Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Autumn Week in Nantucket: Highly Recommended!

I probably can’t say enough nice things about spending an October week in Nantucket, though I will try:

--We rented a charming house in the historic part of town which meant that we could walk into downtown, which was pleasant and lovely…and a respite from the murderous (but so cute!) cobblestones which were a killer if experienced in the passenger seat of a Mini-Cooper.

--Speaking of Mini-Coopers…they are as cute as buttons, and I know we only had access to one for a week of non-trafficy, non-highway, non-winter driving, and it was a convertible (!!), but what a fun, fun, FUN car! If this is what’s waiting for me ahead during my midlife crisis, bring it on.

--We went to the annual Cranberry Festival and learned all about bogs and how cranberries are harvested: 2,000,000 pounds annually on Nantucket. I’ll remember that when I pop open my bag of cranberries to make the Thanksgiving sauce.

--We spent an unexpectedly fun happy hour(s) relaxing at the Cisco Brewery’s outdoor patio. Lots of wandering dogs, including a snaggle-toothed, so-ugly-he’s-cute fellow named Rex that even I couldn’t resist.

--Even the airlines offered positive moments. When all the passengers had arrived at the airport for the flight out, we left…20 minutes EARLY! Thank you, Cape Air! And in Boston, Steve spotted Doris Kearns Goodwin, so I got to quickly gush to her about how much I loved her memoir about Brooklyn and the Dodgers, Wait Till Next Year.

It’s high time this important subject gets its very own section in these travel updates.

--Doughnuts. A toss-up between Downyflake (where a doughnut is a choice with breakfast instead of boring old toast) and Nantucket Bake Shop.

--Chowder. We ate a lot…and found some chowder we liked so much that we ate it three days IN A ROW: Straight Wharf fish market. One day we deviated from that chowder plan and tried chowder in another restaurant…that we were sure was supplied by the Straight Wharf, as it tasted virtually the same. Whew…crisis averted, and we’ll call that four days in a row!

--Best Restaurant Concept. At Company of the Cauldron, the chef posts the menu for the week online. There’s one seating (maybe two on weekends) and you eat what’s been planned for dinner that night. No tough decisions, no “I’ll get the crab if you get the pork” negotiations, no “I should have…”—just a fabulous dinner in a cozy, candlelit setting as if you had your own personal chef.

--Best Meal Overall. We had been to Oran Mor before and loved it then…and still love it. Inventive, seasonal, and refreshing: there was not a bad note to this entire meal, from the lovely champagne aperitif with elderflower essence, to Steve’s foie gras duo with toasted Portuguese bread, to a richly simple salad with pecans and pears, to scallops on corn risotto, to a chicken dish that if I describe it will sound like “chicken loaf” but was actually a way of making a chicken roll by combining the light and dark meat that brought the bird to its absolute, flavorful essence (even the server said, “I would never order chicken in a restaurant, but this is the one exception”), to ginger cake with cinnamon ice cream, to pear sorbet that tasted like that perfect pear at perfect ripeness that doesn’t exist in the real world, to being able to get one of our favorite white wines in a half bottle. Oh, sigh…I wish I could eat it all over again…. (Warning: Don’t look at the Oran Mor website if you’re hungry, because those flashing close-ups of the food will make you crazy!)

--Notable Seafood. Fried scallops at the Ropewalk, on the water. Lobster at the Nantucket Lobster Trap (I suspect locals call this the “Lobster Tourist Trap,” but a good lobster is a good lobster).

--Candy. Chocolate-covered cranberries at Sweet Inspirations. (Mail order available!) Runner-up: Aunt Leah’s Fudge (Mr. Aunt Leah opened the closed-for-the-night shop just for us; mail order available!).

--Disappointment. Couldn't find a great lobster roll, though we tried.

Simply put, Nantucket is a beautiful place, in terms of architecture (one of the T-shirts for sale reads, “Lost? Go to the house with the gray shingles and white trim and turn left”—haha…ALL buildings have gray shingles and white trim, even what passes for a strip mall) and natural landscape. No chain stores. Friendly, relaxed vibe. If it weren’t for the hordes descending in July and August—and the fact that the real estate is “a bit” pricey (saw a one-room house listed for sale at $800K)—I’d move there tomorrow. Oh, big fat movie deal that makes me rich beyond belief…why are you taking so long??


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.