Taste your way through Vineyard Haven with SampleMV

Trying out the oils and vinegars at LeRoux at Home.

Walking food tours are a great way to get to explore a new place. If I’m in a new city, I’m scouting out the best walking food tour to take. It’s a quick and easy way to get a lay of the land when you’re in a new place, and a way to discover new-to-you spots recommended by locals. When I heard that the Chamber of Commerce was putting together the first-ever Island food walking tour, I was beyond excited. The fact that the tours will be starting out in Vineyard Haven made me even happier; it’s one of the towns I know the least about.

“SampleMV walks visitors through the heart of the Vineyard Haven Harbor Cultural District, learning some history, meeting merchants, and sampling its distinctive flavors. Thanks to the participating taste stops, and the efforts of Nevette Previd at Farm. Field. Sea., we’ve created a fun and unique way for people to experience Vineyard Haven,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.

A handpicked few were lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural tour last month, to experience what SampleMV would be all about, as well as to give our feedback on what worked and what didn’t. The tour made five stops while walking along the town’s historical streets. Along the way, Nancy, our tour guide, shared countless stories of love, community, and Island history. Our first stop was the Black Dog Tavern, an Island staple. There we learned about the history of the Tavern, while getting a taste of its signature crab cakes with herb aioli, which paired wonderfully with the water views at the restaurant.

Waterside offered a tasty sample.

As we walked back up to Main Street, the group was already looking forward to the next stop, Le Roux Gourmet, a foodie’s dream store. This shop is a favorite of mine, since they carry a wide range of gourmet products. They also have the largest selection of oils and vinegars on the Island. As we sipped on a blend of strawberry balsamic vinegar and basil oil, we learned about how Le Roux sources its olive oils from all around the world, working with olive farmers producing the best blend at a specific time. (On a side note, if you’re looking for the perfect hostess gift, this is the place to find it.)

William Street was next, probably the most historic street in town. It represents the single best-preserved area of mid-19th century houses in the town of Vineyard Haven, and was the second street laid out in the town, running parallel to Main Street. A quick walk down to Main Street led us into Waterside Market, where the chef was waiting to greet us with some of the most delicious bites of what they call the “Tex Mex” — a layered dish of sweet corn cakes, black beans, avocado, and tomato salsa. It was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and I can see how the dish gained its popularity; the flavors are amazing!

Then it was time for sweets, and Vineyard Haven has two of my favorite sweet shops: Murdick’s Fudge and Bernie’s Ice Cream. I’ve raved about Murdick’s Fudge before, and there’s nothing like the taste of sweet fudge melting in your mouth. And then there’s the cold, sweet ice cream made at Bernie’s. The way they make the ice cream in-house is quite impressive, and the flavors are downright delicious. My favorite? The toasted coconut, which I think will be my ice cream of the summer. If you haven’t had their ice cream, try it as soon as you’re done with this article. It’s that good.

The inaugural run of the SampleMV Walking Taste Tour at Bernie’s Ice Cream.—Marnely Murray

By the time the tour wound down, the group had become friends, connected by our love of food. The 75-minute SampleMV walking taste tour of Vineyard Haven’s Cultural District operates Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from the chamber’s information kiosk at the base of Union Street. Guides Aela or Nancy arrive by 10:20 am, and the tour leaves promptly at 10:30 am. SampleMV operates through June 30, and will take a break in July and August, resuming in September and October. Tickets are $25 per person, and can be purchased at mvy.com, by calling 508-693-0085, or at the tour from the guide.