Dishing: Cool culinary finds

Ceramics by Lainey Fink
You put effort into your food. It’s true whether you spent all afternoon prepping, chopping, and roasting a feast for five, or you just drove on down to your favorite local restaurant and picked up takeout. Your meal took work, so why not let your plating reflect that?

That’s right — say goodbye to the dishes you’ve had for decades, and browse one-of-a-kind ceramic stoneware and sets by Lainey Fink. Each piece is a completely unique work of art, hand-thrown by Fink here on Martha’s Vineyard.

Fink’s career in ceramics had a slow start, dating back to her college days at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Before graduating with a BFA in graphic design, Fink took an introductory course in ceramics. “I turned out the wonkiest, most bottom-heavy pieces, and found the wheel to be incredibly challenging, but fell madly in love,” Fink wrote to Edible. “I was enamored by the tactility of clay, the magic of glazes, and being able to lose myself in the moment the wheel starts to spin.”

Fink worked at NYC- and Boston-based design firms before forming Bluerock Design with her husband, Ben Scott, in 2012. Although the business allowed Fink to act on her creative instincts in graphic design, she had a pressing desire to create art in a more physical sense.

Fink and her husband moved to the Island in early 2014, and it was here that she found her groove in ceramics. Fink attended open studios at Featherstone, which quickly revived her love of working at the wheel. “It became a full-blown obsession, one that kept me up at night, as I threw piece after piece,” Fink said.

It was a friend who pushed Fink to pursue ceramics professionally, after he commissioned her to create a great deal of dinnerware for the Beach Plum. Fink’s been at the wheel for the long term ever since.

“Clay has been a transformational tool in my life since moving the Island — it’s a medium I find both harmony and meditation in,” Fink wrote. She’s a potter at heart, basking in the craft’s unpredictability, and the connections to this community her work allows. “I feel so fortunate to live, work, and create on this beautiful Island,” Fink wrote. “When I travel and return home, the air always smells sweeter and the light is warmer.”

Find Lainey Fink’s ceramics at laineyfink.com, or around the Island. Pieces and sets are for sale at the Gray Barn Farmstand in Chilmark; Lennox & Harvey, Morrice Florist, and Vineyard Decorators in Vineyard Haven; and Behind the Bookstore and Salte in Edgartown.

Anna Ward’s website

Maybe spending this summer socially distant has left you in search of a new hobby. I know I’ve tried my hand at home cooking, and though I’m no expert, it can be a great way to lift your spirits. Not only does time fly when you’re in the kitchen, but you get to enjoy your end results in all their delicious glory.

To get inspired, check out the writings and recipes of Anna Ward at her new website, annapward.com. Ward is a born-and-raised Islander, now working as a fine wine specialist at Skinner, a renowned auction house in Boston.

Ward’s family owned Zapotec in the ’80s, a Mexican restaurant that lived where the Red Cat is now. “My mom was the chef, and she’s an incredible cook, so I grew up cooking with her, and it’s something I’ve just always done,” Ward said.

Ward stresses that her primary goal is to use the website as a creative outlet, though she does offer some “wine-focused” services. Interested website visitors can shoot Ward a message to request a wine consultation or related project.

Ward nostalgically recounted the prepandemic days of houseguests and gatherings, for which she would often spend an entire day cooking. “This website is just a way for me to still be able to share the things I’m creating with my friends,” Ward said. Her website reflects that, with a relaxed and conversational tone throughout. “Food and wine has always been designed for sharing, not presentation,” Ward said. “It’s meant to be communal and fun.

New in Oak Bluffs: Sarah Brown’s

Though this year has been one of the toughest yet for our Island community, it seems we always find a way to persevere. Restaurant owners and staff are among the many to go above and beyond, and this summer, a number of new spots have even opened for business.

In the mood for comfort food? That’s the specialty at Sarah Brown’s, a new restaurant at 53 Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs.

Sarah Brown’s is all about Southern tradition, with menu items that will appeal to every taste. Their baked chicken entrée is apricot-glazed and coupled with French green beans, smothered in garlic butter. For the seafood lover, there’s the oven-broiled lobster tail, or the salmon fillet. Try the tried and true filet mignon, or the stewed oxtails if you’re up for something new.

Even non-meat-eaters can find something at Sarah Brown’s, whether it be the panko-crusted eggplant or one of the dozen sides available. There’s veggies to go around, huge portions of potato salad, and best of all, a heaping pan of mac and cheese (three cheeses included!).

While the Sarah Brown’s restaurant is all about good food, it’s made better by the history behind it. Sarah Brown was born in South Carolina to an African American father and a Cherokee Indian mother. Brown developed a love for cooking, not to mention a talent for it. She relocated to New York during the era of the civil rights movement, where she found work as a home attendant, and for the well-known catering company, Blanch Johnson Caterers. This experience launched Sarah Brown’s catering in 1970, right out of Brown’s home kitchen. Next came takeout service in the form of Sarah Brown Express in 1995, and the Sarah at the Temple Tikvah Ballroom in 2019. The Sarah Brown’s team’s latest endeavor is their Oak Bluffs location.

