Thursday, July 28, 2011

whale watching

I never claimed to be a wildlife photographer, but for my first official Humpback whale photo shoot, I'd say I did a respectable job. This wasn't your standard vessel fleet launching from the tourist ridden harbor docks. This wasn't a time slotted tour where advanced purchase of tickets were required. This was a Saturday morning adventure with friends seeking a glimpse of the oceans largest mammals. We set out from an eerily calm inlet off the backside of Nauset Beach. It was low tide but luckily not too low to venture through the sandbar ridden channel. The inlet which stretches between the towns of Orleans and Eastham leads out into none other than the vast Atlantic Ocean. Only - we didn't have to venture very far into its vastness to spot a pod of Humpback Whales (we estimated about 12 - 14 different individual whales) who were swimming just off shore.Seeing these mammals in person is completely breathtaking. One of those times where the camera (and all my cropping and zooming) can't even begin to do the experience justice. The whales came really close to us, I'm talking within a few arms lengths / a tiny stones throw close. Did I mention we are on a 23 foot recreational motorboat? It's an adrenaline rush to say the least. You never know just where they are going to pop up next to you! These guys are the real deal, identified with names by the varying patterns and markings on their tale flukes and everything. I'll leave you with some scenery shots from the boat ride in and the views back on dry land. Not that I need an excuse, but simply because it's Cape Cod in the summertime and it's beautiful. And it's where I grew up. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Del Frisco's

A small collection of nationwide restaurants that embrace the deep rooted American steakhouse tradition, Del Frisco's most definitely knows its prime grade steak and lucky for us New Englanders, a thing or two about seafood. Be that as it may, there's a lot more to the recently opened Boston location than just the food. Entering into the first floor off a vibrant section of Northern Avenue, you continue up a grand staircase into an impressive space housing a swank circular bar with views of the downtown skyline; and an equally stylish dining room inlaid with plush gray semi-circular booths overlooking a stunning harbor expanse.The media dinner I attended on Thursday evening was held in the appropriately named Harbor Room, housing within its massive wine rack enclosed walls are sweeping red curtains surrounding tables boasting crisp white linens and elegant leather chairs. Commanding attention overhead are two giant chandeliers, the sparkling crystal figures hang to resemble exposed light bulbs. Spectacular, grand, impressive, massive, giant, I'm pulling out all the "go big or go home" esque adjectives; Del Frisco's atmosphere embodies that mantra to a tee. And as the rooms namesake would imply, views of the harbor aren't too shabby either. The dinner was based on a four course menu and was completely free of charge to attendees.After glancing over the regular menu, everything appears to be fairly expensive. But as usual, I've included the prices in my round up to let you be the judge. At Del Frisco's, you can't go wrong with a signature cocktail. After one a taste of the Absolut Orange Vodka that has been house infused with pineapple and shaken to creamy frothy martini perfection, "The VIP" ($13) will have you feeling just as the namesake touts. The Blackberry Ginger Cocktail ($14) made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, fresh blackberries, fresh lemon juice, mint and a splash of ginger beer, was also a winner. Boasting an extensive wine list (if the glass walled wine racks were any indication) A Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington state was poured to compliment our starter courses. Once we made our way to the steak, a Cabernet Sauvignon made just for the restaurant was also nicely paired. The bread here is worth indulging - a full loaf is served warm, soft baked and studded with sesame seeds, be sure to break off a piece and slather it in some of that whipped butter. An extensive spread of shared appetizers began with the Shrimp Cocktail ($19) and Shrimp Remoulade ($19). I enjoyed the presentation with a vivid cocktail sauce layered over a row of jumbo shrimp on a bed of bright green lettuce, however, I've had better tasting shrimp. I would skip this in favor of another appetizer, especially considering the price point. I was not impressed by the Ahi Tuna Tartare ($16). This one paled comparison to some of my Boston favorites, although the toasted bread with balsamic on the side was a nice touch. The appetizer worth splurging on is the Crab Cake ($19) with this one you get all the crab and none of the cake! A glorious mound of exceptionally tender and well seasoned crab meat is served over a creamy cajun lobster sauce. Order it if you are a crab lover for sure.I would also recommend the Prime Beef Carpaccio ($14) served with a creole mustard and dotted with capers, the thin but lengthy slices of raw beef were generously layered on the plate. Given a choice of salads, I opted for the Blue Cheese Lettuce Wedge ($11). With smokey bacon, fresh lettuce and springy cherry tomatoes halves the components were lovely despite an overwhelming presence of blue cheese. The dry cheese crumbles are more than welcome in abundance but all that creamy dressing was too much for the wedge to handle.For the steak course, our waitress explained the degree of cooking runs towards rare, so in essence what is actually ordered medium would be cooked medium rare. (Or something along those lines, fair enough.)The supreme quality of beef was evident with each bite of my 8 oz Filet Mignon ($38) cooked to their ideal medium as desired with a fully pink center, retaining its flavorful juiciness. Vegetable sides run the gamut from simply steamed Broccoli ($10), to lightly blanched Asparagus ($11) with shaved almonds, to Sauteed Mushrooms ($10) bathing in savory pan juices. The Chateau Potatoes ($9) are a perplexing side, I guess because I am not really sure what a "chateau" potato is supposed to be. A dish of heavy waxy mashed potatoes with butter and cracked pepper are good, nothing extraordinary. A tower of the thickest Onion Rings ($10) I've ever seen are sensational, while the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese ($16) would prove more swoon worthy had actual chunks of lobster appeared within the sea of elbow pasta. Behold the dessert platter, a sampling of their Lemon Cake, Banana Bread Pudding and Molten Chocolate Cake.The Creme Brulee and Berries and Cream offer something lighter compared to a cake or bread pudding. Not that you didn't save plenty of room after all that steak! I am content to recommend any of the five as worthy contenders to end a meal here. The service executed by the waitstaff was friendly, helpful and attentive. The pacing of the meal, however, was considerably slower than expected. I took the opportunity to relish the time, enjoying the company of friends and new faces, appreciating the opportunity to sample a wide variety of their food and drink. Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House located at 250 Northern Avenue on Boston's Liberty Wharf.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Great Island Beach, Wellfleet

Great Island is a a hidden gem of a beach on the bay side of Wellfleet, with tourist free shores that stretch for miles. It was a scorcher of a day, even the water was exceptionally warm. It was perfect for lengthy swims to cool off in between soaking up the sun and venturing on long walks.
The rocky expanse stretches over a good portion of the sand, not a bad place to search for beach treasures like sea glass, wampum and unique rocks and shells. Besides the gorgeous landscape, this funky lean-to driftwood beach hut called for a photo shoot.Salty, sandy, relaxed and rejuvenated - this is what summer days (make that weekends) are made for!