Friday, February 1, 2019

Frigid Cold in PTown Recalls Coldest Winter in Memory, 101 Years Ago

About once every winter season we get a brutally frigid day or two, and people ask me about Provincetown's most notorious winter, along with the ice floes that were more than 10 feet high, clogging the harbor for a month.
Robert Lewis illustrates the 10-foot-two-inch "icebergs" settled on the harbor flats
at low tide. Photo by Robert's father, Captain William Lewis.
Read my original article, which included this photo of ice floes more than 10 feet high, which took over the harbor in Februaury of 1918. Fishermen were unable to go to work, and the coal barges were unable to navigate the harbor to replenish Provincetown's exhausted heating fuel supply for weeks on end. Click on Provincetown's Most Miserable Winter to learn more about that dreadful winter.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

2018 Winter Solstice Brings a Couple of Surprizes

The Winter Solstice coincides with December's full moon, called the Long Night Moon.

The 2018 winter solstice occurred yesterday, December 21st, marking both the shortest day and longest night of the year.
This is a day I always look forward to because from here on out (for the next six months, anyway,) each day will bring us an additional moment or two of sunlight as the Northern Hemisphere begins slowly tilting toward the sun once again, as it does at this time every year. But this year something unusual is happening as well…

There’s a full moon this weekend, actually reaching its peak around lunchtime today (Saturday. the 22nd,) and clear skies tonight should show us a full moon in the night sky. The December full moon has been referred to by many as the Long Night Moon, since it happens during the time when the nights in this part of the world are at their longest. Native Americans called it the Cold Moon, since this is the beginning of the coldest part of the year. Don’t be fooled by the overnight low dipping only to about 50 degrees last night, I will be around 35 degrees late tonight.

Tomorrow night will likely bring intermittent clouds and rain, so tonight will be your best chance for a clear view of the Cold Moon. The last time this full moon coincided with the Winter Solstice was in 2010, and won’t repeat again until 2029, says one source, and 2094,says another (which one published a typo?) Either way, this is a rare occurrence. But tonight we can look for yet another little bonus…

The Ursid meteor shower will peak tonight, bringing shooting stars to the stage. The full moon will brighten the sky, lessening visibility of the meteors colliding with Earth’s atmosphere, but don’t let that, or the colder weather tonight, stop you from trying to spot them.

Here’s some advise offered through NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory: "... Bundle up if you want to watch for meteors, as it is getting late in the year! Get to a dark spot, get comfortable, bring extra blankets to stay warm, and let your eyes adjust to the dark sky. A cozy lounge chair makes for a great seat, as does simply lying on your back on a blanket, eyes scanning the whole sky."


NOAA illustration attempts to explain the Winter Solstice.
The parking lot at Herring Cove is far from any lights or tall trees that might interfere with your view of the night sky, and is one of my two favorite local spots for this sort of sky watching. The other is in North Truro, at the top of the little hill near the Salty Market (formerly Dutra’s,) looking out over Cape Cod Bay and Provincetown Harbor. From the market, at the intersection of Shore Road (Route 6A) and Highland Road, go west on Pond Road, passing by Village Pond, and take the right-hand fork in the road up a small hill to a tiny parking lot.

If you drive to either of these vantage points, you can stay fairly warm in your car while waiting for your eyes to really adjust to the dark, which experts say could take up to 30 minutes. And if you’re looking at the full moon, which will be moving across the sky as the night goes on, your eyes won’t adjust. To the darkest parts of the sky, which is where you’ll look for meteors scooting by. So this gets a little complicated. You may want to enjoy the moon for a while and then shift your gaze away, to a dark part of the sky, for your best chance to eventually spot those “shooting Stars.” 

The full moon glows above Earth in this splendid NASA photo.
Block as much light from your eyes as you can. Position your car’s visor to block the moon from view, or tape a small square of cardboard in place on your window and move it as the moon moves across the sky so you can stay focused on the darkest spots. If you’re listening to music while you’re looking for meteors, block out a  the light you can by covering all lights on your dashboard or cell phone. Keep your eyes constantly scanning up and down, left to right, like you might if you were watching for a whale to spout on the seascape.

I keep a big downy comforter in the car to keep me warm on adventures in the cold. You don’t want to run the engine to stay warm. It would kind of kill the spirit of the event. Take a thermos of hot cocoa with you, maybe a snack, because you might be out there for a while.

