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
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
After the high season ends, there’s a laziness to the traffic along Route 6A that’s transfixing—or, at least, that’s how it seemed when my guest and I peered through the paneled windows of Scargo Cafe in Dennis. Amidst the lamp-lit glow at the handful of tables in one of its quiet dining rooms, my guest and I pondered over the restaurant’s menu of classic seaside fare, carefully crafted over nearly a quarter century in business. We traded slurps from a thick bowl of the butternut squash bisque special ($4.25) and a cup of delicious clam chowder ($4.25). For the main course, my guest ordered the Panko Crusted Scallops ($17.99), whose brittle crust perfectly enhanced the tenderness underneath. I ordered the Grilled Swordfish ($21.99), an exceptional rendering of one of my occasional favorites, served with herbs and lemon butter. The menu shines brightest at dinner, but a casual lunch is a wonderful time to experience the restaurant’s range of sandwiches; just be sure to order their first-rate sweet potato fries on the side.Scargo Cafe, 799 Main Street (Route 6A), Dennis; 508-385-8200, www.scargocafe.com
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.
The sound of popping corks is music to the bubbly wine lover. It’s the cue to celebrate, especially during the holidays. The sublime flavors of true champagne might be your first choice. But the sparkling wine made exclusively in France’s Champagne region carries a high price tag—at least $30 for non-vintage releases. Here are some reasonably priced selections from other regions.
California’s cool micro-climates are well-suited for bubbly wines. Producers blend the same grape varieties, making their sparkling wine in the same fashion-—by méthode champenoise, where the fermentation that causes the bubbles takes place inside each bottle. There are good values ($20 a bottle or even less) among non-vintage releases from wineries owned by venerable Champagne houses. One is the Brut Classic from Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley (about $15). The winery was founded by Moët Chandon. Domaine Mumm in Napa, started by Champagne Mums, puts out a creamy style sparkler under their Brut Prestige label ($20). The owners of the Freixenet label founded the Sonoma winery Gloria Ferrer; their brut has a crisp, zesty style, and their blanc de noir (mostly pinot noir) is fruitier and lush with a slight rosé hue (Between $18 and $20).
There are other quality domestic sparkling wines made the same way as French champagne. The sparklers from Argyle in Oregon’s Willamette Valley are superb. Some selections are slightly more than $20, but well worth it. Good values come from Gruet Winery, based in a less known wine region: New Mexico. The winery is run by a family who own the French champagne house, Gruet et Fils. They make a variety of non-vintage selections by méthode champenoise. A toasty brut, a rich blanc de noir, and a demi-sec all sell for about $15 to $18 a bottle.
From Spain comes Cava, where the best are produced in the Penedès region. The sparklers are effervescent and toasty, labeled brut or brut nature. There are also many tasty rosés, like vintage dated Cavas ($13 to $20.) Freixenet, Cordoníu and Segura Viudas are the most known, but there are many interesting Cavas that are worth seeking out, like Juvé y Camps ($15) and Roger Goulart ($19).
Light, fresh, and trendy, Prosecco, produced in Italy’s Veneto region, is the perfect bubbly. Some of the best are from the Conegliano-Valdobbiaden area. Their quality has improved over the years. Excellent bottles can be found for $12 to $18. Look for producers Zardetto ($14) and Rustico Nino Franco ($18).
So raise a glass to bubbly wines that have good value and can still get a party started!
Gift suggestions to wow your favorite oenophile
- The Wine List, Hyannis: Que Syrah Shiraz Gift Basket: Five-pack sampling of four red wines and one sparkling wine made from the grape with two names. A bottle each of a Washington State Syrah, Australian Shiraz, Australian Sparkling Shiraz, French Syrah and South African Shiraz. $7
- East Harwich Liquors, Harwich: Three bottles for a dessert wine aficionado: 2009 Elio Perrone ‘Bigaro’, non-vintage Still River Winery ‘apfeleis,’ non-vintage Vinedo de Los Vientos ‘Alcyone.’ $85
- Jim’s Package Store & Island Market, Martha’s Vineyard: For a California chardonnay lover: A bowed basket with bottles of 2007 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay and 2008 La Crema Chardonnay, two Riedel O Stemless wine glasses, wedges of Vermont brie and Grafton cheddar, and a box of sesame crackers. $110.
