Concept of “food” is multidimensional. At home, tasty food and family (and friends) around the table is usually all you need. Mix in a bit of ambiance and a glass of a good wine, and you got a great experience, right there.
When it comes to visiting the restaurant, you need a bit more than just food for the great and memorable experience – good service is important; another element which is near and dear to me is cost. This is not even the “cost” in the absolute terms – it is more the perceived value which matters, the infamous “price/performance” – an amazing burger for $20 might be a great experience, and tasteless, rubbery steak for $15 will not be the one.
As you can see in the title of this post, I want to talk about “off the chart” experience. The source of this exuberant designation was our recent visit at the Portside Tavern in Hyannis on Cape Cod (love weekend getaways, even with 5 hours in traffic). To go along the lines of a great experience in the restaurant, I was with the family, food was amazingly tasty, service was great, and the value was unbeatable – that’s all.
First, of course, was the wine. Don’t get me wrong – the restaurant also offers full bar with interesting cocktails, but my attention was on the wine list, which offers lots of great options, both by the glass (most of the wines priced in $7 – $12 range), and by the bottle (prices starting from $30 and some even for less). I couldn’t pass by the 2013 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley for $50 – talk about value – even if you can find this wine in retail, which is not easy, it will cost you at least $25, so I consider $50 at the restaurant to be a great value. After a bit of the breathing time, the wine was gorgeous, dense and powerful, with the signature Oregon aromatics of earth and cocoa.
Next, there was a pure indulgence from start to finish. Chowder (Local clams, new potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, cream) was not too heavy, not too thick, very well balanced in flavor.
Watermelon Gazpacho (Sweet basil drizzle, whipped feta) was different and refreshing – outstanding on any hot day, light, and again, very tasty.
One of my favorite ways to cook chicken wings is to slow roast them at a low temperature (say 215ºF or so) – they develop great flavor and then easily fall off the bone this way. I was happy to find the same style chicken wings at the restaurant – Confit Chicken Wings (Choice of harissa, rhubarb BBQ, or sweet basil sauce – we chose BBQ sauce) were super-tasty and the chicken wings were literally melting in the mouth. Continuing to deliver a great dining pleasure was Poutine (House cut fries, cheddar curds, foie gravy) – love this interpretation of French fries. This rendition was on par with best of the best I had in Quebec – flavor, texture, cheese, gravy – everything was just spot on. Finishing our divine appetizer experience was perfectly executed Mac & Cheese (Gemelli, local cheeses, buttered crumbs) – again, very tasty.
Our main course dishes were equally delicious. Chicken Risotto (Asparagus, prosciutto, baby tomatoes, balsamic reduction) was very well executed, great smokey flavor, nice contrast of balsamic, very tasty. Half-Pound Burger (Caramelized onions, bacon, garlic aioli, tomato jam, brioche) had an excellent fresh beef flavor, was cooked as requested and overall was very enjoyable.
Cuban (Braised pork, ham, Gruyere, dijon aioli, house-made pickle, grilled french bread) was done exactly as I like it – good amount of meat, flat pressed bread, great combination of flavors – one of the best Cuban sandwich experiences. It was also served with a side of Wedge salad (one of the available choices), which is one of my favorite salads any time I see one. Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza (Bacon, red onion, cheddar) was delicious, good crust and again, great flavor combination.
As you can imagine, we were absolutely full at this point. But considering how good all the food was, we had to try at least one dessert. After back and forth, we settled on Double Chocolate Cookie (Vanilla Ice Cream), which was more resembling a chocolate lava cake, and was instantly devoured with the help of four spoons.
72 North Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Skipper Restaurant (full and official name: The Skipper Restaurant and Chowder House) first opened in 1936 in South Yarmouth, and it had been around ever since, opened from April to October. I’m not sure how we found The Skipper Restaurant last year – I guess by reading some of the online reviews, but I can tell you – when we were planning this year’s trip, visiting Skipper Restaurant was unquestionable, mandatory part of the Cape Cod vacation.
Skipper Restaurant serves quintessential New England food. I’m using the word “quintessential”, which sounds big and imposing, but to me, there are few dishes which say, or better yet, scream “New England” – New England Clam Chowder, Baked Seafood, Fish and Chips and Lobster Roll would be my perfect list. You can find all these dishes at the Skipper Restaurant, and boy, are they tasty!
