I hope everyone enjoyed the Labor Day weekend and got a moment to themselves to reflect on the summer and prepare for September, fall and the holiday-laden fourth quarter of the year. The time just seems to fly by, but not so quick that I can’t savor summer 2013.
Last I left you, Martha’s Vineyard was doing it to me—friends, family, food, fun. The only thing missing was … competition? Yes, last year I only heard about the first ever Grits Cook Off, and the winning dish with sautéed mushrooms. This year, as a chef and food writer, I was asked, then goaded, then challenged to compete by the host and reigning champion. I took it …
My host family and I arrived at the location after having shopped for battle. There was a full-on brunch happening, with everything from delicious deviled eggs to a battery of grilled meats. My opponent Jeff’s dish, a grits casserole with sausage, egg and cheese, was already in the oven baking (yes, baking grits). I was behind the gun. My sous chef Katrina and I jumped into action. My dish of poblano pepper, corn and Vermont white cheddar grits with applewood smoked bacon and scallion gremolata received high praise. The competition was close, but ultimately, the champion prevailed with his more familiar flavor combination. Look out next year, Jeff!
The second part of my time in Martha’s Vineyard was spent with family, but not before I had a morning breakfast stolen-moment-alone at Biscuits (Oak Bluffs), the only Black-owned restaurant on the island. Owner Christopher Acrudi serves up a fluffy biscuit and a mean sausage gravy seasoned with rosemary and black pepper and whatever else is in their special blend of sausage. I do love a biscuit!
The day was spent on State Beach laughing, eating, entertaining friends that happened by … and talking to Gayle King?! Yes! It ended with buck-a-shuck oysters and dirty martinis with my cousin Quinn at Hooked before returning home to shower and head out to try contestant No. 1 in Battle: Lobster Roll.
We descended on Offshore Ale Co. (Oak Bluffs), as more than one person told me this was the place for the quintessential lobster roll. It was epic! It looked like there was a full 1.5-pound lobster in that piece. With the awesome house-made chips, we got it down!
Normally, Sunday is a day of rest, right? Not in Martha’s Vineyard when your aunt is planning a large housewarming dinner party. We were up early to run errands and prep. We hopped in the truck, and off we went to a beautiful plant and flower nursery to pick up an arrangement, then to the butcher, the baker (no candlestick maker), the fish monger, the grocery store and to my new favorite farm and gourmet food store on the island, Fiddlehead Farm (@fiddleheadmv, West Tisbury). Bob, the owner, made the most gorgeous platter of cheeses and charcuterie with preserves, champagne grapes and raisins dried on the stem. Really stunning!
Quinn and I returned home to begin prepping our dishes. She was making her delicious kale, cabbage and brussel sprout salad with eggless Caesar dressing and anchovies. I was making lobster and shrimp fried rice with tons of fresh vegetables. We also prepared grilled ribeye with horseradish cream and jus and an assortment of grilled fish (salmon, monkfish, halibut and tuna).
We took barely any breaks except to snack on Battle: Lobster Roll contestant No. 2, the perennial Nancy’s. This was my winner! An appropriate amount of simply dressed tail meat in a buttered toasted roll. If it’s good enough for my president, it’s good enough for me.
The party was a blast and everyone enjoyed the menu. Dessert and dancing ensued until the last guest left. I collapsed onto the bed with a smile on my face and love in my heart.
My last food hurrah on the island came by way of a small but unique diner serving elevated comfort classics, Artcliff Diner (Vineyard Haven). The entire week, I had either heard about or been told to go to eat at this place. The line outside confirmed this fervor.
Quinn and I sat at the counter. I took the whole space in: the fresh scones on the bar, the comic section newspaper-lined walls and the smell. Quinn got her favorite, the spicy chicken hash, and because I was in Massachusetts, I had to get the Bull’s Eye – codfish cake, two eggs over easy, arugula, spicy hollandaise and mustard oil. “Wow!” is all I can say. The perfect punctuation to a stupendous food week!
Again, thank you to my family and friends for a righteous time. And to Ms. Martha’s Vineyard? You betta work!
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.