Sunday, March 27, 2011


Now through Sunday, April 3, Newport restaurants (and some in Bristol, Tiverton and Portsmouth) are offering fixed price three-course dinners ($30) and lunches ($16). Check the website,, to see who is participating and get the deal details. Fair warning: reserve now for next weekend at popular spots.

Persimmon (31 State Street, Bristol  401-254-7474) sent the menu to its email list ahead of time so we did reserve and all four diners elected the restaurant week menu. There are three first course choices: a mini cassoulet of white beans, house-cured meats and duck confit; a scallop carpaccio with cucumber, tiny little herbs and fennel; and a small salad of warm white asparagus with itty-bitty arugula (I bought some of this yesterday at the Wintertime Farmers' Market in Pawtucket), radish and pancetta vinaigrette. Before the first courses arrived we were served demitasse cups of a frothy (creamy?) winter vegetable soup, strong on turnip - delicious. We covered the bases on first course orders and all three were good but number one vote went to the scallop.

Main course choices were: blue cod in a chowder of mussels, clams, celery and fennel; braised veal breast with turnip and carrots; and roasted pork leg with red cabbage and apple. We were three for the veal breast and one for the pork. Look at Persimmon's website to get an idea of how the veal breast is prepared - the picture tells all. Veal breast is an inexpensive meat and it's fatty - how it's cut and how it's braised makes all the difference. This is not a diet dish - know that when you order. Veal breast is rarely on menus (not sure why when pork belly is increasingly popular and much fattier) so I was interested. Persimmon served small squares of perfectly braised meat. The pork eater, however, found the slow-roasted leg too chewy and not especially flavorful.

Negative notes here. Bread was offered by the piece and some was stale. A later request for more was forgotten. A bigger (smaller) issue had to do with the vegetables. The veal breast is served with a tiny, very charming carrot on top and ever so tiny dollops of turnip purée. The pork is accompanied by a miniature ball - apple - and a bit of cabbage. The plates are lovely to look at it but they might still be pretty if the vegetables were large enough to identify without a guide. Not huge mounds of turnip purée, just bigger dollops.

Coconut ice on a china soup spoon was the amuse-bouche preceding the orders of chocolate mousse tart with caramel ice cream and yogurt/vanilla panna cotta with tropical fruits and nuts. The panna cotta, sitting in the fruit sauce, was light, a perfect meal ender. Tiny, it was all anyone should want (I, however, wanted more). A richer choice is the chocolate dessert, a Persimmon favorite, mousse between thin bars of puffed rice chocolate.

At $30 per person, not bad at all.

Friday, March 25, 2011


RASOI is actually in Pawtucket, just across the Providence border, where Hope Street turns into East Avenue (727 East Avenue, Pawtucket  401-728-5500). It's in a strip mall, a little restaurant row which includes Garden Grille Cafe and the new vegan bakery, Wildflour. Rasoi is owned, together with Kabob & Curry (261 Thayer Street, Providence by chef Sanjiv Dher and it's a dressed up version of Kabob & Curry, where countless meals have been eaten by my friends and family. K & C, across from the Avon theater, is a walk-to location for much of the East Side. Rasoi is a mile plus up the road and has plenty of parking.

Rasoi is spacious, with a large open room, horse-shoe shaped bar and a visible kitchen. You can wait for a table at the bar or have dinner there. The biggest issue confronting me here (and at many Indian restaurants) is order restraint - basically, I have no restraint and consistently choose too much. On this latest visit we vowed to practice good ordering and chose only one bread and one appetizer: the bread, basic nan (a near perfect food in my opinion), and the appetizer, samosas filled with potato and home-made cheese. Faced with ordering only a single appetizer it is hard to bypass a good samosa and these are good samosas.  Chicken Tikka here is Chicken Tikka Lababdar and a sure thing. Saag is among my favorite dishes and here both the paneer (personal favorite) and lamb are good picks. If you want to turn the heat up look to the vegetable curries and masalas. For some reason Rasoi's menu does not have a pepper symbol beside the Lamb Vindaloo - we will test that on a return trip.

