Wednesday, August 31, 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's 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
Chilmark Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, August 29, 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 laits 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. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Brio Tuscan Grille

I had been curious about Brio Tuscan Grille ever since I noticed last year they had moved into The Shops at Chestnut Hill. A couple weeks ago we had a really nice time dining with them. Although I've never been to Tuscany, the space somehow feels like I'd expect a Tuscan Villa to - grand molded archways with roman columns and sweeping gauzy curtains, marbled accent walls and tabletops, the afternoon summer light streaming in through the wrap around terrace. The expansive dining room boasts leather meets upholstered booths and tables set in crisp white linens. 

We started our meal in classic Italian fashion - a round loaf of bread still warm and crusty from the oven and an olive oil plate with all the parmesan, crushed red pepper and balsamic accoutrements. Brio's Buratta and Ciabatta ($10.95) appetizer is a near perfect rendition. They pair the soft, milky cheese with a hearty roasted tomato dip and plenty of lightly toasted ciabatta. I liked the presentation on a wooden board over an Italian newspaper placemat. The Calamari Fritto Misto ($11.95) is a heavily breaded and crispy version that would do well for a big party each having a couple bites. It was too much as a second appetizer for two people and had us filling up fast! Little did we know how massive the entrees would be...
From the Tuscan grille Bob had the New Zealand raised Lamb Chops Double Cut ($29.95) which were nicely cooked, with a side of the lust worthy Fingerling Potatoes Brio. Those fork tender fingerlings coated in an ethreal special sauce served in a mini cast iron skillet are a must order! Despite being overwhelmed by the serving portion of my Chicken Limone ($21.95) I loved it (especially for lunch not one but two days in a row!) The chicken is prepared traditional picatta style and served with lemon, capers, haricot vert and mashed potatoes in a flavorful lemon and herb sauce. 
As far as desserts are concerned, their Flourless Chocolate Torte ($6.95) misses the mark with a wedge of unremarkable chocolate and an olive oil gelato. The texture of the cake was off and the gelato was missing a creaminess to it - that special note that sets good gelatos apart. The Caramel Mascarpone Cheescake ($3.95) with anglaise sauce and whipped creme was the better choice. That said, with large portions of hearty classic Italian starters and entrees, you'll likely be too full anyways!

200 Boylston Street
Chestnut HillMA 02467
Brio Tuscan Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

*this meal was complimentary, all opinions are my own*

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