November 30, 2009

Scottish Bakehouse

ABF mentioned a place on the Vineyard that specialized in baked goods and takeout food, and it took me a while to realize I'd also seen this place featured by Rachael Ray (and had noted years ago I'd like to vist someday). Well, that 'someday' was that Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. We drove along State Road in the West Tisbury section and found the unassuming little cottage just off the road.

I remember hearing that the owner (I can't find a website?? for this place, though I believe the owner is Daniele Dominick) is serious about using local food in her cooking, and even has a garden out back that she harvests and uses in her dishes. Of course, right now in the cold winter months the garden didn't look so great, but it was a good-sized piece of land. I'd love to come back and try some freshly-picked veggies once it's warmer outside!

The bakery cases are packed with fresh-made goodies, from their 'punkin pie' that looked creamy and lovely, to the Irish soda bread to the berry danish. It's not all sweet, though. They also feature egg salads, pilafs, and other sides, either pre-made, chilled in the fridge, or dishes made to order. We were in the mood for some sweet stuff, though. While it all looked good, we managed to narrow it down to a respectable half-dozen or so.

ABF picked out an assortment of cookies for us to sample over the weekend. He was interested in the Scottish shortbread (you can't NOT try those, right?) and we got two, as I knew I'd be trying one myself. ABF actually didn't like these.. I think it was a texture issue. They were very crumbly and fell apart easily, but they tasted buttery and delicious to me. It definitely wasn't the crisp, crunchy shortbread fingers most of us are used to nomming.

The Bakehouse specializes in a lot of vegetarian/vegan cuisine, and everything (or nearly everything) is gluten-free. While I'm an unapologetic carnivore, ABF piqued my interest when he pointed out the vegan Linzer thumbprint cookie. He was hoping for a more typical Linzer cookie, but this looked as close as it gets. It was just okay. It wasn't awful, but I wouldn't get it again. It just had no punch to me. If avoiding animal products is your game, though, it's not horrible. Wow, did I sell that or what? ;)

ABF also selected what was called a Mexican wedding cookie. This was not a big hit with me, so ABF was all on his own and happy to do so, I think. ;) It was more like a pecan sandy to me than the usually-buttery, melt-in-your-mouth MWC I've happily sampled in the past.

I can't remember if ABF or I chose the amaretti biscuit, but I'm game for anything almond, so score! This was hands-down my favorite. Oh my goodness. It had almond paste woven throughout the soft, crumbly cookie, and as ABF isn't a huge chocolate fan, he let me have the end that was dipped in chocolate. God love him! I would rather have just ordered these than anything else we ate! Next time we go back, I'll try more savory than sweet, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be taking home a mess of those amaretti! Che dolce!

I passed on something else I saw in the bakery case over a last-minute impulse buy at the counter: Zapatistas, which are crumbly chocolate cakes with chili peppers in them. I wasn't wild for the sandy, crumbly texture of the cake (again, I'm sure connected to the gluten-free side), but the heat from the chili was outstanding. It just kept building and building long after I'd finished my little cake. Yum!

November 28, 2009

Mexican at Martha's Vineyard

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? I love the land of my roots, but New England has NOT made a name for itself in Mexican food so much. Chowdah? Done. Clamcakes? Oh, you betcha. Blueberry pie? Sure. Enchiladas.... um..what? I used to joke that the only Mexican food you could find was Chili's (and I'm not hatin..those southwestern egg rolls are RIDICULOUSLY good. But still.)

ABF told me eons ago about a place he'd tried for dinner a long, long time ago on Martha's Vineyard, long before our paths ever crossed. He spoke of Zapotec so highly that I almost got my hopes up a bit. I told him we definitely had to stop here on our latest visit, even though in the back of my mind, I was telling my taste buds to take it easy.

We hopped in the car and drove over to the Oak Bluffs section of Martha's Vineyard. We were the only people in the restaurant Saturday night when we ambled in around 530. A lovely gentleman named Jeff told us to pick any table we wanted, so we chose one in a far corner. We put in our drink orders (Diet Coke for ABF, regular 'rita on the rocks for me, of course) and chatted a bit. It wasn't 5 minutes later when it seemed like a steady stream of people flooded into the restaurant. That's when we found out that Jeff was goin' it alone that night, working as manager, host, server, bartender, busser, you name it! Bless his heart--he was hustling. A couple came in with their 2 children, and I saw them eyeing our table. Jeff came over and asked us if we'd mind moving to another table so he could fit in the family. He offered to give us something on the house, anything (he sounded a bit desperate). We're nice folks, not high-strung, so we said sure, of course, and moved over. I think you know what *I* was thinking: free margarita!! ;)

We were the first to put in our food orders that night, and our food came out quickly! We started with the special appetizer: stuffed poblano pepper filled with cream cheese, shredded chicken, and pepper jack cheese. YES, PLEASE. It came out sizzling hot, along with ABF's pick, the chicken wings. I tried the wings, and they were tasty, but I wasn't as into them as ABF, who was happy to finish them on his own. I was, however, intrigued by the fact that they put cumin in their sour cream. GENIUS!! It made the sour cream really stand out, and added a wonderful layer to everything. I ended up putting it on my stuffed pepper, too, which I shared with ABF (but could have easily gobbled up all on my own). This pepper was outstanding. It actually tasted like a fleshier, heartier spinach, and the chicken/cream cheese mixture was smooth and flavorful and perfectly seasoned. Not too salty, just right. Of course I added some cumin sour cream to it. I was sad to see this end.

PS: At this point, the family we'd moved tables for up and left. They were disappointed to hear the restaurant was out of the littleneck clam dish (because they are OUT OF SEASON, yo!) AND iced tea, so they swiftly packed up and left while Jeff was in the other room. Nice. See ya, guys. Whatever, I still earned my second margarita! At this point, though, I was still working on my first.

We'd barely finished our apps when out came our entrees. I ordered the fish tacos, and the dish was just gorgeous. Beautifully arranged, fresh, and wonderful. ABF & I both said 'That looks BEAUTIFUL!' at the same time. It just was a lovely looking dish, and even more delicious. The cool white cabbage was a delightful balance to the fried cod and the heat-tastic chipotle mayo. I was soooo happy I ordered this dish. It was as fresh as can be, and so delicious. The fish was perfectly fried, not heavy, and so yummy. A single slice of ripe avocado was in each taco. It was just enough--not a gross over-serving, not a skimpy serving. Just right. Okay, maybe still a little too much. ABF graciously helped me finish the second taco. He's a doll. ;)

ABF got the enchiladas in red and green sauces. The red sauce was delightful--packed with flavor, again, perfectly seasoned and not greasy or salty. It was chock full o' tomato-y goodness. The tomatillo sauce, of course, was my favorite. It had this wonderful tartness to it without being sour. The chicken was tender and juicy. I mean dadGUM this was good food.

Jeff got some help about 30 minutes into our meal--the boyfriend of another server (the one who called out sick that night? I wasn't sure) was gamely taking orders and helping out--even though he admitted he'd never done it before. It was nice to see friends helping out friends--those guys were MOVING! They both kept their cool and were even making light of it at times, but I'm sure they were super-stressed. They didn't let it affect their attitudes, though, and they were perfectly gracious with all the guests.

The time came for our check--we were stuffed and happy and warm and ready to head back to our hotel. Jeff brought us the check and spun away, then instantly spun back and said "Oh, I forgot--can I get you guys something on the house? Another drink?" ABF said he'd take a coffee, and I said "Why SURE I'll take another margarita!" He smiled and dashed off again. We noticed more people coming into this tiny establishment, so when Jeff passed by again, I stopped him and asked if he'd rather we finish our drinks in the bar area, so he could seat new folks at our table. He seemed to like that idea, so we moved to the bar, which was full at the moment, but soon cleared out. He made me another awesome margarita, brewed a fresh pot of coffee for ABF, and let us hang out there at our leisure. ABF and I spent another 45 minutes or so just talking and laughing at the bar, throughly enjoying our time, and making me love Zapotec even more.

Have you ever eaten something so delicious you wanted to go back into the kitchen and hug the cook? This was that meal. She looked really freaking busy, though, so I'll just give her props here. She turned out some AMAZING food in record time. It was seriously some of the most delicious Mexican/Tex-Mex/Southwest/whatever you want to call it I've ever eaten. And trust me, I've done lots of research in this food field ;) And thanks to Jeff for being such a gracious host/manager/man about town. We will DEFINITELY be back just won't be soon enough for me!

