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Oh, to Pick the Perfect Pepper!

Susan Dewey There is something so elemental about vegetable gardening, putting a simple seed in the ground, watering and watching over it until one day a tiny green sprout appears. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I planted a row of radishes in my first vegetable garden. One of the easiest, quickest vegetables to grow, the sprouts popped up, flourished in no time at all and soon plump red radishes formed, perfect for salads.

I planted that first vegetable garden when I was around 30, in a small space beside our house on the Mount Hope Bay.  I was lucky enough to inherit the garden from a previous organic gardener who had prepared the soil really well, removing all the sod and New England stones, digging down several feet, and adding lots of well-rotted manure and organic matter to the soil.

Gardening by the salt water is a gift—vegetable plants seem to love the warm moist air. That first year, besides the radishes, I grew several different kinds of lettuce, fat Early Girl and Better Boy tomatoes, sturdy basil—I even had some pretty good peppers. With our two small children, I used to spend hours in the garden. I was hooked, as were my children, who used to love helping me weed, rake, plant, and especially water, the garden. I thought vegetable gardening was a breeze.

Susan Dewey

I soon learned that in addition to patience, gardening can teach you humility. My next vegetable garden was in a field behind our new home in Central Massachusetts. As soon as we moved in, I started dreaming of my huge new garden, even envisioning perfect swaying rows of corn.Perhaps I should have listened to the man in his 80s, a devoted gardener, who had grown up in our house, tilled gardens there for decades, and who had a 1930s degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMASS Amherst.

Susan Dewey “Well, you can try,” said Fred, a lean New Englander with a strong handshake. “I never had much luck getting anything to grow there—except gourds. Everyone loved my gourds for their Thanksgiving tables. It’s pretty wet back there and you really can’t plant to August, but give it a try.”

Still in my early 30s, I believed I could get anything to grow anywhere if I tried hard enough, so I forged ahead. Our helpful neighbor plowed and tilled the field with his tractor, my small son seated beside him, watching the dark earth appear in beautiful orderly rows like magic. The garden looked so fertile, as if anything could grow there. We excitedly planted row after row of corn, tomatoes, peppers, and squash.

It was a disaster. The corn plants were spindly and collapsed. The tomato plants rotted. I think we had a few puny zucchini, most of which got eaten by a huge healthy woodchuck that lived in the woods behind us. Sick at heart, I faced the fact that Fred was right. The soil in the field was very wet, full of clay, and terrible for growing anything but gourds that only flourished because by August, the soil had dried out enough for germination.

After that, I kind of gave up on vegetable gardening, except for a few planters of patio tomatoes and some pots of basil and parsley. Instead, I tackled the old perennial gardens around our yard, planted with drifts of iris, peonies, wildflowers, and daylilies, which thrived and bloomed happily year after year. But every summer, I longed for the taste of my own fresh vegetables.When we moved to Cape Cod several years ago, my son decided that we should have a vegetable garden. Something about gardening as a toddler must have taken root in him and he is a landscape contractor now.

With his knowledge from a Stockbridge degree, he prepared the soil carefully in a somewhat neglected plot on the other side of our driveway, piling dark rich compost from a local supplier into sandy Cape soil.

Susan Dewey At the center of the garden, he made a small decorative flower out of paving stones, brought back from a stay in New Orleans, when he helped the city replant its parks after Hurricane Katrina. In neat rows we planted some old standbys—tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and carrots. A more adventuresome gardener than I, he planted things like cilantro and arugula.

Our first garden, planted in 2008, was pretty successful. In 2009, we were devastated by the tomato blight that hit gardens all over New England, but we had arugula and cilantro galore. Last summer, the garden began to really take hold. The kale and zucchini plants exploded, taking over the beds. The Better Boy tomatoes were so plentiful I had enough to share with friends and co-workers and ended up freezing container after container, great for winter spaghetti dinners.

We had colorful “Rainbow Lights” swiss chard, tasty fat brussels sprouts, sweet cucumbers—and lots of basil and arugula, which I have discovered I cannot live without. I am still struggling with peppers and my broccoli was a disaster, but all in all, my latest vegetable garden was the most successful ever.

I hope that if I live a few more decades—say to 80 or so—I will figure out how to grow a perfect pepper. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Although I am an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Or who knows? Maybe by then I’ll have learned that it’s okay to settle for nothing more than a harvest of gorgeous gourds for our Thanksgiving table.

 

Wisdom From the Wine Lady

Terry Pommett It doesn’t matter if Wendy Koder is out at the fish market or out on her kayak: wherever she goes, almost everyone recognizes her as Wendy the Wine Lady. It’s a moniker that Koder has earned through three decades of educating Cape Codders about wine. The Upper Cape resident has worked in almost every aspect of the wine business, from a sommelier at Cape restaurants to a wine broker to a teacher at Sandwich Community School and other off Cape community colleges. These days, Koder handles marketing for Cotuit Liquors in Marstons Mills and Empire Wine & Spirits in Kingston. She also hosts wine classes and wine dinners through her own business, Wendy Talks Wine (www.wendytalkswine.com).

How did you get started in the wine industry?

