Good Taste

Chowder from The Newes from America. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Once the temperatures drop, we instantly start craving steaming-hot soups, stews, and chowders, especially here in New England. Although the month of October seemed like an extension of summer, November has arrived, with its chilly nights and threats of snow. So pull out the slow cookers, the Dutch ovens, and the stockpots, because it’s time to start making soup. We’ll also explore the Island in search of some of the best soup offerings during the off-season, as well as giving you some tips and tricks from Island chefs.

Chefs’ favorites

Jan Burhman of Kitchen Porch Catering tells us that this time of year, she loves roasting butternut squash — both for dinner, and as preparation for soup. “It’s easy and nourishing,” she says. Ms. Buhrman starts most of her soups by gently sautéing two onions or leeks in butter or coconut oil and sprinkling in curry powder and minced ginger (interchanging spices depending on desired flavor). Then she adds her favorite stock and stirs in roasted squash, letting it simmer for 10 minutes. A quick pulse in the blender creates a smooth, seasonal soup.

Chef Jeremy Davis of The Port Hunter says his all-time favorite soup to make is an aromatic blend of spices and fresh herbs. “I make a fantastic red and green curry broth using fragrant lemongrass and rich coconut milk,” he says. By sautéing the curry paste with his favorite seasonal vegetables and housemade broth, he creates a base that he then uses alongside fresh seafood like mussels. The secret behind a great soup, according to Mr. Davis, is “it either has the property to warm you up or cool you down.”

For Chef Christian Thornton of Atria, “Nothing is better than matzo ball soup. The smells and memories it evokes in me are amazing.” When you visit the restaurant on Main Street in Edgartown, you’ll notice he keeps the matzo ball soup at home and creates gorgeous, silky-smooth soups for his customers. His current favorite? Oven-roasted butternut squash soup with curry crème fraîche and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Good Taste recommendations

My recommendations, based on generous amounts of soups I’ve consumed in the past five years of living on the Island, are solely based on flavors. Be sure to check them out if you can:

In Edgartown, try the French onion soup at The Newes Pub. It’s broth-based, with a hint of sherry wine that pairs perfectly with its topping of bread and three varieties of cheeses. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly day, especially by the fireplace at The Newes, a perfect winter spot.

In Oak Bluffs, stop by Offshore Ale and check out their daily soup special, always a fantastic lunch option. Offshore’s annual promotion of “Buy 5 lunches, get the 6th free” runs now through May 2015.

In Vineyard Haven, try the hot and sour soup at Copper Wok when you’re craving mainland Asian flavors. This soup is extremely hearty, and although the broth is light, it’s packed with cabbage, bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, bell peppers, and a hint of Chinese vinegar to balance it all out. Another don’t-miss spot in Vineyard Haven is Tisberry, the frozen-yogurt shop, which also serves up a variety of daily specials of fresh soups, including but not limited to Southwestern vegetable and chicken, sweet Italian sausage, mulligatawny, ginger carrot artichoke, pasta fagioli, and sweet corn chowder.

Up-Island, try the lobster bisque at Larsen’s Fish Market when all you need is a creamy, luscious soup packed with fresh, sweet lobster meat. Be careful: This one is addictive. Even if you live down-Island, this bisque will have you making the trek to Menemsha more than once a week.

Whether you decide to try some of the local offerings or are inspired to try making your own soups at home, you’ve got a bounty of seasonal produce to choose from at local farms and markets. North Tabor Farm has harvested some gorgeous sweet potatoes, and Morning Glory Farm always has vibrant cooking greens, perfect for soups and stews.

Soup-making tips and tricks

  • Create a “stock bucket”: When cooking, save the ends and scraps of vegetables in a bucket in your fridge. By the end of the week, you’ll have enough to throw in a pot, cover with water, and simmer to make homemade vegetable stock. If you’re saving bones from a roast chicken to make chicken stock, freeze the bones until you have enough to make stock.
  • Taste and season as you go, but remember that the more you reduce your soup, the saltier it will become, so check your salt toward the end. Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt adds great depth of flavor to any soup.
  • Bust out that slow cooker! It’s perfect for throwing in stock and vegetables, as well as whatever protein you’ve got; it will do the cooking for you.
  • Living a dairy-free lifestyle, but craving a creamy soup? Use puréed potatoes (regular or sweet potatoes) or whisk in a slurry (cornstarch and water) to add a creamy texture.
  • Always make a double batch of soup — it freezes nicely, and provides you with meals when you’re not up for cooking.

It's time to trade in iced coffee for a warm pumpkin spice latte, full of fall flavor. —Photo by Marnely Rodriguez-Murray

Once the boot-wearing, coat-wrapping, scarf-using weather descends on the Island, our iced coffees of the summer turn into warm caffeinated beverages to get us through the cooler part of the year. Every September, Starbucks unveils their annual Pumpkin Spice Latte. This year, some people were sipping on their PSLs by August 25. A bit early, don’t you think? But now that October is here, it’s chilly enough for all of us to jump on the PSL wagon.

