September 6, 2006 2:07 AM | By Adam Roberts | 27 Comments

Labor Day Weekend on Cape Cod


I wasn't supposed to go to Cape Cod. Well, I was. But then I wasn't. See, when Craig told me I was invited to go to Cape Cod, to stay at the beach house of his friend Rob and 13 others--most of them film school students--I was thrilled to be included. A Cape Cod invitation is a big deal, not quickly doled out, and a free holiday with free transportation (we were getting a ride from friends) is a very difficult thing to refuse. So I said, "Yes, absolutely, sign me up."

Then, as last week wore on, I began to get nervous. "I'm getting nervous," I told Craig. "My book is due in a week, September 9th, and I'm scared I won't get it done if I go away."

So I backed out. "I'm sorry," I said, sincerely. Craig was deeply disappointed. He left Thursday morning and I set upon doing my work. The day was gloomy, the work was difficult, and I came home that night tired but resigned: I made the right decision. Now I'll get this done and I'll feel good.

I e-mailed my editor, Philip, who is always quick with a response. "Can I deliver the manuscript directly to you on Friday the 8th? What time is best?"

He wrote back, as I expected, pretty quickly the next morning. "Turns out I won't be able to begin reading/editing until the week if you want to, just wait until Sept. 18th to deliver it?"

I almost fell out of my chair. September 18th! That's almost two weeks away! I could have totally gone to Cape Cod!

I called Craig immediately. "Craig!" I barked into his machine. "I can come to Cape Cod! Are there any cars leaving that I can get a ride with? Or is everyone there?"

He wasn't answering his phone. I left three messages and called over and over again. He didn't answer. Meanwhile Philip called to apologize profusely after I wrote him about my missed Cape Cod trip. I told him it wasn't his fault at all---I should've e-mailed him sooner. And I told him that it wasn't a big deal, the weather was supposed to be lousy and that I would get work done while Craig was away having fun.

I joined Kirk for lunch at Pearl Oyster Bar because he's moving away soon and that seemed a good enough reason to splurge on fancy fish sandwiches. It was nearly 2 o'clock when my phone rang. I just finished a giant plate of sauteed skate when I heard Craig's voice.

"Can you be at 10th Ave. and 20th street at 2:30?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I'm at lunch with Kirk."

"But there's a car leaving then and they're going to wait for you."

I stared down at my empty plate. It was impossible. I was on Cornelia Street, my apartment is on 26th Street and I'd have to run home, pack, put food out for Lolita and then get myself to 10th Ave. all within 30 minutes.

"It's impossible," I said. "It's 2 o'clock now. There's no way I can make it."

Craig was very quiet and I could feel his disappointment. "I'm sorry," I said.

"Ok," he said. "I didn't realize how late it was."

We hung up and the check came. Kirk asked me what had happened and I told him. "Dude," he said. "You should go."

I looked at him and felt the weight of his words. You should go. Why wasn't I going? My book wasn't due now for two weeks. I could hop in a cab, race up to my apartment, throw things into a suitcase, leave a huge bowl of food out for Lolita, then race down and into a cab direct to 20th and 10th Ave.

"Ok," I said, shooting out of my seat. "Here's $20." I handed him a bill. "I'll talk to you soon!"

I raced out the door, darting towards 6th Ave. I called Craig's cell phone. He answered, "Yes?" and I said, "Ok, tell them to wait for me. I'm coming."

In the blink of an instant I made up my mind to go to Cape Cod. Here's everything that happened after...

The journey to Cape Cod was one to worry over because it was Labor Day weekend and we anticipated crazy traffic. I was in a car with two Brits--Kath (girlfriend of Rob, whose house we were going to) and Ed, her friend from England--and a native Alaskan, Andrew. There was GPS in a car and the soothing dulcet tones of the GPS woman's voice guided us on our way.

In the car we talked about many things. Kath and Ed talked of going to Oxford; Andrew talked about his experiences whale hunting. He also told me about fermented whale meat, his favorite food that's indigenous to where he's from. The car ride went quickly and smoothly: we made it to Cape Cod in little more than seven hours.

