Marguerite’s – The Stuffie That Stole My Heart

After a relaxing trip to Martha’s Vineyard, it was time for the roadtrip home. People everywhere from Roadfood to Chowhound swore up and down that if we didn’t stop at Marguerite’s in Westport, MA, we were savage heathens who were missing a chance to experience really old fashioned, authentic New England fare.
We might be savage, but in NO WAY are we heathens.
We walked into a small, casual restaurant that was pretty empty at 11:45…
and by 12:30 the place was PACKED and there was a line out the door. Either there was an AARP drug smuggling situation going on here or the food was fantastic.
Either way, we were going to feel GREAT after lunch.
The clam chowder was in the upper echelon of clam chowders, for sure. Rich but not heavy, thick but not cloying, fresh and clam-y without being fishy or salty. Thick cut bacon and a heavy hand with the thyme added smoky and earthy notes to the incredibly fresh and comforting soup. We got the last cup of the day-at noon-and with good reason. If they had had more, I would have gotten at least one more cup, if not a bowl. It was that delicious.
Really, any time you can submerge crackers in pottery and come up with cream-injected carby goodness…it’s a great time.
You didn’t think I was ending this road trip without another stuffie, did you? And I am damn glad I didn’t. Because this was definitely the QUEEN OF THE QUAHOGS! The filling was incredibly moist, but not soggy or mushy. It had huge pieces of fresh and ridiculously tender clams, juicy and garlicky linguicia, sauteed peppers and onions, and enough spice in there to make me grab my water glass.
Yes, I know I should have reached for milk instead of water.
But since I’m not a 12 year old in the 1940′s…I don’t drink milk at meals.
The filling was homemade and might have even had cornbread in there…I detected a very earthy, hearty taste from the stuffing. The onions were properly translucent and the peppers still retained their snap and bite. This had a definite Latin flavor to it, with the heat and garlic from the linguicia. This was everything a stuffie should be-a symphony of clams, veggies, sausage and stuffing all combined into a moist but not gluten-y mixture that fills your mouth with the tastes of the sea and of the land.
Perfection.
I got the scallop Caesar salad, a special of the day that, under normal circumstances, I would NEVER have ordered. I feel strongly that Caesar salads with some type of protein on them in American cuisine-focused restaurants are one step up from ordering a hamburger at a taco place. But, something made me get this-perhaps the fact that the only vegetable I had eaten that week were potatoes in the fried form had something to do wit hit. And you know what? This was GREAT! Cheesy, lightly garlicky, lemony Caesar dressing that had none of the creamy gloop factor lesser dressings so often have. The Parmesan was nutty and sharp, the croutons were CLEARLY freshly made and the scallops were just outstanding. Sweet, meaty, almost tasting fatty in their smooth and rich quality. Truly the exception to the “don’t order the Caesar” rule.
And yet…I wouldn’t call Marguerite’s a destination restaurant. It was totally delicious, well priced and seemed to have something on the menu for everyone, but there wasn’t really a WOW factor, other than the quahogs. Those stuffies are definitely worth a stop, but paired with the rest of the food, this is more of a great stop on your way than a destination in and of itself. And I hope that you all do get a chance to visit Marguerite’s, which was the perfect way to end my Quahog Chronicles.
Marguerites Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A Local and Delightful Breakfast at the Hob Knob

When breakfast is included in the price of your hotel, it is really a shame not to take advantage of it. When the breakfast includes local and organic foods prepared to order, it is a SIN not to take advantage of it.
The Hob Knob bed and breakfast, a lovely small hotel in the heart of Edgartown, combined luxury with country warmth, and this showed in the lavish breakfast offered every morning.
The BEST grapefruit I have EVER eaten! Usually, grapefruits have an unpleasantly bitter edge to me, but this was incredibly sweet and bright, with none of the harsh taste I usually associate with grapefruits. I don’t know if they pumped this full of sugar or WHAT, but whatever they did, it was worth it! So incredibly delightful. There was also a very fresh, albeit less thrilling fruit salad.
Sorry, fruit salad, only the thrilling food gets photographed here.