Whether you’re a cappuccino fan or a chai latte addict, I’d like to introduce you to the homemade version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Since Starbucks popularized the drink, it’s become a cult favorite among the young and old, the rich and poor. For me, it’s a love/hate relationship. I love the flavors and nostalgia a PSL evokes, but I hate the artificial ingredients in most store-bought versions. With the local, real-foods recipe below, you can make as much Pumpkin Spice Lattes as you’d like!

Start by securing a local pumpkin at Morning Glory Farm, and don’t forget that their annual Pumpkin Festival is on October 18, from 11 am-3 pm. The day includes fun and games for all ages, pony rides, hayrides, farm tour, hay maze, pumpkin carving and decorating, face painting, raffles, tee-shirts, and fabulous farm food.

Before leaving Morning Glory, grab a bag of freshly roasted Chilmark Coffee from their farm stand. Todd Christy at Chilmark Coffee strives to roast the best coffee beans available to him, so his coffee is a great choice for this latte. If possible, grind the beans yourself the day you’re making this drink. Freshly ground beans have a stronger flavor and aroma than week-old ground beans.

Head up-Island to The Grey Barn and grab some of their fantastic certified organic, raw milk from grass-fed cows. If you’re going to make the best Pumpkin Spice Latte, you might as well be using the best milk.

Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe

Recipe makes 1 latte; makes enough syrup for about 10 lattes

For the spiced pumpkin puree (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 Morning Glory Farm pumpkin, roasted with the seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

For the pumpkin syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup maple or agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups spiced pumpkin puree

For the Pumpkin Spice Latte:

  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin spice syrup
  • 2 shots of Chilmark Coffee espresso
  • 1 cup The Grey Barn Raw Milk
  • Whipped cream, to taste

To make the spiced pumpkin puree, puree the roasted pumpkin flesh with the spices, using a blender. Whisk in the spices.

To make the pumpkin syrup: over low heat in a small saucepan, melt the condensed milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and kosher salt together until it slowly simmers.

To make the latte: over medium heat in a small saucepan, whisk together the syrup, espresso, and milk until hot. Serve in a large mug and top with whipped cream.

It's pumpkin time at Morning Glory Farm's annual Pumpkin Festival. —Photo by Marnely Rodriguez-Murray
It’s pumpkin time at Morning Glory Farm’s annual Pumpkin Festival. —Photo by Marnely Rodriguez-Murray

No time to make your own latte? Stop by the following local coffee shops for more Pumpkin Spice Latte love:

  • Espresso Love, 17 Church Street, Edgartown (Small: $4.80)
  • Mocha Mott’s, 10 Circuit Ave, Oak Bluffs or 15 Main Street, Vineyard Haven (Small: $3.70)
  • Edgartown Meat and Fish Market, 240 Vineyard Haven Rd., Edgartown (Small: $3.89)

Pizza at the Beach Plum is wood fired in their new oven. —Photo by Gabrielle Herman

There are a lot of amazing things about pizza — gooey cheese, herby sauces, crispy-chewy dough — and there are a lot of amazing places to grab a slice on this Island. But sometimes pizza is about more than quick and easy takeout. Pizza is best shared with friends, but even better when shared with a community. Almost everyone loves pizza. And there’s something beautifully symbolic about dividing a circle into shareable wedges — especially when the community pitches in to build the pizza oven. This fall, get a taste of that collaborative spirit at one of these up-Island pizza parties:

The Beach Plum Restaurant

In partnership with Island Grown Schools, the Beach Plum restaurant in Menemsha will host Thursday-night pizza nights from 5 pm to 9 pm until they close on Oct. 19.

“The Beach Plum is excited to introduce the community to its beautiful new wood oven,” Elana Carlson of the Beach Plum wrote in a press release. Construction of the oven started at the beginning of the summer, with help from craftspeople in the community. Beach Plum chef Chris Fischer and intern Miles Cornwall poured the foundation; Allan Klein and Andy Magdanz sourced, assembled, and set the oven, and mason John Maloney laid the brick and built the façade.

The Beach Plum collaborated with Island Grown Schools for several fundraising dinners this summer. For the 250-person IGS event in June, local students experienced the behind-the-scenes of the restaurant world, helping with hosting, waiting tables, and even managing the restaurant.

This fall, students are harvesting with Beach Plum staff at a different farm each week. Last Tuesday students harvested vegetables at Beetlebung Farm with the Chilmark Garden Club. Those vegetables were served on top of pizzas the next night.

The restaurant offers a limited menu on pizza nights. Last week included vegetable sides, a kale salad, two entrées, and dessert. Pizza choices will vary. Last week guests enjoyed a pork, nettles, fennel, and chili pie, a long-cooked greens, scallion, garlic, and sheep cheese pie, and a tomato, panna, and arugula pie. The Beach Plum is a BYOB establishment.

Pizza to-go orders can be placed calling: 508-645-9454. The Beach Plum is open Thursday, Friday, and Sunday through Oct. 19. For more information, visit beachplumrestaurant.com.

