I first learned about “Cape Cod Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Buzzard’s Bay to Provincetown” through Coastal Living magazine, which is one of my favorites. I knew immediately that I would love this book, and I do.
Author John Carafoli grew up appreciating food in the town of Bourne on Cape Cod, in a village called Sagamore where the residents predominantly were of Italian descent. Back then, he says, families grew fruits and vegetables in their own gardens, bought chicken and eggs from nearby farmers, and had milk and cream delivered from local dairies.
The Italian immigrant mothers in his neighborhood, including his own grandmother, had an “instinctive knowledge and wisdom” about food and cooking. He had great respect for these talented women and became a keen observer, and so his interest in food writing was born.
Carafoli covers Cape Cod’s evolving culinary landscape while still acknowledging that fried clams, lobster rolls and simple grilled fish always will be loved by many and will be synonymous with the Cape. But he saw that a new generation of serious chefs was reinventing how to cook with the foods we love. Those chefs gave birth to the “buy local, eat local” movement, and the dishes they’re creating represent tradition with a contemporary–and delicious–twist.
The recipe for Fresh Littleneck Clam Chowder from executive chef and owner Marc Swierkowski at Cranberry’s Restaurant and Pub in Pocasset includes not just russet potatoes but grated, peeled and diced sweet potato too. Lobster Strudel from chef Tim Miller at the Glass Onion in Falmouth features lobster meat, herbs, lemon juice and mascarpone cheese wrapped up in phyllo dough. Yum! There’s a drool-worthy recipe for Corn & Bacon Pizza from owner and chef Jason O’Toole at Pizza Barbone in Hyannis. When I’m feeling ambitious I’m going to try making the Caramelized Scallops with pea puree and carrot gnocchi, a dish from executive chef James Hackney at Twenty-Eight Atlantic at the beautiful Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Harwich. Also on my to-try list: Lobster Tacos from chef Stephanie Mikolazyk at Quicks Hole in Woods Hole and Lavender Chevre Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote from the aforementioned Glass Onion.
Cape Cod Chef’s Table includes recipes and interesting background notes from restaurants on the Upper Cape, Mid Cape and Lower Cape. The closest restaurant to Eastham is PB Boulangerie Bistro in South Wellfleet. Chef/owner Philippe Rispoli, a native of Lyon, France, contributed his Braised Short Ribs recipe to the book. It serves eight and calls for three bottles of dry red wine. Based on this alone, you just know it’s going to be spectacular.
One of the aspects of the book that I particularly enjoyed was info about other foodie topics that the author interspersed between recipes. He covers organic farms on Cape Cod, places for summer clambakes, how to eat a cooked lobster, the Borne Scallop Festival, how to shuck oysters, the Wellfleet Oysterfest, the cranberry bog harvest, Cape Cod cottage industries, and information about the fishermen and farmers who feed us.
The photographs by Francine Zaslow are gorgeous. If you enjoy food with your eyes, you will feel as if you dined well after perusing these pages.
Be forewarned: This book is not for casual cooks. If you’re looking for quick and easy recipes, look elsewhere. But if you love the diversity of Cape Cod’s food landscape and learning about the Cape’s best chefs, restaurants, farmers and purveyors, you’ll want to keep a copy of Cape Cod Chef’s Table on your bookshelf.