In Search of Rex
A week had passed since our rained out hiking trip turned into a shopping spree, we decided to drive back up to Truro and finish what we started. One thing I neglected to mention in the last post was that while Ali was choosing necklaces at the beautiful Truro jewelry shop “Creations on Pond Road”, I was exploring the front of the building, and admiring the gardens. I was completely taken by a plant I had never seen, with some incredibly cool looking leaves. “Wizard of Oz” is what popped into my head, and although pop culture references fly into my noodle more than I’d care to admit, I had no idea what the plant had to do with witches, picnic baskets and flying monkeys. Suzanne told me it was a Rex Begonia “Escargo”. I asked her where she found such an unusual beauty and she told me she bought it at Bayberry Gardens, a nursery and garden center located just up the road. I’d never been to the place, but I did remember seeing their ad in Edible Cape Cod magazine recently, so we decided to make a stop there once back in Truro.
The Frying Pan and The Pearl
Speaking of Edible Cape Cod, on the way to Truro I was recalling an article I’d written four years ago for them about a crazy delicious Lobster and Artichoke Dip at The Pearl Restaurant, an eatery and bar on Commercial Street in Wellfleet Harbor. Checking my phone, I could see that the dip was still on the menu (no surprise) so Ali and I headed over to The Pearl for a quick snack.The lunch menu has a lot of great things to offer–Wellfleet oyster po’ boys, fried clams, shrimp and scallop scampi, a delicious lobster roll, and a wonderful array of fresh salads, to name a few. But we were heading up to Truro for more shopping and a hearty dinner (more on that below), so we stuck to the plan and shared our pitas and dip, which was just as piping hot, rich and delicious as I remembered it–and with no skimping on the good parts. The inside of The Pearl is always very lively and decorated with distinctive “ocean-inspired” metal art, made by local artist Steve Swain.
Steve Swain’s art is recognizable of the walls of many of the coolest restaurants on Cape Cod. His shop, The Frying Pan Gallery, is located in a 100 year old shack right next door to The Pearl, and well worth a visit. Steve’s “3-D metal workings” are like nothing else being sold on Cape Cod, and he and his wife Sarah Swain have done a phenomenal job of filling their one-of-a-kind shop with over 20 other painters, jewelers, ceramicists, photographers and glass artists, whose crafts are just as creative and unusual as Steve’s metal art. It should be mentioned that Sarah is not just the art curator for the gallery, but she’s an accomplished singer and songwriter, and the founder of the local non-profit Cape Wellness Collaborative, and the annual Cape Cod Women’s Music Festival. If you’re popping into The Pearl for a bite to eat, make sure you include the gallery in your visit–and you won’t even have to move your car!
Getting Our Spice On: The Atlantic Spice Company
Many moons ago in our former life, Ali would receive flyers in the mail from Atlantic Spice Company. Owning a restaurant in New York’s Hudson Valley at the time (and being a heck of a cook herself), Atlantic Spice Company flyers would be received by Ali like a kid finding their stocking stuffed to the fuzzy brim on Christmas morning. Flash forward 21 years ago, when we moved to Cape Cod, I’ll never forget the audible gasp from the passenger seat as we spotted the Atlantic Spice Company sign just off Route 6 in Truro. During all those years of flipping through flyers, Ali never noticed that they were headquartered in Truro, MA. That first time we pulled in and realized that the building was both a warehouse and retail store, well, let’s just say Old St. Nick would have to work real hard to outdo this surprise.
If you’re not familiar, the Atlantic Spice Company is a wholesale company that sells very high quality culinary products of just about every size, shape, flavor and color. Customers typically range from individuals who shop the retail store or order product by the pound, to restaurants, health food stores and food co-ops who order in much larger quantities. The building is loaded with every thing a household, store or restaurant could need, and the list of what’s available on their website is mind boggling, but I’ll bullet just a handful below…
- Brewing and distilling materials
- Teas (of just about every flavor)
- Chocolate products and candy
- Oils, extracts and flavorings
- Dried fruits
- Pastas, grains and beans
- Bar and “entertaining” essentials
- Sauces, condiments and seasonings
- Kitchen tools and gadgets
- Cookbooks and recipes
- Dehydrated vegetables
- Dips, spreads and salsas
- Local jams and jellies (and other local gourmet items)
The list goes on and on. We pop onto the store and, like Alice and the rabbit hole, I lost track of Ali within seconds. Popping around and biding my time I check out all the colorful kitchen gadgets, from necessities like can openers, salt and pepper shakers (and yes, wine openers), to the more quirky items like dog-themed dish towels and pickle pickers (although overly enthusiastic pickle lovers may deem a pickle picker a necessity, but what do I know?). The retail store, which is located at the junction of Route 6 and Route 6A in North Truro, is open year-round (we love that!) and can be visited Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 11am to 4pm. If you don’t see a Truro trip in your future–which is inexcusable, but we’ll let you slide for now–The Atlantic Spice Company has a very comprehensive online catalog which you can peruse from whatever you’re reading this on.
