Photographer and graphic designer Susan Fairgrieve has captured the simple pristine glories of the coastal world from the shores of Martha’s Vineyard to the Bahamas with five handsomely packaged collections of sepia-tone notecards mounted on ivory card stock with matching envelopes ($20.) Vineyarders will love the Menemsha and Edgartown series, but no matter what your favorite shore, these images are uniquely beautiful. The holiday collection comes tied with a gold ribbon. The images (32 in all) are also available as Giclees (up to 36 by 48 inches) and as framed prints.For information on Fairgrieve’s Coastal Collections, go to web.me.com/thecoastalcollection.
Old world charm and superb craftsmanship make these finely detailed Santas by Vallaincourt of Sutton, Massachusetts, the perfect gift for someone special on your holiday list. Fashioned from vintage chocolate molds by Judi and Gary Vallaincourt and a team of talented artisans, these hand-painted, one-of-a-kind Santa and Father Christmas collectibles range in price from $85 to $300. It’s easy to see why these Vallaincourt treasures are prized by collectors worldwide. Available at Kindreds Antiques and Folk Art in Osterville.Visit www.kindredsantiquesandfolkart.com for more information.
Oran Mor bistro is one of Nantucket’s top restaurants, thriving in the hands of Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, Chris Freeman. Freeman has a fine touch with a menu that changes from season to season with sometimes unusual, ever fresh ingredients served with simple, yet elegant style. The night we were there, every one of the three handsome dining rooms on the second floor of a historic home were full with happy diners. We looked with envy on a happy couple eating dinner in solitary splendor on a treetop deck. The culinary highlights of the night for us were the Butter Poached Nantucket Lobster appetizer with Potato Lemon Gnocchi, Pattypan Squash, Arugula, and Tarragon Buerre Blanc ($22) and the fresh-off-the-boat main entrees, Grilled Line Caught Striped Bass with Red Pepper Broth, Zucchini Linguini, Grilled Calamari, and Picholine Olives ($33) and the Sauteed Day Boat Scallops with Saffron Rissotto, Mussels, Chorizo, Fennel, and Tomato-Coriander Nage. Everything about Oran Mor is top flight from a superb wine list featuring some little known American wines by smaller producers, on through a thoughtfully creative menu.Oran Mor, 2 South Beach Street, Nantucket; 508-228-8655, www.oranmorbistro.com
- Posted in Food
Oysters are best when eaten as nature intended, straight from the sea. Naked Oyster, long a favorite with seafood lovers, is the ultimate spot for those who like to slurp down a cool dozen. After many years on Route 132, the restaurant recently moved to a suave new Main Street space, right next to Puritan Cape Cod. According to talented chef Carlos Reyes (formerly of the Chatham Bars Inn), the food here is special because top notch local ingredients are given an Asian or Caribbean twist. The restaurant has an extensive lunch and dinner menu (seven days a week) which in addition to same day seafood fresh off the Barnstable and Chatham dayboats also features organically raised beef. Our favorite choices are the Chilled Seafood Tower appetizer, a delight of littleneck clams, oysters, shrimp, tuna sashimi, AND a lobster tail ($43), the oyster stew brimming with sherry, cream, and oysters ($12), and the poached salmon in lemon caper fish tea, served with Yukon potatoes and spinach with black olive tapenade ($27). All year-round, cruise into the Naked Oyster—and after a superb meal, walk through adjoining doors to check out the latest cool fashions at Puritan Cape Cod.Naked Oyster, 410 Main Street, Hyannis; 508-778-6500, www.nakedoyster.com
- Posted in Food
The Beachmoor Inn & Restaurant
11 Buttermilk Way, Buzzards Bay
Besides its picturesque sunset views from a wonderful waterfront dining room, The Beachmoor Inn & Restaurant in Buzzards Bay has another especially attractive feature for party planners: its locale is easily accessible from both on and off Cape. But that’s just the starting point for this 150-capacity destination: the inn’s holiday menu includes specialties like herb-crusted sirloin roast with creamy horseradish chive sauce, seven-fish stew, maple mustard glazed turkey, and delectable desserts including apple cranberry crisp and chocolate bread pudding. Even if you have no plans for a celebration of your own, swing by the inn on the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a Christmas Tea and a wreath-making workshop led by experts from Ivies Flowers in Falmouth.
