In between all of the weddings and engagements, family portraits, architectural and editorial photo shoots that consume most of our days, it’s refreshing and rewarding to do something a little different. Enter Best of the Vineyard, a local event that celebrates the best and brightest in local food, shopping, entertainment, outdoor adventures, and more across Martha’s Vineyard.
Last week the Best of the Vineyard event went down at Farm Neck Cafe in Oak Bluffs, and we were there to take in all the action. A product of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, the Best of the Vineyard serves as an official kick off to the summer season on Martha’s Vineyard and a chance to honor and recognize those businesses and organization on Martha’s Vineyard that make it what it is for all of us to enjoy.
For the last five years we’ve been lucky enough to photograph the event, and we just have the best time capturing all of the excitement and hoopla of the evening! Each year we look forward to the fun and fanciful affair, where we get to snap the smiles and expressions of pride that spread across the faces of our friends and colleagues. We love to get the winners in front of the camera and really play up their personalities, while highlighting their professional skills and accomplishments. For us it’s a chance to toast our peers and honor the talented individuals that help to weave the fabric of our community. Year after year it’s a memorable event and we’re honored to play a part in the festivities!
A full list of Best of the Vineyard winners can be found in the current issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, on newsstands or available by subscription.
Flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping and Martha’s Vineyard is getting busy–it must be spring! One of the ways I love to usher in the new season is by reintroducing fresh springtime herbs into my diet. The light herbs of spring add unmistakable flavor and beautiful fragrance, not to mention freshness and green to our lives!
Herbs are underrated, so I’m happy to be singing their praise and shouting them out as Island Grown Schools’ Harvest of the Month for May. Not only do they provide beautiful scents and scenery, but they lend themselves to delicious food and helpful medicine, while attracting pollinators and beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies. When it comes to cooking, herbs are often an afterthought, when I think they should be the cherry on the cake.
Fresh spring herbs boost flavor and nutrition, while providing aromatic splendor and a good-looking addition to our plates. Trying to cut down on salt? Looking for new ways to intensify the flavor of a sauce or dress up a salad? Look no further than fresh herbs.
I love greens and eating salads this time of year. I’ve started sprucing them up with fresh dill, chives and parsley–which bring natural, nonfat flavor that add a lot of taste and complexity. Mint is another springtime herb that delivers an extra dimension to dishes too. It’s clean, refreshing taste and cooling effect make it a welcomed ingredient to a number of sweet and spicy dishes, drinks, and of course salad. When I was traveling through the Middle East, it was common to see mint incorporated into salads and ingested after a meal as a palate cleanser and digestive. The flavor packed such a bright punch I’ve been incorporating it into my salads at home ever since!
(Grilled Whole Branzino, a sustainable fish, stuffed with garlic chives, oregano, parsley, thyme, dill wand wheels of lemon)
Herbs sure are tasty, but they’re also loaded with a wide range of health benefits as well. Herbs have powerful antioxidant properties–with oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary, and sage among the most potent–and they’ve been used for centuries to ward off disease. Herbs in general are rich in vitamins and minerals, and each herb offers its own healing power too. Sage can improve brain function and memory, peppermint has been linked to reducing nausea, and rosemary can help prevent allergies and nasal congestion. Embrace herbs in all their glory and your body will thank you!
Here’s some helpful tips on enjoying them to their fullest:
To store fresh herbs snip off the bottom of the stems and wrap a wet paper towel around them and cover with a plastic bag while refrigerating.
Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking for maximum flavor.
Grown your own to cut down on food cost and waste. Herbs like mint, oregano, chives, thyme, rosemary and sage are perennial and come back year after year.
Purchase starter plants from local nurseries, plant and water. Snip just enough for each recipe while you are cooking.
If you have an abundance of fresh herbs, chop them, fill an ice cube tray with water, wine, or stock, and place herbs in the liquid. Store frozen ice cubes in a plastic bag and use in the winter for salad dressing.
Enhance your cocktails or mocktails with fresh herbs, and go beyond standard mojitos and juleps. Pair a botanical gin with fresh basil and cucumber, or add thyme to your lemonade. Sage, raspberry and lime make a great flavor combination, as well as cilantro and lime too (vodka optional)! Lavender and rosemary make gorgeous, floral additions to your glass, but handle them delicately so not to overpower your beverage.
Prepare your own homemade salad dressing by adding chopped fresh herbs like basil, parsley, dill, marjoram or oregano to a simple mix of oil, vinegar and lemon juice.
