Maybe not straight from the vineyard. I have found that it’s best to write about an event immediately following said event, for things, they do get muddled in the ether after days or weeks of swimming.

There was a trip to be had this summer, and it was to the East Coast. Typically, me and the lady, we spend a week or so out in New England with family. With this year being a milestone birthday for her mother, we were invited to spend a week with them on scenic Martha’s Vineyard. While we’ve spent some time in Connecticut, and while I’ve done my time in New York City, I’ve never made it to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or the upper coast of New England. Most of my time was spent on the sunny, sandy, unspoiled beaches of Rehobeth and Fenwick Island, Delaware. Unfortunately, according to sources from back East where we used to go, they no longer resemble the quiet beachfront communities of my youth.

You’re lucky to get a towel down anywhere within sight of the water.

Now, Martha’s Vineyard, always a tourist destination, had a couple of things going for it. First, we went in late June. It’s not quite high season yet, but we were starting to feel it. Second, instead of staying down-island in the bustling towns of Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs, we were far removed, situated in the up-island community of Aquinnah.

It’s pretty far away from everything

As I said, I’d never been there before, and there was only so much time to take in all the sights and flavors of the island, so after our flight landed and we had a lovely drink on the porch, we headed out for dinner at Lola’s, a beachfront restaurant with live music, dancing, and large portions of Southern food and drink. Late into the evening, we ate, drank, and were merry, alongside a birthday portion of key-lime pie and a dance from the elderly owner that involved a sparkler and a party hat in the shape of a cake.

The next morning, I wondered what we could do to top the previous evening’s activity of mirth and mayhem. For most things, life on the island takes a more subdued tone, and after some coffee and granola, we were off to visit the Chilmark Farmer’s Market.

Tucked back behind the Chilmark town hall, in a grass and gravel parking lot, are two rows of EZ up tent stalls arched over the backs of pickup trucks laden with local greens, potatoes, coolers of grass-fed milk, meats, and handmade brooms fashioned out of sorghum switches.

The second picture is where I picked up most of the things that we were going to make for dinner. All Island grown, all tucked away in buckets and as deep green as the clear sky was blue. We picked up the following:

Yellow Mustard Greens

Wild Ramps (upon further inspection, they were winter garlics, but still great looking)

Sugar Snap Peas

Red Potatoes (red on the inside and out, organic)

Pea Shoots

Edible Flowers (Nasturtium)

Scapes/Garlic Spears

Mint

Chives

Here’s a helpful tip from me to you if you’re scouting out which farmers to buy stuff from for the most authentic meal: Look for the people manning the stands who have the dirtiest fingernails, or the ones that look the weariest. They’ll smile, because it’s their job and their business to sell you on the product, but they will also be the most knowledgeable of their wares, and chances are, they’re the ones who are digging in the fields for your dinner. Appreciate, acknowledge, and respect their hard work. 

I’ve met so many farmers/bakers/small artisans over the years who work tirelessly during growing season to bring things to the market, anywhere from potatoes to groundcherries, apple fritters, scones, and even homegrown peanuts in the shell. Many of them have been up the night before harvesting, checking and double checking their product, or baking, all so you can enjoy a meal that makes you feel like you’re doing something to support hardworking farmers and local businesses. Give them the respect they have so rightfully earned, and buy as much of their stuff as you can so they can go home and take a nap.

With those in basket, we went on to Menemsha, the tiny fishing village on the remote Northwest shore. My mother, calling during the week, passed along a story to me of her youth.

Suddenly I was struck by the place, only because I have been there before–but I was an INFANT sleeping between my young parents and keeping them warm. They always said I was like a little warm stove. Even though I have no idea where we were, I loved seeing the photos of that place.

In the years since she’s been there, I doubt much has changed. Generally left untouched by the ravages of time and tourism, Menemsha remains a two-lane town, with a small wharf of fishing boats, two fish markets, and a general store. Here are a few pictures.

Main Street

Bait shop/Gas Station

Menemsha Wharf

The best thing about these pictures is that they’re all taken within 50 feet of one another. This town is tiny, and it doesn’t care who knows. What it does need is someone to go into one of their two fish markets and sniff around for some grub for dinner. How fortuitious, then, that we happened upon Menemsha Fish Market. We walked in, saw the lobster tanks (home of Lobsterzilla), and got a few local oysters on the half-shell. I’ll walk the line of defending the West Coast Quilcene oysters straight out of the bay that morning until my last breaths, but these were perfect- Small oysters that tasted of cool seawater and didn’t need a thing to make them taste good.

One great thing that they do is their lobster relief program. They have a handful of females, which for ten dollars, you can purchase and release with a notched tail, allowing them to spawn and lay untouched by the local fishermen. So, you know…we did that.

The swimmer fins are all light and feathery, much like females of any species.

a “V” cut is notched into the tail, alerting lobstermen that this lady is spoken for.

After taking her out to the pier, we have carefully removed the rubber bands of bondage from her claws.

This is what a successful release looks like. Lobster for everyone for YEARS TO COME!

So we left our lady lobster friend under the pier, scuttling off for darker, safer waters. Back inside, We were plied with Lobster rolls and bisque, which we enjoyed on the pots behind the fish market. We wandered back in for a third time, and purchased a hunk of smoked bluefish, and a jawdroppingly gorgeous piece of Striped Bass.

It’s a perfect piece of fish.

Armed to the gunwales with fresh produce and fish, we returned to the house, where we embarked on a magical dinner expedition. The kitchen was aflurry with the chip-chip-chopping of knives. I took some of the fresh chives and a bit of soft cheese (easily procured Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb), and mixed it with the flaked bluefish. The Madre had made some infused oil using fresh dill from her garden, so we drizzled some of that on top, and served it with some water crackers and whole grain kavli toasts for an appetizer.

Part Two…Electric Boogaloo…coming soon.

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