Orange Peel Bakery

Most Wednesday nights from 5 pm to 8 pm, the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah has the outdoor wood oven fired up for make-your-own-pizza night. Orange Peel provides about 60 balls of homemade dough, plus sauce and cheese. Guests bring their own toppings to share on a pizza assembly line, and BYOB. The suggested donation is $10. “Anything goes” as a pizza topping, according to Orange Peel’s web site. “Consider olives, peppers, pineapples, pepperoni, feta cheese, onions, herbs, quahogs, mushrooms, duck, chicken, asparagus, and pesto.” Because it takes place outdoors, pizza night is always weather-permitting. In November, pizza night will move to Saturday nights. For updates, find the Orange Peel Bakery on Facebook, or visit orangepeelbakery.com.

Chilmark Community Church

After a summer hiatus, pizza nights have returned to the Chilmark Community Church, every Tuesday at 6 pm through Nov. 25. The tradition is to come for pizza and bring a potluck dessert to share. Afterward, adults have a Bananagrams tournament while kids are free to run and play games outside. It’s a nice break from both the TV and the dinner, and all are welcome. Free. For more information, call 508-645-3100.

Longtime fan of Hopps Farm beer Bob Gusa with restaurant and retail operations manager Jessie Holtham. — Photo by Siobhan Beasley

Offshore Ale Co. celebrated the annual release of the Hopps Farm Road Pale Ale on tap at its Oak Bluffs brewery and alehouse on Tuesday, Sept. 23. While Eric Johnson and Jeremy Berlin played their Tuesday-night live jazz set, customers enjoyed food specials paired with the Pale Ale. “This much-anticipated beer draws a local following,” said Jessie Holtham, restaurant and retail operations manager at Offshore.

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Jon Hartzband manned the bar for the busy grand tapping.

The Hopps Farm Road Pale Ale is brewed annually each fall with locally grown hops, primarily from the West Tisbury road of its namesake. “Regular customers Alan Northcott and Ken Rusczyk began a hobby of growing hops on their Island properties five years ago,” Ms. Holtham said. “They offered their hops to Offshore Ale Co. who graciously accepted.” A core group of volunteers — mostly friends of Mr. Northcott, Mr. Rusczyk, and Offshore staff — carry out the harvesting each year. The hops are grown on tall trellises and poles. When the poles are brought down, the hop vines are slipped off and onto a large table where the volunteers pluck the hop cones and gather them in baskets.

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Offshore drew a full house to celebrate the release of Hopps Farm Road Pale Ale on Tuesday.

Offshore has been brewing the Hopps Farm Road with contributions from Island growers for five years now. “It’s a pale ale, but a little light on the malt flavor to really let the fresh hop character come through,” Neil Atkins, head brewer at Offshore, said. This year, he brewed 10 barrels — 310 gallons — of Hopps Farm.

“Moderately spicy foods will pair well with this Pale Ale,” Ms. Holtham said. “And locally grown foods will complement the locally grown hops.” On Tuesday, special pairings included local blackback flounder from Menemsha Fish House and local acorn squash from Norton Farm.

The "Rasputin's Revenge" pancakes from the Black Dog. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Before you bite into your next breakfast, do you know where it’s been? I’m not talking about your cook’s loose interpretation of the five-second rule. Nor am I suggesting that your food once shook hands with a molecule of gluten (for shame!) and didn’t wash. I won’t even discuss the farm whence your eggs came, and whether or not that farmer’s neighbor allowed the chickens to play in his yard. I’m talking about the metaphorical “been.” The big been. As in, does your meal have a history, a backstory, a name worthy of something other than “eggs and bacon”? If you’re eating at an Island restaurant, the Magic 8 Ball says: “Outlook good.”

Sure, there’re plenty of restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard where you can order eggs and bacon. Or two eggs and two strips of bacon, and so forth in various numerical increments. But this is a land of artists, and writers, and creative types who shun the straightforward. At many Island restaurants, you may have to read the fine print to know just what it is you’re ordering. There are a lot of geographical locations on the menu: Chops and Beaches and Katamas (which almost always have avocado — whether or not there’s a reason for that, Magic 8 Ball says: “Better not tell you now”).

The menu names get even weirder, but if you want to know why, the 8 Ball won’t tell you. Yes, there is a limit to everything, even omniscience. You’ll have to ask the cooks.

Biscuits in Oak Bluffs generally favors the straightforward menu items, until you scroll down and reach “The Stormin’ Norman” omelette. Owner Chris Arcudi says he named the menu item after a hyperactive childhood friend. “He was always storming around, so I called him Stormin’ Norman. I wanted to name a dish after him, and it has all the things he likes: bacon, ham, sausage, and onion.” ($7.99.*)

The Art Cliff Diner in Vineyard Haven has a few quirky names on its menu, but most of them are coded to the ingredients inside. The Smokin’ in the Shower, for instance, is a toasted bagel with smoked (get it?) salmon, red onion, tomato, cream cheese, capers, and a shower of lemon. ($10.50.)

