Gourmet Foraging on Martha’s Vineyard
For the farm-to-table aficionado.
Escaping to a Lighthouse
For the manic modern craving a break from the 21st century.
Everyone has their Cape rituals, and in between adventures, Boston’s editorial staff managed to find ours.
For the road warrior seeking Nantucket’s wilder side…
By Courtney Hollands
“Ninety percent of people explore 10 percent of the island,” quips Bob Ruley, of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, when we stop by the Cliff Road office for maps. How true. My husband and I have been coming to Nantucket for years, but we had never taken the time to explore the island’s wildest nooks and crannies. But now we’re really going to see it all—over sand, off road, and on four wheels.
To get our bearings, we first take a Trustees of Reservations tour around the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, the pristine peninsulas that stretch out from the northeast corner of Nantucket like a skinny whale’s tail. Our guide, native Al Souza, rattles off historical facts as we admire the view.
At an air station near the Wauwinet Gatehouse, Souza deflates the tires (between 12 and 15 psi, or pounds per square inch, is recommended by the town) to achieve the perfect squishiness for beach exploration. Constantly pumping and deflating tires is a Nantucket ritual that we get to know well by day’s end.
Then we’re off, bumping along the rutted trails, glistening water on both sides. The thin stretch of land beyond the gatehouse is known as the Haulover, where fishermen once dragged their boats from the harbor to the open Atlantic Ocean. Souza identifies blue toadflax and golden heather, and we spot turkey vultures, oystercatchers, and other swooping fowl with binoculars. “It’s wild—how the rest of Nantucket used to be,” Souza says.
We round Coskata Pond, passing Jeeps and dinged-up pickups plastered with rainbows of permit stickers as we head out to the Galls—its name means “weak place”—a dynamic sand bridge that’s breached from time to time, cutting off access to Great Point. But today we can cross, and the famous lighthouse comes into view, as do rolling dunes and fishermen casting for blues. There are plenty of people and vehicles about, but it still feels untouched and remote, especially when we climb the light and look out over the vast expanse of sun-kissed sea and sand.
When Souza drops us back in town, we pick up a two-door Jeep from Affordable Rentals and head to the mysterious interior, home to hidden forests (hardwood trees that grow in depressions left by glaciers, unnoticeable from afar), moors, and cranberry bogs.
We turn off Polpis Road and take the dirt way to the top of Altar Rock—at 100 feet above sea level, it’s one of the highest points on the island, and affords views of Siasconset and Sankaty Head Light. Avoiding rocks and potholes and dodging the scrubby shrubs encroaching on the narrow road, I’m silently praying we don’t get stuck as we come upon a secluded kettle hole, Gibbs Pond. Hopping back into the car after a photo opp, I spend the trip down Larsen Road craning my neck for a glimpse of my favorite spot on the island: the “Serengeti,” a grassland with gale-gnarled trees and plywood zoo animals between Milestone and Barnard Valley roads.
By now it’s late afternoon, and we head to town to pick up cheese and crusty baguette, as well as smoked bluefish pâté from Straight Wharf Fish Store. We’re en route to the village of Madaket, on the west end of the island, known for its painterly sunsets.
I spread out our blanket and we feast as the sun slips toward the waves. Close by, a group of eight sunburned friends from Connecticut cluster around a bonfire, gulping Bud Lights and toasting marshmallows for Reese’s Cup s’mores. Earlier, they used the flames to roast local clams. The guys were still dripping from a dip, and I follow suit, wading up to my knees.
Dogs race through the shallows, sending shore birds skittering. The view of the sky—awash in glorious purples, pinks, and oranges—is unfettered, and glasses clink when the masterpiece ends.
With toes caked in sand, I drive barefoot back to the access point, where a dusty Wagoneer is stuck, blocking our exit. “Can we get a little push?” asks the driver.
With a nudge from us, she reverses and revs to make it past the sticky stretch. She waves and we start back to town: It all seems like an off-roading rite of passage.
