If you read the ON POINT Blog, you know that I have always adored The Sweet Life Cafe. Through it’s is changes and ups and downs, it has remained a little gem for me. Though beautiful inside, it is the outside dining that I go back to again and again.
The new chapter of this Oak Bluffs restaurant is being written by a dynamic, young, hip husband and wife duo, Hal (a chef) and Erin (a journalist) Ryerson.
This is a Vineyard love story. Hal and Erin met here on Martha’s Vineyard. He was a chef, she was a waitress. They fell in love, knew they needed to have a life in the city (NYC and Boston), but always thought they’d return to the Island.
Last Fall, they were visiting, staying with the owners of Sweet Life, Kevin and Suzanna Crowell (Hal and Erin have both worked with them in the past at Detente restaurant in Edgartown).
During that visit, Kevin made a casual comment about Sweet Life being for sale, and the conversation started. In January, 2017, Hal and Erin became restaurant owners.
The two dove in and have created their own “sweet life” on the Island, along with their toddler, Loretta. They have injected their style and personalty to the space, with paint and wallpaper inside, and some new fun additions outside, like the fun hanging plants by the bar area.
What a team they are, with Erin helping in the front of house, and Hal in the kitchen, they work well together. For them it’s important to have fun with their work too.
The menu is simple, starters, pastas, and main dishes. Many of the items feature local ingredients which is important to the Ryerson’s. Having a relative, inspiring seasonal menu is the name of the game, and Hal is a master player.
There were a number of things that caught my eye, like the Stuffed Local Squid, housemade Ricotta Gnocchi and the Day Boat Scallops — all safe, and all lining up with my usual favorites. However, I noted on the top of the menu, the six course chef tasting (changes daily), and felt like it was my night to take a chance. Really test out Hal’s cooking.
When I heard the menu for the evening, I was like nuts — there’s not one of my favorite things on it. However, that’s the joy of dining out sometimes, going for something different.
First course of the Chef’s Tasting was the Local Fluke Crudo, the fish from Menemsha, and the sea beans used, forged by Hal. Half the fun is getting the freshest ingredients and knowing there farmers, both land and sea.
Add horseradish, chillies, and avocado with the Fluke for a lively bite. I loved the sea beans with it. The salty snap just added that something special. I want to go get my own, though I have no idea what I would add them too, yet.
I was really nervous about the second course, Local Lamb (Beetlebung) Tartare. I had no idea that there was such a thing, and the thought of eating raw lamb made me a little sad. I was in for a surprise. The Lamb Tartare was out of this world.
Though I did not want to like it, I gobbled it up. The local, fresh lamb with capers, local eggs, lava beans and dill proved to be an epic flavor combination, bright and salty and rich! I tried to give some to friends who stopped by the bar to have a drink, but they had already eaten. They missed out!
Course three was Local Pollock. This dish was flavor packed, and cooked in the most perfect way with the right amount of crispness. It reminded me of a sophisticated fish fry in a way, which being from update New York I have a fondness for.
Course five featured the Grilled Hanger Steak also with MVM shittakes, potatoes and spring onions. Another dished cooked to perfection, and if you are yet to try MVM (Martha’s Vineyard Mycological) shittakes, you are missing out. They’re so amazing, and so different from the store bought ones.
Keeping with the turf foods, the final savory course was the Local Pork Chop, served with Morning Glory Farm red cabbage slaw, and KILLER black beans. I mean really – I need this in a can, just add cheese and avocado and you’ve got a stellar dish. Of course the pork was spectacular as well, but those beans!
AH DESSERT! Just when you think you’re completely full and satiated, the dessert menu is presented. How do you not end with one? Erin suggested the Yogurt Panna cotta served with fresh made apricot sorbet!! A belly buster and a palate cleanser all in one. But it was a nice, light way to end such a rich, flavorful meal
During the meal, I was enjoying the Malbec from the wine list. However, this is definitely the place to try a cocktail. How about they make their own lemon shrub(?!?!) It’s a sweet/tart mixer that can be found in high end liquor stores, but they’re expensive. Add that to a little vodka or prosecco – yum.
After my three hour dining excursion, I was so full and so happy. Eating so many wonderful things that otherwise would not have been on my radar left me feeling almost giddy.
I loved the energy of the space too- Hal and Erin had really made fine dining fun, a welcomed addition to the foodie scene on the Island. This new chapter in The Sweet Life Cafe is off to a delicious start and that added sprinkle of Vineyard magic adds to the beauty of the story.
When you visit Sweet Life, and if you’re hungry definitely go for the Chef’s tasting. Hopefully you too will be impressed with the Hal’s culinary creations, trying and savoring things that you would not normally order.
Author’s Note: From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. you can get $1.00 Spearpoint Oysters at the bar!! This is a great way to kick off your summer night!
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