For tasty eating and cozy seating, visit the Beacon Room in Orleans. Hardwood floors and ceilings and an intimate dining area give this restaurant the feel of both a rustic home and an elegant, top-notch restaurant. Owner Kate Roche has created a menu that appeals to diners looking for gourmet sustenance served in hearty helpings. Start out with succulent Bacon-Wrapped Scallops ($9.95) or the Gorgonzola, Walnut, and Sun-Dried Cranberry Salad ($10.95), and enjoy ultra-fresh ingredients prepared with real expertise. In addition to a fantastic entrée menu, the Beacon Room has a satisfying roster of weekly specials. Favorites include the zesty Seafood Fra Diavlo ($25.95), made with clams, calamari, shrimp, and scallops, the Mushroom and Goat Cheese-Topped Angel Hair ($17.95), or their savory Roasted Half Duck ($24.95). The restaurant also possesses an exceptional wine list, an ever-changing dessert selection, a full bar, and local coffee offerings. All year round, the Beacon Room is an ideal dining destination.The Beacon Room, 23 West Road, Orleans 508-255-2211; www.beaconroom.com
We found this terrific spice, Mama Stellas, at an Osterville farmers market last summer where it was being sold by Stella’s descendants, who explained that their grandmother arrived in the United States in the late 1800s from the island of Madeira in the Azores. The story is that Stella settled on Martha’s Vineyard and taught her daughter how to combine a tasty mix of natural ingredients, including special kosher salt, garlic, Spanish paprika, and freshly ground black pepper, and the recipe was passed down through the family. “After tasting the difference Mama Stella made in their own cooking, friends and family encouraged me to place it on the market to enable others to improve their culinary skills,” says one of Stella’s grandchildren on the Osterville company’s website. We’ve tried Mama Stella’s on fresh vegetables, fish dishes, and even on deviled eggs. Like it says on the label: “Mama Stellas makes everything taste so much better!”Buy a three pack for $14.99 by going to www.mamastellas.com.
When it’s time to bring the sweaters out of storage, we’re ready to relinquish the crisp, light wines of summer. As groceries and farmers markets stock up on the season’s bounty, the heartier dishes of fall are often best paired with red wines. Yet some of us still want to stick with whites. And why shouldn’t we? Mouth-filling, meatier whites can satisfy, too, as we segue into the new season.
So what wines do you pick, and when? The scores of bottles on retailers’ shelves can make your head spin, so discerning palates need helpful advice. Here are some tips on selecting fall wines from Cape and Islands restaurateurs who have sampled a dizzying array of wines to assemble their wine lists this season.
The creamy, buttery flavors and richer bodies of chardonnays make them a good match for heartier foods, says Florence Lowell, owner of the Naked Oyster restaurant in Hyannis, which moved to a great new location on Main Street, right beside Puritan Cape Cod recently. Lowell loves French wines—a natural predilection, since she was born in France—especially the chardonnay-based wines from Burgundy. The top wines from this region, like those from Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, are some of the most expensive, but those from Pouilly Fuisse and Chablis are more reasonably priced and wonderful accompaniments to heavier fishes and creamy cheeses. Lowell’s loyalty to French vintages wanes though when it comes to some California chardonnays, like the lush chardonnay from the Napa Valley winery, Far Niente. “It’s a very complex wine,” Lowell says. “When you drink it, you discover different layers.”
Rick Angelini, manager of the elegant new Starfish Restaurant in Mashpee, says pinot gris vintages from Oregon are among his favorites, especially those from King Estates. The grape is grown in various wine regions, and the ones from Oregon can be creamy and richly fruited. “With a blackened fish, either salmon or swordfish or halibut, it’s beautiful,” says Angelini.
Peter Hyde, the chef and owner of the ever-popular Blue Moon Bistro in Dennis, was bowled over when he tasted a pinot gris from Luxembourg, of all places, where wines are made near the Moselle River bordering Germany. Hyde has traveled through Europe and once worked at a hotel in Switzerland. He was intrigued when a customer, who just returned from Brussels, suggested Hyde seek out this Luxembourg pinot gris. Hyde did some research and discovered the wine, 2007 Clos Des Rochers, Grand Premier Cru, was available. “It was so amazing how nice it tasted,” says Hyde. “It has fruit—but its not too fruity—and finishes off with a buttery palate.”
