Author: James Cooper

Or, the Whale: a Nantucket bistro

Or, the Whale: a Nantucket bistro

The new restaurant or, The Whale opened this summer at 38 Main St, the site of the late, unlamented Met on Main. The new restaurant is bright and airy and nicely decorated, and the staff are unfailingly pleasant and helpful. The morning menu is labeled “brunch” and has both breakfast and lunch options intermingled. But there are the usual pancakes, eggs and omelets.

The name of the restaurant is the subtitle of Melville’s Moby Dick.

They are still getting into the swing of things: with inexperienced end of season staff not knowing which plate goes to which diner.  We were seated in the front bay window which seemed very nice until we realized the table and chairs they put there made it really difficult to squeeze into the table, and there was little place for purses or bags.

pancakes

But they brought coffee and tea promptly. We ordered pancakes ($11) and bacon ($5) because the only sausage on the menu was chorizo and while that might go Ok with eggs, we couldn’t see having it with pancakes. However, let us note that the pancakes were huge and delicious and once we got the syrup I tucked right into them, and could not finish these large, oval pancakes. But they were very good.

omelet

The omelet of the day ($14) had peppers, spinach and onion and was rather too dry and flavorless because it was overcooked. This was also true of the potatoes.

This is their first season and we really need to be understanding, as getting experienced help and opening a new restaurant is a huge undertaking. We wish them well as they gain more experience.

tables

 

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Lola Burger

Lola Burger

Lola Burger Is located at the Sparks Avenue Rotary and they provide valet parking at busy times.

Speaking of busy times. try to figure out how to eat this 2 patty monster without it collapsing all over your hands and lap. Knives and forks for sure!  Or just order 2 single patty versions for a better grip.

56 Union: Island charm and great food

56 Union: Island charm and great food

It’s been too long since we visited 56 Union and we are so glad we did. This lovely little restaurant, only a few blocks from downtown serves excellent food to enthusiastic diners every night. Peter (chef) and Wendy (sommelier) Jannelle put together an eclectic menu of global cuisine in a friendly, informal atmosphere.

You probably need reservations most of the year, since it is a popular spot. While it wasn’t all that busy at 6:15 when we could get a table, it definitely was quite busy by the time we left.

chicken dumplings

We each started with their delicious Chicken Dim Sum ($14): steamed Chinese chicken dumplings, served with a soy mirin glaze. They were easily manipulated with the chopsticks they provide, giving you the confidence that you still know how to use them. And the dumplings were moist, tender and flavorful!

lobster roll

For one entrée, we had their Maine lobster roll ($34), on a toasted brioche roll, celery, red onion, bell pepper, light pernod scented mayonnaise, slaw, and pickle, served with a robust pile of delicious pomme frites. How could you go wrong? (Maine lobster rolls contain cold lobster salad. Connecticut lobster rolls are warm and served with only melted butter.)

veal chop

And, our other entrée was a delicious tender veal chop ($46), cooked medium rare, with rosemary, bacon roasted fingerlings, broccolini, wild mushrooms, artichokes and parmesan demi glace. Veal chops seem to be getting harder to find and it is delightful that they serve such a perfect, juicy chop.

We are glad to recommend 56 Union for any meal or occasion. The service is friendly and attentive and the food is uniformly excellent.

tables

Via Mare: a new star at the Greydon House

Via Mare: a new star at the Greydon House

Nantucket definitely has a new star in Via Mare, the restaurant now occupying the elegant Greydon House hotel. (Hint: click on the Kitchen box to see the menu). And almost overnight, it is one of Nantucket’s best restaurants!

