An unforgettable long weekend at the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival
I traveled to the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival this past weekend, thanks to Stella Artois. Read on below for my favorite moments from the trip!
When Stella Artois invited me to experience the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival and ring in Cidre Season with them in Nantucket, Massachusetts, declining was not an option. Everyone I know who's been to Nantucket raves about it -- and now, I'm one of those people.
I'll take you day by day, sharing the picture-perfect activities I took part in, the delicious food and wine in which I indulged and a few fun facts I learned along the way. Join me, and I promise I won't make you too hungry!
Who am I kidding? I'm about to make you very, very hungry.
DAY 1: Thursday, May 18
When I touched down on the island, a kind local took our group to the Nantucket Hotel & Resort. It took me a mere two minutes to realize I was on the most serene and picturesque island I'd ever visited. The hotel was named No. 1 in the country by TripAdvisor in 2016, so I knew I was in for a real treat -- but even so, when I opened the door to my room (I stayed in a Mariner Suite), I was in awe. It was the epitome of New England charm (complete with a friendly note on the ceiling telling me to mind my head where it dipped a bit too low). The television was playing "You've Got a Friend in Me" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on repeat, so you get the endearing picture. There was also a sweet card from the hotel staff, accompanied by a mini box of chocolate-covered raisins and cranberries from Aunt Leah's Fudge -- a local shop in town. A Poolside tote (much like this one), courtesy of Stella Artois, was also waiting for me in the room, filled with a blanket and Nantucket sweatshirt (as it turns out, I'd need them), snacks, cans of Cidre and an umbrella (I didn't need that, *insert raised hands emoji here*).
Our group ate a quick and delicious lunch at the Breeze Restaurant in the hotel (I tried a little bit of the burger and caprese sandwich -- and fries, of course -- and it all hit the spot) before heading out for our Happy Hour Boat Cruise at the Nantucket Boat Basin (where there was more food and Cidre to sip on, of course). As you can imagine, the ride on Mad Max was the perfect welcome.
See photos from the cruise below:
As soon as we dolled ourselves up, it was time for the Harbor Gala at The White Elephant (another gorgeous Nantucket hotel down the street, where essentially all the major festival events took place). It was there where the tasting fun began, after being greeted with a glass of Veuve Clicquot at the entrance. Everywhere I subsequently turned, there was either a tempting dish or drink I needed to try. I admittedly haven't always been the most adventurous eater, but I made all sorts of exceptions on this trip -- and I don't regret a single one.
A few of my favorite dishes from the Harbor Gala include:
- Short Rib Ragout with Parmesan Polenta, Peas & Fava Beans from Brant Point Grill
- Gnocchi al Zafferano Gorgonzola from The Westmoor Club
- Scallops from The SeaGrille
- Whipped Ricotta with Grilled Broccoli Rabe & Truffle, topped with Crispy Pancetta from Station 21
- Lamb Sausage Sliders from The Proprietors
Now, let's talk my favorite wine:
- Cranberry Infused Pinot Gris from Cisco Brewers
- Sauvignon Blanc from Long Meadow Ranch
- Opus One 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec) from Opus One Winery
We ended the night by roasting s'mores as a group on the back patio of our hotel in our Nantucket sweatshirts and under our warm blankets. It couldn't have been a more fitting end to our unforgettable first day.
DAY 2: Friday, May 19
I started my day with an 8 a.m. yoga class, taught by Pat D. downstairs in the hotel -- and it was, without question, worth the early wake-up call. The gentle class essentially felt like a hardcore stretching session, and it was just what I needed to wake my body up for the day.
After the hour-long class, we made our way up the Breeze Restaurant again for the complimentary continental breakfast. I chose a yummy cinnamon chip scone (we all decided it tasted like a brown sugar Pop-Tart), strawberries and lots and lots of coffee.
The Stella Artois Picnic Experience at the Great Harbor Yacht Club was next on the agenda, and the set-up was straight out of a movie. We ate a delicious four-course meal by Chef Andre Marrero (I tried mussels for the first time, ladies and gents) and played bocce ball by the water.
Choosing favorites from this meal is nearly impossible, but here goes nothing:
- Vegetarian Flatbread: Parsley Pesto, Pickled Shallots, Fontina Cheese, Topped with Arugula
- Grilled Prime Ribeye Cap Steak with Crushed Marble Potatoes
- Stella Artois Cidre Float: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Drizzled with Stella Artois Cidre-infused Caramel)
See photos from the breathtaking picnic below:
After indulging, it was time to walk around the cobblestone streets and explore the shops that we had tantalizingly driven by multiple times. It took a lot of restraint not to buy everything in sight, but I ended up treating myself to earrings from Milly & Grace (the cutest little store I ever did see) and a camel tote from Vis - A - Vis. Bodega, Four Winds Gifts and It's a Shore Thing were other stand-out stops. We recharged our batteries with coffee from Island Coffee Roasters just in time to venture to 76 Main, an adorable B&B that a local store owner told us we had to go and see. And once we were hit with the strong aroma of freshly baked cookies upon walking in, we understood why.
