Month: September 2015

The Summer House: relaxing and elegant

signWe returned to The Summer House in ‘Sconset, as we do most years, knowing that we can always count on good service, an elegant atmosphere and fine cuisine. The Summer House includes a few elegant cottages, a poolside bar and cafe, and a full-service restaurant open each evening. The restaurant is decorated in white, with white tablecloths and has both indoor and outdoor tables to choose from.

exterior
The Summer House

Soon after we were seated, the waitress brought us a small amuse-bouche, smoked bluefish on melba toast, which was flavorful, and with a nice crunch. We cannot praise our waitress too much, as on a Monday night, she was the only waitress for the entire dining room (8 tables), and kept up her exhausting duties with good cheer and exceptional skill.

CaesarOne of our appetizers was an absolutely superb Caesar salad ($17) where you could pick out the garlic and anchovy flavors, as well as the thinly slice Parmesan cheese on top. This was a substantial salad, and you could consider sharing it if you are ordering one of the more filling entrees.

lobster bisqueOur other appetizer was a bowl of Lobster Bisque ($19) with crème fraiche and chives. There is no requirement that a lobster bisque contain any lobster, but this one did contain two thin strips of lobster buried in a delicious, rich bisque. And, it should be noted, the bisque was not a bit bitter, which often happens when they cook the shells too long. This one was perfect.

Agnolotti al Plin
Agnolotti al Plin

The Agnolotti ($36) we ordered for one of our entrees was far and away the best dish we’ve had on the island this year, and it doesn’t even include meat or seafood. This was Sweet Corn Agnolotti al Plin, which are little ravioli, pinched together by hand (that’s what al plin means). They are filled with corn and ricotta, and served with grilled mushrooms, blistered tomatoes, basil and truffle. Again, this was absolutely excellent.

Fluke Meuniere
Fluke Meuniere

Finally, our other entrée was Fluke Meuniere ($38) with pole beans, baby greens, confit potato and caper brown butter. You will note that this bears some similarity to the flounder preparation we had at the Grey Lady. And both have the potential for being overcooked. And both of them were. At the Summer House, however, the waitress was quite attentive and when she learned we found the fluke dry, she whisked it away and replaced it within 5 minutes. The new one was much improved, but we wish the brown butter had been spooned over the entire fish to keep it moist.

chocolate
Chocolate

Finally we split a dessert just called “Chocolate,” ($14) consisting of chocolate ganache, chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate cookies, cookie crumbs, pieces of dark chocolate and whipped cream. An utterly spectacular end to an excellent meal. We’ll be back next year.

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The Grey Lady: Nantucket’s newest seafood restaurant

You might think that The Grey Lady would be a perfect name for a Nantucket restaurant, but the operators of the 2 Chin’s Way establishment already have branches in New York and Aspen. This Grey Lady is on Chwindowin’s Way, just next to the Island Kitchen. Chin’s way is little more than an entrance to the parking lot for the two restaurants and runs between West Creek and Dave St, pretty much directly across from Stop and Shop.

The restaurant is in the building formerly occupied by the Bamboo Supper Club, with a long thin dining area and a bar on the other side of the wall. The décor is light an airy.

lobster rollOf the four things we ordered, the Lobster Roll was far awn away the best, although it was $38. It was a buttered brioche roll filled to the brim with warm, buttered lobster. They also offer it cold with mayonnaise, but this is the one you want. The lobster roll is served with copious hot French fries, and makes a very filling meal by itself.

fried oystersWe ordered Crispy Fried Oysters ($14) served with Buffalo style hot sauce, blue cheese dressing and shaved celery. Now, to us, Buffalo hot sauce is half Frank’s bottled sauce and half butter, but this was just Frank’s sauce dumped on all the oysters. The hot pepper smell was simply choking and the strong hot sauce flavor completely overpowered the oysters.

crab cakesOur other appetizer was a pair of Crab Cakes ($15) served with fresh tomatoes. The crab cakes were meaty and not filled with a lot of bread crumbs, but lacked much flavor: Baltimore style crab cakes usually have a mustard flavor.  And without any tartar sauce, they were kind of dry.