The Black Dog

An iconic part of Martha's Vineyard is the Black Dog Tavern. It's just steps from the ferry landing in Vineyard Haven, where many tourists (aka Off-Islanders) arrive. ABF & I rolled in around 9am Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. ABF's brother, sister-in-law, and their two adorable nieces had arrived there a few days earlier. They met us at TBD for breakfast. ABF and I had barely slept the night before, hitting the road at 3am to make our 8am ferry, so we were a little punchy, but at the moment, company and hunger trumped the sleepiness!

I took a view from our table, looking out onto the water. I hadn't been to the Black Dog since I came here ages ago with my sister, dad and stepmom. I think we even sat at that table in the shot! We had been there for lunch, though, so I was looking forward to see what our breakfast options were.

The breakfast menu is BIG. There are so many options that I had quite a quandary deciding what to get. I ended up ordering Thank George's Bank (I have no idea what that means). It consisted of 2 poached eggs in Hollandaise sauce over a fishcake...sounded promising! I got an English Muffin on the side. The eggs were a little overpoached, almost hard-boiled for one, but the Hollandaise sauce was excellent. The fish cake was HUGE! It took up almost half the plate! I couldn't finish it all, and shared some with ABF and his brother.

ABF ordered the "One Sweet World," which came with 3 pancakes, 2 eggs any way, and bacon. While I'm not normally a pancake person, even I thought these were delicious. They were also bigger than your average pancake. They use real maple syrup, too, which makes SUCH a big difference. I may have had another sample or two of these pancakes (hey! I shared my fishcake, remember?)

We left breakfast quite stuffed, and also quite entertained by the 2 nieces, who were super-talkative and animated that morning! ABF & I headed on to see the Gay Head lighthouse and the clay cliffs of Aquinnah. I admit--as soon as ABF parked that car, I was sawing logs! We (mostly I) took a power nap for a while as the wind whipped around outside the car. We eventually got outside (this was a struggle for me--so sleepy!) and snapped a few photos before running back to the car. SO COLD!!!

We also stopped by my must-visit spot: Island Alpaca!!! ALPACAS!!!!!!! All in all, an awesome start to an awesome weekend!

November 25, 2009

Pinot Noir Tasting

Last Christmas, I gave ABF a "membership" to The Finer Things Club, an Office-inspired club with just us two members. Over the past few months I've set up things to do: wine tasting classes, an olive-oil tasting/cooking demo at Williams-Sonoma, etc. They're usually fun, slightly-fancy things that make us feel a little cultured, though we have included more rustic activities such as our walk through the Nature reserve on Long Island's Fire Island. Deer! Birds! Lighthouses!

Our latest FTC trip took us to New York Vintners, just steps from City Hall. They welcomed us with glasses of chilled Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Veneto, Italy. It was delicious--not too sweet, not overpoweringly bubbly. So far, so good. Cheers!

The store is a very cool space that can fit 2-80 people...depending on how they want to move the wall (which contains their small office in the middle of the space). The back includes a kitchen, because they're very big on marrying food with wine (ditto!) They told us that just the other night, some couple had rented it out for dinner. They moved the wall closer to the kitchen, dimmed the lights, and added some candles--awwww. At our tasting, there were 30 people. It was a tight fit, but the wine sure helped make it all go easier ;) Funny how that works.

If you take one of their classes (and I would gladly do so again), you will learn a lot. We were sharing a table with some bubbly, chatty girls who were way ahead of our intructors. They tasted all the wines before he'd even finished describing the first one! I, being the 2 marshmallow kid that I am, waited to go along with the teacher (NERD! Guilty)

Our instructors were clearly passionate about pinot noir--and other wines. They explained how the pinot noir grape is the most difficult to grow: it's most prone to rot, most vulnerable to frost (as it can grow earlier/faster than other grapes), and yet it's also one of the most rewarding to taste. I definitely developed a new appreciation for this grape! We tasted pinot noirs from Oregon, California, Italy, and Burgundy, France. I am not normally a fan of Burgundies, having taken a Burgundy class with Laura once and feeling underwhelmed, but I'm slowly learning to appreciate them. In this class, the 2 burgundies were favorites of Kevin and mine. The California pinot noir was also delicious.

We each took a bottle home (of the 2 Burgundies)... you know, for extra credit. :)

November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks...for cupcakes :)

I'm thankful for a lot of things this holiday, but at this very moment, I'm thankful for Magnolia's pumpkin-pecan cupcakes! My friend Mel picked 2 up for us this morning on our way back from the studio. Delicious! And the cream cheese frosting? That deserves a post all its own! Thanks, Melanie!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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