That evening, we made our way The Proprietors Bar and Table for dinner, and it felt as though we were inside a local's home. We tried a total of 11 (yes, ELEVEN) different dishes -- and you know the drill, here are my top picks:
- Pretzel Fritters: Bentons Smoked Pork Jowl, Beer Cheese, Mustard Seed
- Carrot Hummus: House Naan, Dukkha Spice
- Fried Broccoli: Peanuts, Slaw, Sambal Vinaigrette
- Rye Cavatelli: Currants, Chickpeas, Kale, Brown Butter
- Cannelloni of Braised Short Rib: Taleggio Fondue, Peas, Black Trumpet Mushrooms
DAY 3: Saturday, May 20
As soon as I was ready on Saturday morning, I moseyed down to the hotel lobby to have a cup of coffee. I took it out to the scenic porch while I waited for the rest of the group, and I immediately knew it was going to be a chilly day. As long as I didn't need to put that umbrella to use, though, I was not complaining.
At the Harbor Breakfast that morning, the omelette station was by far the most popular (I had mine with onions, tomatoes and cheese). Okay, okay, I also devoured a chocolate croissant -- and a few of us decided we couldn't not visit the cupcake station (sorry, not sorry). I washed it all down with a mimosa, of course.
Immediately following the Harbor Breakfast, our group had a private Stella Artois Cidre Tasting with Master Cicerone Max Bakker, complete with Bleu cheese, creamy Brie, Cremont cheese and strawberries. Aside from learning that my new favorite cheese is Cremont, here are a few other fun facts Max taught us:
- If you drink beer or cider straight from the bottle, essentially four bottles of CO2 are going straight into your stomach. Pouring it into a glass -- straight down the middle with vigor -- releases the carbonation.
- Use your dominant hand during a tasting, so your brain has to think less about the approach and more about the smelling and tasting.
- "What grows together, goes together." Things that grow on a farm often pair well together.
- "Richness" is just a really fancy word for "fat," and it comes from butter, vegetables (like avocado) and oils.
As if we weren't already bursting at the seams, we walked over to the Grand Tasting in another tent shortly after, where the pork belly from Newport Beach House and the Thai-style shrimp and pork sausage from The Table at Season to Taste were highlights. Whispering Angel Rosé was my drink of choice.
During downtime that afternoon, a new friend and I consulted our hotel concierge for other coffeeshop recommendations. She suggested we try The Corner Table Cafe, so off we went. We sat at the picnic tables outside of the café, chatted and took in the gorgeous weather before strolling around the shops again, because, well, we couldn't resist.
Dinner at a very busy CRU on the water that evening did not disappoint. I had the Lobster Bisque (with hushpuppies), Chicken Under a Brick (with roasted potatoes, escarole, white anchovy and parmesan dressing) and a Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pie (with vanilla bean buttercream). The bisque and hushpuppies won the night, hands down.
DAY 4: Sunday, May 21
I had one goal for my last day in Nantucket: to finally get homemade ice cream that everyone else had been raving about. But first, there was more food and drinks to be had at the Jazz Brunch in the main tent, where long tables with white table cloths and flower centerpieces awaited. I filled my plate with scrambled eggs, a cheese danish, strawberries and shrimp and grits. I also sipped on what ended up being my favorite Stella Artois Cidre cocktail of the entire trip (they saved the best for last, if you ask me).
The "Blushing Fancy" contained:
- 6 oz. Stella Artois Cidre
- 1 oz. Ginger Beer
- Lemon Zest & Cherries to Garnish
When the brunch was over, it was go-time. A bunch of us stopped at an ATM (tip: Juice Bar Homemade Ice Cream only accepts cash and local checks), and we finally stepped foot into the famed ice cream shop. The hotel concierge raved about the "Carl" flavor (chocolate ice cream, marshmallows and chocolate chips), so I had to give it a whirl. I ordered it in a homemade waffle cup (a MUST-try) and topped it with whipped cream. Day made. We took our ice cream to Brant Point Light (about a 15-minute walk away), took in the impeccable view and yes, had a photo shoot.
Shortly after returning to our hotel to gather our belongings before reluctantly leaving, we discovered that our flight was delayed by about three hours. Our Stella hosts were quick on their feet and planned a lunch for us at Sandbar Jetties Beach Bar, right on the water. We rode to our destination on the Nantucket Hotel's antique fire truck -- and let's just say, we quickly forgot about our flight delay. We had a blast.
If you're craving a rather sweet drink, try the frosé (frozen rosé), and don't leave without ordering the crispy calamari, fish & chips and street corn. Lastly, walk down the nearby path to the water, watch the stunningly blue water glisten and immediately start planning your trip back to Nantucket.
At least that's what I did.