Whether sheltered indoors or at one of the outdoor picnic tables nestled in the shade, Catch of the Day is a quintessential Cape Cod seafood experience. Chef and manager Jason Kew informs us that the seafood is delivered fresh daily. With that tip, I begin with generously portioned Wellfleet Littlenecks ($7) from the raw bar and my guest orders Fried Calamari with Marinara Sauce ($9), a perfectly breaded, mouth-watering taste of things to come. For dinner, I order Grilled Striper (market price), served with cilantro-lime aioli on top of linguine with garlic and parsley; my guest orders the Cajun-Blacked Swordfish ($19.50), served with roasted corn salsa and sweet potato fries. Both dishes are tender, well-seasoned—and very fresh. The restaurant offers a full range of weekly specials as well as a lengthy beer and wine list with plenty of local brands; the light-bodied Truro Vineyards Cape Blush paired wonderfully with our meals. The restaurant, which includes a seafood market, is open through Wellfleet OysterFest weekend.Catch of the Day, 975 Route 6, South Wellfleet at the light to Marconi Beach 508-349-9090; www.wellfleetcatch.com
Hyannis is bustling with traffic as we sit down for dinner at the Black Cat Tavern, now under new ownership. We have a full view of departing ferries through the generous dining room windows that look out onto the breezy outdoor dining area and the lively Ocean Street harbor scene. For starters, I enjoy a cup of potato-packed clam chowder ($5.95) as my guest savors her Mediterranean Salad ($9.95), topped with a tasty house dressing that features lots of fennel. Next, the entrees: delicious Char-Grilled Salmon ($19.95), topped with mojo sauce, a Caribbean condiment that emphasizes cumin. My guest enjoys one of a handful of seafood entrees: Sauteed Gulf Shrimp ($20.95), cooked with roasted tomatoes and bathed in white wine sauce, elegantly served over angel hair pasta. We end a great meal with the Rocky Roadhouse Cafe Cake a La Mode ($6.95), a thick, fudgy treat named for its 29-year-old sister restaurant on nearby South Street. And there’s no need to skimp on the tip for the thoughtful service: The Black Cat has free valet parking.The Black Cat Tavern, 165 Ocean Street, Hyannis 508-778-1233, www.blackcattavern.com
Since relocating to Falmouth last May, The Quahog Republic Dive Bar has some familiar faces in the kitchen, the same relaxing atmosphere, and the delicious food that made its Mashnee Island location such a hit. I tried the perfectly spiced Stuffed Quahog ($6) with chunks of quahog, linguica, golden brown on top, served with lemon and melted butter. My guest ordered a cup of clam chowder ($5), made fresh with red bliss potatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, and the perfect ratio of cream to clams. Unique dishes fill the menu, from the J.Q. Grilled Corn ($6) with lime aioli and melted cheese to the Quahog Republic Cubano ($13), a mouth-watering pork and ham sandwich with swiss cheese, red onion, and chipotle aioli, served on grill-pressed French bread. I dove into the Island Burger ($16), a half-pound of black Angus beef with savory toppings: caramelized onions, melted cheese, grilled pineapple, bacon, barbecue sauce, topped with a grilled jumbo shrimp.
Quahog Republic Dive Bar, 97 Spring Bars Road, Falmouth 508-540-4111; www.quahogrepublic.com
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.”
There’s a Cape Cod myth that says Labor Day is the end of things. Come September 6, the cottages empty, shops are shuttered, the water turns cold, the weather becomes harsh, tourists leave for good, and Cape Codders withdraw into an off-season of silence.But nothing could be further from the truth. Autumn on Cape Cod means the once traffic-heavy roads open up for a sun-drenched cruise underneath the foliage. Shop doors are mostly wide open; you might even catch an end-of-season sale or two. Dinner and room reservations are much easier to book. And right through September, the water is often warmer than it is in June. Villages from Falmouth to Provincetown—the Islands, too—are buzzing with activity, a full season of events blooming under the changing colors of the leaves. Whatever your interest—a scenic marathon run through Falmouth, an exciting Vineyard competition to catch the biggest fish, or a weekend in Wellfleet dedicated to delicious fresh oysters—there’s plenty of attractions after Labor Day. It’s a familiar refrain to year-rounders, and it’s one worth repeating: Autumn is the best time to visit the Cape and Islands. Read more…