Saturday, November 27, 2010


Using an on-line catalog or even print to pick a ham can be confusing. It's simple if you're looking at what Harrington's, the famous Vermont company, is offering, but why bother with Harrington's if you live in the city or suburbs - you can get an acceptable standard ham at just about any decent market. What Harrington's sells is a spiral-cut party ham and you know it will please the crowd. But what if you're looking for more? Maybe ham from small-farm pigs, or from special breeds, or ham smoked in a Virginia smokehouse, or a North Carolina country ham. 

My first mail-order ham purchase was not a success; in fact, it hovered on the edge of disaster. What I intended to purchase was a smoked Virginia ham, a ham with a firm texture, a strong flavor, and enough salt to require that you slice very thin pieces. It was a ham I recollected. What I bought was a country ham, the kind you must soak, and soak again, and then again. My feeble attempts to cope produced a ham so salty guests had to drink gallons of water in order to speak. Not to mention that country ham is an acquired taste. 

My ordering skills have improved and what's available to buy has also improved. Should I ever want to order a country ham again I know where to buy it - pre-soaked even. Small-farm pig-raising is increasingly popular and you can locate smokehouse operations all over the Northeast. After reading a New York Times article on the subject a few years ago I tried one of the lauded hams and it was good, but not great, and very expensive. Mostly, I return to Edwards, in Surry, Virginia, for my December order. 

EDWARDS (1-800-222-4267) offers many different hams, including their own version of dry-cured ham in the Spanish/Italian style which is likely worth a try. My order, however, is for the Petite Boneless Ham. On their site, and in the catalog, Edwards describes this as a country ham. Don't worry, it really isn't. It's a small, strong-flavored hickory smoked ham, between two and three pounds, which comes to you ready to go: slice in thin pieces, arrange on a platter and serve with mustard at a party.  If you're ambitious, make ham biscuits for hors d'oeuvres. Use leftovers to create insanely delicious ham salad (mayo and some chopped pickles).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I want to love PARKSIDE ROTISSERIE & GRILL (76 South Main St, Providence  401-331-0003). but so far it isn't happening. The dining room and bar are inviting and comfortable, nicely lit; unfortunately, the food served never seems to match the setting. Rotisserie chickens, pork, and duck are the headliners along with grilled meats and fish. The long menu also includes pasta dishes and entree salads. The breadth of the menu suggests a sort of indecision about whether or not Parkside is primarily a rotisserie/grill. We've dined on not-so-great rotisserie chicken and okay pork and duck. On three occasions everything ordered was passable but not noteworthy, with only one exception, an especially good roasted duck breast salad.

Prices are not high at Parkside so maybe it's unfair to expect a super performance from the kitchen. It's not being crossed off my list, yet. One huge factor in its favor is that it's open for lunch. In fact, lunch is the restaurant's busiest time because Parkside sits on South Main close to courts and hundreds of lawyers who fill the tables. Some return to the bar later for post-work drinks but they head home early and the restaurant is fairly subdued by 8:00 p.m. My suggestion as to ordering - keep it simple. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010



Sunday, December 5th at Farmstead (186 Wayland Avenue, Providence  401-274-7177) should be fun. Attendees will sample Farmstead's artisan cheeses and wines from M.S. Walker. This year Farmstead is adding fondue stations - in their words, "rivers of melted alpine cheese." Sounds good to me. The fun starts at 3:00 p.m. $39 per person. Call for reservations.

M.S. Walker

And to close out the year, Farmstead plans a "Whole Animal Hoe Down" for Friday, December 31. New England pig and Rhode Island lamb will be roasted and accompanied by semi-Southern side dishes - beans, corn bread, house-cured pickles, collard greens, etc. The dinner will be served at two sittings, 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Taking reservations beginning December 1. Call.

Friday, November 19, 2010


In announcing the winter markets a couple of weeks ago I forgot to include the Aquidneck Growers Market at Newport Vineyards & Winery, 909 East Main Road, Middletown
Saturdays, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.


INVITED FOR THANKSGIVING?  Here's a fool-proof tart that looks great, travels well and is so fast to make you'll be shocked. This isn't gooey - not a drop of corn syrup is involved. 