This wine comes from the Friuli region in northeast Italy, close to Austria and Germany and can be lush with spicy, smoky, and mineral flavors. Felis Barreiro, the wine-savvy owner of Alberto’s Ristorante in Hyannis, says a Friulian tocai can stand up to the garlic and olive oil and big flavors of his southern Italian dishes. “The wines have a little more weight and are a little bossy,” says Barreiro, whose Main Street restaurant has long been known for its extensive wine list. Try one from producers Livio Felluga or Abbazia Di Rosazzo.
This Spanish wine, also the name of the grape, is made in the small region of Rias Baixas in the country’s northwest just above Portugal. The best wines from Spain are red, but very good whites come from the Iberian region as well. Some are lean and crisp and better suited to summer, but others are plumper, heftier with flavors of almonds and peaches, and pair well with bolder autumn foods. John Reed, co-owner of the Chapoquoit Grill in West Falmouth, has tried a lot of wine over the 30 years he has been in the restaurant business. Albariños, he says, are so versatile and stand up to the herbs and spices of his restaurant’s Mediterranean dishes. “An albariño can go with a good spectrum of foods,” says Reed. Look for one from Vina Nora.
The best white wines coming from the Rhône Valley in southeast France can be quite expensive. The white Côtes-du-Rhônes, made from blending three or four grape varieties like viognier, roussanne, and marsanne, are the most affordable, readily available, and delicious. The blend gives the wines good body and earthiness. “They make excellent fall wines,” says Matthew Hayes, wine director at 21 Federal on Nantucket. “They pair well with chicken and veal.” Hayes recommends the producer M. Chapoutier. And he would know: Hayes is a certified sommelier and is working towards the distinction of advanced sommelier.
The days when cooking outdoors meant a long, involved process of starting a fire, keeping the fire going while you ran back and forth between your patio and the kitchen inside (always forgetting a grilling tool, condiment, or serving plate in the process) are long gone. Today’s lovers of outdoor entertaining can have everything right at their fingertips—from cocktails to appetizers to full-course meals—with outdoor kitchens that can be customized in every shape and style due to the development of easy-to-design-and-install kitchen components.
There are outdoor kitchens on the market today that offer a limitless array of cooking options—if pizza is your family’s favorite summer dish, you can purchase an honest-to-goodness pizza oven. If your guests love rotisserie chicken, you can have a rotisserie unit built into your outdoor kitchen. Kitchens can be as simple as an open-air grilling center beside a pool or patio, surrounded by porch furniture, or you can ask a contractor to come up with a design that incorporates a complete Caribbean-style oasis with integrated pool-side seating, a swim-up bar, and more. (For a related story, be sure to read how Marston Mills’ Artistic Grounds contractors designed a stunning, Caribbean outdoor kitchen for one North Falmouth family in our Summer issue of Cape Cod HOME, on newsstands now.)
Jason Hogan, head of marketing at Stonewood Products in Harwich and Mashpee, says that the development of high-end, easy-to-move modular components and appliances in stainless steel have made it relatively simple to design and install an outside kitchen—no matter your budget and space limitations.
“The development of modular components has really helped turned the outdoor kitchen market into a growing trend,” says Hogan from the company’s Harwich location. Hogan says that some customers want a relatively small kitchen, with a simple grill, perhaps a sink, and a small refrigerator, and others want the whole works. “Some customers want big gourmet kitchens with all the bells and whistles,” says Hogan, noting that Stonewood had one customer whose fancy outdoor kitchen rang in at close to $70,000. “Some people want really elaborate set-ups, fancy countertops—they want different kinds of stone, or seating for up to 40 people.
“The lightweight modular units, which are built off-site, are really easy for contractors to work with,” says Hogan, noting that Stonewood offers a full line of outdoor kitchen modular options and stone veneer choices, which can be viewed on the company’s web site (www.stonewoodproducts.com), along with a helpful Do It Yourself video on an actual Cape Cod outdoor kitchen installation.
The modular galvanized steel cabinets housing grills, sinks, refrigerators—even kegerators for those who want their beer cold and on tap—are then covered with cement board, which is surfaced with stone veneer. Stonewood has lots of veneer choices for outdoor kitchen customers. “We recommend the thin stone veneer, which is the natural stone,” says Hogan. “The natural stone has come down a lot in price and can be the same, or even cheaper, than manufactured stone veneer. We have a huge display here where people can pick the stone to match their house or their patio. It can be a mosaic look, a pattern—and if they want something that looks like brick, that’s easy too.”