Some menu items on the Vineyard have been around so long that the staff can’t remember exactly why they are called what they are called. Nadine Barrett, a server at Linda Jean’s, can confirm that the “Jacob” was named after one of the cook’s kids “back in the day when Linda Jean’s first opened. He would come in here and eat home fries with onion, tomato, broccoli, spinach and cheddar cheese all the time.” ($7.99.) The “Sampson” (two pancakes, two eggs & two sausage patties, $9.99) she wasn’t so sure about, but she believes it was the name of someone’s pet. “We’ve had a lot of menu items named after beloved animals and pets,” she said.

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“Bozo on the Bus”: poached eggs over French toast at the Black Dog. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Jeffrey Hefflin, fondly known by his staff as “Heff,” has been a cook at the Black Dog Tavern since 1986. He can remember the stories behind most of the menu items because he named them himself. After a stint in the military, Heff came to the Island to teach, but found himself drawn instead to a little shack called the Black Dog. “I saw the last of the old hippie days here. Back in the day we used to have stereo wars over Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix vs. punk rock.” Those days live on in the “Are You Experienced?” omelette with asparagus, mushrooms, and cheese. (Grass and shrooms are kitchenspeak for asparagus and mushrooms, respectively.) “They’d never let us play that type of music now,” Heff says, but he still gets to have an awful lot of fun with the menu. Here are a few of his favorites:

  • Bozo on the Bus: The “bus” in this breakfast is the French toast, which provides a sort of vessel for the poached eggs. The “bozo” used to be a customer’s name, but the customer — who definitely can’t be named now — complained and demanded to have his name taken off the menu. Heff obliged, and the next day “the so-and-so on the bus was off the menu, and the Bozo on the Bus was on.” ($9.)
  • Candy Ghost in the Big House: “Our friend got sent to Framingham for driving without a license too many times. It’s two poached eggs surrounded by four walls of French toast.”
  • Charley on the Fence: “Charley was a cook here one summer, and he was a little out of control. He crashed three cars that summer, and one was up on a fence. He’s since cleaned up his act, but he was rather infamous that summer.” (Omelette with mushrooms, onions, bacon, and melted cheese, $9.)

Wait, I’m sensing a theme here, Heff. Just how do you get your name on the Black Dog breakfast menu? “It’s usually something you’re not real proud of,” he admits. The menu is a way to immortalize the stories surrounding Black Dog customers and staff, a way to make sure what happens on Martha’s Vineyard stays — forever commemorated — on Martha’s Vineyard. Then sometimes, they just paint a funny picture.

  • Vlad Surfing the Net: “Back when the Iron Curtain fell, we had a bunch of Czechs come to the Island. Some of them worked here and some were our friends. Vlad was all into the Internet, he was just amazed by it. We couldn’t get him off the computer. I think that item was originally called Vlad has a Techno Party.” (Scrambled eggs with bacon, tomato, onion, and cheese, $8.)
  • Rasputin’s Revenge: “We had this dishwasher that looked just like Rasputin. Long hair, crazy, wild eyes. Every day he would eat strawberry chocolate chip pancakes. Dishwashers are either young kids, foreigners, or people that could have gotten a degree from MIT, but they dropped out. They’ve always got something a little wacky in their head.” (Small $6, large $8.)
The Black Dog's "Happy Heff": scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, mushrooms, and cheese. —Photo by Michael Cummo
The Black Dog’s “Happy Heff”: scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, mushrooms, and cheese. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Heff himself has made the breakfast menu hall of fame, twice, for his love/hate relationship with the morning shift.

  • Happy Heff: “They switched me to doing breakfast. I didn’t want to get up that early. I was doing lunch or dinner and I liked it because I wanted to go out at night. The happy Heff was kind of a play on my rather grumpy mood in the morning. It worked out well though, I’d much rather get up early and work now.” (Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, mushrooms, and cheese, $8.)
  • Crabby Heff: “They’re the same thing. The only difference is it has fresh crab in it.”

The next time you come across a funky name on a breakfast menu, don’t pass it over in favor of a list of ingredients. Ask your waiter. You might hear a funny story. And if you’re ordering from any of the above restaurants, you’ll surely get a breakfast that lives up to its name.

*Some menu items are specials, and their prices and contents are subject to change.

Frozen fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated right out of the bag.

It’s no secret that processed and packaged foods are laced with weird preservatives and pumped with way too much sodium. Camping food is no exception to the rule. Normally, so many calories are burned and nutrients depleted on a backpacking trip that the body can handle a couple of not-so-ideal ingredients. Unless, of course, you have food intolerances, and at least one item on that long list of packaged ingredients is guaranteed to set off your stomach.

Use a dehydrator to make a trail mix from dried fruit and your favorite nuts or seeds.

This was the problem I contemplated when planning a recent backpacking trip through Glacier National Park. Fresh food wasn’t an option four days in, and if I was going to carry my food over fifty-something miles of trails, it had to be light. Most backpackers get by with little pouches of dehydrated meals, like Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry brands. It’s not that they aren’t tasty (though pretty much anything tastes good when it’s freezing and you just hiked 20 miles), but they are full of junk, the vegetables are skimpy, and the meat comes from an unknown source which is made doubly scary when the water is sucked out and it turns to a dry, pallid gravel.

There were two options, as far as I could see. A) Eat packets of tuna three meals a day for five days, constantly attracting hungry grizzly bears, or B) Skip the middleman, and make my meals at home with a food dehydrator.

