Category Archives: Cuisine

IN THE PINK

SECRETS OF PI — from A (antipasto) to Z (Zisola)

Sarah Leah Chase

Thursday, May 18th, marked to date the warmest day of the 2017 year on island and although still very much spring, there was a summery aura that made rosé wine aficionados (like me) feel as if it were okay to sip rosé at almost any hour of the day. Luckily, kindred oenophilic connoisseurs were behind the stove when I arrived at the Nantucket Culinary Center at four in the afternoon to attend a Wine-Festival-related seminar hosted by Evan Marley of Pi Pizzeria and Cory Bunnewith, a representative for wine importer Palm Bay International. As soon as I was seated at one of two long communal family tables, beckoning with tulip budvases and sumptuous oblong antipasto platters, my wine glass was filled with a pretty pale pink pour of Planeta Sicilian Rosé. Need you wonder if I was happy to be bACK on ACK?

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase
Corey Bunnewith and Evan Marley

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase
Antipasto

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase

 

As we sipped and nibbled on briny green olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and fennel-laced salumi, Cory welcomed all by declaring: “All weekends should begin on Thursday.” No one in the room disagreed. Years ago, while engaged in cookbook research in Tuscany, I had learned that the practice of seasoning Tuscan sausages with fennel had started as a way to disguise the taste of bad Chianti, since fennel’s unique flavor was believed to have the power to transform companion flavors from insipid to sublime. While I have long been amused by this lore, I found that at this particular moment, Planeta’s fresh and fruity rosé, a 50/50 blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah, splendidly complimented every single fennel and non-fennel morsel chef Greg Margolis, owner of Nantucket Culinary Center and the Corner Café, had so beautifully selected and arranged for our opening antipasti course. I especially swooned over the brilliant way in which Greg’s garnishing slices of salty and citrusy preserved lemons paired with a wine intentionally crafted “to represent all the feelings of a Sicilian summer.”

As equally compelling as the antipasti sprawl on our dining tables was the silent and fancy slicing and plating of tomatoes being diligently executed by Evan on the luminescent Brazilian quartz island that anchors the demo kitchen at the Culinary Center. Once it became Evan’s turn to take center stage, he explained that he had very strong feelings about the proper way to make the oh-so-popular and oh-so-often-bastardized Caprese salad, because he had gotten engaged to his wife Maria while vacationing on the island of Capri. The only glitch in this afternoon’s presentation was that he was not able to use local tomatoes, which would have been in May hot house ones from Bartlett’s Farm, because too much rain over recent weeks had slowed their ripening. Plan B was to use Kumato tomatoes purchased at the Stop & Shop, which Evan assured (and immediately convinced me) were the best-tasting off-season tomatoes one can employ.

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase
Insalata Caprese

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase
Insalata Caprese

 

The Italian insalata Caprese is in essence a very simple salad whose red, white, and green colors are meant to mirror those of the Italian flag by combining tomatoes with mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil. Evan’s rendition, however, ranks as absolutely the best Caprese I have ever devoured because of the attention he gives to every single component of the salad. Rather than mozzarella, Evans chooses to use the most adorable and delectable 2-ounce balls of rich and creamy Burrata cheese, handcrafted on-island by Elisabetta Hitchcock and marketed under the brand name of Gioia. In fact, Elisabetta was on hand to enlighten us on the history of Burrata — a relative newcomer in the world of Italian cheese since it has only been being made for about sixty years compared to mozzarella’s hundreds of years. As for the basil component, Evan does not merely strew slivered basil leaves over his salads. Instead he makes a very verdant, silky, and sublime blender pesto whose superiority rests on Evan’s firm belief that only young basil should be used when making pesto. In fact, Evan has island farmer Ray Owens cultivate basil on a plot specifically for Pi Pizzeria in order to ensure a steady supply of young basil for his restaurant’s copious basil needs. To finish the Caprese, Evan transfers the pesto to a squeeze bottle in order to squirt it artistically and generously over and around each tomato flower whose center is bursting with that lush nugget of freshly made Burrata. Truly extraordinary, especially when paired with the well-chilled and minerally pale yellow MadraRossa Fiano, a relatively unknown Sicilian white wine, Cory had selected as an accompaniment.