If all of this just sounds like too much, I’ll bet you’ll find some great photos of these events posted online tomorrow, maybe even some NASA photos. And if you’re brave and hardy enough to venture out in the cold for these events, I salute you!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It's Still Halloween in Provincetown

PTown Halloween displays traditionally range from whimsical to clever to frightening. Take a tour!
Even though the big Halloween ball, Spooky Bear and PBG events were held last week, you can still find the spirit of this great holiday in spots throughout Provincetown. When Halloween actually falls on a Saturday, all stops are pulled out for a huge celebration, while elaborate costumes and unparalleled reveling run rampant on PTown streets and in our clubs, but when the big day falls in the middle of the week, parties and events of all kinds mostly occur on the weekend before.
Even so, there's a lot of fun to be had just by watching for all of the die-hards who are still celebrating on the actual 31st of October, no matter what, and by spotting decorations of all sorts as you make your way through the town.
I happened into the Seamen's Bank branch on Shank Painter Road today, where every teller was in costume or elaborate makeup, or both, with trays full of sandwiches and cupcakes set out for anyone stopping in. They were combining their annual customer appreciation day with the chance to dress up and have a little fun, giving out tote bags, calendars and several handy little gifts that let customers feel the trick-or-treat spirit of the day.
I also found cashiers and various other employees at the Stop and Shop wearing some sort of costume, or attempt, as well. I didn't stroll down Commercial Street today, but I'll guarantee there were a few costumes to be found there, and likely in a number of our restaurants and shops as well.
The big surprise for me today was at the Quest lab at Outer Cape Health, where Mary, the woman drawing my blood this afternoon, had big spiders in her hair, and a pair of very tiny skeletons dangling from her ears and dancing as she turned her head, each bone swinging with her every movement. I thanked each of these folks for getting into the full spirit of the occasion, and putting little smiles on my face as I went about my day.
As for decorations around town, one place I always look is the corner yard where Cemetery Road meets Conwell Street. They always have a great Halloween display that takes up most of their yard. They've built a huge spider web with a big, black, tarantula-looking creature and other decorations all around the place.
One of this year's funnest Halloween displays has been the gorgeous antique car filled with skeletons and spooks, seen either parked at the Clarendon House, at 119 Bradford Street, or spotted tooling around the town.
Hats off to all of those who use any excuse to celebrate, decorate, or dress up, and who make it so much fun to live and visit in Provincetown!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Japanese Snacks at Tanuki are My Favorite New Street Food in PTown

This Spicy Smoky Bluefish Onigiri is the perfect snack to take to the beach or street.
I didn't make my first visit to Tanuki, sort of a Japanese snack bar on Commercial Street, until mid-summer, but I've been a steady customer ever since.
I can't get enough of their Onigiri (say O•neeg•yeer•ee, or just ask for rice balls,) my favorite new food in PTown this summer.

Tanuki's version of the traditional Japanese rice ball is actually a very special rice, imported from Japan since it isn't readily available in the US, pressed into about a three-inch triangle to hold its shape, and stuffed with any number of savory fillings. The Spicy, Smoky Bluefish variety is pictured here, sprinkled with a bit of spice, a few black sesame seeds and sliced scallion, and it's my favorite new Commercial Street snack.

Taniko's rice balls are wrapped and ready to go, slipped into your pocket or beach bag.
Other Onigiri choices on any given day might be the Sansyo Pork, or Spicy Mackerel & Tobiko, the tasty, flying fish roe you may know if you/re a sushi fan.
A vegetarian variety is always available, too, like the Tare Tofu Onigiri, as long as it hasn't already sold out before you get there.

Selection will vary daily depending on which particular ingredients are the finest available that day. If beautiful Atlantic Salmon are swimming nearby, for example, you can bet that they'll become a featured Onigiri that afternoon. These great, triangular Rice Balls are made fresh throughout the day, so there are always several choices.
These excellent, savory snacks are best eaten at room temperature, so choose a couple of flavors from the cooler and take them with you. Let them warm up a bit, then splash on just a few drops of the ultra-premium soy sauce Tanuki provides, and munch down a delicious, healthy treat you may never have had before, all for about $4.

Healthy, vegan truffles are homemade by hand, and good for you.
Last Saturday, on a mad rush to be on time for the final performance of The Whining, I realized I needed to eat something before the show to tide me over, so I grabbed a rice ball from Tanuki, slipped it into my shirt pocket and headed across the street to the Art House.
By the time it was my turn in the box office line, my snack was the perfect temperature to maximize all of its great flavors, both bold and subtle.
I unwrapped it, dripped on a tiny bit of that special soy sauce, and gobbled up the snack I'd been craving all week. These Onigiri are  quick, nutritious, satisfying, very tasty, and inexpensive... You just can't beat a deal like that.
Tanuki makes treats for your sweet tooth as well, like their Bittersweet Red Bean Truffles, made with 70% dark chocolate and Matcha green tea, and chock-full of health and energy benefits for you. There are matcha cream puffs as well as goodies made with lemon and mascarpone, and others.They've been experimenting in the kitchen all summer, coming up with things like a "Japanese cheesecake" and other tasty innovations, each around $3.

I tried the Black Sesame flavor of Mochi Ice Cream.
Mochi Ice Cream (just $2.50 each) are small, unusual desserts made with premium ice cream in uncommon flavors. These are tasty discs of ice cream about two inches wide. Each one of these is encased in a thin, smooth coating of a confection that reminds me of the texture of a marshmallow.
You can eat them with your hands. or spear them on the end of a chopstick. They're the perfect size for when you just want a little ice cream, not a huge, expensive cone.

