Events

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Nectar's was packed with 50s-style outfits during the annual Rock Auction last Saturday, Oct. 15. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

It was a packed house at Nectar’s this past Saturday, Oct. 15, for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School’s annual Rock Auction. Close to $22,000 was raised from ticket sales and the auction, MC’d by Laura Sargent Hall, president of the Board of Trustees, and school Development Director Paul Karasik.

Dressed in ’50s garb, partiers enjoyed skits, a hula hoop contest, a twist-a-thon, and a game of chance with a Lucy and Ricky Ricardo theme.

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Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks begins the Speakeasy Series. — Photo by Randi Baird

Two authors and two poets will participate in a fundraising series for the West Tisbury Library’s extensive renovation and expansion project. On three evenings throughout the fall and winter, State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury will host informal talks with writers of note in a series entitled Speakeasy.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks will be the speaker and guest of honor, followed by her husband, author/journalist Tony Horwitz on November 29, and a pair of poets, Fanny Howe and Jennifer Tseng, on January 4. The evenings will include a short talk by the authors followed by passed hors d’oeuvres and other refreshments and a meet and mingle with the authors. Tickets must be purchased for the entire series and are $125/per event or $300 for the entire series.

Ms. Brooks says she will speak on “the process of writing historic fiction with particular reference to my book ‘Caleb’s Crossing.'” The Australian-born author has written four historical novels, including two bestsellers and the Pulitzer Prize-winner “March.” Ms. Brooks is a former journalist, who among other things, worked for The Wall Street Journal covering crises in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. Her latest novel, “Caleb’s Crossing,” published earlier this year, is based partly on the story of a local Wampanoag man who was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665. The story is told from the perspective of a young Puritan girl. The New York Times praised the book and “Caleb’s Crossing” has received a lot of attention, particularly here on the Island.

The Speakeasy series will be a final fundraising push to raise the matching funds necessary to qualify for a provisional construction grant awarded to the library in July. The state has put up close to $3 million towards the expansion project, which will essentially double the size of the small library, contingent on the remainder of the $6 million estimated cost of construction being raised.

According to library director Beth Kramer, the library hopes to raise a quarter of the total through fundraising and private donations by January 31 and will seek the balance from the town during the April town meeting. The fundraising campaign is just past the half-way mark ($750,000).

Ms. Brooks and Mr. Horwitz live full-time on the Island and recently moved, along with their two young sons, from Vineyard Haven to West Tisbury. When asked to participate in the fundraiser, the couple agreed enthusiastically. Says Ms. Brooks of the fundraising efforts, “It’s thrilling to see how the community is pitching in and contributing according to their ability. Whether it’s an event with locals baking cookies or musicians donating their time, we’re all doing what we can and hopefully we’ll get there.”

Ms. Brooks notes that the library project is one that is near and dear to her heart. “When I was growing up the library was absolutely fundamental to my family,” she says. “We went to the library every week. We didn’t have much money and it was indispensable to be able to access all of the riches of the library.”

Mr. Horwitz, November’s featured author, is also a Pulitzer Prize winner for National Reporting. A former journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and as a staff writer for The New Yorker, Mr. Horwitz has written six books, four of which have been national and New York Times bestsellers.

In January, the series will conclude with an evening with two poets — Ms. Tseng and Ms. Howe. Between them, the women have won numerous awards for their work. Ms. Tseng has been published in a number of the country’s preeminent poetry journals, and Ms. Howe has published more than 20 volumes of poetry and a similar number of works of fiction.

Mary and Jackson Kenworth, co-owners of State Road Restaurant, offered some time ago to produce and host the Speakeasy Series in support of the library. Says Ms. Kramer, “Mary’s concept was to have these very intimate evenings with these really outstanding literary people who also want to help the library.”

The Kenworths hope to continue the series in the spring. In an email statement, Ms. Kenworth says, “There is no place like a library. It connects us with knowledge, cures our curiosities, and inspires our dreams. Our love for the Town of West Tisbury and our commitment to its future could not be better honored than by supporting the Library.”

Speakeasy Series with Geraldine Brooks, 5:30 pm, Wednesday, Oct. 26, State Road Restaurant, West Tisbury. Series continues Nov. 29, Jan. 4. $125/each; $300/series. Sign-up: 508-693-3489.

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— Ralph Stewart

Watch the video for a quick summary of this week’s top headlines and upcoming events.