We all know weddings an get expensive, and excessive. As a wedding photographer on Martha’s Vineyard I see first hand just how lavish these events can be. While your wedding day should be special, beautiful and uniquely yours, it can still be all of those things while being less wasteful. Plus, on top of feeling great about tying the knot you can feel good about lessening your impact too! Executing a “green wedding” doesn’t have to be hard, it just takes some thoughtful consideration.
Here are some of our favorite green wedding ideas that are easy to implement, and won’t take away from the beauty and elegance of your affair. Remember even small details can make a big impact on your big day!
1. Responsible Invitations. I prefer good old snail mail for wedding invitations, especially in this digital age there’s something particularly nice about opening a beautiful piece of mail. Try using 100% sustainable recycled post-consumer paper and minimize it by directing guests to your wedding website for additional information. As for your Save the Dates go paperless–Minted, Paperless Post, evite and Greenvelope offer a ton of templates and options that will still ensure your guests receive high quality invitations they can get excited about. The same goes for your thank you cards!
2. Upcycled dresses and accessories. Consider wearing a previously worn or second hand dress down the aisle or during your rehearsal dinner or brunch. Sites like Tradesy and Nearly Newlwed sell preowned dresses that look brand new (and no one will ever know!). Shoes and accessories can get pricey too, and there’s loads of gently worn versions available more affordably and responsibly. You may also want to ask around your family to see if there is an heirloom piece you can repurpose or redesign. Nothing is more special than sharing in the history of your family during your big day! If you prefer a brand new dress, shop around for a designer that uses sustainable fabrics (like organic cotton, silk or hemp) such as H&Ms eco-friendly wedding line Conscious Exclusive Collection. As for your bridal party why not give them a color palette to select from and have them wear something they already own? We all know most of those bridesmaid dresses we hope to “wear again” just stack up in the back of our closets…
3. Go plastic and paper free. Make sure to tell your vendors that you’re trying to be as zero-waste as possible and they’ll help you! If you’re ordering linens ask that they not be wrapped in plastic for delivery. If you’re serving cocktails ask your bartender to forego the straws. Serve water from pitchers or have a water station with a tap. Look for bar/catering options that offer stainless steel kegs that are reused and avoid buying ice in plastic bags. Use cloth napkins in the bathroom instead of paper towels.
4. DIY Flowers. There’s no denying that flowers are gorgeous but their environmental cost can be high. When selecting fresh flowers be sure your blooms are sustainable as possible by seeking out vendors that are farm-to-table or using local flower growers. By using locally grown in-season flowers you’ll be ensured the freshest, highest quality stems at the best price. On Martha’s Vineyard Tea Lane Farm and Morning Glory Farm grow many varieties of annual and perennial flowers and they design beautiful arrangements. Additionally, Donaroma’s offers floral design, as well as the opportunity for brides and grooms to rent their Island grown plants for their special event–allowing for the look of fresh greenery while knowing it will be thoughtfully repurposed.
Paper bouquets can also be fabulous, and unique, plus they’re compostable. There’s also the option to plant your own flowers or use a recycled or foraged bouquet. For centerpieces, consider growing or purchase potted plants or fresh herbs that can be reused. Even dried herbs can make beautiful arrangements! I love the idea of clustering several small arrangements together to make one beautiful display that several guests can bring home. Be sure to compost any remaining flowers after the event that can not be reused, your soil will thank you.
5. Less is more. Decorating your venue can be enticing but some of my favorite weddings have been the simpler ones. You can save a lot of waste and money by minimizing your decorations, plus your venue is likely an attractive space in it’s own right, so let it shine! When decorating use organic materials that can be sourced in nature. Things like bark, seeds, rocks, stones, bricks, building materials, and found objects. Also don’t be afraid to ask for donations! You can use or collect jars/glassware that you or your family may already own for centerpieces. Pieces like bird cages, wooden grates, chalkboards etc. are likely lying around at your friends’ homes waiting to be repurposed.
6. Go natural with your place cards and signage. You can also use plant matter for your place cards and table assignments. Get crafty by writing on things like eucalyptus leaves, flat rocks, and wooden bark or shingles for your signs and display notes. And of course there’s all sorts of green inspiration on Pinterest!
7. Make it family style. When it comes to your catering options consider serving local food family style, reducing the footprint it takes to get to your plates and reducing the dish ware that needs to be used and cleaned. Several Island-based caterers like Smoak BBQ and Kitchen Porch Catering offer farm-to-table menus that will allow your guests to taste the delicious local food available on Martha’s Vineyard, while reducing the resources it takes to feed them.
