Thursday, June 28, 2007
We're camped in a town, down by this river that has a huge military ship floating in it. The ship is gray in the moonlight, menacing, and out of place in such a quaint little town. Suprisingly I'm getting an unlocked wireless signal right in our tent, so i'm lying here in my sleeping bag posting on the n800. Last night we camped in the wonderfuly remote Thomas Raddall Provincial Park. We had a little moonlit cove all to ourselves, until the mosquitoes came out and murdered us. The trade-off for Nova Scotia being so idyllic is that the bugs are savage at dusk, sending us on a four-alarm scramble into the tent. Not so relaxing after a day of riding. Our actual site last night was an exception, miraculously, so we had a campfire and looked at the full moon. The coyotes spent all night cackling in the woods, but nothing visited our tent.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Most people on the Nova Scotia coast make their living as fisherman; lobster mostly.
The sea plays a huge role in the lives of the people here and they are very proud of their maritime heritage. Here is a memorial we passed yesterday
We've been touring a lot of lighthouses as we go along the coast.
This is the Seal Island Lighthouse.
You can climb to the top and see the lens. This lens took 1000 watt bulbs and could be seen for 18 miles.
A whale skeleton was laid out for display in this driveway.
We've been visiting museums which display many of the antique methods of fishing. In the front you can see an unopened can of lobster from the 1890's. Yum!
Whaling used to be a huge business in this area. On display at the museum we visited today was an antique whale harpoon gun.
And last but not least, mutant lobster claws!
I can't think of a more Canadian food than poutine, so we ordered some for lunch. Though not on the menu, I overheared the waitress talking about lobster poutine! I regret not ordering it. All that people seem to do around here is fish for lobster. Villages will often be nothing more than some houses near a fishery. Maybe a shop selling industrial marine supplies, but not even groceries or a gas station.
It makes me sad to think about how impoverished the area is, and how dangerous a fisherman's life must be. There are monuments in every town to those who went out to sea and never came back. Every fisherman's yard is heaped with lobster traps, bouys, and giant coils of rope, making it easy to see how many rely on the trade.
Tonight we are camped by a huge old lighthouse. The coastal Highway 3 is marked as "The Lighthouse Route", and we've been making a point to visit as many of them as possible. They are short, wide, and octagonal on this part of the coast.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I took this picture the morning after I wrote this post. The mosquitoes were almost as bad!
Monday, June 25, 2007
Since we didn't plan our route too carefully through Massachusettes, we weren't sure what to expect. We knew we didn;'t want to ride through Boston, so we rode straight north from Providence, which put us to the west of the urban sprawl. I was really happily surprised at how beautiful and pastoral the woods are in the area. I got really excited when we past a sign which read, "Welcome to Thoreau's Walden Pond".
It was a beautiful warm day, so we stopped for a swim. I've heard rumors that the pond was very polluted, but I could find no trace of it while we were there. The woods are all in tact around the water. The roads which lead out around it to the site of Thoreau's cabin are inaccessible by car and bicycle, so you can only get there by walking.
On the whole we found the experience to be most transcendental. Here is a pic where I am transcending gravity and my poor gymnastic skills to do a perfect hand stand.
Brent, our host on Mt. Desert Island, is an avid aviator and offered to take us flying our second day in town.
I couldn't pass up the experience so I stifled my fear of heights and climbed in. My knees almost touched the controls, but the veiw was amazing. I thought about hippy mafia drug-runners flying across Mexico, or Alaskan bush pilots hopping between glacial lakes.
We looped along the coastline and over the ocean, the plane swaying as we moved from one airmass to another. Brent pointed out the odd shape of towns on the island, the way they fork out organicly in the crotch of natural harbors, instead of following roads or railroad tracks like anywhere inland.
(not a great example of what I was describing above, but isn't this river cool?)
By this time I was feeling at ease and looking down at the old mansions in the woods, and the blunt-nosed lobster boats with their constellations of bouys. We looped back into the wind and the plane slowed down, working hard to pull us back to the airstrip.
