are not financial migrants. The women and children in Artesia have not fled Central America because of rumored changes in immigration policy, but are fleeing violence and have viable asylum claims.”

Lynn Ditchfield and Rebecca McCarthy will share Eyewitness Report from the Border: Women and Children in Detention in an ACE forum on Thursday, October 23, 6:30–8 pm at the MVRHS Library. Free with suggested donation. ACE will also offer a winter Human Rights class inspired by the experience.

Jeremy Davis, executive chef at The Port Hunter in Edgartown, made silverside baitfish tacos during the Wild Food Challenge this past Monday. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders, and is presenting its findings in a weekly series.

Jeremy Davis arrived on Island five years ago after a long history of cooking in private clubs across the country. A proponent of the farm-to-plate movement, Jeremy enjoys the privilege of meeting and conversing with the direct providers of his ingredients. He will be discussing the Farm to Plate experience with farmer Lily Walter and chef Jan Burhman at the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival, Saturday, October 18, at 12 pm at The Port Hunter. For more information, visit mvfoodandwine.com.

How did you come to be on the Island?

I took the ferry. I heard the place was a real fantasy.

How and when did you start cooking?

When I was 14 years old. It was a little restaurant in Daytona Beach, Florida. Cooking is pretty much the only industry I’ve been interested in. I’ve been doing it as long as I’ve had a job. I just always loved food. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s science, it’s art, it’s history. It’s something you create in your hands and people ingest in their bodies. It’s pretty neat all the way around.

How did you come to be at The Port Hunter?

There was a brand-new restaurant opening up and I just applied to be on the kitchen team. I got hired (as a line cook). That was three years ago. A little while later I moved up to head chef.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

I’ve burnt a lot of bread in my day.

Do you have a dish or a meal that you cooked for something really special?

I cooked a really nice staff party meal for The Red Cat in Oak Bluffs. That night I actually roasted a whole pig and brought it out in the middle of the dining room during dinner service. I put it on the table and fed them fresh pulled-pork tacos. The restaurant was kind of shocked when I brought it out and dropped it on the table. I just kind of peeled back the skin and they took tongs and pulled the pork into some grilled tortilla shells I had. It was a really cool experience.

Favorite dish on your menu?

The vegetable. You get a choice of rice or quinoa. It comes with a black bean ragout, roasted vegetables, and sweet potato hash. You can add an egg or ricotta cheese or tofu. So it’s like a playful dish that the customer can build in their own way. It’s a little different and a vegetarian dish that you can add meat to if you’d like to.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

Probably the Cuban sandwich from 7a in West Tisbury. That’s probably the best thing I’ve had in a long time.

What do you cook for a romantic evening at home?

I think the most romantic dish is dessert — a little more romantic than actual dinner. I would make cinnamon roll French toast with some fresh berries and whipped cream and maple syrup. I would have that with some champagne and a splash of orange juice.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Fresh fish, fresh veggies, fresh cheese, fresh herbs, and curry.

Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?

My knife. It’s a Japanese Shun knife.

What songs do you listen to when you’ve got the kitchen to yourself or don’t care who hears?

My playlist is every different genre you can think of. Every different sound. I don’t have a preference. I love music. I usually just like to listen to whatever the other guys are prepping to.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

I don’t usually get a day off, but some good time off is if it’s slightly gloomy, rainy, I go out to eat in different restaurants. There are a lot of good chefs on the Island.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Thailand. I love their cuisine. It’s bright, flavorful, it’s crunchy, it’s fresh. Their flavors are far more extreme than any other.

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Go-to seasonal recipes from Island chefs

Andrew Moore, Pumpkins, Egg Tempera, 1996.

The Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival kicks off on Thursday evening at 7 pm at the Ag Hall, with Fresh off the Farm, a “gathering of community and cuisine,” with farm-to-table tastes from Island chefs (and farmers) such as Nathan Gould, and pairings of wine and beer, all to the tunes of Good Night Louise. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Island Grown Schools. For more information: mvfoodandwine.com.

In honor of all things fresh and local, we asked Island chefs participating in the festival for recipes using their favorite Martha’s Vineyard seasonal ingredients.