When it comes to the New England Clam Chowder, I don’t know what places have better bragging rights than the Skipper Restaurant, which is a triple crown holder, as the winner of Cape Cod, Boston and Newport Chowder festivals. If you like New England Clam Chowder than Skipper Restaurant is a must stop for you, as the Clam Chowder doesn’t get any better than the one which is served here. It doesn’t have anything extra, like bacon – just cream, clams and potatoes, honest, dense and delicious. I know this picture will not do justice to the dish, but then taking pictures of the soup is not that easy in any case:
It is not only seafood which is tasty at the Skipper Restaurant – they are also famous for the overabundant appetizer of onion rings – a very dangerous dish, as once you start eating those, you can’t stop! And the bread basket which shows up on the table first, belongs to the same “dangerous” category – I think we went through three of them before the main dishes arrived (and it was not because we had to wait for the long time 🙂 ).
And our main course included all the best dishes New England cuisine can offer – Baked Seafood Sampler, Fried Calamari, Fish and Chips and of course, the Lobster Roll:
Each and every dish was excellent in its own right – fresh, succulent, flavorful and delicious – let’s leave it like that to avoid excessive drooling on your part. And of course, I have to mention the service, which was friendly, attentive and helpful – exactly what you need to make it for the great restaurant experience.
If you plan to visit Skipper Restaurant (and if you are on the Cape Cod, I would say this is simply a must), just a bit of advice. The restaurant doesn’t accept the reservations, therefore you need to prepare to wait – but the experience worth the wait. If you are okay with an early dinner ( and considering the amount of food you will be offered, early dinner is a great idea), come to the restaurant at around 4:30 or 5 – your wait will be quite reasonable. Another “duh” advice – if you can, avoid Friday and Saturday nights – those are the busiest and your wait will be the longest.
We are done here, my friends. If you would like to experience quintessential New England cuisine, you don’t need to look further than Skipper Restaurant – I’m sure you will not be disappointed. Cheers!
The Skipper Restaurants and Chowder House
152 South Shore Drive
South Yarmouth, MA 02664
Cape Cod, a small strip of land off the coast of Massachusetts, is a vacation land. Of course people live on the Cape, as it is often abbreviated, throughout a year, but ask anyone about Cape Cod and the first reflection would be “vacation!”.
Cape Cod is located in the part of the USA which is collectively called New England, and I like to call it a quintessential New England. On Cape Cod, there is a tremendous focus on preserving that traditional “New England/Cape Cod” feeling. There is traditional style for everything – architecture, landscaping, re-purposing of the old houses as shops, bakeries and restaurants, and of course, the food itself.
When it comes to the food, it is not surprising that “traditional Cape Cod” cuisine is focused on the fresh seafood – remember, it is a strip of land surrounded by the water on all sides. So the seafood it is, and in most of the cases it is either deep fried or oven baked – we can also call it a part of that tradition. One more observation, while not directly food related (more of a cultural norm), as Cape Cod is an easy going vacation land, shorts and t-shirt are the most popular attire anywhere, including the restaurants.
Every once in a while, even during the lazy Cape Cod vacation, you might want your dining experience to be more elevated (not the Michelin-star necessarily, but a bit more than just a casual comfort food – what do you say?). I’m glad to report that this is experience is not too difficult to find on the Cape, and I have a perfect example for you – C Salt Wine Bar and Grille in Falmouth.
On outside, the restaurant looks exactly as a re-purposed cape-style house – actually I think from the back you would even never guess that this is a restaurant. I also really like the fact that the restaurant had its own parking lot in the back, which is not usual on the Cape, and looking for the parking on the busy Main street is always a hassle. On the inside, the restaurant was rather small, so we were definitely glad that we made a reservation – the restaurant completely filled up withing 15 minutes of our arrival at 5:30.
First, of course, were the drinks and the wine. Pear Martini was not too sweet and refreshing – this is what I’m always looking for in the cocktail. Overall, the cocktail list had good variety, including few of the barrel aged cocktails. The wine list was also very good, with reasonable selection of the wines by glass and half bottles (excellent selection of half-bottles). Lots of wines were priced close to the double retail, which always wins points in my book. We settled for 2011 Waterbrook “Reserve” Merlot Columbia Valley , Washington, which was perfectly classic Bordeaux style, dry, earthy and nicely restrained, excellent overall. It also worked quite well with various dishes we had.
For the appetizers round, we settled on two dishes: Crispy Thai Calamari (Lightly Battered and Fried, Hot & Sour Vinaigrette, Baby Spinach, Mango Pea Shoots, Grapefruit, Cashew) and Sesame Hoisin Wings (Ten Lightly Breaded and Crisp Fried Chicken Wings with Sesame Hoisin Sauce). While Calamari and Wings sound pedestrian, it is all the matter of execution. I would say that our family are connoisseurs of the Calamari – if we are in the restaurant, and Calamari are on the menu, 9 times our of 10 we would order them. The Calamari dish at C Salt was outstanding – a very unusual combination with mango, grapefruit and spinach, but perfectly crisp despite the presence of the fresh fruit. Really a delicious dish.
