Saturday, January 29, 2011


Eating was the side project while attending talks at Key West Literary Seminar in January. Regulars in Key West know all the places from dive to high-end, there being no actual secrets in a small town. Our friend in Key West brought us to one of the newer spots - small, relaxed and way off Duval ("way off Duval" being code for no drunken walk-ins, etc.) but the little place is hardly under wraps since The New York Times featured it in 36 Hours in Key West (

The Flaming Buoy Filet Co (1100 Packer St - at Virgina St -  305-295-7970) serves local fish and lobster in an island-style dining room with an outdoor feel. Hogfish, black grouper and Florida lobster graced the menu for our visit, along with a few staples - one being a modern version of black bean soup. Short menu, much attention to detail. Our fish were served with fresh mango salsa, really good mashed potatoes and other vegs.*

The dessert list is also short, contains nothing tacky, and is tempting. One choice: a sweet tortilla filled with a thin layer of dark chocolate spiced with red pepper, cut in triangles and served with vanilla ice cream. Satisfied the chocolate urge without bludgeoning it. Nice.

The fresh fish, prices, service, atmosphere, and off-the-strip location merged for a just-right dinner.

*Several entrees come with Florida corn roasted in the husk, spiced and buttered. It looks terrific on the plate but, like many New Englanders, I'm a corn snob so you know I couldn't love it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Today is the start of the first winter restaurant week in Providence. It runs through Saturday, January 29 and dozens of restaurants are participating. Three-course prix-fixe lunches are $12.95, dinners $29.95. Instead of prix-fixe, some venues offer two-for-one specials. lists all; here are a few participants:

Chez Pascal
Cook & Brown
DeWolf's Tavern (Bristol)
Fleming's Steak House
La Laiterie
Local 121
Ten Prime Steak & Sushi

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Alaskan Trout
Just go to the site / and give it your best shot. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute offers
a fun first prize - that's assuming a few days in Santa Monica riding around in the Border Grill ( taco truck sounds good to you - for the top fish taco recipe received. Contest ends  January 31.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Snow Break

Kurlansky & fan
Kurlansky & Gael Greene
Oysters on the mind, we listened to Mark Kurlansky ( speak about food and literature at the Key West Literary Seminar where he autographed a much-used copy of The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, good reading for anybody interested in the subject, or subjects - the history of New York and the oyster.  Kurlansky, by the way, loves oysters but has no passion for cod.

To get in the proper frame of mind, oysters were consumed as a post snow-shoveling treat, just hours prior to an early a.m. escape from snow-encased Providence. The oysters were from Seapowet Shellfish in Tiverton, ( ); pictured here is the vendor, Chris Clarendon, at the Wintertime Farmers' Market in Pawtucket. His silky oysters are grown under a dock in the Sakonnet River and are sold through local restaurants, fish and farmers' markets as well as Whole Foods. You can contact him at 401-816-0791 or
Can't be more local unless under your own dock.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It's tricky to assess La Laiterie (186 Wayland Avenue, Providence  401-274-7177) because the restaurant can be sooooo good but some nights it falls off, and when that happens the noise level always seems higher, the waiter weirder and the general over-description of menu offerings more cloying. It's easy to love what owners Matt and Kate Jennings are doing: getting people to eat the best cheeses, local- (and house-) cured meats, overlooked fishes, farm-raised meats and simple home-made desserts. Via small plates or standard entrees in just about any combination you can try it all. And most everything is delicious. Cocktails are well-done and the wine selection works.

If you're focusing on small plates it's probably best done with four persons max. A charcuterie selection is a good place to start. And since La Laiterie is the offshoot of the attached Farmstead, a cheese shop, you can try the daily cheese choices too, early on or later in the meal. We've also had "small plates" featuring wild mushrooms, the cheesemonger's mac n' cheese, and Rhode Island squid.  With a party of five we had coordination issues when we ordered both entrees and small dishes but what might have been chaotic worked reasonably well (though we barely survived the noise - our table was inches from a boisterous high table by the bar). Visitors were seduced by the charcuterie.

Some nights a fixed menu is available and that's fun. We had an excellent dinner, start to finish, which featured a juicy Berkshire pork entree. Few, if any, choices, no substitutions. Relax and go with it. Here's a sample fixed menu from a restaurant week:

Course One: Crispy Heritage Pork Torchon
Sweet Potato Crisps, Shaved Ham, Walnuts, Spiced Plum Puree

Course Two: Roasted Duck
Buckwheat Spaetzle, Smoked Mushrooms, Heirloom Apple, Carrot Puree

Course Three, choose one:
Citrus Upside-Down Cheesecake
Meyer Lemon Ice Cream, Whipped Cream
Cheesemonger Selected Cheese of the Day
Seasonal Accompaniments

On two different occasions, visiting friends and I stuck to small plates, sampled pork belly, chicken livers, local tomatoes, buffalo cheese, etc. Left happy. Note: Mr. Jennings clearly reveres pork.

