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RI: Mystic Seaport

Before heading to a Connecticut Tigers game, we spent the afternoon at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut.  The museum consists of many parts which include a 19th Century seaport village, numerous demonstrations, historic ships, a preservation shipyard, and a planetarium.

I took over 150 photos while we were there, so I’ll just show you the absolute cream of the crop.

The ROANN, built in 1947, is an Eastern-rig dragger which pulls the nets over the side as opposed to over the stern like the Western-rig draggers. Powered by a diesel, she drug a conical net called an otter trawl along the sea bed for haddock, flounder, and cod.  Far more efficient than the hook-and-line boats she replaced.  Of course this led to the over-fishing problem that we have now.

I never knew that the fork that we used on the farm for moving silage can also be used to scoop up oysters.

Lobster traps. They look cool and they catch tasty bugs.

I think this is just a cool photo. Minus the modern dress, this could easily have been 150 years ago.

You have to have at least one picture of a cannon if you visit a maritime museum. I’m not sure what to classify it as though. It seems awfully big to be a signal cannon (they would fire a blank before entering port to signal that they were coming in), but on the small side for a weapon.

Jellyfish! These little guys were everywhere in the waters around the ships. It was really cool watching them swim around.

An old blacksmith’s shop. I’ve always found it fascinating what these guys could do with heat, muscle, and a bit of ore. Plus the science of metallurgy is really interesting. It’s amazing how people figured out differential tempering, alloys, blast furnaces, and everything else that is associated with metal working.

The bleeding edge of technology back in the day. The sextant was used to calculate a ships latitude out at sea. By measuring the angle between a celestial body (like the sun, a star, or the moon) and the horizon one can calculate a position line on a chart. The real trick is to calculate longitude, which led to the development of ever more accurate clocks.

The woodshop. Everything was run off of belts, much like modern day Amish woodshops. But instead of using a gas engine to drive everything, in the past people used to use nature, i.e. a waterwheel.

Salt cod drying. Ships would gut, salt, and store the fish out at sea. Once they reached land, the cargo would be off-loaded and laid out on these racks called flakes for their final drying. The little “houses” at the edges of the picture were put over the fish to protect them during bad weather.

Janessa screwing around in a rowboat.

This is a whaling boat. Whalers would pile into this TINY boat and row out to harpoon a whale. This boat is roughly 20′ long and it went after whales that could be around 70′ long. These guys were nuts!

The fo’c’sle on the fishing schooner L.A. Dunton. The forecastle (shortened to fo’c’sle by seamen) is located at the bow of a ship. This is where the crew ate and slept. It looks reasonably sized until you take into account that this space is home to 15 men. Really cozy.

This conch shell was used as a baptismal font in the 1800’s. It’s hard to judge the size here, but it is roughly 18″ across. Just think of how much conch meat you could get from a creature that size!

The museum has a carving shop where they create some ship mastheads. This one seems a bit odd for a ship, but it’s impressively carved.

A bit of a random photo, but it was very intentional. Having recently built a limestone retaining wall at work, I can appreciate the amount of effort that went into making all of these cobblestones. I was working with a relatively soft rock, but here is granite and basalt (?). Both of which are significantly harder. Plus each was squared off and had the corners rounded. A serious commitment of time and labor.

This is a freaking huge pulley used to hoist sails. As a perspective, that is Lindz’s arm and foot in the photo,

The band saw that they had over in the restoration half of the museum. It ran off of a 8 cylinder diesel and could slab wood a couple of feet thick. I have no idea what I would use it for, but I want one.

The bow of the whaler Charles W. Morgan built in 1841 and currently undergoing extensive restoration.

The fireplace and cauldrons used to render whale blubber into oil. Gotta love the idea of a large fire under flammable liquid on a wooden boat.

I know people were generally shorter a century ago, but I couldn’t even stand up in between the beams. It must have been fun working below decks. Yes, heavy on the sarcasm.