Hiking Truro takes an Unexpected and Juicy Turn
Between lunch, the gallery and the Spice Company the afternoon was rushing by. I got back on my phone and searched a couple of great websites for walking ideas. One site we love to use, particularly in the Cape Cod National Seashore area is the National Park Planner website which covers about 130 National parks (or over 28,000 miles of beauty!), complete with hiker’s details and photos. Truro’s trails are, of course, included on the site.
“They won’t run out,” I insist, “Not if we get there at 5pm.” “What time do they open?” she asked. The answer was 4:30 and I was keenly aware that Ali wanted to get to Montano’s when the dead bolt loosened its way from the door jam. I had also noticed that the lobster and artichoke dip, which we enjoyed at noon, had run its course, and we were both getting pretty hungry.
Montano’s Restaurant was first opened in 1988 and, although I didn’t know much about it, I had heard incredible reviews over the years from various outer Cape locals. The restaurant is known for its authentic Italian cuisine made “the old fashioned way”–from scratch. The pastas are made in-house and cooked to order, and of course the sauces have never seen the inside of a can or bag. We rarely eat at tables in restaurants, preferring the company of a good bartender, some nicely lit bottles and a better view of the restaurant minutia. Being a fish nut, I scan the menu for the fresh seafood offerings (another of Montano’s signatures) and although the Crabmeat Stuffed Flounder in a Champagne Sauce was certainly waving its fins at me, the entire menu looked delicious from top to bottom. I struggled through the decision making as best as I could, eenie-meanie-minie and moein’ between chicken parm, the Veal Chop Al Forno and a few others. Inevitably house-made pasta won out, and I ordered the Rigatoni Vodka with Chicken. Settling into a couple of glasses of red wine, we watched dishes walk by the bar and I found myself second guessing my dinner choice numerous times. But the pasta was even more perfect than I had hoped for, and Ali was quietly enjoying her dinner, which she said was the best prime rib she had ever eaten. Not sure if she was acknowledging how high she had set that bar, I took a bite. The meat was thicker than any prime rib I had ever seen, but more tender than than any we had ever cut into. Interestingly enough, the couple next to us skipped the Italian specialties altogether and both ordered the hamburger, and I over heard one of them say, “this is unbelievable.” But more interesting than that, the next couple that sat on the other side of Ali also both ordered the hamburger, “Best one on Cape Cod,” one of them told us. “Maybe we should come back to Truro before the end of the month”, Ali suggested. I said that we definitely should, and that there were still many hiking trails that we had to conquer. But we both knew the real reason for our return was going to come on a bun with two sides of fries. Yes, another return trip to Truro was certainly in order.
Before We Go, a Bagonia Update…
On our way back to Sandwich we stopped at Bayberry Gardens in search of “The Wizard of Oz” plant, the Rex Bagonia “Escargo”. Bayberry is a really pretty gardening center–very natural looking–with gardens, fountains, whimsically painted signs and an old barn-like interior–but no Rex Bagonias. They were all out and a new shipment seemed unlikely. We poked around, enjoying the assortment of flowers, from the basic to the exotic, and eventually bought some ornamental sea grass for the house. I always enjoy exploring gardening centers and aesthetically Bayberry is hard to beat. Oh, and when I got home I Googled “Wizard of Oz” and it didn’t take me long to figure out why I subconsciously went to that movie. Although we did not find any yellow bricked roads on this trip, there are always fun adventures awaiting us in Truro. Until next time!
~ Tommy Dott is an innkeeper, restaurateur and award-winning food writer. He lives on Cape Cod with his partner Ali and their two Yorkies, Jiminy Cricket and B.G.