Friday, August 26, 2016

Down Island | Martha's Vineyard

Presenting my latest guide for where to eat and drink in the down island towns of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown!! We have been backpacking around the island via the Vineyard Transit Authority bus system which is such a fun way to explore. Fast forward post Menemsha and Aquinnah days to Oak Bluffs where we stayed at our favorite harbor-front hotel The Dockside. (You can read my review here.)I will go ahead and say the chicken wings at Coup de Ville (12 Circuit Ave Extension) are not to be missed when in Oak Bluffs. We started our evening at the casual open air waterfront shack with a couple beers - they have an extensive selection on draft - and ended up devouring a basket of their "World Famous Wings" ($12) on a whim. There are a ton of sauces to choose from such as: dragon fire, suicide, Jamaican Jerk, Cajun, New Orleans Voodoo and Maryland. 
We wandered the lively streets and happened upon a new whiskey bar 20byNine (16 Kennebec Ave) where we mingled with locals over cocktails and small plates. We loved the Smoked Bluefish Mason Jar ($10) with bacon jam and blistered tomatoes and enjoyed a unique take on Tuna Tartare as it meshed with bites of watermelon. Both dishes come served on handsome slate boards. The Johnny Cakes ($10) with strawberry rhubarb prove rather bland and insubstantial. 

The bartender shakes up exquisite cocktails; from a perfect Old Fashioned to creations like the Down Island ($12) with rye, lillet rouge, lillet blanc, maraschino liqueur + rhubarb bitters and the Paper Plane ($12) - bourbon, citrus, amaro nonino, aperol + hopped grapefruit. 

 The next day: South Beach (Katama) with a six pack of Rolling Rock. 
The next night: Dinner in Edgartown at Rockfish (11 N Water Street). We really like both The Port Hunter and Alchemy but wanted to try somewhere new-to-us. Our hotel's virtual concierge named Loomis (you text him, he's a real person who lives on island!) recommended Rockfish and he did not steer us wrong. We started with terrific barrel aged whiskey cocktails - a Boulevardier for her and a Manhattan for him. 

The Wood Oven Charred Brussels Sprouts appetizer was on another level. I know, when are charred brussels sprouts not lust worthy? But - this dish has applewood smoked bacon, mashed potatoes and a ROQUEFORT FONDU. As far as entrees go, the Linguine alle Vongole and the Roasted Half Chicken were delicious.

Our final day on island was gloomy and rainy. We went for a run around Oak Bluffs Harbor and by all the whimsical, colorful gingerbread houses and throughout their respective little neighborhoods before the downpour. 

After checking out of The Dockside we put our name in for a coveted table at Biscuits (26 Lake Avenue). This is the only place in Oak Bluffs that does a sit down breakfast on weekdays and their food is worth the wait. We had the Biscuits Benedict ($9.25), the South Beach Scramble ($7.25) and a side of Biscuits and Gravy ($3.25). Next we decided to visit to Bad Martha Brewery which turned into an all out Edgartown / Oak Bluffs bar crawl. 

If you encounter a rainy day while down island and happen to be in a similar drinking mood, here's a look at all the fun: --bus from Oak Bluffs to the stop just before Edgartown Post Office -->
Bad Martha Farmers Brewery (270 Upper Main Street) for beer flights followed by mason jars of your favorite brew; their flagship Martha's Vineyard Ale happens to be mine. 
Sharky's Cantina (266 Upper Main Street) - just next door from the brewery for a thirst quenching Sharkarita! Add a fruit puree to any marg - from watermelon, mango and strawberry, to ginger and pineapple-mint.
The Wharf (3 Main Street) - meander by picturesque and historic houses on a 10-15 minute stroll into the main section of town to this cozy pub. We made lots of likeminded drinking friends here!
Atlantic Fish & Chop House (2 Main Street) - just across the cobblestone street for their signature bar side bacon and a big glass of rosé. The sun is starting to peek out and a stroll around the wharf is in order. 
--> bus from Edgartown Post Office back to Oak Bluffs -->
Sand Bar & Grille (6 Circuit Avenue Extension) - It is full on gorgeous sunshine at this point so Painkillers on the dock front sand bar it is! 
The Lookout (8 Seaview Ave) - Sushi time! We scored two seats at the tiny sushi bar nestled among this rowdy tavern. Special thanks to our waitress for not judging us at this point in our crawl ;) But we're still going strong with cute little jars of cold Gekkeikan Sake. Soon its time to grab our bags and catch the last Friday evening ferry home to the mainland.

