Saturday, October 31, 2015

In Provincetown, Halloween is Practically a National Holiday

The White Wind Inn always gets in the spirit of things, decorating their porch and grounds.
With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, more East Coast and New England residents will likely have the day off, and decide to travel to Provincetown to join the festivities here as we celebrate America's biggest unofficial holiday. Any excuse to get dressed up in Provincetown… Thousands of people will rise to the occasion.
Over the last couple of weeks we've seen a variety of decorations, both spooky and whimsical, popping up in windows, yards and gardens of homes and businesses throughout the town. It's been fun going down Commercial Street many times over the last couple of weeks and seeing what new features would appear daily as decorations went up a few at a time. Every time I passed the Sommerset House Inn I would look for another bat in the tree or a new ghoul in the garden.
To really appreciate all of these decorations, you'll want to take a spin through PTown in the daylight, as well as after dark. For example, while the light-up displays at the White Wind Inn and at the Boatslip take on a new dimension after dark, the macabre display at the Sommerset House might be better appreciated in the daylight.
Look for parties, events and costume contests to be found all over town. The annual Spooky Bear celebration brings all kinds of bears, along with a number of events and parties. This evening will bring a costume contest to the Crown & Anchor, along with Halloween videos at the Wave Bar. The Heaven or Hell Ball at Town Hall promises some great costumes, with awards for the best. Any bar in town will be festive, and full of people dressed up for the holiday.
As usual, just wandering along Commercial Street or sitting on the benches at Town Hall will provide sightings from the simplest of costumes to the extremely clever and elaborate ones. With the theme of good and evil taking over the town for this holiday weekend, we are quite likely to see a Pope Francis or two on the streets and in the bars.
I wonder how many revelers will dress up as Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples? Will someone be Minnesota's Walter Palmer, dressed in a dentist's smock and carrying the head of Cecil the lion? The most offensive of all (the more offensive the better, in this case) might be someone who shows up as Martin Shkreli, the odious Brooklyn businessman who raised the price of a life-saving AIDS and cancer fighting drug by 5,000 percent. That's pure evil.
Whether you simply don a wig or a pair of devil's horns at the last moment, or have spent weeks stitching an elaborate costume and jeweling your tiara, or simply want to watch the parade of costumes going by, there's great fun to be had in Provincetown tonight.
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Herons Are Back in PTown's Wetlands

This striking heron stands motionless amidst reeds and grasses turning golden in the autumn season.
A month ago I wrote about the dearth of birds in and around the Provincetown wetlands, since hardly any had been spotted, except for the eastern great egret, sometimes called the white heron. That bird was seen regularly for a few weeks, but various night herons and others weren't appearing as they had in years past.
Now, for the last couple of weeks it seems that a couple of pairs of great blue herons have been making regular appearances among the little rivulets that raise and lower with the tides in the wetlands of the Far West End, to the west of the breakwater. Look for these stately birds when the little salt water creeks they fish in are at about half tide. That means a bit before or after the actual half tide in the harbor, since it takes a while for the tidal flow to seep through the breakwater and change the depth of the water circulating amongst the grasses and reeds.
These two couples are particularly handsome. They each seem to be very large, sleek, well marked examples of this lovely species, with the dark patches at the shoulders and thighs easily visible. A bit of your time spent patiently watching for them is quite likely to be rewarded with some remarkable sightings, and a chance for photos.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Today is National Chocolate Day!

National Chocolate Day is celebrated annually in the United States on October 28th.
Although it doesn't hold the status or the official designation from our government to
to be celebrated as a true, national holiday, with paid time off from work, banks and public
buildings closed, and no mail delivery, perhaps it should be celebrated that way. 
We should all have the day off to celebrate the occasion as we please, and as conscience
dictates, with relatives flying in for a family gathering, and a feast of dozens of chocolate
treats made from cherished family recipes handed down through generations.
Chocolate Day is at least as relevant as Columbus Day… Who's with me?

The photo above and the text below are taken from,
where you'll find something to celebrate just about any day of the year.