311 Gifford Street, Falmouth
Past the decorations like a poinsettia-adorned Christmas tree and an oversized gingerbread house in the lobby, the Coonamessett Inn in Falmouth has three rooms on its grounds to suit functions of any size, from the intimate Mermaid Room to the Cape Cod Room, a perfect spot for huge company gatherings. Parties can be tailored with different budgets in mind, from an elaborate company dinner with prime rib to an afternoon cocktail party with a raw bar and chocolate fountain. Make your reservations for Christmas Eve dinner at the inn, an often sold-out, a la carte meal with seatings beginning at 4 p.m.
Chatham Bars Inn
297 Shore Road, Chatham
Overnight guests at Chatham Bars Inn wake up to a surprise the day after Thanksgiving: The inn is a winter wonderland, transformed by Christmas decorations lining the halls and strung across all of its 25 acres. It’s a festive backdrop for a holiday function, which organizers can choose to hold in one of the inn’s private dining rooms or in its Monomoy Ballroom, which holds up to 200 people. In addition to its year-round menu, the kitchen staff marks the start of the holiday season by rolling out a selection of creative seafood dishes—many of which are made with catches pulled from the ocean just outside. Before checkout, make sure to snap a photo in the resort 15-foot tall Santa’s chair.
The Red Inn
15 Commercial Street, Provincetown
There’s a certain getting-away-from-it-all appeal to visiting Provincetown in winter, but make no mistake: The Red Inn is alive all the way through Holly Folly Weekend. Located on Commercial Street, the inn is festively dressed in white lights and wreaths and fully equipped for holiday get-togethers. Special events are held in the inn’s main dining area, and the kitchen staff serves a menu ranging from simple hors d’oeuvres to extravagant dinners. On Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the inn dishes out elegant four-course prix fixe meals. Stay a while in one of the Red Inn’s eight waterfront guest rooms that look out over Provincetown Harbor. And while the inn is closed from December 12-29, it opens for a five-night stretch just in time for New Year’s.
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club
On Pleasant Bay
Whether it’s a low-key cocktail hour with a sushi bar and carving stations or a sit-down dinner, every holiday function at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club on Pleasant Bay’s waterfront is customized down to the last detail. While most merrymakers gather in the resort’s Twenty-eight Atlantic restaurant, folks booking larger holiday functions should consider the resort’s 200-person event room, The Pavilion. Bill Brodsky, chef at Twenty-eight Atlantic, creates several signature dishes including a combination plate of filet mignon and de-shelled lobster tail, which has proven especially popular around the holidays. On request, the resort can arrange transportation, and if you want to stay a little longer, guest room packages are available.
In a beautiful twist to the ever-popular Cape Cod bracelet, Unique Boutique offers a new braided band of sterling silver adorned with a 14 karat gold ball ($150). According to the store’s owner, native Cape Codder Karen Beaton, the Cape Cod Jewelry Collection never goes out of style and is always a great investment. The elegant, conveniently located Mashpee Commons shop carries the complete Cape Cod Collection ranging from the $35 anklet to the four ball (14 karat and sterling silver set with diamonds) bracelet ($1375). “It is just such a pretty, sophisticated line,” says Beaton. Unique Boutique, open evenings until 9 p.m. from Thanksgiving on, also features a charming nautical line and other distinctive silver and gold pieces fashioned by artists from around the country, gleaming with superb precious stones and pearls in dreamy colors.
Cape Cod and the Islands are bountiful sources for holiday decorating with lots of natural materials right outside your back door. Let’s start with holly, which grows in such abundance on Cape Cod that we often rip it out like a weed. This is still slightly amazing to me, since we used to pamper, fertilize, and pray over our hard-to-please holly bushes when we lived in Central Massachusetts. The Cape is what’s known as a holly belt and the prickly native holly, Ilex opaca, flourishes here. I was astonished our first Cape Christmas at the sight of a giant holly tree completely covered with brilliant red berries. It looked as though a child had taken a red crayon and dotted the deep green foliage with thousands of berries. Read more…
It is a hot Thursday morning in July. All week, temperatures have climbed into the low 90s. Cape Cod beaches have been jammed with visitors and year-rounders looking for relief from the heat. Rick Penn, co-owner and president of Puritan Cape Cod, walks to the front of his expansive store located on Main Street, Hyannis, and looks out from 18,000 square feet of air-conditioned elegance at the crowded sidewalks. “It’s going to be a really busy day,” says Penn happily. “People are tired of going to the beaches.”