Judy Klumick of Black Sheep will host a "Rock Star Adventure of Cheese, Charcuterie and Wine" at Black Sheep for the MV Food and Wine Festival.  —Courtesy Judy Klumick
Judy Klumick of Black Sheep will host a “Rock Star Adventure of Cheese, Charcuterie and Wine” at Black Sheep for the MV Food and Wine Festival. —Courtesy Judy Klumick

Judy Klumick, Black Sheep

Roasted Squash

My favorite fall ingredient has to be anything squash — all varieties. Although I do not actually grow any, my compost usually gives me a few butternut volunteers every year.

I work with squash a lot in the chillier months, making soups, side dishes, etc. One of my favorite side dishes is a butternut squash puree with roasted bananas.

Roast a whole squash ‘til very blistered and soft.

Peel off skin and discard seeds.

Mash with 2 roasted bananas, butter, salt and pepper and a bit of maple syrup too.

This can be topped with a basic toasted pecan streusel if desired, and baked til bubbly.

See Chef Judy’s story here.

Chef-Joseph-Monteiro.jpgJoseph Monteiro, Atlantic Fish and Chop House

Roasted Corn, Leeks, and Island Crab Soup

Ingredients:

Island corn, 4 ears, off the cobb

Leeks 2ea, medium diced

Vegetable oil, 1/4 cup

Crab meat, 1 lb

Crab stock, 2 qts

Butter, ¼ lb

Flour, 1/4 lb

Cilantro, 2 oz

Parsley, 1 oz

White wine, 1 cup

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a hot skillet add oil corn, and leeks, saute until tender.

Add butter and flour, stir well, until the roux is formed.

Add white wine stir well.

Add stock, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add cilantro and parsley.

In a blender, add hot soup and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in a bowl with lumps of crab on top. Enjoy!

Read Chef Monteiro’s story here.

Jan Buhrman will be at the Port Hunter for a Farm to Table tasting on Saturday, at the MV Food and Wine Festival— File photo by Ralph Stewart
Jan Buhrman will be at the Port Hunter for a Farm to Table tasting on Saturday, at the MV Food and Wine Festival— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Jan Buhrman, The Kitchen Porch

Pumpkin Sauce and Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin is just so darn beautiful this time of year. I love the pink and green pumpkins or the big silver Cinderella pumpkins. The Cinderella pumpkins are the French heirloom whose true name is “Rouge vif D’Etampes” and resemble the pumpkin that transformed into the carriage that carried Cinderella to the ball. Next to all these grand beauties, you’ll find small round “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Sugar pumpkins are an excellent choice for cooking and baking. These smaller pumpkins have a firm, thin flesh that is much smoother than that of larger pumpkins. They’re perfect for roasting, or making soups or sauces. Pumpkin is one of the widely grown vegetables that is incredibly rich in vital antioxidants: beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and flavonoid poly-phenolic leutin and xanthin.

This recipe for sauce can be used on fresh pasta, poured over sautéed greens, as a dip for veggies, or you can add a can of garbanzo beans, fresh lemon juice and tahini for a pumpkin hummus! Cook several pumpkins at once and freeze for the winter.

Ingredients

3 tsp minced garlic

‪1/2 onion minced

2 cups cooked pumpkin

1 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)

3 tablespoons minced fresh sage sage‬

2 Tbsp minced parsley‬

‪1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds (toast in a dry frying pan on medium-low, stirring frequently, or in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes)‬

Shaved parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste‬

Method:

In a saucepan, combine garlic and onion and sauté for 10 minutes until lightly cooked. Add the pumpkin, stock, and sage. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste‬. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more stock. Set aside‬. Serve sprinkled with the toasted almonds, shaved parmesan, and minced parsley if desired‬.

The easiest way to cook pumpkin is to slice in half, scoop out the pumpkin seeds, and rub the flesh with olive oil so it does not stick so easily to pan, and place on a sheet pan flesh side down. Cook for about an hour (3-5 pound pumpkin). If the pumpkin is watery, place the cooked pumpkin in a pan and bring to a slow simmer until it cooks down a bit (20-40 minutes).