For the wings, again – what can be unique and different, right? It appears that it is not just the sauce which can be different – in this case, the wings themselves were outstanding – not a tiniest drop of fat left, they were perfectly crispy and super tender – may be the best rendition of the chicken wings I ever had (bold statement, I know).
For the main course, each one of us got different dishes (but of course we shared the taste – we are a foodie family 🙂 ). I personally had Grilled #1 Sushi Grade Tuna (Sushi Grade Tuna Grilled Rare, Crispy Jasmine Rice Cake, Sesame Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy, Wasabi Vinaigrette, Soy Syrup, Pomegranate Syrup, Lime & Cilantro) – perfect quality fish, perfect execution, an outstanding balance of flavors, perfect amount of heat – very tasty. My wife had Five Hour Root Beer Braised Short Ribs (Caramelized Brussels Sprouts), which was a melt-in-your-mouth type of dish. Short ribs generally is one of my favorites – when cooked right (slowly), at home or at the restaurant, the flavor and texture are incredible – and this dish was a perfect example. Kids went for Statler Chicken Breast (Whipped Potato, Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad with Sriracha Aioli Drizzle, Pan Jus) and 8 oz. Grilled Filet Mignon (Organic Wild Mushrooms & Roasted Cipollini Onions, Choice of Sauce). Everybody cook chicken at home, so what can be exciting about chicken, right? Well, visit C Salt and try for yourself – chicken was delicious, great flavor, and grilled corn and tomato salad was just a perfect accompaniment.
The steak was perfect in its own right (I know I’m abusing the word “perfect”, but this is the right word to use here). The crust was perfectly crispy and satisfyingly salty to properly contrast sweetness of the meat. C Salt offers a choice of sauces for the steak, and the Cabernet reduction was simply elevating already very tasty bite to the next level. One of the very best steaks I ever had, period.
We also took two additional side dishes to share – Roasted Sweet Potato Steak Fries and Chef Style Whipped Potatoes (mashed potatoes with addition of bacon) – both were very tasty.
What is left? Dessert! We were quite full already, but considering the great experience we had with the meal, we had to try the desserts. “After Hours” Brownie (Ale Brownie, Irish Whiskey Ice Cream, C Salted caramel, Brown Sugar) was gooey and delicious. “Mason Jar” Chèvre Cheesecake (Creamy Goat Cheese, Lemon and Poppy Seeds, Rhubarb Raspberry Compote, Graham Cracker Streusel) was fluffy and light, and it was an excellent ending to our delicious experience.
I can’t end this post without commending our server, Sarah, for the wonderful, helpful, smiley and attentive service throughout the eventing. If you are looking for the upscale dining experience in the Cape Cod vacation land, visit C Salt Wine Bar and Grille, and leave me a thank you note after. Cheers!
C Salt Wine Bar & Grille
75 Davis Straits
Falmouth, MA 02540
All the good things come to an end. So was our stay on Cape Cod. I don’t know exactly what makes me feel differently when I’m visiting Cape Cod. I love vacations (who doesn’t!), but I typically want to avoid going to the same places over and over again. However, not when it comes to Cape Cod.
There is a genuine tranquility in that Cape Cod lifestyle. Little shops which are made out of the old houses. Little bakeries, which make cookies to die for. Little motels and inns, none of them more then two stories high. Lighthouses and water towers being the tallest structures around. The low tide on the beach, which allows you to walk and walk for hours. The beach which is never crowded. The waves in the sand which water leaves behind when it descends. The abundant flowers and greens of all kind. The special smell which is constantly in the air. There is something magical in the Cape Cod air, which lures you back…
We are back home now, so here are a few (okay, a lot) of the pictures I want to share with you. There will be more posts coming – we visited local Cape Cod winery, called Truro Vineyards, so I will talk about this experience, but for now, I just want to leave you with these little impressions of Cape Cod. Enjoy and cheers!
What goes better together than potato chips and beer? This is definitely a winning combination, especially if it is a rainy day on Cape Cod, or you had too much sun and you just need to do something else.
Both Cape Cod Chips factory and Cape Cod Beer are located in a very close proximity from each other, in the area of Hyannis. We decided to start with the Cape Cod Chips factory tour, just to keep the kids happy (besides, they are open earlier in the morning than the Cape Cod Beer).