Rob's house is in West Harwich. We pulled down his gravelly driveway, took our suitcases out of the trunk and rang the doorbell. It was 10 PM and there was Rob to welcome us, burger in hand:


There were burgers for the rest of us too, made to order by the various men who were manning the grill:


Once the burgers were consumed, Rob ran out to get us ice cream at Sundae School. Craig was so happy I was there. I spent the next thirty minutes meeting everyone, having fun conversations and explaining why I was taking pictures of everything. Then Rob returned with various ice creams, all of which were excellent:


I began to grow exhausted but the group insisted on their ritual playing of the game Mafia. Have you ever played this? I haven't. What you do is... oh boy, it's hard to explain. Here click this for a pop-up explanation of how the game is played. [Thanks to Jason Sholar for leaving the code for doing a pop-up window in an old old post.] Anyway, Craig ended up killing the entire town, duping everyone--including me--in the process. I was way mad but way impressed.

The next morning we were up early. Because the weather was bad, we mostly lounged around the house which, it turns out, was quite heavenly. I did lots of reading I wanted to do (spending most of my time reading last week's New Yorker article about the Duke rape case. It's really fascinating.) Food-wise, not much happened here. Josh and his wife Krisse made sausages:


But I somehow didn't get one. I made a PB&J instead.

Then Josh and Krisse gave us something better than a sausage: their dogs!


Meet Mischief and Omi, the cutest dogs ever. Craig and I got to take them for a run on the beach and it was one of the highlights of the trip. (I've never had a dog, just my sassy cat Lolita, and Lolita would never tolerate a run on the beach.)

When we came back, Krisse had made an awesome fruit dip that the blond British girls--Lucy, Freddy and Kath--really seemed to enjoy. It was simply Cool Whip, cream cheese and coconut cream beaten together:


It's a great easy dip you can throw together for situations like these. This was the first of many secret Krisse* tricks that dazzled our palates over the weekend.

*[I am not entirely sure this is the way Krisse spells her name. Later in this post I accidentally spell it Chrisse. I know it ends in an "e" because Craig told me before he fell asleep.]

After this something horrible happened. I was made to go bowling. I am a terrible bowler. I bowled a 45, I think, or something equally dismal:


Luckily, dinner happened soon after. Rob led us to a kitschy but endearing fish restaurant called The Lobster Boat:



As you can see, our group took up a big a table...


But when it came to what to order, Craig and I followed the trend: we ordered the special, two deformed lobsters at $20.


When I say "deformed lobsters" it really means they only had one claw each. But I got lucky and my lobsters had one big claw and one small claw each; I suppose the broken off claw regenerated:


I was skeptical at first as to whether these would taste good, but they tasted awesome. Very fresh, very well cooked, and excellent dunked in melted butter. They really hit the spot and allowed me an opportunity, one again, to study the art of ripping up a lobster. I think I did very well.

The next morning, Krisse wowed us again with a brilliant recipe. She took pre-made biscuit dough, cut the dough into donut shapes and then fried them in vegetable oil:




Krisse (who is pregnant, I should say, in case you saw her pregnant belly and thought, "too many donuts") sprinkled the finished donuts with powdered sugar and everyone cheered their reactions:



This is a great recipe to have up your sleeve. It's a definite crowd-pleaser.

Ok, so it's 12 o'clock and people are going to the movies. But going to the movies sounds like a bad idea to me, Craig, Mark and Ed. We want to do something Cape Cod specific. We want to go somewhere. So we form a posse, steal a car and head straight to Provincetown.

I've heard much spoken of Provincetown and its charms. Gay people flock there, I have a teacher with a house there, and apparently I was there as a child with my family. But on this day it was rainy and wet:



We walked around for a long while and then decided we were hungry for lunch. Unsure of where to go, we went into an antique shop and asked the proprietor. He suggested one place but that place was closed so we went next door to Bubala's By The Bay:


This is vintage Provincetown, methinks: kitschy and cute, filled with gay people and old people and a man with a hook for a hand (I'm not kidding.) I took Mark's advice and ordered a lobster roll which was way different than the one at Pearl Oyster Bar. It was just lobster on a buttered bun and nothing in the world could be simpler (or more reasonably priced: $12 to Pearl Oyster Bar's $22):


Mark had mussels which he raved about and Craig had fish and chips:


After that we sampled fudge. (I was almost talked into buying two and a half pounds of it to bring back to everyone, but Mark and Craig talked me out of it):




We took a walk on the beach, despite the drizzle and the wet sand:


And then, after looking at a few more shops (including a really raunchy one with fold-out cards that have scarred me for life) we returned to West Harwich where Krisse was creating an end-of-summer Thanksgiving feast. I quickly set out to help her:


My job? Chicken. Chrisse focused on the sides on the theory that "the sides are the best part of Thanksgiving." I was to make the chicken.

The challenge became more difficult when I realized that these were skinless, boneless breasts: notoriously the most flavorless part of the bird. I read some recipes online and decided to go a simple route. I coated the breasts with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper:


[Note: photos here taken by Rob.]

Then to the grill I went. I had Mark help me turn it on (I didn't want to blow the house up.) I let it get scalding hot and then I added the chicken:


I seared it on one side for 5 minutes and then flipped them: [insert flip the bird joke]


At this point I was very careful not to overcook them. After five minutes on this side I began cutting into them to see if they were done. They were and I put them on a platter and brought them inside.

And here's Chrisse (and Mark) with the Thanksgiving bounty: an excellent stuffing made with toasted bread, green bean casserole, gravy and yams:


In the front, next to the chicken, is bread sauce. Lucy wants me to tell you about it. It's an English tradition: it's bread, milk and lots of spices. It comes together beautifully and works well with various meats.


Now then, are you exhausted? Is this the longest post of my Amateur Gourmet career? Maybe so. But you are bored at work and you need the entertainment.

Here's everyone eating the food:


Here's my plate. (Yes, that's canned cranberry sauce you see. Shhhh, don't tell the authorities):


The next morning, our last morning, yesterday morning, for breakfast, Chrisse made her famous specialty: French Toast Strada. This is something Craig has told me about many times but that I never quite understood. Here's how it works: you take good french bread and cut it into cubes. You take cream cheese, cut it into cubes and intersperse it with the bread. Then you pour on 8 eggs whisked with 2 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup (or 1/4 cup??) maple syrup. You put it in the fridge overnight...


And the next morning you bake it, I don't know at what temperature or for how long but I assume 350 for 30 minutes, more or less:


Chrisse serves it with an apple syrup made by reducing apple juice with I forget what else, but it works quite well.


Anyway, that day we left and our car on the way back included me, Craig, Lucy, Ed (again driving) and Ameer, who actually reads this site. (Hi Ameer!)

We stopped at Brown University for our dinner because it was on our way and because Ed knows the area well. We went to the place where many Brown students get their meals (Diana has confirmed this): Paragon.


We all basically had burgers except Ed had chicken risotto: (that's Lucy, Ameer, Ed and Craig)


Ameer said he knew of a chocolate chip cookie worth checking out so while everyone paid the check, he led me to Meeting Street Cafe:


There we got two chocolate chip cookies that were $4 each and which provided a perfect snack for the remainder of our car ride. We got into New York last night at 10 PM and barreled into my apartment, exhausted.

And just think: none of the above would have happened if I didn't, in that very instant, go with my impulses (and Kirk's suggestion) and call Craig back to say, "Yes." So next time you have to make a decision like I had to make and you're weighing responsibility and practicality verse fun, frivolity and escape, do what I did and say "yes." You'll be glad you did.

P.S. In case you're reading this, thanks to Rob and Kath and everyone else for having me. It was a marvelous time.


Glad you had fun! The first part of the post was so touching - Craig being disappointed that you couldn't go, then trying to get you to go and then you abandoning all thoughts of practicality and jumping in that waiting vehicle for you. Sigh - I understand all of those "should I/shouldn't I?" situations!
Your trip sounded very enjoyable and I'm glad you got to breath some non-city air!

No, I'm reading this because I'm procrastinating at home, not because I'm bored at work.

Strata is just a savory bread pudding. Makes more sense when you think about it that way.

Wow, what a trip! Glad you were able to sneak in a quick vacation. This should give you the motivation you need to finish up that book. Best of luck!

Looks like you had a great and relaxing weekend. Also, as much as it isn't my place to say this, you and Craig seem so cute and genuinely happy together- very nice. :) Best of luck finishing the book!

Ha! I am bored at work!

I'm glad you decided to go - it looks like a fun time with some fabulous food. Go K/Chrisse!

Hooray for split-second decisions to live life instead of doing what we're supposed to!

This has to be my favorite post of yours ever! That was so much fun and entertaining. I am so glad you decided to go to Cape Cod. Could you imagine now missing all of that great food, great company and great views?