Reserve the seeds and pull away most of the flesh from the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to rub the seeds between your fingers, separating them from the flesh. Drizzle the seeds with a bit of olive oil, and spread out evenly on a baking pan. Use any spice you like to flavor your pumpkin seeds. I use soy or curry or maple syrup and sea salt.

Stir the seeds around with your fingers until they’re all well covered in oil and spice. Bake in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes and then toss with a spatula. The pumpkins seeds are cooked when they are lightly browned and a just crispy, some may still be a little bit wet which is fine as they will continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the oven.

Sprinkle seeds on the sauce.

Nathan Gould, of the Harbor View, is one of the MV Food and Wine Festival's featured chefs — Eli Dagostino
Nathan Gould, of the Harbor View, is one of the MV Food and Wine Festival’s featured chefs — Eli Dagostino

Nathan Gould, The Harbor View

Chickweed Pesto

Chickweed is one of my favorite wild greens to use in spring and fall, they seem to grow abundantly here on the Vineyard. They have a mild lettuce-like texture with a slight peppery and earthy finish. It acts great in salads, mixed into pasta dishes, as a replacement for greens or sprouts in sandwiches, or a refreshing garnish, but in my opinion, it is best utilized as pesto to mix into a bowl of fresh handmade noodles.

Ingredients:

4 cups of chickweed, washed and trimmed of any hard stem, a handful reserved for garnish

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted

1/2 cup macadamia nuts

½ cup romano cheese, freshly grated

4 cloves of garlic

2 lemons, zested, juice from one lemon

½ -3/4 cup Spanish olive oil

½ tsp Fresh ground nutmeg

4 turns, fresh ground pepper, to taste

Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients, except olive oil into a vita-mix or high powered food processor.

Start the processor on low and gradually turn up to medium high speed, while slowly pouring the olive oil. Use enough olive oil to create a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix into a bowl of freshly made noodles, my favorite would be cavatelli or something smaller with good surface texture to hold on the sauce. Garnish with additional romano cheese and a few sprigs of chickweed. Enjoy with a light tasting earthy white wine, a Vino Verde or Albarino would pair great.

Read Chef Gould’s story here.

Justin Melnick, one of the chefs in the MV Food and Wine Festival, in the wine cellar at the Charlotte Inn. – photo by Rich Saltzberg
Justin Melnick, one of the chefs in the MV Food and Wine Festival, in the wine cellar at the Charlotte Inn. – photo by Rich Saltzberg

Justin Melnick, The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with a Sage and Walnut Pesto

Nothing says fall to me more than butternut squash. It is a very versatile and delicious ingredient that I like to utilize in many different ways, roasted, purees, soups, gnocchi, etc.

Ingredients:

Gnocchi:

2 ea butternut squash (about 1 lb each)

2 eggs

2-4 cups all purpose flour

Pesto:

1 cup parmigiano reggiano (small chunks, about 1 in.)

1 cup walnuts, toasted (toast in a 300 degree oven on a sheet pan for 20 min.)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch sage

Sauce:

2 T butter

1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano (grated)

Salt and pepper

For the gnocchi: (day before)

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and season with salt and olive oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 40 min or until tender. Pull the squash out of oven, and scoop flesh into a strainer lined with cheesecloth to drain out excess moisture. Place strainer in a bowl to catch the moisture. Place a weight on top of the squash to press out liquid. Allow squash to drain overnight.

(Next day) Place the drained butternut squash on a table with a small amount of flour. Mix in whole eggs with a fork until smooth. Cut flour in with a bench scraper in three installments until all flour is worked in, (note, more or less flour may be necessary depending on moisture content of squash) Once the dough is together and not too sticky, roll into long rolls (should look like a snake)about ½ inch in diameter. Cut the Gnocchi rolls to approximately ½ inch wide.

*Note: Gnocchi can be made in advance and frozen for later use, and can be cut to whatever size you prefer.

