Sunday, December 31, 2017

Despite This Cold Weather, Thousands Enjoy First Light Provincetown, Our 6-Day Celebration of the New Year!

Ring in the New Year in Provincetown, with more than 70 events in our annual First Light celebration.

It's New Year's Eve, and we're right in the middle of our famed annual First Light festivities in Provincetown, where thousands have been celebrating the New Year since Thursday, with 36 more events and fireworks over the harbor still to come!
Special New Year's Eve dinners, entertainment, film, live music, galleries, parties, shopping, concerts, dancing, family fun, New Year's brunches, champagne toasts and the Polar Bear Plunge are just a few of the events (several of them free!) taking place throughout the town through Tuesday, January 2nd.
Food ranges from street festival favorites like sausages, soups, waffles and pot pies to upscale dishes like roasted quail and free range veal in a great restaurant. There will be filet mignon, truffle mac & cheese, extraordinary seafood, as well as a simple bowl of great clam chowder. Vegetarians will find plenty of choices as well.
Go online to get the complete First Light Provincetown schedule, with links to information on events, accommodations, menus, a map of the town, and dozens of ways you can join us in this spirited, joyous holiday celebration.
As usual in Provincetown, there truly is something for everyone in this 6-day festival. There are special New Year's Eve menus and complete dinners from a three-course meal for $55 to a six-course Chef's Tasting Menu and champagne toast followed by live music and dancing into the New Year for $125. There are several free or no-cover events and parties of all kinds in venues all over town, variously offering party favors, hats, noisemakers, and at some, even a bit of free champagne for those of legal age.

Suede will give her annual New Year's concert Monday at 8 PM at the Crown $ Anchor.
There are New Year's Eve parties tonight, and more special dinners and fireworks parties tomorrow night. The fireworks will be on MacMillan Pier, scheduled for 5:30 PM on New Year's Day. You can watch this great display on your own from anywhere on the beach along the Harbor, or join the festivities at a number of waterfront restaurants and clubs, like Tin Pan Alley or The Crown & Anchor.
You can support the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum with a $50 donation that will give you a fantastic view of the fireworks from high above the town on the PMPM grounds, while enjoying wine, oysters, champagne and hors d'oeuvre. Several great fundraisers for PTown organizations are held during First Light.
There are also restaurants offering their regular menus this week, in case you just want a plate of pasta or a burger, and you may even find some off-season specials. And Fanizzi's will serve an extra Sunday Buffet Brunch this week, on Monday, New Year's day, from 10 AM until 2 PM. You'll find everything from their mixed fruit bowl and pastries to mussels steamed in white wine and herbs, along with French toast (real maple syrup, or course,) various egg dishes, sausage, bacon, the pasta of the day, breakfast burritos and more. At $14.95 for all you can eat, and just $8.95 for kids, that's a PTown bargain at any time of the year.
And for those of us who might be up on New Year's Day before most folks will get out of bed, Bayside Betsy's will be serving breakfast by 8 AM.

Hot mulled wine at The Canteen's food court and holiday market will warm you up.
Shop the holiday market at the Canteen, bringing local vendors and artisans together with a food court, hot drinks, bonfires and street food, along with free events like entertainment, a fireworks-watching party, and ice skating on the beach.
Some 30 guesthouses and inns are open during First Light, along with dozens of shops and galleries, and about 40 restaurants, bars and coffee shops. There's even free parking in all town-operated lots, and Operation Safe Ride offers a free, sober ride home on New Year's Eve from 10 PM to 4 AM, provided by designated Provincetown taxi and transportation companies, even if you're living or staying as far away as Orleans.
Again, you can find out about all of these things, and more, by checking the aforementioned First Light Provincetown schedule, then come and join the celebration in our beautiful little historic fishing village by the sea.
Here's wishing us all a happy, safe, healthy, joyous New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Card From Two Early Provincetown Artists

