BY SOPHIA DU BRUL
Those of you who know me well may have been surprised that my ode to Cape Cod did not talk about food—as mother laments and my husband adores, I always talk about food. For me, food is a touchstone: I can recall meals from 30, even 40, years ago with vivid clarity. If you ask me to recall a certain event, I will also remember what we had for lunch.
So why did I not write about the food first? Something happened on this last trip to Cape Cod that I needed to process before I could write about the food, something that made me reflect on my relationship with food.
As a foodie, I love to eat, but I also love to cook, go to markets, try new things, and I love to read good writing about food. One of my heroes was Anthony Bourdain, and he committed suicide during our family trip, the same week that Kate Spade also tragically took her life.
Kate Spade’s suicide saddened me, but it did not touch me. I am not a Kate Spade kind of gal. I have never owned one of her bags (cute as they are)—I am more of jeans and hiking boots girl on a day-to-day basis. But I am always in the kitchen.
My first real job was as a dishwasher in the kitchen at Miss Porter’s School. I had that job for two and a half years. I kept working in kitchens and restaurants, front and back of the house, until I finished grad school. I think this is where I felt simpatico with Anthony Bourdain—we both started as dishwashers and liked it, he as a dishwasher at The Flagship in Provincetown. It was humble yet oddly satisfying toil. I was helping to feed people, fulfilling such a basic need, and it was a little bit noble.
Kate Spade, I am sure, was charming and I would have enjoyed meeting her at a chic cocktail party for a few minutes. Anthony Bourdain, whose I books I have devoured, I thought I could talk to all night. Even though we had never met, it felt like I had lost a friend, especially since we approached food in a similar way.
Bourdain loved the highs and lows of cuisine: the foie gras on one end and the simple boiled dinner on the other. I do too. I love fancy, but I also love the four-ingredient, simple, time-honored recipe that has to be made just right. Cape Cod perfectly encapsulates these contrasts, and it is where Bourdain got his start.
I have a couple of little Cape Cod rituals. First, as I drive out of Providence and start to cross the bridge, I roll down my windows and inhale the sea air. It is a smell that I love, even at low tide. Second, after we unpack, we go get oysters and raw littlenecks. The Wellfleet oysters are divine, but the raw littlenecks are even more of a treat. We either go to Mac’s Shack on Mayo Beach or The Bookstore for that first platter of raw shellfish. Mac has created a little empire of quality markets and seafood places that now stretches from P-town to Chatham, and many are open all year (creating a lot of good jobs in an otherwise tough and seasonal economy). The Bookstore is another Wellfleet staple that is also year-round, and they have their own oyster beds, plus a used bookstore and a great bar in the basement called The Bomb Shelter, which is housed in a Cold War era nuclear fallout shelter (and the martinis are served with the dividend, much to Moi Moi’s approval).
I do a great deal of cooking on the Cape, and I love going to the markets and getting whatever fish was just caught and then coming up with something—nothing too fancy because the fish is so good that it stands on its own. All of Mac’s markets are quality, but I also love The Friendly Fisherman in Eastham (they have the best fried clams!) and Hatch’s in downtown Wellfleet. Hatch’s has the added bonus of their own smoker, and the smoked scallops are to die for! I like to use the smoked scallops to garnish a simple salad with a lemon vinaigrette. Hatch’s also will give you free lobster bodies which are clutch for making a seafood stock.
Then I stop at PB Boulangerie in South Wellfleet for bread. Phillipe, the “P” of PB, is a real French baker. He opened his bakery and bistro nine years ago and makes bread and pastries as good as anything in France. There is even a line in March!
Every day there is a farmer’s market in a different town. The Wellfleet market is on Wednesday but whatever market you hit, Mike Ceraldi will be there. This is our fancy dinner, Ceraldi in Wellfleet. Mike Ceraldi is new to the Cape dining scene. He opened up five years ago. May through October, Mike does seven course dinners, two seatings a night, and you eat what he found at the market that day. This is an annual dinner that we look forward to all year. This summer was bittersweet because our Ceraldi dinner was on the day the Anthony Bourdain had hanged himself, so there was a tribute to him and his legacy. I always find an inspiration at Ceraldi that I can translate in my own kitchen: this year, it was macerating beach rose petals in vinegar to create a beach rose salad garnished with pistachio and sea pickle.
For old-school dining, we have a new favorite (discovered by Violet): The Lobster Pot in P-town. Brad and I had shunned this place due to its bright neon sign advertising char-broiled steaks, but Violet and her friend wandered in for lunch and raved about the lobster rolls and the potato salad. So we all went. It is a great lobster roll with amazing potato salad but even better is the pan roasted lobster with their signature wine and butter sauce. It was so good, we had to go back twice, and the martinis come with dividends there too! And they have the best Portuguese kale soup.
For roadside fare, another favorite is Cobie’s in Brewster. Solid fried seafood, great seafood rolls, excellent soft serve, and they have been doing it since 1948 (though they just started taking credit cards). For ice cream, try an Orange Whip (orange soda and vanilla ice cream blended together) at Mac’s Shack or Emack and Bolio’s (of Boston fame).
Another Cape pastime, when not eating, is perusing used bookstores and art galleries. Herridge Books in Wellfleet is a must. Burdick Gallery, run by my friend Margaret is a personal favorite, but all the galleries are lovely and every Saturday night, in season, they are open late and serve wine.
Looking back, this has been a very tragic summer. We have lost Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade to suicide; Aretha Franklin and Neil Simon to age; John McCain to cancer. So, cook a meal and share it with the people you love. Life is precious.
Where to Eat and Shop:
Anything by Mac’s is solid. He is a good guy, running quality joints and providing year-round jobs. If you are anywhere between P-town and Chatham, there is a Mac’s near you.
Hey, they have their own oyster beds! And a bookstore!
An old-fashioned clam shack doing it right!
The best fried clams on the Cape—and a great fish market, to boot.
Located right in downtown Wellfleet with lovely fish, fresh veggies, and smoked scallops.
Truly an experience, but make your reservation in May. And after you dine there, you will recognize Mike at the farmer’s markets.
Fabulous bread and pastry—and a great bistro for dinner.
Truly one of the greatest used book stores anywhere.
The Burdicks are an amazing family of painters who also support other artists through their gallery. Stop in and chat with the lovely Margaret, and she will direct you to all the other galleries in Wellfleet.
Sophia du Brul is the owner of Sophia’s Room, specializing in appraisals and estate sales. You can find her at sophiadubrul.com. Coming up, Sophia has a sale in Winnetka at the historic Fisher house, starting on September 14th. View all the details here.