Archive for the ‘Cape Cod’ Category

Here in New England, oysters are plentiful. We don’t just slurp ’em down: we go out and dig our own…we have our favorite buck-an-oyster bar for any given day of the week…and we debate over the best variety, from east coast to west, north to south.

So when a friend of ours who lives on Cape Cod dropped off about 5 dozen Barnstable oysters she just dug that morning, it was cause to celebrate.

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Fresh oysters deserve an amazing cocktail sauce, and my recipe kicks butt: lots of horseradish, lots of flavor, and a secret ingredient: vodka. Not only does it give it a kick, it keeps it from freezing solid, so I can keep the cocktail sauce in the freezer until I need it.

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

 

Fresh shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

Freshly shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

 

When I’m in Portland, Maine, I visit one of the best oyster bars in the country: Eventide. Besides some wickedly creative dishes, they consistently have a fantastic variety of fresh oysters to choose from. And they offer a variety of “accoutrements” to go with them: anything from a red wine mignonette to kimchee ice. My favorite is the pickled red onion ice. All you need is a shot glass with a freshly shucked oyster inside, a half-shot of chilled vodka on top, and some pickled red onion ice, and you’ve got the best oyster shooter on planet Earth. I even suggested the shooter to the manager at Eventide. It has yet to make it to the menu. (But I remain hopeful!)

 

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion shaved ice. Bottoms up!

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion ice. Bottoms up!

 

I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good version of the pickled red onion ice at home, and I serve it alongside my cocktail sauce.

2 large red onions
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

Peel and quarter the onions. Drop them in a medium-sized pot and cover with about a quart of water. Bring it to a boil and cook it down until it has reduced to a cup of concentrated onion water after straining.

Bring the strained onion water back to the stove, and on medium heat, add the sugar and vinegar, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before pouring it into a container and placing it in the freezer.

When it’s time to eat oysters, remove the block of red onion ice from its container, and, using a fine metal grater, shave the ice over the top of the freshly shucked oysters and devour immediately!

 

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Here in New England, oysters are plentiful. We don’t just slurp ’em down: we go out and dig our own…we have our favorite buck-an-oyster bar for any given day of the week…and we debate over the best variety, from east coast to west, north to south.

So when a friend of ours who lives on Cape Cod dropped off about 5 dozen Barnstable oysters she just dug that morning, it was cause to celebrate.

oysters

Fresh oysters deserve an amazing cocktail sauce, and my recipe kicks butt: lots of horseradish, lots of flavor, and a secret ingredient: vodka. Not only does it give it a kick, it keeps it from freezing solid, so I can keep the cocktail sauce in the freezer until I need it.

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

Fresh shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

Freshly shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

 

When I’m in Portland, Maine, I visit one of the best oyster bars in the country: Eventide. Besides some wickedly creative dishes, they consistently have a fantastic variety of fresh oysters to choose from. And they offer a variety of “accoutrements” to go with them: anything from a red wine mignonette to kimchee ice. My favorite is the pickled red onion ice. All you need is a shot glass with a freshly shucked oyster inside, a half-shot of chilled vodka on top, and some pickled red onion ice, and you’ve got the best oyster shooter on planet Earth. I even suggested the shooter to the manager at Eventide. It has yet to make it to the menu. (But I remain hopeful!)

 

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion shaved ice. Bottoms up!

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion ice. Bottoms up!

 

I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good version of the pickled red onion ice at home, and I serve it alongside my cocktail sauce.

2 large red onions
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

Peel and quarter the onions. Drop them in a medium-sized pot and cover with about a quart of water. Bring it to a boil and cook it down until it has reduced to a cup of concentrated onion water after straining.

Bring the strained onion water back to the stove, and on medium heat, add the sugar and vinegar, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before pouring it into a container and placing it in the freezer.

When it’s time to eat oysters, remove the block of red onion ice from its container, and, using a fine cheese grater, shave the ice over the top of the freshly shucked oysters and devour immediately!

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I recently spent a long weekend in P-Town with my wife and daughter…my wife enjoying an art conference while my daughter and I enjoyed the sunshine. We’d meet at the end of the day for dinner, and share our stories.

P-Town has a bit of a reputation…and I was told by some friends that after sundown, we should bring our 7-year-old daughter indoors if we wanted to avoid her asking a lot of uncomfortable questions. Well, there were no red leather chaps, no circus freaks. I’m sure that there are certain weekends that may be a bit less family friendly than others, but generally speaking, today’s Provincetown is not the same as the town I visited back when I lived on Cape Cod in the 80’s.

Families walk the main street, Commercial Street, late into the night. Shops, restaurants and galleries cater to all tourists and lifestyles. And why not? A small waterfront town like this relies on its very short summer season to make its money. Why turn people and their wallets away?

There are many restaurant choices in Provincetown, and if you’re looking for top-notch big city fine dining, you won’t find it here. However, there are many good restaurants with creative dishes. And there’s incredibly fresh simply presented seafood that is a staple in New England: clams, oysters, cod, halibut, tuna, and scallops.

 

VICTOR’S

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Victors is a fun place. They serve tapas, and they make it very easy to share by dividing each plate beautifully and simply. The ingredients are fresh and the ideas are pretty good. Sometimes, though, they just don’t hit the mark. The fish taco with halibut was delicious. Duck sliders, however, were too salty. The Caesar salad came out in large, individual pieces of Romain lettuce, sprinkled with the Caesar ingredients on them. An interesting presentation, and again, easy to share. But not exactly what you want in a Caesar salad. Raw tuna Napoleons were good. The bar knows its cocktails and they serve them strong. Service is excellent. Basically, Victor’s is a perfect example of any Provincetown restaurant: good but not great. In a seasonal town, it is hard to maintain quality to the highest standards. But it’s a fun place to go to.

