An amazing weekend press trip to this fantastic North Shore city. I even got to take Al along.
by zabelle on October 4, 2012
Latitude 43 has a wonderful location on the Gloucester waterfront. It is an upscale dining option with among other things a great bar, outdoor dining and a sushi pit in the middle of the restaurant. The menu includes lots of choices including sushi but also the more traditional seafood items that you would expect to find in this area. In order to fully explore the menu, Al and I each ordered an appetizer. I have never eaten fried oyster and when I asked our waiter what appetizers would give me a feel for what this restaurant was all about, one of the things he suggested was the fried oysters. The watermelon salad also sounded too delicious to resist. I was amazed by the oysters. They burst in your mouth when you bite into them. It’s quite an unusual sensation and one that I have never experienced before. The Creole aioli was also perfect, spicy but not too spicy and a nice foil for the crispy oysters. The watermelon salad was the perfect thing to eat on a warm almost summer day. It is so refreshing. I loved it. For our main course we went our separate ways, Al opted for the Baked Local Day Boat Fish which is whatever the day happens to bring. I chose the Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon. I know this may be a surprise when it comes to Al since they offer a ribeye steak but he thought that since we were in Gloucester, having fish would be a more appropriate choice. From the dishes that we tried I have to say, I don’t think that he could have made a bad choice. Both of our fish dishes were excellent. The pineapple salsa on the salmon was spicy and added a nice touch. On both of our plates however the potatoes and other vegetables, except the spinach, were undercooked. It is hard to justify a half cooked boiled potato and Al was less than pleased about that but he loved the fish which had crumbs and butter. The good news was since we didn’t eat the veggies we had room for dessert. If at all possible, try to save room to try theirs, they are amazing. We decided to try two and share. We ordered the strawberry shortcake and the key lime pie. Both were very successful. The pie is thin but very intense and sprinkled with coconut. The strawberry shortcake was fresh strawberries and real whipped cream.Service is stellar at Latitude 43. Our server could not have been more attentive but he was never intrusive. The atmosphere is excellent here, low lighting and soft music make it romantic and if you are near the window, the views are lovely. When the weather allows, there is outdoor dining. There was a severe storm when we were there so we dined indoors. Parking on Rogers Street is difficult. If your reservations are early enough, you may be able to park in Latitudes own parking lot. If not, keep looking, you will find a spot eventually. We enjoyed our meal here very much and would return again in a heartbeat. Some of the guests were dressed up but it isn’t required. The customers were an eclectic bunch and everyone appears to be welcome including families with small children.
For me, coming to Cape Ann was a journey of discovery. I have early New England ancestors who were residents in the area at about the time of the infamous Salem witch trials. That of course made me very curious. I had one ancestor who had died in Gloucester in 1728 but I had no idea where he was buried. The Cape Anne Museum, as well as some wonderful exhibits, has a genealogy library that is the ideal place to start any research into ancestors in the area. I checked in on Friday morning and began my quest to find out where Michael Webber was buried. There is staff available to send you in the right direction and let you know what is available. There were a lot of people searching that morning so it took me a while to get the help I needed. I was given the cemetery registers for all of the cemeteries in Gloucester. It was a painstaking search that yielded nothing. I was quite defeated. The death record was no help as it only said that he died not where he was buried. I was looking through a book about the area when I came across a section about my ancestor Michael’s son of the same name and his wife. A minister was named who had visited their home. I mentioned it to one of the librarian and she immediately said "he is the minister from the First Parish". It seems inadvertently I had stumbled upon the information that I needed. As members of First Parish, they would have been buried in the First Parish Cemetery. Since they were not listed in that cemetery, they are unlikely to have a stone. I immediately asked about the location of the cemetery and got a rather vague answer. Later that day, at the Sargent House Museum, the director looked it up for me and printed a map that showed me where it was. Even with that information I was not able to find it on my first attempt. I refused to leave town without finding it so returned to the street, driving very slowly and there it was. It is off the road, there is a small sign but the cemetery is completely overgrown. A few gravestones standing in a field of hay. Too bad because this is a very historic place and many of the early settlers of Gloucester are no doubt buried here. Another piece of information I acquired at the Cape Anne Museum was the location of my ancestor's land. It seems he was quite well off and had a large holding in an area that is quite amazing today. As I visited the Fisherman’s Memorial on the waterfront, I realized that I had a relative on the memorial. Michael Webber's grandson lost his life and is memorialized here. I really loved my visit to Gloucester and I feel very connected to the area.