EAT: Smoked bluefish pâté from  Straight Wharf Fish Store (4 Harbor Sq., Nantucket) goes well with a six-pack of island-brewed  Cisco Brewers beer (5 Bartlett Farm Rd., Nantucket, ciscobrewers.com). Stop at  Millie’s (326 Madaket Rd., Nantucket, milliesnantucket.com) for a to-go order of the Altar Rock: chips with salsa, guac, and cheese sauce.
STAY: One of the oldest hotels on Nantucket,  Jared Coffin House withstood the Great Fire of 1846, which destroyed more than 200 local buildings (29 Broad St., Nantucket, jaredcoffinhouse.com).
SEE: Explore the  Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge’s 16 miles of trails, dunes, coastal forests, and tidal ponds (thetrustees.org). —Julia Rappaport
For the farm-to-table aficionado…
By Janelle Nanos
It’s a pristine Saturday morning out on Katama Bay, and the glassine water hardly ripples as our boat glides through the harbor. I’m sitting on a dinghy owned by Nic Turner, the 30-year-old proprietor of Honeysuckle Oyster Farm, heading out to see his farm. It’s one of a dozen hatcheries now thriving in the waters around Martha’s Vineyard, and just the first stop on my journey through the island’s culinary landscape.
From State Road to the Beach Plum Inn, the Vineyard has no shortage of gastronomic gems, and as a slightly food-obsessed travel writer, I’ve enjoyed most of them. But after countless visits over the past four years, I found myself yearning for something more—a deeper connection to the fresh seafood and vine-ripened tomatoes on my plate. Farm.Field.Sea., a tour company run by former New York City film marketer Nevette Previd, offered just the remedy: a day of foraging through the Vineyard’s fertile land and waters. Yes, foraging: For the past two summers, she’s introduced small groups to the island’s growers and chefs and arranged hands-on visits to local farms.
Which is how I found myself slicing through Katama Bay, listening as Turner fills us in on his seafaring background. Born into a family of fishermen—his father catches conch, and considers himself one of the oldest surfers on the bay—Turner started his own oyster farm in 2011, at just 26 years old. As he navigates toward his hatchery, decked out in orange waders, he gives us a tutorial in aquaculture. Each of the 12 farmers on the bay has an acre of water to grow crops; the largest operation can harvest more than a million oysters over the course of a year. Each oyster Turner raises can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, which helps keep the bay clean.
I hop off the boat onto the hatchery, a floating 12-by-20 platform attached to another platform beside it. That’s where Turner keeps the two tools that allow him to determine which oysters are ready to sell: the sorter, which separates them by size, and the tumbler, a spinning mesh cage that regularly agitates away any algae growing on the bivalves. Turner pulls a handful out of the basket to reveal a brown, mossy coating, but after a few rounds through the tumbler, the shells come out clean.
After sailing back to the edge of the bay, we huddle with two of the island’s aquaculture experts: Rick Karney, of the MV Shellfish Group, and Paul Bagnall, Edgartown’s shellfish constable. Karney is talking about his group’s efforts to seed the waters around the island with shellfish in an effort to keep the harbor clean and the fishing industry thriving, but I find myself distracted by the buckets of quahogs, scallops, and mussels just plucked from the shoreline. Also grabbing my attention is the elaborate breakfast spread from Morning Glory Farm that sits on the table beside us: carrot-spiked muffins, breads, jam, granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit. It’s just a taste of what’s to come, as we’re headed there next.
It’s been 40 years since Jim and Debbie Athearn first decided to put down roots—literally—in Martha’s Vineyard. Now their 60-acre farm is so famous that their sweet corn occasionally sells out within seconds of arriving at the stand. Today, our tour group is helping out on the farm, and Jim and his son Simon are more than happy to walk us through the paces. We plant cucumbers and pull off dead stems from the jungle of tomato plants growing in the greenhouses. Inside Morning Glory’s kitchen, we prep parsley for pesto and wash carrots, then join chef Robert Lionette as he breaks down entire trays of freshly roasted chicken to prepare rillettes for our lunch in the greenhouse.