You'll need a ten-inch tart pan and a food processor. Set the oven to 350 degrees and place one rack in the middle. Making the pastry is a snap. Put these ingredients in a food processor:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 6 tbs butter, frozen and cut into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbs cold water
Pulse until a ball of dough forms, not a second longer. Roll out the dough and fit it to the tart tin, trimming the top with a sharp knife. It's a cookie dough and easy to work with. Roll the trimmed pieces together and use to thicken any parts of the tart sides or bottom which look weak.

Mix the following ingredients thoroughly with a big spoon:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (you can use a lot of halves)
Pour (more like push) the filling into the tart shell and bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a rack. If you are traveling, leave the tart in the tin and wrap it airtight. Make it today and freeze it. No one will ever know.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Tomorrow, Thursday, November 18 DeWolf Tavern (259 Thames St, Bristol  401-254-2005) is having an Italian wine dinner  - 6:30 p.m. reception, 7:00 p.m. dinner. $50 before tax and tip. Call. There will be a Spanish wine-pairing dinner on December 19.

Le Central (483 Hope Street, Bristol  401-396-9965) now has a full liquor license. And, as always, a tasty lobster BLT.

Hourglass Brassserie (382 Thames St, 401-396-9811), new in 2010, has a $30, three-course pre-fixe menu Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights.

Sunday:  The ever popular Garden Grille (727 East Avenue, Pawtucket  401-726-2826) is having a five-course vegan Harvest Dinner on Sunday, November 21 - 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. $45

Cafe Noir (125 North Main St, Providence  401-273-9090) now has a small-plates menu for Friday and Saturday nights, 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Parmesan truffle fries, bacon and egg pizzas, etc.

Monday nights at Hemenway's (121 South Main St, Providence  401-351-8570): buy a drink at the bar and the raw bar is half-price. Think oysters.

Church Fairs and Ethnic Fare:
Korean - at The Church of Saint Mary's annual bazaar, Paul Cuffee School, 538 Broadway, Providence. Saturday, November 20, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 
Greek pastry - at The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary bake sale, parish community center, 97 Walcott St, Pawtucket. Sunday, November 21, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Armenian - at The Armenian Evangelical Church annual food fair and bazaar, 13 Franklin St, Providence. Saturday, November 20, 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Greenberg Smoked Turkey - Tyler, Texas (903-595-0725)
One December a big box from Tyler, Texas arrived at my door a few days before Christmas, courtesy of a customer. Perfect timing - the bird was front and center at the Christmas Eve buffet. Greenberg turkeys arrive ready to eat; all you need is a relative with good knife skills. When I read John Edge's New York Times article last Wednesday ( I realized, with a shock, that the runaway train season is here - time to plan.

Greenberg has been smoking turkeys for more than 80 years and filling out-of-town orders since the late 1930's. Word of mouth spread the story and the hickory-smoked turkey business grew. A Greenberg turkey is a serious turkey, dark-skinned and redolent of smoke and pepper. This is a party turkey not a Thanksgiving turkey - Greenberg does give directions for heating one up but forget that, just serve it at room temperature (or cold if you must) with the same chutneys,  relishes and mustards that accompany smoked ham. Set the skin aside, way too smoky to eat.

I've bought other smoked turkeys but Greenberg is best. 

Not the same, in terms of results, but fun, is smoking a turkey yourself. Purists use wood or charcoal smokers; my smoker is an ancient electric Brinkman (  which is easy to use. With the addition of good smoking wood it produces a credible turkey (and a certain smugness). Electric smokers are easy easy and not dangerous - you won't show up on the evening news like the guy who fries a turkey and burns down the garage in the same afternoon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010



This weekend is Greenvale Vineyards' 11th annual harvest festival - Saturday afternoon, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Music, food tastings, tractor rides. The vineyard is along the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth (582 Wapping Rd  401-847-3777).  Go to for info on  more upcoming events (look under "visit us/directions"). Fair events are free; wine tastings are $15 per person.

Coming up in nearby Westport: 
Just Beer (98 Horseneck Road, Westport, MA) is holding its annual Pub Night on Saturday, November 27, 5:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Draft beer, music, raw bar. No details posted on the site yet re cost of the event. Look to the site for additional beer events at the brewery.