The downside to order restraint is lack of leftovers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


A return trip to Key West and more restaurant hopping. We ate Cuban (huge platters) at El Siboney (900 Catherine St,  305-296-4184) in its famous no-frills setting (,  Japanese fare at the sleek Ambrosia (1401 Simonton St,  305-293-0304) ( and shrimp on a Hog Island deck.

Here's a new place to visit, Santiago's Bodega (207 Petronia Street, Key West  305-296-7691), in the Bahama Village neighborhood. It's a tapas-style restaurant with seating inside and out. For many of us "bodega" means a small deli-like grocery with beer and lottery tickets. Santiago's Bodega is the wine-bar definition of the word. This is a fun and noisy place at dinnertime - for quiet, choose outside seating (or lunch).

A party of six, we sampled a lot of tapas (and red wine). We began with a big spring mix salad before moving on to saganki (flambeed haloumi cheese), seasoned grouper, croquettas, and a mini pizza/tart so tasty we ordered a second, etc.  There are simple tapas - tomato and basil bruschetta, grilled shrimps, chilled asparagus, lamb patties - and complex tapas - yellowfish ceviche with avocado, mango and cilantro, puff pastry with mushrooms and onions, green beans with gruyere and prosciutto. It's basically an hors d'oeuvres party. Order several items, then order more if you are still hungry. At first glance the menu may look expensive but it isn't if you don't overdo the ordering in the beginning. Items arrive serially so you can divvy up a plate and enjoy before the next one shows up. Timing is key and Santiago's Bodega got it exactly right when we were there.

Another plus is the location - blocks away from Duval.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


WATERMAN GRILLE (Four Richmond Square, Providence  401-521-9229) is in an out-of-the-way location in Richmond Square (which is round, by the way), along the Seekonk River. Part of the Newport Restaurant Group mini-chain (Hemenway's, The Boat House, Castle Hill, etc.), Waterman Grille does not put on airs - it isn't where you head for seriously fine cooking or where you take the wine snob you feel compelled to impress. Competent is the word that comes to mind.

The restaurant is good-looking, the menu pleases, prices are on the low side and the kitchen, mostly, delivers.  Waterman Grille is popular. Justly so.

Sunday through Wednesday nights it offers a three-course prix-fixe dinner at $19.95 -  another reason it's popular. These were last week's choices:

First course: Squash Soup with chive sour cream or Waterman Salad (greens, red onion, English cukes, gorgonzola, crostini) or Szechuan Beef Skewers

Entrée: Waterman Steak (sirloin/cheddar/bacon on scallion mashed potatoes with skinny onion crisps) or Murray's Statler Chicken Breast (white beans/tomato/fennel ragout/escarole) or Cornmeal Crusted Blue Cod (cabbage/roasted eggplant/tomato and red pepper sauce) or Cedar-planked Salmon (root vegetable hash/sauteed spinach)

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Torte or Crème Brûlée or seasonal Sorbet/Ice Cream

A quick scan of tables indicates that the $19.95 option is well-received. Other menu choices are popular too, among them the Waterman Burger (with cheddar, bacon and fries) and the Lobster Mac & Cheese. The menu offers about ten entrées ranging from those listed above to scallops, short ribs, grilled shrimp, and steak but it also offers paninis, a Farmstead cheese plate, steamed mussels and filling salads. I would call it a friendly menu, friendly to both mixed appetites and small budgets.

On a Sunday night (open every night) we ordered from the special as well as the à la carte menu. Two persons chose the $19.95 dinners, both starting with the salad (excellent). Entrées were a mixed bag, the steak being tastier than the planked salmon, which was dry, redeemed a bit by the spicy spinach. The crispy onions atop the steak were a hit. From the main menu the big success was the cheese burger, pronounced among the top five in the ongoing unofficial Providence burger-tasting. On past visits lobster mac & cheese has been ordered and praised (not by me - if I choose to bury lobster in anything it will be mayo); also short ribs.