Penn, dressed in a hand-tailored Puritan suit, knows what he is talking about. As the third generation of Penns to own and manage Puritan Cape Cod, he is adept at anticipating the moods of Puritan’s buying public. Rick works at the retailing Main Street magnet hands-on six days a week, alongside his first cousin, Puritan Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Jim Penn. The cousins are the latest in a long line of hard-working Penn retailers, following in the footsteps of Milton and Howard Penn, who brought the business to prominence in the last half of the twentieth century. The Penns have come far since the days when Rick and Jim’s grandfather, Abraham Penn, emigrated from Russia in the 1920s and worked as a street peddler selling cloth on the streets of Boston.
Soon, Puritan’s doors swing open and a tall, impressively built man walks in to the men’s department, obviously in a hurry. Rick, who learned long ago how to judge a customer on a mission, watches as one of Puritan’s veteran sales associates welcomes the customer. “I need two suits by Monday morning for a meeting I didn’t plan on having,” says the man, accompanied by his wife. “And I would like them to be high-quality suits.” After explaining that he has a second home in Chatham, the man also asks for shirts and ties, and is whisked into Puritan’s handsome dressing rooms.
“Everything comes back our grandfather’s motto,” says Jim Penn. “We would rather make a friend than make a sale. It’s not just one transaction, it’s a lifetime of transactions.”
Across the floor, Rick Penn approaches the customer’s wife, who wanders into Puritan’s bright, attractively designed Vineyard Vines lifestyle section. After striking up a conversation, he quickly learns that the woman loves spas. “Follow me,” says Penn to the surprised shopper, leading her to a corner of the store where a sign leads downstairs to Solstice Spa. Penn and his new Main Street convert head to the posh salon, where almost a dozen women have escaped from the heat to be pampered with manicures, hair cuts, facials, and massage therapy.
Professionally trained staff work in the spa’s cool sophisticated interiors, painted a restful coastal blue. Amenities at Solstice include four massage rooms designed to accommodate couples massages, a large steam shower, custom-built pedicure chairs, a private hair salon area with five stylists, and even a “sanctuary room” where customers can enjoy healthy refreshments.
Sheryl Baba, who co-founded Solstice with Kimberlee Schuler in 2002 in Hyannis’s Independence Park, explains that the spa had outgrown their original space. Solstice heard about the available Puritan space after partnering with the Penns for several special events. “We were looking for at least 2500 square feet, in a good neighborhood, with great parking,” says Sheryl. “We love it here—and we share a lot of the same clients. The Puritan shopper is someone who usually takes good care of themselves. Main Street has changed so much—there is just a great energy here now. And partnering with Puritan is great—they have been in business for 90 years and I am so flattered that they wanted to do business with us.”
Solstice Spa is just part of this destination experience marketing concept created by the Penns. In early July, the last piece of their marketing plan fell into place when the Naked Oyster, long a Route 132 favorite of discerning mid-Cape seafood lovers, opened in a new location—just off Hyannis Puritan’s main floor. The restaurant’s handsome pub-style spaces are attractively decorated featuring brick walls showcasing original art by Cape and Islands artists above gleaming hardwood floors. A comfortable Main Street lounge area, anchored by a spacious mahogany bar, flows to double doors that open right into Puritan Cape Cod.
“We share many of the same customers,” says Florence Lowell, co-owner of the Naked Oyster with her husband. ‘We love this location—Main Street has changed a lot in the last two years and is so much more dynamic.” Lowell—who notes that the Naked Oyster can go through more than 1,000 locally farm-grown fresh oysters on a busy summer day—says her new executive chef, Carlos Reyes, has flourished in the new restaurant. “He is an adventurous chef who is not afraid to try new things and this has been a great experience for him,” says Lowell, before accepting compliments from a customer for raw oysters served with a touch of ginger and Wasabi. Reyes, who worked as a sous chef for the Chatham Bars Inn and Brewster’s Ocean Edge before coming to the Naked Oyster, says his favorite cuisine features “interesting flavors with a touch of Asian and Caribbean” flair.
Lowell says that the Naked Oyster is also planning to open an elegant function room/wine cellar tasting area adjacent to the spa. “It’s going to be great—customers can wander to all three places. For wedding parties it will be ideal; you can have refreshments in the function room, come in and have spa services. With these three businesses, we are a real lifestyle destination,” says Sheryl Baba.