The Sargent House Museum was not included in my tour of Gloucester but of course, when I was planning the trip, my friend Joe mentioned that there was a connection to John Singer Sargent. He has never been able to visit the house since it has very limited opening hours. I felt I owned it to him and myself to try to squeeze in a visit. I am so glad that I did. The house is located between Middle Street and Main Street. It has no designated parking. Main Street has metered parking and we were able to find a spot very close by. There are also public parking lots within an easy walk. When arriving from Main Street, there is a very steep climb, this is not for the weak of knees or for anyone with any difficulty walking. Middle Street requires no climbing; however the house itself is not handicap accessible. Once inside, you will take a guided tour, you are not allowed to tour on your own. That is not a bad thing. We had a delightful guide who was very knowledgeable about the house but more importantly about Judith Sargent Stevens Murray. How she has stayed below the radar of most Americans is quite a mystery. She was an amazing woman in a time when the majority of women were uneducated or had a very rudimentary education. Her education was not formal. She managed to learn on her own and her brother held her knowledge in high esteem. How high is evident in the fact that when he needed to educate his son for his college entrance exam for Harvard, he gave his education to his sister. She became interested in the new Universalist beliefs which resulted in problems with the religious establishment in Gloucester. It was through this new religion that she became acquainted with John Murray who would become her second husband. He is considered the founder of Universalism in the United States. Much of her writing has survived and among other things she was the first American to have a play produced in Boston, was a strong advocate for the rights of women in the late 18th century and was the first woman to self-publish a book. A visit to the house will bring you all this information and a whole lot more. You will see the tiny closet where she did her writing, walk through the rooms where she lived and come to appreciate what a truly special woman she was. I highly recommend that you try to visit here if you are in Gloucester. The house is open weekends, Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information visit their website at http://sargenthouse.org/
by zabelle on August 16, 2012
Our dinner schedule had been arranged for us and the first night we were expected at the Cape Ann Brewing Company. We got off to a shaky start, when we arrived everyone just looked at me with a blank look. ‘You’re a writer", we’re expecting you? " That made me feel welcome. We were shown to a table and left while the manager was called. Son of a gun, we were expected and here we were. The mix up was resolved and we set about looking at the menu. This pub has a great location right on the harbor in Gloucester. There is outside dining but we were not offered a table outside, instead we sat at a picnic table inside and if it had gotten crowded the tables are communal. That’s a great way to make new friends when you are visiting a city. The menu is as expected, pretty heavy on seafood and I asked our waitress what their most popular dishes are. She recommended the fish tacos, which is something I love and the steak bomb which obviously was right up Al’s alley. I wanted to sample a few appetizers as well and we ordered the stuffed clams and the Caprese salad. Even though I can’t drink beer anymore I felt that in all fairness, Al had to taste the seasonal brew which was the Sunrise Saison. When I heard that it was flavored with strawberry and rhubarb I felt it was worth having to resort to Benadryl in order to taste it. It was lovely, light and yes fruity, I loved it and would certainly have downed a full pint if I was able. The appetizers arrived and we were not blown away. The clams were more stuffing than the linguica that they were supposed to contain. The Caprese on the other hand was very good, the tomatoes and mozzarella were drizzled with a delicious balsamic reduction with tapenade on top. The meals were much more successful. Our plates came heaped with food. The fish tacos, there were two on the plate along with a pile of good French fries. The tacos were stuffed very full which makes them a little hard to handle but the fish was crispy and the salsa and guacamole was tasty. Their coleslaw was also excellent, a sweet type without horseradish but good just the same. Al’s steak bomb was aptly named; it was blown all over his plate. There was so much meat and cheese it looked like it would be impossible to eat using your hands. Good old Al is quite resourceful and somehow he managed to eat all the steak and cheese. There is no way we could eat any dessert, we were both stuffed. It was not gourmet food but it was filling and plentiful and with the great beer, a perfect combination. The atmosphere is typical of a pub especially one is a fishing town, lots of nautical notes. Service was friendly and we didn’t have to wait long for our food or our drinks and certainly the view is very nice. Parking is however a nightmare. There is a parking lot next door which was full and this was not a weekend or high season. We ended up parking down the street in a bank parking lot and hoping we would not get towed.
When I was first approached to take this press trip I was a little skeptical. It was through Twitter. Turned out to be the real thing and we had a marvelous time. I let the PR firm know that I was not an adventure junkie but that I certainly enjoyed art, history and the great outdoors as long as I wasn’t required to scale mountains or deep sea dive. We arrived in Gloucester on a Thursday afternoon. Our accommodations were located on Good Harbor Beach. The Blue Shutters Inn is just that, a beach front Inn with blue shutters, very quintessentially New England looking. We received a warm welcome from one of the innkeepers, Eddie and were shown to our suite which was on the second floor. It has its own private entrance but we did need to go up an outdoor staircase. The room was quite spacious and was actually three rooms and a bathroom. There is a galley style kitchen, a bedroom with a king sized bed and a sitting room with a daybed, desk and the TV. We spent our evening in that room, Al watching the boob tube and me, writing. I loved sitting at the desk watching the shadows fall over the beach, it was amazing. A first I thought that the mattress of the bed was too soft and would kill my back, I was wrong, it is soft but I slept like a baby. The kitchen is fully equipped so if you want you can cook in. You don’t really have to though because a quite generous Continental breakfast is available down in the entrance of the inn. There is juice, coffee, yogurt, cereal, bagels and bread to toast, muffins and fruit. It was certainly plenty and if you want a cooked breakfast, there is a restaurant that is an easy walk away. Walking to the beach was easy and it is just gorgeous. We went there on Saturday evening after a rain storm and were welcomed with a double rainbow. There are two lighthouses that are visible as you walk on the beach. Parking is plentiful and free at the Blue Shutters Inn. There are four innkeepers so you never have to worry about finding someone to help you if you have any questions or needs. After the first few minutes you feel as if you are guests in a friend’s house. The Inn website shows all the different rooms that are available and there is even a two bedroom apartment that would be perfect for families. We really enjoyed our stay here, is comfortable and very convenient for everything we wanted to do. I would feel very comfortable recommending the Blue Shutters Inn to anyone who is planning a visit to this area. I would however recommend that you book your favorite room early; this is a very popular place.
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