Still warm from the oven blueberry-ginger scones. Buttery and almost impossibly light, this escaped the trap that so many scones fall into – being too dense or too sweet. This had a small, but not tight, crumb, which allowed it to be fluffy rather than leaden. Really remarkable. It was also not overly sweetened, and the juicy blueberries and slightly spicy chunks of candied ginger brought the necessary sweetness to the dish without making it a sugary overload. A smear of unsalted butter was all that was needed to bring this truly fantastic scone to the next level.
If that doesn’t make you swoon, you have a cold and unloving heart.
Soft boiled eggs, sourdough bread and thick cut, crispy bacon that was so incredibly porky that I almost wept with joy. It is so hard to get really thick cut bacon cooked perfectly, but this was simultaneously meaty and delicately crispy.
And that egg…
Oh, that egg. Procured from the Farm Institute up the road, it was local, organic, ethically produced and BEYOND delicious. The yolk was positively neon yellow, and the white was cooked just until it set, so it was velvety and smooth next to the thick viscosity of the runny yolk. Eggs are just so satisfying when they are really good eggs cooked really well, and this one really fit the bill.
My sister’s main dish of Eggs Benedict was none too shabby either.
If you have a chance, get yourself over to the Hob Knob. It is family owned and run, is eco-friendly, and is incredibly homey. Though they are quite expensive in season, off season their rooms are a steal! And any time, their breakfasts are affairs to remember.

Mary Ellen’s Portuguese Bakery -Pork-o-Palooza!

After a somewhat mediocre meal at Sam’s, I wasn’t holding out high hopes for breakfast. Sure, there might be lobster rolls to be had in summer mornings, but what about late spring? I was pretty much counting on a Starbucks pastry. Then, somewhere, I read about this little gem. 
Mary Ellen’s Portuguese bakery is a small diner/bakery that serves diner standards as well as traditional Portuguese fare. When we walked in at 7 a.m., the place was hopping with local men and women, many of whom, we noticed, had their food brought to them without even ordering and had specific coffee cups in the mismatched plate ware. It was a total family, community affair, but we were quickly seated,  treated like we had been there all of our lives instead of being a few interlopers.
 And really…any restaurant that serves a plethora of pork in the morning is going to get patronized by me.
Before we sat down, we surveyed the bakery counter, which had all sorts of conventional and Portuguese specialty baked goods. There was a cheese and linguicia bread that looked amazing…
But we settled on this Portuguese doughnut. More a fried brioche than a sweet bread, it was covered in powder-fine crystallized sugar that made it sugary but not cloyingly so. A perfect precursor to our meal.
 
The linguicia and egg sandwich on a Portuguese roll was really perfection. The linguicia was zesty with red pepper, sweet with the pork and perfectly moist, the way good linguicia is. The thin omelette was the perfect light counterpart to the heavy sausage, and the bread was totally fantastic. Thick but not dense, soft still substantial, it totally held in all the grease (we call that flavor, here) but had such a supple crust that my teeth easily tore through it, with none of the tug and war one needs with a ciabatta or baguette.
Dontcha just love a culture who eats stewed pork at all times of the day or night? This Cacoila (slow braised Brazilian pork) was tender but not at all mushy, and served with a piquant, spicy broth that was full of vinegar and chilies. Though the sauce was sour, tangy and zesty all at once, what was amazing was how strong the pork flavor shone through here. There was none of the garlicky, onion-y flavor of the linguicia here. The vinegar and chilies just brought out the pork’s inherent moistness and sweet flavor. This was rich but not at ALL heavy, also unlike the linguicia.
It was so not heavy, I could have eaten 3 of them.
Mary Ellen’s Portuguese bakery may have been my favorite find of the trip. Kind service, unbelievably cheap prices, and some of the most delicious breakfast food that I have ever had the privilege of shoveling down my gullet. Get yourself to Mary Ellen’s if you find yourself in Falmouth.
Don’t worry…somehow Starbucks will find the business to survive.
Mary Ellen's Portuguese Bakery on Urbanspoon

Seafood Sam’s in Falmouth, MA

Are you interested in knowing what is open in March on Cape Cod? The hospital, the mechanic and probably the local brothel. But most of the restaurants, from the elegant French inspired fare of fine dining establishments to the one room shacks on the beach that serve steamers dripping in butter, are closed for the season.
 Which is why when we saw Seafood Sam’s on the road, we pulled over and hollered in glee. For awhile there, it looked like it was going to be Fritos and beef jerky for dinner.
Not that I mind that for dinner. Actually, I quite like that meal with a bottle of ice-cold root beer.
Anyway…
Seafood Sam’s was incredibly casual with a kitschy seafaring theme that included giant lobsters and paintings of lighthouses that were meant to look antique, but gave off more of a Home Goods feel.
Obviously, I loved it. I’m a theater gal at hear – kitschy is great by me.
Clam chowder. Thick, hearty, a bit too creamy for my tastes, but with enough thyme and pepper to make it interesting. Chunks of potato and large pieces of clams. Wish it was a bit more “clam” than “chowder,” but that’s just my preference.
And it certainly did pass the “Can this chowder hold a utensil upright for at least 5 seconds” test. 
Stuffed Quahog. This was great – the filling was almost creamy, with a peppery, spicy kick and large slivers of melt-in-your-mouth clams. A spritz of lemon brought a light and acidic note to the whole affair. Note that I did NOT put the butter on the stuffie…even though I REALLY wanted to!
Baked Seafood Platter with lobster, haddock, scallop and shrimp, topped with butter and breadcrumbs. This was the downer of the meal. Mealy lobster and oily scallops. The haddock was tender and mild and the shrimps were really good-quite tender and buttery, with a salty, ocean-fresh flavor. But the seafood was generally disappointing. It might have been fresh, but it tasted mushy and greasy. Major fail.
BEANS! These baked beans were the real deal-sweet, smokey, saucy with firm yet creamy beans. The beans’ hearty earthiness was a perfect counterpoint to the briny seafood that comprised the rest of the meal.
All in all, Sam’s was good, but not great. The quahog was delicious but the seafood platter and clam chowder were mixed bags. Luckily, those really awesome beans put the meal over the top. Sam’s was cheap and pretty good, but more of a meal on the go, not a destination place. 
You know, like fritos and beef jerky…which, like I said, makes a totally awesome dinner.
Seafood Sam's on Urbanspoon

