Chef Patrick Steele has a way with fish. Whether he is butchering a whole prize halibut that stretches nearly half his height or saving small fish pieces to make house-cured salt cod, the chef, whose resume includes nearly a decade at Barbara Lynch’s B&G Oysters in Boston, is clearly at home with local bounty.
Apropos in a town clinging to the water’s edge, local seafood is an integral part of the menu at Rockport’s new Feather & Wedge, where Steele is chef. While the limited menu—generally a selection of two or three each of appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts—changes nightly, fish often plays a starring role. A recent evening included a generous appetizer of yellowfin tuna tartare, with just a hint of citrus to allow the glistening freshness of the fish to shine through, and an airy, classic brandade cake—a combination of whipped potatoes and that house-cured salt cod, gently fried with a crisp crust.
Whenever possible, Steele sources from local providers like Alprilla Farm in Essex and Marini Farm in Ipswich for his artfully plated, creative salads. The carrot salad, composed of small whole roasted carrots on a bed of carrot ribbons and greens, tossed with a Middle Eastern infused cumin seed vinaigrette, is so delicious and popular it has earned a regular rotation. Other nights might feature a refreshingly bitter shaved endive salad, served atop slices of fresh persimmon and enhanced with crumbled blue cheese. Entrees can include everything from a popular roasted lobster dish to drunken pork braised in wine and studded with carrots, or perhaps yellowfin tuna au poivre, topped with a beurre blanc. Most nights, the menu will feature a grilled sirloin.
Desserts also change nightly—a recent offering of velvety, rich vanilla bean panna cotta was creatively topped with slivers of intense dark chocolate, fresh figs, and pomegranate seeds for a delicious, inventive end to a meal.
The thoughtful wine list offers a large selection of wines by the glass, with unusual offerings like Falanghina, an ancient white varietal from Campania, Italy, with well-balanced acidity and minerality, topped with some floral notes. For red wines, Pel Jesac, from Croatia, has been quite popular. The list is curated by Stephen Smit, a wine broker who co-owns the restaurant with Charles Gladstone.
A standout on the inventive cocktail list was the rye-based Quarryman, bitter, mineral-y, and well-balanced. Local history buffs will appreciate the Hannah Jumper, a mixture of rum and fresh-squeezed lime juice named for the temperance activist who led a group of hatchet-wielding women in destroying the town’s stores of alcohol in 1856, ushering Prohibition into town—and leaving Rockport dry until 2005.
Owners Steven Smit and Charles Gladstone
History is also reflected in the restaurant’s name—and indeed its muted gray décor. Feather and wedge is a reference to the tools and process used for splitting granite, and the bar’s focal point is a wall-sized black-and-white photo of Rockport’s old quarry.
The convivial atmosphere in the narrow 50-seat, L-shaped space welcomes a wide range of locals and a significant number of domestic and international tourists. The year-round hours will be good news to anyone who has attended a concert at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, located just a few doors down—especially in the dead of winter, when a unique glass of wine and perhaps a pretty salad will lift seasonal doldrums.
Offerings change nightly. Popular items recently included:
Tuna tartare $10
Carrot salad $9
Yellowfin tuna $26
Owners: Stephen Smit and Charles Gladstone
Chef: Patrick Steele
Feather & Wedge
5 Main Street, Rockport