Good Taste

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Oysters, oysters, oysters will tempt tasters at Wednesday's benefit for the M.V. Shellfish Group and the Edgartown Growers Assoc. at the Harbor View Hotel. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

SS_Kaylea Moore-webFebruary is one of those months when people don’t want to leave their house. They hunker down with stocked fridges and pantries and catch up on past seasons of hit T.V. shows, bestselling books, and Oscar-nominated movies.

People claim that there’s nothing to do on Martha’s Vineyard in the winter, that it’s too cold to go outside, that the light dusting of snow prohibits them from driving for the rest of the day. But the reason why a lot of us choose to live here is because we like being part of our small Island community. During the winter, various organizations and groups make sure there are plenty of activities to keep Island living vibrant. There are also numerous fundraisers and benefits that count on the support of the community.

Make February the month to try something new. Check out all the Island has to offer, and be on the lookout for community events centered around the Olympics, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, or Black History Month. Here is just a selection of what’s happening in the next week.

Local Farmer’s Brunch

This Sunday, Feb. 9, from 10 am to 1 pm, join Island farmers over brunch at the Chilmark Community Center to hear tales about the joys and challenges of raising food on Martha’s Vineyard. This intimate event, hosted by Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard, will feature local ingredients paired with stories from local farmers. All you can eat offerings include organic buckwheat waffles, greens, frittata from Island eggs, Mermaid Farm yogurt, Massachusetts apple crisp, and Chilmark Coffee. The feast of local food will be served from 10 to 10:45 am.

Featured farmers who will share their stories include Jim Athearn of Morning Glory Farm and Liz Packer of SBS, who will speak on family farming; Richard Andre of Cleveland Farm who will talk about poultry processing and slaughtering; and Mike Holtham of Menemsha Fish House who will address the farmers of the sea.

This is a zero waste event, so make sure to bring your own plate, mug, utensils, and napkin. The cost for the brunch is $12 per person, $10 if you are a Slow Food member. To purchase tickets in advance, visit slowfoodmarthasvineyard.org.

Calling all oyster lovers

On Wednesday, Feb. 12, head to the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown at 6 pm for Romancing the Oyster, a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group and the Edgartown Growers Association.

Executive chef Nathan Gould will create oyster inspired dishes highlighting this treasure from the waters of Martha’s Vineyard. There will be a buffet as well as passed hors d’oeuvres and for the purists, more than five raw bars. Meet your local growers and help support the shellfish industry on the Island. The cost is $45 per person and $80 per couple. Tickets are available at romancingtheoyster.brownpapertickets.com.

Valentine’s Day staycations

Many restaurants and hotels are offering special menus and overnight packages for Valentine’s Day. Here is just a selection:

Visit Water Street at The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown for a three-course dinner and overnight stay on Friday, Feb. 14. The indulgent menu, created by executive chef Nathan Gould, features a choice of appetizers, entrées, and desserts with ingredients ranging from oysters and sous-vide local lobster, to porcini-dusted petit rib eye and pan roasted pork tenderloin. For dessert, make the tough choice between the pastry chef’s “tasting for two” of chocolate macaroons, mousse, and truffles; or the tasting of sorbets and chocolates. Dinner is $48 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Those wanting to make a night of it can reserve a guest room starting $179, which includes Valentine’s Day dinner for two. For more information, call 508-627-3761.

Stay the night at the Hob Knob in Edgartown on Valentine’s Day and enjoy a three-course dinner. The menu features celery root veloute, local bay scallops and saffron, surf and turf of petite prime filet with exotic mushroom ragout, Menemsha lobster ravioli, and warm chocolate cake with strawberry gelato and almond brittle.

Seatings begin at 6 pm. The cost for dinner is $75 per person, excluding liquor, tax, and gratuity. Or make it an overnight affair. Purchase a room for the night and for an additional $150 per couple, enjoy dinner for two, and welcome amenities including six roses, a split of Champagne, and oysters on the half shell. For reservations, call 508-627-9510. For more information, visit hobknob.com.

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One of the columnist's cold remedies: Orange, carrot, and ginger juice. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

SS_Kaylea Moore-webIt starts with a tickle in your throat, then you start to sneeze, and before you know it your glands swell to the size of hard-boiled eggs. It seems as though everyone I talk to is feeling under the weather or coming down with something. The common cold plague is slowly sweeping Martha’s Vineyard, so be sure to wash your hands, boost your immunity, and stock up on the necessities in case you catch it.

During Classical and Medieval times, theory held that the four bodily humours — blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile — determined one’s temperament and health. The humours were kept in relative balance to maintain well-being, but if the balance was upset, food was often used as a remedy to bring a person back to equilibrium. Cold, moist, hot, and dry qualities were assigned to foods. If you were deficient in one of the humours, you could eat a food associated with it to restore your health.

Either this was one of the earliest fad diets or these folks from the middle ages were on to something. I’m not a doctor, but I love to cook and eat, and when I’m sick, I try to listen to what my body is craving.

At the first sign of symptoms I dug out my Airborne and Emergen-C with the hope that it would nip it in the bud. As I prepared my morning smoothie, I excitedly dumped in each ingredient, naming their so-called curative properties: blueberries, high in antioxidants; banana, packed with potassium; kale, the healthiest food in the world; yogurt, probiotics and good bacteria; coconut water, electrolytes; chia seeds, omega-3; orange juice, full of vitamin C. I thought that I was good to go.

As the day progressed, I started feeling worse, so I decided to go out for oysters. Thinking back, I should have stayed home on the couch, but in my mind, oysters would surely cure me. I knew these bivalves were packed with zinc; isn’t that supposed to be good for you? After eating about a dozen, I returned home and started to cook.

