28 Jul 2011

Fine Dining on Nantucket

Fine Dining on Nantucket

Remember the Stouffer’s commercial from the 80’s where the husband sits in awe at the head of his beautifully adorned dining room table? “So this is the dining room,” he quips as his wife serves the Stouffer’s meal on the fine china. We all chuckled because we could relate. It seemed our days gathered around the dining room table using the “good” dishes and crystal were quickly becoming a thing of the past. Then Erma Bombeck came along and reminded all of us life is short and we should pull the fine china out for every meal and gather our children around the dining room table as often as possible.

I love all the Nantucket restaurants, but there is perhaps no finer place to dine than at the home of a friend or my own dining room. I can safely say that 90% of all the relationships I’ve developed on this island originated at a dinner party. I love how each one is unique. Some friends pull out all the stops – tablescapes and 5 course meals. Others opt for casual fare and plastic utensils. One friend taught me the fine art of the “cook together.” The hostess provides all the ingredients and creates stations where groups of 2 or 3 people who don’t know each other well work together to create a dish. It’s great fun, easy on the hostess and creates a competitive spirit that flows over to the table where guests brag about who created the most delicious course.

I find that every dinner shared with friends is meaningful, but sometimes you get a jarring reminder of how precious these gatherings are. A few years ago our friends John and Gretchen called us in mid-June with a last minute Sunday night invitation to join “a few friends” for a “casual buffet dinner.” Those few friends turned out to be 60 people and the casual dinner was several courses featuring rack of lamb and peachberry cobbler. Mindblowing. Their home is a lovingly restored antique whose dining room could never hold all 60 of us. No room to gather around the table to bless the food or toast the meal, so we joined hands and made a long snake like pattern that wound down the hallway and through the quaint rooms as we gave thanks. We filled our plates and slid in beside a new friend on the back porch, the front stairwell and every empty space in between. A Nantucket night to remember. We didn’t know that special evening was the last time most of us would see John. A few short days later he was rushed off island with complications from an undiagnosed illness. A brief 2 months later he would depart Planet Earth and bid Nantucket a final farewell.

I still have the photo of our 2 apron clad hosts from that evening standing on their front porch as they beamed from ear to ear and waved to us as we departed. Every time I see it, it reminds me not to turn down a dinner invitation or put off hosting one of my own. Nantucket gives us so many opportunities to bring friends together for the formal dining experience or the casual clambake. But the fare is never what’s truly important. Whether it’s Stouffers or local Nantucket lobster, the purpose of the dining room event is to gather friends and loved ones for an evening of laughter, celebration and memory making.

This summer whether you are a Nantucket resident or short term visitor, be sure to experience fine dining on Nantucket. Make your way to the dining room table – your own or one of a friend. Share some laughs, break some bread and raise your glass to toast the island that gathers us around its collective table.

Dinner is served.

Shellie Dunlap

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