Just to give you an idea of how big the ship is. This was taken at deck level looking down about 40′ to the ground. Plus you had the mast a hundred feet or so above you. These were not small ships.

I found this museum to be a lot of fun.  It hit upon many of my interests.  It has old ships, a nice emphasis on seafood production, a really well done job of showcasing the technology of 1800’s, woodworking/shipbuilding/restoration, and capturing the general atmosphere of the past.  If you ever pass through Mystic, CT, and have an afternoon to spare, I suggest walking through the museum and enjoy the past.

RI: Mackerel Cove

On our way home from Enn, we took a slight detour to go to a beach on Mackerel Cove.  As it turned out, this was the only time that we actually made it to a beach during our vacation.  Oh, well.  We still had plenty of fun just relaxing at the house and other places.

Lindz + ocean = happy wife

Looking for sea shells.

The girls screwing around. As usual.

Yup.  Everyone was looking for sea shells.

This is why.

To quote Janessa quoting a Honda commercial: “I peench I peench!”

Categories: misc, travel Tags: , , ,

RI: Enn

When Chef Aaron from the Seminary found out a bunch of us were going to Rhode Island, he gave us some suggestions of places to eat.  He went to culinary school out East so he had the insider knowledge.  Top of his list was a sushi joint called Enn located in Lincoln (north end of RI).  He claimed that it was the best sushi that he had ever eaten.  So naturally, we wanted to go and give it a whirl.

The happy couple and the last blurry photo!

We went there on Thursday and the special was half priced wine and sake.  Matt opted for the sake, Lindz, Janessa, and I split a bottle of malbec.  Dave was the responsible driver and had his Diet Coke.  Lately, my wine of choice has been malbecs.  It is a full bodied red which is not as heavy in tannins as a merlot, and it has a nice bouquet with notes of plum and earth.  (Yeah, I looked up that last part.)

This was a very good year for the vinyard.

Collectively, the group ordered three apps.  Lindz and I got the fried oysters.  They were quite good and the creamy dipping sauce was amazing.  These were much like the clam cakes that we had at Champlin’s.

5 fried oysters, 5 people in our group.  Coincidence?

Matt and Janessa wisely chose the soft shell crab tempura.  Hands down, this was the best app that we had.  Which is saying a lot because this was the best sushi place that I’ve ever been to.

This. This is worth driving 1400 miles for.

Dave opted for the agedashi tofu.  I’m glad that he ordered it because it is something that I never would have even considered.  There always seems to be something else that would catch my eye (and stomach).  It is a firm tofu that is dusted in a starch and then deep fried.  It is served in a tentsuyu broth that consists dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.  It’s definitely worth trying once if you see on the menu.

I’m middle of the road on tofu, but this has me rethinking my opinion.

As for the entree’s, Matt and Janessa decided to split four rolls between them.  Had they known how big the rolls are, I think they would have chosen differently.  One thing that I found impressive was the plating on a couple of these rolls.  The first one to show up was the Summer Tuna Roll.  Inside it has avocado, spicy mayo, tobico (fish roe), and tempura flakes.  And on top it has maguro tuna, jalapeno pieces, and a creamy sauce.

Seriously cool plating.

Next to come was the Craig Roll.  This one has soft shell crap tempura, cucumber, and avocado topped with eel and shrimp.  If I had opted for rolls, this would have definitely been one that I would had chosen.

Amazing how a little piping of sauce can spruce up a plate.

Their last two rolls came together on one plate.  On top, there is the B-52 Maki (at least I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right).  This one has a crab stick, avocado, flying fish roe, and scallion rolled with yellowtail tuna, then it’s deep-fried and layered with rice.  The bottom one looks like a California Roll which has crab, avocado, cucumber, and fish roe.

Your basic sushi presentation. But the food still looks good, so why mess with the basics?

Dave ordered the Sushi / Sashimi platter.  Which is a gamble in my opinion.  It is an assortment of sushi and sashimi which is left up to the chef to decide what you get.  It also comes with a salad and a bowl of miso soup.  Here in the Mid-West, it usually consists of a couple of kinds of tuna, salmon, shrimp, and egg custard.  All of which I like, but it just reeks of being “safe” and cheap.  I was very impressed with the chef’s choice at Enn.  The platter actually consisted of many things that I normally order a la carte.

