Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nantucket Dining Recommendations

            It’s summer in New England and that means it’s time for people to hit their favorite vacation spots. For some that means the lakes of New Hampshire. For others, it’s the coast of Maine. Some prefer the cool mountain air of the Berkshires. Then there’s the Cape and Islands. Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have been tourist attractions since the late 19th century. Nantucket especially has become known for its preppy culture symbolized by the famous Nantucket Red pants. It also is overflowing with restaurants, many of which aren’t worth your money. So for this week, we thought we’d offer some delicious food spots that’ll have you blending in like a local rather than standing out like a tourist.

Downyflake Doughnuts 

Downyflake: This breakfast spot located near the middle of the island has been a staple of Nantucket life since the 1930s. Downyflake offers a variety of breakfast and lunch options and many locals eat there often. It’s also one of the few reasonably priced dining options on the island. The star attraction at Downyflake is the doughnuts. The homemade cake doughnuts are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. The best time to get them is early in the morning when they’re still hot and the chocolate frosting is still just a bit warm, so it runs down the sides.

Black Eyed Susan’s: This downtown institution is open for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast features a range of standard staples like pancakes, eggs, and French toast. There are also delicious homemade creations like the Portuguese or Spicy Thai scrambles. The dinner menu is small and locally sourced. Options include Rainbow Trout pate, linguini with local quahogs, and posole with braised pork shoulder. Black Eyed Susan’s doesn’t have a liquor license, so patrons are encouraged to bring their own booze. They also don’t take credit cards and don’t start taking reservations until 6:00 P.M. So if you want a table, you have to put your name in early.

Something Natural 

Something Natural: Tucked away off the Cliff Road, Something Natural offers something that few Nantucket restaurants can offer—ample parking. They also have delicious sandwiches on homemade breads. They offer half and full-sized sandwiches, though I’m not sure how anyone could eat one of their full-sized sandwiches. Their standout bread is the Portuguese bread. This bread, brought to Nantucket by Portuguese sailors, has a chewy crust and dense internal texture. It goes great with sandwiches, clam chowders, and other seafood dishes. Grocery stores on the island often sell out of Something Natural bread by mid-day so you have to get it early or go to the storefront on Cliff Road.  

Pi Pizza: Before the arrival of Pi on the island in 2006, pizza options on Nantucket were pretty limited. There was Steamboat Pizza by the wharf that sold New York style pizza and that’s about it. Pi, with its wood fired oven and Neapolitan recipes, offered a breath of fresh air. Pi has become so popular that you have to call ahead—like hours ahead—to order for the night. Generally, we call at lunch time to put in our order for dinner. The Rustica pizza with arugula, stracchino cheese, and pancetta is a particular highlight. Pi also has an extensive dine-in menu with Italian classics, but we’ve always just picked up our pizza and headed back to the beach.

The Cisco Brewery 

Cisco Brewery: In recent years, Nantucket has become home to its very own brewery, Cisco Brewers. Based out in the southern part of the island, Cisco has a variety of beers including the Grey Lady (named after Nantucket’s nickname), a wheat ale; Whale’s Tale Pale Ale; Sankaty Light Lager, and Indie Pale Ale. They have a variety of seasonals including summer and winter lagers. The Brewery itself also hosts tours, music performances, and at least two food trucks. If you don’t mind the crowd that gathers there pretty much every day then you’ll be in for a good time.  

The Juice Bar: No trip to Nantucket would be complete without a stop at the Juice Bar. This island ice cream spot, located just up from the Steamship Authority dock, has at least 20 flavors available at any time and all are made onsite. They also make their waffle cones fresh throughout the day. There’s nothing like cold ice cream nestled in the warmth of a freshly made waffle cone. The line at the Juice Bar gets crazy at night, so the afternoon is the best time to go.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Past TV Recommendations

            Last week, we offered some suggestions for television shows that are currently on the air. So for this week, we thought it would be a good idea to offer some suggestions for shows that have completed their runs.


Parks and Recreation: While Parks and Rec never found much commercial success, it managed to run seven seasons on NBC in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Amy Poehler starred as the well-intentioned Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Pawnee, Indiana parks department. The writers depicted Pawnee as a small-town packed with bizarre traditions and idiosyncratic weirdos like  Leslie’s boss, Ron (Nick Offerman) best known for his love of all meat-based products and his hidden supply of gold. The rest of the impressive supporting cast included Rashida Jones as Leslie’s best friend Ann; Adam Scott as Ben, her future husband; and Chris Pratt as lovable goofball Andy Dwyer. Despite its absurdity, Parks and Rec remained grounded, offering a view of small-town government run by well-intentioned people.
Available on Neflix and Hulu

Cheers: This classic late 1980s and early 1990s sitcom helped pioneer the genre of hangout shows. Almost every episode revolved around the goings on at Cheers, a Boston bar run by Sam “Mayday” Malone, a former Red Sox relief pitcher. In the early seasons, Sam had an on-again, off-again relationship with the insufferable intellectual waitress, Diane (Shelly Long). The gang at Cheers also included dimwitted Woody (Woody Harrelson), obnoxious psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), and everyone’s favorite “Norm!” (George Wendt). The Thanksgiving episode featuring a giant foodfight between the entire cast remains one TV’s most famous and funniest half hours.
Available on Netfix

30 Rock: Former SNL head writer Tina Fey channeled her experiences into this NBC sitcom that ran for seven seasons. A show that began as a satire of the culture of late night comedy soon evolved into a highly tuned joke machine. Standout episodes included a parody of the Dark Knight where Fey’s Liz Lemon uses her illness and an old lady costume to get whole subway cars and movie theaters to herself. Alec Baldwin’s NBC executive Jack Donaghy was a send-up of corporate America, made brilliant by Baldwin’s stellar line deliveries. 30 Rock developed the rapid-fire joke delivery system that Fey has employed so skillfully on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Available on Netflix