Cape Cod Chips factory tour is self-guided, where you walk along the glass wall and can see the whole process of potato chip making, starting from inspection of the potatoes, slicing, frying in the huge kettles and then packaging and sorting the packages. There is a lot of fun facts which you can read during the tour, but – photography is prohibited, and my son became super upset when I said that I will ignore it and still take pictures, so here is the only informational picture I was able to get:
It is a pity that the Cape Cod Chips web site doesn’t list any of the fun facts (for instance, they can only use the potatoes which have the least water content for making of the chips), and they only provide minimal general information (sigh). Anyway, if you are on Cape Cod, especially with the kids, this is a highly recommended attraction. At the end of the tour you visit the shop where you get two small bags of chips for free (few different flavors are available), but you can also buy a few different kinds of chips in the big bags.
Once you done with the potato chips, a short 5 minutes car ride will take you to Cape Cod Beer brewery:
There is a once a day tour of the brewery, which takes place at 11 AM. But even if you will miss the tour, you can still do the best part – taste the beer! This is what was on the tasting list ( sorry for the picture quality : ( ):
Cape Cod Beach Blond was very good – light, citrusy and refreshing – this is the beer you can (or you think you can) consume by the gallon – perfect beer for the hot summer day. Cape Cod Red didn’t leave any lasting impressions, and Cape Cod Porter was… well, just another Porter. Porter is one of my favorite styles of beer in general, but again this particular Porter was not worse, but also not better than any others. Cape Cod IPA was good, with nice sweet undertones and not as bitter as many IPAs can get. My favorite beer was Cape Cod Summer – while it was retaining all the lightness and freshness of the Cape Cod Beach Blond, it also had substance and and very unique taste – you could clearly taste a fresh barley in this beer, almost like you are standing in the middle of barley field. Definitely a great beer.
I also enjoyed an opportunity to experience (read: smell) different types of hops and malts. I wish one day we will have an ability to record and then share tastes and smells – using words and images is clearly deficient for this purpose. Why am I saying that? Here is the Chocolate malt, which one actually have to smell to believe it (the smell of chocolate was unbelievable to me!):
And here is the chart which shows you how different kids of malts and hops are used in the different beers:
Here are few pictures just to complete the experience:
Oh yes, and I fully endorse the message underneath (note that we can use “beer” interchangeably with “wine”, “scotch”, and other tasty concoctions):
Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay cool! Cheers!
Happy 4th to all! Enjoy the great American BBQ day and raise a glass of Madeira for our Founding Fathers and your friends and families, of course. And if you don’t have Madeira handy, any beer and wine will work perfectly well too. Here are few pictures from Cape Cod, just for your viewing pleasure. Cheers!
The weather is still so so in Cape Cod ( read – raining on and off, overall gray outside and by all means not beach-worhy), so we were spending time wandering around little towns and busy Main street(s) which to me are quintessential New England, and more over, quintessential Cape Cod. The wandering lead us to Chattam, and to the Main street, to be more precise. Almost at the end of that main street we walked into the store called Gustare Oils and Vinegars and … OMG.
I’m sure that for anyone who is into the cooking or simply for anyone who likes food, it would be difficult to get surprised with the flavor infused olive oil or balsamic vinegar – lots of flavors are available at many gourmet stores around the country. But how about being completely blown away by the richness, cleanliness and precision of flavor? This is exactly what is happening at Gustare Oils and Vinegar store. Every flavor is so pronounced – when it says “Strawberry Balsamic”, you will find beautiful, perfectly ripe summer strawberries in the dark savory liquid. Sage and Wild Mushrooms in that olive oil – yep, you bet – with the perfect precision. The flavor comes through exactly as you would want it – clear and exact, nothing missing and nothing extra present. It is hard to do the justice to this wonderful oils and balsamics with the words, you really have to taste it to believe it. If your plans include Cape Cod, I would highly recommend not to miss this experience. Otherwise – here is the web site for Gustare Oils and Vinegars.
And before we part, here are few pictures for you (just use your imagination to get the flavor)…
That all I have for you, folks for my short Cape Cod update for today. Cheers!
Yep, I’m actually on vacation. Cape Cod is one of my favorite destinations, as first of all it is reasonable driving distance from Stamford, Connecticut where I live (under 5 hours typically). And when you enter this small stretch of land, extending into the Atlantic ocean, something magical happens. There is something in the air, there is something there which switches whatever the mood you had into the “it is vacation, and it is good” kind of feeling.
No, I don’t plan to take a break from blogging. I will still post over the next two weeks – as you can imagine, the wine will continue to be a part of the routine. As you might expect, I will be also sharing my impressions – and as I had done it a number of times in the past, I will start with simple pictures. It is somewhat cloudy and grayish out here – but it is a vacation nevertheless. Hope you enjoy the pictures. Cheers!