Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mac's Fish House Ranks High in Our Quest for PTown's Best Clam Chowders

The chowder at Mac's Fish House is clearly among the tastiest in Provincetown.
About three weeks ago I decided to launch a serious "quest for the best" by pledging to taste every single clam chowder I was able to find on a PTtown menu this summer. 

Since I'm sampling each chowder I come across, it was the first thing I ordered when a friend took me out for a nice dinner at Mac's Fish House the other night. Since there are now over 100 assorted eateries in Provincetown during the height of the season. It's quite a challenge for me to attempt to taste something at every restaurant, clam shack, takeout, deli and diner every year. I do well to make it once, all the way around the town, during each year. In fact, I hadn't made it back to Mac's Fish House since my visit there last September.

Anticipations were high, The last time we were at Mac's together, quite some time ago, this same friend had said this was the best chowder she'd ever had, and I remembered liking it very much, too. Well, we weren't wrong. Mac's is among the very best clam chowders that PTown has to offer.
It's a little less thick than many, with a velvety consistency and a bit of the bright flavor of the natural juices from local sea clams, together with potatoes, leeks, onions and thyme. There's no flour thickening it as you'll find elsewhere, so this one is also naturally gluten-free. I find it to be one of PTown's smoothest, most flavorful chowders, and I'll be back again for more, just as soon as I can manage it.

I hesitate to label something "the best," because folks all have such different ideas of what the best is to them. Some want their chowder ultra-thick, like a stew, someone else wants more potatoes, someone's mother made it with lots of celery, some like it thinner with more of the briny flavor of the clams, and I actually once heard a friend say there were "too many clams" in the chowder she was eating. What the...?
Of course, folks who've lived in Provincetown all their lives will say you simply can't make a respectable "chowdah" without a chunk of salt pork simmering in the pot, since that seems to always be part of any traditional New England (or maybe Portuguese?) chowder recipe.

I suspect I'm going to find more than 40 restaurants in town serving some version of clam chowder, and I expect to like most of them to varying degrees, and of those, I expect to find about 10 or 12 that really stand out for me.
I'm pretty sure I'll end up with several thick ones, thin ones, briny ones and creamy ones that I'll want to return to again and again. And, yes, one or two of those will likely contain a chef's own, quirky combination of herbs, or, heaven help us, "too many clams."
I don't expect to come out of this with a clear-cut favorite for myself, and I won't presume to say which one you should like the most, but over the years, literally hundreds of people have asked me who makes the best clam chowder, and there are still a dozen or two that I've never gotten around to tasting.

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, I intend to taste every chowder in town this summer, take a photo of each one, describe its character for you, and name all of the ingredients I can identify, or get the chef to divulge. And that way, I hope to encourage each of my readers, whether visitors or Townies, to go out and taste at least a couple of these great soups in a restaurant they may never have thought of before.

And there you have it, dear readers... Two down, and at least 40 to go. Bon appétit!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

PTown's Best Ice Cream? Lets Find Out, Part One: The Odyssey Begins

Lewis Brothers makes the only homemade American ice cream in PTown.
By my count, there are at least 11 spots in PTown where you can get an ice cream cone. Or perhaps  you'd like yours served in a cup, maybe drenched in butterscotch?
There's also a lot to be said for a hot fudge sundae served on a fresh brownie with the works: whipped cream, marshmallow fluff, chopped nuts and a cherry.

Whether your favorite is soft-serve,  sorbetto, sherbet, gelato, frozen yogurt or good old American ice cream, PTown has got you covered.
Even if you're dairy-free, I promise, there are fabulous frozen treats out there, just waiting for you.
There's even a little scoop shop that takes Fido into consideration, serving up their special ice cream treats made for dogs.

This summer, on these pages, we're going to visit every ice cream parlor, and every other hangout that serves ice cream in PTown, returning to each one that merits another visit, to sample more varieties, and to taste as many flavors as I can manage over the summer. I generally don't eat much ice cream, but in the interest of seeking out the best of Provincetown, I'll bravely volunteer for this assignment. Of course, I'll have to begin taking much longer walks to counteract the effects of my research...