At the very top is what looks like a tuna roll. The next row has flying fish roe, shrimp, and surf clam sushi. The row of sushi below that has binchou (albacore tuna), mackerel, and fresh-water eel. The sashimi is maguro (red meat tuna), salmon, and, well, honestly, I have no idea what the last one is.
Update: Dave informed me the unknown fish is “yellowtail, sweet delicious yellowtail.” (hamachi)

Lindz ordered a la carte like I did.  We’ve found that it’s cheaper and we get exactly what we want.

Starting far left and going clockwise: a spicy tuna roll, tobiko (flying fish roe), unagi (fresh-water eel), salmon, and a Blaze roll (at least that is what Lindz thinks it is).

I always get a smile on my face when Lindz explains why she orders the flying fish roe: she like the popping in her mouth as she eats them.  Really I have no room to talk because that is definitely a factor as to why I order them all the time too.  I think I’ve said this before, but the unagi (fresh-water eel) is a favorite of both of ours, so it’s no surprise that you see it on every plate that we order.  The Blaze roll has spicy tuna, cream cheese, and avocado on the inside.  Then the roll is deep-fried in tempura batter and finished with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Finally, we get to my plate!  As I said before, this was the best sushi place that I’ve been to.  It had the freshest fish hands down and it’s very reasonable priced.

Starting at the bottom and going widdershins (because I like to be difficult): I got the unagi, octopus, surf clam, and mackerel sashimi.  And two of the flying fish roe (tobiko) sushi, one with and one without a quail egg.

Honestly, I really didn’t notice much of a difference with the quail egg on the tobiko.  Both were good, but I don’t think it was worth the extra $0.75.  The mackerel (saba) was breathtaking.  It had a nice full fish flavor and was oily without being overwhelming.  The surf clam (hokkigai) was good, but wasn’t significantly better than others that I’ve had.  The octopus (tako) was nice and tender with just the right amount of chew to it.  The unagi!  Oh, the unagi.  Words cannot do justice to this oily, fishy, sweet morsel from heaven.  All in all, this was as perfect of a sushi meal as I’ve ever had.

Well almost.  The only thing that could have made it better was if Ringer was there.  We have a longstanding tradition of going way off the beaten path every time that we have sushi.  I love my standard selections, but I do miss going crazy sometimes.

So Chef Aaron was right.  Making a trip to Enn was well worth it.  It will take a really impressive sushi place to even come close to this meal.

RI: Point Judith Lighthouse

After we ate at Champlin’s, we took a very short detour on the way home to the Point Judith lighthouse.  After a little confusion about whether we were allowed on the grounds, because it is an active Coast Guard aid for navigation, we walked around for a little bit to work off a bit of our meal.

For some reason, it just doesn’t look 50′ tall to me.

This is actually the third lighthouse to sit on this spot.  The first one (built in 1810) was destroyed by a hurricane in 1815.  The second version was updated, read replaced, in 1856.  And this tower was automated in 1954.

The Coast Guard station.

Being a geek, I found the material testing section as interesting as the rest of the place.  They had a whole slough of different materials mounted on panels that faced the ocean.  I’m assuming that they were testing how they stood up to the sun, surf, wind, saltwater, etc.  You know, the outdoors.

A simple and effective way to test materials. Cheap too!

RI: Port of Galilee

A quick apology first.  Since I was just learning how to use my new toy, there was a bit of a screw up.  Somewhere along the way, the camera got switched to manual focus and I didn’t realize it for a day and a half, so there are a bunch of pictures that I’m really less than satisfied with.  Please bear with me, we’ll get to better ones soon.

The whole dream of the Rhode Island vacation started with an invitation from our friend Dave’s parents.  They have a beach house that they were kind enough to open to Dave and some of his Seminary friends for a week.  Through a couple of iterations of who was interested and available, our group came out to be Dave, myself and Lindz, and Matt and Janessa.