Prudence Levy of Vineyard Nutrition suggests eating soup when sick. Pictured is Kaylea's kale and turkey-pork meatball soup.
Prudence Levy of Vineyard Nutrition suggests eating soup when sick. Pictured is Kaylea’s kale and turkey-pork meatball soup.

The last thing you want to do when feeling under the weather is shop for food and cook. But there is nothing worse than being sick with nothing to eat at your house. I keep a bag of bones (I know it’s creepy) in my freezer for just this reason. When I cook chicken, I debone it, and save the carcass for stock. I also have a bag filled with vegetable scraps. So that night, when I was congested and coughing, I filled a pot with water, dumped in the remnants from the freezer along with some parsley stems, carrots, garlic, onion, and celery, and lay on the couch as it worked its magic.

My culinary professors would most likely scoff at my impromptu stock, but it did the trick. After spending the night in the fridge, I skimmed the fat off the strained stock and had my cure-all.

The modern-day restaurant began in France when a shop owner began to serve a simple nutritious broth called a “restorative” that was meant to boost one’s health. For centuries, meat broths were served to invalids to give them strength, and everyone knows that Grandma’s chicken noodle soup makes everything better.

With my curative broth I could make one-cup soups, adding greens or pasta or whatever I had on hand. One of my favorite concoctions was simmered garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chilies, and red miso with thinly sliced beef, topped with scallions. I felt better by the spoonful.

“One of my quintessential [foods to make you feel better] is chicken soup,” said Prudence Athearn Levy of Vineyard Nutrition. She recommends making your own bone broth soup ahead of time and having it in the freezer for when you feel under the weather. Ms. Levy also recommends eating small frequent meals that include protein. “Reducing calories can help you feel better. A less calorie load can help you rest and won’t over-stress your body.” Hydration is also imperative; she suggests soup, water, and smoothies. Ultimately, “Reducing the bulk of food and increasing hydration,” is Ms. Levy’s key to feeling better.

In addition to sipping on broth, I tried to drink, drink, drink. I was always told that to stay hydrated and push liquids was the most important thing to beat a cold. I started with ginger, known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. I steeped it in hot water, making ginger tea, and juiced it with carrots and oranges. The hot tea was soothing and helped break up my congestion and I felt rejuvenated after the juice.

Another panacea is local raw honey. When my throat begins to get scratchy I eat it by the spoonful. The thick syrupy sweetener coats the back of the throat, temporarily alleviating any discomfort. It also has antimicrobial properties.

A few years back someone introduced me to Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar is raw and unfiltered and contains part of the mother vinegar. I use it to make vinaigrettes, as a facial cleanser, and it is my secret weapon when I get sick. I mix it with hot water and honey. Although it doesn’t taste the best, it is said to leave you sniffle free.

Everyone has their tricks when they get sick, swearing by an old wives’ tale or whatever is in vogue. People swear by different potions, gargling this, not eating that, loading up on OTC medicines or herbal remedies. I believe that being a couch potato is the cure, eating whatever you crave and getting plenty of rest. And if all else fails, eat a box of popsicles.

But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.

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From left: Eliot Coutts, Jeremy Scheffer, and Owen Maloney, at Offshore's Wings and Oyster special. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

Here is just a selection of Martha’s Vineyard eateries with new specials and promotions.

This past Friday was the inaugural wings and oysters winter special at Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs. Patrons packed the pub from 3:30 to 5:30 pm enjoying 25-cent buffalo and teriyaki wings and $1 oysters. This year, a disclaimer came with the menu, informing customers that the wings and oyster special is dine-in only, that wings can be ordered in a minimum of five, increments of five, and a maximum of 20 per person at one time (you can order more after your initial serving), leftovers will not be packaged, and if you are on the waitlist for seating that extends past the promotion end time of 5:30, they may have to stop taking names prior to 5:30. In addition, during the promotion, a limited menu is available, including a hummus platter, Bavarian Pretzel spears, chicken or veggie quesadillas, and brick-oven pizzas.

Offshore is still offering their ever popular two-for-one entrée special on Monday nights. Also new to the brew pub is cribbage night, every Thursday at 8 pm, starting this week. Bring your own board or use one of theirs. All levels are welcome, and check out the pub’s Facebook page for more information.

Tisberry in Vineyard Haven has expanded its offerings to include soup, salads, and smoothies in addition to frozen yogurt. Hearty winter soups, such as New England clam chowder, winter vegetable with dumplings, beef stew, and pasta fagioli, change daily. All soups are served with a big hunk of crusty baguette. Similar to the toppings for frozen yogurt, the salad bar has their own add-ins. Customize your chopped salad, made with organic greens, or choose from one of the five classic salads, such as the Modern Asian made with edamame, crispy Chinese noodles, slivered almonds, Mandarin oranges, carrots, organic spinach, and romaine topped with a miso ginger dressing. Enjoy a soup and salad combo for $9.99. Also try their pour-over coffee, a Japanese method that makes individually brewed cups. Tisberry is open 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays, with the hopes of soon being open seven days a week. Check out the Facebook page for daily offerings.

Get double bang for your buck on Wednesday and Sunday at Atria in Edgartown. Visit Atria mid-week for the two-for-one taco night on Wednesday, and Sunday for the two-for-one burger night. Choose from 13 burgers with bases made from grilled portabella, falafel, chicken, lamb, turkey, shrimp, salmon, and beef with specialty toppings galore. The Brick Cellar taco menu includes roasted pork and poblano tacos, crispy cornmeal crusted fish tacos, crispy Baja shrimp tacos, and lobster tacos. Atria is opened Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit atriamv.com.

Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown’s weekly deals are two-for-one small and large plates on Wednesdays; Throw Back Thursday, which features vintage food with a modern twist, $30 for three-course prix-fixe; and on Fridays, $10 per half dozen of Honeysuckle Farm Oysters. For more information, call 508-627-3761.

Along with the two-for-one entrees Thursdays through Saturdays at The Grill on Main in Edgartown, the restaurant also offers a $36 three-course pre-fixe dinner Mondays through Wednesdays. Offerings include seafood marinara with shrimp, scallops, and littlenecks served over linguini; chicken saltimbocca; grilled duck; loin lamb chops; and beef and pork tenderloin. Be on the lookout for a new bar menu featuring grilled pizzas, burgers, and lighter fare that will start in the next week. For more information, visit thegrillonmain.com.

Stop by The Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven for lobster and prime rib night. $20 gets you the lobster dish on Friday and a Captain’s cut of prime rib on Saturday.

Visit the Ocean View in Oak Bluffs for roast prime rib on Saturdays and lobster on Wednesdays, both for $19.99.

The Wharf in Edgartown has different special dishes for almost every night of the week. Check out shepherd’s pie Sundays, fried chicken Mondays, twin lobster Tuesdays, and prime rib Fridays. Visit The Wharf from 3 to 6 pm for half off chicken wings, also available during NFL games. Don’t forget trivia on Wednesday nights.

State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury is also on the burger bandwagon, hosting their own burger night Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Enjoy meatloaf Mondays, burrito Tuesdays, fisherman stew Fridays and prime rib Saturdays at The Newes from America Pub in Edgartown. On Friday, enjoy live music and Motown classics on Sunday.

Wear your craziest hat to Park Corner Bistro in Oak Bluffs on Saturdays and get 50 percent off an appetizer with the purchase of an alcoholic beverage. Make your way to wok Wednesdays, prime rib Thursdays, fish fry Fridays, and “get your pig on” Sundays, with pork as the main attraction.

Be sure to check out Facebook and use your Sharky’s card for daily promotions and discounts at Sharky’s in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown as well as the M.V. Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs.

More details coming soon on the possibility of a food truck in Chilmark run by chef Josh Aronie.

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Earlier this season, Al King and Jeff Wingo expanded Skinny's Fat Sandwiches to The Lampost. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

2013 was a year filled with hellos and goodbyes. We welcomed new faces and businesses and said farewell to Vineyard standbys. There have been changes in ownership, the yearly chef shuffle, and renovations to spaces and menus. Here is a selection of what’s happened in the restaurant world on the Vineyard in 2013:

In early February we mourned the closing of a longtime hangout, Season’s Eatery and Pub, a mainstay on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs for more than 20 years. The restaurant and bar were popular for late night dancing, karaoke, pub grub, and sushi, and during recent winters, the ability to play in the game room next door. The building has remained vacant since the closing; what will 2014 bring for the location?

The Lampost in Oak Bluffs, known for its nightclub atmosphere, pool tables, and bars, branched out this spring when they started serving food. Al King from Skinny’s Fat Sandwiches partnered with The Post to offer burgers, wings, and more. Next-door neighbor The Ritz also started serving food again.

New to Circuit Avenue this summer was Fat Ronnie’s, a burger joint with an open storefront, inviting customers to build their own burgers with a range of toppings at no additional charge. The sleek space with a cool vibe was a welcome sight to the late-night munchies crowd, who enjoyed burgers until 1 am.

Also new to Circuit Avenue was Pear Tree Pastry and Provisions, a takeout and specialty food store, owned by Jennifer and Peter Smyth of A Slice of Life, located across the street. Along with packaged artisanal goods, patrons picked up pre-made sandwiches, salads, smoothies, coffee, baked goods, and desserts.

Edgartown was big on beverages in 2013. Three liquor stores and three coffee shops opened this year, offering a range of libations. During the summer, hip duo Coffee Culture and sister boutique Vintage M.V. Wine & Spirits opened in Nevin Square, under the ownership of John Clift and Sara Webber.

Tocco Puro next to Pure Touch Salon, both owned by Jay and Mindy Kirwin, created made to order coffee in an Italian-inspired setting.

Behind the Bookstore, literally tucked behind Edgartown Books, offered a wide selection of drinks and goodies that could be enjoyed in the secret garden-like atmosphere outside.

The Port Supply Co., owned by the Courtney Family, across the street from the Courtney’s restaurant The Port Hunter, opened its Main Street liquor and supply store, ready to outfit summer soirees, picnics, and parties.

Just in time for the holidays, M.V. Wine & Spirits opened its doors to their new airport location. Formerly Town Provision Company, the McGroarty family’s expanded location offers a wider selection of beverages and food items.

Right around the corner at the airport, The Plane View Restaurant started serving beer and wine.

Bob and Sarah Nixon, owners of The Beach Plum Inn and Restaurant and The Home Port in Menemsha, gave a facelift to both properties in 2013. Chef Matthew Safranek and manager Angela Vezzose joined The Home Port team and revamped the menu while still offering classic Home Port favorites.

Chef Chris Fischer took the reins at the Beach Plum Restaurant and renovated the dining space as well as the cuisine, focusing on sourcing seasonal food from Vineyard land and sea. His celebrated Sunday supper series were a favorite among locals.

Sweet Life Café in Oak Bluffs transferred ownership to Kevin and Suzanna Crowell, owners of Détente Restaurant in Edgartown. While the building and atmosphere remained the same, the menu was crafted to reflect the innovative cuisine coming from Détente.