After my youngest daughter was born, I started working at a very fine restaurant in South Carver, Mass. The woman who was purchasing the wine for the restaurant and writing the wine lists left. The owner handed me the wine list and said, “Here, you’re going to order the wine.” I didn’t know anything about wine; I didn’t even drink wine. Because I wanted to do the job correctly, I read everything I could and constantly went to trade wine tastings and seminars. I began to find wine very intriguing.

Have you seen wine styles evolve over the years? Read more…

From Ground to Plate

The concept is simple: local ingredients, an intimate setting, and affordable prices. But pulling off such a seemingly basic restaurant formula is nearly impossible—unless you are Krista Kranyak, the proprietor of Provincetown’s newest dining experience, Ten Tables. Terry Pommett

The Provincetown location is Kranyak’s third Ten Tables establishment—locations in Jamaica Plain and Cambridge opened in recent years. But far from a chain, each restaurant is individual and calls on Kranyak’s ground-to-plate philosophy. She carefully considers every aspect of the dining experience—flavor, setting, and service—to make each meal special. Read more…

Grilled Baby Octopus Salad with Lambs Lettuce, Manchego, Oven Cured Tomatoes and Lemon Herb Dressing

In Good Taste – May ’11

Anthony DiSpezio Adventurously Authentic

Once the waitress blended the avocados, cilantro, lime, and onion right beside our table, I knew this was going to be unlike any guacamole I had ever eaten. And as it turns out, Añejo Mexican Bistro and Tequila Bar, which opened last August on Falmouth’s Main Street, is unlike your average Mexican restaurant. Founded by Bay Area transplant Jesse Kersey and Five Bays Bistro owner Jamie Surprenant, the restaurant’s menu boasts gourmet Mexican fare with the authenticity to impress purists and the creativity to satisfy any culinary adventurer. I ordered the Chile Rellenos ($17), a classic dish of chile peppers stuffed with cheese and pico de gallo, and chile rojo sauce. My wife ordered the Langosta enchiladas ($18)—“a taste of the Cape with a Mexican flare,” Kersey calls it. The glazed lobster meat, corn, and jack cheese wrapped inside the chipotle-drizzled tortilla gave the dish a complex sweetness that makes it a stand-out on an all-around wonderful menu. Añejo also has a prodigious tequila selection and margaritas so fresh you taste the pulp through the straw. Just don’t forget to try the guacamole.
—Jeff Harder

188 Main Street, Falmouth, www.anejomexicanbistro.com, 508-388-7631. Dinner: 4 p.m. to close; Sunday Brunch: 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

 

Lindsay Oliver Unexpected Treats

Located in the heart of Marstons Mills, Serendipity: A Good Eats Boutique is the perfect place to kick off your day with a quick, delicious breakfast or to enjoy a delightful take on tried-and-true lunch favorites. The eatery, run by Tracy Trewhella and Doug Taylor, features a menu of go-to dishes with snazzy, unique twists, and a whimsical atmosphere: S-E-R-E-N-D-P-I-T-Y is spelled out in playfully arranged Scrabble letters and Mickey Mouse-themed artwork adorns the walls. A menu includes hearty breakfast fare, to-die-for panini and wraps, salads, and baked goods. Try the spicy lentil soup or the sensational tomato veggie ($4.95 per cup).

Panini and wraps (all $6.95) include glorious medleys such as turkey, apple, brie, and apricot preserves; chicken, mozzarella, pesto, and tomato; or you can invent your own. They also offer a vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free menu to accommodate every type of eater. Pick up a treat from the great selection of baked goods and desserts. As Tracy jokingly said to a customer who just needed that extra slice of chocolate torte, “What happens at Serendipity, stays at Serendipity.”—Lindsay Oliver

211 Route 149, Marstons Mills, www.serendipitycapecod.com, 508-420-1518. Open daily: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

 

Brew Fest

May Cape Cod Life

Presented by GreatBrewers.com, South Shore, Cape & Islands Beer Week is a great opportunity to enhance your knowledge of different beers and increase your appreciation of tasty brews with a week of events throughout Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Boston’s South Shore. The event, which takes place during the week of May 9 to 14, features more than 150 events including beer dinners, tastings, educational seminars, and local brewery tours. Here are a few regional highlights of the week:

  • On May 12 at 6:30 p.m., Garrett Oliver, renowned brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, hosts a beer dinner at the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham.
  • Cisco Brewers of Nantucket will conduct free VIP tours all week and is also hosting the national launch of the new Pechish Woods line at British Beer Company, Main Street, Hyannis on Wednesday, May 11 at 6 p.m.

Throughout the week, there are opportunities to sample many unique offerings from both international and regional brewers. South Shore, Cape & Islands Beer Week seeks to inform the public of the many kinds of beer and to illuminate the relatively unknown art of beer and food pairing. Traditionally, wine comes to mind as a beverage companion for a delicious meal. However, unlike wine, which is made from various grapes, beer is made of up millions of different ingredients from maple syrup to coriander. The vast and various ingredients in beer, along with carbonation (which acts as a natural way to cleanse the palate), makes beer easy to pair with many culinary choices.

