Nantucket Off Season

20 11 2009

bclosedI lived on Nantucket for two full summers, the last of which I stayed well into the fall.  I loved Nantucket in the fall, the golden leaves, the quiet beaches, the subdued nature of town.  But with the fall came perils, for example, almost daily I’d need to run down to the ferry to say goodbye to yet another comrade headed off island for the winter.  Restaurants grew slim as they pared down their hours, and worst of all I had to stop ordering Guinness.  It just took too long to pour and settle and soon I’d often find myself surrounded by a crowd of lusty but otherwise harmless scallopers.

I guess those fond memories inspired me to retreat once again to Nantucket in the fall.  Some folks we encountered were confused as to why we would want to visit when then weather was turning cold and grey, but it was sublime.

Nantucket is an island about 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachussetts.  Known for a lucrative whaling industry, today the island remains a proud testament to tradition.  It’s cobblestone streets are mostly unchanged, and save for a Cumberland Farms and a Ralph Lauren outpost, most chain stores are shunned.  No stop lights and staunch dedication towards a traditional architecture means that most buildings look identical in their weathered grey shingles.  Nantucket looks pretty much like it did back in the day.  During the peak season (July and August) the town swells with visitors, but quickly the summer crowds and workers dissipate allowing one to appreciate a pristine and windswept vista in the late fall.  While late October can supply some pleasant Indian summer type days, by November the island gets colder and damper, but more serene.  Beach days become blustery rather than sunny.  Town is mostly shut down, few restaurants are open and those that are have limited hours, often seemingly determined by the whim of the owner on any given day.  Stores are open sporadically but the upside is the incredible sales, it seems the whole island is a bargain with room rates plunging and most retailers offering 20% on current issue items, but 50-75% on summer wares.

My husband and I headed out to the island by plane, a quicker and easier ride than the ferry since we flew east into Boston.  Off season can mean discounted rooms and a few of the larger hotels are really peaceful during this season.  The White Elephant is a quick but chilly walk to town near Brant Point.  Additionally they have just started renting their gorgeous White Elephant Hotel Residences which are available through December 6, 2009.  These are multi room apartments are outfitted beautifully and offer amenities including remote controlled fireplaces, kitchens with panini makers, wine cellars, amazing bathtubs, blue-ray, pretty much everything you need to enjoy Nantucket as if you lived there, also right in the heart of town.  Their Brant Point Grill stays open for most of the fall season and offers great food, but be sure to check exact dates.

Nantucket Christmas Stroll is another great time to visit but room rates bump up a bit due to the increased visitors.  It’s dreamy walking the streets decked out for the holidays and makes you think you have stepped back in time.  This year Christmas Stroll is scheduled for December 4 and 5, 2009.

Overall the island is always an amazing place to visit, but if you want to maximize your dollar and enjoy it without the mass of summer visitors and day-trippers then off-season is the way to go.

White Elephant Hotel Residences

http://www.whiteelephanthotelresidences.com/

View from The White Elephant

American Season’s Restaurant

80 Centre Street: Amazing.  The food is amazing.  I do not know what else to say!  The seasonal menu changes often and is uniquely not divided by appetizer/entree but rather by region into Pacific Coast, New England and Down South featuring dishes inspired by each region.  Lots of game and they also offer specials, and if the charcuterie is an option when you go do not miss it.  http://www.americanseasons.com/

Black-Eyed Susan’s

10 India Street: This small diner style spot offers some of the most amazing breakfast dishes.  I was incredibly fond of Susan’s grits, a small dish arrives making you wonder if it will be enough but the delectable combination of grits, ranchero sauce, cheese and hollandaise is just right, rich and delicious.  The Portuguese scramble with spinach, garlic and linguica is also a winner, hearty and delicious.  They are open for dinner too!  http://www.black-eyedsusans.com/

Easy Street Restaurant

Easy Street & Steamboat Wharf:  In all the years I visited Nantucket, it was not until this year that I stepped foot inside Easy Street Restaurant.  It always seemed a shame that such a convenient location had what was reputed to be sub-average food, but things have changed!  New ownership brings great food to a comfortable and convenient location.  We skipped the Lobster Trap this trip for a more reasonable New England Lobster Boil here.  For $20 you get a 1 and 1/4 lb. lobster, perfectly steamed, with drawn butter, Yukon gold potatoes and corn on the cob.  Wash it down with one of their selection of Oktoberfest beers and it’s heavenly.  Also do not miss the chowder, one of the best we had, as well as the  ridiculously priced 50 cent chicken wings.  I was frightened by the price but had to try them and they were deliciously crispy and seasoned well, quite a bargain really!  http://www.easystreetnantucket.com/

downeyDowney Flake

18 Sparks Avenue: If you want to see where the locals eat stop by the Downey Flake for a donut, breakfast and some coffee.  Owned by my friends and former managers from the Brotherhood of Thieves back in the day, Mark Hogan and Susan Tate offer truly reasonable fare at a great price.  The diner atmosphere is kitschy but its worth a trip and you can eavesdrop on how the scallop harvest is going.

