Whether you live on the Island or you’re a visitor, one of the sweetest things to receive is an invitation. An invitation beyond a gated, keyed beach, to a friend’s home, or a stranger’s studio to soak in the magic that is Martha's Vineyard. Come step inside Makers Table.
What happens when you throw down experiences on Martha's Vineyard for 88 people who have never met in locations like a historic whaling captain’s home, open fields, Island farms, a fantastically martian-like hydroponic greenhouse or the deck of a pirate ship at sea in Vineyard Sound?
How do things unfold when you serve a collection of guests the best of Island bounty harvested and foraged earlier that day from the sea, and the Island’s rich fields and hydroponic nurseries bursting with summer-time freshness?
Imagine musicians with impressive liner note credits (Grateful Dead, James Taylor, The Smithereens etc!) as they share their melodic magic, historians telling tall tales of Vineyard sailors and the high seas, artists creating live works of fine art and performance artists dance as guests mill, munch, and sip.
This is the Makers Table. We shared boards of expertly cooked native foods at long tables lighted by candles under the moon to islanders and summertime visitors; food writers, fisherman, shop owners, publishers, lawyers, actors, clowns, sailors, and billionaires gathered at each romantic, no rules apply, joints beneath-the-stars. Shellfish biologists, native fish experts and farmers --knit together their knowledge of aquaculture, sea and soil remediation, and sustainable eating-culture to help us discover new ways of doing old things responsibly, in ways that taste great. When a visitor from LA asked how she could snag a ticket, we were thrilled to say...YOU ARE INVITED, everyone is invited!
The Makers Table dinner series began with a passion for connecting people to the story of the food we eat--how it is planted, fished, farmed and prepared to serve a host of pallets; then turned back into the soil and sea to nourish and sustain delicate ecosystems for years to come. In the end, the mix of adventure and unparalleled food yielded camaraderie mixing the best ingredients for a perfect party--food, friends and dreamy settings. Engaging people from a zillion different mailing addresses at one long, boisterous table where everyone shared an interest in digging into the stories about food--how it is farmed and fished, and how it can be turned out in myriad delectable styles.
Katama Bay and Cottage City Oysters were a menu mainstay. Salty sea beans, miniature fairytale eggplant from Milkweed Farm, amaranth and red Shishu from Morning Glory Farm, North Tabor Farm tomatoes and Beetlebung Farms carrots and leeks….and sea candy, sea scallops landed directly in Menemsha after a 20-year sidetrack to mainland distributors were shucked and delivered directly to our table.
Meanwhile, the folks from Frog’s Leap Vineyard poured 500 bottles of wine--roughly 48 bottles of Rose, 200 bottles of white and the balance poured in reds. And, there is not a drop left from Bad Martha’s 275 growlers of beer.
And the "plancha. Stoked with hardwood by a brilliant team of cooks from Jamaica, Brazil, and Croatia. The boys' minced fresh herbs to turn out nasturtium vinaigrette while minding toast points on the grill. They chopped firewood, prepared delicate vegetables and filleted and flipped strippers, bluefish and black bass under the direction of the chief, Chef Spring Sheldon whose special touch and grace with meals for a crowd wowed guests all along.
Each Maker's Table was underscored by nuance and surprise. Locations included space abutting the lagoon on a thick pea stone expanse at the MV Shipyard. We visited the Blue Barque in Chilmark, one of six tea houses on the island in the 1920's, where Emily Post and friends gathered for tea, cards, and likely, to sip sherry and champagne during Prohibition. At the Whiting Farm, animals and art flourished on the heels of the release of the film featuring Whiting and his wife Lynne in “A Farmer who Paints." (Look for Whiting's work on the set of Larry David's “Curb your Enthusiasm,” there's a huge oil in Larry's living room that will bring you back to the island.) At the Island Grown Initiative's Farm Hub, we snacked on hydroponically grown sweet cherry tomatoes and learned about creating resilient food systems. And a few guests stowed away inside the walk-in cooler to beat the heat.
At Beetlebung Farm, eight island women celebrated a milestone birthday with a surprise party at the chef's table. The plant-based menu was rooted, raw, and ridiculously delicious. Naysayers wrapped up the evening asking, "what was that incredible cheese?" Almond, cashew chive creama, prepared by guest chef Ky---from Not Your Sugar Mamas. Others were knocked over by the meaty goodness of island-grown mushrooms served in a truffled risotto, on toast points and digestive broths. MVM shiitake mushrooms were served at all of our feasts validating their street-rep as powerful brain food rich in vitamin B, D, anti-inflammatory and weight loss properties (peer-reviewed by Handayani: Food & Nutrition Sciences, 2012). In fact, a producer from NY left the table that night with an oak log cultivated with the savory spores--the fruit of the fungus made the coolest souvenir of the summer season.