Café Moxie in Vineyard Haven and Lucky Hank’s in Edgartown both celebrated their one-year anniversary, Moxie in its new renovated state.

Edgartown gained a chocolate store and lost a pasta shop. Not Your Sugar Mamas opened a second location on Winter Street, expanding the chocolate empire. The Fresh Pasta Shoppe, an Edgartown institution, sadly closed its doors after years of flipping dough for their specialty pizza pies. Deon Thomas, formerly of The Cornerway in Chilmark and Deon’s in Oak Bluffs, transferred his talents to the VFW, cooking hot meals for its patrons. Bad Martha, a new brew named after our naughty namesake, also arrived this year.

Trends for 2013 included outdoor seating. The Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven added a 27-seat wooden covered patio where guests could enjoy their meals in the shade. Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs created an alleyway tiki-inspired seating area adorned with shark paraphernalia where diners could enjoy their food alfresco. Renovations at Farm Neck Café in Oak Bluffs included an enclosed patio overlooking the golf course.

What to look for in 2014:

In early December we said goodbye to pizza and Italian food legend Lattanzi’s in Edgartown. In 2014 we can look forward to more Italian food with Peter Sullo of Rocco’s taking over the space.

Copper Wok at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven has been on our radar for a while. Islanders have been chomping at the bit for the Asian inspired restaurant to open. When will owner JB Blau unlock the doors? We will have to wait until 2014 to find out.

The iconic location that once housed Papa’s Pizza, Pomodoro’s, and Deon’s remained vacant in 2013. What does this year hold? Renee and John Molinari of Beetlebung clothing and coffee have spread their roots to Oak Bluffs, and will open a coffee house by day, a small plates lounge by night.

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Quicks Hole Tavern opened recently at the site of the former Leeside bar and restaurant in Woods Hole. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

With a fresh coat of paint showcasing their logo, a horseshoe crab, and a new tap system featuring 12 beers, Quicks Hole Tavern, formerly The Leeside, opened its doors on December 10. Husband and wife team P.K. Simonds and Beth Colt are the new owners of the Woods Hole landmark but are no strangers to the area. They also own the Woods Hole Inn, a year-round establishment, as well as Quicks Hole, a seasonal taqueria around the corner from the tavern, specializing in burritos and tacos.

The transformation of the tavern is still underway. The second floor will have additional seating, with the downstairs staying more casual. “We want it to feel like the inside of an old boat and connect with shipping and sailing,” Ms. Colt said. Currently, only the first floor is open, serving drinks and bar snacks until the kitchen is renovated, which should be in late January, depending on construction.

On a recent Friday, the bar was packed with people enjoying house-made potato chips with blue cheese dip, steaming bowls of chicken noodle soup, and quahog chowder, voted top 10 in Cape Cod by the Cape Cod Times reader’s poll. Other snacks offered were soft pretzels with Rogue Ale cheddar dipping sauce, lemon herb mixed olives, roasted sweet and spicy mixed nuts and free “help yourself popcorn” from the machine in the corner. Three TVs were tuned into sport games and a jukebox remained silent as the standing room only crowd conversed with each other.

Along with the 12 beers on tap ranging from Bud Light and Guinness to Fisherman’s IPA and Brooklyn Lager, there is an extensive craft beer list sure to satisfy any beer drinker’s thirst. A creative cocktail menu features drinks such as Devil’s Foot, a combination of tequila, habanero puree, lime juice, and simple syrup; and The Lee Side, a classic American cocktail of Berkshire Bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters. Wines range from $6.75 to $12 a glass, and coffee, espresso, and cappuccino are also available.

Stephanie Mikolazyk, a Johnson and Wales trained chef who runs the taqueria, will also be at the helm of the tavern. “Part of my desire to grow, is to grow with her into a full-time year-round restaurant,” said Ms. Colt. The tavern will be different than the taqueria, with a full sit-down menu and even talks of an oyster tasting bar.

Ms. Colt and Ms. Mikolazyk are still working on the menu, focusing on quick and easy food such as roasted chicken, burgers, and fresh seafood. “We are really interested in farm to table and sourcing food locally,” Ms. Colt continued. This past summer, Quicks Hole hosted a James Beard Foundation Dinner, with Cal Peternell, chef at the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., that raised more than $10,000 for the James Beard Foundation and for the Falmouth Hospital.

“We want people to understand our level of commitment sourcing food responsibly,” Ms. Colt said, offering “great cooking at a reasonable price,” emphasized in their “wicked fresh” philosophy.

Although many express their dismay to Ms. Colt that The Leeside will no longer be the name, Quicks Hole has its own interesting story behind it. Woods Hole is considered by sailors to be one of the most dangerous passages to get from Vineyard Sound to Buzzards Bay. Quicks Hole, on the other hand, separating Nashawena from Pasque Island, is considered a safe passage and one of the best fishing holes. “Quicks Hole is a beautiful remote place teeming with fish and good for a safe passage for sailors. This resonated with what I wanted Quicks Hole’s food to be like and also quick was in the name,” Ms. Colt said. The idea behind the restaurant stays true to what The Leeside offered. The tavern will be “a place for passengers waiting for the boat to eat a quick bite or get quick take-out.”

The horseshoe crab logo has its own significance. In the 1960s at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, it was discovered that the blood of horseshoe crabs would curdle if exposed to bacteria. Pharmaceutical companies now use horseshoe crab blood to make sure their drugs and vaccines are free of bacterial contamination. According to Ms. Colt, only three companies in the world harvest horseshoe crab blood and one of them is located in Falmouth.