Artists Ada Gilmore and Mildred "Dolly" McMillen were among the Provincetown Printers, early 1900s.
This 1918 Christmas card depicts Provincetown artists Ada Gilmore and Mildred (Dolly) McMillen relaxing by the wood stove with their cat. Each had been in Paris studying art, and in 1914 or 1915 they moved to Provincetown together. They were among the handful of artists who developed a unique, new printmaking technique here in 1915 which became known as the Provincetown print.
It is also called a white line woodblock or woodcut print, where the artist cuts a design into a flat piece of wood using grooves to separate shapes and blocks of color. Dolly McMillen found that she still preferred working only with black ink, so that's what she pursued. The card above is her design. Now, was PICO the name of the cat, or the cottage they were living in, or some sort of Provincetown organization, or something else altogether? And why in all caps? Guesses, anyone? Please comment below.
As the new year rolls around I want to feature some of the gorgeous white line prints I've dug up recently. In the meantime, you can click on the following link, or just google white line woodblock prints to find dozens of fine examples, many of them portraying Provincetown scenes or characters. I look forward to bringing you some of my favorites.
Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Today is National Gingerbread House Day

According to one of my favorite odd websites,, December 12th was designated some time ago as Gingerbread House Day in the United States. Exact details of its birth aren't known, but this celebratory day gives folks and families across the country an annual day to create whimsical, edible holiday decorations, or the occasion to haul out gingerbread houses from past years to display throughout the holiday season. A well-made gingerbread house, properly stored between holidays, can last indefinitely, and continue as a yearly display, or can be broken up and eaten at any time.
The heavy, stiff dough used to make the dense "cookie" pieces that make up a gingerbread house are so hard that there's actually very little difference in the texture of a freshly created sculpture and one that has been trotted out each holiday season for a couple of generations, or longer. I read this week about a family that has brought out the same treasured gingerbread heirloom each Christmas for more than 60 years, created by the current generation's great-grandmother in the 1950s.
There's a certain elegance to this simple gingerbread house.
A simple design like the one at the left, sparsely decorated with white icing "snow" and just two candied cherries, adds a little warmth to a holiday buffet table.
The elaborate design of the larger house below seems to have dozens of individually created panels of art stretching around the confection. It reminds me of Commercial Street's old Shop Therapy building, painted by dear departed artist Bob Gasoi. A poof of cotton candy makes the smoke coming out of the chimney. The only rule for making a gingerbread house is that every element of its construction and decoration must be edible.
This elaborate artwork reminds me of the old Shop Therapy.
A soft gingerbread in a cake form is one of my very favorite desserts, but the thin, rigid variety used in making a gingerbread house is baked from a very stiff dough meant to cook into very hard, sturdy planks, or be cut in particular shapes like the two large rectangles that usually form the roof of a simple gingerbread house.
This stiff dough seems to date back to at least the tenth century AD, when an Armenian monk brought his firm gingerbread to Europe, where French Christians used it in various religious ceremonies and often baked it into shapes meant to represent images of saints.
The Brothers Grimm seem to be the first to have thought of a house made of gingerbread, writing it into their children's story Hansel and Gretel. From there it seems to be the Germans who began creating festive, decorated little cottages during the holiday season.
Two young boys pose with gingerbread houses they decorated.
Decorating a gingerbread house can be great holiday fun for kids, but adults seem to enjoy this cheery, creative outlet just as much. The annual Holly Folly celebration in PTown now includes a chance for folks to create their very own gingerbread masterpiece.
Try your own artistic hand using this recipe for gingerbread, complete with simple instructions, from the Food Network. A recipe for royal icing, which acts as the edible "glue" that holds all of the pieces and decorations in place, is included. This recipe will make a small house about six inches tall, but you could double the recipe (and measurements for the pattern you will create) to make a house about a foot tall.