“We call this concept, ‘Dress, dine, and decompress,” says Rick, before heading back to the Puritan men’s department, just in time to help his customer select the perfect ties for his Monday power meeting.
Both Penns grew up working on the floor of the store and know first-hand how the buying public’s tastes have evolved. In 2010, Puritan Cape Cod is a multi-level shopping experience with four locations in Falmouth, Mashpee, and Chatham. The stores feature well-integrated departments for women’s, men’s, and outdoor fashions including several high-end lines like Vineyard Vines, Burberry, Eileen Fischer, ISDA, and at the Hyannis store, the only Northface Concept Shop in southeastern Massachusetts.
“The bar raises all the time,” says Jim. “It keeps going up with all the retail options that folks have today. People are starved for time, which means that retailers really need to figure out what’s best for each customer. As a retailer you have to love what you do—it’s a 24/7 job. It’s great that we can work from home with laptops and Blackberries. But still, you have to get up every day and be happy about going to work.”
Meanwhile, back in the men’s department, a pleased businessman laughs when he learns that his wife has just made two spa appointments at Solstice Spa. “She loves spas,” he says. Rick Penn smiles and then points across the store floor to the attractively lit, cool spaces of the Naked Oyster where staff are getting ready to open for lunch. “And when she’s done, you can have a great seafood dinner at the Naked Oyster,” says Penn as the sales associate takes the man’s final measurements for Puritan’s experienced custom-tailoring department.
Such service is a matter of course at Puritan, where the Penns have refined the art of personalized care for every customer from the man off the street to members of the Kennedy family and other Cape and Island celebrities. “We’ve been very fortunate to basically outfit three generations of the Kennedy family,” says Jim Penn. “These always know—like all Puritan clients know, that they will be taken care of and things will be handled the right way, which is very important to us.”
Watching Puritan’s morning’s activities closely is Max Penn, Rick’s 17-year-old son. Like his father, Max wears a button-down shirt and an attractive tie. Even though it is a perfect summer day, he seems content to be inside, helping to man Puritan’s sales staff. “I really like working with people,” says Max. “I like being the fourth generation to work at Puritan.”
Rick Penn watches his son proudly. “We start them out here when they are this tall,” says Penn, gesturing to the sales register counter. It seems a given that 10 or 20 years from now, Max will be welcoming shoppers in on hot summer days to a Puritan store somewhere on Cape Cod. Somehow you know that this Penn will have new ideas, safeguarding Puritan Cape Cod as a famous place to visit.
“Everything comes back our grandfather’s motto,” says Jim Penn. “We would rather make a friend than make a sale. It’s not just one transaction, it’s a lifetime of transactions.”
One of the best things about gardening on the Cape and Islands is that just when you can’t stand another minute of watering, weeding, fertilizing, and replanting, the first frost comes . . . and your garden goes to sleep. You can put away all your garden tools, roll up those hoses that you’ve been wrestling with all summer long, close the door to that patio garden that just didn’t quite turn out right, and take a long winter nap from gardening.
As one of those obsessive gardeners who gets up two hours before work every morning from April to October to inspect the latest tiny tomato seedling’s health, to see whether that expensive new lily finally blossomed, to bemoan the decades-old hydrangea that got hammered in a thunderstorm the night before, Jack Frost can’t come soon enough for me. When the first snow falls, I feel as if a blanket of calm has fallen and I can crawl back under our down puff every morning, read trashy novels, and have two cups of coffee before I go to work, and not give a single thought to facing slugs, winter moths, and late tomato blight. I don’t know how anyone survives gardening in California where gardens need care all year-round.
Of course, as soon as the first January thaw begins to unlock winter’s icy fingers on Cape Cod, I’m up to my elbows in gardening books, cruising Fine Gardening magazine for ideas, and mooning over spring catalogs. But that’s only because I’ve had a few months off from slogging it out in the garden on a daily basis.
But since I am writing this in mid-summer when my trumpet lilies are in full glorious bloom, the tomatoes are rounding up perfectly, and the hydrangea are still having what has to be the most glorious year in history, I know that September and October will bring a whole different set of gardening tasks. Because before the perennial gardens go to sleep, they must be cleaned out, mulched, and basically prepared for that first marvelous day in late winter when the delicate white blossoms of the Snowdrops appear.