As we explained earlier, the former restaurant has been replaced by this elegant creation run by Chef Andrea (Dre’) Solimeo and Sarah Todd originally part of the team over at Ventuno. And, while the menu on line is fascinating and diverting, they make regular changes. That menu was from July 3, 2019, but there were several new ideas in last night’s menu.

tables

The menu is organized in Cichetti (bite size samples), Small Plates that you can share, but are still smaller portions, Pastas, which are quite substantial, and a few traditionally sized entrees, called “Livin’ Large.” The idea is that you might get 3 or more of the little and small plates, or fewer if you get pasta and even fewer if you get the larger entrees, which included chicken, tuna, beefsteak and a nightly special. You are going to be delighted whichever you choose, because the food is both imaginative and delicious.

hot chicken

We tried one of cicchetti, “Spicy fried chicken bite and Moroccan pancake. ($7)” This really was just one bite of chicken but it was spicy. The waitress said the chef called it her Nashville chicken after Nashville’s famous fried chicken and she could open a restaurant with that alone if she wanted: it was that delicious. The waiter asked if I wanted another one, (I really did) but knowing that there was lots more food coming, I respectfully declined.

Meanwhile, we also had their summer salad: “local melons, tomatoes, prosciutto and pickled shallot” ($14). This was quite a bit of salad and you could share it as we did. One picture shows it as presented, one after we opened it up.

whipped cod

Perhaps because I had my camera out, they also brought another cicchetti: “Whipped salt cod on crispy polenta” ($7), which was a nice surprise mixture of tastes, although you could serve anything you wanted on those terrific crispy polenta.

straticella

Our next planned small plate was “Hand pulled straciatella, olio verde and flakey salt” ($12). This is hand pulled mozzarella curds, cut and rested in cream. Olio Verde is  a premium olive oil. This was really filling, and we couldn’t really eat all of it knowing that there was still a pasta course.

 

aubergine

And, to make things more exciting they send out an experimental vegetable dish: roast aubergine (eggplant) in cashew cream with tomatoes and little dots of dressing,

Our pasta dishes were spectacular.  Mine was rigatoni with lamb sausage, broccoli, and pecorino di fossa ($23) and my wife’s was Spicy spaghetti alla chitarra, seafood ragu, passata, basil and breadcrumbs ($24). My rigatoni was rich in flavors from the pecorino and the lamb. The spaghetti was even richer than the rigatoni, and with bits of seafood in the sauce it really sparkled with flavor.

meringue

Finally, we split one of their three desserts, called “Fake Alaska.” It’s made of chocolate almond torta, Morello cherry sorbet, wild bay meringue and pistachio butter cream ($13). (We have no idea what constitutes a “wild bay meringue,” and all the meringues we have seen have been at rest.)

This was a simply spectacular meal and with 3 glasses of wine was still only $146, so it may have been one of the island’s great gourmet bargains as well. We can’t praise this new restaurant too highly. Everything from the food to the service to the décor were outstanding. Our repeated compliments to the chef!

 

 

Dune: always an imaginative Nantucket restaurant

Dune: always an imaginative Nantucket restaurant

Dune, a creation of chef Michael Getter has been around for ten years now and we realized we hadn’t visited it in a couple of years. All we can say is that it keeps getting better: more imaginative and with more interesting flavor combinations.

The restaurant on Broad St is next to several others, but you really need to go to Dune at least yearly to take in Getter’s clever and fascinating menus. The restaurant is not large: one floor of an old house and includes a popular bar area where they create unique cocktails. But the food is the star here so let’s get right to it.

The evening started with fresh, warm bread served with butter sparking with pink sea salt.

And the night we went Tuna Tartare was a welcome menu addition: fresh tuna chunks molded with cucumbers, avocado, raw green beans and a few peapods. Served over a slightly spicy lemon grass broth, it was an amazing winner!

tuna tartar

Our other appetizer was a simply gorgeous beet salad, with several types of beets, some sliced thinly to show their bullseye pattern and some in chunks, served over whipped goat cheese, beet vinaigrette, pistachios and balsamic vinegar.

beet salad

For me the outstanding dish was the halibut with Thai coconut-lemongrass broth, purple creamers, bok choy, snap peas, broccolini, shitake, and basil. It was moist, delicate and flakey unlike almost any halibut I’ve ever been served.

halibut

Finally, our other entrée was a Grilled Heritage Pork Chop with lemongrass + pineapple fried rice, shanghai sausage, herbs, grilled green beans, and sweet and sour sauce.

pork chop

The flavors were very nice but the chop was a bit overcooked and tough. Pork really needs to be serve still somewhat pink so it doesn’t get so chewy. Some customer may be taken aback at first, but the USDA recommended cooking temperature is now 145˚ and really anything over 138˚ is perfectly safe.

