Authors Posts by The Martha's Vineyard Times

The Martha's Vineyard Times


The interior of Rockfish, shown here at the end of October, is ready for opening November 24. —Photo courtesy of The Coogan Family

Monday marks the opening night of Rockfish, the new eatery and bar at 11 North Water Street in Edgartown, former home of Eleven North and David Ryan’s restaurants. While the address is the same, the place most certainly is not.

Nell, Will, and Geoghan Coogan are the owners, the sibling trio that have been part of The Wharf’s continued success since 2004. “We all have different personalities and experiences working in the business, at The Wharf and elsewhere in the country,” Nell Coogan said. “We all come at it from a different angle, know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve hired a stellar staff. We’ll be here for people in the winter and were excited to provide something warm, fun, and different.”

While Rockfish is only steps away from The Wharf, it feels a world away, and it’s obvious that the owners have created something unique. The space itself has been noticeably transformed. The downstairs bar has been rebuilt out of whiskey barrel staves and brought into the middle of the room, creating a stunning focal point. Upstairs, you’ll notice the newly vaulted ceiling, exposing beautiful beams, reclaimed hemlock, and refined ducting. In the corner is the real gem: the wood-fired oven that was once at Lattanzi’s. This summer, the oven was moved to Rockfish and dropped in from the ceiling. Now, it is beautifully enclosed by inlaid brick. Surrounding the oven is a stunning copper bar supported by bourbon barrels, which emanated the liquor’s scent when cut to fit the space.

John Roberts of Island Food Products, and Island craftsmen Bruce Stewart and Alex Young contributed to Rockfish’s impressive new look. There’s brick, glass, and dark wood accents throughout, illuminated by the warm, inviting glow of Edison lightbulb fixtures. The decor is rustic but contemporary, at the intersection of an Edgartown tavern and a Brooklyn whiskey bar. Call it what you will, it’s a place you’ll want to stay.

The floorplan has been rearranged and there’s increased bar seating, even more bar seats than tables. The vibe is upscale yet casual and the space makes it an ideal spot for a date night or a girls night out, versus the family-oriented dining scene at The Wharf.

“When our family took over The Wharf we walked right in and it was a turn-key operation, we didn’t change much of the place,” Ms. Coogan said. “This has been exciting, we’re starting from scratch. It’s pretty fun.”

The name Rockfish came about during the team’s brainstorming process and it just seemed right. Finally, a name all of the owners could agree on, unlike ‘Two Brothers Tavern’ which despite her brother’s best efforts, Nell just couldn’t accept. Rockfish is also another name for striped bass, an homage to seafood on the Vineyard, as well as ‘the rock’ slang associated with the Island.

Adam Rebello, an Island native and former AGM at Farm Neck Golf Club joins the Coogans as General Manager. Mr. Rebello has known the Coogan family since he was six years old, and though it was a hard decision to leave Farm Neck, he knew it was the right one. At the helm of the kitchen staff is chef John Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd previously headed the kitchen at The Wharf before leaving chef life to work for Island Food Products for several years. The Coogans called upon him this summer to return to The Wharf and he was hooked by the opportunity to open Rockfish. “Once I saw this place I was sold. I was out of retirement, and back in the game,” Mr. Shepherd said. This is going to be a big deal.”

Mr. Shepherd won’t be the only one with head chef on his resume — he hired a who’s-who of culinary talent in the area. Ms. Coogan describes it as “a kitchen full of top chef material. There’s a lot of potential here.” So what will all of these head chefs be cooking?

The menu runs the gamut, from bar snacks like Marcona almonds to small plates of shrimp, bacon, and grits, and traditional entree-sized meals. One that’s sure to be a favorite is the seafood paella packed with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams over saffron rice. Then of course there’s the flatbread pizza, served hot and fresh from the wood fired oven, with toppings such as baby clams, chorizo, sausage, mashed potatoes, arugula, ricotta cheese and more. When the oven isn’t pumping out pizzas, it will be roasting homemade marshmallows for s’mores off the dessert menu, or burning wood for the late night crowd after food service.