After scrubbing the dirt from beneath my fingernails, I reconvene with Previd and our tour guides on the patio at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts for supper. While sipping cocktails and local beers, we mingle with guests who’ve only signed up for the dinner portion of the evening and boast that we’re in good with the farmers. Then, at last, it’s time to take a seat at the long dining table and dig into a meal showcasing the Vineyard’s bounty. I’m convinced it tastes better than any other I’ve had on the island. Maybe that’s because I had a hand in making it.
EAT: You can find oyster farmer Nic Turner’s Honeysuckle oysters on the menu at  Henry’s Hotel Bar at the Harbor View Hotel (131 N. Water St., Edgartown, harbor-view.com/dining/henrys).
STAY: At the 13-room  Beach Plum Inn (50 Beach Plum Ln., Menemsha, beachpluminn.com), guests can gather eggs from the inn’s chickens, stroll down to the beach, and sip cocktails at one of the island’s best sunset-viewing spots.
SEE: Learn about wild edibles, tour a local oyster farm, or join Vineyard chefs, farmers, and food
activists for an evening meal that showcases the island’s farm-to-table ethos with Farm.Field.Sea. (ffsmv.com). Or stop by the  Farm Institute (14 Aero Ave., Edgartown, farminstitute.org) to tour a working island farm or enjoy an outdoor family movie night. —J.R.
For the urban straphanger who dreams of hanging 10…
By Rachel Slade
Let’s be frank: New England is not known as a surfing destination. The water is frigid and the season is short. The waves are notoriously unpredictable, tending toward ankle snappers, and great breaks can sometimes last less than an hour. There may be sharks of the great white variety, drawn to shore by our plentiful and no doubt delicious harbor seals. We also lack a singular location—a Cape Hatteras (North Carolina) or a North Shore (Hawaii)—to coalesce a surfing tribe.
Yet New Englanders are nothing if not intrepid. The tiny surf culture that thrives here consists of hardy men and women who might have crewed Nantucket’s whaling boats or Salem’s merchant ships in another age. On any given day in November, especially when a storm’s brewing, they get up before dawn, grab their super-thick wetsuits, load their boards into trucks, and head for…shhh. Surfers may swap war stories all day, every day, reminiscing about their finest rides and most epic wipeouts, but they won’t tell you where they’re heading right now. Because in the end, every New England surfer dreams of finding that one big, gnarly, kickass wave before anyone else, and riding it alone.
Beginners, on the other hand, just hope to stay on the board long enough to catch their first wave. That’s where Ryan Garcia and Andy Jacob, of Wellfleet’s Cape Side Surf School (“We’re here to keep you stoked”), come in.
Though not a complete neophyte (I’d gone out a few times in Costa Rica’s calm, warm waters), I wanted to try surfing in my native habitat, so I contacted Garcia and Jacob to set up a two-day lesson. They told me to bring nothing but sunscreen. And that’s how I ended up on Marconi Beach—wetsuit zipped up and “foamie” in hand—at 8 a.m. on a flawless blue-skied Tuesday at the end of August.
Before we hit the water, Jacob explained that during winter storms, massive waves smack at the 30-foot-high dunes behind us, carving them away to create surf-forming sand banks below the ocean’s surface. Along with winds, the shapes of these ridges determine how waves form and break. Due to the constant churn of the mighty Atlantic, these conditions change every minute, and knowledgeable surfers can read the waves from shore to develop a game plan: where to head out, where to wait, when to ride.
Needless to say, much of Jacob’s erudition was lost on me, especially once we finally grabbed my foamie—a longboard made of nice soft stuff that won’t hurt you when it smacks you in the face—and headed into the surf. Damn! It was cold. The waves were merciless, too, rolling in one after the other, peaking clear over my head. Fortunately, I had Jacob, my kindly Surf Sherpa. He told me to lie down on the board and then guided me out. When he saw something he liked, he spun me around, gave me a push, and yelled, “Hop up!”
Yoga gals like me know the moves: updog (with toes curled under), then up to a shortened warrior-two pose. Now you’re surfing. Straight into shore.