Chances are you won't be up for dessert if you order any of the hearty dinners - burger, short ribs, lamb shank, etc.  On a recent night we sampled both the crème brûlée and the chocolate mousse torte, the former being fresh and tasty (for cream, that is) and the latter being moist, light and, unfortunately, tasteless.

Your view, up or down the river, is East Providence, not Manet seascape, but it's still fun to sit overlooking the water in the outer dining room. The barroom, too, which actually does have a taproom look, is inviting.

Reserve ahead.


Thursday, March 17, 2011


Les macarons are, I admit, photographed ad nauseam and discussed over-much - like a Proust madeleine, the thought of a macaron provokes detail, endless detail. In homes, kitchens are turned upside down to attempt replicas of Paris memories.

photo - charlotte marillet

In Rhode Island, you can save yourself the kitchen mess and get the real deal - pretty and pricey gems - from Moondust Macarons (, available at the Pawtucket/Wintertime Farmers' Market (Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.; Wednesdays, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.)

As for where to buy macarons in Paris, that's another endless discussion. Some people will have nothing but cookies from the most famous macaron purveyor of all: Ladurèe (its premier address, in the 6th, is 21, rue Bonaparte). Prices at Ladurèe are astronomical but that's true at their competitors too. Macarons are time-consuming to produce so even your neighborhood patisserie will be expensive. No doubt at all, Ladurèe's perfect specimens, lined up like eatable art in the shop, are a gift you're happy to receive. The but here is this: Ladurèe flavor choices are good but limited and hardly the most creative.

Step into Pierre Hermé's shop in the 15th (185, rue de Vaugirard) and enter a wonderland of colorful, exotic-flavored macarons (and gorgeous pastries). It's a trip. Pierre Hermé is also on rue Bonaparte but the Vaugirard experience is fun and the macarons are first-rate. This is the Pierre Hermé branch where called-in orders are picked up - in the early evening, a brief-case-toting stream of well-shod Parisians passes through, collecting  take-out sweets and dinner party contributions. Stand by the cashier and be stunned.

Grégory Renard is a chocolatier who also makes acclaimed macarons. Renard has three shops but the main one is on a quiet street in the 7th (25, rue Saint Dominique). Delicious.

Sunday, March 13, 2011



See THE GARDEN ( in a free screening at the Clark Memorial Library (7 Pinehurst Drive, Carolina, RI  401-364-6100) Thursday, March 16. A tale of urban gardening, political realities and land development in South Central Los Angeles, the film was nominated for an Academy Award (Documentary) in 2008. It is being presented by the Richmond Farmers' Market (      

Thursday, March 16 - 7:00 p.m.

source: southernfoodwaysalliance
Head to OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE (Sturbridge, MA  800-733-1830) on Saturday, March 19 to hone your gardening skills. In an all-day workshop, Christie Higginbottom, a Sturbridge Village garden researcher, will teach participants how to plan, plot and dig a home vegetable garden, emphasis on good environmental practices.

Space is limited - you can sign up at the website:  

Saturday, March 19 -  8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.   $30


Thursday, March 10, 2011


La Laiterie (188 Wayland Avenue, Providence  401-274-7177) has an Italian night scheduled for March 13. Wines will be from the Marziano Abbona vineyards in the southern Piedmont.

