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Lessons in Lobsters: The Wauwinet, Nantucket


The Wauwinet, Nantucket.

By John Grossmann

"So," asks Captain Rob, after hauling up the third trap of the afternoon.  "What do this lobster and I have in common?"

The three of us aboard The Wauwinet Lady stare at this just caught crustacean, hoping maybe the blustery winds will blow the answer our way.  We're on a working cruise, of sorts, on Nantucket Bay, offered in the spring and fall as one of the many complimentary activities possible with a stay at The Wauwinet, a luxury inn that has come a long way, indeed, from its 1876 origins as a destination restaurant on the northeast tip of Nantucket Island serving 75-cent "shore dinners." 

Back then, this narrowest part of the island was known as "The Haulover."  Fishermen hauled their dories across the dunes from the bay to the Atlantic and back to the bay, much heavier, they hoped. Nowadays, nothing weightier than a picnic lunch or surfcasting pole gets hauled to the ocean beach; nothing bigger than a kayak or sunfish gets tugged into the bay.


The Captain and his catch.

The inn's 32 rooms and cottages offer a restful retreat from which to explore this peaceful tip of the island. Grab a bike and ride less than a mile to the extensively annotated Squam Swamp interpretive trails. A more ambitious pedal (or hop the inn's jitney) takes you to the recently expanded Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, which commemorates heroic rescues on the treacherous shoals 15 miles off the island, graveyard to more than 700 ships. Leaving the dock with Captain Rob offers the opportunity, if one dares, to band the crusher (bigger, dominant) claw and cutter claw of a lobster. Our hint and we miss it.

"We're both left handed," Captain Rob finally shares, tossing somebody's dinner into the keeper crate.  Perhaps ours, should we order the signature butter poached lobster with sweet ricotta tortellini in a savory black truffle emulsion for dinner tonight at Topper's, the Wauwinet's acclaimed restaurant, which, even today, lures diners from town.

Details: The Wauwinet.

John Grossmann has written about food and travel for Gourmet, Cigar Aficionado, Saveur, and SKY. He was a finalist in the food journalist category of the 2010 Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards. He is the co-author, with acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, of the book One Square Inch of Silence, (Free Press). 

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