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase

 
For most islanders, pizza is probably the first thing that comes to mind with the mention of Pi, so it was natural for Evan to segue from serving salads worthy of a standing ovation to sharing secrets of pizza making at Pi, even if he had to make do with using pizza stones in the Culinary Center’s electric-powered ovens and not his restaurant’s 900-degree wood-burning masterpiece. Not surprisingly, Evan harbors very strong opinions about what makes a proper pizza. He prefers small pizzas to large pizzas, taking his cues from pizza practices in Naples, where pizza is eaten whole with a knife and fork and never ever sliced. When it comes to tomato sauce, it should be made with San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown in the foothills around Mount Vesuvius in soil made fertile from volcanic ash deposits — a point cleverly echoed in our printed seminar menus boasting “volcanic combinations” as well as by the rich red wines — also grown in volcanic soils — chosen by Cory as pairings with the pizzas served to the group throughout the rest of the afternoon.

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase
Tomato Sauce

 

Despite the innumerable ways in which pizzas are topped in the United States, beginning with the proper dough base is of the utmost importance to the philosophy of pizza making at Pi. Evan keeps it simple using only yeast, water, Italian “00” flour, salt, and just a touch of honey to feed the yeast, although the latter is never added in Italy. The dough is then mixed for 9 minutes and next subjected to a slow day-long rise in the refrigerator — a technique known in the professional pizza trade as a “retarded rise.” Should the patience necessary to making this type of dough strike those of us desiring to make pizza at home as a deterrent, fear not because Evan is happy to sell island DIYers ready-to-knead pizza dough rounds from the little specialty shop adjoining his restaurant. However, once you witness the absolute grace and expertise with which Evan kneads his dough, I wager that intimidation over making your own pizzas at home is likely to set in. Indeed, watching Evan masterfully transform a ball of pizza dough into a perfect round is an exquisite art form unto itself.

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase
Kneading dough

 

Throughout the many years I have been a patron of Pi, I have almost always ordered the restaurant’s Great Italian pizza, with an occasional Margherita thrown in during summer visits. It never occurred to me to order the Rustica — a combination that Evan invented and heralds as Pi’s signature pizza. Suffice it to say, I am now a passionate convert! There is no red sauce in a Rustica, but rather a sauce made by melding chopped garlic, a few chile flakes, salt, and olive oil together for approximately 15 minutes in a cooler section of the wood-burning oven. At the same time, also in a cooler area of the oven, pancetta cut into lardons is rendered to crispy irresistibleness. The only brand of domestic pancetta Evan uses is sourced from Molinari in San Francisco, an old-school Italian delicatessen. Likewise the Stracchino cheese used exclusively in the Rustica pizza is of similar distinctive provenance and storied to boot. Stracchino is a cow’s milk cheese native to the Lombardy area of Italy and its name derives from the fact that the cows are tired or stressed when they produce the milk that goes into the making the acclaimed melting cheese. The reason the cows are tired is because they get sent away into the mountains to graze at the time of year when Italian tax collectors make their rounds and determine a farmer’s taxes based on how many heads of cattle are visible on the farm. The mountain grazing not only slyly lowers the tax rate but also produces a cheese with a wonderfully unique grassy flavor that is more complex than regular mozzarella. Stracchino from Italy can be prohibitively costly to import and Evan fortunately has found a supplier in the Midwest to meet his exacting standards.

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase

 

Once the Rustica pizza emerges incredibly aromatically from the oven, with crust crisped, Stracchino bubbling, and pancetta crackling, it is topped with a mound of baby arugula lightly dressed with fruity olive oil. While Evan went on to make “molti pizzas” as promised on the menu, it was the Rustica that remained the most swoon-worthy for me as well as everyone else in attendance. Meanwhile, Cory busied himself filling our glasses with compatibly “volcanic” Sicilian red wines, a slightly chilled Planeta Etna Rosso and a voluptuous, show-stopping Zisola Nero d’Avola. Cory elaborated that the Nero d’Avola grapes that make up 100% of Zisola are grown as far south as you can go in Sicily in a microclimate cooled by sea breezes in the heat of the summer and then warmed by the same breezes in the depths of winter. I was quick to notice that Zisola is produced by the Mazzei family, Tuscan winemakers whose charming hamlet of Fonterutoli outside of Siena had served as a base for my husband’s and my Italian honeymoon twenty years ago. No wonder, Zisola for me personally was love at first and last Rustica-pizza-sated sip.

