Year in Review: Food and Dining

Leslie Johnson, Eva Sivakoff, and Leah Fraumeni. — Photo by Marnely Rodriguez-Murra

To recount everything new that happened Martha’s Vineyard — specifically in the culinary world — is a tough deed. First of all, let’s be honest: My memory isn’t that great. It’s also hard because so many great things happened in 2015. From restaurant openings to published cookbooks, we’re counting down the year in review (at least the things I can remember):

Starlite Lounge opened at Airport Park, feeding an area that greatly lacked food options in Edgartown. Annie Foley is cooking up a storm for lunch there, so make it a resolution to visit in 2016.

The Red Cat hits the Ritz was a collaboration that got us all excited when we heard Chef Ben DeForest was cooking at the best dive bar on the Rock. They’ve got a great local following, blue plate specials to get you through the winter without breaking the bank, and desserts by Tiny Baker Erica McCarron that will get your sweet tooth going.

Two new products hit the Island markets: MV Cider Co. and itorganics soda, both trying to capture the huge trend in the beverage industry and the thirst for new beverages. MV Cider Co. serves up a cider unlike any other, while itorganics soda is the first organic, non-GMO fruit soda inspired by Martha’s Vineyard.

New restaurant openings included Beach Road, where I dined two hours before the Obamas arrived, missing them by 10 minutes; and La Soffita, a romantic Italian restaurant to replace Le Grenier in Vineyard Haven.

Rosewater Market also opened a takeaway market this year that Edgartown flocked to instantly. With a great stock of specialty ingredients, as well as a kitchen that’s pumping out delicious baked goods, quick and fresh lunches, and takeaway dinners that any family will love, Rosewater has become a favorite.

In the healthy arena, Edgartown succeeds on-Island with the creation of three health-focused companies: Remedy MV, Smooth Moves, and Isola’s Healthy Habit. Remedy MV is the first juice cleanse made on Island, and Smooth Moves, a smoothie shop, catered to thirsty tourists all summer long. Isola’s Healthy Habit was the one spot I recommended to anyone with dietary restrictions this year — you can get tasty goodies that are sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian. One of the best chocolate desserts I had this year was their chocolate “cheesecake” square.

Cottage City Oysters, Oak Bluff’s new oyster farm, provided customers with some of the freshest oysters from the cool, crisp waters of the Vineyard Sound this season.

Let’s talk about the ever-so-popular chef shuffle: Craig Decker (previously of Alchemy fame) moved to Rockfish; Gio Smiroldo became the new chef at Alchemy (he had worked with Mario Batali before coming on-Island); Nathan Gould moved from the Harbor View Hotel to the Beach Plum, where Islanders and tourists alike flocked for his pop-up ramen, pho, bbq, and whiskey nights; and the new chef at Harbor View Hotel became Caleb Lara, who also led the way for Lighthouse Grill replacing Water Street restaurant at the hotel.

Another type of shuffle was the name change: Lure became the Dunes at the Winnetu, led by Chef Matthew Pasquala, who crafted some delicious menus with everyone in mind.

New books were written on Island, including Little Bites by Sarah Waldman, a cookbook for the kiddos to eat well. Chris Fisher wrote the Beetlebung Farm cookbook, packed with Island history and inspired recipes.

We had our fair share of foodie festivals: MVY Radio’s Annual Big Chili Contest, the 31st annual Great Chowder Contest, Taste of the Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Wine Fest, and the Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival — festivals that opened our minds to new foods, wines, and techniques.

Some of us had the pleasure of attending the Martha’s Vineyard Wine School at Atria, where Sam Decker led us in tasting wines in a new way. Guests discovered new favorite wines, all paired with food by Chef Christian Thornton.

For the sushi lovers, the Lampost opened Siren Sushi Restaurant, where creative sushi rolls took the stage.

Zagat Guide named 20byNine in Oak Bluffs one of the “11 Hottest Restaurants on Cape Cod & the Islands,” a prestigious naming indeed. Other publications have named 20byNine one of New England’s best whiskey bars.

The Barn, Bowl & Bistro opened in Oak Bluffs. A bowling alley was one of the entertainment options the Island was lacking, and now with the formation of bowling leagues, and a restaurant led by Chef Albert Lattanzi, locals and visitors alike have a new spot to hang out.

Wolf’s Den Pizza in Vineyard Haven had locals craving more pizza than ever. The creative pies, the good prices, and the ever-changing specials have people loving Wolf’s Den. The local support is notable.

I’m 100 percent sure I’ve forgotten to name more than one new thing that happened in 2015, at least in our little Island food world. If you’d like to remind me of an opening or event I didn’t mention, tweet me at @nella22 and I’ll be happy to chat more about my failing memory. Happy 2016, friends. Thanks for reading my ramblings about food this year!