Last spring, my husband and I had never heard of Chesca’s, but when our son, Chef Daniel Finger (formerly of Water Street at the Harborview Resort) was enticed to cook there, we set out for Martha’s Vineyard to see Danny and visit his new restaurant where Chefs David Joyce and Chef Jo Maxwell are the renowned husband/wife chef/owners. Situated in the heart of Edgartown, Chesca’s diners can be spotted on its front porch perched above Water Street, sipping wine in rocking chairs watching lightening bugs and other lively islanders pass by.
When we entered the bright, beautiful dining room we were greeted with a warm welcome by Chef David, Chef Daniel and his team of talented cooks. We chose to sit in the cozy bar where we relaxed over drinks with hot ciabbatta and crusty multi grain bread accompanied by a white garlic bean spread, fragrant dipping olive oil and sweet butter. The tasting began in ernest with panko-encrusted butterflied shrimp over a small salad of delicate arugula and other baby greens grown on island, dressed in Chesca’s famous balsamic vinaigrette. A tender sea scallop, seared to perfection and topped with a swirl of casino butter, was served on a delectable spinach pillow, surrounded by jewel tone drops of brilliant chive oil and orange oil. The dish was so beautiful I wished I had carried my camera. Next, a melt-in-your-mouth petite sirloin topped with porcini mushroom butter arrived, sitting on a raft of sautéed island asparagus and slivered portabella. By then, onlookers at other tables were pointing and ordering what we were “oohing” and “aahing” over, with each savory bite.
A raspberry sorbet palate cleanser was gorgeous to behold and offered a dense, refreshing sweetness of my very favorite fruit.
When our entrées arrived, we were ecstatic, my husband with his papardelle pasta bathed in veal shoulder and pancetta bolognaise with a dollop of cream in the sauce, and my special of the day –seared, flaky cod swimming in a pool of fish broth with white beans, spinach and tomato chunks, a sort of fish cassoulet extraordinaire. Heavenly! The grand finale was when Chef Daniel carried out a warm crème anglaise with a brulée top and raspberries. We were fit to be tied and waddled down Water St., praising Chesca’s fare.
We returned a few nights later, in spite of a late lunch and looming rainstorm, to sample the mussels in a leek, roasted fennel (a much more delicate flavor, Chef David explained), shallot and wine sauce to die for. We chose a dessert of creamy cappuccino ice cream on a rich, fudgy brownie, drenched in Chesca’s famous dark chocolate sauce with two chocolate antennas topping it off. After dinner we rocked away with other contented diners, raving about our dishes between blasts of thunder as we watched a lightening show shoot streaks of blinding neon across the sky, a fitting end to another thrilling evening.
Our last night at Chesca’s we relished the golden brown, meaty crab cakes with a zingy sauce served with a whisper of sweet mandarin slices, red peppers, herbs and crunchy, sliced fennel. Fabulous! Island grown broccolini in olive oil and garlic was hot and crispy. The angel hair pasta happily soaked up the white clam sauce – a medley of littlenecks, sautéed, and chopped clams, parsley and lemon. Wow!
We strolled down Water Street as happy as the clams we had devoured, eager to return to Martha’s Vineyard for our next culinary adventure at Chesca’s.
On Sunday morning we reluctantly bade farewell to our son, Chef Daniel, before driving to the West Tisbury Arts and Crafts Market where Chesca’s Chef Jo Maxwell served a variety of quiche, cakes and muffins. We gobbled up the fabulous feta, spinach and tomato quiche and a strawberry muffin (Martha’s Vineyard strawberries, naturally) before heading for the ferry to return to Vermont.
You can be sure that future visits to the enchanting island of Martha’s Vineyard will include dinner at Chesca’s where perfect preparation and presentation, a bright, beautiful dining room, cozy bar and friendly, professional staff create a unique, gourmet dining experience that we found to be truly irresistible.
Now Danny is baking at Café Provence in Brandon, Vermont, and will come to Sarasota in January and February to work with Chefs Mack De Carl and Chef Jeremy before returning to Chesca’s for its six month season. Maybe we’ll meet there next summer when we return, rocking on the porch and conversing with other more-than-satisfied diners. In the meantime, Bon appétit!
Marguerite Jill Dye, Artist/Writer