Thursday

National Fossil Day: 4–7:30 pm, Oak Bluffs Library, Oak Bluffs. With Fred Hotchkiss. Bring fossils and see collection. Free. 508-693-9433; smurphy@clamsnet.org.

Friday

15th Anniversary Party: 5:30–8 pm, Vineyard Tennis Center Workout & Spa, airport, Edgartown. Refreshments, hors d’oeuvres. Free. 508-696-8000.

Speed Dating: 7 pm, Sharky’s Cantina, Edgartown. Meet Island singles. Hosted by Plan-It Martha’s Vineyard. speeddatingmv.com.

Theater: “Hot Tickets” 7:30 pm, The Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. A collection of short plays. vineyardplayhouse.org.

Saturday

Kids Clothing & Book Swap: 9:30 am–1:30 pm, West Tisbury School, West Tisbury. Most items for kids grades K-6. All free. Leftovers donated to charity.

Family Fun Day: 10 am–2 pm, Middletown Nursery, West Tisbury. Pumpkins, pony rides, refreshments. Free. 508-696-7600.

Pumpkin Festival: 11 am–3 pm, Morning Glory Farm, Edgartown. Hay rides, games, hay maze, food, pumpkin carving contest, more.

Sunday

Local Wild Food Challenge: 4 pm, M.V. Rod & Gun Club, Edgartown. 2nd annual event. Prizes. localwildfoodchallenge.com.

Opening Reception: The Art of Personal Alters 4–6 pm, Featherstone, Oak Bluffs. Show runs through Nov. 2. 508-693-1850; featherstoneart.org.

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— Ralph Stewart

Reminder: Steamship Authority schedule changes in effect beginning today. Until January 3, 2012, all ferries will depart and arrive in Vineyard Haven.

1:30 pm: Play “Barrymore” at Tisbury Senior Center in Vineyard Haven. The life and times of bad boy actor John Barrymore with actor Richard Clark. Free. 508-696-4205.

3:15 – 5:45 pm: Each week is a differently themed Children’s Art class with Lani Carney. Pre-register: 508-693-1850.

5 pm: Edgartown Republican Town Committee meeting at the town hall.

5 pm: Legion Dinner beginning with happy hour at 5:30 then lasagna dinner at 6:30. The event agenda will consist of installation of officers and a short meeting. 508-693-9257.

5:30 pm: Film screening at Chilmark Library. Watch “Sissinghurst,” a BBC documentary.

7 – 8:30 pm: Poetry writing class at Featherstone Center for Arts in Oak Bluffs.

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Fall cleanse

Benefit for Tawnya

Trick and trade

Recycle your old Halloween costume and get a new look for this year. The Oak Bluffs Library is hosting a Halloween Costume swap on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 10:30 am to 3 pm. Bring a costume (or a few) to the library any time before 6 pm on Friday, Oct. 21, and receive a ticket to gain entry to the swap.

Grand Tasting attendees last year enjoyed a variety of wine and food at The Boathouse in Edgartown. This year, it's at The Field Club. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Paradoxically, it starts with dessert and ends with brunch. And in between a dessert and liqueur pairing on Friday and the event-closing Sunday brunch, the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival will take guests through many menus and many nations with wine pairing dinners, seminars, and cooking classes. The fifth annual festival starts on Friday evening, Oct. 14, runs all day Saturday, and concludes with the grand buffet brunch at Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel on Sunday.

Participating in the festival will be chefs from Island restaurants, a number of chefs from around New England and California, and wine maker Joseph Carr, among others.

Highlights include the Grand Tasting on Saturday evening at which guests can sample a variety of global wines and foods prepared by local and celebrity chefs; the Joseph Carr wine dinner featuring food by chef Joe daSilva of Saltwater Restaurant in Vineyard Haven; a cooking class by Chef Dante deMagistris, executive chef and co-owner of Restaurant Dante in Cambridge; and a tapas challenge between Levon Wallace of Water Street in Edgartown and Andy Husbands, owner of Boston’s Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel. Mr. Husbands competed in the sixth season of Fox Television Network’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and has written two cookbooks.

This year, for the first time, the festival will have as its beneficiary a single Island organization — the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club. In previous years, a percentage of the proceeds was split among various charitable groups, including the Edgartown-based after-school facility. Says Robin Jones, the festival’s publicist, “We’re aligning it with a mission of helping kids make healthy choices nutritionally. We want Island kids to have access to healthy foods.” The money raised for the Boys and Girls Club will go towards installing an up-to-date operating kitchen and jumpstarting an after-school nutritional snack program. Ms. Jones says, “In the beginning there was no real mission behind the festival. All of a sudden the festival has real legs and we needed a mission.”