 

In the Pink, Secrets of Pi Pizzeria, Nantucket, by Sarah Chase

 

Sarah Leah Chase is a cookbook author, freelance food writer, and culinary consultant. She frequently teaches cooking classes at the Nantucket Culinary Center. Her latest cookbook, “New England Open House,” was published this past June. She invites fellow food lovers to follow her on Facebook and Instagram

 

Nantucket Prime – A New Steakhouse at the Jared Coffin House by Josh Gray

In the realm of fine cuisine on small resort islands, Nantucket is known to do pretty well for itself.

And as such, when a new eatery opens its doors on our small stretch of sand, residents and visitors expect a lot from new and seasoned restaurateurs alike. The owners and management of the steak house Nantucket Prime realize this and hope to bring a dining experience that patrons will appreciate and come to love. Situated inside the Jared Coffin House on upper Broad Street, the new restaurant revives a storied locale with hopes of opening in time for the impending Memorial Day weekend.

“We have met some amazing people already and are hoping to meet some more,” said Justin Ito-Adler, Prime’s General Manager. “One thing we are trying to figure out is what the people that live on Nantucket want in a restaurant. Though we will be serving a full dinner menu, we also want people to stop in for a drink or just to say hi. Those casual interactions have been incredibly valuable to us as we shape the direction of this restaurant.”

Ito-Adler, along with principal owner Matthew Sullivan (a Boston area restaurateur who currently co-owns Needham’s Blue on Highland), and Executive Chef Joshua Smith decided upon the long-vacant Nantucket Island Resorts property after searching available spaces on island and deciding it was just what they were looking for.

“We wanted to create a vibrant environment. The room has a great feel to it and the patio has such an amazing street presence,” said Ito-Adler. “We feel really lucky to be in a building with such an amazing history to it.”

Though it’s housed in a well-known, historic building, Ito-Adler was quick to point out that the group is looking to present a fresh feel.

Image

“When you hear ‘steakhouse’ or ‘Nantucket’ the image is definitely an old-world feel with white glove type service. We want to create something that doesn’t feel stuffy,” he said. “We want people to laugh, to enjoy themselves and to have the experience that they want to have, not the experience that they feel they should be having. We have an amazing kitchen that wants to create dishes that excite palates, and an incredible front-of-the-house staff of naturally warm and friendly people.”

Hoping to accommodate an array of tastes, Nantucket Prime will offer nearly a dozen cuts of steak, a raw bar, fresh, in-season seafood from the waters around Nantucket, salads and appetizers. They will begin by serving lunch and dinner daily, with the possibility of expanding to a breakfast menu later in the season.

“We will likely open in phases to make sure that we are putting out the food and giving the service that we want to,” said Ito-Adler, emphasizing a focus on quality.

The spaces open to patrons will include the main dining room (accessible from the front entrance of the hotel), featuring a six seat bar, and the outdoor dining patio that has a bar with seating for up to a dozen.

Management had hoped to have opened in time for the Nantucket Wine Festival, but after being delayed by unforeseen circumstances, they now expect to have regular hours the Memorial holiday weekend of May 23rd, excepting a possible, private, special pre-fixe dinner during Wine Fest.

New to Nantucket in varying degrees, Ito-Adler said he and his colleagues are just about ready to open after several months of planning and careful preparation.

“All of us are overjoyed to have the opportunity to work here,” he said. “Over the past few weeks we have already had such amazing experiences and met such amazing people. We are looking forward to meeting the rest of the island, and contributing what we can to an already flourishing Nantucket restaurant community.”

http://www.ackprime.com
For reservations, visit http://www.opentable.com or call 508.228.2117.

Sarah Leah Chase: Nantucket Serendipity 4 – Bread Alone

SERENDIPITY IV
Sarah Leah Chase

BREAD ALONE

Few of us Nantucket need to be reminded that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Bleak and blustery winters topped off with 3-day March Nor’easters make any miniscule sign of spring – be it a deep purple crocus bud or rogue ray of sunshine – cause for euphoria and cork-popping celebration. While Guinness guzzling on St. Patrick’s Day tends to rally some from mid-March stupor, I personally discovered the re-opening of Liz Holland’s Daily Breads bakery on March 17th after a long winter’s nap capable of enthusing my inner gastronomic core far more delectably than any pint of stout or slab of juicy corned beef.