Building an outdoor kitchen may seem like a costly investment, but as Hogan points out, the cost of remodeling a kitchen can be three times the cost of an entire, brand new outdoor kitchen. “When you consider that you can build a really nice, outdoor kitchen for $10-$12,000 in less than a week’s time—and that the cost of remodeling your interior kitchen can run $25-$30,000—you can see that an outdoor kitchen is a pretty reasonable investment,” says Hogan. “And the other thing is that outdoor kitchens are smart environmental choices. Instead of burning fossil fuels to go out to eat or to travel around the country, you’re dining and vacationing in your own backyard.”For information on Stonewood Products, go to www.stonewoodproducts.com.
My mother is not a shopper. She feels about the activity the way most people feel about scrubbing the rings off the sides of the bathtub, maybe, or running in hundred-degree heat with heavy sweatpants on.
Unfortunately, she gave birth to two girls—a healthy, all-American, red-blooded pair. We lusted after mother-daughter shopping trips to the outlets, to the mall, downtown to get stationery or art supplies. I can count on one hand, I think, the number of times my mother actually got excited about taking us out to look for a new pair of shoes or a party dress. Mostly, she was content to ship us off with the other moms, and we were content to go.
The exception to all this was food. My mother started bringing my sister and I to the farmers market as very little girls. It took place on the long, wide town green twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, from 8 a.m. to noon. It was the one place we had ever seen her excited to shop, and we happily took the cue. We traveled together down the vendor rows, three pairs of eyes widening together at the size of a farmer’s beets, the sheen of another’s apples, the way the woman with preserves gave her pickles such crunch. We knew it was the closest to a mother-daughter shopping trip we were ever going to get and reveled in every minute of every visit.
There was one visit every year, though, that we particularly looked forward to. That was the annual blueberry pick-up, the day in August when our 20-pound fruit order from Rudd Douglas came in. Rudd was at the market every week, selling organic potatoes and other produce and all sorts of perennials. But come August he’d start bringing the blueberries in—tiny, sweet, wild Maine blueberries by the pint and by the quart, and if you put in a special order, by the pound.
We always ordered a 20-pound box. My mother would freeze most of the berries for winter pies and muffins and pancakes and simply sprinkling, thawed, on cereal, but pick-up day was an all-you-can-eat sort of affair. Cardboard has never felt so promising as it did on those August afternoons when my sister and I unfurled the box, then dug in, stuffing ourselves with handful after handful of ripe Maine fruit. We’d keep reaching in until our bellies hurt, but that one day, my mother didn’t care.
Of course, partly that’s because she knew we’d still save room for the pie. You can’t buy 20 pounds of blueberries and not make at least one, and she usually made three or four—one to keep, and a few to give away. That evening, once the freezer was full, she’d roll out a crust and toss a quart and a half of the berries with sugar and lemon juice, and then stick the pie plate in the oven with a cookie sheet below, hoping it would catch at least some of the mess. For blueberry pie, my mother has always simply used the recipe in the Joy of Cooking with a homemade sweet crust. (I tried playing around with other variations, but from what I can tell, it isn’t worth it. Irma’s recipe is simple, easy, and best of all, good.)
The pies were invariably soupy. The tapioca called for in the Joy of Cooking apparently had nothing on the torrent of fresh, juicy fruit, and more than a few pies set the smoke detector off. But it didn’t matter—we ate it hot on the deck with bowls and spoons and a pile of creamy, melting, vanilla ice cream soup.
When I moved to the Cape, I discovered that the tiny berries aren’t for sale at farmers markets anywhere. You can buy the big, high-bush berries to be sure, but to me, those never taste like home. So when I stumbled across the berries in the woods—when I found out that on certain sunny, oak-shaded hills you can find wild bushes, blue to the hilt—I filled up two quart buckets before the day was up. I can’t tell you where I pick, but I can say this: At the end of every August, I know exactly what pie we’ll be having for dessert.
While hens prance around outside, the tasting room at the Cape Cod Winery in Falmouth is abuzz. Customers swirl, sipping pinot grigio and other wines made from blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, all varietals that originated in Europe. Who would think these vinifera grapes could flourish on Cape Cod?
Yes, it’s true: some grapes thrive in the maritime weather and sandy soil of the Cape, says Kristina Lazzari, owner of the winery as well as the viticulturist and winemaker. Certain varieties ripen in our short growing season and are suited for the soil, which can produce a concentrated and flavorful grape, perfect for making wine. “We can only grow certain varieties that will ripen between May to October before we get frost. We choose grapes that are adaptable to this climate,” Lazzari says. “Some wine grapes prefer a drier soil. If there’s too much moisture in the soil the grapes become large and watery and it doesn’t make a flavorful wine.”