An effort has also been made this year to include chefs and restaurants beyond the festival’s Edgartown base. Saltwater in Vineyard Haven will host a dinner, and events in Oak Bluffs were scheduled but were cancelled due to limited advance ticket sales. Says Ms. Jones, “Our goal is to make it truly an Island-wide event. We have the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Edgartown Board of trade, and the Oak Bluffs community.”

According to Ms. Jones, the MV Food and Wine Festival began in 2007 when a group of business leaders in Edgartown wanted to do something to extend the business season beyond the Columbus Day weekend. Since then the Festival has grown and has become a destination for visitors. Last year, approximately 500 guests attended the Grand Tasting.

“We think the Vineyard has outstanding food and hospitality,” Ms. Jones said. “The goal is to promote Vineyard chefs. From major restaurants to smaller ones, all were invited to participate.” A further effort is to bring well-known chefs to the attention of Islanders. Says Ms. Jones, “Not everyone on Island can go off-Island to go to Boston restaurants.” She adds, “The local chefs love pairing up with Boston chefs.”

Says Mr. Husbands of Boston, who has been involved with the festival since the beginning, as well as many other festivals nationwide, “What’s really great about the chef community is that we’re all kind of related. If we don’t know each other, there’s at least that six degrees of separation.” He just returned from China where he travelled with a group of 10 chefs. Even prior to the Vineyard festival, he had spent quite a lot of time on the Island and notes that it was “a no-brainer” when he was initially asked to participate. “I love, love, love to cook. It’s such a fun thing to be able to travel and work.”

Ms. Jones says of the Vineyard guests, “We were very impressed last year. The people were very sophisticated. This is an affluent, educated crowd who comes. We’ve never wanted it to be a 20-something event.”

Ms. Jones notes that, unlike other festivals, the small scale of the Vineyard event adds to its attraction. “It’s pretty intimate. It isn’t a trade show,” she said. “You really get the time to sit with Joe Carr or Nancy Cushman [sake sommelier and co-proprietor of o ya restaurant in Boston] having very one-on-one, in depth conversations with vintners.”

For a schedule of events, visit mvfoodandwine.com.

Gwyn McAllister, of Oak Bluffs, is a frequent contributor to The Times.

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From left: Mary McCarthy, Juniper Enzano, Madison McBride, Whitney Schroeder enjoy the party on Friday night. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. The rich, luscious aroma hits you even before your eyes can gather in the deep brown bounty before you.

Featherstone Center for the Arts once again this year provided a concert of cocoa confectionaries at its annual Chocolate Festival.

Aficionados kicked off the event on Friday evening, Oct. 7, with a chic chocolate preview party, getting an advance taste of chocolate bread pudding with cherry ganache, chocolate macaroons, and chocolate truffles.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of visitors sampled chocolate-covered apricots, hand-dipped chocolates, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, and the ever popular chocolate fountain.

Can there be a more fitting symbol of guilty gluttony than a continuous river of warm chocolate? Good thing the Featherstone fundraiser is only once a year, at least for our waistlines, if not for our palates.

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Is foraging the new web surfing?

Though it’s unlikely to take hold as an international craze, it seems that in a number of communities, including the Vineyard, people are getting in touch with their primitive hunting and gathering nature and are discovering that the famously elusive “free lunch” can be a reality, courtesy of Mother Nature.

The signs are everywhere. Last month, a mushroom expert led folks on an identification walk through Polly Hill Arboretum. Native Earth Teaching Farm has begun a community project to develop an edible forest, and starting tonight, Oct. 13, ACE MV will hold a five week class on identifying and preparing wild edibles.

Then, there’s the Local Wild Food Challenge.

This Sunday, Oct. 16, for the second year in a row, a cook-off will pit professional chefs as well as amateur cooks against each other in a contest that rewards ingenuity and effort in gathering wild ingredients, as much as culinary skills.

The contest, which will take place at the Rod and Gun Club in Edgartown, is the brainchild of private chef and world traveler Billy Manson. Last year Mr. Manson organized a Local Wild Food Challenge in his native New Zealand. Mr. Manson’s friend Kevin Crowell owner/chef of Detente restaurant in Edgartown, was a judge. It was a great success and Mr. Crowell encouraged his friend to try the event here. Now, along with the Vineyard challenge, there are annual events in Easbourne, NZ and Punkaharju, Finland, a small municipality in eastern Finland.

Last October at Detente, an impressive 36 Vineyarders entered dishes using ingredients ranging from the predictable (scallops, clams, bluefish, venison, rose hips) to the unusual (snapping turtle, sea snails, salsify root, dandelions) The winner, Dan Sauer, owner of 7a Foods and 7a Farm, and previously chef at the Outermost Inn, dug deep into the Island’s bounty to create a dish that incorporated wild goose, chicken of the woods (a wild mushroom), stinging nettles, and Russian olives (a type of berry). He even harvested his own sea salt for seasoning. As last year’s winner, Mr. Sauer will be judging this year along with Mr. Crowell and Mr. Manson.

Although Mr. Sauer has been utilizing wild foods in his cooking for quite some time, he notes that since last year’s challenge, he and other chefs have become more aware of foraging opportunities. Mr. Manson concurs. Since launching the events he’s been urged by participants to check out new discoveries, both here and in his seasonal home in New Zealand. “I’ve found myself fishing and hunting and gathering with cool people all over the place,” Mr. Manson says.

And that’s the kind of response Mr. Manson was hoping for. He says, “We’re trying to push a conservation mission through. If you get deeper into your environment you’re getting more interested and understanding it better. For the individuals entering and watching there’s an indication of what is out there and what is possible and and why it’s important to protect.”

However, Mr. Manson cautions participants to “Understand the legal limit, tread lightly where you go, and, if in doubt, leave it out.” That last warning applies not just to mushrooms and berries, but also to foods that may not be toxic, but just unpalatable like the horse chestnuts that someone served up last year in lieu of wild chestnuts.

Mr. Manson stresses that the judges take more than just culinary talent into account. “We judge on taste, ingredient, presentation, and effort,” he says. “Each of these categories is worth the same amount of points. This means the amateur can take on the pro easily.”

“The more descriptive the story of how the ingredients were procured, and how Island bounty has been tapped into, the better. We encourage people to use Island farms and gardens to augment their dishes.”

The kitchen facilities at the Rod and Gun Club will be available for last-minute cooking but Mr. Manson instructs participants to do as much prep work in advance as possible.

The grand prize, for which every entrant is eligible, is a trip on a motor yacht to Nantucket. Second and third place prizes will be awarded in both professional and amateur categories. There are a number of other categories including best effort, wildest ingredient, and best story behind ingredients. A kid’s prize of a pizza and gelato party for 30 at Lattanzi’s will also be awarded. All in all, the prizes, all provided by local businesses and individuals, are valued at a total exceeding $5,000.

Jellyfish jelly?

The Finnish and especially the New Zealand participants have shown a good deal of ingenuity. Among the unusual dishes from New Zealand were jellyfish jelly, carmelized cicadas, and wild boar caught by a young woman. The winner from Finland prepared wild barley and chanterelles wrapped in grape leaves and also wild thyme biscotti and arctic raspberry wine. The Finnish entrants included a lot of wild mushrooms.

“The Finns have multigenerational knowledge,” Mr. Manson said. “They have foraging in their blood. They are all very close to the land.”

Vineyarders may not know the forest as well, but they do know the sea. According to Mr. Manson, “The average Vineyarder knows a lot about what’s on the coast. Each place seems to have their own expertise that’s passed on through the generations.” He adds, “Each time we do it, it’s a really great local feeling.”

Mr. Manson and his wife Sarah are winemakers and amateur gardeners in their winter home in southern New Zealand and they often barter wild foods with their friends there. Mr. Manson has established a website, localwildfoodchallenge.com, and he hopes for the initiative to grow. He says, “From a little embryonic idea we’ve put a plan together.”

Local Wild Food Challenge, Sunday, Oct. 16, 4 pm, MV Rod and Gun Club, the Boulevard, Edgartown. Free. Entrants are strongly encouraged to preregister through the website or by email to info@localwildfoodchallenge.com.

ACE MV class Wild Edibles will take place at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on 5 pm Thursdays from 4–6 pm starting on October 13. Fee is $135. acemv.org.

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— File photo by Illustration by CK Wolfson

Are you single and looking to meet someone but have become frustrated with going online, sifting through pictures of people that were most likely taken sometime during the Clinton administration, only to wind up in a date with a person who had seemed like your perfect virtual match, but in the real world not so much?

Does the loud music at bars seem to ruin any chance of having a conversation, or have you sworn off blind dates for fear of being stuck with someone for the evening who you realized that you didn’t like within the first five minutes?