The menu and pairings are:

Negroni Reception:
Cured meats, Piedmont Cheeses and 'Farinata'

Course One:

'Terrina Vitello Tonnato':
Chilled Veal & Vegetable Terrine, Fried Sweetbread & Cockle 'Stuffies', Lettuce Broth, Tonnato, Pickled Radishes
Paired with: 2008 Dolcetto Dogliani 'Papa Celso'

Course Two:

'Lepre al Vino Rosso':
Slowly Simmered Rabbit over Kenyon's Robiola Porridge, Brown Butter-Herb Emulsion, Bagna Cauda
Paired with: 2008 Barbera d'Alba 'Rinaldi'

Course Three:

'Cinghiale Arrosto':
Simply Roasted Wild Boar Shoulder, Corzetti, Foraged Mushrooms, Maple Vinegar, Maple Flake
Paired with: 2007 Nebbiolo d'Alba 'Bricco Barone'

Course Four

TcHo Chocolate & Caramel 'Bonet':
Paired with: 2004 Barolo 'Pressenda'

Sunday, March 13 - 6:00 p.m.  $75.00

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Scialo Brothers Bakery (257 Atwells Avenue, Providence  401-421-0986) is an Italian institution in operation since 1916 but its historic brick ovens also produce Irish soda bread which will be available when the shop reopens (has been closed for oven repairs) on March 9. Open everyday - 8:00 a.m.

Chez Pascal (960 Hope Street, Providence) hosts the annual Sophia Academy's Sister Mary Reilly Irish Bash, a corn beef and cabbage dinner, on Sunday, March 13 with three seatings: 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. Cash bar. Live Irish music. All proceeds benefit the Sophia Academy Scholarship Program. Sophia Academy is a private Providence middle school for girls from low-income families (  Call Lynn McCarthy at 401-486-5175 to reserve. Suggested donation is $25.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Next up at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University is a discussion of ancient wines and beer. Patrick McGovern, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages and Health and author of Uncorking the Past, will talk about new ways to discover (unearth?) the history of alcohol in antiguity.

Dogfish Head Brewery has been creating "ancient" brews in conjunction with McGovern's work (find out more at and will serve tastings after the talk.

Monday, March 14 at 5:30 p.m. - List Arts Center Auditorium, 64 College Street, Providence

Friday, March 4, 2011


Most gardeners try tomatoes at least once. After on and off attempts, each time thinking I finally knew how to do it right, a judgment has been made: skip the effort, buy local tomatoes. The only exception - cherry tomatoes. In the spring my compost is employed to fill garden holes and shore up new flowers. After this work, about one week later, volunteer tomato plants begin springing up. Most  are pulled but two or three are left right where they emerged from the soil. Without an ounce of intervention these hardy plants thrive and produce more cherry tomatoes than you could possible eat.

A long perusal of the John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog (print is great but here's the site:  has given me more ideas than I have room for but this is my short list for 2011:

Bull's Blood Beets - Why? Baby greens are ready to cut at 35 days and the mature greens are pretty. Then there's the added bonus of the beets.

Rainbow Cauliflower Mixture - Only 50 days until harvest. Pretty, perfect for Jacque Pepin's cauliflower gratin.

Parmex Baby Ball Carrots - These are French, round carrots which don't need peeling and can be grown in containers.

Silor Mini Cucumbers - Little cukes (4 1/2 to 5 inches). Billed as burpless and prolific. Prolific is nice.

Tintin Baby Romaine - Would choose these seeds for the name alone. Tintin is bug resistant, tolerates heat and is bright green.

Verte de Camgrai Mache - Sow these seeds in early spring and the little rosettes will be ready 45-50 days later. These are the plants I want most.

Runaway Arugula - Reported to be super-speedy and productive.

Pequillo Pimento Sweet Peppers - These are Basque peppers, sweet and spicy.

Stevia - Stevia, or "sweet leaf" is the herb some foodies and experimental cooks use to make a sugar substitute so this is one to test.

And, I'm thinking about horseradish, maybe some more greens - will need to share the seeds!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Last winter we had a string of less than successful visits to Mill's Tavern (101 N Main Street, Providence  401-272-3331). This writer recently decided (with only begrudged agreement from other parties) to give the place another try. The service was still lame and the swordfish special was thin and overcooked. If it's the atmosphere you're after, stick to the limited "Tavern Menu" - at $29.95 it remains the best bet.