Vineyard Finds

Menemsha Deli

Don’t visit the Menemsha Deli website and peruse the menu unless you’re ready to head over for one of their famous sandwiches. Just browsing the selection will make your mouth water. Owner Chef Cybele Benton McCormick doesn’t settle for a classic BLT, Reuben, or Caprese, she adds her own twist, which generally incorporates something made fresh in-house — like green olive and artichoke relish on the Italian (prosciutto, hard salami, ham, and provolone), or homemade lemon hummus on the avocado toast.

It’s a combination of these special touches along with ingredients that are as fresh as they come, that keeps regulars coming back for their favorites, as well as offering a pleasant surprise to first-time visitors.

“We only do sandwiches,” says McCormick, “so we can focus on making everything the best and the freshest.” All of the Menemsha Deli pork, turkey, and chicken are roasted on premises. You won’t find any bottled dressings or spreads on your sandwich. McCormick insists on providing only house-made everything — like lemon dill or sriracha aiolis, or pickles and hot pepper relish. Even things like the lemon hummus and veggie cream cheese with local herbs and garden vegetables are prepared onsite.

McCormick has spent a lifetime preparing food as chef and/or owner of a number of local restaurants, and as a caterer (she served as private chef for Walter Cronkite, among others). The granddaughter of renowned artist Thomas Hart Benton, McCormick has amassed a wide range of culinary skills, and brings her diverse interests to the Menemsha Deli menu. She recently started offering fish tacos — an item she perfected during her time running Zapotec Mexican restaurant in Oak Bluffs. Her signature version includes tempura-battered fresh cod, homemade pico de gallo, salsa negro, and chipotle crema, shredded cabbage, and avocado, topped with a crispy friend jalapeño slice. Hungry yet?

The well-rounded chef and owner has mined other culinary experiences for her latest venture. She learned how to make the marinated roast pork for the Cuban sandwich from a Cuban family in Miami. “I want a little bit of me to be on the menu,” says McCormick.

Breakfast wrap with an ice-cold coffee from Menemsha Deli. —Courtesy Menemsha Deli

Given the location — right on the Menemsha dock, where fishing boats unload their catch daily — it’s no surprise that the deli offers local specialties like clam chowder and lobster rolls. McCormick was born and raised in Chilmark, and the local boat captains and seafood purveyors are close friends. You might see a local fisherman on his boat shucking clams for the deli while you wait for your order. McCormick uses local tomatoes and other produce whenever Island crops are available.

For other provisions, McCormick has sought out small New England-based businesses. She or a staff member meets the Patriot boat early mornings to grab fresh pastries from the acclaimed French bakery Maison Villatte in Falmouth. The Menemsha Deli’s bacon, smoked salmon, and pastrami come from a small smokehouse in Maine. The sourdough bread is from a bakery in Rhode Island.

McCormick likes to refer to her business as “a mom and pop shop.” She recalls the days during her childhood when she would stop by the original Menemsha Deli, where the staff knew the locals by name and people gathered for gossip over lunch or coffee. When she took over the space five years ago, a priority was to provide the same sort of friendly meeting place. She only hires staff members who not only will follow her exacting demands for food prep (“consistency is key for me”), but will welcome each and every customer like a friend. 

19 Prime 

When Chef Joe Monteira sets out on a new business venture, he never does anything halfheartedly. Whether it’s beer (Wash Ashore Beer Co.) or oysters (19 Raw Oyster Bar), Monteiro gives it his all — conducting extensive research and seeking out the best sources for his ingredients. That sort of integrity certainly extends to the latest venture that he and his wife Emily undertook two years ago.

19 Prime Cast Iron Steakhouse (named for its location at 19 Church St. in Edgartown) opened for business in 2020. However, not until this year, with pandemic restrictions behind them, were the owners able to offer a full menu that includes a remarkable 11 cuts of beef (five dry-aged, six aged) and six sauce choices, as well as half a dozen other meat options including venison, boar, and bison.