Thank you for making it through this long food and drink crawl filled post! I hope these recaps can serve as a solid guide if you visit Martha's Vineyard. And if you've been, let me know if you have a favorite spot that I missed! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Black Dog | Vineyard Haven

During a brief stop in Vineyard Haven before heading out to Menemsha we decided on an early lunch at The Black Dog Tavern.

The restaurant opens for breakfast and then closes from 11am-12pm. We had just missed the last seating. Since we had our bags in tow and did not feel like heading elsewhere we decided to put our names in and wait it out on the pretty harbor beach above. Turns out it was well worth the wait! An overflowing mug of seriously good Quahog Chowder ($6) with house made croutons alongside a crisp, refreshing, cheers-to-our-first-day-on-island Bloody Mary and I am in MV heaven! Following the chowder I enjoyed a terrific Blackened Swordfish Sandwich ($17). The Black Dog is synonymous with the Vineyard and while I hadn't been since I was a kid and often thought of it as being super touristy - the food, service and atmosphere all stack up. 

21 Beach Street Extension
Vineyard Haven, MA

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chilmark Tavern

During our stay up Island on Martha's Vineyard we had an exceptional dinner at the Chilmark Tavern. This BYOB bistro is rustic yet refined and serves whimsical dishes with local seafood and ingredients from neighboring farms. We started the night with cocktails from a little canteen of vodka that I'm so glad we brought along! I had their Shrub ($8) which combined the vodka with fruit based drinking vinegar and seltzer. Bob went with a classic vodka martini ($5). Then, they uncorked ($14) our bottle of Winderlea Pinot Noir Rosé with dinner.

Here's a look at what we ate:
‘caesar’ ($16) baby kale, mixed chicories, grape tomato, bottarga, crunchy croutons

edgartown razor clams ($19) steamed + chilled, finger lime, 
tobiko, salmon roe, avocado crema, grapefruit oil, sea beans 

bluefish ($37) smoked + pan seared, braised fennel, celery, 
onion soubise, citrus, pickled currants, lemon thyme oil

island fluke ($39) razor clam + green garlic broth, fingerling potatoes, 
island grown summer squash, ramp butter

Upon receiving the check, we remarked how expensive the meal was considering the BYOB factor. It wasn't until writing this post I realized how pricey each dish truly was. I guess it is to be expected in a more remote island locale. The food was impressive so if you're looking to splurge it's worth it.

Next up we head down Island to Oak Bluffs for a few days - more MV recommends to come!

9 State Road
Chilmark, MA 02535

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Aquinnah | Martha's Vineyard

This might have been my favorite day of summer 2016. Visiting Aquinnah and seeing the Gay Head Cliffs have been on my bucket list foreverStaying in Menemsha presented the perfect opportunity to finally get there. We grabbed the last set of bikes available at our inn and stopped for a lovely breakfast of lox and bagel sandwiches with cafe au lait at Beetlebung Coffee House (24 Basin Road) before catching the bike ferry at the end of North Road. Convenient and scenic, the $5 ferry ride crosses Menemsha Creek in about 3 minutes and drops you at the remote tip of West Basin Road in Aquinnah. 

The bike ride from West Basin is quiet and flat to begin but once you get past the marshlands and Lobsterville Beach, taking a sharp right onto Lighthouse Road it is almost entirely uphill. Reaching our destination we took in the immense beauty of the cliffs and brick lighthouse from afar, explored the tiny village shops, and then walked through the Aquinnah Headlands down to Philbin Beach. The colorful dune-cliffs are so unique and stunning up close. We walked for awhile and settled on a remote spot just before where the beach curved and became entirely rocks. (FYI the farther you venture to the right, the more nude sunbathers begin to appear.) It's a little challenging to take a swim out that way since boulders dot the shoreline and strong waves crash in. 