Da group. Matt, Janessa, Dave, and yours truly. Lindz was behind the camera.

Our first day in Little Rhodie, we went over to the Port of Galilee for some seafood lunch.  There is a restaurant that Dave’s family goes to all the time that is about a 20 mile drive from the house (or about 10 miles as a crow would fly).  Champlin’s Seafood is located right on the inlet from the ocean to one of the many saltwater ponds in the area.

Champlin’s Seafood. One of my new favorite places ever. Too bad it’s a half of a continent away.

They have a great working relationship with the fishing boats that use the Point Judith Pond as a harbor.  Many dock right outside of the building.  One touch that I thought was really cool is that they have the names of the fishing boats that they buy from on the life preservers hanging up around the building.  Besides the restaurant, they also sell a large variety of fresh seafood.

This is one of the fishing boats that supply Champlin’s. The photo was taken from my seat where I ate the first of many unbelievable seafood meals.

Their menu has a selection that any seafood lover would drool at the mere mention of a quarter of the items.  I would highly recommend at least looking over the menu before you go.  That way, you aren’t staring slack-jawed at the menu board trying to make a decision while people are waiting for you.  They have a full bar, so if you would like a homemade bloody mary, a beer, or just a soda, they have your thirst taken care of as well.  I should warn you that you should be prepared to spend a bit of money.  It’s not excessively expensive, but it isn’t cheap either.  I really should clarify that a bit: the quality to cost ratio is unbelievable, but it’s not someplace most people can afford to go more than once or twice a month.  Yeah, I feel better with that description.

Dave bought a half-dozen clam cakes to share around the table.  Think of a doughy (in a good sense)  crab cake and substitute in some clams.  They were really good.

Deep fried clammy goodness.

Lindz and I went a little wild with our order.  Based on Dave’s recommendation, I went with the deep fried whole-bellied clams.  In hindsight, I should have gotten them a la carte, and shared Lindz’s fries and slaw.  Whole bellies are whole soft shell clams as opposed to clam strips which are sliced hard shell clams.  The whole bellies that I ate had a nice mild clam flavor with a sweet undertone.  You didn’t need tarter sauce or anything to accompany them. I’ll put it another way for you.  I kept eating them after I was stuffed halfway through my meal.  Hands down, they were the second best clams that I have ever eaten.  Lindz ordered a lobster roll dinner for herself.  I think she still has the lobster bug from when we ate at Cosmos.  Ha ha!  Lobster bug, get it?  I’m so punny!  I did swipe a bite and it was really good.  Perfectly cooked and oh, so tasty.  Speaking of Cosmos, that is the reason why I got a 1/2 pint of their lobster bisque.  This was good, but it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Cosmos.  Significantly cheaper, but still slightly disappointing.  I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s still far better than you can find most anywhere.

Lower left: whole belly clam dinner. Upper right: lobster roll dinner. Bottom right: 1/2 pint of lobster bisque. Upper left-ish: 2 cherrystone clams

Finally, I saw that they had raw cherrystone clams on the menu.  I’ve never heard of, much less had clams on the half shell before.  So I ordered two of them.  I figured I’d offer Lindz one and if she declined, then I could eat both of them!  But, she was feeling adventurous that day and decided to try one.  Which still made me happy.  Janessa kindly documented our experience.

A little squeeze of lemon . . .

Hoist them and say “Cheers!” . . .

And suck them down!

I’m spitting out a lemon seed, not the clam.

If I was still hungry and we didn’t already spend a healthy wad of cash, I would have happily gone back and ordered a baker’s dozen.  They were everything that people tell you that good shellfish should taste like.  Slightly sweet and a bit like a fresh ocean.  These are the clams that claim the #1 slot in the best that I have ever tasted.  Lindz even liked them.