Finally, our other entrée was Pan Roasted flounderNative Flounder ($26) served with toasted corn, zucchini, Italian sausage, salsa verde and white bean puree. Unfortunately the flounder were too brown and overcooked and dry. And it really didn’t seem to make sense that sausage was served with the flounder.

Our bill with 2 beers and a glass of wine was $132.66 with tax but before tip. Our waitress was very fast and efficient, but the kitchen work needs some serious rethinking.

Oran Mor: one of Nantucket’s top restaurants

Sign
Sign

We look forward to visiting Oran Mor each year because of the wide variety of interesting dishes Chef Chris Freeman puts together. We are told that “Oran Mor” means “Great Song,” and that this sometimes refers to a song sung in Scotland after being victorious in battle. It is also one of Scotland’s most popular whiskey bars and a single malt whiskey liqueur.

Chef Freeman has been running Oran Mor since 2006 and many have sung the Great Song in praise of his work there. The restaurant is up a flight of copper stairs to the second floor at 2 South Beach St. There is no elevator available.

Table setting
Table setting

The restaurant is made up of a number of second floor rooms in this rambling house, all elegantly decorated.

We visited Oran Mor last Saturday, and while the menu changes daily, this one is at least typical of what Oran Mor offers. Appetizer prices run from $13 to $23 and entrees from $31 to $40, with the ribeye being the highest priced item.

greensFor appetizers we ordered the Bartlett’s Farm Organic Greens ($13), consisting of Feta cheese, compressed watermelon, red onion and almonds. The watermelon added a lot to the salad, which we found delightful.

Foie gras
Foie gras

For our other appetizer, we ordered Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon and sausage ($23) with black mission fig compote, lemon cake crumbs and Portuguese bread. (A torchon is similar to a terrine, except that one is cooked in cheesecloth and the other in a special terrine vessel.) It doesn’t look from the picture like we were served any lemon cake crumbs, but there is a half fig in the center of the platter instead.  Both the torchon and the sausage were delicious spread on the Portuguese bread toast, combined with the fig compote.

duckFor one entrée, we ordered Roasted Pekin Duck Breast and Leg Confit ($35). It was served with Okinawa sweet potato puree, arugula, emmer, quinoa and huckleberries. The duck breast was tender and delicious, although the confit was not quite as good as we’ve had in the past. But with the grains and berries, this was quite a successful dish. The dish came with three little flat brown pieces of what might best be described as “sesame brittle,” and that was a lovely and creative idea.

Roasted lamb chop and sausage
Roasted lamb chop and sausage

Our other entrée was Roasted Lamb Chop and Sausage ($36) with roasted summer vegetables, olive tapenade, pesto and herbed croutons.  If you go to a restaurant on a busy Saturday night, there are likely to be flubs from time to time and we felt this was one of them. The lamb chop was tough and a bit gamey, and the tapenade and pesto overpoweringly strong for the lamb. And the spicing of the lamb sausage was quite strong and reminiscent of kielbasa, which probably wasn’t exactly what they intended.  We found it disappointing.

But 3 out of 4 isn’t bad on a Saturday and we’ll certainly be back again next year.

New York Times slanders academic scientists with sloppy reporting

stalks in sunIn today’s New York Times, reporter Eric Lipton reports that the “Food Industry Enlisted Academics in GMO Lobbying War, Emails Show.” This article is based partly on the Email fishing expedition conducted by PR flack Gary Ruskin and his industry-supported US Right to Know web site. We wrote of that slanderous campaign last week. Lipton takes the Emails released  by USRTK and some additional ones he requested and attempts to paint all biotechnology academic researchers as corrupt.

The article as printed starts on page 1, column 3, above the fold and continues on page 20. Before the page jump, it asserts that “The use by both sides of third-party scientists, and their supposedly unbiased research, helps explain why the American public is often confused as it processes the conflicting information.”

However, while it slanders scientists and claims their research is questionable on the front page, the rest of the article provides not a single instance of any scientist’s research being influenced or corrupted.

After the page jump, the first actual quote is from Charles Benbrook, who has had all of his “research” funded by the organic foods industry and is scarcely unbiased, who suggests that academics who have accepted travel funds to lecture or testify about science start to smell like the skunks they are associated with.

