Call me crazy, but my favorite bit (apart from seeing my friend Cindy, of course) of my little New England holiday was the sperm whale skeleton at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Is it not awesome? You can see the size of the whale, as compared to the whaling boat below it. How would you like to ride for hours in one of those, attached by a harpoon to an angry whale trying to detach you and your whaling cohorts?
We heard a talk, and saw a whaling film from 1922. Also, though you can't see this, really, in the photo, the whale is almost all head, with a curved pre-historic looking tail, but also these amazing flipper-things. The flipper bones are exactly like the skeleton of a huge human hand- all the digits, and knuckles -everything. Oh, what can I say, I am a big geek. I adored it.
The Whaling Museum, and indeed Nantucket in general, is in such quiet, pretty good taste as to set off warning bells. Cindy thought her daughter, who has very specific, somewhat spartan aesthetic standards, wouldn't like it- for being too picturesque and perfect, and I could definitely see what she meant.
We stayed in a grey shingled B and B with shining white trim, in a sweet attic room with sloping ceilings, and crisp white cotton curtains, whch was perfectly coordinated with all the rest of the surrounding pretty houses, set off by just enough really nice flowering shrubs, and brick and cobblestone streets.
I was somehow just fine with it, anyway, despite the whiff of expensive stage set- it just completely hit the spot for unboring restfulness. It was delightfully cool- as compared to the ridiculous record-breaking high temperatures at home. Also, I just really like seeing sailboats in water. Does something for me every time. I should get a toy boat for my bathtub.
We took the ferry from Hyannis, lugged out suitcases up the steps at the B and B, and basically spent the rest of the weekend wandering about lazily, looking at the museum, shops, sailboats and menus in the numerous restaurant windows, deciding what to eat later. We had some damned good food, which sort of surprised me. Not that I was expecting to be poisoned- I realize that the general moneybags summer Nantucket crowd would expect, and get a decent effort, but I hadn't hoped for actual wonderfulness. And we had some wonderfulness, plus quite a bit of very goodness. The food was a real treat.
We hadn't done much in the way of research about food ahead of time- just a wee bit of an egullet scan. This revealed a number of good candidates for serious breakfasts, and I do love breakfast out. But the B and B came with a perfectly adequate buffet breakfast, so we didn't try any of that. Our two best meals were dinners, one casual, one dress-up. At the Brotherhood of Thieves- which may be better known as a bar than restaurant, I think, we had a local not-too-pale pale ale (forget name-sorry), and shared some oysters. Cindy had a really good big dinner salad- and I had a lobster BLT which was excellent- with, inter alia, huge chunks of lobster in mayo- plus outstanding curly french fries of total fresh hotness. I would be happy to have that meal again several times over.
At The Bistro at le Languedoc (fancy but comfortable, dark, quiet-ish, plenty of space between big tables, long wine list), we each had the same entree. It was sweetbreads and pork cheeks- 2 each- in a deep red-brown madeira sauce with itty bitty onions and peas, over a soft puree of sweet potato. I kind of picked it because it was that-which-you-cannot-get-at-home, and I love sweetbreads. I had read of pork cheeks-but never had any before. Wow-they set each other and everything else off a treat. I was so not disappointed, and pretty much wound up licking the plate. There was excellent crusty bread, which looked ordinary, but was outstanding, so I went the mopping it up route-I couldn't bear to leave any. Cindy also though it was all great. By far the best food I've eaten out for a good long time.
The Bistro's menu is a little puzzling at first, but the waiter explained, when asked. Entrees seemed divided into two types-the usual and the unusual, though not so-labeled. The unusual entrees were available both in full and small sized portions. The full-sized portions (we had these) were just right- neither skimpy arty little dodads, nor giant, gotta-have-a-doggie bag opulent. Only the anoerxic would seriously want a half sized portion for dinner- but these entrees did not seem the sort of things you'd want for an appetizer, either. Per the waiter, the half sized portions were for those unsure of their reaction to the more novel items. Still, I don't see what the rest of their order would be. This was of no consequence to us, as we didn't fear any of the more creative entrees, and had a hard time choosing.
Also at the Bistro, there was a super good classic creme brulee for dessert. Someone once said that the true test of a restaurant, or chef, or something- was the quality of the simple roast chicken and the creme brulee. Despite the ring of affectation..I think it's probably true. Cindy had a sort of deconstructed tart tatin- she seemed to think it was nice, but wasn't moved to tears or anything. I did taste it, but was by then so stuffed that I don't really remember it. I sure would like to eat there again some time.
I'm kind of winding down with the yakking here, though I probably should mention some expensive, but really good homemade icecream- at a place the name of which I forget, but it's just right by the ferry. There was blackberry-so good, and there was green tea/ginger- also so good.
Oh, and there was shopping of the sort to induce dawdling, including a shop called Majolica, filled with an incredible selection of the same, with many eccentric individual pieces. There were antique shops of several kinds. I bought a couple of things, one at a Tibetan shop. There I got me a warm, pretty winter hat of black velvet, lined in silk with a satin ribbon and a border of fake fur (per the proprietor, whose father made the hat, the D.Lama suggests the use of the fake fur whenever reasonably possible, instead of the real article!). I have a giant head, like an extra large man's hat size- so it was both unusual and cheering to find a nice hat that neither sits atop my skull like a clown's derby nor looks as if it was meant to be worn by a lumberjack. I almost wish I'd bought two- there was another very nice one which also fit.
I also found some slippers to take to my two year old relative (first cousin twice removed -ha- sort of a grandcousin) Ella, when I go to England in February. These are like tiny multi-colored bear feet, beautifully made and lined, and with 3 golden fabric claws on each foot. I think they will make her look like she is from Where the Wild Things Are. Which, judging from her pictures, she already rather does- a Sendak-ish lovely little face.
Ah well, I am a bit wistful about being back to home and work. I liked those gray clouds and sailboats..I do believe the salt air and gray skies are therapeutic, and that ocean breezes blow the cobwebs out. Also, islands are cool. I think I'd better go cook something. In honor of the (at last) cool weather, I'm going to make Arlette's pea soup.