The food dehydrator is an intimidating object. Mine turned out to be way bigger than I expected, taking up half the kitchen table in my small apartment. It resembles a UFO, and though there are no blades to cut yourself on, it looks like it could easily warp you into another dimension if you pressed the wrong button. Then of course, Google complicated things by showing me “about 232,000” different ways to use it. Could I dehydrate the meat and veggies at the same time? Should I turn them halfway? Would I ever use this ginormous appliance again after my vacation? Some web sites said yes, some said no.

Eventually, I ignored all directions, cooked five homemade meals that I felt would taste good as mush, threw them into the dehydrator at 160 degrees, and waited eight hours until they felt dry to the touch. Then I poured them into plastic bags and hoped to God they would work.

“What if they don’t rehydrate right?” my boyfriend asked. “Are you sure they won’t make you sick?” my mom asked. There are ways to ensure success, I told them: You weigh the food before and after dehydration, so you know how much boiling water to add. To kill off bacteria, meat has to reach at least 145 degrees for at least 20 minutes. Of course, I hadn’t actually checked either of these things, so there was only one way to test my meals: The night before my flight, I boiled up some water and made a sampling of each. Beetlebung Farm zucchini noodles with Black Water Farm ground beef and pasta sauce. The Good Farm chicken curry. Pulled barbecue shoulder roast from Grey Barn with sweet potatoes. FARM Institute eggs and bacon. I was bringing my local ingredients on the trail with me, and they tasted just as good as the day I got them at the farm stand. And no, Mom, they did not make me sick.

It was easy cooking on the trail. I brought along my trusty insulated canteen, boiled some water on a mini fold-out stove, mixed it with my meals, and gave it about 15 minutes to come back to life. The temps drop this time of year in Montana’s mountains — we even got a little snow — and I was glad to have a hot meal in place of cold tuna fish. Plus, there was something extremely satisfying about having done it all myself. I felt like a true pioneer, preserving my food from the harvest to take up into the mountains with me. Sure, the technology of my UFO dehydrator made it easy, but the skill set is one that can benefit any self-sufficient kitchen dweller.

Maybe you don’t backpack, but maybe you have a garden on Martha’s Vineyard, and it’s harvest time, and you are still drowning in tomato and zucchini and who knows what else. Dry the extras to use in recipes. Maybe you love kale chips — try making them in the dehydrator. Maybe you love potato chips, but your bag got a little soggy at the beach — pop them in the dehydrator and they will be good as new.

Jan Buhrman, caterer and food educator at the Kitchen Porch, says a dehydrator is an especially good tool on Martha’s Vineyard because “the air is too moist, you can’t dry anything.” She uses her dehydrator for drying herbs, raw foods like corn tortillas, and preserving tomatoes “because they taste so wonderful at the peak of the season.” She’s also a big fan of making fruit leathers (kind of like a healthy Fruit Roll-Up) in the dehydrator. Looks like I may be using my dehydrator again after all.

Jan Buhrman’s Fruit Leather

  • Fresh fruit (quince, peaches, beach plums, berries, apples, pears, grapes)
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar (if needed)
  • Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Rinse the fruit. If you are working with peaches, plums, etc., take out the pits and chop the fruit. If working with apples or pears, peel and core them, then chop. If working with grapes, remove the stems. You will need to adjust the sweetness based on your taste, so sample the fruit before proceeding. Note how sweet the fruit is; add sugar as needed.

In a large saucepan, add a cup of water for every eight cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, uncover, and let cook on a low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Place the fruit in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste the fruit and add sugar in small amounts to desired level of sweetness. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time, along with a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or allspice.

Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes.

Put the purée through a food mill or chinois. Alternatively, purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth.

Pour the purée on dehydrator sheets and place in the dehydrator.

We usually keep it in the dehydrator for 12 to 24 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is not sticky and has a smooth surface.

When the fruit leather is ready, you can peel it, roll it, and place in plastic wrap. Keep it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

— Jan Buhrman

 

The Startini cocktail from l'etoile. — Nicole Jackson

The Vineyard has a different flavor after Labor Day. We all know there’s a change of pace once school starts up, the college kids ship out, and the out-of-state plates take off on the last of the full ferries.

Before long, vineripe tomatoes will be vine-ripe pumpkins, and fall flavors will be in full swing in our bars and restaurants. For many, this Labor Day weekend will be the last chance to grab a drink on the waterfront, and sip up the last drops of summer. Strawberries…watermelon…lemonade…an icy glass dewey with condensation — these drinks simply won’t be the same come September. Thirsty yet? There’s a lot of great summer drinks on the Island, so to ease your decision-making process, we surveyed a sample of bartenders for their favorite recipes.

The Island Girl: Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka with watermelon and basil from Atria.
The Island Girl: Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka with watermelon and basil from Atria.

Jay Bergantim of 20byNine

Whiskey is a great way to warm up in winter or fall, but our friends at 20byNine, which opened up on Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs earlier this summer, understand the importance of a cool summer cocktail. Their in-house whiskey guru invented this unique cocktail as a lighter addition to their menu of old-fashioneds and other traditional whiskey cocktails.