Friday, November 5, 2010



Farm Fresh Rhode Island's Wintertime Farmers' Market at Hope Artiste Village (1005 Main Street, Pawtucket  10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.) opens tomorrow - a relief since the last couple of Saturdays have been cold and/or windy at the outdoor market. There are  new vendors and the product array is expanding to include fresh pasta, vegan chocolates, etc. Opening day will feature pickle judging - local picklers and fermenters will submit cukes, sauerkraut, whatever you can brine or ferment - for judging by local chefs and editors between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. But the BIG NEWS is the addition of a new market day. Beginning November 10, the market will be open every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Look for all the info here:

Also opening tomorrow is the COASTAL GROWERS' MARKET (Lafayette Mill, 650 Ten Rod Road a/k/a rte 102, North Kingstown  10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.). The market has an impressive group of vendors and, as at the Pawtucket market, there is plenty to eat right on the spot. Go to the website for more details

This weekend:
Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church (70 Jefferson St, Providence) is holding a food fair and bazaar beginning tonight and continuing through Sunday featuring, of course, Armenian food. Hours are 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. tonight, 11:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and noon - 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

Coming up: 
Saint Mary Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church (One St. Mary Way, Pawtucket) holds it holiday bazaar Saturday and Sunday, November 13-14 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and that means food, specifically, middle eastern treats. Info at

The Good Samaritan Ladies Aid Society of the Annunciation Greek Church (175 Oaklawn Avenue, Cranston) is also holding a Christmas Bazaar on November 13-14, (10:00 a.m. - 8:00 Saturday, 11:30 - 4:00 Sunday) offering Greek food and pastries.


Rhode Islanders believe they know pizza. You may not agree. It's not modern pizza we're talking about here. Forget the grilled works of art at Al Forno ( or Bacaro ( or the whole wheat crusts and wide range of both traditional and bizarre toppings at Fellini's ( Actually, you can probably forget about Wickendon, Hope and Thayer Streets entirely. The  Rhode Island discussion starts with "Have you been to Caserta's?"

CASERTA PIZZERIA (121 Spruce St, Federal Hill, Providence  401-21-3618; 401-272-3618; 401-621-9190) is a big operation. You can eat there but the atmosphere is strictly church hall with beer. Pizzas are small (six pieces) or large (12 pieces - a rectangle, horrors) and choices are simple: plain (i.e. tomato), cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives or anchovies, in any combination. That's it - no sausage, no sauteed peppers, no onions. The tomato sauce is plain, plain, plain. The crust is on the thick side. There is no visible overdose of oil or cheese. And this is how they have served it for fifty years. If you are a fan of Frank Pepe (157 Wooster Street, New Haven CT  203-865-5762 or any other popular southern Connecticut or New York City area pizza place, this is shocking. The abundance of flavor in a Frank Pepe slice is something to remember, to anticipate, to wait in line for.

At Caserta's we split a pie, half with tomato, cheese and pepperoni, half with tomato, cheese and anchovies. It's a nice, clean taste (the pepperoni side, anchovies are anchovies), with a minimal amount of cheese, the very plain but tangy tomato sauce, and passable pepperoni. The crust is not crisp but it's good. A Caserta slice very definitely contains about a thousand calories less than a Fellini's slice - without the pepperoni it might even be good for you - and there is no guilt associated with eating half a pie.  No memories either.

BOB & TIMMY'S (32 Spruce St, Federal Hill, Providence  401-453-2221) is a competitor from right down the street. Small, on the cozy side, it is more inviting than Caserta'sBob & Timmy's offers "traditional" oven pizzas though it adds sausage, olives, broccoli, peppers, feta, artichokes, etc. to its topping choices. To differentiate from Caserta's it works with a thin crust. But local preference for bland tomato sauce and minimal cheese results in a pizza similar in taste to Caserta's when you compare an old standard like cheese, tomato and pepperoni. The round pizza is delivered pre-cut in squares. The crust is forgettable. But Bob & Timmy's is hedging its bet. Acclaimed in 2009 by GQ magazine for producing one of the top 25 pizzas in the country, Bob & Timmy's was not being praised for traditional pizza; it was a wood-grilled mushroom and spinach pizza with parmesan, romano and feta that earned the honors, a visit to the Today Show and a subsequent article in the Providence Journal. Wood-grilled pizzas, like "Trio of Wild Mushroom Pizza" and "Vegetable Medley," are from another part of the menu, the modern part.
for the article: