Category: Nantucket

The Nantucket Hotel and Resort

The Nantucket Hotel and Resort

The (relatively) new Nantucket Hotel on Easton St is group of buildings that aspire to being Nantucket’s Grand Hotel.  We spent 5 days there recently and want to tell you some of the really nice things about this hotel as well as a few omissions.

Connection between buildings

One way to tell a Grand Hotel is by the room price, and this hotel is suitably expensive.  The hotel has 44 rooms of various sizes and layouts. The smallest room is the Islander Junior, with 225-260 square feet and  a Queen sized bed. The next one up is the one we rented, the Carriage Room with a King Sized bed and 260-280 square feet. This room rents for $550 a night in early June and $800 thereafter. In July, it is $1225. But, by mid-October, the rate is back down to $425.

 The bed is very comfortable, and the bath and shower are spacious, but speaking as a writer, I note that the room lacks a desk. In fact, you have to go up about 5 more grades to get a desk, or even a second chair.  I would note that there are tables with chairs in the game room and on the front porch as well as in the Business Center. The larger bedrooms and suites have a kitchenette, while our Carriage Room has but a simple, rather retro-looking  fridge.

Part of the game room

While the specs mention a coffee maker, we didn’t have one, but the hotel provides free coffee and tea in the lobby from 7am to 10am each day, which is ideal if one of you gets up earlier than the others. They change your bedding and any towels you want changed every day. And they leave a cute little rubber whale toy on the rolled-up bathmat. We named him ”Fudgie.”

Our whale

The summer Suite rates run from $1425 to $2995 a night and the cottages from $3495 for 2 bedrooms to $5995 for 4 bedrooms. We would note that we rented a 3-bedroom ocean view house in Madaket for 2 weeks for only a little more than that daily rate.

The Staff

The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful for almost anything you want to do. They have several drivers to take you to about any mid island destination or restaurant, and a concierge to make restaurant recommendations and reservations. When I asked for some dollar bills in change to pay for the bus route out to Madaket, they gave us free bus passes. And when I ran out of disposable razors, they gave me some, gratis. When I was getting my spouse some coffee, the carafe ran out, but the waiter was right there to replace it on the spot. We even got a ride to Stop and Shop to buy a case of soda; they even waited for me! And we did get a free ride and pickup to dinner at Straight Wharf and to and from the ferry.

The Breeze Restaurant

The Breeze Restaurant

The hotel’s restaurant, the Breeze, is open for breakfast every day. 7-10, except Sunday when it serves Brunch from 11-2. They serve lunch and dinner every day except Sunday and Monday. On those two nights, the hotel provides a free wine and cheese hour from 5-6pm.

Not enough to replace dinner, though. We have already written about the restaurant, but note that there isn’t any room service.

You can have breakfast there every day, even if you aren’t staying in the hotel, but if you get tired of it, you could walk down to Black-Eyed Susan’s  (now, sadly closed) on India St, or pick up a couple of cruffins or muffins at Born and Bread, at the corner of Centre and Broad streets. In this later case, we brought the baked good back to the hotel porch, where there are nice little tables and chairs, and brought out coffee and tea from the lobby.

The front porch

There is also a Breeze Bar, but it is only open on Friday and Saturday nights from 5-9pm. Late night socializing is not on the agenda.

In fact, the little gift shop carries no snacks of any kind, except a few Pepsis. It is this one omission that takes the Nantucket Hotel out of the Grand Category. You’d need to walk a mile or so to the Brotherhood of Thieves or the Juice Bar to get that snack.

The gift shop has no daily newspapers, but the hotel gets one copy daily of the Times, the Globe and the WSJ that you can read in comfy chairs nearby, but not to take to your room. This is actually pretty nice, since the free coffee and tea are just steps away.

Despite these small issues, this is a lovely hotel that we unhesitatingly recommend. Consider it in your plans.

