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Volume 40 Issue 10 • July 8-14, 2010
now in our 40th season
In This Issue

Fifty-Six Union -
Comfortably Chic and Deeply Satisfying

56 Union EntranceThere’s an appealing warmth, friendliness, and personality to Fifty-Six Union that draws guests back time and time again.  Pair that warmth and welcome with the deeply satifying food of Chef Peter Jannelle, and your meal at Fifty-Six may just be the best you have on-island!

In the ten years since Peter and Wendy Jannelle purchased the restaurant at 56 Union Street and transformed it from a local diner into a chic neighborhood eatery, they have earned friends as well as loyal patrons. 
It’s common for guests—even complete strangers—to feel so comfortable and relaxed that they chatter back and forth across the spacious wrap-around bar.  On your second or third visit, chances are you’ll recognize some of the many regulars, and they may recognize you. 

Wendy Jannelle is the everpresent host, seating guests and making sure all runs smoothly and everyone is comfortable and happy.  She has also designed a sophisticated wine list and stylish cocktail list that will suit a variety of palates. 

Front Dining Room
Front Dining Room

There are two dining rooms at Fifty-Six Union:  a bright front room and a more private and quieter back dining room that overlooks the patio.  Warm summer days make the patio at Fifty-Six very popular, so you’d be well advised to call ahead for a seat there.  Just beyond the patio, set in their lush garden, is “Table 56.”  This very special table is festively arranged under its own awning with sides that can be pulled closed—a culinary oasis, ideal for small private celebrations.  Guests at Table 56 can order off the regular dinner menu or arrange in advance for a special tasting menu.

Back Dining Room
Back Dining Room

Chef Peter Jannelle is a culinary artist  His menus, which change with the seasons, feature fresh salads, homemade soups, and dishes that range from simple bistro meals to fine dining.  A number of his regularly offered dishes are so popular that patrons come in every week to savor them:  two of these are the Curried Mussels and the Truffle Frites.  Some guests even call to find out if their favorite seasonal dishes have returned to the menu (if you’ve ever tasted their housemade Crab Rangoons you know why).  Chef Jannelle always has special surprises on his menu—a new fish entree or a vegetarian treat or a nightly special—in addition to the favorites. 


One of Chef Peter and Wendy’s sons, Andrew, is by Peter’s side in the kitchen this season.  “They work well together,” commented Wendy, “they have the right chemistry.  And he’s more than just passionate about what he’s doing—it’s a family business.”


click on images for larger view
Escargot Escargot Bourguignonne is one of the seasonal favorites that guests simply adore.  A half-dozen of the tender morsels are presented piping hot, each one nestled in an aromatic blend of butter, garlic, herbs, and a dash of pernod.  The aroma is head-turning—we’ve had people sitting next to us decide to order the same just because of the delicious smell—yet the flavors hold their own, the garlic doesn’t overpower the dish.
Crab Cake

Back on the summer menu is Chef Jannelle’s Crab Cake, one of the best we’ve ever had!  The cake is gently formed from jonah and lump crabmeat, and tiny bits of bell pepper, celery, and cilantro.  The breading is a light and crunchy panko.  Lobster cream sauce is the finishing touch.


Salads at Fifty-Six are summery and refreshing.  The Southwestern Caesar is a tasty twist on the classic and the Baby Field Greens is a hearty composition of fresh greens, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and creamy goat cheese.  This time of year, though, the salad you want is the Caprese Salad (shown).    Thick, juicy slices of ruby red tomato sweetened by the sun are layered with slices of snow-white buffalo mozzarella.  Toasted pine nuts and fresh basil are sprinkled overtop, and final drizzles of fruity olive oil and tangy balsamic make this a triumph of freshness and flavor.


A couple of the entrees at Fifty-Six can be ordered in small portion, which is ideal for light eaters or for people like us who love to try different dishes!  We sampled the Seared Rare Tuna in half portion and have added it to our list of summertime favorites.  This is a dish of delicate but persistent flavor.  The tuna is quickly seared to keep it rare and served over a chilled salad of al dente udon noodles, crisp julienne carrot, yellow and red bell pepper, edamame, and asparagus.  Dollops of a spicy but not fiery hot wasabi aioli dot the plate, and a nuoc cham dipping sauce with chilis, garlic, lime, Thai fish sauce, and several other ingredients the chef politely declined to reveal adds a cool intensity to the dish.


As much as we enjoyed the chilled Tuna, it was the Day Boat Fluke that we swooned over.   For this entree, Chef Jannelle lightly coated the sparklingly fresh fish with finely crushed pecans and sauteed it till cooked through but moist and flaky.  It’s served on top of a bed of rich and nutty forbidden black rice and sauteed asparagus, tomato, and kernels of corn so sweet and fresh that they pop when you bite into them.  Surrounding the fish and the vegetables is a luscious champagne beurre blanc.  Every element of this dish is delicious—the fluke, the vegetables and rice, and the beurre blanc—together they are astonishingly good.


Fifty-Six patrons will be very pleased to know that the Roasted Half Rack of Colorado Lamb we all love so much is back on the summer menu.  The succulent ribs are coated with mustard, which adds hints of its spice to the meat, and panko for a delightful crunch.  A luxurious bearnaise sauce is poured over the rack and onto the plate.  Cool minted tabbouleh brightens the dish and lightens its richness.  You will find yourself gnawing on the bones to get every delicious morsel of this lamb! 

Duck Salad

High praise also goes to Chef Jannelle’s Grilled Duck Salad.  A creative mix of textures, flavors and temperatures makes this superb!  Marinated and grilled duck breast is the star of the salad, with supporting roles going to shreds of duck leg confit, chunks of truffle cheese, wedges of juicy clementine, and fresh greens tossed in a citrus vinaigrette.  Every forkful has a different mix of flavors; together they all work in harmony on the plate.

Vegetarian Tower

Vegetarians are also well treated at Fifty-Six Union.  The summer vegetarian special is a Vegetable Napoleon Tower constructed from portabello mushroom, roasted eggplant, yellow bell pepper, and slow roasted tomato interspersed with manchego cheese.  The foundation is a light and fluffy polenta flavored with mascarpone.  Every vegetable in the dish is very nicely done, no single flavor is overwhelming, and the cheese melds the flavors together.


Take our advise and when it comes to dessert, order two:  the Fifty-Six Float and the Berry Shortcake.  The Float is simply a shot of espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  This Italian treat known as affogato has taken far too long to reach our shores. 


The Berry Shortcake is George Bassett’s favorite dessert.  One night that we were at Fifty-Six, he convinced every person eating at the bar to order it — and every single person was glad he did.  The fresh biscuits flavored with orange are piled with fresh, juicy strawberries and blueberries, a bit of simple syrup, and a generous dollop of whipped cream. 

Brulee We must confess to also trying the Chocolate Kahlua Creme Brulee, which we knew was perfect when our creme brulee expert announced that he wasn’t sharing. 

And we couldn’t resist the Trio of Sorbets.   Like frosty after dinner cocktails, each innovative flavor had a splash of spirit.  We sampled Raspberry Habanero with Goslings, White Peach with Canton Ginger and St. Germaine, and Basil, Blood Orange Mimosa.

Eating a bit too well is a serious risk at Fifty-Six Union, but the restaurant is ideally located for a short leisurely after-dinner stroll back to Town.

Fifty-Six Union
Open year-round at 56 Union Street • 
Bar opens at 5 pm; Dinner served nightly from 5:30 pm
Entree price range is $16 to $46 (most between $24 - $28)
indoor and outdoor dining; full bar
available for private celebrations
major credit cards accepted
plenty of parking

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