Fancy little shack, eh?
I was hanging onto my seat the whole time, palms sweating, but knowing I'd made the right choice to go up. Brent is president of his flying club, and a masterful pilot, so I felt bad about my obvious signs of fear. I didn't want to make him feel bad about the trip, which was an awesome experience.
One of the highlights was listening to the pilots talk to ground control. Every transmission was ended with "Bah Habah", as locals refer to the town in their thick Maine accent. Andrea and I agree that our first time flying in a small plane was a total success, and I think I could be persuaded to try it again. Andrea wasn't the slightest bit nervous the entire time, and was ecstatic to be in the air. She can't believe that I get so worked up over heights.
Check out the flickr set of our aerial tour.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
The island in incredibly beautiful with tons of trails through the mountains and miles of beautiful rocky shoreline.
We've been so busy while we've been here added with having only access to dial-up, we haven't been able to post as much about everything. I just wanted to quickly touch on things so you all won't think we've died.
We've been hiking, biking, swimming and flying all over the place. When I say flying I mean literally flying. Brent, our host here on the island has a pilot's license and we were lucky enough to talk him into taking us flying in his club's four seater plane the other day. We've never flown in such a small plane before and to have a personal tour of coastal Maine was really amazing!
Sunset on Pretty Pond, near the cabin we are staying at.
Sunset on Bar Harbor.
I don't have time to post all the pics, so click here to view our set on flickr.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Allagash bottles their specialty beers in 750 ml bottles with corks. This bad boy does the corkin'.
Beer goggles! Haha get it? I'm hilarious. And stylish.
A block from Allagash was Geary's brewery, which isn't as widely distributed and who's beer I'd never tried. They were closing for the day but agreed to a short tour. It was the best brewery tour I've had! Our guide Steve was not only a brewer but the engineer resposible for laying out the whole place.
Claire and Ravi next to open fermetation tanks at Geary's brewery.
Steve uses a condenser coil to serve us beer from the tank.
Steve next to the hop percolator. Wort is pumped through this thing to mix it with hop juice. Steve was an amazing source of beer knowledge.
Guess which hand is mine? We spent the next few hours hanging out in town, exhausted from the extensive sampling.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Massachusetts and New Hampshire were beautiful, and we'll post about them later, but the big news is that we just entered the last US state of the tour. It's kind of sad actually. I've been looking forward to the end, and now I'm not so sure. Oh well, at least it's rugged coastline and nature from here on out.
Friday, June 15, 2007
One of H.P. Lovecraft's homes in Providence.
Everyone who knows me realizes I'm a tremendous geek, so it should be no suprise that we couldn't visit Providence, RI, home of the cult horror fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, without poking around the dark corners for some other-dimesional creatures or nameless terror. Tragicly there is no historical center or Cthulhu giftshop, but a little googling turned up a map for a Lovecraft walking tour. This made for an entertaining afternoon hike through historic College Hill, the old part of providence where Poe and Lovecraft both hung out and drew inspiration for their scary stories.
Click here for our photo set from the walk.
On of the high-points was eating gigantic sandwiches at a shop on Benefit Street. They had every ingredient listed on chalkboards, overwhelming my hunger-addled brain in the same way the Lovecraftian cosmic horror maddens any mortal who tries to comprehend it. Anyway, here's the sandwich that Andrea ordered.
That's avacado on on there, not a tentacle.
*Cthulhu waits dreaming. I've been so tired from traveling lately that I'd love to join him in the city of R'lyeh for a while.
Monday, June 11, 2007
We rode eighty-eight miles between Brooklyn and New Haven, making it the longest day of our trip to date. The continuous sprawl doesn't hurt our speed; banal suburban landscapes urging us along untill we're pacing the traffic. My legs ache like growing pains, or like a good day of running around the lawn as a kid. I have renewed enthusiasm to ride.