Tower in moonlight
Nantucket Breeze Restaurant for breakfasts

Nantucket Breeze Restaurant for breakfasts

With the sudden non-opening of Black-eyed Susan’s, the number of downtown restaurants serving breakfast has dwindled to the Counter on Main Street (for takeout), and the Born and Bread bakery. So, you might want to consider a short walk over to the Nantucket Hotel and Resort on Easton St. Their Breeze Restaurant is open to the public, and serves breakfast daily from 7:30-10:00 am, and Sunday Brunch from 11-2. We stayed at the hotel last week and had most of our breakfasts there.

Their menu is limited, however: there are no Danish, croissants, or muffins available, but they offer eggs any way, omelets, 4 variations on Eggs Benedict, pancakes and French toast. They also have granola and Scottish oatmeal.

Eggs over easy

Our first day, we ordered 2 eggs over easy, and they were quite good, although mine seems to have had one of the yolks broken. We enjoyed them in any case. The toast was a single thick slice, unbuttered, but they did provide some wrapped butter pats.

French toast
Scotch oatmeal

We also enjoyed the French toast served with fresh berries and whipped cream, and the Scotch Oatmeal served with blueberries. Both very satisfying and well-presented and served.

Pancakes

But the day we got Buttermilk pancakes, we were kind of disappointed, because the three pancakes in a stack were so flat they couldn’t have been more than ¾ inch high. Clearly, they were using a mix whose leavening had expired.

On the right, you will see the buttermilk pancakes I make nearly every Sunday, to show how much they should have risen. Since the actual recipe has only 6 ingredients, it is silly to be using a mix. And if they aren’t, they should have seen that their baking powder was DOA.  Their pancakes came without the promised “whipped butter,” but the server quickly brought me some wrapped butter when I asked.

The sausage they offer is chicken sausage, and it isn’t really very sausagey: needs more spices.

Eggs Benedict

There are four varieties of Eggs Benedict on the menu: Regular ($20), Salmon and Kale ($23), Crab Cake Benedict ($26) and Lobster Eggs Benedict ($30). All of them are served on a tough, uncuttable “Portuguese muffin.”

Breeze’s Eggs Benedict
Our Eggs Benedict

If you look at their Eggs Benedict, shown on the left, you see perfectly round eggs covered with hollandaise. We call these “Industrial Poached Eggs,” because they are cooked by steaming in a round mold, which produces little “egg pucks.”

Since poaching means cooking eggs in gently simmering water, these really don’t qualify: not only is the texture different, they don’t cook uniformly. In fact, the whites of their eggs were not fully cooked, while this never happens in traditional poached eggs. These were served with a “lemon hollandaise,” meaning that they added a lot more lemon juice, nearly enough to curl your hair. Here is our recipe for making Eggs Benedict, shown on the right. Theirs were OK, but we’d probably skip them in the future.

You can get a good breakfast at the Breeze restaurant if you skip the pancakes and Eggs Benedict. And, if you want to walk  a little farther, the White Elephant serves breakfast, too, 8-11am.

Is Black-eyed Susan’s gone for good?

Is Black-eyed Susan’s gone for good?

We were surprised that  Black-eyed Susan’s wasn’t open for breakfast this week.  The windows show no sign of life and

  • the web site still says “Closed for the season. See you in April, 2022.”  They missed that one.
  • The answering system says they will not open for Daffodil Weekend. (April 22-24,2022)
  • They don’t answer messages on their Facebook page
  • The equipment behind the counter looks to be cleared out.

The best we can find out is that they lost their chef and decided to close permanently.  This a real shame and hope they find a way to revive this lovely business.

This has been a terrible year for restaurants on Nantucket. We lost 58 Union, Keepers is closed for the season, Boarding House and The Pearl may open next year, and we really need this one to stay!

The depressing interior
In better days
Straight Wharf Restaurant

Straight Wharf Restaurant

Straight Wharf Restaurant

Straight Wharf Restaurant  is one of Nantucket’s absolute gems: an excellent seafood restaurant with four star food and service overlooking the harbor. It is great for special occasions or anytime, considering the prix fixe pricing structure they introduced this spring. For $78, you get the choice of any appetizer and any entrée from their extensive menu.  There are a couple of items with supplemental charges, like their famous clambake, but they are worth it. It is still a terrific bargain. Dessert are extra, but not terribly expensive.

Our service began with a bluefish pate as an amuse-bouche served with excellent crackers

Bluefish pate

followed by some excellent bread and butter.