We had a late lunch at the Aquinnah Shop Restaurant (27 Aquinnah Circle). The clam chowder and the spicy tuna tacos were spot on! Definitely go for a table on the back deck. Salty, sandy and sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc perched at a weathered turquoise table overlooking a majestic view of nothing but vibrant greens and blues was a very happy moment indeed. But the best feeling was knowing the 5 miles we had to bike home were all downhill; and we cruised back to the ferry in no time. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Menemsha | Martha's Vineyard

This was my first time up island!! Past visits to Martha's Vineyard always brought me to the down island hustle of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. The remote towns of Chilmark and Aquinnah provide an entirely different Martha's Vineyard experience. They are quiet and calming with sprawling farmlands and headlands leading to some of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever encountered. Seriously!

Menemsha is a dreamy little fishing village in the town of Chilmark. No matter where the days adventures take you, everyone gathers at Mememsha Beach for the epic cotton candy sunsets with lobster dinners from the neighboring fish markets. People swear by the seafood at Larsen's, but we ended up at Menemsha Fish Market simply to avoid a long line. Their raw bar and all things lobster: bisque, whole steamed + the hot lobster roll were terrific. I wouldn't hesitate to head there if Larsen's has a crowd. Seafood doesn't get any fresher than a dockside fish market so as long as you hit one up you're doing Menemsha right!

We stayed at The Menemsha Inn. Based on the impeccable website and the hefty midweek price tag ($340/night and we picked the least expensive room at the Teahouse), we expected more. On the positive side, the inn itself is lovely with grounds and gardens that are peaceful and well maintained. It is conveniently walkable to the harbor beach via a winding path that slopes down the hill and opens up to a beautiful marsh. They serve lemonade and fresh baked cookies daily. Our plush king size bed was super comfy. On the contrary - the bathroom ceiling paint peeling off in large chunks and the cushions on our patio furniture steeped with mold felt like they overlooked some key details. Our room came with wine glasses but not a wine opener - I had to sign my life away at the front desk to borrow one (easy win for the inn: provide each room a wine key). Nowhere on the website did it mention bike rentals were extra ($10/day) but the bikes are old, rickety and rusty so they didn't charge us, which was fair. 

Essentially, if this were a $200/night hotel I might not blink at any of these annoyances (because we had such an amazing time) but this room was expensive; I felt it was only fair to note for those looking to plan a trip. Expectations can be everything.
The Mememsha Inn's sister property The Beach Plum Inn has a picturesque restaurant that serves breakfast from 7:30 - 10:30am. Whether you are a guest a the property or not, I'd recommend stopping in for their breakfast with a view - my Portuguese Bread French Toast and Bob's Pastrami Eggs Benedict were really tasty.
Staying at The Menamsha Inn gives you access to Chilmark's renowned Lucy Vincent or Squibnocket beaches. A big deal was made to take the walk on pass though ("THIS IS A $100 PASS, DO NOT LOOSE IT." Okay, okay, I got it!) I quickly came to realize this pass is a big deal as you cannot walk onto the beach or park in their lot without one. LVB is also known for her nude sunbathing section. I've been to beaches all over and I'm telling you, Lucy Vincent is unparalleled. The shoreline is breathtaking with cliffs outstretched on one end, a classic dunescape reaching towards the other and the water is pure comfort - warm yet refreshing and crystal clear with the perfect waves to drift around on or bodysurf.
If you do not bring a car on island the VTA Transit system has you covered. With 13 routes the buses are reliable even though the schedule can be tricky to navigate from one side of the island to the other. From Oak Bluffs to Menemsha for example it is three buses and will take you over an hour. (It's about 45 minutes with a car, I believe.) If you were up island for longer than two days you'd probably want to bring or rent a car. Also, many of the roads in Chilmark are NOT bike friendly. There are dangerous blind turns which we were warned when checking in that bikers have no business being on. I didn't expect this. So even though it's remote, there are just a few main roads that see plenty of car traffic.

And the final big tip if you are headed up Island: These are all dry towns so plan accordingly! (This means there are no liquor stores and the restaurants do not serve alcohol. Most are BYOB.) We packed our Yeti cooler with about 15 cans of beer, two bottles of wine (1 Sancerre, 1 Rosé), and 2 flasks of gin, plus a tonic water. It basically went like this - a couple cans of beer on the beach each day, gin+tonics for happy hour at the inn or the harbor docks in town, and a bottle of wine with dinner each night! 

I have a lot more MV vacation fun and recommendations that I hope to get around to soon! I hope you all are having a wonderful summer and enjoying the heat wave