Many people were sad to see The Leeside go, a Woods Hole institution frequented by travelers waiting for the boat, and Ms. Colt shares the sentiment. She recalls stories of Steve McQueen hanging out at The Leeside challenging patrons to a game of pool, and the “Keep Woods Hole Franchise Free” bumper stickers that appeared in the late 80s when the owners wanted to lease the building to McDonald’s. “Our hope,” she concluded, “is that people who loved The Leeside will continue to come here.”

Quicks Hole Tavern is open from 11 am to when the last ferry sails or even later, seven days a week. For more information visit quicksholewickedfresh.com.

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Catherine Walthers' "Soups + Sides" is brimming with winter recipes.

Celery Root Soup with Roasted Garlic

Serves 6 to 8

In the cold of fall and winter, I often turn to root vegetables for comfort food. The gnarly celery root or celeriac resembles an ugly gray day tinged by dirty snow. But with the outside removed, cut open and cooked in a soup, the pure white inner celery root provides a smooth, creamy, subtle soup, ideal for its task of warming. Because I didn’t have any homemade chicken stock, I used roasted garlic, leeks and parsley to help flavor the soup, along with a bit of crème fraiche or cream.

1 head of garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

1 large leek, all parts, washed and sliced

2 medium celery roots, outside pared off, cubed (about 6 cups)

8 cups water

1 medium potato, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons parsley

1 bay leaf

1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pepper

Crème fraiche or heavy cream, to taste

To roast garlic, preheat oven to 375°. Slice off top of garlic, drizzle about 1 teaspoon olive oil over the open cloves, and put the top back to keep the heat and moisture in. Wrap tightly in tin foil and cook in oven until fragrant and cloves softened to the touch, about 40 minutes.

While garlic is roasting, melt the butter and remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add leeks and continue cooking until they are soft and onions are beginning to color.

Stir in celery root and let cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water, potato parsley, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially cover and cook until vegetables are done. Remove the bay leaf.

Blend the soup in a blender in batches until very creamy. While one batch is blending, squeeze out the roasted garlic. Add the roasted garlic to one of the batches being blended. If the soup is too thick, add a bit of water to get the best consistency. Adjust salt (this soup usually needs a good amount) and add pepper. When reheating soup, swirl in a little crème fraiche or cream to taste.

Quick French Lentil Soup

Serves 4 to 6

This lentil soup uses the French green lentils, also called lentils de Puy. These are smaller than the brown lentils, cook quicker and hold their shape for a better appearance. You can experiment by adding different fresh herbs, such as thyme or oregano, or other greens instead of parsley, such as spinach.

1 onion, diced small

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 whole leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup red or white wine (optional)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

6 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 & 1/4 cup French green lentils (de Puy), picked through and rinsed

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper

2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1. In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the leek and garlic and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add carrots, celery, half of the parsley, water, bay leaves and lentils. Bring to a boil,

then simmer, partially covered until lentils are tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Remove bay leaf and add tomatoes, umeboshi vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings, and simmer for an additional few minutes. Add remaining parsley just before serving

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All ready to slow cook: chicken, linguica, rice and shrimp jambalaya in the Crock-Pot. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

My cooking confession: I’ve never used a Crock-Pot, until today. They intimidate me. I am not used to the “set it and forget it” mentality. I view cooking as much more active. I always thought of Crock-Pots relegated to the back corner of the highest cabinet, brought out for Swedish meatballs and grape jelly, taco seasoning creations. But the more houses I visit and the more people I talk to, I realize that Crock-Pots, or slow cookers as they are affectionately referred to, are all the rage.

I like the idea of throwing things into a pot and hours later upon return, voila, dinner is ready. But I wasn’t convinced. A lot of the recipes I looked at involved bottled sauces, canned soups, and packet seasonings, all of which I try to avoid. So I reached out to my Facebook friends for suggestions. They were overwhelming. Beef stew, chili, pulled pork, split pea soup, lasagna, brisket, pot roast, pork chops, soups, venison, gumbo, corned beef, pulled apple cider chicken, and pulled pork spaghetti (not sure about the last one), and the list goes on. The verdict, people love Crock-Pots. Where have I been all these years?

The idea for this article came about a few weeks ago on the boat where I met a gentleman who gave me a recipe for Chicken Vindaloo from “The Indian Slow Cooker,” by Anupy Singla. The book features 50 Indian recipes that can be made in a Crock-Pot. The woman sitting next to me joined in on our conversation, saying that she sets her Crock-Pot on most mornings and comes home to dinner already prepared. This got me thinking about why I had never entered into the realm of Crock-Pot cooking before.

I enjoy coming home from work and cooking dinner. It helps me unwind. I guess not a lot of people can say that. But I can see the allure of slow cookers. I can picture myself stuffing the pot on Sunday morning, going out for brunch and a walk and coming home to a warm meal just in time for kick-off. So I decided to give it a try.

My friend Maria Gaskill Allen recommended balsamic roast beef, which sounded perfect for the wintry day. She sent me the link to the recipe, which came from a website called addapinch.com. By the time I secured a Crock-Pot from a friend and shopped for the ingredients, it was nearly 4 pm. Oh great, I thought, I wanted to eat tonight. True to the recipe, you dump in the ingredients and turn on the switch. I usually don’t use recipes when I cook because I don’t like following directions. For me cooking is more about intuition. But not when it comes to the Crock-Pot; I was scared not to follow the recipe. What if I didn’t add enough liquid and it burned?

It said to cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. Since I wanted to eat at a reasonable I hour, I chose the high setting. I left the Crock-Pot on the counter, performing its magic, and decided to look up more recipes and ideas for this article. As I started researching, I read that you always want to cook large tougher cuts of meat on the low setting, which makes complete sense, but I figured with the wonder of the Crock-Pot I could get the same results in half the time. Oh great, I thought again. I jumped up and reluctantly turned the switch to low. I guess I’ll be eating closer to 10 pm tonight.