After the ride ended, I rolled off, got a snoot full of fine Atlantic drink, grinned, and dragged my board back out toward my trusty Sherpa, wading in shoulder high. With both thumbs up, he hollered something like, “Yeah! Epic!” My grin broke into an all-out toothy smile.
After an hour, though, I began shivering like a Chihuahua and begged off. As I defrosted on the sun-kissed sand, still in my wetsuit (vacationers had filled in all around us wearing nothing more than bikinis), Garcia and Jacob talked surfing. Their speech was long and drawn out, a warm, relaxed, and welcoming cadence full of ’60s-era surf terms that lulled me into an endless-summer state of mind. I should just sell off everything and shack up in Baja. Or head to Indonesia.
After packing up, we brunched at the nearby Wicked Oyster, where Garcia ordered two breakfasts: huevos rancheros and strawberry waffles, plus a latte. I was surprisingly ravenous, too.
On the second day of lessons, Garcia took me out, and this time, I was ready: He brought a thicker wetsuit for me, plus booties and a hood. I lasted for hours in this getup, riding everything I could while savoring the Cape’s majesty from atop the muscular waves.
EAT: Fuel up on pancakes at the  Wicked Oyster (50 Main St., Wellfleet, thewickedo.com); post-surf, hit the outdoor raw bar Mac’s Shack (91 Commercial St., Wellfleet, macsseafood.com/restaurants/macs-shack) for local bivalves.
STAY: The  Colony of Wellfleet (640 Chequessett Neck Rd., Wellfleet, colonyofwellfleet.com) is a funky midcentury collection of cottages. It’s often fully booked, so if you miss out, head to the Holden Inn (140 Commercial St.,Wellfleet, theholdeninn.com).
SEE: Cape Side Surf School (capesidesurf.com) keeps it personal with small-group and private lessons on  Marconi Beach. —J.R.
For the manic modern craving a break from the 21st century…
By Janelle Nanos
There are times in life when you need a lighthouse.
For nearly 200 years, the curved finger stretching out from the arm of Cape Cod has worn a glimmering ring in the form of Provincetown’s Race Point Lighthouse. Since 1816, it has flashed its beacon across the water to steer sailors away from the violent crosscurrents that drag ships inward, shattering them as they approach the shore. Over time, an outcropping of buildings was erected to support its efforts: A keeper’s house went up in 1840, and a brick “whistle house” was built in 1888. Only a few families have lived in the keeper’s quarters since they were built, and today, it’s a 45-minute hike to get out to the light, the same path that the keeper’s children used to walk daily to get to school.
I’d done the hike myself a few years prior. It was a chilly early-spring afternoon—jeans-and-fleece weather—when I encountered a park ranger working at the site. As he took us through the buildings, he explained that the lighthouse is run by a group of volunteers. Guests can rent rooms in the keeper’s house by the night or the whistle house by the night or week, provided they’re willing to bring in all of their own food and water and are fine with sharing a bit of living space. (The keeper’s house has a communal kitchen and shared living areas and bathrooms.) As I peered into the rooms, with their pastel quilts and smooth, well-worn wooden floorboards, I imagined returning to feel the salty summer breezes.
And so it was that my husband and I packed up our Jeep and found ourselves rambling through the dunes toward the lighthouse. We’d picked up an over-sand beach pass at the Race Point Ranger Station, deflated our tires, and quickly learned that sand driving is akin to navigating on the moon. It’s also insanely fun, and each bump seemed to dislodge a bit of stress from my body. We each let out a whoop as we descended over a dune and the lighthouse came into view.
The keeper, Tom Miller, greeted us in the doorway of the cottage with news: Bats had visited the house the evening before, and he’d spent the better part of the day peering into crevices to ensure all was clear. The other guests seemed unfazed; their grandfather had been the last keeper to live here full time, and they were familiar with the cottage—and all of its curiosities. So I followed their lead and shrugged off the thought of nocturnal guests.
Adjusting to the rhythms of lighthouse life came easily, thanks in part to the quiet. Aside from the whir of the windmill and the occasional metallic clang of a flagpole, the stillness of the location inspired a sense of calm. Shortly after dropping off our bags, I walked down a short path through the dunes to the ocean, and spent the afternoon on a blanket, watching seals watching me as they bobbed in the waves.