8. Go green with your gifts. Traditional wedding gifts often require shipping resources to get to you, and come decorated with wasteful wrapping paper. Instead ask your guests to donate to your honeymoon. Sites like honeyfund.com make it easy for guests to safely and securely donate to your dream vacation or new home. If your guests are insisting on giving you a physical gift create an eco-friendly wedding registry.
9. Do the world a favor with your favors. When it comes to giving your guests something special to remember your event by, look into items that come in compostable eco-friendly packages. Soap, reusable totes, plants, seeds or homemade jams all make great thoughtful gifts that are easy on the environment. Or instead of a physical gift make a donation in everyone’s name to a local charity you can feel good about!
10. Compost, and recycle as much as possible. Make sure to do all you can to reuse and compost whatever remaining trash and leftovers remain at the end of your event. As for recycling remember the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”? Recycling comes last because it should be a last resort, it’s complicated and not as environmentally friendly as most people think. Composting on the other hand is easy and goes straight back to the earth. You’ll want to make sure to compost your flowers and any other organic matter that can be reused. Paper from your cards and envelopes can also be shredded and composted. Be sure to ask your caterer about composting the prep, scraps, and leftovers from your event, many caterers will do this anyway. You can also hire Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to do it for you as part of their Food Waste Collection initiative. Contact them at (508) 687-9062 or at email@example.com more more details.
If you ever have the opportunity to eat at the West Tisbury school for lunch you won’t be disappointed. The impressive food program, led by rockstar chef Jenny Devivo is quite the operation. And Jenny, well she’s the cherry on top.
Since 2011, the head chef and cafeteria director for the up-Island regional school district (West Tisbury School and Chilmark School), has made it her mission to source local food for the schools’ daily lunches. Part of Jenny’s dedication is fostering real relationships with local food purveyors, farmers, and fishermen; which enables her to enrich the developing palettes of Martha’s Vineyard with her farm-to-cafeteria-table menus.
Each Friday Jenny’s approach is more fish-to-table with her local “Catch of the Day” program, the first of its kind in the country. Since 2016, the program has been providing students with locally sourced and sustainably harvested fish through Menemsha Fish House and Boston-based regional seafood purveyor Red’s Best. Our friends at Island Grown Schools are highlighting seafood as their Harvest of the Month for April, so it’s only fitting we spotlight Jenny’s incredible work that brings the bounty of our local waters directly to our Island’s most selective eaters.
Getting kids to eat fish sounds like a challenge but Jenny’s got it down. “Fish Friday is as popular as pizza day,” she states proudly. Not only do the students take the bait, literally, but they’re educated on the sourcing too. Red’s Best uses traceability software with quick-response (QR) codes on the packaging that Jenny can scan and track. With that information she can tell the school community who caught their fish, off what boat it came, and how and where it was caught. That’s just about as local, sustainable and transparent as you can get.
The first time we visited the West Tisbury kitchen Jenny was serving Roasted Pollack with Lemon, Capers and Butter. Other Friday favorites include her popular fish chowder made with locally sourced sustainable white fish like hake, cod, and haddock. The day we visited she was serving Fish Cakes and a special tasting treat of Blue Moon Oysters, harvested by fisherman Scott Castro from Katama Bay. These fresh bivalve mollusks were baked in the oven and then served on the half shell with turmeric butter…yummm! She’s also been known to serve up Paella, Mediterranean Fish Stew, Fish Tacos, Teriyaki Salmon, Baked Fish with Butter Cracker Crumb, and a Fish Sandwich.
Any day of the week you can find Jenny and her assistant chefs Maura Martin and Nisa Webster buzzing around the West Tisbury School kitchen preparing fresh, local lunch for up to 550 children and staff each day. That reflects an almost 100% participation rate in the program, up from close to 40% when she first took over the kitchen several years ago.
It all started in 2011, when the up-Island regional school district voted to opt out of using the corporate school lunch provider they had contracted, and hired Jenny instead. She, along with many supporters including Noli Taylor of Island Grown Initiative (IGI), helped salvage materials from the old Edgartown school, including the prep table, the roll-down window, the steam tables, even the sinks. The greater Island community helped her renovate the kitchen in two months, and she got to work. The mission was to cook healthier food and sourcing from as many local resources as possible. It’s safe to say it was the right choice, and there’s no looking back. “It’s been hard but rewarding,” says Jenny.