Cooking to me is standing over a hot stove, tasting, stirring, tasting again while chopping something on the side. This felt strange and eerie, almost as if I were cheating the system. I kept peering through the glass lid, covered in condensation, hoping that the roast would transform into something delicious. I was tempted to lift the cover and take a peek but decided against it and muttered the mantra of the evening, “set it and forget it.” At the four-hour mark I flipped the roast and started poking and prodding, wishing for the meat to fall apart, the tell-tale sign that it was done. I couldn’t help salivating at the smell wafting through my kitchen, knowing that it still had a few hours to go. Finally at 10:30 pm, hours after I ate my dinner of whatever I could find in the refrigerator, I took a bite, and it was spectacular. Thanks Maria, for making my first Crock-Pot experience a positive one.

Round two

For my second dish I decided to join in the spirit of slow cookery and create a dish by throwing in a little of this and a little of that. I thought that a rice dish would be a fun experiment, something along the lines of paella or jambalaya, a dish in which the flavors have a chance to meld together. This was going to take a little more effort. I combined chopped onion, celery, garlic, and green pepper with chicken stock, brown rice, chicken thighs, linguica, and canned tomatoes and sprinkled with whatever seasoning I had on hand. This was more like the cooking I was used to. But I was apprehensive about the rice. Was it ever going to cook? I put on the lid and this time switched the knob to high. Fingers crossed!

My hope was that it would take three hours. After two hours, the chicken was cooked, but there was an abundance of liquid and the rice wasn’t even close to being done. I kept sampling, but the rice was still hard. Finally, after 3 and 1/2 hours, the rice plumped up, so I turned off the Crock-Pot, added shrimp, and let the residual heat do the rest. The rice burst with flavor, the chicken melted in my mouth, and the linguica added a depth of flavor.

Not bad for my first try. I was pretty impressed with my Crock-Pot concoction. I feel like someone finally let me in on the secret, that I’m part of some new club, though in reality I’m just late to the bandwagon. I just might be adding a Crock-Pot to my Christmas list.

Balsamic Roast Beef

Recipe adapted from addapinch.com

1 2-4 pound boneless roast beef (I used chuck pot roast)

1 cup beef broth

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

red pepper flakes

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion sliced

Salt

Pepper

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Place the roast in your slow cooker. Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over beef. Cook for 6 hours on low. Flip roast 2-3 times during cooking. The roast will be done when it is fork tender and falls apart. Take roast out and shred. Strain the remaining liquid and discard solids. Refrigerate until the fat forms a solid layer. Remove the fat and pour liquid into a pot. Reduce until desired consistency.

Kaylea’s Kitchen Sink Crock-Pot Jambalaya

1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

1/2 pound linguica, diced

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup brown rice

dried oregano

Old Bay

Cayenne

1 bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

3/4 pound raw shrimp, deveined, tails removed

Combine all ingredients except shrimp. Stir. Cook on high for 3-3 1/2 hours, or until rice is cooked. Turn off Crock-Pot and add shrimp.

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When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, every imaginable ingredient is available on the Island. — Photo by Nicole Jackson

The fall has flown by; Thanksgiving is only a week away. Some already have their menus planned, centerpieces arranged, and place cards printed. For those that aren’t as prepared, here are some alternate options.

Don’t want to dirty the kitchen, but still want to spend Thanksgiving at home? Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown and 7a Foods in West Tisbury will do almost all the cooking for you, all you need to take care of is the turkey. Choose from an extensive list of sides, pies, breads, quiches, and cheeses from Morning Glory. Dishes range from cranberry sage stuffing and roasted molasses sweet potatoes to maple glazed carrots with candied pecans and garlic mashed potatoes. Fresh baked pies include pumpkin, apple, blueberry, cranberry, and pecan. Orders must be placed by Tuesday, Nov. 26. For more information and to order, call 508-627-9003. For a full list and prices, visit morninggloryfarm.com.

Fill your table with sides, desserts, and biscuits from 7a. Choose from a list of side dishes including Morning Glory butternut squash soup and purée, roasted root vegetables, sausage stuffing, and whole berry cranberry sauce. Try the housemade biscuits, which also come in cheddar jalapeñ;o. Desserts include local pumpkin pie, sour cream apple pie with walnut streusel topping, pecan pie, brownies, bars, and cookies. Orders must be placed by 4 pm on Monday, Nov. 25. For more information and to order, call 508-693-4636.

Don’t miss out on eating Island turkey for Thanksgiving. The GOOD Farm in Vineyard Haven and The FARM Institute in Edgartown are selling locally raised turkeys, but these birds are going fast. For The FARM Institute, email Lindsay@farminstitute.org or call 508-627-7007. For The GOOD Farm, email thegoodfarmmv@gmail.com.

There are plenty of Island pies to choose from. Make sure to call your favorite pie person or bakery to place an order in advance. The Eileen Blake company is making 18 types of pie, as well as homemade breads, rolls, and coffee cake. Place your order by Monday, Nov. 25, by calling 508-693-0528. Pie Chicks has a holiday menu with mouth-watering flavors to choose from: apple, apple cranberry, blueberry, chocolate bourbon pecan, pecan, and pumpkin. All pies are also available gluten-free. For more information, call 774-563-8562 or visit piechicks.com.