On this visit we each had to again experience their (shell-less) clambake of lobster, littleneck clams, spicey chorizo, fingerling potatoes (as potato chips) sweet corn (as a delicious emulsion) for a $17 supplemental charge. This is nominally a half-sized portion, offered as an appetizer, but it is still a fantastic (and filling)  dish, as shown in the photo above. This is their signature dish and we’ve had it several times in the past, and it never fails to amaze.

Scallops

For one entrée, we had scallops. Now scallops are usually presented as just sautéed and served with little else. But here, in this outstanding restaurant, the scallops were served on a sunchoke mole`, that is a puree of sunchokes with some unsweetened chocolate added for richness, and served with green beans sugar, snap peas and some more sunchokes, along with a mango and gooseberry salsa and some bits of oranges as well. What a delicious and imaginative presentation.

Salmon with tarragon toum

It’s hard to get decent salmon in restaurants, as it is often dry and overcooked. But this salmon was slo-poached, and incredibly juicy and tender. It was served with a tarragon toum, a sort of tarragon-based mayonnaise, roasted beets, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, fennel, arugula, garden herbs and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. It was outstanding, and our only regret that after that capacious appetizer, we couldn’t finish it all.

Chocolate cherry tart

Finally,  for dessert, we had a delicious warm chocolate-cherry tart. The pudding itself was actually hot, right out of the saucepan, served with a bit of vanilla ice cream, to top it off.

The amazing thing is that including two cocktails and two sodas, our bill, including tax, was only $289. Compare that to some other restaurants and you’ll know what a terrific deal this was. And the service was warm, friendly and attentive.

American Seasons — on Nantucket

American Seasons — on Nantucket

One of Nantucket’s long running restaurants, American Seasons has been serving imaginative meals for some years, and opened this year on May 5. The friendly neighborhood style restaurant is on Centre Street, not far from downtown and a very short walk from the Nantucket Hotel and Resort.

Glasses stored near the tables

Nearly every restaurant on the island has had struggles with their supply chain and finding sufficient staff. But, while the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, the menu was shortened, with just six appetizers (chicken liver parfait, herbed greens salad, roast sea scallops, daily crudo, green bean salad and a duck egg)  and six entrees (roast pork shoulder, Giannone [that’s a brand name] roast chicken, honey roasted halibut, salmon filet, rainbow carrots, and Muscovy duck breast).

Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait

Our choice of the Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait ($23) with house made vegetable pickles and brioche toast was a real winner. It was smooth, rich and delicious, although we admit we really couldn’t finish it all and still have room for the entrée.

But remember Restaurant Rule 1:

You don’t have to clean your plate! Eat what you want and leave the rest!

Island grown greens

Our other appetizer was Island Grown greens and Herbs ($19) with apple-walnut oil vinaigrette and Pecorino cheese. A lot of it. In fact, all the grated cheese brought back the old joke about “dust my wets,” referring to pasta dishes. The salad was pretty good, though, if a bit less than we expected.

Halibut

Our halibut dish, Honey Roasted Halibut with wild mushrooms and sunchoke puree, topped with a hazelnut crust had better be good, since it cost $50. And indeed, it started out that way, but once we’d managed to eat all the sunchoke puree, it was dry and not all that tasty. So we observed Rule 1.

Roast chicken

Finally, our other entrée was the roast chicken ($44) with mushroom cream, fingerlings, trumpet royals and a sherry vinegar jus.

This brings up Restaurant Rule 2:

Never order chicken in s restaurant. They (usually) have more interesting things than that.

It was not particularly impressive. It was bordering on dry, and really didn’t have a lot of taste. Our bill was $179 including tax, but before tip, and included two $15 gin-and-tonics.

We hope that they polish up their menu, because this Is usually quite a good restaurant.

The Proprietors is still Outstanding

The Proprietors is still Outstanding

The Proprietors remains one of Nantucket’s gems. Owned by Michael and Orla LaScola along with partner Anna Worgesss, the restaurant continues to serve outstanding and imaginative food. While the menu may change radically, from year to year, it always consists of a number of small plates and a few larger entrees. You can mix and share these any way you want, and even add another dish for the table while you are still having the previous course. And every one will be both surprising and delicious.