Just outside of Stratford my wheel made a sound like a coil of bailing wire had been sucked through the fender. I haven't figured out how, but the blade from a pais of scissors pierced my tire and was rattling against everything as the tube deflated. A tyvek boot solved the problem. I plan to ride this one for the rest of the trip, despite the damage. I've seen numerous pairs of broken scissors on the sholder before this, but the omen has gone unheeded until now. Who leaves broken scissors in the street anyway?
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Our friend, Shawn, who has been making so many appearances on our blog lately, is an old friend from Chicago. He left us about 3 years ago, moving to New York to work in the Restaurant business. He is currently cooking at Lupa, one of Maria Batalli's restaurants. You know, Mario Batali, one of the food network's celebrity Chefs, the red haired Italian Chef, from Iron Chef America. Although Shawn slaves away 10-12 hour shifts in kitchen, he had never actually eaten there. When he invited us to come along with him, even though we are on a budget, we couldn't refuse.
The full name of the restaurant is Lupa Osteria Romana. I asked Shawn and our server, Elizabeta, what a Roman style Osteria is and they both described it as being a less formal establishment with a bar on one side and a few small tables. One can order a cafe or cappuccino at the bar and perhaps a few small food items as well before sitting down. So in essence, an Osteria is more like a cafe. Lupa, being more formal, resembles more a trattoria or tavern style restaurant, and is an Osteria in name only.
Lupa is located near Washington Park, home of the famous Washington Park Arch. The restaurant itself resides on a small and cozy side street. The atmosphere is warm and earthy. The walls are painted a burnt orange color with a beautiful Mahogany Bar lining the left wall and dark shelves containing their wine selection on the right. The atmosphere is very welcoming and unpretentious.
We decided to make lunch reservations for Friday at 2:30. We made a quick pit stop to pick up some beer before arriving. Shawn said it was customary for fellow coworkers to buy beer for the line cooks when coming to eat as a token of appreciation.
We arrived and Shawn quickly started introducing us to everyone there. The staff was incredibly friendly and very excited to see Shawn come in as a customer. We were seated immediately and the menus came flying out. Shawn and I had discussed how we wanted to go about ordering. I love sampling as much food as possible, but Shawn felt ordering a la carte was better then the sampling menu. We decided to do a la carte family style so we could sample the specific things we wanted. We all agreed the best person to choose the items would be Shawn, since not only is he is intimately involved with menu, which he cooks 5 days a week, but we also felt a little intimidated by the menu which was predominantly in Italian.
The food was served in three courses; the antipasto, the primi (pasta course), and the secondi (the entrée course). Shawn had been telling us how they do all their own butchering and curing of meats, including many different sausages and prosciutto.
For our antipasto course, we ordered the Grande under the carne section, so we could get a sampling of their in house cured meats. The Grande was served with four slices each of Prosciutto Di Parma, Coppa, which is cured pork shoulder, and Salumi, a small round salami. It also came with a bowl of sliced Lingua, which is beef tongue, and finally 2 slices of Testa, also known as headcheese. Beside this, we also ordered Tuna with Cannelini beans, Marinated Eggplant with Mint and Radicchio with Anchovies. In addition to all of this, the chef sent out an Escarole salad with walnuts, red onions and pecorino.
The prosciutto, salumi and coppa were all very traditional. They were good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The Lingua was very good. I have had tongue before and I remember it being very chewy. Lupa's Lingua was very tender with a surprisingly sweet flavor. The tuna had a good flavor but was a little tough and over cooked. My favorite was the marinated eggplant. It had excellent texture being still slightly crisp and the balance between the slightly acidic lemon flavored marinade with fresh taste of the mint with the subtlety of the eggplant was amazing.
I wanted to be open minded about the Testa aka, head cheese. Headcheese is made of the left over portions of meat from the pigs head cooked in Gelatin. I have always heard stories of my Austrian grandfather making headcheese every year when he made sausage. He loved it, but my mother said everyone else in the family hated it. I tried it both on its own and on bread. I just didn't like it. While the flavor of the meat itself was nice and pungent, I couldn't get over the gelatinous consistency or taste. It just felt as though I was eating mucousy fat with meat chunks. I wont be testing out the testa again.
