So I keep hearing about this Chilifest thing, like “Ooh, you are living here now? You HAVE to go to Chilifest…” and I am like, what is Chilifest? Well, as I learned last weekend, the Martha’s Vineyard Chilifest is an INSTITUTION. And it’s a whole lot of fun, so let me take you on my little initiation journey.
It all started days before actually, when we began testing chili recipes and trying on costumes. We settled on “Fire in the Hole” – a spicy braised short rib chili with a hint of Mexican chocolate. Steph really knocked herself out on this one and after a few sample batches I agreed, this is the one! We cooked and prepped all Thursday and Friday — smoking fresh peppers and chilis in our outdoor grill, shaving Mexican chocolate, braising an enormous pile of short ribs.
I braved snow and ice to drive to the Costume Company in Arlington (thank you Jeannie!) to rent a huge pile of Revolutionary War costumes — Fire in the Hole, like Woods Hole, get it? I lived at Staples printing banners, menus, handouts. I hired an actress to help hand them out. Yes, I am really committed to making this a big event for Quicks Hole, our groovy casual farm-to-table taco stand on the ground floor of the Woods Hole Inn.
Finally, the actual day dawned and I was up early walking from my house in the village to the Inn. The light in the early morning in Woods Hole was so stunning (I’m not out of my house this early usually!) that I wore my camera around my neck and snapped a few pictures:
Guests of the Woods Hole Inn were happily dining in the front room and I dashed through the office to grab costumes, menus, signs and more. Steph and Jay lugged gallons of cold chili in covered buckets across the street to the ferry. Amy and I followed shortly thereafter. The ferry was so packed with people, they asked 45 people to get off! Volunteers, they said. No one budged. The girl next to me snickered — she had just poured four shots of peppermint schnapps into her Dunkin Donuts extra large. She was NOT getting off and neither were we.
Once we arrived at the vast tent at the Portugese American Club, we warmed up and tried a few of the other chilis — there were 40 contestants there and more than 2000 tasters. The Corona beer was flowing freely, plenty of limes, and a great Jimmy Buffet style band was playing all your island favorites.
The place was packed by noon and we handed out a ton of our Chili to consistently good feedback. The security guy standing next to our table was moonlighting from his day job as a warden in the MV jail. He kept noticing people who had come into the jail drunk and disorderly — not a bad guy, he would say, but let’s just say We Know Him Well.
Well, we lined right up and passed out thousands of little cups of our chili. The Chilifest is a fundraiser for the Red Stocking Fund, a really great island charity. WMVY the local radio station supports it, helps judge and sells all the tickets with their promotions. We met a bunch of the DJs and so many other locals, it was really cool. Here we are as we got ready to serve the crowd:
There were regular people, drunk people, people in outrageous costumes, TV personalities, official tasters from WMVY, lots of our friends and business associates from Woods Hole and so, so much more. A picture is worth 1,000 words so here is the rest of the day in photos:
In the end, all ten gallons of our chili was handed out with a smile. We won nothing more than the joy of spending the day on Martha’s Vineyard listening to good music and laughing with new friends. We were tired, oh so very tired, but it was worth it! A great day. See you all there next year — 364 days and counting.
Fall is in the air, and the leaves are threatening to turn. Walking the beaches near Woods Hole, stunning vistas to Martha’s Vineyard as the light settles down. Maybe the phosphorescence will glimmer mysteriously in the tides. For sure, the harvest moon of the Wampanoags will fill the sky with her iridescent glamor and whisper into the souls of hardened Cape Codders about the summers to come. Winter may be around the corner, but summer will always return.
One of the finest parts of life in Woods Hole is the warm water swimming. And Nobska Beach is the very best beach in my humble opinion. Cape Cod gets the gulf stream, so the water is really lovely in the summer. And the fall.
I walked to Nobska one memorable morning. You head up the hill from the village of Woods Hole, past Little Harbor where the Coast Guard are stationed. You take a right on Church Street which must be named for the adorable stone church on the left. It was cool under the tree canopy, and the early morning light filtered through the trees and danced on the grassy curb. A few cars whizzed by me, and I smiled at the steady stream of runners and bikers (this being the path of the famous Falmouth Road Race its a popular and scenic run/bike).
Down the hill a little and then the beach emerged, the ancient light house standing guard. A small row of bath houses stands guard, for locals who like to change before swimming I guess. A woman was out in a chair early, reading a book but other than that the beach was empty. I saw the ferries headed across the Sound and the air was so clear it felt like you could reach out and touch the Vineyard.
I was particularly taken with the clarity of the water, swirling the rocks and gently lapping the beach sand. I took the picture above; it seemed to call out to me.
Try this walk some morning. You will not be disappointed.
Lobster Tacos are a sublime idea. Cold succulent lobster lightly dressed. Fresh cut red cabbage, a touch of lime on a hot corn taco?? Incredible.
New to Woods Hole this summer, the lobster taco is an inspired fusion of traditional Cape Cod with a dash of innovation from the surf shacks of Baha California.
