Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Chris and I met up in Hartford for his brother Nicholas’s wedding a few weeks ago. As I haven’t been back to Seattle yet, I’m calling this all part of “my” trip. And since I’m still traveling I can cook up ridiculous ideas like, “Let’s drive to the Rhode Island coast to try clear clam chowder.”

Apparently the idea didn’t seem too ridiculous, and that is how we found ourselves stuck in traffic at a dead standstill on State Hiway 4 joining what appeared to be all of Rhode Island and possibly part of Massachusetts in trying to get to any piece of land that touched the Atlantic Ocean. Our goal had been to drive to Point Judith, have a look around and then enjoy lunch at Champlins, a seafood restaurant on the water I had heard about on The Splendid Table. Now we were wondering if we were going to get Nicholas back to Quidnessett in time to get married. Note to self: don’t take groom on excursions on his wedding day, especially when Friday afternoon traffic and a beach could be involved.

Traffic cleared up enough that we figured we could have lunch at Champlins. It was one of those rough-around-the-edges-but-with-a-sweet-deck-overlooking-the-water joint a la Ivars of Seattle. All this effort was to try their clear clam chowder. Think the ocean, only tasty, in a clear broth chock full of clams and potatoes. They also had scallops, gigantic and perfectly cooked (rare and still sticky in the middle) and fried clam strips, served on a hoagie. This was something new to me-the " roll". Like a hotdog, only waaaay better. The best roll I had was a lobster roll at the Lobster Landing near Nicholas's house in Clinton, CT. Oh 1/4 lb of lemony, buttery peeled lobstery goodness.

Chris grew up in storybook New England – dense green forest, quaint main streets with a town green, old colonial houses and lots of streams and hollows and mountains that people will plan their year’s vacation to visit – and it was all in his backyard. Chris and Nicholas took an afternoon to drive me and a friend from California around to all their old childhood haunts. I think having out of towners marvel at all this gave them a real sense what a magical place the two of them grew up in. Still being in travel mode has me marveling at the diversity of cultures, language, climates, geography and cuisines all within the borders of the US. Our New England trip again reinforced my belief that there are so many diverse cultures and landscapes to experience without having to leave the US. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this new perspective opens up in Washington state. I'm also looking forward my road trip back to Seattle taking me through the South, Southwest and the Rockies. I'll keep ya'll posted on food, sights and experiences all the way back to Seattle.

Monday, July 6, 2009


One of the things Chris and I frequently remarked on while we were travelling, especially when in New Zealand, is that we wondered how many of these cool funky little towns and off-the-beaten-path parks and hikes were in our own backyard. How many of them do we miss because we were so busy travelling around to "bigger and better" places in the US and around the world? The oft repeated question made us soon resolve to take our "traveller's eyes" back to Washington and try to experience our own home turf the way tourists like us experience the Puget Sound. And by like us I do no mean the ones who flock to the Space Needle and buy T-shirts with the skyline emblazoned on it down at the shops on the waterfront. We've even toyed with the idea of limiting ourselves to Washington and perhaps southern B.C. for a year. A move in part necessitated by our now decimated pocketbook and perhaps a desire to balance our monstrous flying footprint this year. But it is also a challenge to really discover the gems of Washington, many of which we are well aware of but never make the time to experience.

So I'm trying out my new "traveller's eyes" on Omaha, Nebraska. My hometown was another casualty of my desire to always go someplace "bigger and better." I came home my first summer after college, but after that I was always going someplace else. Even holidays succumbed. More than once I had a Thanksgiving meal in Omaha and then would drive overnight for a weekend sailing regatta in Chicago. Now distance and the cost of a flight means I see Omaha once, maybe twice a year. And now, every time I go home, I find myself thinking, "This is a pretty cool place." So driven by a desire to spend more time with my parents and to reacquaint myself with my hometown, I've chosen to spend a month here before I work my way back to Seattle.

I have to say I have been blown away by what I have experienced so far. I beginning to gain an appreciation for the sense of place I have here. And for just how much this flat, hot and at times oppressively humid bit of prairie is such an engrained part of me. I think no matter how long I live in the Northwest, there is always going to be a part of me that sees an open expanse of cornfield, and the slow green undulation of the land along the Missouri and will breathe a long sigh of, "I'm home." It's the part that has an endless fascination with grass. The part that prefers grasslands and deciduous trees (especially cottonwoods), small towns and grain elevators, to dense evergreen forests and clear mountain streams. Don't get me wrong, there is another vocal part of me that is pretty ticked I haven't been skiing for 368 days, but for now that part will just have to let the Nebraska part have her due.

I have lots of "travel thoughts" I would like to post, but for now, in interest of keeping this post a reasonable length, I will save them for another time. Omaha, a travel destination. Who knew?