As far as seating options go, you can either sit inside (it’s really spacious) or out on the deck (a bit more limited).  It was a gorgeous day, and the place wasn’t busy, so ours was an easy choice: the deck.  I would suggest going there for lunch or an afternoon snack because I heard that around supper time, the line can get up to a hundred feet long or more.

One of the “patrons” hanging out at the restaurant.

Watching boats go by while eating fresh seafood is priceless.

One of my stated goals for this trip was to eat myself stupid with really good seafood.  This place fulfilled that dream and then some.  It also set the bar unbelievable high for the rest of the trip.

RI: Eastbound

Finally getting around to writing about the Rhode Island vacation.  I’m just going to ease into it with our drive out east.  Not a whole lot to talk about.  It was two days, 1400 miles, and a lot of tolls and interstates.  Traveling this way covers a lot of ground quickly, but the view is definitely lacking.

The first of many, many $#&*)%# tollbooths.

Chicago and the Sears Tower.

Western New York is filled with vineyards.

There were some really nice views out east.

And in the middle of nowhere there is an MGM Grand. Really weird.

Next post: the Port of Galilee.

No, I haven’t fallen off the earth . . .

I’ve been on vacation to Rhode Island for the last week and a half, so I’m more behind than usual on writing here. I’ve got about a half dozen posts in the “to do” folder, plus all the new stuff from the trip. Posts will start showing up soon, I promise.

In the mean time, here’s a teaser photo from the trip:

I never said the teaser was food related. 🙂

Categories: misc, travel Tags: , , ,

601 Graves, part III

The restaurant that Lindz and I went to was the one located in the hotel.  I can’t describe Cosmos any better than the line from the New York Times: “Hybrid of SoHo slick and Minnesota nice.”  Like the rest of 601 Graves, it has a modern chic decor.  The staff was unbelievably nice from the hostess, to the bartender who chatted with me at the bar while I was waiting for Lindz to come down, and to our AMAZING waiter who was spot on with personality and menu suggestions.

The first step into going out to a fancy place is getting suited up properly.

Lindz is justifiably proud of her smokin’ hot dress.

We were seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant, which wasn’t too hard because there were not a lot of people dining that night.  But they did take care to place at least a couple of tables between us and the closest diners for a more intimate experience.  Lindz and I decided to split a bottle of one of their cheaper wines.  $40 is cheap for a bottle considering they had some that ranged upwards to $1000.  Like I was ever so subtly hinting at before, our fantastic waiter struck up a conversation with us right after we were seated.  In the process of explaining our little celebration, he threw out a few suggestions to try on the menu.  One of which was the tuna tartar appetizer.  He described it as “habit forming” and that he would eat it as often as he could.  Since both Lindz and I like sushi, we figured this would be a safe bet for a starter.  Boy were we wrong.  Saying that this tartar was a safe bet is like calling McD’s cheeseburger a safe bet and getting filet mignon set down in front of you.  This tartar is not comparable to anything that I’ve ever had before.  The freshness of the tuna was unquestionable.  The richness of the fish and whatever spices they mixed with it was heavenly.  Plus, as a side, they put a dollop of avocado ice cream on the plate.  This may sound like a weird concoction that you would see on Iron Chef, but it really does work.  The creaminess of an avocado transitions beautifully into the creaminess that one gets with a high quality ice cream.  So like our waiter said, habit forming.  One quick example why I have a bit of a foodie crush on our waiter is that he went ahead and had the kitchen split our app orders without asking us.  He was able to anticipate our wants and needs even before we realized them.

This photo does absolutely no justice to the beauty that was on my plate.

The other appetizer that we split was some lobster bisque.  I’m not sure what Lindz’ motivation was, but I just like to say “I’ll have the lobster bisque.”  Makes me feel like a Vanderbilt.  I was not to be disappointed with this selection either.  The bisque was a thick creamy seafoody bowl of goodness.  It was everything you would expect out of a bisque plus more.  The more was a couple of morsels of lobster chillin’ in the bottom of the bowl like the prize in a cereal box.  Only better.  Much better.