Mario’s Bakery, Fall River – A Middle Eastern Vacation

Just so there is no confusion out there…naming this road trip, the Quahog Chronicles, has way more to do with WHERE to road trip is (Up the coast of Southern New England) than WHAT we ate. Sure, we ate a lot of quahogs, but not at every meal. Like not at this one, for example:
We were driving right through Fall River, MA, which has a huge Portuguese population, but did you know it also has quite a substantial Lebanese population?
Me either! Thanks to a few food-centric friends, I was directed to Mario’s for a quick stop through the Middle East.
*We were 45 minutes away from the spot when I called and asked what time they closed – half an hour. Upon hearing how disappointed I was, Maroun offered to keep the store opened for an extra 20 minutes for us. This was without my mentioning I would review him or him even knowing if I would show. This was just because he wanted someone new to experience his food and the love he has for his culture’s culinary identity. He didn’t have to stay open – we certainly weren’t buying mass quantities of food – but for Mario, it wasn’t all about the money. This is the kind of place that we, as food lovers MUST patronize to ensure they stay in business with all the big boys. Ok, now off soapbox and back to food porn*
The scents of fresh baking bread, cinnamon and garlic all greeted us as we entered the tiny store.
Luckily, Mario had a mop on hand to wipe up the drool that dribbled out of my mouth.
It aint’ fancy, and you KNOW how I feel about that…
LOVE IT!
 Just a brick oven, a fridge full of dough to go, a few Lebanese seasonings and ingredients for sale and…
 Lots of these fabulous meat filled pies. They were incredibly cheap and…
incredibly delicious!

The dough was reminiscent of slightly thicker pizza dough-floury, yeasty, a bit chewy and with excellent hole structure. The meat was fragrant, spicy, sweet and just freakin delicious. Cinnamon, cardamom, red pepper, oregano…who the hell KNOWS what was in there? It was incredibly complex – way more intricate than shwarma, yet not at all greasy or heavy. It was – dare I say – light? It was meaty and satisfying, but that was it. Not too heavy, not too spicy, just perfectly balanced. If you like Moroccan or Middle Eastern food, you will simply LOVE this.
I mean, I loved 4 of them.  
And that was before I loved this dessert bread. The same slightly sour, pliant dough laden with nutty sesame seeds and lashings of sweet honey. Sweet, nutty, doughy…what sounds wrong with that sentence?
 Nothing, according to my sister.
My favorite bread was a shocker – the freebie that Maroun gave us for all of our enthusiasm. This was simply bread covered in the house blended za’atar. All I have to say is…
WHAT THE HECK KIND OF CARDBOARD SHAVINGS HAVE I BEEN EATING ALL THIS TIME?
NEVER have I had za’atar like this. One bite kicked me in the face and practically jettisoned me to the Dead Sea, Lebanon and all other places Middle East. It was incredibly aromatic, almost like a savory perfume (not like rosewater though…HATE rosewater), and there was a powerful citrus taste that really made the bread wheatier and the sesame seeds meatier. Not at all salty or spicy, but with that evasive, mouthwatering flavor known as umami, it was just impossible to stop eating. It begged only for a tiny bit of the yogurt that Mario sold. 
Can’t believe I didn’t buy that yogurt when I had the chance.
Sometimes, I hate myself.
But I sure as hell don’t hate Mario’s! This place is run by the kindest lover of food who just can’t wait to share his cultural legacy with you via meat pies and other goodies. It is cheap, it is delicious, and it is the type of place that…well you know where I am going with this.
You have to support it…you just have to. They deserve to stay open.

And you deserve to see some more quahogs on these Quahog Chronicles!
With that, we continue northward…