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Living the Sweet Life at Detente
Husband and Wife Kevin and Suzanne Crowell

By Lisa C. Belcastro

Few experiences can top a summer on the Vineyard. Whether one lives here year round or vacations for a week, a month or all the glorious days from May through October, Martha’s Vineyard is one of the best places to enjoy the warm days of summer. The Island epitomizes relaxation -- fun days at the beach, hanging out with friends and family, peaceful walks, runs or bike rides along the numerous shores and trails. And then there’s the food. Nothing can make or break a vacation as the taste and textures of memorable meals.

The Island has many fabulous places to eat, from family-style to epicurean. Kevin and Suzanna Crowell, wine and food connoisseurs, have residents and visitors covered with two fine dining restaurants. Détente sits snuggly in a back corner of Nevin Square in Edgartown. Newly acquired Sweet Life Café graces the top end of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

Both restaurants offer modern seasonal menus with plenty of fresh, locally grown and harvested items. Kevin thrives on creating distinct dishes. “Each menu comes from a lot of legal pads with scribbles. It’s a process to create a dish. In your head you may love it, but it may not work on the plate. You can start over or continue to evolve the idea. Détente and Sweet Life have different food but the same philosophy. Our restaurants have independent dishes, each with varying degrees of textures and flavors so the meal doesn’t become boring,” said Kevin, who collaborates with chefs Hal Ryerson of Détente and Carlos Montoya of Sweet Life.

Customers at Détente begin asking for the truffled peach salad in early June and must wait patiently, albeit eagerly, for the peaches to ripen to perfection before Kevin will purchase and serve them. The sweet and juicy fruit is tossed in white verjus and white truffle oil then draped with warm Taleggio cheese. Local greens are added and a taste sensation is created.

The peach salad typifies Kevin’s goal for the menus – “we try to integrate flavors that might surprise people. We start off at comfort level, then veer off and introduce something new,” noted Kevin, who studied hotel, restaurant and travel administration at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The short-rib ravioli on the menu at the Sweet Life Cafe is another example of comfort food with a twist. Pasta topped with strawberries? Who would’ve thought? Yet the taste combination was perfectly balanced and delicious. Island-grown strawberries are currently in season and this is the perfect time for you to try Sweet Life’s ravioli recipe at home or sitting at a table letting Carlos do the cooking.

Kevin and Suzanna purchased Sweet Life in May of this year. The Victorian building with the gorgeous outdoor seating area held much appeal. “The character of the building fit what we like to do – comfort with sophistication,” said Kevin, adding, “The outdoor back bar at Sweet Life is a hidden treasure.”

Great food, paired with a fabulous wine and chic setting is what Kevin and Suzanna set out to achieve every day. They met at Savoir Faire in 1998. When Savoir Faire owner’s Charlotte and Scott Caskey decided to open Alchemy, Kevin and Suzanna transferred over to the new French bistro, and the couple spent three years at Alchemy until they decided to spend some time in Paris.

After a gastronomical winter in France, they married in Tuscany and returned to the Island determined and hopeful to open their own restaurant. “We kept our eyes open for a spot that could work. We wanted to keep the feel of the wine bars we loved in Paris but bring a little more sophistication to it,” said Kevin. “We gave ourselves two years to find our own place. Within a year we owned Détente.”

The cozy restaurant and bar complements Kevin and Suzanna’s personalities. “Détente translates to un-tense or the point of relaxation. It suits what we are going for here – to relax and chill out in this secret corner of Edgartown,” said Kevin, who expanded Détente four years ago and added the upstairs and outdoor seating.

Détente and the Sweet Life Café are both open seven days a week during the summer season, serving dinner nightly from 5:30. Be sure to check out Détente’s extensive wine list, over two hundred labels, and don’t miss dining under the stars at Sweet Life.

1 small seedless
1 pint baby heirloom
2 Tablespoons sliced basil
1 teaspoon aged balsamic
2 Tablespoon extra virgin
olive oil
2 ripe avocado
1 Tablespoon crème fraiche
1 Lime
6 Dressed fresh
softshell crabs
1 cup black olives, pitted
Vegetable oil for frying

1 If time allows place olives in dehydrator for at least 24 hours. Crumble with a food processor or mince with a chef’s knife. Set aside

2 Slice watermelon into 1 inch thick slices. Using a 3” cookie cutter press down to cut nice clean disks. (Reserve trimmings for a spiced watermelon margarita.) Slice tomatoes and toss in a bowl with the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, basil salt and pepper. Set aside. Remove meat from avocado and place in food processor with lime, crème fraiche and salt to taste. Work until smooth, remove and place a scoop on 6 plates. Flatten scoop with spoon, top with watermelon round and tomato salad mixture. Sprinkle with olive crumble.

3 Dip soft shells in buttermilk, then flour and fry in 360 degree oil for 1 minute.

4 Remove from oil, season with salt and pepper and
place 1 crab on each plate. Serve