Although there's no guarantee of what you'll find in local restaurants tonight, here are 
a few examples of chocolatey favorites I've had in spots still open this time of year…

Tin Pan Alley's pot du creme, sort of an ultra-dense, dark chocolate mousse.
Lobster Pot's brownie sundae, drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce (or both)
The Mews provides instructions involving use of a steak knife to eat its
"Extreme Cookies and Cream" ice cream sandwich, often shared by two or more.
Far Land's chocolate cake, with thick, fudgy frosting between three rich layers.
I've forgotten what Angel Foods calls this fudgy, cakey, nutty treat.
The Central House at the Crown & Anchor once offered a chocolate
caramel tort with chocolate gelato on chocolate cooky crumbs.
Provincetown Fudge Factory makes a gazillion varieties of beautiful candies,
and fudge in flavors both simple and exotic, like Bailey's Irish Cream.
Post Office Cafe's triple chocolate cake actually puts 7 kinds of chocolate on
the plate, perhaps the closest you'll ever come to actual "death by chocolate."
Vorelli's chocolate madness cake - chocolate cake crumb crust, layered with
chocolate mousse blended with Heath brownie chunks and chocolate truffles.
The Purple Feather makes chocolate cakes, candies, gelato, and don't forget
the chocolate covered bacon,  dipped in either dark or milk chocolate.

This post is for my sister Carolee, who is the biggest chocoholic I know.
Happy National Chocolate Day!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Last Call for Angel's Breakfast with Noreen

Noreen's Florentine version of her superb Eggs Benedict, with fresh baby spinach.
There are a few spots in PTown known for their great breakfast, like Chach, the two Devon's, Cafe Edwige and Cafe Heaven, and some of them have gotten a bit of recognition from a few publications that name their favorite dishes around the Cape every year. Cape Cod Life Magazine named Chach for the best breakfast on the Outer Cape in 2015. Cafe Heaven came in second, and was also recognized by Cape Cod Magazine in their June article about 50 Things to Eat on Cape Cod, naming Heaven's blueberry pancakes. Chach was also named in this blog last spring, when it earned TheYearRounder's Best Bite award for the outstanding blueberry pancakes to be found there. But there's a little spot off the beaten path that most folks have yet to find...
This buttermilk waffle with a strawberry-blueberry compote was a daily special.
I think the godmother of great breakfasts in PTown, simply has to be Noreen, whose fabulous morning repast I first found many, many years ago when she was slinging hash, turning out a perfect eggs Benedict, and baking a streuselly, brioche French toast in the little coffee shop hidden away at the Tides Best Western Motel on the outskirts of Provincetown, delighting anyone who could find the place. Her homemade corned beef hash is indeed the stuff of legends.
That little place was tucked away near an expanse of beach in the Far East End, off of Commercial Street, just before the North Truro border. Every time you'd walk into the joint it would be packed with locals, each of us a little reluctant to mention the place to any but the closest of friends, lest the tourists find the spot and make it impossible to get a table. If any of us breathed a word about this little jewel to another living soul, that person would then have to be sworn to secrecy, under pain of banishment, so as not to let the word out to the public and ruin a good thing.
Noreen's "green eggs and ham" stirs fresh homemade pesto, parmesan cheese
and Black Forest ham into scrambled eggs, and it's one of my favorite meals.
When the motel was sold, and later razed to create all those McMansions now built on that spot, Noreen began to seek out space to share in "dinner only" restaurants that were not really using their kitchens until late afternoon, and has served her celebrated breakfast that way, from a number of Provincetown's many underused kitchens, ever since.
When Noreen, and Liz, of Angel Foods fame, put their heads together with Jim at the Gifford House, Angel's Breakfast with Noreen was born at 9 Carver Street, inside the historic Gifford House Inn, at the top of the hill where Carver and Bradford streets meet.
This summer there was just one rainy day when I couldn't go to work, so I spent that unexpected morning off having various treats, both sweet and savory, from Noreen's breakfast menu. I've always thought that sometime I'd try one of her lunches, but in all these years I've not been able to resist the allure of my old favorites, or any number of breakfast specials that have called out to me, like the omelet with flame roasted Fiji apples, black forest ham and cream cheese, with multigrain toast (Iggy's bakery) and Noreen's wonderful, herby home fries.
This little hidden jewel closes for the season on Sunday afternoon, November 1st.
I'm determined to try the steak sandwich, with a 6 ounce Black Angus sirloin grilled to order, topped with Gorgonzola sauce, red onion jam and fresh thyme on a toasted baguette, served with those great home fries. I'm meeting friends there tomorrow.
We're now into the last two weekends of Noreen's season. She'll be open from
8 AM till 1 PM tomorrow, Sunday, October 25th, and on Monday, and then again Friday through Sunday of Halloween weekend, and then gone for the season. Don't miss out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Bit of Cranberry History

In this 1906 postcard, Cape Codders pick cranberries by the six-quart pail, the standard measure by the 1870s.
It's cranberry season in the sandy outskirts of Provincetown, in the very low spots where the water tends to pool up in the spring rains. You can look for them off of Province Lands Road, on either side, in the low spots before the road rises to meet Race Point Road on the little hill near the Province Lands Visitor Center. There are also wild cranberry bogs in the very low spots of the dunes, sometimes quite near the trails used by the dune tour and the folks staying out there in the old dune shacks.
Cranberries are one of only three fruits that are native to North America, along with the blueberries, which you'll find around Provincetown in early summer, and Concord grapes, which inspired the name given to Martha's Vineyard by British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold when he visited the island in 1602. Gosnold also gave Cape Cod its name on May 15th, 1602, after having named it Shoal Hope that morning, but that's another story, told in my article about Cape Cod's 413th Birthday, sort of...
In the 1906 postcard above, these folks seem to be in groups, perhaps families, each harvesting the cranberries in their allotted area, marked out in plots of equal width running the length of the bog. It looks as though this may have been a wild bog where everyone was to have an equal chance to gather a fair share of the berries. Read my article from last autumn to learn about Provincetown's Cranberry Vote of 1773, enacting the law which provided for stiff penalties for anyone caught poaching the berries before the season. The dollar fine mentioned there may not seem like much, but a 100 pound barrel of cranberries shipped to be sold in Philadelphia in 1868 brought 58 cents, so a buck was a lot of money. Cranberries had become a food source for those early New Englanders, and a valuable commodity for trading as well.
This 1910 postcard, hand tinted from a black a white photo, shows the newly
developed rocker scoop, with its long fingers pushed along beneath the vines
and then "rocked" back to pluck the berries, which rolled down into the scoop.
The use of the humble cranberry dates back to the year 1550, when Native Americans began using it not only as a medicine to apply to wounds, and as a dye for blankets and rugs, but also as a staple of their diets. Crushed cranberries were often blended with dried venison and rendered fat to make pemmican, which may have been the world's first energy bar. In 1620 the Pilgrims met the Native Americans, who showed them many uses for cranberries, and in 1683 the settlers made their first cranberry juice.
In 1816 Captain Henry Hall accidentally became the first to cultivate cranberries, at his home in Dennis, in the center of Cape Cod, when he cut down a stand of tall trees on his property. He hadn't realized that without the trees acting as a windbreak, sand would blow in and cover his cranberry blog. He though that this "mistake" had surely ruined the bog, but noticed with some delight that his cranberries actually grew better than ever that year, leading him to begin experimenting with using sand to cover the bogs to varying degrees and at different times of the year. Eventually, he hit on the combination of factors that would best maximize his crop.
By the 1820s, Cape Codders were growing cranberries in sufficient quantities to ship them to be sold in a growing European market. By 1843 Eli Howes was actively cultivating his Howes variety of cranberries in East Dennis, a few miles east of Hall's land, and by 1847, Cyrus Cahoon was busy developing his Early Black variety just a few more miles to the east, in the town of Harwich.
In 1850 cranberries became a source of vitamin C for fishermen, whalers and sailors who ate them to ward off scurvy while they were away at sea for months or years at a time, with any other fresh fruits or vegetables onboard being consumed within the first few weeks of the voyage. Over the next few years the first cranberry scoops began making harvesting the berries quicker and easier, and in 1854 the first census of cranberry acreage reported 197 acres in Barnstable County, which comprises all of the towns and villages of Cape Cod.
This unusually warm weather coming this week should make it a pleasure to grab a bucket and take a stroll out through the bogs. If you do go out picking cranberries, don't confuse them with bearberry, which are also red berries growing on little vines on the ground, but are generally smaller and kind of shiny, and humans shouldn't eat them in large quantities.
Although I'm not sure how the dearth of rain this summer will have affected the cranberries, they should probably be ripe by now, likely with more of them ripening over the next few weeks. They may be a bit smaller than usual due to the lack of rain, but if there were enough bees to pollinate them well, we should have plenty of berries to pick.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Don't Miss the Last Day of the 2015 Women's International Theater Festival

Get out and enjoy the last two events in this wonderful series of plays written by women. Both are Saturday, October 17th, at the Provincetown Theater, at 238 Bradford Street.
There will be a reading of Margaret Van Sant's play GOODY, THE WITCH OF EASTHAM, scheduled at 2 PM.
At 7:30 PM there will be a program of eight short plays, each about ten minutes in length, many by local women, spanning a wide variety of subjects matter. They are listed below.

For tickets visit or you can call the box office at 508 487-7487. After the performance there will be a panel discussion: DO WE STILL NEED WOMEN'S THEATER FESTIVALS?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Connie's Bakery Earns TheYearRounder's 'Best Bite' Award

Connie's veggie omelet with ham and cheddar on a multigrain bun hits the spot.
I got up early the other morning so I could make it once more to Connie's Bakery for another great breakfast sandwich before they close for the season, in just about another week or so.
The old aquarium mall has no heat, so in the fall each year, PTown loses one of its great little eateries as the temperature begins to drop with the autumn leaves.
My choice for breakfast at Connie's is often "the works." It's a sort of veggie omelet with peppers, onions, spinach and tomato folded into the eggs, topped with your choice of cheese and/or meat, and served on your choice of fresh breads, a bagel or a croissant from Connie's oven, or rolled in a spinach-whole wheat wrap.

I believe this light, airy quiche is the best I've ever had.
The tough thing about having breakfast at Connie's is finding so many wonderful choices each time I walk in the door, so I seldom end up having whatever I had planned to order on my way there.
This gorgeous quiche was one of two varieties in the case this particular morning, among a large array of other beautiful pastries, sweets and savories, each one crying out for me to taste it.
This cheesy ham, onion and broccoli quiche won out this day, served warm in its tender crust, and it turned out to be the best I've ever had. That earns TheYearRounder's Best Bite award for Connie's Bakery, for this truly outstanding breakfast pastry at a reasonable price, enjoyed in the stunning ambiance of the deck at the Aquarium Marketplace, looking out over the sparkling water and the sun rising over magnificent Provincetown Harbor. The faint squawking of a couple of gulls up the beach added a buoyant touch that completed the harmonic mood that started my day.

I had this lovely blueberry-peach tart for my lunch.
Upon finishing off my breakfast I decided to grab one of Connie's legendary street pies to take along for my lunch later. These savory, hand-formed pies (kind of a free-form tart) make a great lunch that can be eaten on the go, munching on it while you're walking down Commercial Street.
If you can actually get time to sit down for your meal, you can order your street pie with a salad and a cookie, making a great brown bag lunch to take with you to the edge of the beach or to one of PTown's little neighborhood parks.
While I was trying to decide which variety of street pie to take for my lunch, my eye fell on this sort of tartlet, you might call it, stuffed with juicy, fresh peaches and blueberries, and I couldn't resist. I took it with me, but it didn't make it all the way to lunchtime. By 10 AM it was a fond memory, and I had resolved to get back to Connie's for another one before the season ends.
Be sure to visit Connie's Bakery, on the edge of Provincetown Harbor at 209 Commercial Street, before the doors close, soon after the coming Columbus Day weekend.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Provincetown's Perigee Moon and Its Stunning Eclipse Rise Over Our Harbor

A flaxen, perigee moon rose over Provincetown Harbor Sunday, October 27th.
 Last Sunday the moon reached it's perigee. That's the point at which it is at its closet to the earth for the year, and thus appearing larger than at any other time of the year.
Since the moonrise occurred before the sky was actually dark, this photo was taken after the moon had risen well up into the clear, night sky.

This photo was taken just moments before the total eclipse of the moon.

A few hours after that moonrise, the dusky shadow of the earth crept slowly over the moon, giving it a sort of reddish color in its total eclipse.

A moon the color of a gold nugget reached above the harbor on Monday night.

The following night, with the moon rising some 30 minutes later in the evening, when the sky was already dark, people turned out anywhere along the harbor to see this huge, deeply golden-colored moon rising over the Truro shoreline and the boats in our harbor.

The full moon rising through these wispy clouds over
Provincetown Harbor takes on an airy, ethereal look.

Later, growing paler as it rose higher in the sky, this enormous moon passed through several wisps of clouds, giving it a rather elegant look.