Children are offered a hot lunch option daily (think herb roasted chicken or local pollock and haddock chowder) as well as a daily offering of salad bar and egg, chicken or tuna salad sandwich and fresh vegetables. The ever-changing salad bar is a lavish offering all its own, with fresh local produce, and scratched cooked, freshly prepared salads that as Jenny says “push the boundaries of flavor.” You might find an apple fennel salad or beet hummus, along with several local grain options, and teachers and students alike load up their plates.
So how does she do it? By 9am each morning she has the orders in for the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools, which allows her to eliminate food waste as much as possible, and know what she’s up against for the day. Any food not consumed is either reused the following day or composted by IGI along with the help of the students, and it’s something they take seriously. “I’ll see kids fish things out of the garbage that should have been composted or call each other out for not doing it properly.” Clearly her methods are working.
Jenny prides herself on making approachable food that inspires the students to try new things, while setting limits on selections to encourage them to venture outside of their comfort zone. “If we eliminate 17 choices for lunch, the cost goes down, and it allows us to introduce the kids to new flavors.” Of course living on an island with access to fresh local food helps, and she readily takes advantage of it. In addition to locally caught seafood, Jenny is able to source meat and produce from Beetlebung Farm, The Good Farm, The Grey Barn, Morning Glory Farm, Thimble Farm, Cleveland Farm and Whippoorwill, and she genuinely appreciates everyone’s contributions to her kitchen.
According to Jenny it’s a community program that encourages participation, and sharing. She’s come to see how it has helped kids to take pride in the presentation of their food, and to know where it comes from. “When we’re in here cooking all day and they can smell it in the halls, it’s a sensory experience. They already feel connected to it, and it boosts enrollment.” And the kids aren’t only eating it, they’re cooking it too. “We have kids that ask to help us prepare food and we bring them back there and put them to work.”
Jenny’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. It’s obvious that the students and faculty love her and the rest of the country is taking note too. These days when she’s not in the kitchen she travels throughout New England consulting other schools on how to implement similar programs. “It’s all about getting the kids to eat real food… The options are endless when it comes to feeding kids.”
As a wedding photographer on Martha’s Vineyard one of the most common questions I get from couples is “should we have a first look?” Like any important decision you make about your wedding, it’s a personal one, and a choice that you and your partner should make together, and agree on. After all, you can only take a first look once.
If you’ve always imagined laying eyes on each other at the altar and that’s a vision you share, then that’s what you should do. But, if you’re open to the “big reveal” in a less conventional setting–but one that is still special and romantic–than a first look might be for you. Not to mention it’s an incredibly picturesque opportunity. You’ll both be looking your best, and floating on cloud nine in eager anticipation. No matter where and when it happens it will be one of the most memorable moments of your life.
Personally, we’re big fans of the first look. Practically speaking it allows you to have more time to enjoy your cocktail hour and mingle with guests post-ceremony. But most importantly it offers the two of you some intimate time together before the knot is tied, to quietly feel those feels and take a deep breathe without all of your guests surrounding you.
Obviously, a wedding is an emotional experience, and a first look means your photographer can capture that honesty. Quite frankly, first look photos are some of our favorites. They capture the genuine love, and surprise and delight of our client’s most sentimental moments.
Now, if it’s important to have your squad nearby then you can let them in on the first look too. We’ve had many couples share a first look while they’re parents and bridal party looked on from afar, or showed up several minutes afterward to share a sneak peek of the happy couple. It’s a great segue to taking your family and bridal party portraits beforehand too, meaning more time after the ceremony to devote to celebrating. Again, it’s your day and your decision, and we’d love to help customize a first look that works best for you.
Let’s not forget that having a first look is a great way to help ease you into the emotion of the day. You’re about to promise forever to the love of your life and it can be overwhelming. If you opt for a first look you’re less likely to cry walking down the aisle, avoiding a makeup malfunction (which we all know too well). Then, once you approach the altar you’ll feel more comfortable in front of your guests and can focus on the task at hand–making it official!
But like anything, timing is everything and it must be coordinated appropriately if a first look is for you. If there isn’t time in your timeline to make it happen, don’t force it. A first look should help you ease some of the stress and anxiety of the day, not create it! We recommend that a first look happens at least an hour or more before the ceremony so you can be safely tucked away before your early guests arrive. That also means you’ll need to be ready earlier too, so consider your time wisely.
So there it is, for your thoughtful consideration. Whether you opt for a first look or stick to the more traditional route, the right answer is the one that just feels right to you!