Our dessert was dubbed a Pot du Crème with peanut and chocolate crumble and vanilla whipped cream. But really this was chocolate pudding just like my mother used to make. Only she used walnuts. What a great comfort food for dessert!

pudding

We are so glad we went to Dune again this year and you should go there, too!

 

We again visit Millie’s

We again visit Millie’s

Millie’s remains one of our favorite family restaurants on Nantucket. Their friendly service and excellent food draw us back every time we come to the island. It is always our first stop, because we can walk their from our house. But their menu of (mostly seafood) tacos, po’ boys and quesadillas is always a creative delight.

This year, we started with their sweet corn and clam chowder ($10), warm and filling on a cool late summer evening.

chowder

One of our entrees was new to us, Coatue: Fried oysters on a brioche bun ($21) with red cabbage slaw and tartar sauce. It was very good, but we have to admit we miss their Millie’s Bridge fried clam roll which easily had the best fried  clams on the island.

oyster po boy

Our other entrée was Esther Island (22): seared scallops in flour tortillas with creamy red cabbage slaw, guacamole, blue cheese, crispy smoked bacon. This was beautifully constructed but a bit too scallop for  a taco.

scallop tacos

And, of course, we always go for the Cisco Whale’s Tail beer on tap while we’re there.

beer

Millie’s remains a delight that we’ll go back to again and again.

Gallo restaurant in Ridgefield

Gallo restaurant in Ridgefield

Gallo in Ridgefield (5 Grove St) is an outstanding Italian restaurant with excellent service. We went last Saturday, and while it was busy, the staff was more than up to the challenge. The menu is varied and imaginative with several really creative touches from Chef Raffaele Gallo and Executive Chef Giuseppe Castellano.

table setting

On weekends they utilize valet parking, so there is no parking problem and we were seated immediately at a spacious table not far from the windows. Interestingly enough, there was a little girl coloring with crayons on the floor near our table, although her family had come early and was about done. It is refreshing to see how welcoming they are.

breadThey provide you with a basket of delicious breads a bread sticks with olive oil, although butter was quickly supplied on our request.

 

For appetizers, one of had a spectacular Caesar salad ($12) with lovely slices of parmigiana cheese and an excellent homemade dressing.

caesar

Our other entrée was called Ceci ($17), Chickpea fritters with stracciatella cheese, prosciutto San Daniele and fresh figs,  and from that unique description, we simply had to try it. The crunchy fritters blended well with the Stracciatella cheese and the prosciutto. It was such a large serving that you could probably split it if you anticipate having a large entrée.

ceci

One of our entrees was an excellent Emiliana-style meat lasagna ($23, above). It had a really rich flavor and excellent meaty texture, and certainly was a substantial portion. You could go there just for their terrific lasagna and be perfectly happy.

bream

Our other entrée was Orata, or Pan seared sea bream filet with wild mushroom and lemon sauce ($31), where the lemon sauce was buttery and terrific. Our only comment was that one of two pieces of fish was a bit dry. But it was honestly quite wonderful.

mocha

Despite all those entrees, we ordered dessert, an amazing mocha ice cream cake. And yes, we shared that one and still came out really satisfy.

Don’t let the plain white building put you off. This is an excellent restaurant that we’ll be going back again and again.

The best way to cook corn on the cob!

The best way to cook corn on the cob!

Boiling, microwave, Instant Pot. Which is best?

There isn’t much to cooking corn on the cob: you just shuck each ear, maybe cut off some of the stem, peel off the corn silks and drop them into boiling, salted water, and cook for 5 minutes. That’s it. The water should be salted enough that it smells like the ocean, and it is easiest to use kosher salt to achieve this. Serve with butter and salt on the side.

boiling

What’s wrong with this? Nothing except you might need a big pot for a large crowd. And, of course, you are steaming up your kitchen.

But some people rave about using the microwave or the Instant Pot for cooking corn, so we compared all three methods.