Don’t miss this treat, and much more at the all new Quicks Hole restaurant. Its on the ground floor of the Woods Hole Inn, right next to the t-shirt shop and facing the Martha’s Vineyard ferry hides the hottest new joint in town. Word is leaking out about this place, and while it opens at 10 for lunch there is often a line of impatient ferry-goers at the door, jonesing for their fix that will be bagged and consumed on the the ferry. What’s better than the upper deck of the “Island Home” with a lobster taco, a 360 degree view of the Sound and the gulls circling jealously overhead?
Also on the menu — amazing local salads served in a fried tortilla bowl, rare yellowfin tuna burritos, sweet potato fries, hot chips with fresh salsas, made-to-order quacamole…see where we are going here?
Woods Hole Inn guests get a discount at Quicks Hole at check in.
See you soon!
Come stay in Woods Hole and use the Whoosh to explore all the shops and restaurants on Main Street, Falmouth. I like the kids bookstore called “Eight Cousins” and the toy shop is pretty awesome too. I enjoy lunch at “Laureens” where the lamb kabob is off the hook. And you should not leave without trying one of Tammy’s “CupCapes” at the gourmet cupcake shop.
The other way works pretty well too — just hop the trolley at the Falmouth Mall (or anywhere along the route) and come down to WoHo for the fresh air, great views and fun shopping. I recommend the “Sweats” tshirt shop for great selection and bargains. Don’t leave Woods Hole without trying the lobster taco at Quick’s Hole. That plus a Cape Cod beer? Leave that car behind and enjoy the green benefits of great local transportation. Perfect!
The Whoosh Trolley starts running in late June and goes until early September. Don’t miss a ride this year.
This little town is completely surrounded by water.
Woods Hole is one of the few good harbors on Cape Cod — it was a whaling port like Nantucket back in Melville’s time. In the 1860s, the peninsula was developed as a fertilizer factory. Shipping merchants from Boston were looking for a commodity to fill empty ships on the journey back from China. They settled on bird dung from a South Pacific island. When mixed with fish scraps, I guess the lime was an effective agricultural aid (is that organic?). This fine brew was shipped by railroad out of Woods Hole. I bet that smelled great on hot days.
Anyway, eventually the company literally emptied all the bird guano from their island, and the Woods Hole site was abandoned in 1889. So what happens to old factory land in America? Build a resort, of course! The thin strip was renamed “Penzance Point” (that sounds better than, say, Former Guano Factory:) Smack in the middle of the Gilded Age, (think “Gatsby”), up went Newport-style mansions. Most of these shingle-style cottages are still here, behemoths perched on the edge of the sea with spectacular water views with the great grandkids of their builders still racing to Hadley Harbor in 12-footers.
Around this time, a strong-minded local decided to improve the sound of things by renaming the town, “Woods Holl.” This had “a sylvan and romantic flavor…suggest(ing) moonlit glades and flowery dells” according to the New York Times in 1899 — and was better than the somewhat crass “Hole,” I guess. Perhaps the locals were hoping to disassociate themselves with the memory of a factory town that smelled like bird *@#%. But whatever the reason, the affectation did not stick for long. People couldn’t spell it or say it, letters to the post office were lost and with little fanfare, the name was changed back.
So here we are now, living in this little slice of heaven that I call WoHo. It’s like SoHo, only cooler (literally — there is always a breeze). I wonder what it would take to get that name on the post office door…
I like to call it WoHo. And when spring actually arrives, watch out ’cause it’s really gorgeous. When you glide into the ferry landing from Martha’s Vineyard, you can see the inn commanding the harbor in all her grey-blue shingled glory. Water views! I love being in the middle of everything but also able to meditate on the water from my room.
In WoHo this time of year, everyone is sweeping their stoops and shaking off the winter blues to get ready for the summer season. I saw Donny Estes of the famous Landfall Restaurant — he opened a few weeks ago offering customers the best waterfront view in town. And my friend Erik Gura who runs “Pie in the Sky” was puttering behind the counter even though he sliced his hand fixing his expresso machine last week.
At the inn, we have been closed for a few weeks to finish some construction on the ground floor. Our incredible construction partners (Lauren, Dan, Kat you rock) have been hustling to get it all done. We put in a new sprinkler system and upgraded all the walls and ceilings to “2-hour fire ratings” which means our old Victorian is now updated to current building code which is pretty darn cool. Born in 1878, made modern in 2008.
We have a new T-shirt shop (Cape Cod Sweats) opening on the ground floor in a few days, and we are rushing to get our burrito bar/restaurant called “Quick’s Hole, wicked fresh” open by Memorial Day. More to come on that subject.
But the weather! Can I wax rhapsodic for a minute? It’s sunny, not too hot, gentle breeze off the still wintery waters. So crisp and clear, it looks like you can reach out and grab the Vineyard. Like, who-needs-the-ferry-I’ll-swim, kinda clear.
I took my bike out of the basement and rolled up the Shining Sea bike path to where the woods melt behind you and Surf Beach yawns out like a crescent. I had to stop and just gape, it was so gorgeous. I turned back and cycled straight to “Pie” — in WoHo, a 20 minute ride earns a latte and popover.