Here is a selection of restaurants that will be serving Thanksgiving dinner. There is limited availability, so make your reservations as soon as possible:

Enjoy a three-course meal with all the trimmings at Lucky Hank’s in Edgartown from 11 am to 6 pm. Start the meal with a fall spiced pumpkin bisque with crème fraîche or a fall harvest salad made with Morning Glory Farm greens, roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, and apples. Next, choose from slow-roasted turkey with giblet gravy or roasted leg of lamb with Port Hunter sauce. Entrées are served with house stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans served over crispy fried onions with béchamel sauce, homemade cranberry sauce, and roasted mixed winter veggies. For dessert, try the pumpkin spice cake with cinnamon-cream cheese frosting and vanilla ice cream or sweet potato pecan pie with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. The cost is $45 per person, $25 for children 11 and under. For reservations, call 508-939-4082.

Visit The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown from 3 to 7 pm for four courses of locally inspired Thanksgiving fare. The meal starts with butternut squash soup topped with crème fraîche and fried sage. The second course includes a choice of spinach salad with crispy house-cured bacon, bleu cheese, apples, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, topped with a warm vinaigrette; seared crab cakes with lemon and bacon aioli, baby arugula, and pickled shallots; or Rosedale cheese with house-cured sopressata and pickled green tomatoes. For the main course, try the roasted turkey breast served with cranberry stuffing, Brussels sprouts, puréed potatoes, and gravy; or crab stuffed lemon sole fillet with baby arugula and lemon beurre blanc. Dessert choices include maple brulée pumpkin pie with vanilla whipped cream, warm apple tarte tatin with homemade vanilla ice cream, and a chocolate and caramel tart with dark chocolate ganache, sea salt, and crème fraîche. The cost is $75 per person. For reservations, call 508-627-6227.

The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown is serving traditional Thanksgiving fare with a twist. The wild game buffet feast, from 11:30 am to 5 pm, features a variety of New England classics such as clam chowder and oyster stew as well as fall favorites like pumpkin bread and butternut squash soup. The carving station features roasted turkey and ham and the wild game options range from venison stew and roasted rack of wild boar to cedar-grilled salmon. A raw bar of littlenecks, oysters, crab, and shrimp as well as an abundance of cheeses, salads, and sides, and an array of seasonal desserts, round out the offerings. The cost is $59 for adults, $25 for children 12 and under; under the age of 4 is free. For reservations, call 508-627-3761.

l’étoile in Edgartown will serve Thanksgiving dinner from 3:30 to 7 pm. Chef Michael Brisson will showcase local seasonal ingredients in his three-course meal that is still being designed as of press time. Diners will choose from cauliflower soup with bay scallops, or classic French onion soup to start. Appetizers may include a local green salad with a beach plum ginger dressing and roasted beets, or some sort of terrine. For entrées, there will be a choice of organic cider-brined turkey, leg of venison, and lobster. The turkey may be served with wild rice corn stuffing, cranberry compote, and white truffle mashed potatoes; the leg of venison with a Pinot Noir Cassis sauce and a vegetable tarte tatin; and an etuvée of lobster with lemon pepper pappardelle, shiitake and vegetable sauté, though nothing is set in stone. Pricing is by entrée choice, $58 for turkey, $62 for venison, and $69 for lobster. Dessert will be served a la carte with options such as warm pear and ginger corn bread pudding with ginger caramel sauce, and vanilla ice cream and warm apple filled crepes with a caramel sauce. For reservations, call 508-627-5187.

l’étoile closes for the season at the end of November. Stop by this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 21–23, for its restaurant week menu that will be served in addition to the regular menu. Enjoy three courses for $45 dollars. The restaurant week menu will be similar to the one served in June that can be found on their Facebook page with some seasonal updates.

Many restaurants will be open the day before and after Thanksgiving with extended hours. Make sure to call your favorite place for reservations.

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When he's not tickling the ivories, chef Deon Thomas is cooking in the VFW's kitchen. "It’s casual, come as you are, good food," he says. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

October marked the one-year anniversary of the restaurant at the VFW in Oak Bluffs with Chef Deon Thomas, formerly of The Cornerway in Chilmark and Deon’s in Oak Bluffs, at the helm.

Mr. Thomas is at the VFW seven days a week, cooking lunch and dinner for patrons at the bar, dining in the restaurant and for orders to go. “The members are here and I’m at their beck and call,” Mr. Thomas said, while grinning.

Anyone can become a guest member at the VFW. The restaurant is open to the public, but after three visits, Mr. Thomas will encourage you to become a guest member. “Guest membership allows for people to come and partake in inexpensive drinks and good food at a low cost,” he explained.

The spacious, well-lit room is full of tables and chairs with a white piano sitting in the corner ready to be played. The opposite end features a pie case and counter with a view into the kitchen and a separate entrance into the bar.

Mr. Thomas arrives a couple of minutes to 12 noon, ready for lunch. “The boys are here,” he said, referring to the men at the bar. The daily menus are written in marker on two boards, one for entrée specials and the other for lunch and light eats. “Nothing is online, we keep it simple, save some trees, I don’t even print menus,” he said. But the food is far from simple. This past Monday when I visited, the menu consisted of Buffalo or jerk wings, buttermilk fried chicken tenders, roast beef sandwich, fried rice with chicken or beef, conch fritters, BBQ ribs, fish and chips, onion rings, French fries, fried plantains, and a bacon cheeseburger.

Mr. Thomas describes his food as reasonable New American fare with a Caribbean twist. “I have a New York kitchen,” he said, referring to the tight quarters that he cooks in, “but somehow I seem to make it work.” From the small kitchen come big entrées, ranging from blackened codfish served with a baked potato and vegetable and grilled Asian salmon on local greens, to barbeque ribs and chicken and breaded pork chops. Tuesdays is “Make your own Mac Night” where diners choose what they want added to their macaroni cheese. Items include lobster, vegetables, linguica, chorizo, ham, chicken, and “spicy, if you want it spicy.” Local conch usually makes an appearance on the menu in the form of fritters or conch soup and during the winter Mr. Thomas offers pizza, made with dough from Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah.

