Company of the Cauldron
Two days ago, as we were about to depart from Nantucket, I wrote about our dinner last Friday at Ventuno. The next night we ate at Company of the Cauldron, which is just around the corner. It is equally deserving of a post.
I explained last year that despite walking past regularly on previous visits, I was never curious to try it. Something about the darkened room, the odd name, the people crowded together in the small space enjoying themselves too much. And the nightly fixed menu, everyone arriving at the same time and eating the same meal, one I feared might not suit my taste.
Truth is, the fixed menu issue isn’t a big deal. They post the menu for the coming week each Friday, online and onsite. No surprises. Gail insisted last year that we try it, and when we did I wrote, “Why oh why did we wait so long to eat there?” We didn’t wait so long again. I grabbed a printed copy of the menu as we were walking by last week and we decided to spend our last evening of this year’s stay there.
This time, I was facing into the room rather than the wall, allowing me to get a much better sense of just how beautifully furnished that dark room is. Fortunately, I don’t have to work too hard to capture it in words. I can turn to Malcolm Wilson, restaurant reviewer for Cape Cod Times, who is quoted at the restaurant website.
This little Nantucket restaurant has charm written all over it — from its dark red, ivy-framed, single-story front, pierced by small-paned windows, to its darkly handsome, romantic-as-a-novel interior.
The inside’s post-and-beam and rough plaster construction seems more like a stage set than interior design. And careful decoration gives Company of the Cauldron one of the prettiest dining rooms around.
Copper pans hang on the walls, along with a full-rigged half model ship. Pie-plate sconces are set with flickering candles, and, overhead, there are pierced antique tin lanterns and large, gracefully curved chandeliers for soft lighting.
Antique ship paintings on the walls and boat models hanging from the ceilings seem secure in their antiquity. Tables are covered with flowered cloths, and there are real candles in brass holders and tea roses in vases.
In addition to the candle sconces and the hanging fixtures, each table has its own candle, providing enchanting, more than sufficient lighting of food and companions. As for the name, the website provides the explanation:
Lorenzo The Magnificent, born April 8, 1449, died April 9, 1492 was one of the leaders of the Republic of Florence, and went on to become the most important Medici of the Italian Renaissance. While better known for his political achievements, his interests included gastronomy. Waverley Root tells us that the first cooking academy since Roman times was established in Florence. It was called the Company of the Cauldron; each member had to create a new dish for every meeting. Lorenzo supposedly composed songs honoring the chefs and olive oil makers.
Here is the menu for the dinner we had:
Jumbo lump crab cake with a chard corn salad, basil and tomatoes.
Twin tournedos of tenderloin with two sauces: green peppercorn au poivre and red onion demi over citrus thyme, fingerling potatoes.
Vanilla bean panna cotta with cassis and passion fruit curd and shortbread crumble.
Especially noteworthy is the high quality of all ingredients. The corn salad was stunning. I could have made a meal of it alone. Every little morsel was special. Likewise, the beef was as fine as any I can remember having in a long time. As for the panna cotta, there must have been a last-minute change. We had lemon curd, with some other fruit flavor, some berry. I can’t remember. No matter. I couldn’t have been happier. I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long for our next visit.