Trip Details: Destination Block Island, arrival Thursday August 27 and departure Sunday September 1. Rationale: Simply to relax and have FUN.
Point Judith, Rhode Island, first port of call (This will indeed be followed soon by a Block Island post along the same lines.) :
This is a food blog, so I’m going to focus on the good (usually) eats here, but not exclusively.
Thursday morning I pulled out of here at 8:30 am, after having bolted down two semi-soft cooked eggs – remembering things to pack tightly into a small suitcase and my backpack meant I overcooked those eggs, but they were fine anyway. I also had coffee, and in the car, water.
The drive to Point Judith from my little spot in Connecticut is 2.5 hours, and I relished in the sense of antici-(say it!) -pation. We had spot on, spot off, drizzle-like rain affairs, but these were so over with by the time I hit Point Judith that I simply hoped my poor lil veggie patch at home was getting sufficient water.
I arrived, despite a little personality clash between Google Maps and Major Tom-Tom (who was apparently still a bit addled after floating in her tin can). I decided to believe the printout from Google Maps over her, which worked out great.
There may well have been the option to take a fast ferry from New London, but a few things convinced me that Point Judith would make for a better vacation. 1) Recommendation of a Good Eatery. 2) Google Maps gave it as the first choice. 3) I understand ferry schedules from New London are sparse, but I never got around to checking that, and 4) I think about a decade ago the Supreme Court rendered down a decision in the “favor” of New London that they could exercise Eminent Domain over hapless homeowners standing in the way of “development”, and I’ve never wanted a single honest penny of my earnings to go into New London sales tax coffers since then. (PS, that’s the first mention and presumably the LAST, of politics on this blog…)
A friend who’d returned to this eatery twice had recommended eating at Chaplin’s near the ferry dock, recommending that I get lobster. Well, they’d had a sale on lobster in the supermarket a couple days before I left, so I figured I’d get the snail salad and the steamers for my lunch, instead. I wondered if the snails would be escargot or something else.
They were conch, and this was a good, hearty, reasonably-priced salad. Most of the included veggies were lettuce, but there was a good clear dressing which perhaps one could ask for on the side? Indeed, I would have been satisfied with just this, but also got the steamers. I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of unadulterated drawn butter, but if you squeeze in the lemon that came with the snail salad…. oooooh! The steamers were done to perfection and there was NO grit.
On the way back to the ferry (and indeed beyond the ferry to pick up my suitcase and back pack), I checked out Chaplin’s seafood market. Everything looked supremely fresh, enticing, and awesome. My friend mentioned above had recommended bringing a cooler. I had it to hand, and made note for my return.
There is another seafood market (at least) just adjacent to the ferry slips. Most of the food in there were what they call in the trade, “value added”. This means they have been pre-seasoned, or even pre-cooked, for you. There are times where this might be desired, but personally if I want food pre-seasoned and pre-cooked, that’s when I’m dining out. In a restaurant. The fresh uncooked fish was more pricey than Chaplin’s, and seriously didn’t look as good. I am sure it was fine, and they catered to the crowd that didn’t want to explore further.
However, in the lot by the ferry, was the ShuckinTruck. Since the raw bar at Chaplin’s hadn’t opened when I’d placed my order, I ordered three oysters for $5 here. They came with a lemon wedge, cocktail sauce, or a special sauce that apparently contained red wine vinegar and finely diced challots or onions. Not quite sure what else was in there, but this was a true highlight.
This is not entirely about the food (although on Point Judith it mostly was). I did, however, enjoy the salt air scent, and the hard-worked fishing vessels that called this point their port. The tourist trade helped them to survive, as well.
On the ferry (the Traditional Ferry, which is slowish, takes about 55 minutes to cross to Block Island, but you do have to wait for all the car drivers to drive their cars off before you as a pedestrian (or a cyclist) can. There is a concession stand of truly junk food, and a bar aboard. I took the recommended Bloody Mary — it usually comes with a hunky celery stalk and two really large pimento-filled olives. (On the return trip, it appears the olives were gone, and were replaced with a very tiny lemon and a very tiny lime wedge.) The drink is indeed good, and on the way over to Block Island, do keep the cup they serve it in as a momento. I didn’t know that, and left mine behind, since I thought future customers would be served from it. (Maybe they are, indeed, served from the cleaned cups that people like myself have indeed left behind. Good, then.)
(I have decided to break this up into two posts — Block Island will be its own. Within now and a day or so from now. So, we carry on with Sunday’s return to Point Judith.)
Return to Point Judith, September 1.
I walked out to Champlin’s and picked up some choice seafood — squid, littlenecks, swordfish, shucked oysters, conch.
I could have had dinner at Champlin’s again. I could have eaten at the very interesting George of Galelee. Instead, NO. I opted to put the Champlin’s food with ice into my cooler, and not walk far at all, to Port Side Seafood Restaurant, directly across from the ferry landing
Three oysters, Roma variety I think she said. Miniscule in size, these were $2 a pop. That would have been fine — oyster varieties do vary in size, and that should not be the main criterion, and they did indeed taste very fresh, but they were the first gritty oysters I’ve ever met in my life. The lemon wedge was the best option for these oysters, although they provided others.
I wanted a last cup of Rhode Island Clam Chowder. You’ll need to read my soon-to-be-available Block Island post about that. The menu selection read “Plain, White, Red”. I chose “Plain”, thinking “Plain” might be a synonym for “Clear”. NO. “Plain” means you use lots of potato starch instead of cream, and apparently no clam broth. I siphoned the clams out (there were indeed, to be fair, a lot of them), and rejected the rest. For some reason my waitress didn’t bat an eye. Hmm. My entree here was fried calamari, buffalo style. I will say that the calamari (squid) was not overcooked, which after the other stuff I fully expected, but the breading (thankfully light) was soggy and the sauce, while hot, was nothing more than I expected after the earlier portions of the meal. I ate a third and took a bag home for the rest of the calamari. I’m considering rinsing off the sauce and breading and making my own new meal…
Summary, Point Judith:
Chaplin’s Seafood Restaurant: Get out on the deck to eat. The Steamers are simply awesome, not at all gritty, and I do like to add lemon to the drawn butter, but that’s not really traditional, so carry on! Snail (conch) salad is a meal in itself. I’m told by a friend whose tastebuds have in the past proved to be reliable that the lobster is superb. Here, basically you leave your order, sit where you wish, and when your number is called, you go claim your repast.
Chaplin’s Market: Bring a cooler if you live near enough to do so. They pack the fish into a solid paper bag that is nearly cardboard in construction, with lots of ice. Everything looks extremely fresh, and there is no “old seafood” smell. And, you can buy squid that still has the ink sacs, which if you handle carefully, is good with various cuisines.
ShuckinTruck, by the Ferry: The absolute best oyster dipping sauce on the planet. Price of oysters, $5 for 3. Best price I was able to note either on Point Judith or on Block Island.
Port Side Seafood Restaurant: Right across from the ferry. The seafood is fresh, the treatments pedestrian or worse. Service, however, is friendly and I did have to kick myself to remember to tip according to service, not “cookery”. It is a place to go ONLY if you are supremely pressed for time.
PS… just a couple minor edits for clarity and grammar today, 2/23/14.