For the pesto:

Place toasted walnuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic clove in a food processor, pulse until a loose paste is formed. This could also be done using a mortar and pestle. Once you have the paste, add sage and oil. Pulse slowly until sage is incorporated. Transfer into a plastic container and refrigerate.

*Note, Pesto can be made up to 3 days in advance, keep refrigerated.

For the sauce:

Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a rolling boil, and carefully place gnocchi in water. When gnocchi floats it is done. Brown the butter slightly in a sauté pan until a nutty aroma is released (about 2 min.) Add in the pesto and stir to incorporate all the flavors. Add the cooked gnocchi, and sprinkle some parmesan cheese directly into the pan. Stir and serve immediately topped with more parmesan cheese.

Read Chef Melnick’s story here.

Jeremy Davis, of the Port Hunter.
Jeremy Davis, of the Port Hunter.

Jeremy Davis, The Port Hunter

Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Taco with Mermaid Farm Feta

I love fall, it’s my favorite time of year, especially on this Island. The weather’s beautiful, towns quiet down a bit, leafs turn all kinds of beautiful colors, and there’s still an abundance of delicious produce at the farms. I can’t say I have just one favorite local fall ingredient, because I love to cook with them all. One recipe I have always enjoyed is a spaghetti squash and black bean taco. We have great local spaghetti squash, and everyone loves taco night at home. The spaghetti squash works well in this recipe because it plays like pulled pork (which is my favorite kind of taco).

Ingredients:

3 pounds spaghetti squash

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Sixteen 6 inch corn tortillas

One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained very well

4 ounces crumbled mermaid farm feta

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

dash of hot sauce

Method:

To cook squash, pre-heat the oven to 375. Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

Place in the oven face down in an oiled half sheet pan, and bake for 35 minutes. Larger squash could take 45 minutes. Once the squash is done cooking and slightly cooled, scrape the flesh with a fork into a mixing bowl and discard skin. In a separate bowl, whisk together lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt. Pour over the spaghetti squash and gently toss. Heat a dry heavy skillet over med-high heat, warm and blister each tortilla shell for 30 seconds on each side. Place each shell with red onion, black beans, squash mixture, crumbled feta, chopped cilantro, and hot sauce if needed. Serve with lime wedges and enjoy

Ed Merck discusses voice health with Heidi Carter. —Photo by Michael Cummo

You speak, and you sound like a longtime smoker with a chest cold. You sing, and it comes out as wavy as South Beach in a hurricane. You laugh, and it’s a cackle worthy of the Wicked Witch of the West — unless you’re a male. Then it’s her younger sister.

What’s happened to your voice? Why, for the first time since adolescence, do you open your mouth and out pop sounds that you’re hard-pressed to identify as your own? You’re aging. And like the skin under your triceps, the muscles in your chin, and the girth around your middle, your voice is getting saggy. There are fixes: injections of fat and other fillers into your vocal cords — even surgery. But these are drastic measures, and given the availability of exercises for vocal fitness, superfluous.

For the last two and a half years, Heidi Carter has been teaching Voice Craft on-Island: a system of vocal exercises for tuning up the speaking voice. According to Ms. Carter, “as with the aging body, you’re working against the forces of time when it comes to vocal work. The goal is to keep the voice limber and as strong as possible. Everything is dependent on correct breathing and a raised soft palate. The two strengthen your core and enable your voice to be resonant, strong, and healthy.”

Ms. Carter is the best advertisement for her services. She speaks with a clear and lilting strength, and gives the impression that she’s well in control of her vocal faculties. A singer since age 13  — first folk, then classical — her background includes several degrees in music-related studies and a stint with the Boston Opera Company chorus (appearing twice at Tanglewood). Other degrees include counseling, geriatric, and disabled work, always with a musical bent.

After a singing career, work with the aged and challenged, and facilitating the building of a cultural center in New York, Ms. Carter decided, 10 years ago, to become a voice teacher. “My students started asking similar questions,” she recalls. “‘Why is my voice getting tight?’ ‘My voice is getting lower.’ ‘I’m losing my vocal range.’ I was hearing this enough that I decided to go on the Internet and see what was up. It hadn’t occurred to me in all my years of singing that the voice ages just like the rest of us.”