You can make tiny gingerbread houses as party favors, or provide guests with all the goodies to make their own
You can also get a kit online, or buy cast iron molds that will give you gingerbread panels textured to resemble a shingled roof, for example. Small candies like M&Ms, jelly beans, gumdrops, Dots, Smarties, Red Hots and many others can be "glued" into place with royal icing. Pretzels, licorice laces, cereals and other edibles can be used as well. Cinnamon Toast Crunch, for example, can become shingles on the roof.
Royal icing can be piped on to make icicles hanging from the roof, or tinted green and "painted" onto overturned ice cream cones to make evergreen trees. It firms up within a few minutes. The icing then hardens permanently, can last a lifetime, and will never spoil, should you want to preserve your creation for future holidays. Or you can decide to eat the whole house and all decorations as the holiday season comes to an end.

Michelle Obama debuted this fine gingerbread replica of the White House made for Christmas, 2016
Visit Shari's Berries online to see 31 Amazing Gingerbread House Ideas to get inspired to build your own gingerbread creation, or simply to enjoy photos of fabulous designs ranging from a charming log cabin to a three-story Victorian. You'll find a gingerbread tree house, an Asian pagoda, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and the 150 pound White House replica that Michelle Obama introduced in 2016, adding a lovely new focal point in the long-running tradition of First Ladies decorating the White House for Christmas.
It seems that First Ladies Martha Washington and Dolley Madison each had great recipes for soft gingerbread cakes, but it was Lou Hoover who began decorating the White House Christmas tree with hard gingerbread during her tenure as First Lady, between 1929 and 1933. Still, it wasn't until Pat Nixon's time as First Lady that the first gingerbread house appeared among the Christmas decorations at the White House. Next came the first of the gingerbread villages that have become part of the holiday decorating tradition at the White House.
Start your own Christmas gingerbread tradition. See if you might find a gingerbread house at a holiday craft fair. You may be able to find one at the holiday market, sponsored by The Canteen, running Fridays through Sundays through January 1st. Or, for a unique afternoon of enjoyment, try making your own special gingerbread house for the holidays.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

It's Souper Saturday, Benefitting Provincetown's Amazing Soup Kitchen

SKIP has been serving meals in PTown since 1992.
One of Provincetown’s greatest, most delicious fundraising affairs is Souper Saturday, held during our annual Holly Folly event, on the first Saturday of December every year.
This event benefits SKIP, the Soup Kitchen In Provincetown, which will provide an estimated 13,000 hot, nutritious meals for Outer Cape residents over the winter, at no charge. To do this, they will need to raise close to $100,000 this year to help their volunteers to continue this remarkable community service.
I’m going to prime you for Souper Saturday by teasing you with photos of great soups I’ve had in PTown restaurants as I go on. Some of these will definitely be offered today from 11:30AM to 3:30 PM at Tin Pan Alley, at 269 Commercial Street, in the heart of Provincetown.

