Salt air, salt water, salt of the earth

This weekend I went on a three-hour tour with the New England Aquarium's whale watch with Professor M and her friend J.  An hour before the departure, I got the text message, "forgot Dramamine, please buy some before we leave" I couldn't find any near the wharf, but was assured that it would be available on board, no doubt at extortionate prices.

We took seats inside the middle deck, plopping down at a table thoughtfully decked out with sick bags. Pretty much immediately after departure, the announcements of the availability of Dramamine started.  Well, the professor and I got the message and took the pills.  The hour-long trip to the whale zone was choppy, with 3-4 foot swells in the wine-dark sea.

I won't dwell on this at length, but I will say that not in any given year of my college career, possibly not even in all four years, did I witness as much reverse peristalsis as I did on this cruise. Seriously, people - the concession stand sells just three things: soft drinks, hot dogs, and Dramamine - how could you all have picked the wrong two?

When we arrived at the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary and cut the engines, the ride became a lot more comfortable, if a little chilly.  After some slow circles, we started to spot whales.  At first, a pair of relatively rare and fast-moving fin whales, and then later a couple of groups of humpbacks which came pretty close to the boat, or at least allowed the boat to approach them.

Humpback whale

Humpback whale

The light green area visible above next to the whale is actually its flipper, which is a much lighter color than the bulk of the animal, and often the first part you see through the water before its back and blowhole break the surface. The previously queasy were roused and inspired by even these fleeting glimpses.

The trip back was smoother, owing to the direction of current, but unfortunately a couple more lunches were lost before we returned to port.  Undeterred, we headed off around the corner to Sel de la Terre for dinner.

Roasted tomoato soup with taleggio crostini at Sel de la Terre Sautéed gnocchi with asparagus, foraged mushrooms and piave vecchio at Sel de la Terre

After warming ourselves with tea and coffee, we had an excellent roasted tomato soup with a taleggio crostini (crostino?) which was a highbrow version of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese.  It doesn't hold a candle to that available at Garden at the Cellar, but that's probably not what Sel set out to do.

For an entree, I enjoyed the sautéed gnocchi with asparagus, foraged mushrooms and piave vecchio.  The rustic hand-cut gnocchi were almost smooth in texture, complemented by meaty mushrooms, sharp cheese and fresh asparagus.  Somehow the transition from the wild windy ocean to a cozy french table wasn't jarring at all.

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  1. [...] As my colleagues agreed and started in with their own yarns of technicolor yawns, I thought to myself, hey, that’s not a bad turn of phrase.  Then it hit me like icy ocean spray: I did say that before.  I wrote that before.  It’s in the blog.  Yep.  June, 2009. [...]

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