Sarah Brown’s will be open for both takeout and dine-in service all summer long, with outdoor seating available on Sundays. When placing an order, customers are encouraged to call 90 minutes in advance — you won’t be sorry for the wait when the Sarah Brown’s team cooks your order to perfection.

Find Sarah Brown’s online at sarahbrownsmv.com, or give them a call at 516-526-3943.

Kombucha by Kulture Club and Katama Brewing Co.

In the time of COVID-19, more and more people are giving attention to the benefits of food: What, if anything, can we eat to stay healthy? Though there’s no miracle cure-all, kombucha just might be the next best thing. The naturally carbonated tea is fermented, using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY for short. These bacteria are rich in probiotics, meaning they could be good for your gut.

Even if you think these health benefits are just myths and mumbo jumbo, there’s no reason not to pick up a bottle of tea for the taste alone. Next time you’re in the market for kombucha, check out these Island-brewed options:

Whether you’re a seasoned kombucha drinker or completely new to the stuff, Katama Brewing Co. has got you covered. This Island business may be just a couple of years old, but it’s already made a name for itself.

After graduating college, co-founder James Walters moved to M.V. to manage the FARM Institute. He spent that first summer loving Island life and brewing kombucha with friends after taking a course in the craft.

“Then winter rolled around, which was way different than the summer,” Walters said. “I had never been to the Vineyard until I moved out here, so during that first transition, I was like, ‘Oh boy.’ I needed a project to do.”

Last year, Katama Brewing Co. sold its kombucha primarily through retailers. Scottish Bakehouse and the Larder in Vineyard Haven have both sold their products, and the latter is where their kombucha is physically brewed.

Walters is enthusiastic about the company’s newest location, the West Tisbury Farmers Market. “I never really got to meet my customers doing wholesale, but now I have weekly customers who come back and give feedback.” As a plus, Walters considers the Farmers Market one of the safer Island activities right now. “It’s been nice. Everyone’s been wearing masks and following the rules,” Walters said.

Katama Brewing Co. currently offers four fresh-brewed flavors, with a fifth on the horizon. Customers can choose from “original,” “pineapple ginger,” “strawberry basil,” and “orange and citra hops,” all of which use a base blend of black and green tea. If you’re looking for something with a kick, keep an eye out for “berry jalepeño” in the coming weeks.

If you’ve come this far and you’re still not sure if kombucha is the thing for you, no worries — Katama Brewing Co. sells homemade ginger beer too, available for purchase at the Farmers Market. Or maybe you just need a bit more convincing …

According to founder Nina Gordon, Kulture Club MV didn’t start out as a business. Gordon had spent three years brewing kombucha on her own, experimenting with flavors and drinking the results.

Gordon shared her hobby with friends, hosting a series of tasting parties and handing out kombucha starters to inspire others to get brewing. Not many shared the passion for brewing that Gordon had, but everyone recognized her talent. After several requests to buy her brews, Gordon decided it was time to turn her “club” into a business.

Over the course of the next year, Gordon transitioned from selling kombucha at the Larder and the Chilmark Flea Market to offering a weekly subscription service, to upgrading her basement into the home of Kulture Club MV. With the new space, Gordon’s supply could finally meet the intense demand from Island kombucha fans. “This was the first time I started a business that was successful from the beginning, and it’s still exciting,” Gordon said.

Today, Gordon offers her kombucha through a number of Island retailers, including Ghost Island Farm and North Tisbury Farm in West Tisbury, Waterside Market, Nat’s Nook, Scottish Bakehouse, and Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah.

Not in the mood for pickup? Gordon also does home deliveries. You can find an order form on the Kulture Club MV website, where you’ll be asked for your address and choice of flavor (or two, or three). Customers will also be given the option to donate bottles of kombucha to an essential worker. “I used to work as a nurse at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, so even though the Island hasn’t been hit hard with COVID, I understand the risk and fear that our healthcare providers and frontline workers face on a daily basis,” Gordon said. Kulture Club MV will also match every 12 donated bottles with a donation of its own. “I’m also willing to donate kombucha to Island residents who may be sick and think kombucha will help them,” Gordon said.

If you’re thinking of giving Kulture Club MV’s kombucha a try, the ingredients will sway you once and for all. Gordon uses homegrown and in-season foraged goods, including wild blueberries, rose geranium, honeysuckle, basil, strawberries, Asian pears, mint, lavender, and her very own peaches, just to name a fraction of her repertoire. “I used to joke that I wish I could get paid to walk on the beach, and now that’s part of my job,” Gordon said, mentioning the beach roses she often utilizes in the summer season. “It truly is a taste of the Vineyard.”