There may now be a solution to these kinds of problems. A local business, Plan-It Martha’s Vineyard, already known on the Island for organizing weddings, rehearsal dinners, conferences, catering, and parties, among other things, has announced the first in a series of speed dating events at Sharky’s Cantina in Edgartown on Friday night, Oct. 14.

For those who may not have heard of it before, speed dating is where men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short “dates.” Each date will last five minutes, and at the end of this time a new date with a new person will begin. After all the men and women have had a chance for a date, they will each submit a list to the Plan-It MV organizers of whom they would be interested in getting to know further. If two participants end up being on each other’s lists, Plan-It MV will send them each other’s email addresses.

Using just email addresses helps maintain the privacy of those involved, and participants also are not allowed to exchange information such as phone numbers during the date. This also helps with privacy and eliminates the pressure some might feel of having to directly reject someone in whom they are not interested.

Speed dating has been gaining attention as of late, partly due to its portrayal in various television programs such as “Sex in the City.” One humorous scene from the series showed the character, Miranda, participating in a speed-dating event. After noticing that her first few dates had lost interest when she told them that she was a powerful lawyer, she switched tactics and began telling her dates she was a stewardess, at which point they took a keen interest in her.

The benefits to speed dating seem promising compared to the more traditional ways of meeting people. Unlike being at a bar or some other social event, everyone participating is looking to meet someone. Also, the dates are short enough that, even if you are with someone in whom you’re not particularly interested, you will soon be on to another date. Instead of awkwardly telling someone that you aren’t interested in them, you just have to wait a bit and say, “Wow. Was that five minutes already?”

The ultimate goal though is to make connections. “We believe that there are tons of smart, funny, successful men and women on Martha’s Vineyard,” says Doriana Klumick of Plan-It M.V. “The objective is to bring all of these people together in one room and make some connections.”

She also offered some tips and instructions for those who want to attend.

“Treat this as a first date; take time to get ready before the event. Remember, you just get one chance to make a first impression, so put your best foot forward. Also, we strongly suggest that everyone pre-registers. This helps us make sure that we can have an equal number of men and women. Anyone with questions is encouraged to email planitmarthasvineyard@gmail.com.”

Pre-registering involves going to Speed Dating Martha’s Vineyard’s website, speeddatingmv.com, and filling out a short form with some basic information. There is also a $25 fee, which is due the night of the event. This is to ensure only serious candidates are participating, and new potential matches can be met at each event.

While there may be upcoming speed-dating events with different formats, the age recommendation for this event is 30 to 45 years old. It should be a fun night, and who knows what kind of connection might be made?

Speed Dating, Friday, Oct. 14, 7 pm, Sharky’s Cantina, Edgartown. $25, ages 30-45, For more information, see speeddatingmv.com or email planitmarthasvineyard@gmail.com.

Jason Roth is from Scranton, Penn. where he worked for the Scranton Post and the Stroud Courier. He now lives in Oak Bluffs.

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— Ralph Stewart

Thursday, October 6

Pandora’s Box 1/2 off everything night party: 5:30-9:30 pm in Menemsha.

Friday, October 7

Martha’s Vineyard Yoga Festival: Friday – Sunday, 3-day yoga festival. Classes held at Beach Plum Inn and Chilmark Community Center. More information here.

Art of Chocolate Party: At Featherstone Center for Arts. Preview party on Friday from 7 to 9 pm. Tasting on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 pm. More information here.

Saturday, October 8

Family Fun Day at Middletown Nursey: 10 am – 2 pm. Pumpkin carving, pony rides and refreshments. Free. 680 State Rd. West Tisbury, 508-696-7600.

Spaghetti Dinner: From 5:30 to 8 pm at Oak Bluffs Senior Center. $12 adults; $10 with race registration; $6 kids (13-under). Chef John Petrosinelli will be cooking up a sumptous spaghetti dinner, garlic bread & salad. All proceeeds benefit Vineyard House, a non-profit organization that provides support to islanders in the early stages of recovery.

Sunday, October 9

Fiddlehead Farm Stand Annual Fall Celebration and End of Season Sale: 9 am to 6 pm, fun for the whole family. Cider Pressing and live music starts at 11 am.

The 22nd Annual Oak Bluffs Columbus Day 5K Road Race & 1 Mile Fun Run: Registration is at Wesley Hotel. Fun Run begins at 10:30 am. Road Race begins at 11 am.