Within a couple of hours of leaving Provincetown we were at the armpit of Cape Cod in the small coastal town of Hyannis (above). Our time on the Cape was coming to an end, but not before we parked the car on the mainland and ferried over to Nantucket for the night. It was island getaway time. Nantucket style.
I’d always heard of Nantucket in movies, reality television shows, and of course, those limericks. Almost 50 km south of the cape, the island is a relatively quiet (in the low season) and rural place that’s home to some very lucky people. I could easily enjoy my summers in my Nantucket cottage overlooking the Atlantic. That cottage I’ll never have, methinks.
Arriving into the main town by boat is like pulling into a quaint legoland of weathered wooden buildings. What was once the worlds whaling capital is now a jumble of cobbled streets lined with historic wooden houses, museums, homewares stores and gorgeous B&B’s. Had the cars been removed it would have felt like walking through 17th century streets. Except back then things would have smelled a little more like whale oil, not pumpkin spice soy candles.
Our bed for the night was in the historic Roberts House Inn, a former residence built in 1846 after a third of the town was destroyed by the Great Fire during the same year. The décor matches the design of the house, and despite having to climb three flights of steep stairs, we lucked out and got one of the attic rooms. Loads of character, lofty view and sagged wooden floor.
Being in Nantucket on the last week of September meant that the town wasn’t congested with vacationers jostling for their own piece of the town. It was actually incredibly quiet despite seeing the ferries full inbound and out. Where was everyone? I didn’t care, really, as it was a nice change from the madness of Provincetown.
After scouting the very compact downtown for a lunch venue it was Dune that made the pick thanks to its deliciously seasonal sounding menu. I can only assume the evening crowd has the pleasure of sitting in the beautiful dining room inside the house as the lunch-goers were all seated in the outside patio; a covered area that felt like sitting in a decorated garage.
Our love of beets prompted us to try the roasted red & gold beets (15), a nicely presented salad featuring these sweet root vegetables alongside a smear of goat cheese scattered with pistachios and leaves.
A more substantial Korean short ribs (16) ticked the protein box, even if the occasional piece of gristle did challenge the incisors. A contemporary take on kimchi saw the use of shaved fennel, green papaya, radish and cucumber, with cubes of juicy watermelon for colour and sweetness.
Top pick went to the chive gnocchi with Florida shrimp (18). They must breed shrimp small in Florida as they reminded me of those minuscule things you get in Chinese fried rice. That aside, the dish as a whole was delicious. Gnocchi as soft as a pillow jumbled with fennel sausage, roasted garlic, tomato basil and a little lemon.
Dune – 20 Broad Street, Nantucket
The other half had grand plans of hiring a couple of bikes and taking a ride out into the countryside. I had to think when the last time was that I had two wheels beneath me. Oh yeah, it was a few years back when we were desperately trying to find food in Pezens. The island has an extensive network of designated bike tracks, eliminating the concern of sharing the road with cars and buses.
We did the Siasconset loop – a relatively easy 40km route that takes you through gorgeous countryside, past million dollar properties, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse and into the small village of Siasconset. There’s not a great deal going on in the village but it’s a good place to stop and refuel on food or cold drink at the Sconset Café and take a wander around the quiet streets. Oh look, there’s another house with a flower box beneath its window.
Back in Nantucket it was an afternoon of bar-hopping; getting a taste of the local beer at the Sea Dog Brew Pub and Brotherhood of Thieves. The former is a large, family-friendly venue whilst the latter is like stepping into an old English pub with a rather tempting American menu. A menu I’m likely to never sample.
Brotherhood of Thieves – 23 Broad Street, Nantucket
Wine-o’clock commenced on our little inn porch, slouched in white cane chairs as the sun went down over the island. It would have been way too easy to settle in, but we had a dinner reservation.
The other half took the liberty of booking a table at American Seasons, a more up-market restaurant at the edge of downtown. Padded banquets, hand-painted murals, shutters and flickering candlelight can make for a comfortably romantic evening. In reality it can get rather noisy – especially when certain well-heeled ladies amusingly lose grip of their grace.
Chef Michael LaScola makes good use of the locally sourced seasonal ingredients that feature heavily on the contemporary menu. The pig ear fries (10) simply had to be ordered, and I’m glad I did. Deliciously-sticky, crispy and fatty; lightly flavoured with lime and coriander. Pity the mentioned chilli wasn’t at all detected.
A confit of suckling pig (33.5) far from disappoints with its tender richness. It’s topped with very boozy bourbon-soaked prunes and rests on a cushy pile of Carolina rice middlins, a concoction that’s almost like grits, I believe. Scattered around the plate is some very sauerkraut-like collard greens, baby carrot and crab apples.
Similar in appearance is the tobacco-rubbed duck breast (31.5); rosy and pink with a “foiesage” leaning up against it. Foie gras sausage? Yes please. Some corn velouté adds a little earthy sweetness and a huckleberry vinaigrette splashes colour and zing across the plate.
For dessert, the flying Elvis (10.5) was ordered purely out of curiosity. There’s a wedge of cookie crust topped with a crunchy peanut butter and chocolate ganache layer; topped again with torched banana and caramelised banana ice cream. It’s a true celebration of sugar that left the tongue cloyed and exhausted.
American Seasons – 80 Centre Street, Nantucket
It was an early rise the following morning as it was almost time to check out of the inn and catch the first ferry back to the mainland. Not before ducking to The Bean for a quick bite and the first coffee of the day. Cute little place that’s also very tea friendly. Breakfast choices are limited, but if a pastry or bagel is sufficient then it’s a perfect contender for an eat ‘n run. Coffee comes courtesy of local Nantucket Coffee Roasters and is served in takeaway cups, even if you’re sitting in. Not a fan of paper cups but at least the coffee is decent.
Bags packed, we arrive at the wharf and watch the ferry come in. It’s at that point I remember I still had my phone charging up the road at the inn. It’s probably a good thing that I have long legs and Nantucket is such a small town.
I made it.
The Bean – 29 Centre Street, Nantucket