With its winding roads, lush plots of farmland, and stunning coastline views, driving through South Dartmouth or Westport, Massachusetts might conjure the coastal New England vistas one associates with Martha’s Vineyard or the Cape. Instead, this lesser-known (but not far away) stretch of land about an hour south of Boston is part of a Southeastern portion of Massachusetts known as the South Coast, (or sometimes the “Farm Coast”)—a group of towns that collectively are home to a staggering density of cheesemakers, wineries, farms, and fresh seafood.
Despite the embarrassment of culinary riches in the region, most of them are enjoyed by the public elsewhere, savored on high-end menus and plucked from gourmet store shelves in Boston and even New York.
That was, at least, until the debut of Little Moss, a petite, stylish bistro that opened this May in Padanaram Village, a small historic whaling port in South Dartmouth. The focus here is on approachable, rustic dishes—hearty seafood-laced pastas, wild mushroom-stuffed roast chicken, expert charcuterie—with steadfast devotion to all things local. Formerly known as the Beach Plum Café (and still under the same ownership), Little Moss has a new chef behind the stove—Chris Cronin, who spent over a decade at Brookline’s Washington Square Tavern before making his way to the area to scout out a potential market and butcher shop (still in the works, across the street).
Instead, Cronin fell for the area and joined Little Moss, too. He says there’s a reason that the agricultural region is so special here. “It has its own microclimate where the growing season is a little different than the rest of Massachusetts or Rhode Island—because of the warm coastal air, it gets frost later,” he says. In addition to exposing locals to the quality ingredients their backyards, Cronin is also hoping that he can showcase local farmers and producers like Eva’s Greens (a fixture on menus throughout the Boston area), Ivory Silo, and Copicut Farms and offset them having to schlep their wares further afield.
Summer may seem like prime time to tour the coastal area, but you’d do well to go right now, while the air is crisp, the swell of tourists has waned, and all things squash and pumpkin are in their prime. Here, find a few ways you can experience the region’s bounty in a day—before plunking onto a banquette at Little Moss and eating your way through it on your plate.
Dine Here: Little Moss
6 Bridge St., South Dartmouth, MA, 508-994-1162
Drink Here: Westport River Winery & Buzzard’s Bay Brewing
This neighboring winery and microbrewery are from the same co-founders, who operate 400 acres of pristine farmland in Westport. At the former, you can sample sparklers like the delightful, off-dry Prosecco-style “Farmer’s Fizz,” pinot noir rosé, and Rieslings by the glass in the wine bar, and take hayride vineyard tours during the fall (ahem). The brewery, meanwhile, boasts a garden and fire pit for sipping golden ales and IPAs, and live music and food trucks on Fridays.
Westport River Winery hayrides happen every Saturday from noon-4:30 p.m., 417 Hixbridge Rd., Westport, MA, 508-636-3423, Westportrivers.com; Buzzard’s Bay Brewing, 98 Horseneck Rd., Westport, MA, 508-636-2288, buzzardsbrew.com.
Stay Here: The Paquachuk
What was once a fixture of the whaling port at Wesport Point is now a historic bed and breakfast located right on the water. Rooms each boast a view of the water, and enterprising visitors can fish off of the private dock.
From $175/night, two-night stay minumum; 2056 Main Rd., Westport Point, MA, 508-636-4398, paquachuk.com
Armchair Travel Here: Shy Brothers Cheese
Run by two sets of fraternal twins that are, actually, quite shy, this Westport outfit produces only three types of cheese—mozzarella curd, Cloumage (a tangy, fresh spreadable cheese), and a snackable delicacy known as Hannahbells (think thimble-shaped Babybel or Laughing Cow gone gourmet, in flavors like shallot and lavender). “They have their own grass-fed cows and their own dairy herd,” Cronin says. At Little Moss, he tops homemade pastas with the curd and finishes it with a blowtorch, and turns the Cloumage into ice cream. You can experiment, too, by ordering all three items online.
© 2016 AFAR Media