Nantucket Wine Fest '09

shucking at the White Elephant There are far too many fun stories to tell about this past weekend. Not sure this little blog will do it all justice. But here goes.

Most of the farm packed up early last week to hit Nantucket for the 2009 Wine Festival. On Friday, Will, Berg & I hopped a flight from Hyannis to the island and arrived just in time for a seminar hosted by Skip and Shore at the White Elephant. They were joined by Sarah Leah Chase, a cookbook author, Jamie Hamlin, a TV personality, as well as Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat wines. A group of us stood behind the raw bar shucking as Skip told the seated crowd the story of Island Creek. Sarah paired our oysters with a black pepper mignonette to start and later served them quite simply with grilled sausage. The sausage dish was a hit, as was the roasted bone marrow dish that followed it (no oysters but a fantastic pea shoot salad and a few dabs of Martha's Vineyard sea salt from).


Jim had several fantastic things to say about our oysters which was a huge endorsement for us -- he called them "a delicious example of East Coast oysters." And we were absolutely enamored with his wines, especially the Hildegard and the Nuits-Blanches au Bouge. Really tasty juice.

Afterward, we packed up and got checked in to a few rooms at the Cottages (conveniently located above Provisions, the sandwich shop run by our friends Amanda Lydon and Gabriel Frasca who also run the Straight Wharf Restaurant) before turning thoughts towards dinner. Skip lead the charge to the Boarding House, owned by close friends of Island Creek, Seth & Angela Raynor. Somehow, after a trip into the kitchen, he was able to snag a table for all ten of us up in the Pearl's private dining room -- which was exactly the color of Pepto. The guys were unfazed so we sat down to a huge table and started an epically long (and hysterical), family style meal with a few cocktails and a magnum of Ridge Zinfandel. Skip took charge of ordering and out came a parade of amazing food: dumplings, soft shell crab, lettuce wraps, 60-second steak, wok fried lobster, black was never ending. Berg and I hoarded a few dishes at our end of the table just so we could lick the plates.

After dinner, we eventually found our way to The Chicken Box where the phenomenal U2 cover band, Joshua Tree, rocked straight until closing time. There were after parties, beers on the roof, and eventually, we all made it home safely to bed.

Saturday was an early one but we managed to get to the Nantucket Yacht Club in time for our 11 a.m. set up. We arrived to the tents and found our boat already in place (thanks to Shore and a few others) on the back lawn, right in front of the water under a powder blue sky. Picture perfect spot.


Seth and Angela and restaurant team were set up to grill Island Creeks with an ancho chilli butter and also created four toppings for us: straight mignonette (from the Boarding House), Thai lime dipping (the Pearl), tomatillo salsa, and regular salsa (their new ceviche bar and Peruvian restaurant, Corazon del Mar -- opening in a week or two). The Thai lime dipping was an unbe-lievable combo of garlic, cilantro, lime, Thai chillies, sugar, and fish sauce. By the end of the weekend, we were calling it Green Love. Just addictive stuff. We shucked for both the mid-day and afternoon sessions under pretty gorgeous weather which took a turn towards cloudy gray at the end. We kept at it and by the end of the day, had run out of about 5,000 oysters for the weekend. (But one quick phone call home and we had 25 more bags sent to us on the ferry -- thank you, Lisa). We also had an incredible crew of fans stop by the float -- many of whom wanted to buy the t-shirts off our back and wish us well. Jim Clendenen came by to pour wines with us for the afternoon session; we made friends with a huge oyster fan named Ted from Kentucky; my pals Alex Hall and Mike Blanding stayed the day; and Marlo Fogelman (Marlo Marketing Communications), Glen Kelley, and Janice O'Leary (from Boston Common magazine) swung by as well.

Island Creeks on the grill

Berg taking a break at Wine Fest

the coveted t-shirts

CJ, Erin, & Matthew grinding

We managed to escape with a few farmers' tans and plenty of extra bottles of wine in us. A quick nap later and it was dinnertime once again. This time, we hit American Seasons, owned by Orla and Michael LaScola. This was a more intimate dinner (literally since two tables held all 8 men and myself) but we managed not to disturb too many other diners. We split two more magnums of Zinfandel (this one was called The Prisoner and at 15.2% alcohol, did most of us in) and ate another wonderful collection of dishes. My braised pork shank could have fed an army (well, ok, just myself and Berg... CJ gnawed at the bone) while the meatloaf "sandwich" topped with foie gras won for hands-down flavor.

the magnum

the Oyster Dude goes to town

one fat and happy oyster crew

Again, our night turned a little rowdy and we found our way over to the Straight Wharf for a late-night dance party. The videos are priceless, but alas, too damaging to share.

Sunday, we found ourselves up and at 'em for the final day of Wine Fest and a rainy, foggy morning. The weather had us stuck indoors and without a grill at the Yacht Club but we made the most of it and kept things light with a few Mexican wrestling masks to entertain the oyster fans.

Berg, Shore, CJ, & Will

More wine and a pitcher of sangria appeared on our raw bar but once again, we escaped alive and finished the second session at 2 p.m. at which point Shore & CJ walked the raw bar boat through the streets of Nantucket and over to the Boarding House (in case you're wondering, the boat was hand-made by by a Duxbury local and yes, it's heavy).

raw bar parade

Once the raw bar and grill were re-set-up on the Boarding House patio we shucked for the Festival wind-down party. More of those fantastic sauces, more shucking, and more wrestling masks were in order. By the end, Skip looked as tired as we all felt and just kept saying, "The tide is going out on this one." One final meal at the Boarding House bar turned up a tasty plate of gnocchi, amazing French fries, a crispy, thin crust pizzetta with roasted grapes and arugula, and yes, a few more cocktails.

Seth, CJ & Shore

After we ate, Angela walked me over to Corazon del Mar, the couple's newest restaurant set to open in a few weeks. The concept is a Peruvian spot and ceviche bar and the aesthetic is gorgeous: think Mexican Gothic and romance. Really beautiful, two-story place.

One more night out meant one more stop at the Straight Wharf (with a pit stop at Captain Tobey's) and a round of shots for everyone at the bar. I finally got to catch up with Gabriel Frasca (who requested a few late-night oysters) before we shut down the bar and all stumbled home. It was one long finale to end a sweeping weekend of fun.

Of course, the 8 a.m. flight home wasn't nearly as idyllic but we still put in a pretty full day of work yesterday. And now... we catch up on sleep and officially say hello to summer.