In support of the local economy, South Shore, Cape & Islands Beer Week will donate $5 from every dinner served during Beer Week events as well as any donations received to local charities, including the Needy Fund of Cape Cod and the Childrens Hospital Boston. L. Knife and Son, a local distributor based in Kingston, Massachusetts, will match the proceeds raised.


 

Wines for Grilling

When the snow stops falling on Cape Cod, you can be sure that the grills are about to come out of storage. Instead of the scent of woodstoves, the air fills with the smoky waft of baby back ribs and porterhouse steaks seared to mouth-watering perfection. With summer just around the bend, we need to pick wines that can stand up to charred foods slathered with sauces or seasoned with fiery dry rubs.

Foods that mingle with smoke and spice beg for well-structured, fruity, bold wines. For instance, a full-bodied red, like a young zinfandel with raisin fruit and spicy flavors, pairs well with the tangy sauces and the charred flavors of meats off the grill. A youthful shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley, with its distinctive black pepper spice, can also be a good partner for these heftier foods. The tannins that make your lips pucker in these big wines are offset by the fat and richness of grilled beef.

At the Brazilian Grill in Hyannis, steaks and other meats are pleasantly cooked on an indoor charcoal grill, and the restaurant complements the menu with a selection of wines from Argentina and Chile. Kelly Ayer, the co-owner of this churrasqueria (Brazilian steakhouse), finds malbecs from Argentina to be a good match for the restaurant’s grilled steaks, which are seasoned only with kosher or sea salt. “Malbecs have a lot of fruit, and the meat doesn’t take away the wines’ flavors,” says Ayer. The grape was originally grown in France and is used there mostly for making wines blended with other grapes. But in Argentina, malbec thrives in the Mendoza region and produces wines with grip and black fruit flavors—and sold at reasonable prices. Malbecs are some of Argentina’s best wines.

A traditional pairing for grilled steaks is an earthy cabernet, and Ayer serves selections from Chile where she says the  “wines are very smoky and you can taste tobacco, in a good way.” Cabernets, which especially stand out for their quality, are some of the best wines in South America, and they possess a complexity that resonates well with beef.

At Trevi Café and Wine Bar in Mashpee, general manager Robert Rose makes selections for the wine list. When pairing with chicken and meatier grilled fishes like swordfish or salmon, Rose often picks red wines from France’s Rhône region, especially the Côtes du Rhône wines, made from blends of several grape varieties like grenache, mourvèdre, and syrah. There are many producers with a range of styles, but the wine typically has plumy fruit and softer tannins that don’t overpower. Rose also recommends some California pinot noirs because of their cherry and herbal flavors.

May 2011

To enhance a plate of grilled shrimp or scallops, try the white wine albariño, from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia in northwestern Spain, one of the best seafood regions in the Iberian Peninsula. Albariños have peach and citrus flavors, a refreshing quality, and the right weight to match the day’s catch. Verdicchio, a creamy wine with punchy mineral and pear flavors from central Italy’s Marche region, is another fine selection.

Those with adventurous palates might experiment with contrasting flavors. Try pairing a sweeter wine like an off-dry riesling with a spicy grilled fish. The flavors offset one another, and they might provide a pleasantly surprising dining experience.

Picking wines to enjoy alongside grilled fare requires experimentation, but it’s not an exact science. Be bold, and keep an open mind.
 

Toast of the Island

Terry Pommett The Nantucket Wine Festival commemorates 15 years of bringing some of the most celebrated winemakers to the island during this year’s four-day event, which takes place May 18 through 22. Presented by Nantucket Combined Charities, the 2011 festival once again toasts world-renowned wines paired with superb cuisine against the backdrop of some of the island’s most beautiful locations.

The festival traces back to 1990 when Denis Toner, then working as sommelier at Nantucket’s distinguished restaurant, Chanticleer, realized that there was no better place than the island for a wine and food festival. The festival got off the ground in 1997 and word spread organically to wine makers and wine lovers. Read more…

Seaside Cuisine

Chatham’s Wequassett Resort and Golf Club has long been famous for its cuisine in four superb restaurants appealing to diners from near and far of all culinary inclinations. In our dining section this month, we asked the Wequassett’s executive chef Bill Brodsky to share some of his favorite seaside grilling recipes.

In addition to offering dining choices in unmatched seaside settings, the Wequassett is a world-class resort. Nestled on 27 beautifully manicured waterfront acres overlooking Pleasant Bay, the resort features 120 guest rooms and suites, magnificent pools, a beach, and opportunities for boating, tennis, and championship golf. Stacey Hedman

Wequassett is Cape Cod’s only AAA Four Diamond and Forbes Four Star resort and is a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. The resort has also been named on Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List for six consecutive years. The Wequassett accommodates vacationers from around the world as well as hosting a variety of national and international business meetings.

This summer the Wequassett hosts the eighth annual Cape Cod Jazz Festival, featuring an exciting lineup of jazz, blues, world-beat, and Latin performers every Tuesday and Wednesday evening in July and August. Additional summer highlights include a gala Fourth of July celebration with a spectacular display of fireworks as well as family and children’s programming. Read more…