We'll begin our adventure right in the heart of Provincetown, where the Lewis brothers make the only homemade Anerican ice cream in town, despite signs on other Commercial Street shops that say theirs is homemade. There is homemade gelato as well as sorbetto in town, but those are Italian varieties, and when we visit those spots in coming weeks, we'll find out how the Italian style is different from American ice cream, but for now, let's get started on our odyssey, with the Brothers Lewis, found at 300 Commercial Street.

Since the summer of 1999, Lewis Brothers Ice Cream, at the corner of Commercial and Standish streets, has been making their own ice cream, right there in their shop. Throughout the day they're churning out three-gallon tubs of universal favorites like the strawberry shown in my cone above, along with their own, unique varieties like their "mudslide." That's one of their adult flavors, and yes, those are made with a bit of alcohol, so beware any variety that sounds like a cocktail. It probably is. And it's delicious!

Since they make it right there, the brothers can control every aspect of creating their fine confections, so they can produce flavors ranging widely from the mild side, like the subtle taste of their green tea flavor, to the wild side: Their ginger ice cream is a bit pungent, made with tiny bits of fresh ginger, and it's one of my all-time favorite flavors.

Lewis Brothers is a very popular spot, even in chilly weather.
Lewis Brothers has a killer caramel sauce and several other toppings for your sundae, including real, homemade whipped cream.
20 kinds of toppers like sprinkles, M&Ms, crumbled Oreos or Butterfingers, gummy bears, chopped nuts and just about any others you can think of are available, too. And don't forget the cherry on the top.
Chocolate or vanilla soft-serve are 95% fat-free, as are the orange or rainbow sherbets. Frozen yogurt, in vanilla or peach, is 100% fat-free. Sugar-free ice cream comes in vanilla or butter pecan, and there are fruit smoothies and frozen fruit purées for folks who are dairy-free, so that seems to cover all the bases for those with dietary needs.
Large groups can go out together for ice cream at Lewis Brothers, confident that there's truly something for everybody in this great little shop. Anyone for an old-fashioned banana split? Wait for me!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Get Off the Beaten Path to Find PTown Treasures, Public Art and Hidden Jewels

This lovely string of bleeding hearts on Freeman Street caught my eye
Sighting this simple, gorgeous vine of pink bleeding hearts was my reward for venturing down Freeman Street the other day, behind the old public library.

The garden strip that winds around this property, leading toward the entrance to Napi's restaurant, features all sorts of plant life blooming at different times throughout the year. If we pay just a little attention along the way, the ever-changing sights of PTown will reward us.

The work of the late Jackson Lambert abounds on Freeman Street as well. In and around this spot, splendid blossoms emerge amongst hand-painted "cat crossing" signs and brick wall art, along with a variety of sculptures and several other creative bits of man-made entertainment, all blending with Mother Earth's simple, yet astonishing, displays of her own works of art.

In Provincetown, odds are you'll spot something  remarkable in some way, just by taking a slightly different route to a familiar destination. Try taking a little side street or some other alternate path to get to your destination, just to see what hidden jewels you might run into along the way.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Box Lunch Clam Chowder Earns TheYearRounder's 'Best Bite' Award

The outstanding clam chowder at Box Lunch was my favorite of the five Provincetown chowders I tasted this past week, earning TheYearRounder's first Best Bite award of the 2019 season.  
I generally like my clam chowder medium thick, and though this one leaned a bit to the thicker side, it was somehow quite light, not overly heavy, with plenty of tender clams.
Fresh cream lent a luscious, silky consistency to this hearty pottage of chunky quahogs (say kwo•hogs) and potatoes, both cooked perfectly. Altogether, this fine soup is quite a worthy competitor in the ongoing debate over who serves PTown's best "chowdah.".
Box Lunch is at 355 Commercial Street, across from the library, tucked away a few feet off the road in the lovely brick courtyard leading to Angel's Landing. This unique little eatery is widely hailed for its Rollwiches, with a great selection of tasty, rolled-up sandwiches you ought to try.
We congratulate Box Lunch on earning our Best Bite award,
Serving Provincetown for about 40 years now, Box Lunch offers great soups, salads, mac n' cheese, gigantic cookies, breakfast (served all day,) and, as it turns out, a really good clam chowder. Give 'em a whirl!