LO LA 41

15 Beach Street:  The longitude/latitude coordinates of Nantucket this hot spot makes you feel as if you could be in SoHo.  Offering great Asian inspired food and a huge selection of sake and wine by the glass the atmosphere is chic without being pretentious.  http://www.lola41.net/inner.html

The Brotherhood of Thieves

23 Broad Street:  Although its not the same as I remember it, a visit to the island would not be complete without visiting the Brotherhood.  Although the food is lackluster, the curly fries are still good.  Similarly lacking is the extensive frozen drink selection I remember, but have a seat at the bar, grab a chowder and some fries and a beer and enjoy the dark wood and comfortable cozy atmosphere on a cold day.

Things to Do

Whaling Museum

A trip to Nantucket would not be complete without a trip to the Whaling Museum.  The forty-six foot skeleton of a sperm whale washed ashore on island on New Year’s Day and the gorgeous 1849 Fresnel Lens from the Sankaty Head Lighthouse are worth the visit alone.  Off season expect fun informative talks on topics such as the cranberry harvest presented by island locals.  They have a great gift shop too.  http://nha.org/sites/index.html

Drive out to Great Point

Rent a four wheel drive vehicle with an Oversand Vehicle Permit, deflate your tires and drive through the sand onto Great Point.  Off season you may see some locals fishing, or you may not see anyone the whole time.  We saw deer and a pod of about 30 seals dining at the rip of the point.  They peered over at us curiously and bobbed around in the water.

Visit Nantucket Vineyard, Triple Eight Distillery and Cisco Brewers

Sadly we heard that Cisco Brewers moved most of their brewing off island due to increased demand (always the dilemma, so successful that they cannot do it locally anymore), but that doesn’t make their beer less good.  A visit to the distillery/brewery/winery is always fun with sampling and tasting and sale of all their products.  Try to get some Pumple Drunkin Spiced Ale while it lasts, but for everyday I love the Whale’s Tale Pale Ale.  http://www.ciscobrewers.com/

Shopping

Nantucket Natural Oils (The Fragrance Bar)

5 Centre Street:  Maybe it is because I am a wine geek obsessed with the sense of smell, but I can’t help but gravitate immediately to Nantucket Natural Oils when I hit the island.  John Harding, the proprietor, crafts fragrances to rival those of the major perfume houses, but this is no infomercial “If you like Giorgio you’ll love X” type of place.  What is most special about the spot is the fact that all the products are made from 100% pure oil, rather than diluted with 80-94% alcohol and water like normal scents.  This means that they last longer on your skin AND in the bottle.  It is also a godsend for those that have encountered allergic reactions or professions where fragrance is shunned.  While I would refrain from wearing this to a wine tasting, Harding has first hand knowledge that nurses can even wear these essences without negatively affecting the hospital environment.  I know first hand that these oils do last.  I had a perfume made by Harding in Spring of 1995 which I wore all the time, I still had a half vial left when I inadvertently left the cap off and it seeped into my makeup pouch.  Luckily Harding has a system that remembers  each and every purchase so he was able to recreate this mix of Calyx with an addition of vanilla for me, now appropriately named Spring of ’95.  Whether it is for a custom blend or for a designer fragrance or aromatherapy mix this shop is not to be missed. Harding and his expert staff are happy to let you sample and smell to your heart’s content.  This year I bought some ambergris, an aromatic that comes from the regurgitant of whales after it has festered for years on the open ocean.  How appropriate for Nantucket right?  If you can’t make it to Nantucket you can find them online too!  Until November 20, 2009 they are having a buy one get one half off sale on fragrances, so buy some for yourself and a friend for the holidays.  https://nantucketnaturaloils.com/

Nantucket Bookworks

25 Broad Street: Borders and Barnes & Noble got you down?  This is the perfect remedy.  The Bookworks offers a great selection, great staff recommendations and even a pile of free books sometimes!  They also have a great selection of paper goods, toys, and tchotchkes.  Open seven days a week year round and often open as late as 10pm!  Great place to shop after your beer at the Broho (Brotherhood) nextdoor http://www.nantucketbookworks.com/

Cold Noses

Straight Wharf: A great spot to pick up a squeaky lobster for your furry friend.

Best of the Beach

Straight Wharf: Feels like summer all year long in this bright and airy shop featuring great pajamas, pretty housewares and aromatic candles.

Vis a Vis

34 Main Street: A very nice clothing boutique although not for the weak of wallet

The Hub

31 Main Street: A magazine and candy shop that also features gifts and postcards, the sign outside is where islanders share information about day to day activities.  Here’s where to find a winter rental, babysitter, carpenter, etc.