Spring onion pancakes

In last night’s visit, we chose two small plates , one sort of medium sized and and one larger portion.  We started with an unusual but absolutely outstanding portion of Sourdough Spring Onion Pancakes ($26) with Tallegio, Black trumpet mushrooms, with Everything Bagel seasoning.  We called it “stunning,” it was so good, and certainly a surprising combination.  

Robast beet salad

Our other appetizer was a really creating Beet Salad ($24)  , with roasted beets, chickpeas, feta, strawberry molasses, mint and bulgur wheat. Again, an unexpected combination of flavors resulting in and outstandingly successful dish! That taco-like shell surrounding the beets was made from chick peas! The textures the bulgur wheat provided along with the feta raised this far out of the  ordinary.

Salt and pepper shrimp

The medium-sized dish we order was called Salt and Pepper Shrimp ($36) with house-made chili crisp and   sesame mayo. The waitress mentioned to another table that this is one of their most popular dishes. There were 3 large shrimp, head and tail included, but with quite a lot of shrimp in   between. The chili flavor was part of the shrimp crust. But it didn’t overpower the delicate shrimp flavor. Despite the medium designation, based on price, this was more that we could eat., meaning there was some to share.

Roast duck with blackberry sauce

Finally our other main course was roast duck with blackberries, sour crea, polenta, local grilled bok choy and a radish ($47). The duck was tender, moist and perfectly seasoned and a delight to drag through the blackberry  sauce, (hidden under the bok choi in the photo.) Simply outstanding!

Chocolate tart

Our dessert was sort of a chocolate tart, with blackberries over a kind of bread pudding with almond brittle, and a scoop of coffee-chocolate ice cream. All of those toppings were delicious, but the tart itself was rather hard to cut.

Our bill with 2 glasses of wine and one soda was $222 including tax, but before tip, and considering the prices some other places have been charging on Nantucket, this is nearly a downright bargain as well as being one of the best meals we are likely to be having this week.

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach, under chef W Scott Osif has been a high end fixture in Nantucket for many years. With its setting on  a beach point, you can admire the food and the sunsets almost any night.

This year, they have moved to an two-course prix-fixe menu for $89, with several dishes having supplemental charges. They also have taken a big step and added the 23% gratuity to every check, which means the prix-fixe is really over $109. Oh, and they charge $15 for valet parking, an almost unavoidable charge since street parking is pretty difficult.

We’ve written about Galley Beach in 2019 and in 2015, praising its cuisine and service. This year, the service remained of high quality, but the food seemed far less successful than in past visits.

We started with an appetizer of Caesar salad, described as having white anchovies, parmesan croutons and creamy garlic dressing. As you can see from the picture there is one huge anchovie and one crouton, and the shredded cheese may ore may not be parmesan. We didn’t taste any parmesan, garlic or egg in the dressing, nor any lemon, vinegar, mustard or olive oil. We called this a “perfunctory Caesar salad.” We also note that it was served on some mixed greens rather than on romaine.

The right hand picture shows they one they served in 2019, which was very good.

Caesar 2021
Caesar 2019

We also had a Crab Cake for our other appetizer, which required a $15 supplemental upcharge, or $18.45 with the mandatory gratuity. It came with tomato, cucumber & mint salad. champagne beurre blanc. It certainly had plenty of crab and little filler, explaining the upcharge, but very little flavor. Now Maryland style crab cakes always contain spicy mustard, or sometimes just hot sauce, but this contained none of those, and was just kind of bland.  We had the same dish in 2015 and praised its flavor.

Crab cake

Our entrée was Pan roasted halibut with duck fat Brussels sprouts. summer squashes. sunchoke puree, and a $10 upcharge. The halibut was perfectly cooked, but without much flavor from the minimal puree. The “duck fat Brussels sprouts” were supposed to be sweetened by browning in duck fat. Actually, they were burned. You would think some head chef would be checking plates before they go out the door and catch things like that. We were not impressed.

