A few years ago one of my favorite young chefs, Daniel Silver, was working out on Nantucket at a small, quaint restaurant called Company of the Cauldron. I had the (mis)fortune of only visiting Nantucket during the off season, when the highly acclaimed Company was closed. Though I was able to tour the space, and meet with the owners, I didn't have the opportunity to sample their fare. Since then, Dan has moved on, clear across the country to Aspen, Colorado, but my desire to dine at Company has remained. This past weekend, during a quick trip to Nantucket, my dream came true. I had dinner at Company of the Cauldron.
Company of the Cauldron is an intimate restaurant set on the cobblestone street called India, just off of the main downtown area. A cauldron hanging from the door jam is it's main indicator, though menus outside the door confirm it's presence. Unassuming in decor, the Cauldron has a unique offering to it's guests- a prix fixe meal, with a set menu each evening. There are no options to the menu, what is listed is what is served. Of course, if you have allergies or preferences a simple call to the restaurant a few days prior to your reservation will guarantee that tweaks to the nightly menu will be taken. The restaurant has two nightly seating's, once at 6:45 and one at 8:45. We arrived at 8:35 pm for our 8:45 seating and found a crowd waiting outside the door, apparently when they say 8:45- they mean it. The doors to the restaurant were not opened until the minute hand struck the 45 mark, and we were seated as we walked into the space.
It was an interesting experience to me to not have to read a menu at all, we perused the wine list briefly, made our selection, Wild Horse Pinot Noir-one of my all time favorites, and then were free to dip into the bread served with sesame hummus. I always enjoy when the bread course is served with something a little different and the sesame hummus was a nice twist. I had to cut myself off though- my excitement for the dinner was rising by the minute.
Our first course was a house made ricotta cavatelli served in a puree of fresh local peas, accented with chopped black truffles, crispy pancetta and mint. The cavatelli had light subtle flavor, yet had a wonderful chewy texture which gave a perfect textural release when combined with the almost soup like consistency of the pea puree. Peas served with mint is such a classic pairing, and here the mint assumed it's role of complimenting the fresh peas with finesse. I was pleasantly surprised that the truffles didn't overwhelm the dish, as sometimes truffle flavor can, and I loved the crispy pancetta. To be frank-I easily could have licked my plate clean. Out of respect to my sister, my dining companion, and to the staff at Company, I refrained.
Our entrees were served in perfect timing to our first course plates being cleared- a few moments of rest between the two. The selection for the evening was a wood grilled sirloin topped with bacon jam, served over Parmesan grits, and complimented with a fennel and fresh peach slaw. The sirloin, tender to the bite, was served a perfect medium rare, with pure and clean beef flavor ringing through. The bacon jam was smoky and delicious, and I swear I detected light flavors of cherry as well- which was absolutely wonderful. I loved the use of grits with this dish. They were cheesy and delicious, and their slightly grainy texture really made them stand out from a typical "potato" or "polenta" side. Finally, the slaw was the most unique component- fennel and peaches dressed with an Asian inspired sauce. Had I known that it would have an Asian feel to it, I probably would have doubted it's addition on the plate. The rest of the dish seemed almost down home, and Southern, this slaw would have seemed out of place. However, in it's application, it was light and refreshing, and a perfect compliment to the rest of the meal. The light soy and ginger flavors lent brightness to an otherwise heavy dish.
Dessert for the evening was Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta served with Yuzu curd and macerated blueberries. I have to say, this summer, I am loving Panna Cotta, the light, formed similar to pudding dessert is just so refreshing in the hot months. Company of the Cauldron's version had the perfect amount of vanilla included to make it stand apart, but not overwhelm the delicate dessert.
All in all, Company of the Cauldron executed exactly as I thought that they would- wonderfully. Each course contained elements of uniqueness, but with every component complimenting the others. Every item was perfectly seasoned, and cooked to the correct temperatures. Every course was creative and delicious.
I am thrilled to have finally gotten to sample the food at Company of the Cauldron. Though my friend Dan has moved on, I was confident that any place he has worked is an establishment that produces fantastic food. When you're headed to the beautiful island of Nantucket, please be sure to stop by Company of the Cauldron- you won't be disappointed.
And, because I feel the need to promote friends when I can, Daniel Silver now holds the position of Chef De Cuisine at Syzygy in Aspen, Colorado if you're in that neck of the woods.