Letters to the Editor, February 8, 2014

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 3:00pm

To the Editor:

So here we are on Block Island, in the dead of winter and maybe just one of the worst winters we have seen here in many years. We have taken the annual census on Ground Hog Day at the Island Pub, finding that only 931 hardliners are toughing it out all winter on this island. My friends around the country can’t quite figure us out. Some islanders, even the hardcore, go south for at least a few months, Costa Rica, Florida, Hawaii. However there are those of us that stay and that’s what this is all about.

This winter an interesting phenomenon has taken place on this beautiful snow-covered frozen island. A new restaurant has opened and on one of the coldest, snowy nights of winter. You say to yourself, “What were they thinking?” when we have at least four small restaurants open this winter already that are serving us well. It is the “Barn” at The Springhouse, a dream of the owner, Frank DiBiase, which was originally to be sort of a private kitchen for his friends, most of whom love good food and drink. Mr. DiBiase, already having restored the magnificent Spring House Hotel, now with air conditioning, repainted and restored inside and out, had a desire to do the same with the old huge horse stable and carriage barn out back.

I can only speculate that he has spent a tremendous amount of time and money on all these projects, and even wonder if he can recoup most of it, but I don’t think that matters to him. He has visions of this property that actually benefit all of us on this island, sort of a labor of love for Frank DiBiase. Don’t think that there wasn’t more than money involved here. This little restaurant, the “Barn” was to be opened last year. But without going into details, it finally opened and he has provided something completely different for the island including winter employment for some of the summer employees.

In no way am I taking anything away from the other restaurants, we need to support them as much as we can.

Here is where the interesting phenomenon begins. A cold Thursday night, just a day or so after blizzard conditions on the island and temperatures hovering just above zero with wind chills incalculable and it’s opening night at the “Barn.” There was hardly any advertising of this event, it just took place almost spontaneously. All I can say is that I witnessed this, a full house, all local neighbors just waiting for something different to do. A woodfired (local apple) state-of-the-art grill, steaks, salmon, turkey, scallops you name it they had it and all at fair fare. Local for the most part middle aged folk, some that never wave to you yet now sitting and laughing all together, a block party, a neighborly sit down side by side whatever you want to call it. It was a party, noisy, loud, with no complaints and most wanting this night to go on forever. Forever at least so far it has, capacity groups on every night, that is four nights a week and now reservations.

Now really what is this all about, a social culinary phenomenon during the dreaded days of winter? Let us go back in history, to St. Croix Island off the coast of Maine in 1605. Samuel Champlain, French explorer having suffered severe consequences of wintering on the island that year, losing most of his colony to scurvy, decided to do something different, not abandon his island but make it survive and he did. He established The Order of Good Cheer for the winter of 1606, a gastronomic society that concentrated on gathering local food in a social and convivial atmosphere of public dinners and in the dead of winter. Champlain wrote, “We passed this winter most joyously and faired lavishly.” The results were a type of thanksgiving celebration, communal frenzy of raising spirits, moral and health with fresh food and drink and no further deaths from scurvy.

Let me put this all together. Thank you, Mr. Frank DiBiase, for your own “Order of Good Cheer” for the winter of 2014 which we won’t forget too soon, for your undying efforts, despite the odds, to bring all of what you do to this island but especially now the little “Barn” restaurant. There should be no deaths from scurvy here might even see Lyme disease diminish due to harshness of winter on the tick population. This tiny settlement hopefully will survive with each other’s company, pleasant meals and good drink which incidentally can also be found at Bethany’s Airport Diner, the Poor Peoples Pub, the Channel Marker and Club Soda.

John Willis

Beacon Hollow Farm

The following letter refers to a story in the Jan. 26 edition that reported on a recent Land Trust acquisition.

To The Editor:

Pat and I gave a great deal of thought to our sale of these 3.5 acres. We’ve enjoyed the island for 20 years and carefully considered our alternatives. We decided to offer this parcel in the middle of about 35 acres of already conserved acres and proximate to the cemetery to ensure that it would be there for all to enjoy.

We’re happy that we could contribute to “our” island.

Lou Valente and Pat Wynne

Old Mill Road

To the Editor:

About those “fancy pants” for Block Island taxi drivers. If we wanted style, we’d go to a fashion show. We just want a ride to the greenways in our never-ending search for Block Island glass floats. It’s what the taxi drivers do that’s important — not what they wear. Helpful and knowledgeable about the island, these ambassadors of goodwill stop at nothing to please their fares. They never flinch as we ask to be driven down rutted roads to tag sales only they can find. If their taxi can’t handle the ruts, they find us one that can. Our long walks along the beaches result in many found treasures.

These “treasures,” consisting of old lobster buoys and sand encrusted chunks of rope are deposited in the pristine interior of a taxi. Does the driver complain? Quite the opposite! We are congratulated on our finds.

In 26 years, we have never missed a plane or ferry because the taxi arrived late. Can we say that about the “fancy pants” city taxis? Never!

Last but not least, if it weren’t for the taxi drivers, we would have to walk! And a lot of tourists would see and know a lot less of Block Island. The taxi drivers’ attire of summer dresses, pink baseball hats, shorts and T-shirts is perfectly suited to the occasion. Why would anyone want to change a thing? Relax! We’re on island time!

Bob and Gerry Mikulka

Town Buoy #50, Great Salt Pond

Andover/Simsbury, Conn.