Here I am trying the Testa the first time. You can see how well I'm enjoying it.
For the primi course we sampled three different kinds of pasta dishes.
I first tried the Bucatini All' Amatriciana, which is a long hollow noodle, like a mix of a macaroni and spaghetti noodle. It was served with tomato sauce and a fried meat (the name eludes me) cured similar to prosciutto but made with the cheek of the pig. Ira criticized it for being too heavy, but I thought it was delicious. The salty meat mixed with the sweet of the tomato sauce created an excellent balance. This balance I found to be missing in the next pasta dish, the name of which also eludes me. It was a traditional spaghetti noodle with the same meat as the first pasta dish, this time cooked in an egg cream sauce. The sauce was incredibly rich and savory. Together with the pork, it felt too salty, but was still very good. Lastly, I tried the Linguine and Mussels. This dish was very nice in its simplicity. The sauce was prepared with the liquor of the mussels with just a bit of butter and lemon to give it body. It was served over the linguine with the mussels and a few slices of jalapeno peppers. The peppers gave the flavor just the right zing to keep the taste from being too boring in its simplicity. I felt the sauce and noodles, paired with the muscles for a bit of sweet and the peppers for some zing worked quite harmoniously. Ira, who always prefers hot food, liked this dish the best.
The secondi course, or entrée, we had Saltimbocca and Trout. Saltimbocca, which is made of Veal, prosciutto & sage, literally is translated to “jumps into the mouth”. It was incredibly delicious and rich. The prosciutto giving just the right amount of seasoning and texture to the delicate veal. The trout, which was served whole, fried in a light breading with crushed capers, was a bit of a disappointment. The meat was not as tender, feeling slightly over cooked and definitly under seasoned. The subtle flavor of the fish was nice, but the dish didn't jump into the mouth as the previous dish.
The entrées were accompanied by side dishes of charred asparagus, which were nicely crunchy and fresh, potatoes served in a fried pancake style and sea beans. I had never heard of sea beans before. Sea beans also known as samphire is a type of seaweed. It is naturally very crisp and salty from the seawater, so it was simply served with butter and was really very good.
After all this food, as you can imagine, we all felt pretty destroyed. When Elizabeta came back and introduced us to the desert options we all felt as though we had better pass. However, when Elizabeta came back to the table, she was bearing not the expected bill, but four spoons, which she dispersed around the table with a parting smirk. Next two beautiful dishes appeared at our table. One plate held a white cream custard with a black berry sauce and garnished with fresh black berries. The other plate presented us with chocolate dipped gelato of cherries and truffles, served with a chocolate cherry ganache.
Both were delicious; the first was light and creamy, and the second dish was rich and sumptuous.
Along with these two dishes, we were also brought four large shot glasses holding a white liquid Shawn jokingly referred to as Slurpino. The glasses held a mixture of lemon gelato, Prosecco (an Italian white sparkling wine) and vodka. The sparkling wine gave the gelato a light and crisp taste and the vodka helped tame the sweetness. Marcus, bowed out of eating the deserts due to a lactose intolerance, so I just had to help him finish his drink as well as my own. Shawn particularly was busting the buttons from his shirt, both in pride of the food as well as from being bloated.
By the time the meal was over, 2 1/2 hours had elapsed. My stomach was feeling distended from all the food we ate, and I realized I was feeling pretty tipsy from our final desert, which turned out to be far more alcoholic then it tasted. All in all, we had an amazing meal. I have a tendency of feeling slightly awkward and self-conscious when in a fine dining experience, but having Shawn there to explain everything, made it so easy. Shawn's coworkers were all incredibly friendly and helpful which lent to very comfortable and unpretentious meal. We even got a quick tour of the kitchen afterwards, which was very exciting to me.
Although the bill was the equivalent to the budget of multiple days, it was totally worth it.