Daily Breads bakes the only baguette on island worth buying and their hearty Struen is the rare loaf of good-for-you multi-grain bread that actually tastes fabulous. But these are not the loaves of my carbohydrate cravings. The Daily Breads loaf I live and long for is the sesame-speckled Cottage Bread – a nutritionally incorrect yet artisanally irresistible, high-gluten, white flour country bread that I pray is only figuratively and not literally “to die for.”

Like any truly passionate baker, Liz can wax eloquent over her Cottage Bread’s sublime crust and uniquely creamy interior, but I must warn fans like myself to pry no further because the recipe is TOP SECRET! When pressed, Liz will share that she remembers starting to bake Cottage Bread sometime before she took over the helm at Off-Centre Café, where the bread served as the base for one of the best and certainly most memorable grilled cheese sandwiches (recent island contests notwithstanding) I have ever eaten, period. Liz’s Cottage Bread even managed to garner some well deserved albeit fleeting stardom beyond the confines of Nantucket when Liz did a baking stint in Manhattan in the mid-nineties for the famed Le Cirque restaurant.

While a New York pedigree never hurts, Daily Breads Cottage Bread is the one bread that always makes my day on Nantucket – be it toasted or French-toasted in the morning, sandwiched at noon, or smeared with a sliver of runny cheese at sundown to make a happy hour all the happier. Cottage Bread is sold only at the Daily Breads bakery for $3.75 a loaf and is available sliced or unsliced and in slightly varying degrees of crustiness.


Serendipity was conceived by Sarah Leah Chase as an occasional blog-like addition to Mahon About Town to shed positive and enthusiastic light on culinary pleasures and surprises encountered during day-to-day, off-season island living. Sarah is a cookbook writer, culinary consultant, and longtime columnist for the Inquirer & Mirror.

Nantucket Restaurant Week Fall 09

The Fall Nantucket Restaurant Week will take place between September 28 – October 4, 2009. Each participating restaurant will offer a 3-course dinner – appetizer, main course and dessert – priced between $25 and $45 per person. Menus will be available on September 19th on the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services websites, NantucketRestaurantWeek.com, and in Mahon About Town.

Cuisine from Nantucket’s finest restaurants and food purveyors, champagne & wine, oysters and caviar kicks-off Nantucket Restaurant Week on Sunday, September 27, at the Great Harbor Yacht Club from 3 – 5 pm. Proceeds benefit Nantucket Culinary Arts Foundation, which provides scholarships and educational opportunities for island students pursuing culinary careers. ($5,000 was given in scholarships and educational support in 2008 to Nantucket culinary students.) $100 Ticket – call 508-228-1515, info@nantucketrestaurantweek.com

.

This year’s Junior Chef Competition will be held on Sunday, October 4 at Cisco Brewery from 12 – 2pm. Nantucket culinary students and island chefs pair up to compete in this lively competition to create three courses using island ingredients. Jenny Johnson of NECN’s “TV Diner” will serve as host.

Nantucket Junior Chefs

The Nantucket Junior Chef Competition took place on Sunday, October 5 at Cisco Brewery. Junior chefs from the Nantucket High School Culinary Arts Program in Bob Buccino’s high school class were mentored by professional island chefs. All proceeds went toward scholarships for Nantucket High School students who are continuing in studies or training in the culinary arts. The students, Haley Cabre, Carl Johnsen, Carla Gomez, and Brittany Watson, were chosen for winning an award at the Prostart Culinary Competition at the Johnson and Wales in Providence last year. Bartlett’s Farm donated three ingredients: corn, tomatoes and squash. From that, and with additional ingredients donated by the supporting restaurants, the students came up with a three course meal including dessert. The winners were Brittany Watson and Carl Johnsen. Photographs by Gene Mahon.

Click on any photo to see more from this event or the archive of past events. For a high quality digital file you can use to make as many prints as you like, contact me. To order a copy of any photograph, click on the photo, then click on this event on the list on the left and find the ID number. Send an email with the photo number to me at gene@mahonabouttown.com.

