Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Food Field Trip Cape Cod: Eating at the Edge of the Earth

Not quite the Potomac!

As a true New Englander at heart, I believe there is no better summer vacation destination than Cape Cod--on which there is no place more unique, beautiful, or quirky than Provincetown.  Bordered by the National Seashore and Cape Cod Bay, Provincetown is quite literally a spit of sand at the end of the earth.  But its history is also intriguing; the place where the Pilgrims first landed has continually reinvented itself.  What was once a whaling community later became a Portuguese fishing village, artists’ colony, and wealthy gay hot spot.  The dozens of  restaurants also reflect these same values of openness, eclecticism, and diversity.

Because my increasingly hectic real-life schedule has delayed this post (don't you hate that?!), I am going to provide an all-in-one “day in the life” highlights of my favorite spots this season for casual fare (a fine dining wrap up will come later this week).  We hit all of the referenced links during the span of a week, so be forewarned – should you actually attempt all these eating feats in one day, I cannot be held responsible for your flavor and calorie overload! 

Connie’s Bakery, which we discovered this summer had relocated to Commercial Street's Aquarium Arcade, is a perfect morning spot to fuel up before kayaking to Long Point or embarking on a whale watching excursion to Stellwagen Bank.  Warm, fresh-baked focaccia sandwiching a cooked-to-order egg, gooey white cheddar cheese, and crisp bacon makes for a hearty, flavorful breakfast.  At around $5 it is a quick and affordable bet. Take your sandwich to the dock at the end of the arcade, where you there is ample outdoor seating overlooking the bay.

Mima's Deli, new to the scene this year, provides shockingly authentic Cuban fare.  This was not something I expected, but in Ptown, nothing is ever as it seems.  And since B and I are eagerly anticipating our first trip to Cuba this fall, we had to check out this counter-service restaurant (if only to browse the Havana photography exhibit).  While the photographs were just average, the Race Point Road location is perfectly placed for grabbing lunch on the way to one of B's favorite beach's (in the world).  The Cuban sandwich is well worth the near $10 price tag.  What really sets this authentic sandwich apart is the fresh, slow roasted spiced Cuban pork.  Just bring two things: cash (no ATM on site and credit cards are not accepted) and patience (just feel the authenticity).  The reward is a hot pressed sandwich that is oozing with flavor and reminiscent of the Cuban sandwiches B grew up on in Tampa.

So you have no doubt by now worked up quite the thirst -- kayaking, whale watching, and/or beaching -- all hard work!  Time to relax with a cold beverage, for which I have two recommendations.

If you are the mood for air conditioning (central air is a rarity up this far on Cape Cod and in fact rarely necessary), head to the East End's oh-so-classic Mews for what will be the best martini you will have on Cape Cod.  As one of the few year-round restaurants in Provincetown, the Mews holds a special place in my heart, as it is where B and I enjoyed dinner on a bitingly cold February night almost ten years ago after getting engaged.  With an unparalleled selection of vodkas, you cannot go wrong with any of the drinks (on the other hand, the food has fallen off in recent years).  The mistress of the martini behind the bar is seasoned and skilled; this is one of my favorite martini spots anywhere.
Mews Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

If you find yourself closer to the East End and in a more casual mood, stop by the open-air Nor'East Beer Garden.  This new place takes both elements of its title seriously with a great selection of on-tap craft beers (including selections from Nantucket and the Berkshires) served amid a courtyard landscaped with wild flowers and filled with equally wildly floral characters.

This year mimicked last in that my favorite Ptown bar (dare I say, Gastropub), The Squealing Pig, was a frequent stop.  For a quintessential Cape Cod dinner, you cannot go wrong with a half dozen Wellfleet oysters ($10).  Follow that up with the fish and chips ($15).  Fresh caught and fried, served with house-cut fries and a homemade vinegar-based colesaw, this is a swimmingly delightful end to a day at the beach.  And to wash it all down, Harpoon's Oyster Stout, a unique 100-barrel series offering of the Boston-based brewery, combines barley, chocolate rye malts, and the briny, mineral flavor of the oysters.
Squealing Pig on Urbanspoon

My favorite newcomer to the town's food scene this year was easily PTown Scoop. This family-owned ice cream parlor is located steps from the wharf where we rent a bay front condo each year.  I blame this proximity for my four visits!  But it was the friendly service and the over-the-top creamy ice cream flavors that kept me coming back.  From chocolate peanut butter to cake batter to mocha chip, all of the ice cream is decadent, lovingly scooped, and best enjoyed strolling down Commercial Street.  Plus there is something about Cher playing in the background that makes ice cream all the more fun -- this is Provincetown after all!

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