[Taken yesterday by Gail]
Two more days in Nantucket. I’m going to aim for a more concise report than the last two.
As I explained in the first one, we had to split up our stay between our usual place, The Wauwinet, and its sister inn, the White Elephant. Yesterday was transition day. After breakfast at the Brant Point Grill, the hotel restaurant, we packed up, left our bags with the White Elephant, and took a walk out to Brant Point, which I wrote about two nights ago. (See lighthouse photo there.) Then we walked along Hulbert Avenue, which I also mentioned in the previous post. This time, unlike two days ago, I was able to figure out which home is that of John Kerry and Teresa Heinz. It’s obvious after the fact — the one with the 15 foot hedge that makes viewing the property impossible, except for a small break in the hedge for a gate. It’s a lovely property, but then, so are all the others on Hulbert, hugging the shore at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor.
After circling back to the White Elephant to confirm the plan for our move to The Wauwinet, we headed into town, stopping at Le Cherche Midi, just about the first store one reaches on our route in, and one of our favorites. We hadn’t made it there yet, partly because it closed early the day before on our first attempt. They have wonderful house goods from Provence and beyond, some of which will soon grace our own home.
It was lunchtime. We headed to Arno’s, an old reliable restaurant on Main Street. I had one of the day’s specials, halibut on couscous with broccolini. The only problem was, there was no broccolini. I inquired, the waitress investigated,and she reported that there was asparagus today, was that okay. Sure. It still didn’t explain why I initially got no vegetable at all.
After lunch, we strolled down to the end of Straight Wharf, looked at the activity in the harbor, then headed back to the center of town for the Wauwinet shuttle van, which picked us up, picked up our luggage at the White Elephant, and took us out to the Wauwinet. We arrived around 2:30 to the welcome news that our room was ready. Good old 302, the room we have chosen for the last five years. Not the biggest, but with the best view out over the eastern end of the harbor (miles from town) and up the arcing peninsula toward Great Point to the north, with the Atlantic in view off to the right across the thin peninsula on which we sit.
The weather, by the way, has been mostly cloudy and often rainy, at least until we walked out of Arno’s yesterday. Suddenly the sun came out. Once settled in our room, we went out to the lawn, the Wauwinet’s great amenity, to lie on the chaises, read, and look at the view. But after a few minutes, we were in the clouds. Or so it seemed, as we watched the clouds blow right past us. Fog was rolling in, and fast. Within the hour we were totally ungulfed. Then the wind picked up and we were freezing Well, I was. Gail had gone in. Eventually I did too
Dinner was at Topper’s, one of Nantucket’s famed restaurants, the Wauwinet’s own, and in any case the only restaurant for miles around. Not a hard choice. And we were pleased to see our favorite waiter there, the one who served us the first time we came to Topper’s, five years ago, and most years since. (He wasn’t on the island one summer.)
I won’t go into all the details for a change, but it was a great meal. We both started with the heirloom tomato salad, which had these amazing little vinegar pearls in it. Gail had cavatelli. I had, oh gosh, I don’t even remember. So many meals this week. I had a sublime cherry sorbet for dessert, along with blueberry sorbet and strawberry ice cream. Gail had some chocolate concoction with nutella ice cream.
Our plan today was to stay put at the Wauwinet until dinner. We had breakfast at Topper’s. I always look forward to their turkey hash, but last year I didn’t enjoy it as much. This year’s version is revised and the best ever. After breakfast, we took a long walk north along the road, up past the 15 or so houses that lie beyond the Wauwinet, after which the road turns into sand and continues for miles to Great Point. This stretch, the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, is owned by a Massachusetts land conservation organization, The Trustees of Reservations. Open a map of Nantucket and take a look at the upper right corner. You’ll see Wauwinet, Coskata, Coatue, and Great Point. Here for instance:
We sat out on the porch for a while, ordering lunch from Topper’s while we waited for it to warm up. We had one of our favorites, Topper’s crab and lobster cakes with corn relish. And we had a lovely mixed green salad. Plus, a cupcake for dessert.
Then it was time to head out to the lawn for more reading in the beauty and quiet that we love so much here, with the always magical view of the harbor. I started a new book. More on that eventually in a separate post.
In late afternoon, we came back up to the room, then we caught the 6:30 shuttle into town for dinner at Ventuno. I explained two months ago how shocked I was to discover that our favorite restaurant in town, 21 Federal, had closed, unable to continue its lease. I wasn’t happy, but ended the post saying we would try its successor and report back in September. Ventuno is that successor. (Ventuno — get it? Twenty-one in Italian. I’ll admit that I didn’t get it until we were discussing the place with the White Elephant concierge three days ago.)
The location, 21 Federal Street, is an old home, with small rooms and small dining tables. The space is one of its charms. The food was the other. Ventuno has left the space intact. So far so good. And it has come up with a brilliant menu, with superb food. We couldn’t have been happier.
We sat at the very same two top as a year ago, a year ago to the very day. It’s private in a way, not pushed up against any other tables, but near the vibrant, loud bar, its one drawback. I was looking around at other tables, pointing out a space across from us where we ate a few years ago, quieter but with several two tops on top of each other. I speculated about whether one of those two tops, in the corner, would be more comfortable. I wasn’t looking to move, just wondering. I thought that if the room were packed, it might not be so enjoyable.
A half hour later, that room was packed, thanks to the arrival of a couple who took the corner two top. Gail pointed them out to me. A local couple. John Kerry and Teresa Heinz. They must be regulars, since Teresa knew enough to bring a small flashlight for menu studying. Their waitress spent at least five minutes going over it with them. All I could think of was, if only he won in 2004, though in that case he and Teresa probably wouldn’t be dining at Ventuno as they did tonight.
What did we eat? The online menu is a little out of date, but it does list our little starters, the meatballs and the chickpea fries. Next we had pastas that aren’t listed, very small servings, as the menu explains (at not so small prices). I had an extraordinary ravioli with braised chicken and sopressata in a light creamy sauce. Just four. Gail had some sort of tagliatelle dish. Next I had a veal porterhouse, also not on the online menu, with a lovely, light accompaniment: some slices of tomato, slices of potato, circles of onion, and lettuce. Gail had duck on farro with broccolini. For dessert, Gail had an apple crostata with mascarpone ice cream. I had honey vanilla, black raspberry, and chocolate gelati. The vanilla was unbelievable, the raspberry even more so. But that pasta! Wow. I can’t wait to go back.
When we left, we saw our dining neighbor John out on the street talking on his cell phone. Big business in DC? Who knows? We didn’t get to say goodnight. We took a lovely stroll around town, took the shuttle back to the Wauwinet, and sat on the back porch for a while. This has been the first clear evening. Stars. The moon. And, when I walked out to the lawn, rabbits. One ran away. Another stood there like a rock. Rabbit or not? I wasn’t sure. I circled it. Then it gave up its rock act and rotated, allowing me to see telltale white markings. Rabbit.
Now I’m in the room, writing this instead of reading. Time to stop.