 

MEWS BAR & CAFE

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When a bar boasts 300 vodkas from around the world, I need to check it out. And that I did! I always start with my signature Stoli Elit and then work my way from there. I asked for and received a written list of all the vodkas in stock and being Lithuanian, I was happy to see there was a Lithuanian vodka on the list. I challenged them to present the bottle to me, and it appeared within seconds! Naturally I had to have a drink with it. The bar staff was swamped but always courteous and service was excellent. The bar itself is old and funky and really a lot of fun. I will come back someday for the food, but this time it was all about the martinis. One cool feature was that the olives for my martini were on a skewer that hung on the outside of the glass, and not in the drink. Sort of like truck nuts for a martini. Funky and fun.

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MAC’S PROVINCETOWN

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Mac’s does not have a great view of the water. It’s on a rather busy street that offers no scenery whatsoever. But what they lack in views, they make up for in fresh fish and delicious sushi! Everything we had was spectacular: the mini baked hand grenades (rice, shrimp, scallop, dynamite sauce and eel sauce) should not be missed. The sashimi–we had fresh halibut–was superb.

Sushi at Mac's, including the Hand Grenades in the black dish

Sushi at Mac’s, including the Hand Grenades in the black dish

The broiled yellowtail collar, what they call “Hamachi Kama” in the big city, was the best I’ve ever had. We were there for lunch, so no big drinking going on. But a peek inside showed a beautiful, clean (new) space that could get hoppin’ on any given evening around the raw bar. And next door is their own seafood shop…probably the cleanest I’ve ever seen, selling impeccably fresh fish.

Broiled yellowtail collar

Broiled yellowtail collar

 

 RED INN

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The biggest disappointment on our trip.

After my wife had a pretty good trout dinner at the Red Inn several nights before, we decided we would try again for a Friday night dinner. The place was crowded and it seemed that the wait staff was overwhelmed. Everything on the menu sounded good but all of it tasted like it had been cooked two days earlier and then just reheated before service. The bacon wrapped fried oysters that came with my Caesar salad were greasy, rubbery and cool. The avocado foam on my wife’s beet salad could’ve been anything… it had no flavor at all. The slow braised pork shank special lacked seasoning and it sat on top of a rather flavorless pile of grits. It seemed that the best dish on our table that night was the Kobe beef sliders our daughter had ordered. (And was it really Kobe? I think not, since it can only come from Japan and it’s really expensive. I’m guessing it was Wagyu, the American version of Kobe. Mislabeled menu.)

 

EDWIGE

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Our best dining experience of the weekend.

The soup of the day was an unlikely and fantastic mushroom and lobster soup. We thought the lobster would be lost with the intensity of the mushroom stock, but it was a delicious balance of flavors…really addictive! The tuna tartare was equally excellent. A main course bowl of seafood in a coconut sauce again showed a delicate hand by the chef and was delicious. And a flank steak was moist and tender, despite it being cooked beyond medium when I asked for medium-rare, set on top of a mound of irresistible wasabi mashed potatoes.

Infused vodkas that later infused me.

Infused vodkas that later infused me.

Cocktails are serious…and there’s a choice of house-infused vodkas at the bar: pineapple, ginger, cranberry, pepper. A bit of an issue with the wine list…but it’s an issue with every wine list we’ve seen in every restaurant we’ve been to in P-Town. Looks like one distributor has all the rights to wine in this town, so the lists are the same from place to place. Kinda sucks.

THE PROVINCETOWN INN

The view of town outside our room

The view of town outside our room

 

This is an old resort that has taken a beating over the years. The rooms aren’t fancy, but they are clean. And you absolutely cannot beat the location and the views: right at the end of Commercial Street and right on the water! Considering this is a town where you don’t come to stay indoors a lot, the rooms are perfectly fine. We stayed in the Captains Suite A, which had a full kitchen, and though we didn’t cook meals here, it was nice to hard boil an egg in the morning and keep our snacks in a full-sized refrigerator. They have a private beach (nothing fancy) and a swimming pool (very nice.)

 

 SURF CLUB RESTAURANT AND BAR

One look at the place and you know this is no fancy dining establishment. But the cocktails are strong and the food is fresh. It’s right on MacMillan wharf, so you can grab a bite, like we did, right after your whale watch trip. Great kids’ menu. I had the broiled seafood platter and it was a fresh as it could be.

 

DOLPHIN WHALE WATCH

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A fleet of beautifully maintained boats with professional crews and expert naturalists to narrate your trip. Indoor areas with snacks as well as plenty of seats out in the sunshine, and great views from anywhere on the boat. I’m sure the boats get crowded in season, but we went before the season really kicked in and had a great time. We saw 12 humpback whales over the course of 3 hours…some very close to the boat! There are other whale watch companies out of the Cape, but this is the one to go with. Highly recommended. http://www.whalewatch.com

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RACE POINT BEACH, HERRING COVE BEACH

Huge expanses of sand. Beautiful dunes. You can spot whales out in the distance.Two great beaches that shouldn’t be missed. In season, they do charge a $15 parking fee.

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