Cool culinary things around the Island, and the people who make them

M.V. Sea Salt products come in an array of sizes and Vineyard-inspired blends. —Dena Porter

M.V. Sea Salt

With the goal of contributing to the local food movement with the smallest possible carbon footprint, Curtis and Heidi Feldman brought local sea salt production back to Martha’s Vineyard in 2013, after a nearly 200-year hiatus. The company offers a variety of salt blends, with new combinations hitting the shelves each year. “This year we are most excited to bring our seventh blend to the market — hot peppers and sea salt,” Heidi told us recently. “Several varieties of hot peppers were grown and dried at Thimble Farm by Alex of Naughty by Farming. We’re psyched that our 3.5-ounces-by-volume, handblown, earth- and sea-friendly SEAGlass containers will be joined by their smaller cousin, (yet to be named) 2-ounces-by-volume containers, which will replace the Hostess plastic-faced bag.” With this change, all of M.V. Sea Salt’s packaging will now be reusable. Between the permaculture farming methods, locally sourced ingredients, and recyclable packaging, the creation of this product is as pure as its taste.  

—Gabe Bellebuono

New knives from old metal 

When you’re making a dish that requires some chopping and find your knives too dull, what do you do? Me, I’d probably order new knives on Amazon, grab some takeout, and call it a night. 

Not Gabe Bellebuono. His knifemaking began after he visited his aunt, and realized that all of her kitchen knives were “dull to the point of no return.” So he went home, and made a knife out of an old lawnmower blade. 

Bellebuono started blacksmithing as a hobby about seven years ago, and makes a variety of handcrafted sculptures and cutlery. He says that taking a piece of junk mental and repurposing it has become his addiction. He finds metal on Island beaches or in the woods, and sometimes uses driftwood to make handles for the knives. He’s developed a specialty of making knives from railroad spikes he foraged from a scrapyard in Georgia; his inventory ranges from day-to-day kitchen and carry knives to knives suited for more heavy-duty tasks, such as butchering. Customers also purchase knives for decorative purposes, and to be displayed as the works of art that they truly are. You can find Gabe on Facebook.

Mimi’s Hittin the Sauce —Edible Vineyard

Mimi’s Hittin the Sauce 

Utilizing local resources to build preserved edible goods is nothing new to Cathy and Mark Peters. Cathy started making jellies in the ’80s from the rosehips and beach plums she found along our Island’s shores. Mark has always found the garden to be his happy place, and one summer the couple harvested an abundance (about 75 pounds) of Roma tomatoes. Cathy went straight to work concocting and canning enough salsa to fill her shelves, and her family’s stockings around the holidays. After a few years of repeating this cycle, the couple realized that they should be taking advantage of all the excess juice produced in the salsa making. Cathy added some peppers from her garden, tailored the sauce to her ideal spiciness, and the rest is history. The hot sauce has since won multiple awards, is available at various retail locations around the Island; it’s also donated and sent overseas through the Support Our Troops Foundation. As far as the eccentric name of the product goes, Cathy came up with a poem that explains it all: “So you want to know how it came to be, I’m not that old but am a Mimi. My grandma Margie liked her ‘afternoon tea,’ So ‘hittin’ the sauce’ is in remembrance of she. I hope you enjoy the concoctions from me. Bring some gifts homemade on a rock in the sea’.” 

Fella’s BBQ Sauce —Edible Vineyard

Fella’s BBQ Sauce

Fella Cecelio has made a name for himself on Martha’s Vineyard through his heavenly homestyle cooking, via his catering and cafe. Fella and Jane kicked off their brand in 1984 as a country barbeque catering company. While both his cooking style and his business have expanded since then, one thing has remained the same: his barbeque sauce. Its savory and smoky tang is unique not only to your taste buds, but to the Vineyard — it is only packaged and sold locally. Fella recommends either smothering it all over your favorite meat, or incorporating it into your recipe for baked beans. This is the kind of sauce that might end up all over your face and the front of your shirt, but sacrificing your dignity is well worth the flavor. 

—Courtesy Up-Island Pottery

Up-Island Pottery 

Culinary arts celebrates both the food we consume and how it is presented to us. Cathy Shweder works on the latter, through her company Up-Island Pottery. She has been throwing in her studio on-Island for over 30 years, and describes her work as “anything that can be used on the table.”  She makes plates, bowls, pie plates, vases, mugs, and more, with a focus on making oven-safe what she can. Her work features bright colors and floral patterns. While her products are aesthetically pleasing, she aims to create only pieces that have a use; she describes herself as being “not one for knickknacks.” Her work can be found at various Vineyard Artisans Festivals over the summer, or by request.

Honey from Island Bee Company. Michael Cummo

Island Bee Co. Honey

Tim Colon and Tricia Sirakovsky of Island Bee Co. run a small family apiary where they manage about 100 hives. They not only produce and sell honey, but also a variety of moisturizers and candles made from their beeswax, honeycomb, and propolis tinctures. Additionally, they are exploring the production of electuaries (a medicinal substance mixed with something sweet, often honey), beeswax food wraps, and pollen products. All their goods are pure and raw, as they keep their practice chemical-free. Their products are constantly evolving, as Tricia explains: “We harvest many times throughout the season, so we get honey of different flavors and colors as the season progresses.” This all depends on the variety of flowers in bloom from which the bees can extract pollen and nectar. The couple frequently travels to expand their knowledge and perspective, and have most recently been influenced by a group of Bahamian beekeepers. Tricia describes her craft as being difficult and yet rewarding, and this company’s beekeeping bestows rewards on both our ecosystem and our culinary repertoire. 

—Courtesy Washashore Beer

Washashore Beer — John Clift, Joe Monteiro, and Chad and Michelle Verdi

There are few ingredients I enjoy cooking with more than beer. In my opinion, the faint flavor of a crisp, citrusy hop is the perfect complement to all summer cooking. Dredge your fish in a beer batter before frying it, stuff a half-full can inside the carcass of a chicken and toss the whole thing on the grill, or throw a splash over some simmering vegetables, as long as you don’t forget to hydrate yourself with it as well. Thanks to the Washashore team, this ingredient can be sourced and foraged locally. Just a few “wash-ashores” themselves, this team of four has a passion for craft organic beer. Lucky for us, they made this dream a reality in the form of Island-born craft brews, available at various restaurants and liquor stores on the Vineyard. Each beer variety donates to a relevant organization. For example, the Maya Mae IPA (my personal favorite) not only sports owner Joe Monteiro’s dog on the can, but a portion of its proceeds go to local animal shelters. Their summer wheat ale originally hit the shelves with the name “boy meets girl,” but since has expanded its awareness with cans dubbed “girl meets girl” and “boy meets boy.”  

—Courtesy M.V. Kimchi

M.V. Kimchee 

There has been a recent boom in enthusiasm for all things fermented, and more specifically toward kimchee. This is nothing new to Jeisook Thayer; she claims, “Kimchee is to Koreans as potatoes are to the Irish.” She has made Martha’s Vineyard her home, and brought her native Korean expertise to Vineyard shelves about six years ago. Her recipe is based on her childhood memories of learning about the fermentation process from the women in her village. She prides herself on producing a probiotic-rich food with no sugar, no MSG, and no fish products, which is important for health and taste. Her kimchee is a balance of crunch, spice, and a sort of effervescence that would pair beautifully with a savory and tender meat or tofu. She believes M.V. Kimchee is best mixed into a soup, or alongside a piece of pork belly. I believe in eating it plain, as this is the best way to introduce your tastebuds to the harmonious blend of a local Vineyard vegetable with some exquisite Korean expertise.