Benbrook, has been an unrelenting opponent of GMOs, but in fact is an agricultural economist, not a biologist or scientist. His most recent scientific paper which suggests that herbicide use has increased after GMOs were introduced has been widely criticized for failing to include calculations on the reduced toxicity and environmental impact of more recent herbicides such as Roundup. This is one of Lipton’s “experts.” Benbrook’s position at Washington State University was paid for by the organic industry and was “recently severed.

Lipton then goes on to suggest that “the biotech industry has published dozens of articles, under the names of prominent academics, that in some cases were drafted by industry consultants,” without citing a single such article or explaining how such articles could have circumvented the rigorous peer-review process scientific journals impose. In other words, this seems to be hogwash.

In fact Lipton even admits that “there is no evidence that academic work was compromised.”

But, he suggests, without proof, that academics have shifted from [being] researchers to actors in lobbying and corporate PR campaigns. Of course, if academics really had abandoned their research to become “industry lobbyists,” they would be out of jobs in short order.

Lipton suggests that there is a “fight between competing academics” about GMOs and about the safety of various herbicides, when there is no such disagreement going on. Science has firmly established the safety of  herbicides like Roundup, and the only disagreement is with the organic industry lobbyists like Benbrook.

Much of the remainder of the article seems to be a smear campaign about Professor Kevin Folta, chairman of the department of horticulture at the University of Florida, who donates his time in scientific outreach to explain science and biotechnology to farmers and the public. Lipton is determined to paint Folta as a Monsanto-paid lobbyist, when in fact he accepted one $25,000 grant to pay for his outreach travel, and following excessive threats on Facebook got the University to donate the money to a campus food bank. Folta has called Lipton’s article a “hatchet job” on social media, and has published two rebuttals, one on his public speaking and one on his non-relationship with Monsanto.

Lipton also criticizes retired Professor Bruce Chassy of the University of Illinois for receiving a grant for biotechnology outreach. Chassy has published an extensive rebuttal already, titled “Forty years of public science, research and teaching under assault.”

The only other academic Lipton mentions is David  R Shaw, the vice-president of research and economic development at Mississippi State University.  Among his hundreds of research papers and students shown on his extensive vita, he did one piece of Monsanto funded research on Roundup used in a cropping system, for $880,000. Considering the many millions of dollars of grants shown on this vita and his extensive academic career, this is simply insignificant, and if he were asked to testify before a Congressional committee, it would be because of that extensive expertise.

Finally, Lipton suggests that the amount the organic industry spends on lobbying is a tiny fraction of that spent by biosciences companies. This may not be true, as Henry Miller showed in Forbes, that the amount the organic industry spends is upwards of $2.5 billion a year!

In summary, Lipton’s article gets his facts wrong and fails to prove any of his points. It’s clearly not one of the Time’s better articles on biotechnology.

The Downyflake: a Nantucket tradition

facadeThe Downyflake has been serving breakfast and lunch and making terrific doughnuts since 1935. It has been operated by one family after another since that time. Currently the owners are Ron Oldham and Patti Kennedy, who were previously the chef and manager of The Ropewalk. The Downyflake is the last of a chain of restaurants started by the Donut Corporation of America, and maintains the retro chain look of that chain. While it originally was downtown, the current building is at 18 Sparks Ave, across from the Fire Station, and just down the street from Stop and Shop.

The Downyflake is noted for reasonable prices, and quick and friendly service, and is beloved by locals and tourists alike. We always try to get there a couple of times while we are on the island. The menu is simple but deliciously prepared breakfast and lunch fare along with their excellent donuts.

Flake Special
Flake Special

On this visit, we ordered the Flake Special (eggs, sausage, home fries and toast, $7.95), which was hot and perfectly prepared.

omelet
Downy omelet

We also ordered the Downy omelet ($8.50), made from mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and sour cream. Again, absolutely perfect.

Omelet cut open
Omelet cut open

Next time, we’ll go for the remarkable donuts!