Justified: FX’s Justified featured one the greatest protagonist-antagonist relationships in the history of television. In the pilot episode, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) returns home to Harlan County, Kentucky and confronts his old coal digging partner turned nemesis, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). During a confrontation involving Boyd’s sister-in-law Ava (Joelle Carter), Raylan shoots Boyd. Even as other memorable villains, like Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), make their way through Harlan, Boyd and Raylan remained the center of the show. Raylan’s quick trigger finger and penchant for mouthing off gave Justified much needed humor. Over its six seasons, Justified was often brilliant in its examination of Appalachia and American masculinity. Plus Raylan shot a lot of bad guys.
Available on Amazon Prime

Friday Night Lights: A high school family drama about football or high school football show that’s also about family? It doesn’t matter. Friday Night Lights was just great television. Set in fictional Dillion, Texas, Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is the head coach of the Dillon Panthers, one of the top high school teams in Texas. FNL had the most realistic depiction of marriage of any show on TV. Eric and his wife Tammy loved each other and they foughtt, but it never devolved into cliché. When another teacher kissed Tammy, Eric laughed it off as the non-event that it was. Meanwhile, the high school students including paralyzed quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter), replacement QB Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), and Eric and Tammy’s daughter Julie (Amie Teegarden) also avoided the pitfalls of most other shows about high school students. The show presented their problems with sympathy and a recognition of their universal nature. 
Available on Netflix

Hannibal: When Hannibal came on the air, no one seemed to want another telling of the Hannibal Lector story. After all, there had already been multiple movies including Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon. Yet showrunner Bryan Fuller and director David Slade managed to capture the artistic horror of Thomas Harris’ original novel. Played by Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal Lector was a bored serial killer looking for his intellectual and emotional soulmate in FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). The story often veered into the surreal, especially in its depictions of Hannibal’s murders. Fuller reveled in showing off Lector’s cooking acumen and penchant for psychological manipulation. In its three seasons, there was nothing else like it on TV. 

Available on Amazon Prime

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What To Watch On TV

            Over the past few years, we’ve focused a lot of attention on previewing and reviewing movies. Well, this week we wanted to a periodic feature where we’ll try to recommend some television viewing options. After all, most of the time we don’t want to leave our houses, buy tickets to a movie, and then spend time sitting in total darkness with a bunch of strangers. Why do that when you can stay home and binge something on Netflix or Hulu and never have to change out of PJs? We’re going to limit ourselves to shows that are still on the air. 


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:  This Netflix show, ordered and then abandoned by NBC, is a finely tuned joke delivery system. The show revolves around the life of Kimmy, who after being trapped in a bunker for 15 years, is rescued and moves to New York City. Somehow the creative team behind Unbreakable (Tina Fey and Robert Carlock of 30 Rock fame) have mined this dark backstory for three seasons of hilarity.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Airing on Fox, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the story of a group of detectives in a Brooklyn precinct. The 9-9 features a hilarious turn by Andre Braugher as the precinct’s notoriously literal captain. Braugher, who cut his teeth playing Detective Frank Pembleton on Homicide in the 90s, shows that he’s just as capable at comedy as he is at drama. His line-deliveries are a wonder to behold.

The Good Place: This show, from Michael Schur (co-creator of Parks and Recreation), takes a rather high concept premise and runs with it. Kristin Bell plays a woman who is accidently sent to the “Good Place” after she dies. Only she’s not supposed to be there. Ted Danson, as a mid-level afterlife manager, reminds us why he might be the best sitcom actor ever.


The Crown: Normally we wouldn’t recommend a period drama about British royalty. After all Downton Abbey was insufferable, asking its audience to pine for the rigid class structures of early 20th century England. The Crown avoids these pitfalls by revealing the people behind the facades of England’s royal family. The young Queen Elizabeth’s problems are relatable. Her husband is unhappy (and a jerk), her father died too soon, and at work she has to deal with lots of men trying to mansplain everything to her.

The Americans: The best family drama on television is also TV’s best spy show. The Americans follows the story of two deep-cover Soviet agents in Reagan’s America. They navigate multiple operations and identities while raising two American born children who are ignorant of their parents’ true occupations. The Americans focuses as much on its characters as its premise. There are fights about marital responsibilities and one child’s turn towards religion. Throw in some kickass 80s music and you’ve got a show worth watching. 

Fargo: Somehow writer Noah Hawley captured the atmosphere and the mood of the Coen Brothers movie Fargo and translated it into a TV show. Now in its third season, Fargo changes settings and characters every year, but manages to portray the under-appreciated everyman cops, inept criminals, and pathetically banal dreams that inhabit the Coen Brothers universe in new and interesting ways.


Top Chef: Even though it just came off a disappointing 14th season that turned into a weaker version of All-Stars, Top Chef remains the premier reality competition cooking show on TV. The contestant crop is generally strong, consisting of up and coming chefs. We here at DGA have had the chance to eat at the restaurants contestants like Bryan Voltaggio, Isaac Toups, and Sarah Grueneberg who have appeared over the years and they’re not kidding around.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Every reality competition show has the same format. People in some field of work (cooking, fashion, tattoos, art design, whatever) compete in a serious of challenges until someone wins. Oftentimes these shows struggle in providing drama or compelling characters. After all, how interesting is it to watch someone sew clothes? RuPaul’s Drag Race doesn’t suffer from any of these problems. The contestants are drag queens and the challenges involve them performing in drag. There’s no need to manufacture drama, all you have to do is turn the camera on. It’s the rest of us who benefit.