Winter on Cape Cod is just plain capricious—one day its so warm and balmy that golfers sprout up on Olde Barnstable’s wintry greens and the next day the temperature plummets down to single digits. Buds swell sometimes on rhododendron in late autumn above foliage that folds up in frigid temperatures a few days later. This kind of feast or famine environment is very tough on plants, trees, and shrubs. The truth is that winters with deep snow and constant cold are much better for gardens. Like humans, plants want to just lie still under the snowy puff and have a long undisturbed rest before they have to perform again next spring and summer.
I gave Chris Joyce, the owner of Marstons Mills’ well-known Joyce Landscaping, a call recently to ask for some inside info on putting Cape and Island perennial gardens to bed. “As soon as we get that first frost, our gardening staff cut back all the plants and leave a nice clean bed for the winter,” Joyce says. “Some people like to leave plant material there over the winter, but we like to cut everything down and mulch in the bed really well, or you are setting up an environment for plant diseases the next spring.”
Joyce’s crews use several inches of wood mulch on the beds, although he says seaweed can also be used as mulch. Sometime gardeners also use pine boughs, although as Joyce says, it is probably better to lay down a consistently thick layer of mulch to safeguard the plants. “It’s just so much better to keep everything frozen, because if you have a sudden thaw, the plants will start pushing up and you’ll end up having root damage,” he says, noting that moist springs encouraging plant growth too early can also wreak havoc on unmulched gardens.
Joyce says that his crews do not fertilize their customers’ perennial gardens in the fall, preferring to wait until spring to apply Coast of Maine fertilizer, perhaps lightened with vermiculite, depending on the horticultural needs of the individual bed. Still, Joyce says the most important thing to remember when putting your perennial garden to bed is that the plants need a good, long uninterrupted rest. “Basically, you want the garden to stay good and frozen all winter,” says Joyce. Sounds like great advice for all those gardeners who also want to curl up under their puffs and sleep on cold Cape and Islands mornings, come November and December.
For information on Joyce Landscaping, go to www.joycelandscaping.com.
September and October are two of my favorite months of the year on Cape Cod. There is a certain slant of sunlight then that gilds the ocean and the beaches in this grande finale to summer. The cranberry bogs glow ruby red against skies so blue they don’t look real. Autumn on Cape Cod is like a kaleidoscope, brilliant colors shifting and sliding. It is almost as if nature saves her best show for last to comfort us before winter arrives.
Sometimes I feel like a squirrel gathering acorns, storing up these autumn moments to get me through those November days when it gets dark at 4 p.m. There is a part of me that dreads the coming winter, even though I love Cape winter activities, skating on frozen ponds and brisk walking, especially on winter beaches when the clear light and the sharp wind make you feel lucky to be alive.
Yet, with every passing autumn I discover new joys about Cape life that have nothing to do with sunbathing, parties on the beach, or even flying over Nantucket Sound waves with sails trimmed tight. It used to be that when I thought of Cape cuisine, I thought of clam chowder, lobster, or anything made with cranberries. One of the great joys about living here year-round is that you discover the Cape and Islands are a locavore’s dream. Cape Cod’s ever-bountiful cuisine is spread out before you at the Cape Land and Sea Harvest (CLASH), held this year in Hyannis, the weekend of September 24-26. You can savor seasonal epicurean delights prepared by excellent local chefs, many who come from year-round Cape restaurants, or stock up for hearty winter cuisine with fresh out of the garden fare at a farmers market.
The weekend of October 2 and 3, Falmouth’s Barnstable County Fairgrounds come alive with a fall festival where you can find great homemade items from local growers and artisans-—it’s a terrific place to stock up for holiday entertaining and gift-giving. On Columbus Day weekend, the Yarmouth Seaside Festival offers a craft fair, fireworks, and good music.
For a lot more ways to savor your Cape autumn, turn to page 48 and peruse “Festivals, Feasts, and Fun,” our feature on autumn’s highlights. And if the winter days close in too soon, you can always spend a day on Main Street, Hyannis where Puritan Cape Cod’s resourceful owners have partnered with Solstice Spa and the Naked Oyster restaurant- (see our story on page 54) to offer fine shopping, personalized spa services, and tasty cuisine-—all in one convenient indoor location. Wear a pair of flip-flops and you can pretend that summer never left.