The full service coffee bar offers a wide variety of hot coffee drinks like espresso, caoouccino and lattes as well as hot tea specialties including Matcha and Genma Cha. Tanuki makes a variety of chilled coffee and tea beverages including a great cold brewed, iced coffee and a "Hangover Helper" that actually does seem to help. It's made with  your choice of iced Sencha or Oolong teas. There are Matcha smoothies, a Matcha Palmer (1/2 lemonade,) as well as bottled, cold drinks from Japan.

Blackboards out front list food and drink specialties, some evolving through the day.
Find Tanuki, named for a creature known in Japanese legend and mythology, at 227 Commercial Street. They're in the bright yellow building known for many years as The Little Store, in the days when it was bright red.

Tanuki made its first PTown appearance as a very popular pop-up restaurant during the annual holiday festival sponsored by The Canteen, right next door. That tremendous response in mid-winter led to launching Tanuki in a brand new space of its own this summer.
Try some of these excellent snacks, treats and beverages, bringing Commercial Street some unique new flavors and expanding the variety of international street foods found in PTown.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Celebration of Life Concert Kicks Off PTown's Annual Swim for Life Events

Voices and spirits will be raised at Provincetown's annual Celebration of Life.
At 8 PM tonight Provincetown's 31st annual Swim for Life weekend will be launched with a free concert held at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, at 236 Commercial Street.
This celebration is perhaps the most joyous event to take place in Provincetown every year.
Typically this show has included all sorts of music and song, perhaps a bit of comedy, maybe spoken word, drumming, poetry or any other sort of  mirth or amusement dreamed up by both amateur and professional performers. Tonight they will regale a packed house with a buoyant, uplifting. inspirational evening of entertainment.

The first swimmer reaches the shoreline, cheered on by the crowd.
All of this is the prelude to tomorrow's Swim for Life, the yearly fundraising event of the Community Compact. More than 400 swimmers will plunge into Provincetown Harbor for an open water swim of 1.4 miles from Long Point Light to the Boatslip Beach Club. Over the years, the Swim has raised more than $4 million dollars for HIV/AIDs, women's health, and community organizations.
When the last swimmer has reached the shoreline, the Mermaid Brunch will begin, on the deck of the Boatslip, with entertainment, the awards ceremony, and a buffet catered by Far Land Provisions. All of these events are free and open to the public. We thank more than 150 volunteers who make all of this happen, and guard the safety of the swimmers and all of the participants.
Go to the concert, cheer on the swimmers, and join us for brunch! Visit swim4life.org for more information or to join the swim!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Mistralino Earns TheYearRounder's 'Best Bite' Award for Food, Service, Ambiance

Mistralino's Cioppino, topped with striped bass, was simply superb!

With new owners and chefs this year, Mistralino ups the ante on fine Italian dining in PTown, while still maintaining the charm of its relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.
The walls of the main dining room are each decorated with plates of all different sizes and descriptions, like so many sets of mismatched china, each piece inscribed with the compliments and well-wishes of diners expressing thanks for a memorable meal.
My own accolades joined the others on these walls following the remarkable dinner I had there a couple of weeks ago. The Grilled Octopus appetizer, followed by the Striped Bass Cioppino, both nightly specials, earned Mistralino TheYearRounder’s famed Best Bite award, as the best meal I’d had in Provincetown that week. 

The octopus appetizer was full of flavor from the grill, and perfectly cooked.
 My dinner began with a couple of large octopus tentacles charred on the grill, perfectly tender and very flavorful. These were served over broccolini, with sweet red peppers which were echoed in the vibrant sauce that ringed the plate.
My main course was a lovely Striped Bass Cioppino. Local mussels and clams in this seafood stew added their subtle flavors to a splendid broth that let the grilled bass fillet on top be the star of the bowl. It was capped with a little arugula dressed in a light vinaigrette with just a bit of sweetness to it, adding another dimension of flavor atop this wonderful dish, while complimenting the splash of Pernod that had finished this delectable stew.

This wonderful Almond Torte is not too sweet, despite the way it looks.
My dessert was a slice of moist, dense Almond Torte, with a simple drizzle of light caramel sauce, all nestled in a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
This was the perfect treat to finish off this very fine meal. Even the cappuccino was memorable.

Reserve a Table Online, or take a chance and drop in. Dinner starts at 5 PM. Call 774•593•5945 for parties larger than 12. They’ll be closed Wednesday, September 5th and Tuesday, September 11th, but will otherwise be open nightly. 

 No fooling, this was the best cappuccino I;ve ever had.
Mistralino has been reborn this year. The ambiance invites you to relax and linger over a delightful meal with friends and family, or celebrate that special occasion with a romantic table for two.
Atmosphere, service and food are all top notch, with gracious hosts who could not be more welcoming. In fact, it seems like the entire staff is doing everything right. And they seem a cinch for another Best Bite recognition or two, as I attempt to taste my way around their menu. Try Mistralino soon!