Halibut

Our other entrée was housemade orecchiette. rock shrimp. buttered corn. capers. lemon. old bay. midnight moon. Not a lot of shrimp. Tasted like mac and cheese, but we’ve had better mac and cheese.

The waiter suggested desserts and there were only four rather standard choices, each $19:

  • Warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and salted caramel
  • Crème brulee with macerated blueberries
  • Turmeric Panna Cotta (Come on! Really?)
  • Strawberry shortcake

We chose to skip the dessert. Our bill, including 3 glasses of chardonnay, tax and a $57.50 service charge was $325. It’s not that we begrudge the inclusion of the service charge, but for an indifferent meal, this was an awful lot of money. Even so, it was cheaper than the Company of the Cauldron!

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

We’ve been to The Proprietors Bar and Table several times since it opened. Chef Michael LaScola has crafted a small plates/large plates menu made up of fascinating small dishes and some larger ones. This year, they changed the focus a bit, with there being three large plate entrees at the bottom of the menu, inviting you to build your dinner around several appetizers and finish with a main course sized entrée. These entrees currently include Roast Chicken [for two] ($48), Chicken Fried Trout ($37) and Korean Short Ribs ($41). This approach is a really successful change and we had a terrific evening with our appetizers and entrée.

It is perfectly possible for two people to share any of the small plates and certainly they can share the roast chicken, and that is what we did last night.

The waiter was cautious in suggesting that we really didn’t need to order more than two small plates, since several of them that we suggested were quite rich, and suggested that we might consider the Red Lentil Falafel with roast garlic achaar, sumac yoghurt and salted cucumbers ($18) as a lighter alternative. We ended up choosing two others and thinking seriously about having three, It just depends on your appetite.

We started with the Roasted Beets ($19.50) with Vermont Burrata, roasted strawberries, garam masala and chickpea crackling. There was plenty of this for the two of us: happily spreading the burrata on the chick pea “bread,” and topping it with beets and the occasional pistachio. Even people skeptical of beets will probably love this preparation. We certainly did.

Our second appetizer was Bijou Goat Cheese ($23) with apricot mostarda and green onion “biskits.” This hot appetizer was amazing. You could cut the biskit in half or thirds and spread it with the hot cheese, making it easy to share, but I didn’t want to: it was so good.

Finally, for our entrée, we ordered the Roast Chicken. It was served with a Farro Risotto, mushrooms, little roasted onions and a gooseberry agrodolce ( a sort of sweet-sour condiment). There were two quarters of chicken on the platter, one of leg and thigh and the other of breast and wing. This approach allowed the kitchen to cook them separately, so the dark meat is cooked and the breast not dried out. This was completely successful: all of the meat was tender and juicy, and we finished every bite.

Finally, since we ran out of small plates, we ordered the fabulous dessert: Blueberry Sorbet ($15) with whipped coconut cream, a sesame/blueberry crumble and basil. This was probably the best sorbet we have ever been served.

This new approach at the Proprietors is a winner: we really had the best meal of our entire visit there last night. The Proprietors is at the corner of India St and Center St, and is open from 5pm Thursday through Tuesday nights, and closed on Wednesdays. You definitely should make a reservation.

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

This venerable Nantucket restaurant was a popular high end fixture of Nantucket dining when Chef Joseph Keller took it over from the retiring Kovalencik family in 2017. It has the same style: warmth and friendliness it always had, and still provides one single 3 course prix fixe meal each night. Each meal also includes one of Keller’s famous popovers, that he developed while the chef at the Woodbox. Here in the late season, Keller has only one seating a night: in high season there are sometimes two seatings.

We went last night (Wednesday) for an elegant meal featuring Beef Wellington. You nearly always will require a reservation here, because there are only 28 seats inside, where there were nearly 50 in pre-COVID days. They also have three 4-top tables under a tent just outside taking up a lane of India Street, as several other restaurants are also doing. You can see each week’s menu online to decide what day you might like the best.

We were seated right away for our 7:00 pm reservation, fortunately at a center row table at the end, where we had a good view of the open kitchen. Keller and his sous-chef produce all these meals in a kitchen smaller than some home kitchens, although he does have much better ovens.