Littlenecks and fresh-snipped herbs make
The Canteen's clam chowder a favorite.
Founded in 1992, the Soup Kitchen is now open to the public every weekday from November through April, holidays included. Volunteers prepare and serve soup, salad, an entrée with side dishes, as well as beverages and desert, for around 80 to 100 people each day. Thanksgiving saw about 175 folks from all walks of life enjoy a splendid meal together, as well as the feeling of community provided by this remarkable resource. Local musicians gave us live music for the occasion.
At the end of each day’s meal, food is also packed for guests to take home, or to drop off to various folks who can’t always get to the luncheon, held Monday through Friday till the last full week of April, at the United Methodist Church, at 10 Shank Painter Road.
The Red Inn is known for their
hearty lobster corn chowder
The volunteers are looking to further expand their services this year. They’re experimenting with offering an extra, different meal on Fridays, in addition to lunch. It’s an entrée, packed and ready to go, so guests can have a meal over the weekend. As with the regular meals, there’s a meat and a side dish, with an all-vegetarian option available as well. This could prove to be a great help for a lot of people struggling with the high cost of living in Provincetown.
SKIP helps to bridge the financial gap for folks living in a seasonal economy, with the vast majority of the Outer Cape population having no employment in the wintertime. The Soup Kitchen also provides a place to meet and socialize, to connect with others in a community where people can sometimes feel isolated in the solitude of the off-season. The volunteers work hard to provide a genuinely warm, welcoming atmosphere as well as healthful, nutritious meals, and absolutely everyone is welcome.
Ross' Grill knocked my socks off one
day with this amazing fennel bisque.
You can help, too, simply by having a scrumptious lunch today, on Souper Saturday, at this fun, festive, mouthwatering event. More than two-dozen restaurants and delis are donating cauldrons of favorite soups so you’ll have a chance to taste several, if you’d like. A $5 donation will get you a ticket so you can choose a cup of any soup you’d like from a very long table with volunteers ready to serve you.
When a particular soup runs out, another variety from a different restaurant will be brought out of the kitchen, so the soups will change throughout the afternoon. There are bound to be clam chowders, lobster bisques, as well as choices for vegetarians. I'm hoping for a roasted vegetable soup or a butternut squash. Of course, in PTown, you’re likely to find a couple of Portuguese favorites like kale soup, or maybe a squid stew. There may be a beef barley, or perhaps a fennel bisque or corn chowder, or any other whim of some of the town’s best chefs. There’s no telling what delights might be offered for lunch today.
This chicken soup with Thai and Mexican
chilis made me love the Mews all the more.
I usually get two or three tickets, because I want to taste more than one soup. I’ve also seen folks who will sit down to two or three cups of the very same soup, like a favorite clam chowder, for instance. You can also come early and enjoy one variety, starting at 11:30 AM, and stop back later for another taste as the soups change during the day. Anything goes, and all of the proceeds will go to SKIP, so eat generously. The event runs until 3:30 PM.
You can also stop in at the old firehouse across the street, at 240 Commercial Street, for something new this year, and this is going to be very popular…
You can pick up cold quarts of soup for $10 each, packed “to go” for you to warm up later, for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow.
Restaurant from PTown to Wellfleet
each brought their own version of kale
soup to the 2017 Portuguese Festival.
So that makes meals inexpensive and very easy to handle, too, as you’re busy shopping and attending Holly Folly events. Whether you live in town or have rented a condo for the weekend, you can gather friends and family and have your own soup tasting without having to cook. That will help SKIP to raise the money to continue providing a place of community, as well as thousands of free meals in the coming year.
By the way, you’ll want to do a little of your holiday shopping at the firehouse as well, where you’ll find useful items that make great gifts. SKIP merchandise such as soup or coffee mugs, tee shirts, caps, water bottles and oven mitts will be on sale there. Again, all proceeds benefit the Soup Kitchen

Some like their clam chowder thick and
chunky, like this one at Bayside Betsy's.
If you are reading this from somewhere far from Cape Cod, or are otherwise unable to attend Souper Saturday, you can make a contribution to the Soup Kitchen by check, debit card, credit card or PayPal, through their website, or simply send a check SKIP at PO Box 538, Provincetown, MA 02657. SKIP is a registered 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation, so donations are fully tax-deductible.
There's no telling which restaurants will make an appearance at this great event, and some might surprise us by bringing something unexpected, but that's half the fun of this shindig. With soups from nearly 30 Outer Cape eateries, there will definitely be something for everyone, and you may end up tasting soups from a couple of spots you've never visited. Excellent!
This spicy squid stew livened up the
Portuguese Festival one year. I believe
it was a surprise from the Lobster Pot.
I hope to meet you over a bowl of soup today at Tin Pan Alley. We thank them for their generous donation of their restaurant for the day. We thank the chefs and kitchen staffs of all of the restaurants and delis sending huge pots of wonderful soups for our lunches and dinners. Don't forget to stop at the firehouse for soup to go, and a holiday gift or two. 
And, as always, we thank the leaders and volunteers of  the Soup Kitchen  for their remarkable commitment and service to Provincetown and the greater community of the Outer Cape. Help them out… Have some Soup!