Don’t miss the Downyflake while you are on the island. Parking is tight, and we were not above walking down there after shopping at Stop and Shop! And do not forget that they don’t take credit cards. However, they do have an ATM machine.donuts

Le Languedoc: best burger on the island

Le Languedoc (on Broad St) is a French bistro with a small but imaginative menu of steaks, chicken lobster, fluke, quail, duck and sweetbreads. We’ve written about it before, describing their more formal menu, but had never ventured to the below stairs café where burgers and the like predominate.

Table setting
Table setting

This year, all that has changed. You can order the fancier menu in any room, and the cheeseburger in any room, and have the option of pairing that burger with an appetizer if you like. The dining room décor is really quite elegant with bottom-lit floating flowers and white tablecloth service.

Floating flower
Floating flower

We ate at Le Languedoc last night for the burgers, but preceded them with a couple of salads.

Tomato salad
Tomato salad

One was a delicious Bartlett Farms fresh tomato and bleu cheese salad ($18), and the other a Burrata salad ($16) with figs, Arugula, Zucchini, Seasoned Crumbs, and Balsamic dressing.

Burrata salad
Burrata salad

We both ordered the Cheeseburger and Garlic Fries ($18.75) and it is easily the best burger on the island.

as served
Burger and garlic fries

It’s a fairly thick burger, prepared to the doneness you request, served on an English muffin, open on the platter, with lettuce, tomato and onion under the top muffin, so you can edit them before putting the top layer on. The waiter brought us each three little dishes of ketchup, ketchup and mustard to use on or burger and with our fries.

Assembled burger
Assembled burger

The garlic fries were hot and mildly redolent of garlic so they don’t overwhelm you, but exceptionally good fries.

We should note that the burger and fries are quite filling, and you really don’t need those salads unless you are exceptionally hungry. Desserts are available, but we confess that we finished our meal with ice cream from the Juice Guys.

You can also get a rather good burger from LolaBurger (for about $17.50 with cheese and fries) at the Milestone Rotary, but not only is this one better; the atmosphere and service at Le Languedoc are unsurpassed. Besides, if someone wants to order from the rest of their menu they can do that, too!

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille is always excellent

You can tell that The Sea Grille is good by the crowd of both tourists and locals that eat there every night. Located on Sparks Ave, between the Shell station and the Boys and Girls Club, it is a somewhat unobtrusive large building with amply parking in the rear. Supervised by E J Harvey, the Sea Grille has been providing creative and comforting meals for over 20 year. And for non-seafood enthusiasts, they do serve steaks and chicken as well.

The Sea Grille’s large menu lists a number of fish they will cook for you steamed or fried, as well as a number of more elaborate Island Favorites and Creative Coastal items and some nightly specials. They also have several soups, including E J Harvey’s award winning Quahog Chowder.

On our Wednesday visit this week, the dining room (and parking lot) were lively, but not completely full. For busy times and weekends, you definitely should make a reservation.

Quahog chowder
Quahog chowder

On this visit, we succumbed again to our favorite: Harvey’s Quahog chowder ($8) and their creative and colorful Roasted Beet Salad ($14) with herb crusted local goat milk cheese, onion, caramelized pecans and country dressing.

The chowder (a quahog is a large clam) was full of pieces of chopped clam along with potatoes, and garnished with paprika, had an absolutely delicious flavor. Don’t miss this one!

Beet salad
Beet salad

The beet salad, with the accompanying goat cheese (shown a 2 o’clock in the photo) was excellent, with a mixture of red and yellow beets, red onions and lettuce.

We ordered their nightly special, Miso-glazed Hake ($34), served with a couple of head-on shrimp, rice and a delicious sweet miso sauce. And sitting right on top were little “tree branches,” which turned out to be batter fried broccoli (shown along the top rear). They were so good, we’ll never steam broccoli again!

Miso glazed hake
Miso glazed hake

For our second entree, we ordered the Free Form Ravioli ($33), a single huge ravioli stuffed with seafood: shrimp, scallops, lobster, ricotta and mushrooms, with a crispy leek.