This lobster gave its all. And all it gave was gleefully cherished.

Between our app and main course, the waiter brought out a palette cleanser for us.  It was one of those fun little things that molecular-gastronomists like to do.  It had a concentrated citrus liquid (orange I believe) suspended in a gelatin skin, which was in turn suspended in a different liquid in a shot glass.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of it and the only thing I remember is the strong taste of citrus and the pop of gelatin skin.  While it may not be the highlight of the meal, it was definitely fun and amusing.  The timing on the courses was stellar.  There was no awkward lag between one dish and another.

Lindz decided to go all out on the fancy seafood this night.  For her entree she chose the butter poached lobster.  There is really no way you can go wrong with that combination.  The little bite that I stole from her proved that very well.  Without a doubt, this was the most perfectly cooked lobster that I’ve ever had.  The butter flavor was infused into the meat and since it was poached, the meat was unbelievable succulent and tender.

Now this is how to create visual appeal on a plate.

I opted for the white wine braised rabbit.  I choose it mainly because I haven’t had rabbit in a long time, also it was the most out of the ordinary dish they had for entrees.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to be adventurous with my food.  It pains me to admit this, but this was the weakest dish that we were served the entire night.  I’m a self-proclaimed salt fiend and by the time I got to the end of my dish, it was getting a bit salty even for my palette.  Other then being a bit heavy handed with the NaCl, this was a great dish.  the rabbit was tender and flavorful.  The pasta, I’m 98% certain was made from scratch and cooked to the perfect chewiness.  All in all, it was a great meaty and earthy dish.

I usually shy away from pasta dishes, but with one like this, who am I to resist?

Even taking our wild sushi meals into account, this was by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten.  That being said, it was also without question one of the top three meals that I’ve ever eaten.  As soon as we can afford it, I’m planning on going back.

Ouch!

I do feel a little guilty about the tip we left our waiter.  Don’t worry, it was in excess of what we normally do and we are generous tippers.  If we could have afforded it, I would have left him a 100% tip because with his help the experience was that great and the food selections were even better.  If you can afford to splurge for a night, I recommend this place without hesitation.

601 Graves, part II

Here is part 2 of 3 of our little mini-vacation.  As mentioned, this is by far the most swank hotel that I have ever stayed in.  In keeping with that theme, it had the most over-the-top mini-bar that exists.  For example:

This is just the window looking into the fridge.

Open the door to reveal lots more goodies!

And the net worth of the mini-bar just keeps getting higher.

Enough tasty treats to make me debate the hefty price tag that I’m sure is attached.

And yes, that is exactly what you think it is. An “intimacy kit.” I’ll let your imagination fill the contents of the box.

We managed to avoid the temptations of the wonders of the mini-bar.  Although I’m pretty sure our willpower would not have been as resilient if we didn’t just have one of the top three meals of my entire life.  But of course that is coming in another post . . .

(don’t you just hate cliffhangers?)

 

 

Categories: travel Tags: ,

601 Graves; part I

Lindz had this brilliant idea of having a little “stay-cation” awhile back.  In order to rationalize it further, we also combined it with celebrating Lindz’ graduation and our anniversary.  Yup, it was going to be an expensive night.  Which is why we combined three celebrations into one big blow out.  The place that Lindz found was 601 Graves in downtown Minneapolis.

Hands down, this was the fanciest place that I have ever stayed.  And not surprisingly, the most expensive.

Part of what you pay for is the view of downtown.

I have no idea what building that is, but I love old architecture.

Big, poofy bed.

Very chic and modern decorating.

The sink may look cool, but it is completely useless. Every time you use it water splashes all over the place.
No, it’s not user error. I know plenty of other people that have the same problem.

And finally, you know you are in a really fancy place when there’s a phone and TV right by the toilet.

All in all, the hotel was a fun experience.  But for the price, I’m not exactly itching to get back anytime soon.

Coming soon in parts II and III:  the most over the top mini-bar that I have ever seen and supper at the hotel’s restaurant, Cosmos.