Lazzari and her husband, Tony, bought the 10-acre plot 15 years ago and have gradually cultivated a vineyard of not only European grape varieties but several French-American hybrids, like seyval blanc and vidal blanc. She studied biochemistry—and learned about fermentation—at Cornell and at Boston University. With knowledge of science and agriculture, she developed a zeal for organic grape growing and discovered viticulture and winemaking. Her passion is producing organic wine: Last year, the winery bottled 2,000 cases of wine made from grapes grown without insecticides.
Although the Cape and Islands isn’t a familiar wine-producing region, wineries have cropped up across the landscape. (Some have closed, like Chicama on Martha’s Vineyard, which produced wines for more than three decades.) Nantucket Vineyards puts out a variety of red and white wines and blends made with grapes from Washington State. In an adjacent building, owners Dean and Melissa Long run Cisco Brewers and Triple Eight Distillery.
On the outer Cape at Truro Vineyards, where clusters of purple cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes grow near the road and blue-tinged merlot grapes on a slope, you might feel as if you’re in wine country. A Chinese mulberry tree sits in front of the vineyards and bears fruit in early summer. It was brought over by a sea captain in 1850 and is said to be the largest mulberry tree in the state. Dave Roberts and his family bought the farm and winery in March 2007 from the horticulturists who first planted the vines. The Roberts family also buys grapes from other vineyards in California and New York’s Finger Lake region and make a selection of six different wines that have increased in popularity with the help of some of Cape Cod’s restaurants, like the Red Inn in Provincetown and Scargo Café in Dennis and retailers, like Orleans Wine & Spirits, who stock the selections on shelves.
“A lot of times you have to twist a person’s arm a bit to try our local wine. People expect it’s not going to be very good,” says Kristen Roberts of Truro Vineyards. But the taste is a testimony to the fruits of their labor.
Cape Cod Winery, 681 Sandwich Rd., East Falmouth,
(508) 457-5592; www.capecodwinery.com
Truro Vineyards, 11 Shore Rd., Rt. 6A, North Truro,
(508) 487-6200;. www.trurovineyardsofcapecod.com
Nantucket Vineyards, 5 Bartlett Farm Rd., Nantucket,
(508) 228-9235; www.ciscobrewers.com
Stepping into the 41-year-old Lobster Claw in Orleans, a quintessential Cape dining scene fills the senses. Take a seat in one of their three dining rooms, each complete with fish netting on the ceiling and marine-style artwork on the walls, and prepare yourself for a hearty meal that is sure to satisfy. Begin with a cup of creamy New England clam chowder ($4.95) or a bowl of mussels, served with a hearty and delicious garlic broth ($10.95)—both preludes to the fantastic entrées to follow. Whether boiled, fried, or stuffed, the restaurant delivers the kind of superb lobster that the Cape is known for. Their expertise does not stop there, however—try the haddock, fried to crispy perfection, served with fries and the restaurant’s sweet yet tangy coleslaw ($17.95). With such a large selection of tasty surf and turf, coupled with great children’s specials and exceptionally friendly service, it is no wonder why the Lobster Claw is a great Cape classic for the entire family.
After a day spent fishing the open seas or basking on a Cape Cod beach, a meal at The Chart Room on Red Brook Harbor in Cataumet is a special treat. Dine in the weathered-wood dining room or on the covered porch with a pristine view of the harbor, both complimenting the friendly service and sumptuous seafood. To start, we ordered the clams casino ($8.95) and the delicious lobster bisque ($5.96). While The Chart Room is known for its broiled lamb chops ($22.95) and broiled swordfish with anchovy butter ($22.95), this sunset spot really delivered with its specials menu. I decided on the grilled filet mignon, with melted Gorgonzola cheese and a cabernet demi-glaze, served with baked potato, asparagus, and sweet potato ($24.95). My guest ordered the swordfish over gorgonzola and sun-dried tomato ravioli in a chardonnay basil sauce, topped with a lobster tail ($25.95). After dining, we stepped outside and admired the sunset.The Chart Room 1 Shipyard Lane, Cataumet, 508-563-5350 www.chartroomcataumet.com
Open every day through Labor Day, Thursday through Sunday until Columbus Day.