Behind the scenes, staff murmured about a love connection between a Croatian sous chef and server. We gossiped for weeks then discovered the pair has been engaged for six years. We dug into trays of leftovers, cheered to our success finishing off bottles of Frogs Leap and spent some late night swimming with the phosphorescents, celebrating being a great team and resting our weary legs.
The sign of a great party is captured by the intensifying volume of the guests, deep connections made by strangers, the unexpected burst of fireworks, clear serving trays and sometimes, what’s left behind. A cell phone, a fine cashmere sweater, a mascara wand the size of a Scout’s flashlight, and a dubious publication that was likely wrapped in brown craft paper and sold behind the counter of a newsstand.
While the initial draw of the Makers Tables was Martha’s Vineyard cultural immersion, what happened was magic, education, and some crazy dancing. It was super satisfying to follow Instagram threads from guests and hosts who met at one event making plans to sit together at the next island makers table. Guests were invited to eat with ease, put down their cameras, learn a little and talk a lot, and that is what the Vineyard is all about.
-JenWool for Farm.Field.Sea.
Blood Orange Fluke Ceviche with Spring Vegetables
Ceviche is a classic Mexican dish and can be prepared in a multitude of ways. It’s great for warm weather and perfect for parties. Here we use locally caught fish and fresh spring vegetables, served over a bright pink blood orange and chipotle aioli. This is simple, easy and a great way to impress your guests. If fluke is not in season, any light white fish will do such as black bass or tautog.
1/2 pound fresh fluke, cut into small bite-size cubes
1 cup fresh peas, shelled
5 stalks asparagus, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, finely minced
5 radishes, thinly sliced
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1 blood orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 chipotle pepper, chopped VERY finely (use canned chipotles here, not dried!)
Salt and pepper
For aioli base:
Mix together mayonnaise, chipotle and 2 tbsp blood orange juice. Season with a bit of salt to taste. Set aside.
Combine fish and 2 tbsp of lemon of lemon juice. Let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.
In a small pot, quickly blanche first the peas and then the asparagus. Run them under cold water when you remove from the hot water. This is to prevent them from cooking further and turning brown.
Remove the fish from the fridge, add red onion, radish, peas, asparagus, cilantro and 2 tbsp blood orange juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread your beautiful pink mayonnaise onto a dish, spoon ceviche over it. Garnish with cilantro springs, flowers, Maldon sea salt or a little chili pepper on top. Serve with corn chips.
More from Spring here.
Have you ever cooked venison? For us, it's food that we imagine as part of a King's feast. Off-Island (we are told) its a foodies luxury menu item. Here on Island, it's a winter staple. Part population control and part tradition, hunters stock multiple freezers full, share fresh cuts with neighbors and gift to those in need. In search of the perfect venison recipe, I turned to Brian Athearn, a local businessman, passionate hunter, and new president of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. If you can't find venison via a local hunter - get in touch, we might be able to hook you up :).
Brian Athearn's Venison Stew.
· 2-4 tablespoons olive oil for browning
· 2 pounds venison stew meat
· 2 lb Venison burger
· 3 large onions, coarsely chopped
· 4 garlic cloves, crushed
· 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
· 2 tablespoons of A1 steak Sauce
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 1 tablespoon salt
· 1 teaspoon pepper
· 3 cups water
· 5 potatoes, peeled and quartered
· 2 Lbs of diced Parsnips
· 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
· I bag frozen peas
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or a few tblsp corn starch)
· 1/4 cup cold water
· I use one container of venison Demi-Glace in each batch that we make from the bones (or you can use a little Hoisin sauce)
Note: He uses a crock pot most of the time or a pressure cooker. So translate to dumping into cooker for that option.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or thick bottom pot. Brown meat. You can remove the meat and deglaze the bottom with a half cup of red wine. Add onions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, oregano, salt, pepper and water. Simmer, covered, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender. Add potatoes and carrots and parsnips. Continue to cook until vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes. Mix flour and cold water; stir into stew ( you can use arrow root as well for gluten free). Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add browning sauce if desired. Add peas a the last minute and stir. Remove bay leaf.
Let us know how your stew turns out - will you share your pictures on Facebook?
Penned by the staff of Farm. Field. Sea. and inspired by the experiences of working with Martha's Vineyard's chefs, farmers, fisherman, oyster cultivators, artisan producers and food educators.