The Number Four

  • Peach Moonshine
  • Pineapple
  • Lemon
  • Shake and strain over ice into a cocktail glass
  • Garnish with a lemon twist

Goes best with: 20byNine’s quinoa salad. “They are both light; they balance each other nicely,” Bergantim said.

 

Lawrence Labounty of Copper Wok

Sale of hard alcohol is prohibited in Vineyard Haven, but Lawrence Labounty doesn’t let that stop him from mixing up a great cocktail. He recommends this White Peach Sake Sangria for a summer’s day.

White Peach Sake Sangria

  • 1 1/2 ounces white peach sake
  • 1 1/2 ounces pre-mixed juice of equal parts lemon juice and orange juice, half part sweet agave, and a splash of pomegranate juice
  • Shake over ice, strain, and top off the rest of the glass with prosecco
  • Garnish with blueberries and orange slices, or “get really fancy” and use raspberry and mint

Goes best with: “Any kind of spicy or ethnic cuisine,” Labounty said. Coconut green curry chicken anyone?

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Harbor View Prosecco cocktail with lemon and St. Germaine.

Mike Brown of The Wharf Pub and Restaurant

Anyone with a garden is probably drowning in cucumbers right now. If you’re tired of salad, slice them into some water with lemon for a refreshing blast of hydration. Better yet, use them to garnish this cocktail that they serve at The Wharf in Edgartown.

Cucumber Lemon Martini

  • Pearl Cucumber Vodka
  • Splash of St. Germain Elderberry Flower liqueur
  • Splash of sour mix

Goes best with: The Wharf’s Pan Roasted Cod entrée with littlenecks, linguica, onion, tomato, garlic, and herbs over mashed potatoes.

Brad Tolbert of Park Corner Bistro

What says summer like a tangy-sweet lemonade? Make a grown-up lemonade stand at your home bar with this recipe from Park Corner, located in Oak Bluffs.

Strawberry Lemonade

  • Fresh muddled strawberries
  • Limoncello
  • Ginger purée
  • Tito’s vodka
  • Club soda

Goes best with: Park Corner’s crispy pig wings.

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The Trade Secret margarita from Beetlebung in Oak Bluffs.

Kate Shea of The Seafood Shanty

The Shanty, on Edgartown harbor, is known for their mojitos (also a great summer drink), but their namesake is this Shan-tea, a tasty take on a vodka John Daly.

The Shan-Tea

  • Fresh muddled lemon
  • Firefly Sweet Tea vodka
  • Water
  • Shake and pour over ice

Goes best with: The Shanty’s lobster rolls and vinegar fries.

Elijah Dunn-Feiner prepares to tackle a root beer float in 2012. — Susan Safford

Ninety percent of the time I make really healthy choices. I eat right and I exercise. Most days of the year I spend in the gym, trying to squat or pull up more than my body weight. But then —  three glorious days of the year — I spend trying to eat more than my body weight. The first is Thanksgiving. The second is Christmas. The third is whichever day I go to the Ag Fair.

Julien Sapirstein munches on popcorn in 2011.
Julien Sapirstein munches on popcorn in 2011.

At this point in my life, I’m over stuffed animals, and I understand carnival games are money-sucking scams. I still hate clowns. But I’ll never be over Fair food.

Let me start by saying the Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair is one of the nicest fairs on earth. I didn’t grow up here. I didn’t even summer here as a kid. But back on the New Hampshire border where I’m from, we had our own version of a county fair. It’s actually gotten a lot nicer in recent years, but it used to be the kind of place where the people belonged in barns more than the animals did. Still, I loved it, because I got to have fried dough and lemonade for dinner, and even though it meant cutting sticky sugar out of my hair for weeks, my mom would let me try to eat a whole candy apple on my own.

Now, on the Vineyard, I attend the Ag Fair with several friends. Within minutes of arriving we all lose each other, because everyone scatters immediately to their favorite food stand. When we find each other again, we swap bites, then break for round two.

I don’t need to wax scientific to tell you how strongly food and memory are related. We remember food smells best, and our olfactory bulb is connected to the part of our brain that registers emotion.

I thought I’d ask a few Islanders on Facebook about their favorite Fair food. It turned out I was asking them about their favorite Fair memories.

“Definitely the fried dough,” said Cody Chandler of Edgartown. “It’s our family tradition.” Claire Lindsey of Oak Bluffs is a fan of Football Tempura “mostly for nostalgia’s sake.” Dick Iacovello of Vineyard Haven likes the corndogs because he has fond memories of visiting with the guy who sells them.

My friends in the office confirmed my suspicions. “Root beer floats,” said Nicole Jackson, our graphic designer. “It reminds me of being a kid.” Eleni Roriz, our Calendar editor, shares my fondness for the strawberry shortcake stand. “I know it’s lame, but it’s something I’ve gotten every year since I was little,” she said.

Abigail Wilkinson enjoys cotton candy at the 2009 fair.
Abigail Wilkinson enjoys cotton candy at the 2009 fair.