The next morning, I woke early to watch the sunrise. The lighthouse’s white exterior glowed pink in the dawn, and a small family of bats flitted overhead between the eaves of the cottage.
For the next few days, we delighted in being idle. My husband skipped stones while I read one book and started another. From where we sat, we could see whales spouting just before they emerged from the waves, and we laughed as the whale-watching tours darted back and forth around the point, chasing after their photo opps with Ahab-like zeal. The tides slowly retreated, like a sheet slipping down on a bed, and exposed all the rocks that we’d skipped. So we skipped them again.
When we got hungry, we’d walk back to the house and fire up the grill. When we got bored, we’d grab the Jeep and find a new stretch of sand. And when the sun dipped lower in the water, we’d find Miller, who’d take us into the lighthouse tower to watch the sunset hide behind the whistle house. We’d watch as the sky turned pink and orange, and then wait a few minutes more until the light came on, making our faces glow like ghosts.
On our last night, Miller loaded up his truck with firewood and dug a pit in the sand. Together with our housemates, we shared stories and marshmallow-roasting sticks as we searched for constellations. Our neighbors staying at the whistle house had brought wishing lanterns, so we lit their paraffin wicks and tossed them into the breeze, watching as they took flight. For once, wish-making came easy: to return to this place once again.
EAT: Stock up on groceries, and then grab a few sandwiches (and last-minute provisions) at  Pop+Dutch (147 Commercial St., Provincetown). Don’t miss the Carolina Gentleman, which features house-made spicy pimiento cheese on toasted potato bread.
STAY: Staying at the  Race Point Light Station (Race Point Beach, Provincetown, mybnbwebsite.com/racepointlighthouse) means bringing all your provisions, including drinking water. For posher digs, book a room at the  Land’s End Inn (22 Commercial St., Provincetown, landsendinn.com), and enjoy ocean views and breakfast.
SEE: Free public tours of the Race Point Lighthouse (mybnbwebsite.com/racepointlighthouse/tours.htm) are offered on the first and third Saturdays of the month, June through October. Afterward, get your art on at the  Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), the epicenter of Cape culture (460 Commercial St., paam.org). —J.R.
Journalism is hard work, especially when you’re forced to investigate summer fun on the Cape and islands—a task that requires long, intensive study of area beaches and nights collecting data on local bars. Sure, we took plenty of notes, but now we can’t read our own handwriting. And it took us forever to figure out how to balance a laptop and a beer while sitting poolside. To say nothing of the glare.
Our base camp for all of this heavy lifting was the well-positioned and flat-out gorgeous Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club in Brewster, where we spent the week sipping cocktails on the outdoor deck, pontificating under the stars (managing editor Brittany Jasnoff may or may not have caught a glimpse of her first meteor), and walking the 429-acre property that provided plenty of parking for executive editor Rachel Slade’s rented Harley-Davidson. This summer, the resort is teaming up with Cape Cod Beer to produce its own pale ale. So we’ll be back.
Everyone has their Cape rituals, and in between adventures, Boston’s editorial staff managed to find ours: mixed drinks and nachos at the Beachcomber (with since-departed senior editors Janelle Nanos and Courtney Hollands), followed by a hike down the dunes and a dip in the surf at Cahoon Hollow. At dusk, an ice cream dinner at Cobie’s in Brewster, where senior editor S.I. Rosenbaum pulled the pro move of getting her scoop served in a plastic baseball helmet. The nightcap: a double feature at the historical Wellfleet Drive-In, which sources say included a flask in a paper bag and a certain editor in chief snoring through most of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
On day two, we met up with Slade’s surfing instructor, artist Andrew Jacob, to get some culture in P-town, where a simple gallery hop turned into a full afternoon of meets-and-greets with local purveyors, who often stepped out into the sun on Commercial Street to catch us up on art-world chatter.
The one thing we learned in the months hence: that suffering Boston’s brutal winter yields untold rewards if you head down to the Cape and islands come summer.
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/2015/05/26/cape-summer-guide-2015/
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