What a charming post! I love the Cape, especially in autumn. My new boyfriend has never been, so we're plotting away.

And "La" is right--you and Craig make a darling couple.

Chow on, guys!


Was just checking NYT Food Section and there is a story called "Easier than Pie: Make a Cobbler" Have you been supplying them with story ideas?

It looks like you had such a great time. The style of this post was departure from your usual, but I still loved it. It made me so nostalgic for Thanksgiving with friends at someone's cottage.

I find it curious that when you thought you couldn't go to the Cape, you boyfriend went without you. Thats sort of strange. key to any weekend like that.

I'm glad you had a chance to go! That beginning sounds like the start to a good movie.

PS- my cat is a wimp too and wouldn't even go for a run on a sidewalk.

Maybe all restaurants in Providence look the same, but Paragon reminds me of the one we ate at while on Rathskellar tour in '98 (the pre-Adam year). As we were led there by a Brown student this would make sense. Did you see where we all carved our names in the table?

Spelled Krisse.


Gosh, that has all the makings of a moderately whimsical romantic comedy. Though who would be played by Meg Ryan (prior to her developing suspect lips and a bad attitude of course...), I'm at a loss to say.* Next Labour Day do the same thing, but try to incorporate a circumstance that has one of you a) running alongside a rapidly departing steam locomotive. b) moving abroad, then moving back again or c) accidentally almost flushing one of the dogs down the lavatory. Guarenteed to make it huge, right there.

I'll tell you what, though. Lobster at $20 a throw. I'm living in the wrong bloody country.

*It would have been better if it had happened last year, of course. What with Bruno Kirby now having prematurely and tragically popped off.

That sounded very Bridget Jones, mini-break-esque but without the dressing-up-as-a-prostitute part. Very lovely post.

A simple lobster roll is a thing of beauty. Yours looked really good. Cheers for going to the Cape - I'm a state native but have only been there once.

Wow, what a coincidence! I went with my boyfriend to Cape Cod this weekend too, driving up from NYC. Our ivy league middle stopping point was Yale, not Brown. But uncannily, we also did a day trip to Provincetown, and ate at Bubula (sp)'s too! AND I also ordered a lobster roll (not the lobster salad roll, though the celery was mysteriously wildly tempting).

This post is crazy because:
1) I'm a regular reader of your blog, yet I live in Providence (dreams of post-college design jobs that afford me food in NYC abound)
2) I walk by Paragon basically every day (yet I've eaten there only once).
3) I was just in Provincetown a few weeks ago and know that the fudge at Fudge Factory is the best in the town.
4) Meeting Street Cafe!! Their cookies are insane, like 8" in diameter.

MMmm... doughnuts...

Any chance for a trip to the Cape should be jumped at. Glad you did.

BTW, I discovered a new restaurant in Ptown this summer that's really great. It's a little place called Karoo Kafé, and they serve South African food. Absolutely delicious and much cheaper than most Ptown restaurants. We liked it so much we went 3 times and bought bottles of the fruit chutney and curry powder to bring home. You should check it out if you're up there again.

New England-style Lobster roll is what I'd choose as my last meal. Great post.

Great post! It brought back many memories of my trip to Cape Cod, ending in a car accident, being sent to the ER, and taking a bus to Provincetown to get a rental car. :) I'd like to go back there someday, and enjoy the sights a bit more.

Dear AG,

Thanks so much for inviting me to go along with you and your friends to the cape..........I loved sitting next to you at lunch when Kirk convinced you to just DO it !

The house at the cape was so inviting and cozy, the dogs on the beach.....right up my alley ! And Provincetown........haven't been there in forever........the food was perfection !

( Well, okay, I wasn't there, but you made me feel like I was.....that is the magic of your writing .)

Excellent piece !!


Your editor sounds dodgy. he's lucky to have you.

Bubala's, the fudge place, and Sundae School = all my favorite food places on the Cape! Next time go to Kate's in Brewster or Liam's at Nauset Beach in Orleans (not Nauset Light) and have the onions rings. Best anywhere.

First time on your blog...Got the link from analisfirstamendment...loved your Cape Cod trip.

My husband and I got as far as Yarmouth as part of our New York/Boston experience in March/April...We just adored it now that I have read your post I am sorry we didn't go further up the Cape to Provincetown.

Well at least you did it for us.
Thanks for that

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