Food at the Fair haven’t changed much. Corn on the cob and West Tisbury Firemen’s burgers have been around since anyone can remember, and newer ventures like Local Smoke’s pulled chicken and pork, and Floaters root beer floats were natural fits to the world of carnival food: the same cotton candy based meals that grace all fairs everywhere.

There’s something of an American tradition to it, and I like to think it’s more than a culture of obesity trying to eat as much sugar as possible. My parents took me to the fair and let me eat caramel apples, because a long time ago their parents took them to a fair and let them eat caramel apples. It was for the same reason we pass down our grandmother’s apple pie recipes through the generations, and bake them on the holidays.

One day, maybe my friends and I will take our own kids to the Ag Fair, and I like to think the strawberry shortcake lady will still be there. But we’re not quite ready to let go of our own childhoods yet. I still get an awful lot of caramel apple in my hair.

The egg salad sandwich, featuring FARM Institute eggs, roasted red peppers and house made chips. — Kelsey Perrett

It’s a rare occasion when I trade out my preferred wardrobe of gym shorts and Dumptique-procured flannels for fancier garb. Usually it takes a funeral. Needless to say, the idea of putting on “real people clothes” just to eat has never much appealed to me, and the day my boyfriend puts on a suit coat it will probably be funny enough to go viral on YouTube.

The sunny dining room at The Terrace is a great lunch setting.
The sunny dining room at The Terrace is a great lunch setting.

But on jaunts into Edgartown, land of boat shoes and high heels, party dresses and pink shorts, I start to question my own poor fashion sense. Not because I care to hop on a yacht, but because I really want to eat at some of the delicious upper-scale establishments. My unwillingness to put on a dress often means I miss out on some key dining news. So when I walked into the Charlotte Inn this week on an entirely unrelated assignment, I was excited to learn that The Terrace has been serving lunch all summer long, and will continue to do so through Labor Day weekend.

The Terrace is one of the most aptly named restaurants on the Island. Situated just off Main Street in Edgartown, the Charlotte Inn is basically one big English garden. Actually, owner Gery Conover has been back and forth to England about 28 times, and in addition to furnishing the entire inn with an art gallery, he has engineered the grounds with beautiful private gardens worthy of cucumber sandwiches and high tea.

The restaurant itself is situated on a pleasant, brick-paved veranda, with indoor and outdoor seating. The glow of the afternoon sun through lush greenery mingles with the trickle of a fountain — it’s like eating in the world’s classiest greenhouse. The sheer aesthetics of it were enough to encourage the staff to start serving lunch. “It’s such a beautiful setting in the afternoon to be sitting outside and having a nice lunch,” executive chef Justin Melnick said.

The return of lunch with Chef Melnick is actually a nod to the Inn’s past. “Lunch used to be a big thing at the Charlotte Inn,” Chef Melnick said. “We decided to try it out again with a soft opening this summer.”

The Terrace Spinach Salad: sliced apples, house cured bacon, blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, and warm vinaigrette.
The Terrace Spinach Salad: sliced apples, house cured bacon, blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, and warm vinaigrette.

The menu is short and sweet, featuring classic American fare with a twist of creativity. “I try to work with as many local ingredients as possible,” Chef Melnick said. The lunch menu features lots of eggs — such as deviled eggs and egg salad — all from local chickens at The FARM Institute in Edgartown. Salads are founded on a bed of Morning Glory greens. “The main focus is finding the best ingredients and manipulating the food as little as possible,” he continued. “It’s about just letting the food speak for itself.”

One item that’s definitely making a splash is the lamb burger, with meat from Northeast Family Farms, caramelized onions, blue cheese, garlic and dill pickle, on a grilled brioche bun, with house-made chips. Chef Melnick also enjoys serving chilled soups on a hot summer afternoon, but he puts so much care into each dish, it’s hard to pick favorites. “People ask me all the time what’s the best thing on the menu, and now that I have two children, it’s sort of like choosing between them,” he said.

But here’s the best part (in my humble opinion): according to Chef Melnick, “lunch is certainly more casual than dinner.” That means no suit coats required, but do respect your location (you’re going to look damn silly in gym shorts). With quick service, only one course, and extremely reasonable prices ranging from $8 to $26, lunch at The Terrace is an all-around treat. It’s like buying a fancy dress half off, looking fantastic in it, and finding out that “real people clothes” are pretty comfy and breathable after all.

The Terrace: serving lunch Friday through Sunday through Labor Day; dinner nightly. For reservations and more information, call 508-627-4751 or visit thecharlotteinn.com. Also check out the new book, “The Charlotte Inn: Behind The Times on Purpose,” available now from Vineyard Stories.

The "Bananas Foster" sweet panini at BeeDees. — Photo by Kelsey Perrett

It’s August. We’re all busy. We all feel overworked and overtired. And we probably are, but in the spirit of “there’s always a bigger fish,” let’s consider this: at least four new restaurants have opened on Martha’s Vineyard in the past few weeks.

