March 7, 2005
As dusk nears, candles flicker on the tables and hundreds of dim unitive lights outline the trees in the expansive English garden, turning the setting at Espresso Love into an arrestingly romantic hideaway right in middle of Edgartown.
Appropriately dubbed Alfresco Love by the habitues who descend on pastry-chef/owner Carol McManus' restaurant in the late afternoon, when the garden becomes a relaxing backdrop in which to sample Chef TJ's extensive menu of made-from-scratch cooking. The moderately priced menu uses only fresh-from-the-farm greens and relies heavily on seafood and flavorful favorites like lamb chops and prime beef to please guests.
Dinner specials change nightly depending on market availability and always include a pizza offering. On the night we visited, a thin-crust pizza was presented with island basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. The salad special was a baby arugula with fresh figs, oranges, and lady fugi apples in a citrus vinaigrette.
Carol is a single working mom with five (grown) children of her own and Espresso Love is understandably kid-friendly. A children's menu is available with kid-favored choices like chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwich served with tater tots, pasta with butter, or pasta with marinara.
Our plan included dinner and then "Pirates of the Caribbean" at the Edgartown Cinema, just across the parking lot from Espresso Love. I started with an appetizer of pan-seared sea scallops with a tomato, basil, and corn salad. The scallops were done just right: plump, tender and crispy. Our resident vegetarian began with a fresh peach salad with island field greens, candied pecans, and gorgonzola in a lemon-thyme vinaigrette.
Having seen the trailer for "Pirates", I felt the need for a hearty entree to prepare properly for the saga and ordered a medium-rare grilled New York strip steak. The entree was cooked to perfection and came with gorgonzola mashed potatoes, asparagus, corn, and prosciutto salad. My guest raved about the tagliatelle, which was prepared with applewood bacon, roasted chicken, baby tomatoes, caramelized onions, and Parmigiano.
The waitstaff at Espresso Love is knowledgeable, helpful, and competent, and the service was unhurried. As we lingered over our wine, we decided to come back after the movie for desert. Caroline's pastry is legendary, and we would not be denied. When President Clinton visited, she was called into action by the Secret Service to become his "official" muffin-maker.
Following "Pirates", we strolled back to the garden, where we shared plates of the tangy fresh berry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream and a delightful lotus ice cream accompanied by blueberries and strawberries. Bailey's and coffee and a nightcap of Barrios 20-Year Port completed the evening and our delightful Espresso Love experience.
From journal The Best of Martha's Vineyard