We ordered a bottle of a 2017 Michael Pozzan “Annabella” cabernet ($69), which came with an interesting story from the wine waiter about how Pozzan became a winemaker and grower.

Soon after that they began distributing the popovers: one per person (sometimes you can get a second one if they aren’t too busy).

Popover

Soon after that, the waiter began distributing the Bartlett’s Summer Garden Heirloom Tomato Salad, with local lettuces. Cucumbers, picked red onions and the Company citrus vinaigrette.  We watched the chefs assembling the salads, taking the mixed lettuce from an enormous bowl where they had tossed in the vinaigrette and olive oil. Then they put a serving in each bowl and distributed the tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers into each bowl. 

Summer garden salad

It looked beautiful, but that citrus dressing seemed awfully sour to us, and the tomatoes not very flavorful compared to what we have in our home garden right now.

The Beef Wellington was Snake River Farms tenderloin of beef in house-made puff pastry, local organic mushroom farce and a house demi-glace. We watched Chef Keller take the long puff pastry “loaves” out of the oven, check their temperature and return them for just a bit more time. You can see one of those puff pastries in the background. Meanwhile, they laid out the plates and poured the demi-glace onto each of them. Then, Keller sliced them into almost 2-inch slices and plated them, with his associate adding a bit more mushrooms to each plate. Then, the waiters worked with a pile of folded white napkins to pick up the very hot plates and began delivering them to the diners. All of this took about 45  minutes, so we were glad we could watch the show.

Beef Wellington and green beans almondine

The beef was uniformly tender and delicious, and it was certainly a substantial portion.

While we were eating, we could watch Keller and his sous-chef laying out the crème brulees, sprinkling sugar atop each of them and then torching them to melt the topping. You can see this at the top of the article. They then added a shortbread cookie to each and served them.

Creme Brulee

This last course was served about 8:45pm: we ate it eagerly and paid the bill.

The prix-fixe cost for Beef Wellington is $135 per person, bringing the bill with wine and tax to $347. With tip, two people would easily spend $400 here for a 3-course meal with an added popover. This is just too expensive, even for Nantucket, and we don’t recall paying that much anywhere else on the island. So, the food was very good (well, except the salad) but be prepared to carve a new hole in your credit card!

Company of the Cauldron is open Tuesday through Sunday with at least one seating each night. You can find the menus (and their varying prices) on line. Sundays have become Chicken and Waffles night. We had that a few years ago. That price is currently $95 per person.

Cauldron outside the door
Dune: always a favorite

Dune: always a favorite

We try to dine at Dune almost every year, because the cuisine is always imaginative and the service excellent. The cuisine certainly impressed us this year, with an excellent menu of seafood, veggies and meats. It consists of seven appetizers and eight entrees, as well as several imaginative vegetable side dishes.

We started with a stunningly beautiful roast beet salad ($19.50) with whipped goat cheese, beet vinaigrette, pistachios, and balsamic vinegar.

Roasted beets with whipped goat cheese

And for our other appetizer, we picked the pork and mushroom dumplings ($19) with citrus ponzu, pickled carrots and daikon, sesame fried garlic and cilantro. While this is in the style of Chinese dumplings, these were far more imaginative and flavorful, and they disappeared in moments!

Pork and mushroom dumplings

Both of our entrees were spectacular. The Pan-seared Atlantic Halibut ($48.50) was extraordinary, served with a buttery coconut lemongrass broth, shiitake, purple potatoes,  boy choy, romanescor (those little Christmas tree broccoli relatives), basil, fired garlic and lime. Every bite was a treat.

Pan seared Atlantic Halibut

And finally, or other entrée was Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak ($49.50) served with crispy garlic fingerlings, Bibb lettuce and cherry tomatoes, bacon vinaigrette, blue cheese butter, and “D1” sauce, which seems to be more or less bearnaise. Steaks are sometimes variable, but this one was outstandingly tender, and easy to eat. We both loved every bite.

Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak

Every restaurant on Nantucket (and everywhere else) is having staffing problems you have to allow for, and Dune is no different, but we know how difficult COVID has been for the restaurant business, we are not about to criticize any of their difficulties.  Go to Dune and enjoy excellent, imaginative meals!