Nantucket Junior Chefs 2

Click on any photo to see more from this event or the archive of past events. For a high quality digital file you can use to make as many prints as you like, contact me. To order a copy of any photograph, click on the photo, then click on this event on the list on the left and find the ID number. Send an email with the photo number to me at gene@mahonabouttown.com.

Nantucket Junior Chefs 3

Click on any photo to see more from this event or the archive of past events. For a high quality digital file you can use to make as many prints as you like, contact me. To order a copy of any photograph, click on the photo, then click on this event on the list on the left and find the ID number. Send an email with the photo number to me at gene@mahonabouttown.com.

Nantucket Junior Chefs 4

Click on any photo to see more from this event or the archive of past events. For a high quality digital file you can use to make as many prints as you like, contact me. To order a copy of any photograph, click on the photo, then click on this event on the list on the left and find the ID number. Send an email with the photo number to me at gene@mahonabouttown.com.

White Elephant Chef Series on Nantucket

The fourth annual White Elephant Chef Series begins on Saturday, October 25, with celebrity chef demonstration at the Brant Point Grill in the White Elephant. This year the chefs are: Alexandra Guarnaschelli from Butter, NYC; Marco Moreira, Tocqueville, NYC; Galen Zamarra, Mas (farmhouse), NYC; and Bob Iacovone, Cuvée, New Orleans.

For her second year, Alexandra Guarnaschelli (Saturday, October 25, 3 to 4 pm) returns as the Executive Chef of New York City’s acclaimed restaurant Butter, where she has created an organic and fresh American-inspired menu. Following a work study at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy, France, Alexandra held positions at many international and national establishments, including Guy Savoy in Paris and La Butte Chaillot; Daniel Boulud’s restaurant, Daniel; Joachim Splichal’s Patina in West Hollywood and Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse in New York City. Chef Guarnaschelli has been featured on The Today Show, the Rachael Ray Show and in The New York Times and Elle.

Chef Marco Moreira (Saturday, November 1, 3 to 4 pm) Executive Chef from Tocqueville in New York City cooks his French-American cuisine using the world’s best seasonal ingredients and preserving their natural flavors. The Brazilian-born chef Marco Moreira founded Marco Polo Sushi Catering in New York during the 1980s; the company soon grew into a full-time venture, catering to some of the city’s best kitchens, including Bouley, The Quilted Giraffe, and The Mark. In 2000, Marco and his wife, also a trained chef, opened Tocqueville. The restaurant quickly earned critical recognition and was consistently ranked as one of Zagat Guide’s Top 50 restaurants. They later opened the Japanese restaurant 15 East, which was named one of 2007’s “Best New Restaurants” by the New York Observer and New York Times.

Galen Zamarra (Saturday, November 8, 3 to 4 pm) is Executive Chef and co-owner of Mas(farmhouse) in New York City where he combines classical techniques and modern French flavors with American products and styles. Honored in 2001 with the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award, Galen’s restaurant career includes time spent at Michelin Three Star restaurants in France where he staged at Michel Bras, Georges Blanc, and L’Arpege. Before opening Mas, Chef Zamarra was chef de cuisine at the renowned Bouley Bakery in New York. He has received industry accolades from New York magazine, Esquire, Zagat Guide, and Michelin Guide, and he hosted the popular Discovery Channel series, “Go Ahead, Make My Dinner.”

Bob Iacovone (Saturday, November 15, 3 to 4 pm), also in his second year at Chef & Shop, represents New Orleans in true culinary style.Cuvée, where Iacovone is Executive Chef, was one of the first restaurants to re-open following Hurricane Katrina. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Bob also holds a first-level sommelier’s certificate from the Court of Sommeliers in London. Before joining Cuvée he held positions at the PGA National Resort & Spa and Booking Table restaurant in South Beach and the Windsor Court Hotel’s Grill Room, one of New Orleans Five-Diamond restaurants. Chef Iacovone has been a guest chef at the famed James Beard House in New York City and his achievements have been recognized by Bon Appetit, InStyle, and Esquire.

Tickets for non-house guests are $35. Space is limited. Reservations: 508-325-1320.