Food is served on disposable plates with plastic utensils, but “people bring their own cutlery, their plates, their china, their silverware and linens, they sit down and have dinner and I welcome that,” Mr. Thomas said. Sometimes on the weekends there will be a pianist playing.

“Do I want to see it grow? Yes. Do I want to see it busier? Yes. Am I ever going to make it a fine dining joint? No. It’s casual, come as you are, good food. It is what it is.”

In his downtime, Mr. Thomas does research and development, working on jerk sauce, hot pepper sauce, and pineapple pumpkin ginger chutney that he’s going to bottle, as well as perfecting his key lime pie. “You’ll see that stuff in the supermarket,” he said.

The restaurant is open until “whatever time the last man rolls off the stool,” he quipped. Stop in for dinner, or call for take-out: 508-693-9261.

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I grew up with Susan Branch’s “Heart of the Home” on our coffee table. It was one of my favorite books as a child, filled with whimsical illustrations and clever tips for hosting house guests. I first read MFK Fisher’s “The Art of Eating” in high school and it still sits on my bedside table for light reading. My most recent addition to my cookbook collection is “Coming Home to Sicily” by Fabrizia Lanza, a gift from a grad school friend who I attended Fabrizia’s cooking school with.

My favorite cookbooks tell a story; they are something to read rather than flip through. They occupy most of the space on my bookshelf and run the gamut from heavy hitters like Escoffier, James Beard, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Child to community cookbooks such as a 1924 benefit cookbook for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. There are those I’ve been given over the years by friends and family and those that I have picked up from my travels around the world. Some are dated, filled with recipes of yore like cocktail cheese rounds and Jell-O salads. Others, stained and dog eared, are more frequently revisited.

Here are some favorite cookbooks and recipes of Island cooks:

Gail Shufrin, Speech/Language Therapist

Favorite type of food to cook: Fresh and delicious.

Favorite cookbook: Impossible to choose just one. “Moosewood Cookbook” and “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” because they have some old standby, go-to recipes. Also, Mark Bittman books and blog. I love his creative approach to food. There are no rules and endless possibilities. For example, when he writes about beets, he doesn’t begin and end with beet and goat cheese salad. He’ll give you a dozen different ways to prepare them.

Favorite recipe: Curried butternut squash and mushroom soup and Brazilian black bean soup from “Moosewood Cookbook.” Brownies and orange poppy seed bundt cake from Silver Palate Cookbook.

Neil Hellström, server at The Plane View

Favorite type of food to cook: Ethnic foods, like curries, authentic Italian dishes that take hours to make, and Asian foods, but I also like grandmother-type roasts with fixings.

Favorite cookbook: Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef.” It was the first cookbook my parents bought me when I was a teenager. It’s simple, easy to follow, and it is a cookbook that any beginner can learn a lot from.

Favorite recipe: Jamie Oliver’s meatball casserole, although I’ve spruced it up over the years. It’s just a hearty meal that anyone would enjoy and all the ingredients are easy to find in stores.

Sharon Coogan, Administrative Assistant

Favorite type of food to cook: Quick and healthy choices for busy lives.

Favorite cookbook: It is no longer one favorite cookbook. I have a subscription to Cooking Light and Bon Appetit. I also love The Boston Globe for their seasonal recipes and love to watch America’s Test Kitchen on TV. My old time favorite is “Moosewood Cookbook” My pages are worn, I’ve used it so much over the years. But the best recipes are ones I’ve gotten from friends. I love to share and receive recipes that work. I also love to see local cookbooks like Vineyard Harvest.

Favorite recipe: Pasta al cavolfiore from “Moosewood Cookbook.” Alfredo from “The New York Times Cookbook.” Oatmeal cookies from “The Joy of Cooking.”

Pearl Vercruysse, freshman at M.V. Regional High School

Favorite type of food to cook: Right now I’m into French food.

Favorite cookbook: Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Favorite recipe: French bread from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” It takes all day, you need to do three risings, so I usually make it on the weekend.

Robin Forte, chef

Favorite type of food to cook: Usually seasonally dependent, soups, stews, and braises in cooler weather, fresh crisp salads when it’s warm, but I really love Italian food.

Favorite cookbook: That is a tough question to answer. I have a good collection of cookbooks, so it’s difficult to pick just one. I love my signed copy of Marco Pierre White’s cookbook, but I rarely cook from it. I hate to pick a favorite, but a book I use often is “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. It is a wonderful book filled with food I love to prepare and eat.

Favorite Recipe: Potato gnocchi from Lidia Bastianich.

Wendy Jacobs, personal style consultant for House of Colour

Favorite type of food to cook: I love to cook all types of food. American, Thai, French, Peruvian, vegetarian, really anything that tastes good.

Favorite cookbook: I have so many favorites, so choosing just one is tough. One that stands out is “Kinkead’s.” It’s also one of my favorite restaurants in Washington, D.C. They have a “sister” restaurant in Boston called Sibling Rivalry, the two chefs are brothers. I love the cookbook because I’ve been able to eat several of the recipes from the cookbook while dining at Kinkead’s restaurant, and the recipes are perfect. I can recreate these amazing dishes at home.

Favorite recipe: Sweet potato gnocchi with pancetta, chanterelles, walnuts, and sage from Kinkead’s. It is heaven on earth. I’ve made it for several dinner parties and it steals the show and it’s just a side dish.