Anyone who has worked in food service — especially here, especially in summer — knows that the restaurant business is notoriously taxing. Long hours spent on tired feet in hot kitchens are already a hassle, but imagine doing it all from scratch in the busiest month of the year. Our brave friends at these new restaurants are marching fearlessly into August, reviving old haunts and adding new hotspots to the Island restaurant scene, maternally serving up food to strangers, some of whom have faces only a mother could love — and attitudes to match.

Truthfully, our servers and managers, hosts and cooks deserve culinary medals of honor. So take some time from your busy schedule and enjoy these newly opened spots. And don’t forget to tip your servers, and send compliments to the chef.

Veggie pizza by the slice at Isola.
Veggie pizza by the slice at Isola.

Isola: Back in the day (if you consider the 90s back in the day) Isola was the name of a Martha’s Vineyard restaurant owned by Todd and Olivia English, Glenn Close, Michael J. Fox, and Boston Bruins great Cam Neely. As of July 25, 2014, Isola (it’s Italian for island) is the name of the restaurant in Edgartown’s Post Office Square where Lattanzi’s used to be, owned by the Sullo family and featuring chef Max Eagan, all of Rocco’s fame. By day, Isola’s store front serves organic coffee, baked goods, pizza slices, and other lunch options. “I wanted to do a lot of raw foods,” said Gabrielle Sullo, manager of the store front. Healthy treat options, like the “amazeballs” are naturally dairy, sugar, grain, and gluten-free. When the bell tolls 5:30, the bar and restaurant open up for drinks and tasty Italian style entrées. “We’re getting busier as the word gets out,” said Gabrielle. “We’re definitely getting a lot of local business.”

Takeout window now open from 11 am to 7 pm. Bar and restaurant open for dinner every night from 5:30 to 10 pm. 774-549-9428.

Southwest style shrimp wrap from BeeDee's.
Southwest style shrimp wrap from BeeDee’s.

Bee Dees:

No offense to Pirate Jack’s Burger Shack, which used to grace this location on Oak Bluffs Avenue, but a peanut butter slathered bacon burger with fries isn’t exactly proper beach take-out. Pirate Jack’s replacement, Bee Dee’s, specializes in lighter fare, especially healthy to-go options such as salads, wraps, and paninis. The coolest part is they now deliver via tricycle to The Inkwell and Oak Bluffs Town Beach (Pay Beach), so sun soakers don’t even have to get off their sandy beach bums for lunch (order online at beedeesmv.com, or use their delivery app).

“We’ve had a lot of enthusiastic response about the delivery,” said co-owner Barbara Ciccolini. “It’s something Oak Bluffs has needed for a while. We were longtime visitors to the Island, and we always had that argument about who was going to go to town to get food. We also wanted to fill that void of food that was fresh and not always fried.”

Create-your-own sandwich options are available for omnivores, herbivores, vegana-vores, and glutenfree-a-vores, as well as flavorful salad combinations that can be rolled into a wrap. It’s not all rabbit food though: sweet-toothed O.B. dwellers can try a sweet panini on sweet bread or pound cake, filled with a combination of chocolate, bananas, sweet preserves, and topped with vanilla bean ice cream and housemade sweet sauces such as caramel. Bee Dee’s is friendly to Islanders and vacationers alike, offering a 10 percent discount with an Oak Bluffs hotel room key, and 10 percent Wednesdays for Island employees.

Now serving lunch and dinner from 11 am to 9:30 pm. Breakfast available at 7:30 am Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 508-338-2220; beedeesmv.com.

"Amazeballs" at Isola's take out store.
“Amazeballs” at Isola’s take out store.

Fishbones: This prime piece of real estate on Oak Bluffs Harbor was bought out by Santoro Hospitality Group, owners of The Lookout Tavern, earlier this year, and strollers along the harbor have been anxiously awaiting its revival.

Though the name and logo of the waterfront bar and grill haven’t changed, manager Lisa Hawkes says the new Fishbones has updated it all. Not just the building, but chef Justin Stenuis has helped reinvent the menu with a Caribbean twist on seafood. Items such as coconut shrimp and blackened mahi mahi with mango salsa made their debut at Fishbones for the July 26 season opening.

“It was hard finding staffing in the middle of the summer, and we wanted to complete the new kitchen and the new menu,” said Ms. Hawkes of the late-season opening. “But we wanted to make sure if we were going to do this, we were doing it right.”

Now serving lunch and dinner from 11 am to 10:30 pm (bar until 11). 508-696-8227; fishbonesgrille.com.

Jimmy Sea’s:

After a brief hiatus, Jimmy Sea’s returned on July 17 under new ownership, but with the same old beloved experience of eating pasta straight from a pan bigger than your head.

Chef Scotty, who has been with Jimmy Seas for almost 20 years, is still manning the kitchen. Specializing in seafood and Italian flavors, Jimmy Sea’s offers linguini, scampi, and ravioli dishes with shrimp, lobster, beef, chicken, and more with tomato, pesto, and cream bases.

They’ve also hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon with some of their pastas, and new this year, they are offering house special pastas every night. “It got busy instantly,” said manager Olga Brown. “But our crew caught on right away, and it’s been a pretty smooth start.”

Now open for dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm. 508-687-9702; jimmyseaspanpasta.com.