Microwaved corn

Some people claim that the microwave does the best job and you don’t have to heat up the kitchen with a pot of boiling water, so we tried this.

We cut the base off an ear of corn, but left the husk on, and using our best Internet research, microwaved the corn for 4 minutes. Taking a hot ear of corn out of the microwave requires hot pads and some care, and removing the hot, steaming husks is a challenge. And, all the silks come off smoothly, unlike the other methods.

The disadvantage again, is one of scale: you can only microwave a few ears at a time and removing the steaming hot husks from a bunch of them is best done with gloves or oven mitts. And, frankly, the corn tastes awful! (more below)

In the Instant Pot

2 in IP

Lots of people are enthusiastic about corn on the cob cooked in an Instant Pot. You have to shuck the corn as usual and pull of most of the silks by hand, but you can probably get 4-6 or more ears in an Instant Pot at once. We recommend putting the ears on the little trivet so they don’t stick to the pot. Add a cup of water and cook the ears for 3 minutes. Of course, by the time the water in the pot comes to a boil, this actually takes at least as long as boiling the water on the stove would, but you can cook a lot of ears quickly, and you don’t have to deal with scalding yourself on the husks.

How do they compare?

group

  • Cooking the ears in a pot of water tastes the best.
  • Ears cooked for 4 minutes in an 1100 watt microwave are hot and hard to handle, because the cobs are very hot, too. Further the corn takes on a bitter, cobby taste from the cob being heated. Actually they are really terrible.
  • We repeated the experiment, cooking the corn for only 3 minutes and this removed some (but not all) of the bitter aftertaste.
  • Our best corn came from cooking for 4 minutes at 50% power, where the bitterness is least apparent.

Surprisingly the corn cooked in the Instant Pot was little better.

  • Pressure cooking the corn for 3 minutes also cooks the cob, and some of that bitter aftertaste was present in the Instant Pot corn.
  • So, we repeated the corn cooking at low pressure instead of high pressure, which removed nearly all of that bitterness. But 3 minutes was  not nearly enough. Six minutes at low pressure seems better. Quick Release either way.

Best results

  • 5 minutes in boiling, salted water
  • 4 minutes at 50% power in an 1100 watt microwave
  • 6 minutes at low pressure in an Instant Pot

Some recipes suggest adding sugar and butter to the water in the Instant Pot. This probably doesn’t do much, because the water doesn’t touch the corn, and sugar is not volatile.

We found that spreading solid butter on the hot corn gives the bets flavor. Butter is an emulsion and melted butter usually leaves out the aqueous part.

stalks

 

A Roman club sandwich

A Roman club sandwich

We ordered a club sandwich at our hotel in Rome and were really surprised with their interpretation. Instead of 3 kinds of lunch meat (usually turkey, beef and ham) this delicious sandwich was a BLT with large chunks of tender chicken and topped with a fried egg. Served with French fries, it was a fantastic lunch!

We set out to duplicate it using a fresh garden tomato and freshly picked lettuce.

  • 3 slices toasted bread
  • Chicken breasts
  • Bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Mayonnaise

We cooked the chicken breasts in our Instant Pot for 10 minutes, and let them slowly cool for 10 minutes before opening the pot. You could also cook them in a vegetable steamer or under a broiler. We added a bit of dried onion to the cup of water in the Instant Pot, but it probably wasn’t necessary.

chicken

When the breasts were cool, we cut them into cubes.

We fried 4 strips of bacon slowly in a fry pan and set them aside.

For each sandwich,

  • butter the toast.
  • Put lettuce and tomato on the bottom layer, with a dab of mayonnaise
  • Put chicken on the second layer of toast, and dab with more mayonnaise
  • Add the bacon on top of the chicken

Fry 2 eggs slowly in the bacon fat, turning them over once so the tops are cooked and the yolks are only slightly runny.

  • Top each sandwich with an egg and the top piece of toast.
  • Secure with toothpicks.
  • You can cut off the crusts before or after assembly or just leave them on.
  • Cut each sandwich in half.

We served ours with some French fries.

sang2

palatine