Free Form ravioli
Free Form ravioli

The Sea Grille never disappoints: their food is always excellent and reasonably priced. You can’t go wrong in this family-friendly restaurant.Tables

American Seasons: a work in progress

American Seasons: a work in progress

American Seasons
American Seasons

Nantucketers and regular visitors were shocked when chef/owner Michael LaScola announced last winter that he had sold American Seasons to chef Neil Ferguson, who had most recently been the chef at Galley  Beach.

Ferguson’s menu is a bit smaller with 7 appetizers and 7 entrees, compared to the previous 9 appetizers and 7 entrees, and they seem a bit more expensive with the pork chop, halibut,  ribeye, chicken, risotto and salmon priced at $38, 37, 45, 37, 32 and 36. The lobster salad is “market price,” which is kind of silly since most restaurants print menus daily.

Prior American Seasons menus seemed to provide more variety: for example chicken livers, foie gras tasting, pork belly and octopus, pork loin and breast of duck. And they had that “Flying Elvis” dessert.

We also found that the wines by the glass added significantly to our bill with the Bouchaine chardonnay priced at $18 and the Noble Tree Cabernet priced at $15 a glass. These wines list for $30 and $20 a bottle respectively, which means the restaurant buys them for half of that, or $15 and $10. They can get 5 pours per bottle, making their cost per glass $3 and $2. That is a pretty hefty markup!

We visited American Seasons last Tuesday, and noted that the décor had not changed. The tables with the inlaid games were still in use and the ambience was much the same as before.

For appetizers we ordered Golden semolina gnocchi, chanterelles, fava beans, pecorino romano ($17) and Terrine of rabbit and foie gras, yellow tomato jam, radish salad, grilled bread ($20).

Rabbit terrine
Rabbit terrine

The rabbit terrine was excellent and spread well on the provided toast, accompanying it with the tomato jam (although it looked like it was made from red tomatoes) was very good).

gnocchiThe gnocchi were simply tasteless as were most of the accompanying vegetables. It just wasn’t very good, despite the excellent visual presentation.

One of our entrees was the Chicken Ballotine ($37) with sweet corn succotash, chanterelles, and wilted sucrines (a kind of Romaine).

Chicken Ballotine
Chicken Ballotine

Now to us, a ballotine is poultry, stuffed with some sort of filling, rolled and baked or fried to form a crispy skin. It is then served in slices so you can see the filling within. This was not the case for this dish, as there was no filling and the crispy skin was pretty much lacking.  The chicken itself was tender and juicy, but not too flavorful, but the corn succotash was very good, as were the few chanterelles.

Pinelands ribeye
Pinelands ribeye

Our other entrée was supposed to be Pinelands beef ribeye, yukon gold pave, candied tomato, basil, and olives ($45). But if you look at the photo, you won’t find any candied tomato or olives. Instead the kitchen substituted a huge brown braised onion, which was overwhelming in size and not particularly good. A potato pave is essentially a kind of scalloped potatoes made with cream that is baked and then weighted. A few hours later, it is cut into slices and browned, and usually served with chives. By cutting vertical slices, the chef made a sort of potato strip carpet for the steak to sit on, and it was very tasty. The steak itself was tender and juicy, but an entire plate where everything was brown was not the most visually appealing approach.

The dessert menu includes blueberry streusel cake ($14), roasted white peach on pistachio cake with vanilla ice cream ($14), vanilla poached cherries, chocolate cremeaux and crumble and cherry sorbet ($15), an ice cream sundae ($12) and blackberry compote, lemon parfait and white chocolate ($14).

Our bill with tax, before tip was $198 (including $66 for 4 glasses of wine), the most by far we’ve ever spent at American Seasons except when we ordered 2 desserts, when it rose to about that level. This would tend to indicate that prices have risen significantly, but the quality still needs some work. We found this visit a disappointment.

Overall, Ferguson has had an entire summer season to get his team into a good groove, but there are still some pretty big problems he needs to solve.

Atlas BBQ and Fish: best barbecue on the island

Atlas BBQ and Fish: best barbecue on the island

Atlas Barbecue and Fish
Atlas Barbecue and Fish

Atlas BBQ and Fish opened in late June on Pleasant St, and thus missed being in this year’s island restaurant guides. However, when people heard that it had the same proprietors (Brandt and Gabrielle Gould) as the late, lamented Cambridge Street, customers began to come anyway. And it is safe to say that this new establishment offers the island’s best barbecue in somewhat fancier surroundings than their first restaurant.