For those less inclined towards red meat, the menu also features a wide range of seafood and other small and large plates (some quite unique, like lobster Bolognese or duck pot pie), and 15 different choices of sides. And with the recent incorporation of the two adjoining ventures — 19 Raw and 19 Prime — guests can select from among at least seven different oyster choices and other raw bar offerings.

Steak from 19 Prime Cast Iron Steakhouse. —Courtesy 19 Prime

“With the merging of the two businesses, customers can have the best of land and sea,” says Emily. And, she adds, with the quality and care that the staff puts into every aspect of the new business, customers can enjoy a steakhouse experience akin to what they might find in New York City or elsewhere.

Monteira has brought on an impressive staff to handle various aspects of the business. Chef De Cuisine Matt (“Matty”) Stencil is a graduate of the Cordon Bleu College in Las Vegas, and has worked at various Emeril Lagasse–owned restaurants, as well as the Boathouse in Edgartown. Sommelier and partner John Clift has years of experience with fine wines, and is a graduate of the International Wine Academy of Rome. Along with a huge selection of wines, champagne, beer, and cocktails, customers have the option of stocking their own wine locker with recommendations from Clift, which they can purchase by the case.

As for the main attraction, between the quality of the beef and the cast-iron cooking, which preserves the flavor and moisture of the meat while also providing the perfect seared finish, 19 Prime steaks are as good as you’ll get anywhere. “When we do things, we do it once and we do it right to give the guest what they want,” says Monteiro. “It’s a small Island, and we want to offer an optimal culinary experience with everything we do.”

Yommi

Craving something sweet that’s also guilt-free — and even good for you? Yommi dairy-free ice cream bars are not only free of processed sweeteners, carbs, and dairy, they’re also packed with nutrient-rich superfoods like blueberries, turmeric, ginger, and spinach. And, as if that’s not enough, Yommi frozen bars come on a wooden stick, summoning up childhood memories of afterschool treats — sort of like a Popsicle for adults (kids love them too).

The brainchild of Island couple Nicole Corbo and Adrian Johnson, Yommi bars come in fabulously inventive flavors incorporating local herbs, fruits, and veggies, and are as pretty as they are delicious.

The six very different varieties feature organic ingredients and as many locally sourced items as possible. Think organic strawberries and blueberries, fresh mint and basil, M.V. Sea Salt, Island Bee Co. bee pollen, and locally grown ginger and turmeric.

All of the bars feature the base ingredients of coconut milk, local raw honey, organic vanilla, and, in most cases, raw organic cashews — a mix that provides a dairylike flavor and creamy texture. From there, things get pretty interesting, even exotic. 

For a fruity treat, there are refreshing varieties like the Strawberry Bee-licous (strawberries, bananas, and basil) or Blueberry Lemon Bliss (with blueberries, lemon, and cardamon). If you want something a little more dessertlike, you have the choice of the Peruvian Choco Buzz, made with cacao, avocado, fresh orange, cinnamon, cayenne, and vanilla, or the Mint Chip Magic — an intoxicating blend of organic mint, cacao nibs, peppermint extract, and local spinach (yes, spinach, which gives it a powerful, nutrient-filled punch and also a pretty sage-green color).

Seasonal specialties often incorporate locally foraged ingredients like beach plums, rose hips, and wild grapes. Corbo, who creates the recipes, is always experimenting and expanding her menu.

The couple initially started selling their frozen bars from a retrofitted vintage camper that the couple towed from Johnson’s home province of Alberta, Canada. The adorable mint green mini camper (a Boler), topped with a paddleboard sign, made the rounds of local flea markets and farmers markets for a couple of years, until the business was able to go wholesale. Today you can find Yommi treats at 11 different stores and other outlets around the Island. Corbo and Johnson can still be found doling out bars at the twice weekly Farmers Market, and special events like First Fridays in Vineyard Haven.

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