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Eat Like a Local on Cape Cod this Summer

The Andrea Cape Cod (Erb Photo)

School is officially out and Central Mass residents are gearing up for their annual voyages to Cape Cod. An oceanside sabbatical means plenty of clam shacks and sandwiches at the beach, but we also believe that every getaway calls for at least one fine dining experience. Mass Foodies has pinpointed a half dozen of the best restaurants to highlight on the Cape this summer. Whether you’re in the market for a six-course tasting, sushi, or seaside oysters – we’ll steer you in the right direction.

Beach eats for Cape Cod dining (Erb Photo)The food landscape has shifted dramatically on Cape Cod and its islands in recent years to emphasize fresh, healthy, and sustainable options for residents and tourists alike. In early June, members of Cape Cod’s food community gathered for “Beyond the Plate,” a food symposium hosted at Edgewood Farm in Truro. Prominent chefs, farmers, and writers sat together to discuss the region’s culinary evolution and contemplate its future.

Elspeth Hay and Ali Berlow are co-hosts of “The Local Food Report” on NPR’s Cape, Coast, and Islands broadcast; this summer marks the show’s 10th anniversary. Hay and her husband also play pivotal roles at Mac’s Shack, a sanctum for crudo and ceviche operating out of a 19th century nautical home in Wellfleet.

Mac's Fish House in Provincetown, MA (Erb Photo)
Mac’s Fish House in Provincetown, MA (Erb Photo)

At the symposium, Hay explained, “We have some unique challenges and so many opportunities in the sense that the Cape and islands are this very, busy tourist destination in the summer, which in some ways makes sourcing locally on a large scale difficult for us. But, it also presents an educational opportunity and I think that we as a community are trying to make the most of that opportunity.”

Berlow hopes that visitors to the Cape and the islands will take their newfound knowledge home with them. “When you travel here, maybe you’ll see a composting program or a farm to school program or a summer lunch substitute program and think, ‘I can do that back wherever I come from,’” she said. Berlow is the founder of Island Grown Initiative on Martha’s Vineyard and has cultivated a culture of eaters who support the local food system. She hopes that we can all begin to grapple with where our food comes from, a topic covered extensively in her book: The Food Activist Handbook.

Local Chef Michael Ceraldi lives and cooks by this same ethos. His restaurant, Ceraldi was deemed Cape Cod’s best restaurant of 2017 by Boston Magazine. As a chef, Ceraldi works with that which is available to him. “I feel very strongly that some of the best restaurants in the world are the destinations of their locally grown products,” he stated at the symposium. Ceraldi looks at his steadfast relationships with the agricultural community on the Cape as being part of a cycle. He further explained, “By buying from your neighbor or supporting your neighbor, you can change the entire food system because it changes what people want.”

Cape Cod Bay Wine Pairings (Erb Photo)Ceraldi finds inspiration in chefs like René Redzepi of Noma – frequently ranked among the best in the world. He cites Redzepi’s hyper-local pop-up in Tulum, Mexico last year, recalling, “They cooked not the same products, not the same dishes, but cooked with local ingredients and with a local staff. In my industry – in restaurants – highlighting what you can get from that community is super important.”

The best compliment Ceraldi has ever received was at the farmer’s market when a farmer thanked him for sending new customers. Ceraldi believes that there is no better feeling of accomplishment than getting people interested in going to the market in search of local ingredients that they wouldn’t ordinarily eat. “I think that the more people are removed from where their food comes from, the less secure they become. Knowing your farmer and caring about where your food comes from is a big achievement; it’s not easy to make people care about that,” he concluded.

Hay couldn’t agree more. “When our country was founded, 90% of Americans were farmers and we had a very real connection to the way that our food was produced and a common understanding of the challenges that we faced in food production,” she said. Now, approximately 2% of Americans are farmers. “I think that’s how this conversation got ignited – a growing awareness of that,” Hay acknowledged.

It was John F. Kennedy who famously recollected, “As they say on my own Cape Cod, a rising tide lifts all the boats.” It is evident that this philosophy persists in the region. Cape Cod’s chefs, farmers, and food writers want you to leave with more than just a suntan. They are prepared to arm you with a new outlook on eating, and this summer, Mass Foodies is along for the voyage. Join us as we investigate the best that Cape Cod has to offer this summer.