Table setting
Table setting

Atlas BBQ and Fish has just a small sign and is easy to miss, but it is right next to the Island Pharmacy and across the street from the side entrance to the new Stop and Shop building. There is parking in front and alongside the building.

Like most barbecues, you can easily order a lot more food that you can eat. They offer a platter with brisket, ribs and pulled pork for $30, but you won’t be able to finish it all. You are better off ordering one of their seafood appetizers and one of the pork dishes.

Lobster salad
Lobster salad

We ordered a delicious lobster salad with orange, pineapple and lemon and Bibb lettuce ($20). The fruit flavors went very well with the lobster and overall it was quite successful.

Pork bellyWe were determined to have the pork belly ($16), but worried that it might be too similar to the ribs, but it was quite different. The sauce was made from honey and pineapple, and served with grilled pineapple and was excellent.

Soked Wet Sauced barbecued ribs
Soked Wet Sauced barbecued ribs

We both ordered the Smoked, then Wet Sauced Barbecued Ribs ($26), which were served with a cheese biscuit, Napa slaw, Red Beans and Rice, and half a grilled banana. These were the tenderest ribs we’ve had on the island, and probably anywhere and we’ll be sure to come back just to have them again.

Tender ribs cut open
Tender ribs cut open

Our bill for 2, with 2 drinks and tax but before tip was $115.

We can’t say enough good things about the food at Atlas: the ribs are simply excellent. They also offer Branzino, Swordfish and Red Snapper, but we’ll probably continue to go for the barbecue.

Our only real suggestion is that they provide a “boneyard” discard plate.

wipe pillThe finishing touch is a clever little pill that you drop into a cup of warm water and it expands into a wet wipe. That was a fun ending to the meal!

 

Smoked Wet Sauced barbecued ribs
Smoked Wet Sauced barbecued ribs

Millie’s is always a delight

Millie's entrance
Millie’s entrance

Millies, at the west end of Nantucket in Madaket, appears Brigadoon-like with a short season from early June to about Labor Day. And most nights, it is full to packed. You can make reservations or just show up for a table, and wait with a beeper in your pocket. They usually don’t take long, and you can have a drink in the bar while you’re waiting.

Seating is upstairs and outside as well as informal on the first floor.

Some of the on-line descriptions suggest that Millie’s serves “Tex Mex” food, but this isn’t even close. The menu is quite varied. They serve seafood tacos, quesadillas, salads and po’ boys, along with some containing chicken or beef. The service is quick and friendly, and all of the food is terrific. And given that the 2nd story dining room looks west, you can watch the Madaket sunset almost every night.

Pork carnitas taquito
Pork carnitas taquito

Last evening, we started by splitting an order of Pork Carnitas Taquitos, with apple and dried cranberry slaw, queso fresco, and sauce mole negro. These are an ideal appetizer to split, because the portions are so generous in the main courses. We could also have had Shrimp and Fluke Ceviche, Tuna Tartare or Bartlett Farm tomato and Buratta cheese.

Blackened redfish taco
Blackened redfish taco

One of our entrees was spectacular, a Blackened Redfish taco (The Westender) with pineapple mango salsa, guacamole, and lime sour cream. It is spicy as blackened fish should be, but the salsa and sour cream keep it pretty cool. This is simply a brilliant idea for a taco and we recommend it highly.

chickenOur other entrée was the 40th Pole Quesadilla, grilled marinated chicken, goat cheese, caramelized onions, jack and cheddar cheese. This one was so huge and filling we were able to bring half home for lunch the next day. And it was just as good cold!

Clam Po' Boy
Clam Po’ Boy

And among the attractions we’ve tried in the past, don’t miss the Po’ Boys: Millie’s Bridge, fried whole belly clams with creamy red cabbage slaw, classic tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato, and a fantastic Lobster Roll: lobster salad on a brioche roll.

In addition to the fast and friendly service, you will appreciate the guitarist who plays and sings songs from the 80s and 90s every weekend. He is really excellent.