I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of Martha’s Vineyard with its abundant beaches, gorgeous gardens and artsy vibe, yet in all my years—and we’re talking a LOT of them—I had never been there. Well now I can say I have. For my birthday this past July, Russ treated me to eight days on MV, an island located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, known for being an affluent summer colony with award-winning restaurants.
Since our cottage rental was from Sunday-to-Sunday, our original plan was to drive up to the Worcester, Mass area on Saturday and visit overnight with Russ’ son Dan. But as luck would have it, we found out about a month prior that Dan was going to be on his vacation in the Philly area at that same exact time. Plan B—find a hotel for one night near Woods Hole, where you catch the ferry to MV. As feared, every place within 150 miles of Woods Hole was booked! So with reluctance, we took the last room at the Falmouth Inn (rated two stars on TripAdvisor) in Falmouth, itself a great little coastal town just a few short miles from Woods Hole.
I won’t go into details about the facility, but let’s just say it was clean, and we figured we could handle it for one night. But what to do about dinner? Having no reservations, we went online on our trusty iPad and googled nearby restaurants. One popular establishment within walking distance was the Añejo Mexican Bistro and Tequila Bar. Seems everyone else in Falmouth had the same idea! By the time we got in line, there was at least a two-hour wait and they weren’t even taking anymore names on the list for at least 15 minutes. No way José!!
We next stumbled upon La Cucina Sul Mare, which means the Kitchen by the Sea; and with a much smaller wait list, we added our names, ordered two glasses of red and went out back to sip some wine. Directly situated near our bench was a pastel yellow Vespa for which patrons could buy chances to win the Italian motorbike. Couldn’t help but take a pic of Russie near the Vespa (but couldn’t coax him to straddle it.)
It wasn’t long before they called us to a corner table by a picture window overlooking the hungry queue on Main Street. Admiring the warmly decorated interior with richly painted murals and tin ceilings, and without too much trouble, we skipped appetizers and selected entrees. My order: Almond Encrusted Salmon ~Pan seared served over sautéed spinach, topped with baby shrimp, finished with a lemon and white wine caper sauce, and I had to eat it all because there was no accommodations for an overnight doggie bag — OK, force me…
Russ chose the Braised Short Rib Cacciatore ~ 16oz Beef short rib with onions, peppers and mushrooms over risotto Milanese. Yes, he ate all of his too! So if you ever find yourself in Falmouth, this restaurant is a good bet.
Fast forward to the following morning. Our ferry didn’t leave until noon, so we had breakfast at Friendly’s across the street (when was the last time you were in a Friendly’s??), checked out of the no-frills motel and drove to Wood’s Hole. After a bit of confusion on where to park the car, we had about an hour to kill, so we ambled over to the ever-popular Pie in the Sky restaurant for some coffee and tea, just a one-minute walk from the Martha’s Vineyard ferry terminal. Boy what a gold mine that place is! Located in historic Woods Hole, at the end of the Shining Sea Bike Path, it serves breakfast and lunch all day. It took some doing for Russ to finally jostle his way through the crowds and get our beverages.
Awaiting to drive our vehicle into the ferry.
At the Steamship Authority, when directed we drove our car into the bowel of the Martha Vineyard vessel, which would be about a 45-minute ferry ride to Oak Bluffs. The day was partly cloudy and very misty so we didn’t see much on the way over. Authority workers very efficiently pack the vehicles in with just inches to spare, and just as efficiently order the disembarkation process, impressive! We heard the ferry “chowdah” is excellent, but still full from breakfast, we abstained.
Oak Bluffs was hopping as we drove out of the terminal and onto the streets. But we were on a mission to visit the Stop and Shop for groceries before getting to our cottage just outside of Edgartown. Once laden with vittles and beverages, with the help of directions from the rental owner, Rita, and our trusty Acura GPS “Betty,” we arrived at our destination an hour early. No problemo! We unpacked and hightailed it to South Beach, a mere 2 miles away. Remember I said it was misty on the ferry ride over? Well it was just as misty at the beach and our hair became wet with saltwater mist, not necessarily a good look on either of us…
With time to kill at the No-tell Motel the night before, we took the opportunity to make reservations at some restaurants for the first few nights on the island. Sunday night: Lucky Hanks Restaurant & Cafe a cute little house festooned in white lights, which opened in Fall 2012. Lucky us, we were seated in the back screened-in porch area with a view of their organic gardens and Trader Joe’s grocery bags containing geraniums at the top and tomato vines projecting from the bottom that hung from the eaves! As far as the name, Lucky Hank himself doesn’t actually exist, at least not in the real world. We overheard a waitress tell the folks dining next to us that the restaurant was named after the owner’s dog, when in fact the name belongs to a character in the Richard Russo novel Straight Man.
Russ couldn’t wait to chow down on some New England Clam Chowder with fresh herbs, and was not disappointed! The Seared Sea Scallops with lobster puree and warm root vegetable salad was calling my name and I’m glad it did because not only was the plate visually stunning, the food was fabulous as well. Russ opted for the Atlantic Salmon with lentil salad, fresh arugula, lemon caper vinaigrette, and was just as delicious.