Nantucket Looms

16 Federal Street: Handcrafted items galore, gorgeous hooked rugs and weavings.

Nantucket Carving & Folk Art

167 Orange Street: Quarterboards, signs and amazing antiques out near the airport http://www.nantucketcarvingandfolkart.com/

The Sunken Ship

12 Broad Street: Although this corner is slightly desolate when the season is over and the Juice Bar is shuttered, the Sunken Ship is still a treasure trove for typical souvenirs, toys, and flags.   Always fun to browse.  http://www.sunkenship.com/

Epernay

1N Beach Street: Especially if you need to stock up your White Elephant Residences fridge you can drop into this cute shop only half a block away to see what they have available.  Selections are diverse and fun and reasonably priced.  You might find Amber Cantella holding free wine tastings at local restaurants like the Boarding House so you can try before you buy!  http://www.epernaywines.com/

Murray’s Toggery Shop

62 Main Street: The classic stop to buy Nantucket Reds paraphernalia.  “Reds” are a type of denim like fabric dyed a particular pink shade that fades to a gorgeous coral color and soft texture when washed multiple times.  Or of course the prepster in you may opt for the lobster pants.  http://www.nantucketreds.com/

Nobby Clothes Shop

17 Main Street: Need foul weather gear?  If there’s a Nor’easter on the way this is the place to go.  A great collection of Carhartt gear and everything you need to look like a scalloper.  http://www.nobbyshop.com/

Current Vintage Clothing Wine Home

4 Easy Street: If your significant other is sick of you shopping for clothes then come here and they can shop for wine at the same time.  They have an amazing selection of lesser known cult wines including Scholium Project!  Pretty cool to see that someone here knows what they’re doing.  http://www.currentvintage.com/

Advertisements

Actions

Information

6 responses

22 11 2009
Elisabeth English

Hey Rebecca, I was so pleased to see currentVintage mentioned in your blog post on Nantucket–we try to emphasize lesser known, small production wines, so thanks for noticing! As I was reading your bio, I realized that we used to work together at the Brotherhood many moons ago. I’m so bummed I wasn’t around when you stopped in the store–I’ve been in Ireland for the last couple of weeks. Congratulations on your tremendous success in the wine world and please keep in touch…
cheers,
Beth

23 11 2009
rebeccachapa

OMG Beth! Great to see you here, wish I had run into you. Hopefully next time! Congrats on the store, it was super cool. Stay in touch!

17 12 2009
Julie

Hi Rebecca,

I see you and Elisabeth both worked at the Brotherhood and I’m dying to make the cheddar cheese beer soup for my husband. Any chance you can help me find the recipe or head me in the right direction? Enjoyed your article it brought me back to my summers also on the island. Thanks for any help!

Julie

17 12 2009
rebeccachapa

I really wish I knew, I was back at the Brotherhood this summer and they didn’t even have it anymore, nothing was better than dipping the fries in that soup! I remember that Stouffer’s used to do a Welsh Rarebit frozen thing that was kind of like a soup dip, an easy try and maybe you could doctor it up and thin it out with beer. I’d say it’s not really cheddar, more like processed cheese, with Worcestershire sauce and probably something else secret… Maybe you could try one of the online Cheddar Ale recipes. I imagine this is sort of a play on the classic English cheddar soups from ale houses! Good luck and if you find luck with a particular recipe, I’d love to recreate it! As an aside I do remember vividly the secret to the chowder… a chowder base I think it was from Sayle’s seafood with non-dairy creamer, never thickens or curdles. And chowder shots are a great hangover cure by the way! Have a great holiday!

14 03 2011
Elizabeth

Dear Rebecca,

Every year I go to Nantucket, too! I love it for it’s captivating beauty and great restaurants! Do you suggest any really good restaurants I could visit next time I go? I think the reason why everybody keeps returning to the island is the island itself!!! There must be a spell on it that pulls people back every year. Well, I hope you reply soon!! Thanks for everything!!!!

From,

Elziabeth

15 03 2011
rebeccachapa

I have definitely fallen under Nantucket’s “spell”! I have found some really great places, but funny thing is that I am usually on island in the swing season, not when it’s at its height so I like a lot of the smaller places that stay open year round. I have been missing the Lobster Trap desperately for a splurge, you can also hit the Company of the Cauldron, two great spots, and Topper’s at the Wauwinet if you are there in the season. For off season Lola 41 is hard to beat for their 2 for 1 sushi rolls on Sundays off-season. I hit Corazon del Mar this October before they closed, great food and margaritas and of course the standard Black Eyed Susan’s! If you are out of town definitely stop by the Downey Flake for some of the best pancakes around! They just got a listed in Travel & Leisure as one of America’s best pancakes! Happy dining!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: