SweetTooth in Martha’s Vineyard
In spite of the fact that this is meant to be a blog about Seattle desserts, I felt the need to devote a separate space to Martha’s Vineyard, where I spend my summer vacations. This Massachusetts island has so many dessert options that I felt the “SweetTooth Hits the Road” page would become too Vineyard-centric – and anyway, MV deserves its own blog page since it has such a special place in my heart. So, without further ado…
State Road Restaurant
I remember coming here as a kid back when the place was called Roadside and loving their grilled cheese. Now, things are a little more refined – State Road Restaurant has embraced the locavour organic culture and offers up what I think is arguably the best breakfast on the island. At any rate, they have some of the best desserts in their bakery (which you can get to-go). I’ve been tempted by many of these treats, visible just behind their glass displays:
Everything I’ve had here is amazing (I’m dying to try the coconut cake), and the pecan sticky bun and doughnut bun (they call it a “Limpopo”) were both perfect treats for our afternoon tea. Fresh, yeasty, and the right amount of sweet, they made me want to eat the whole bakery just to find out if everything else is just as good.
This place is truly one of my favorite spots to grab a meal or treat on the Vineyard and I highly recommend it for any meal. Just make sure you let me know how the coconut cake was!
MV Gourmet Bakery/Back Door Donuts
My new favorite dessert place on the island. How have I never been here before? (probably because I never made it past Ben & Bill’s.) The Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Bakery and Cafe has been around since 2001, and they’re famous for their apple fritters and donuts (you can get them hot from 7:30 PM until midnight).
I didn’t know about the famed apple fritters, but I did know about the donuts, which I could smell as I sat and ate my Ben & Bill’s ice cream, which is right around the corner. I had planned on ordering just two donuts, but as my sister and I fought over flavors, this quickly turned into a half-dozen.
From left to right: chocolate glazed, sprinkles, buttercrunch, glazed, cinnamon, another chocolate glazed. My favorites were the plain and chocolate glazed, but all were stellar. We planned eat them over the course of several days (they lasted about one hour). I also decided to take a chance with their black & white “cookie,” which turned out to be more like a cake.
Also recommended. Next year I”ll be back for more donuts (hot this time) and to finally try the apple fritter.
The Scottish Bakehouse
Started as a humble shop by a Scottish woman in the 1960s, the Scottish Bakehouse has evolved into a real Vineyard institution, offering breakfast, lunch, and everything in between. Tourists and islanders alike stop in to pick up a picnic or a couple treats on their way to and from Vineyard Haven.
The Bakehouse puts a lot of energy into making sure its ingredients are local – besides partnering with several island farms, they have planted a small farm of their own. And they also make an effort to cater to the gluten-free crowd, the vegetarian crew, and as stated on their website, the “baconitarians.” As much as I love bacon, I decided this time to go with some sweets, the best of which was the brownie:
which is just how a brownie should be: fudgy, intensely chocolate, and with that nice crackle on the top. What’s not to love? The only thing it was missing was bacon.
Sweet E’s Cupcakes
With the abundance of pies, ice cream, chocolates, etc on MV, it’s difficult to choose just one or two places to blog about per summer. This go-around I chose Sweet E’s Cupcakes in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown.
Sweet E’s is relatively new to the Vineyard Dessert scene, having opened in 2009 in Vineyard Haven. They specialize in gourmet cupcakes with seasonal flavors like blueberry pie in July and pumpkin in September. I found the following August creation particularly attractive:
However, I didn’t purchase any, since our family always makes our own more traditional s’mores, and besides, I was more intrigued by the mocha cupcake:
Yup, it was a good choice. The cake part was a perfect texture, without being too dry or too wet, and the frosting was the perfect balance of coffee and chocolate. If you don’t believe me, you can try a frosting sample for yourself for free, according to the following “tweet”
If you are on Martha’s Vineyard and have a finger, Sweet E’s will put frosting on it. Just walk up and ask. Limit 10 per customer of course.
Black Dog Bakery
You’ve probably seen the ubiquitous T-shirts from the Black Dog Bakery, but you have to make the trek to Martha’s Vineyard if you want to taste their desserts – this is purely an island chain. It’s hard to define exactly what the Black Dog is (restaurant, cafe, bakery, clothing line, beach gear, tourist attraction… the list goes on), but I’ll simplify matters by discussing just the bakery aspect (although the Pilgrim Sandwich really hits the spot at lunch).
The BD has a couple different locations, but I usually go to the Cafe on State Road (pictured above) to avoid ferry traffic. It gets a little overcrowded, but at least there’s usually a parking space. The Tavern and Bakery (two separate buildings) are located in Vineyard Haven right by the Ferry. But enough geography – let’s get to the dessert offerings!
There is generally a very good selection of baked goods on hand, but I invariably go straight for the cakes. There are several different sheet cakes to choose from, with the Chocolate Blackout Cake (not pictured) being my favorite. My sister and I both decided to try something new this time, so she got the Mocha Torte and I got the Coconut Cake.
Pictured above is (obviously) the mocha torte. The cake part was very good, but I have to say, the buttercream frosting was a little too much for me. My sister loved it – but then again, she’s always been a buttercream fan.
I had the same problem with the coconut cake – too sweet. The cake part was fine, but there was too much frosting and it was too … butter-creamy (and too sweet). Apparently I can’t handle butter and sugar like I used to… maybe I should start blogging about veggies!
But that Blackout Cake is a different story…
This hidden gem is a must-do on any foodie’s tour of MV. Although it’s a bit out-of-the-way (on State Road near the Chilmark Store), it is well worth the trip. Limited hours (it’s only open Thursday – Sunday) combined with hoards of tourists craving their chocolate fix can create long lines in front of the small, unassuming, gray-shingled factory. Your patience, however, is rewarded when you enter the door and smell the heady scent of the chocolate.
Step inside, and several things will grab your attention: the bowl of free samples (usually the first thing I look for, since the flavor changes each time), the chocolatiers making candy behind a glass window, and the overwhelming array of different chocolate varieties in front of you. While you wait for the person in front of you to painstakingly pick out his or her pieces, look through the window at the candy-making process.
All candy is made on the premises, with an emphasis on quality cocoa (rather than lots of sugar). The dark chocolate is amazingly rich and velvety, and neither bitter nor bland. The whole operation is not a corporate, profit-seeking enterprise, so although service is slow, the prices are unbeatable and the store makes an extra effort to hire workers with disabilities. There are also lots of chocolates offered unique in name and taste – for example, nowhere else have I found “West Chomps,” made with Grape Nuts cereal.
Having been around for over 25 years, Chilmark Chocolates has perfected the art of chocolate-making to such a degree that I’m hard-pressed to choose my favorite pieces. However, I can narrow it down to a few of my family’s personal favorites: the above-mentioned West Chomps, the Tashmoo Truffles, the Chocolate Caramels, and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares – all of the dark chocolate persuasion, of course!
If you can’t make up your mind, and if the pressure from the long line is starting to build, there are pre-made boxes of assorted chocolates available in multiple sizes. The chocolates freeze pretty well, so buy a few and use them as Christmas gifts (or keep them for a chocolate emergency)!
Ben & Bill’s Ice Cream and Chocolate Emporium
Those lucky enough to live in Massachusetts or Maine (this small chain consists of only 4 locations) can enjoy the sweets at this ice cream parlor/candy store. The store is in Oak Bluffs, but began in Vineyard Haven as a candy shop in 1958 (ice cream wasn’t added to the menu until 1983).
Although their candy is very good, I (and most of the population) head straight for the ice cream counter. Ben and Bill’s ice cream is very sweet, although not as creamy as Mad Martha’s (another popular Vineyard ice cream parlor). You’ll find a huge variety of flavors, from quirky (lobster ice cream, anyone?) to tried and true. My personal favorite is the buttercrunch (they make their own buttercrunch candy), although other family members swear by peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough. Regardless of the flavor, it’s sure to be good. Lines in the evenings are long, so be prepared to wait your turn.
There are lots of ice cream parlors on Martha’s Vineyard, but what sets Ben and Bill’s apart is, in my opinion, their quality and their generosity. While some Mad Martha’s fans may disagree about the former, no one can dispute the latter: you get almost twice as much ice cream per dollar at Ben and Bill’s. In fact, I can’t even handle the “small” size – so I get a kiddie cone, which is still almost too much:
I’m pretty sure their large size is more than a pint, but I’ve never ordered one to find out.
Try it out:
Ben and Bill’s
Oak Bluffs, MA