Monday dawned beautiful and sunny, so after a 4-mile walk and quick breakfast at the homestead, we hit the beach for a few hours. Dinner that evening was scheduled at The Grill on Main, an upscale, year-round restaurant that offers outstanding New England-American Cuisine. Born and raised in the industry and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, chef Antonio Saccoccia has years of experience working in Rhode Island and New York restaurants.
We split appetizers of Lobster Turnover with a Shrimp and Lemon Cream Sauce and Atlantic Crab and Sweet Corn Cakes with a Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise, and oh-so-good!
Wanting a different spin from my usual takes on seafood, I chose the Baked Codfish with a Citrus Beurre Blanc; while Russ got a special of the night Veal Chop with Caramelized Shallots nestled in a potato gratin and a vegetable medley.
Not to think all we did was lay on the beach and eat, we actually fast-walked for 60-90 minutes each morning before we had breakfast and came across some amazing sights. For example, one trip, less than a mile and a half from our cottage was the 2015 HGTV Dream Home. Another walk took us directly into the Katama Organic Farm Institute where (later) we bought some organic grass-fed beef, just-picked potatoes and green onions. And the 2-mile stroll to South Beach took us by the Katama Air Park with grass field landings, bi-plane rides and the infamous Right Fork Diner (which we never did get to.)
Now, the reason we came to the island—my 60th birthday. As a change of venue, we drove to Vineyard Havens to enjoy breakfast at the renowned Art Cliff Diner, highly recommended by cottage owner Rita.
No trip to the Vineyard is complete without a visit to this cute, perennial Vineyard Haven diner where the adventurous breakfast and lunch menu makes use of fresh island ingredients; yes, its popularity may result in “eternal waits” unless you get there at the crack of dawn, but it’s all quite a lot of fun!
Every review warned of a long wait and that parking would be difficult at best. But it seemed like the gods were smiling upon us because Russ got a parking spot right out front, and even though there were numerous parties on the porch waiting to be seated, I walked in to put our name on the list and was shown to a table for two immediately! Yes, it was going to be a good day… or so we thought.
It took some time to determine our order from the extensive menu, but we asked for coffee and green tea right away—then again ten minutes later, and again, and again before one of the many ditzy waitstaff finally followed through. After some agonizing, I settled on the Farmers Market Frittatta – 3 eggs scrambled with herbs, tomato, spinach, mushroom, Chervil cheese over layered yukon gold potatoes and whole grain toast, of which I could barely finish half. All morning Russ had been dreaming about their famous Corn Beef Hash, so despite many other tempting selections, that’s what he ordered. And then we waited, and waited, and waited. Mine finally arrived, so I let Russ eat some toast before his overdone hash finally presented itself. Fearing that if he returned it for a properly cooked order, I’d be long done before he ever got the replacement. Apparently the gods quit smiling after we sat down 😦
After breakfast we spent a couple of hours shopping in the quaint stores that dotted Main Street, then drove back down the island to our cottage and finally the beach… yes I know, Life’s a Beach sometimes…
The one reservation we made months in advance was for my birthday celebration dinner on the outdoor patio at The Terrace at The Charlotte Inn which highlights classic American cuisine with French and Italian accents, spotlighting the best ingredients, exquisitely prepared. Located in the heart of Edgartown village, The Terrace restaurant offers exceptional fine dining in an elegant, old-world atmosphere. Seated in a small courtyard with a lovely fountain and fragrant blossoms, Russ ordered a bottle of Viña Alberdi Rioja Reserva while we perused the menu.
The evening was lovely, and the atmosphere romantic so we were in no hurry to rush through our meal. After listening to specials, our appetizer selections were The Terrace Spinach Salad, with sliced apples, crispy house-cured pancetta, bleu cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and warm vinaigrette for me; while Russ ordered an absolutely exquisite Lobster & Avocado Salad on grilled brioche with fresh basil. OMG, we thought we died and went to heaven! We have got to get that recipe (the photo does not do it justice at all.)
Two wonderful entrees came next. For me: Grilled NE Family Farms Lamb Chops (perfectly cooked to a medium-rare), twice baked potato, crispy kale and homemade mint jelly. With some chops left over, I was able to save them as an hors d’oeuvre later in the week. Russ also chose a meat entree ordering the Pepper-Crusted NE Family Farms Filet Mignon, with au gratin potatoes, baby carrots, and a veal demi-glace… no leftovers for him! In fact, he selected a dessert of Lemon Pot de Crème consisting of homemade red wine granita and fresh berries.
One final touch—our waitress delivered two small plates of homemade chocolate confections as a birthday treat.
Just writing this blog has me reminiscing about all of the wonderful meals and interesting places that we enjoyed while vacationing on MV. Next time, we hope to stay two weeks… Part II blog to come soon…