The menu will start small but will be constantly evolving. “It will be new and fresh all the time, I’ll keep a rolodex of recipes and we’ll go back and revisit ones that were loved, and we’ll refine them” Mr. Shepherd said. The menu boasts flavors and influences from North Africa, Asia, Morocco, the Mediterranean, and the South. No taste is off limits and the diversity in menu offerings lends itself to sharing. The option of ordering smaller plates and sampling several different things will allow diners to experience the range of the menu. The food service is similar to tapas style, where diners will be encouraged to share food and items will arrive as they’re prepared. Typical coursing can also be requested, but management is excited about offering this more interactive family style or “party style” of dining.

To compliment the food, the restaurant boasts two full bars, an extensive 40 plus bottle wine list, and a menu of classic and contemporary signature cocktails. Especially appealing is the Pear Bubbly, made with Grey Goose Pear, St. Germain, fresh lemon juice and homemade simple syrup. There’s also staples like old fashioned, and espresso martini plus a few dark liquor concoctions good for staying warm in the winter.

Rockfish will be open year round for dinner from 5:30 – 10 pm. The bar will remain open until 1am. Reservations accepted for parties of 8 or more only. For more information call 508-627-9966.

Herbert F. Slater of Menemsha died Friday, November 21 at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 87.

Herbert was the husband of Jane Slater, father of Caleb and Sarah (Slater) Bennett, and grandfather of Celia Slater, and Jack and Scott Bennett.

Graveside services will held on Tuesday, November 25 at 11 am at Abel’s Hill Cemetery off South Road in Chilmark followed by a gathering at the Chilmark Community Center.  Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Chapman, Cole, and Gleason Funeral Home. A full obituary will be published at a later date.  

The victory puts the Vineyard up 19-17 in the longtime inter-island rivalry.

Ben Clark smiles as he hoists the Island Cup.

In a defensive game with plenty of fouls by both teams,  Martha’s Vineyard beat Nantucket 21-7 on Saturday afternoon in the annual Island cup football game. Mike Mussell, breaking a Vineyard passing record, threw for two touchdowns to Jacob Cardoza.

From left, William deBettencourt, Julie Pringle and Josh Baker sit on top of an Edgartown fire truck and watch the Island Cup football game. Trucks from West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown showed up to cheer on the Vineyarders.
From left, William deBettencourt, Julie Pringle and Josh Baker sit on top of an Edgartown fire truck and watch the Island Cup football game. Trucks from West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown showed up to cheer on the Vineyarders.

Hundreds of fans — Vineyarders and a robust cheering section from Nantucket — filled the stands at Dan McCarthy Field at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, on a sunny but chilly November day.

Veterans were honored before the game and during halftime.
Veterans were honored before the game and during halftime.

The first quarter remained scoreless, but Ben Clark changed that at the start of the second quarter when he plunged over the goal line for a touchdown. James Sashin’s extra point  made it 7-0, Vineyard.

The score remained the same until 6:07 on the clock in the third quarter, when Nantucket tied it up 7-7.  The game stayed a nailbiter until Mike Mussell found receiver Jacob Cardoza for another touchdown, and Sashin kicked the extra point to make it 14-7, Martha’s Vineyard.

From left, Paul Mayhew, Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler and Andy DiMattia celebrate the third MV touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Nantucket.
From left, Paul Mayhew, Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler and Andy DiMattia celebrate the third MV touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Nantucket.

With 7:17 left in the fourth, the Vineyard recovered the ball on a bad snap on a Nantucket punt and at 5:56, it was Mussell to Cardoza again, extra point good, and MV was up 21-7 for the final.

Over three and one-half decades, Island Cup dominance has ebbed and flowed. The Vineyarders have won the last nine Island Cup games and the Whalers enjoyed a 9-1 run before Mr. Herman took the Vineyarder helm 28 years ago. This year’s victory gives the Vineyard a 19-17 edge in the rivalry.


Director Mike Nichols, right, died on Wednesday in New York. He is seen in this photo with Richard Paradise on stage at the M.V. Film Center this past summer. — File photo by Tony Omer

Director Mike Nichols, a longtime Island seasonal resident and husband of Diane Sawyer, passed away suddenly in New York on Wednesday, according to an announcement by ABC News president James Goldston.

A full obituary will follow.