Ms. Carter discovered through her research that the deterioration of the voice occurs as follows:

  • The joints and cartilage of the larynx stiffen
  • Muscles and nerve tissues weaken
  • The mucosal layer of the vocal-fold edges depletes
  • Facial and speaking muscles atrophy
  • The craniofacial structure of the head enlarges symmetrically
  • The tongue loses strength
  • Pulmonary functions decrease
  • Respiratory functions weaken
  • Vocal range and pitch change in both men (higher) and women (lower)
  • Lung volume remains the same, but capacity decreases

These discoveries led Ms. Carter to develop Voice Craft, which incorporates exercises for posture, breathing, listening, articulation, expression, and language. There is a lot of overlap.

“You can’t help but improve posture with your breathing,” she explains. “The moment you take a deep breath, yours lungs expand, your ribs expand, your back has to straighten out. So the first thing I do is teach how to improve your posture and strengthen your core.”

She slouches to illustrate. “You notice, if I bend over my voice gets drier-sounding. It’s actually pushing nine little bones together in the larynx, which causes it to calcify.” She notes that many teenagers are beginning to sport this gravelly sound due to slouching at computers, over cell phones, and under backpacks. “They’re deteriorating their voices just like elderly people,” Ms. Carter says.

Listening is a given for vocalizing. Ms. Carter quotes Alfred A. Tomatis, a French pioneer in ear, nose, and throat therapies: “You can’t re-create with your voice what you can’t hear.” But Ms. Carter uses listening in an unexpected way. “We listen to feel what’s going on inside the mouth, and the pharynx, the back of the mouth, the sinuses, and how it’s affecting the rest of the body,” she explains.

Articulation follows, where the voice moves to the front of the face. Ms. Carter says, “The moment you begin to articulate, everything comes forward in your speech, and your voice becomes more and more resonant.”

The class then concentrates on primal sounds, re-experiencing the beauty of vowels and consonants and how they come together. “I want to restore how words are really archetypal,” Ms. Carter says. “The more you express them from an authentic place, the more lively and colorful your voice is.”

“Language is just building on the primal sounds,” she adds.

It may seem to be a lot of work for something as organic as speaking, but, Ms. Carter claims, there are other health benefits to vocal exercises. In the process of posture, listening, and articulation, the bones vibrate and resonate, creating, as Ms. Carter says, “a beautiful sonic massage to the whole body. It brings the body to stasis.”

“The language and expression,” she adds, “are just perks for working on those other things.”

Ms. Carter is currently writing a book on Voice Craft, and is teaching a course for ACE MV at the high school. She also teaches workshops at the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.

Tips for Maintaining Your Healthy, Youthful Voice:

  • Warm up the voice at least 10 minutes a day
  • Refrain from shouting or unsupported whispering
  • Avoid throat-clearing
  • Maintain abdominal support
  • Sip warm or tepid water
  • Eliminate milk and caffeine from diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages
  • Keep an exercise regimen
  • Read aloud
  • Sing in the car and shower, or join a chorus
  • Speak gently
  • Laugh and smile a lot

Dan Sauer, chef and owner of 7a in West Tisbury, specializes in surprising sandwiches. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders, and is presenting its findings in a weekly series. Dan Sauer will be part of this year’s “Fresh off the Farm” event at the M.V. Food and Wine Festival. For more information, visit mvfoodandwine.com.

Dan Sauer makes lunch an art form. A 1999 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA),

he worked at Oceana Restaurant in New York under the guidance of Chef Rick Moonen. Now, as part owner (with his wife, Wenonah) and executive chef of 7a, he uses locally sourced foods and elevates the lowly sandwich to an eyelid-dropping, intermittent-sighing experience. Located behind Alley’s in West Tisbury, 7a Foods opened in June 2010 and has become a lunch destination for foodie tourists and discriminating year-rounders. Dan Sauer also cooks a mean breakfast.

How did you come to be on the Island?

I was working at Oceana, and a friend of mine was working at Gramercy Tavern and told me about a sous-chef in New York named Marco [Canora] who had a restaurant [La Cucina] on the Vineyard in the summer. He was looking for a cook, so I got an interview with him and got the job. That was in the summer of 2000. I worked for him that whole summer, then went back to New York. My wife and I got married in 2004, and we moved back here about a year later. I was the chef for Outermost Inn in Aquinnah for Hughie Taylor.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started cooking when I was in high school. I worked in a place in Billings, Mont., called Walker’s Grill. That was my first cooking job. I wasn’t very college-bound, to say the least. I had to find something to appease my parents. Culinary school filled that. But from the first day I started, I sort of loved all the action, the pressure, the camaraderie, the s***-talking, and all the things that go on working in a restaurant.

How did you come to open 7a?

It was sort of the thing I did in the off-season at the Outermost for a couple of years. I would make fresh pastas and sauces, soups and sausage, and sell it. I actually started a little Facebook page for it. People would place their orders, and I would deliver them to their houses or a meeting point down-Island. I got interested in growing my own food at the Outermost. We had a garden there that I tended. They already had a garden, but I made it more kitchen-based. The year I left the Outermost Inn, I did the Farmer’s Market and some catering, all under the name 7a Farms. When the Alley’s space became available, I thought it would be a good fit for what I wanted to do. We signed the lease a year after that [end of June 2010].

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Several. A big one was at Oceana when I was catering a party. You’re always supposed to make a little bit extra. I thought everything would go fine and I told the chef I made extra and I didn’t. It was 10 sheet pans of sea bass, and I dropped the last one. We didn’t have any other sea bass in the house. I got yelled at quite a bit. We had to give them another kind of fish.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the past week?

Funny you asked. I’m doing a 21-day cleanse with my wife. You can’t eat any meat or protein for the first week. I just made a curried lentil stew last night, because on Day 8 you can start eating that. It’s about the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

Was it good because it was good or because you missed it?

A little bit of both, I think.

Favorite dish on your menu?

Right now it’s probably the Heirloom Tomato Sandwich. It’s got heirloom tomatoes and corn relish and goat cheese on our house-made focaccia. With North Tabor Farm greens. A lot of Island stuff. It’s a great time of year for vegetables.

What’s your favorite dish using fall ingredients right now?

My favorite would probably be butternut squash soup, and starting in about a month or so we’ll start doing a fall veggie melt, which is roasted fall vegetables with Gruyere cheese and honey aioli. That’s always a big hit.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Number one, without a doubt, is salt. You can’t cook without it. It’s not just a spice or seasoning. It actually changes the way your taste buds react to food. Proper seasoning is everything.

For number two, I’d probably say olive oil. Cooking with a good olive oil and finishing with a great olive oil is usually how I use it. It adds so much flavor.

Three? Pork. It’s just the best thing in the world. There’s so many things you can do with it. It’s hard to use a cow nose-to-tail because of its actual size, but I can get a half a pig and find ways to use it all throughout the restaurant.

Four? Garlic, I would say. The way you cut it — it can be a paste, it can be sliced, and you can slow-cook it in olive oil. It adds a lot of different flavors. You can utilize it in a lot of different ways.

The last one: acid, I would say. Either citrus or vinegar. It’s essential. It’s another thing that brings flavors together and makes things pop. Squeeze a lemon on something at the end. You may not taste the lemon, but it just brightens up the whole thing.

Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?

Probably my smoker. We make our housemade pastrami in it. I smoke garlic for mayonnaise that I make chicken salad with in the summer. I’m working on a smoked mustard right now for a homemade mustard, smoking the seeds before I make it.

What songs do you listen to when you’ve got the kitchen to yourself or don’t care who hears?

After we close, we definitely listen to the Wu-Tang Clan. During the day, when we’re open for business, we listen to every possible type of music you can imagine. We have Pandora radio stations and it’s a constant source of conversation and arguments and discussion. In the summer, we have a couple of workers from Jamaica, so reggae is definitely a part of it.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

Definitely involves spending time with my wife and two sons [ages 6 and 7] on the beach. Lobsters from Larsen’s and fishing with my oldest son.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Probably Bozeman, Mont. It would give me a reason to be able to go home on a regular basis. It’s not my hometown, but it’s my home state.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

Probably in jail.

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Women Empowered paid tribute to three of the Island’s movers and shakers last Saturday among the luscious flavors of brunch at the Harborview. In its third year, the Woman of the Year honorific salutes Island individuals whose work positively impacts Martha’s Vineyard. According to Vivian Stein, board president of Women Empowered, “These are three year-round women who have shown that they really want to make a difference.” This years’ honorees are Judy Crawford, chairman of the board of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard; Betsy Burmeister, recreational therapy director at Windemere; and Jesse Keller, director of Island programs and education for The Yard.

These women are all about movement — moving the Island forward, keeping seniors moving and engaged during the twilight years of their lives, and opening new creative paths for the Island’s youth.

Judy Crawford. (Courtesy Women Empowered)
Judy Crawford. (Courtesy Women Empowered)

Founded 12 years ago by Kay Flathers (who is no longer an Island resident), Women Empowered was formed to help women (and now also men) in crisis or otherwise stalled begin to press on again, whether it be by offering debt or career counseling, bestowing microloans on small start-ups, or providing tuition assistance. Its goals are mostly accomplished through workshops and one-on-one coaching by a group of volunteers. “Woman of the Year” honors those motivated who also strive, as Ms. Stein explains, “to increase the value the Island brings to people of all ages.”

“This year, they are from three different areas,” she continues, “which is very important. What they have in common is that they are motivated to help Islanders in their own way. Jesse Keller works a lot with children; Betsy Burmeister works with the elderly; and Judy Crawford, well, she’s spread all over. She was instrumental in getting the Y built.”

Betsy Burmeister, honored for her work as recreational therapy director at Windemere, found movement in her own life when she took on the position 17 years ago after working in her department for a year and a half. “When I first came to the department,” she recalls, “I was really kind of quiet and shy. The administrator talked to me about the position. I guess his faith in me gave me confidence I never had before. I really got into it, got excited about it, and wanted to make it a really good place for the residents to come.”

Since taking on the job, she has increased the volunteer staff from six to more than 120, in programs like animal visits, enlisting younger schoolkids to write bios of the patients, bringing high school students in, bringing in plays and musical acts and speakers. “We try to get the residents either out into the community or bring the community in to them,” she explains. “We really try to reach out.”

Judy Crawford’s bailiwick is getting others to move and shake. As chairman of the board of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard and a founder, member, or officer of other Island organizations, she gets ventures moving forward. When the Y was no more than isolated projects spread around schools and various venues, she helped develop a vision, set goals, enlisted resources, and facilitated the building of the centrally-located, community-oriented Island treasure that has become the Y.

Ms. Crawford explains, “I’m happy on the bigger scale, kind of organizing the long-range vision and then finding people who will take on the pieces that I know have to happen. That’s how the Y got built. It took 17 years. It started as a gleam in a bunch of people’s eyes, but it was a relatively small group that made it happen.”

Jesse Keller. (Photo Courtesy of Women Empowered)
Jesse Keller. (Photo Courtesy of Women Empowered)

Jesse Keller, the most recently settled of the honorees, is also the one most physically involved with movement. After coming to the Island in 2009 for an internship at The Yard, she moved here, took a part-time position there and another at Midnight Farm, and began to work movement magic on the Island. When David White took over the administration of The Yard in 2011 and began clearly defining roles and departments, Ms. Keller was offered the position of director of Island programs and education. This was an ideal situation for the young dancer, a graduate of the University of Ohio with a degree in dance education. “The organization was going through a lot of transition. There was a lot of growth [at The Yard] that was going to happen. I could see that and I wanted to be a part of that,” she explains.

Since then, Ms. Keller has formed movement workshops and programs for children at the Y, at The Yard, and recently, in the Island’s schools. “I am very driven about giving the Island this other language of dance,” she explains. “I do think it could really change our community and help give young people, help give adults, help give young adults all a voice that is very much needed in communicating with the arts.

“Movement is very empowering,” she insists. “I get to feel that every single day as a dancer. The least I can do is pass that on to others within the community.”