The atmosphere most nights has a sort of party fervor as the evening goes on. It's not a big room and it's packed pretty tight with tables, hence the escalating sounds. If everybody in your group is in good spirits and enjoys food, it works. If you're thinking you'd like some serious, hushed conversation, you may be disappointed unless the rest of the place happens to be populated by the non-drinking and the super well-behaved. Go late enough and it's quiet again. You need a party of six for a reservation.

For me, a discordant note comes from the overly detailed recitation of each ingredient in every single dish. This seems cloying and also smug, as in, "Aren't we smart/clever to think of this combination of ingredients?" Anyway, most of the info is on the menu. One recent night after hearing the litany of soup ingredients I was mentally adding "and water from a pristine stream high in the Adirondacks, ladled by devoted artisans breathing pure mountain air." STOP, please. Some waitstaff can carry these recitations off without making you wince but on this night our waiter was looking like a jerk. (He also devoted himself to flirting like crazy with two women at the next table; he had issues.) Just noting here: Persimmon (Bristol, RI; see manages to get across the local thing and tell you about ingredients in a relaxed, professional manner.

On balance: high points.

P. S. Kate Jennings' cupcakes, cookies and bars are worth the calories.

Friday, January 7, 2011


If you're using the informative website or enjoying the fabulous Wintertime Farmers' Market in Pawtucket (Hope Artiste Village, 1005 Main St.) remember this: Farm Fresh Rhode Island needs your support. Supply it, either by donations mailed to Farm Fresh RI, 1005 Main Street, No. 1220, Pawtucket, RI 02860) or at the website

The Wintertime Farmers' Market is in full swing, Wednesdays 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.


Wednesday, January 12
Ocean House (1 Bluff Avenue, Watch Hill  401-584-7000) is the setting for a farm and vine dinner with Champe Speidel of Persimmon as presiding chef (see 9/1/10 post:

The menu features lamb from Hopkins Farm (terrific lamb) as well as produce from Barden Family Orchard. Wines will be selected by Tim Locke of Hess Collection vineyards (Napa, CA

Details:  Wednesday, January 12,  7:00 p.m. - $75.00 plus tax & tip
Reservations required.

Monday, January 17
Gracie's in downtown Providence (194 Washington St  401-272-7811) will feature wines from around the world as well as craft beer selections from Berkshire Brewery ( in Deerfield, MA and Rapscallion Brewery ( in Holyoke, MA. Hors d'oeuvres by Gracie's chef, Matthew Varga. Music too.

Details: Monday, January 17,  5:00 - 9:00 p.m. - $50.00

Monday, January 3, 2011


East Side: Bar & Burgers

Fat Belly's (125 Canal Street, Providence  401-351-3434) recently opened a Providence location in the renovated site of the old 3 Steeple grill. It's one of four Fat Belly's around the state (the others are in East Greenwich, Wakefield and Warwick). The building itself is great, notable as the oldest industrial building in Providence (c1793). When 3 Steeple was in the space you could feel the aura of Providence history (as well as the cold if you were sitting against a brick wall). Unfortunately, food-wise, there wasn't anything to recommend 3 Steeple - even the burgers were mediocre.

So Fat Belly's moves in to the polished-up gem of a location and serves its much acclaimed (RI Monthly, Yankee Magazine, etc.) bar menu. Here are the results. Positives: the space is no longer drafty/cold in the winter; service is good; and everything is cleaner. Negatives: it's all about televisions and signs; seats are packed tight; it's hard to notice you are in an historic building at all; the food is high carb, high fat, grown-up McDonald's.

The appetizer list has the usuals: wings in the major taste groups (Buffalo, bbq, teriyaki and garlic parm), calamari, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, nachos, bacon and cheese fries and truffle fries. The rest of the menu follows the theme, from the Fat Belly Burger (laden with caramelized onions, melted american cheese and fried onion sticks, bacon, lettuce and tomato) to the Shaved Steak & Cheese, BBQ pizza, paninis and wraps, etc. If you're trying to avoid banishment from Weight Watchers, about the best you can do is order the garden salad.

It's a big kid's paradise. They actually have a kid's menu but it's all a kid's menu.

If you want to eat this menu and watch lots of sports (I could view three different games from my seat), go to Fat Belly's. But if you want a cool old bar with some style and a good cheeseburger, forget it. The giant and not-special cheeseburger is pretty lame. But you will be stuffed, for sure.