Many of us capped off an orgy of national election coverage by watching, in solitude or in the company of friends, results trickle and then cascade in to eager newsreaders with dazzling maps and tote boards. Pleased by the actual results we saw or not, one can’t help but be thankful that this expensive, nasty, polarizing sideshow of national and statewide elections has passed for another season. And by contrast, we should all take a moment to thank our lucky stars for the humble, sincere fashion in which local candidacies are carried out.

National mud wrestling

There’s something deeply disturbing about recent national elections where the mood of the voters is most often characterized as anger accompanied by hugely low regard for politicians of all stripes and the political process they control. Daily breathless media coverage sealed the deal: another expensive election cycle of carefully packaged empty calories, much heat, and precious little light.

One might have hoped that collective disenchantment would bring us together — steely-eyed populists in huge numbers, making common cause to take government back from the ideologues and hacks and their cynical moneyed handlers. Instead, we remain pliant and adjust our expectations downward yet again.

These bitterly frustrating campaigns invariably result from the politics of choreographed gridlock — politician- and media-speak for the strategy of cheerfully keeping anything from happening if we don’t get our way. The result is a congressional approval rating of 9 percent, with no plan to do better for the country in sight. Our lack of engagement shows, too. Voter turnout, at around 37 percent, was the worst it’s been since 1942. As a national electorate, we may just be giving up.

Contrary to our self-mythology, this style of American politics is deeply ingrained in our democracy. A recent review by Nicholas Lemann (professor and former Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism) of historian Richard Hofstadter’s 50-year-old book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (Columbia Journalism Review, September 2014) helps put our national political spectacle in fascinating historic context.

Whatever one surmises from his title, Hofstadter isn’t proposing that we’re locked in political struggles between smart elites and vulgar commoners; he’s identifying a permanent tension in American democracy between those who see “the continuing process of compromise” as the prize, and those who are “comfortable in the complete self-assurance …of ideologically driven politics” and an insistence on total victory. Those who “shun ultimate showdowns and look upon the ideal of total partisan victory as unattainable” have rarely held sway for very long.

Our political history is one of long periods of strident polarization punctuated by occasional (and grudging) breakthroughs of compromise. As long as we allow it, the politics of ideology and absolute right will trump compromise and leadership every time.

Vineyard dignity

By contrast, consider that contests for Island-wide office on Martha’s Vineyard proceed with a quiet dignity worth celebrating. For the most part we actually experience governance without politics.

Doing the people’s business is of course very labor-intensive, dependent on unpaid, pragmatic volunteers without regard for political prospects to fill positions on several dozen elected and appointed boards and bodies. Given the tasks they take on and the scrutiny they are subject to, it seems miraculous that folks show up to stand for office at all.

Our candidates strike a modest bargain with us: for tasks mostly mundane and often frustrating and conflicting, we neighbors will do our best to find consensus and craft compromise, because these chores need doing and we think we can help. And because we make rules and reach decisions literally in front of one another, we will do our best to remember our commitment to represent the entire community and not narrow ideas.

Performance, of course, matters, and we as a community newspaper — along with lots of interested citizens — assure close critical observation. We can all be thankful, though, because the prevailing modesty of the candidacies and the campaigns we see, and the inclusive and balanced policies and plans we expect, are important measures of a healthy civic culture. We may not always get it right, or get it quickly enough, but we try to favor compromise and inclusivity over simply winning. It’s a happy respite from the larger partisan culture that surrounds us.

To the Editor:

Sorry folks, but I just have to sound off about this trend of having sheep and goats penned up without shelter around the Island to eat foliage. I’m told they love it. Well, they surely don’t look it huddled together, heads hanging down, in the pouring rain with no place to stand but maybe under a bare tree. Yes, undomesticated animals are out there, but they are free to find their own shelter, water, and food.

How can this be fair? I just see it as one more way to exploit animals for money.

Nancy Billings

Oak Bluffs

To the Editor:

Last Friday, the Edgartown Patrolmen’s Association sponsored its annual “Senior Fall Feast,” a sumptuous dinner offered free to all Edgartown seniors. The overflow crowd of Edgartown elders was thrilled with the menu extraordinaire of tenderloin, crab cakes, green beans, and pumpkin pie.

The prevailing sentiment was most accurately expressed by Jean and Dave Brennan, “It’s so nice to be a senior in Edgartown. The Fall Feast was excellent and such a treat. The service was good too! Our dedicated police staff and sponsorship by the Patrolmen’s Association deserve a great big Thank-You.  Please let them know we appreciated their good will.”

Organized by Officer Will Bishop and hosted at the Fire Department, rave reviews went to the cook, Officer Michael Gazaille, and his helpers, Administrative Assistant Tracy Giacomini and Officers Will Bishop and Stephanie Immelt.

Brenden Cooney and Chuck Cummens, paramedics with the Fire Department, talked about the importance of completing File of Life cards and keeping one in your wallet and one on your refrigerator with up-to-date information. Island Food Products, Vineyard Propane, Packer Fuel, Dairy Queen, and Donaroma’s Nursery were recognized for their donations and support.

Jean Brennan said it best, “Please let them know we appreciated their delicious food, generosity, and good will.”

Wendy Benedetto

Director of Senior Services

Edgartown Council on Aging

To the Editor:

Last week, I started reading the recently published book This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. What an informative, disturbing eye-opener it is!

Also, a few weeks ago I purchased a package of frozen sugar snap peas at Stop & Shop. Occasionally, I check the “product of” label. Guess what? They were a product of China! What are we doing?

Hopefully, people who are concerned about the fate of our threatened Earth will make a commitment to read Naomi Klein’s excellent book. We need to become informed and involved in urging leaders in industry and government to work together on a timely and effective plan for the environment before it is too late.

Ann Deitrich


To the Editor:

It comes to mind that the Land Bank repaired the walking trails of Tradewinds Airport with a material foreign to the site. The old trails were indeed sand, well packed and smooth with vegetation creeping into the pathway here and there — a most pleasant walking trail of indigenous material, part of the ecology of the sand plain that is of concern to us all. The new material forms pathways wider than the original and is a coarse, rough sand with large uneven gravel and stones that stops all plant growth and is devilish to walk on. In addition the pathways throw this gravel and stones out into the sand plain, amongst the grasses. If anyone brought such a foreign and dissimilar material to any Island beach they would be cited and forced to remove it. So the Land Bank is causing its own degradation of this remarkable and treasured place.

Is there any way we can have our old pathways back, or is the integrity of the sand plain compromised forever?

James Weisman

Vineyard Haven

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he sign visitors see at the corner of Water and Union streets as they exit the ferry in Vineyard Haven will be made more welcoming with some new lettering and a facelift, the Tisbury selectmen agreed at a meeting this week. –Photo by Michael Cummo

The Tisbury selectmen met in regular session Tuesday night, following an executive session that included two department of public works (DPW) grievance hearings.

Selectmen Jon Snyder (chairman) and Melinda Loberg approved a request from roofing contractor Christopher Cottrell to close Center Street for two weekdays in order to replace the roof on the building where Mardell’s gift store is located. Mr. Cottrell was instructed to coordinate the project with emergency services departments, the building and zoning department, and abutters. He said the work would be scheduled subject to weather, and take place between 8 am and 4 pm on two consecutive days.

Ms. Loberg brought up the subject of ocean sand mining and concerns raised by Islanders about possible areas for a pilot program the state is considering between the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk. She and Mr. Snyder voted to ask town administrator Jay Grande to draft a letter to the state outlining Tisbury’s concerns.

In other business, the selectmen voted to reappoint George Balco as Tisbury’s representative to the Steamship Authority’s Port Council for a term of two years. They also approved a three-year contract, with an option for an additional two years, with the town’s longstanding auditors, Scanlon and Associates.

In addition, the selectmen discussed and approved a letter drafted by the Planning Board regarding the town’s design preferences for improvements to Beach Road proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

At Planning Board chairman Dan Seidman’s suggestion, the selectmen agreed to ask the department of public works to spruce up and replace missing letters on the sign that welcomes visitors to Vineyard Haven near the Steamship Authority.

Mr. Snyder noted that Selectman Tristan Israel was absent, due to illness, but is on the mend. “I hope all of you will keep him in your thoughts,” Ms. Loberg said.