Thursday, July 28, 2011


Rhode Island has lots of so-called clam shacks, the most famous, arguably, being Aunt Carrie's ( in Narragansett. There's Evelyn's ( in Tiverton, Flo's ( in Middletown, and Iggy's ( in Warwick. Mention one of them and expect any number of responses, or groans, in roughly three categories: 1) praise - for both the actual food and the idea; 2) childhood memories - clams, ocean, sand, ice cream; and 3) indigestion - vivid recollections of exactly what was eaten, when, where they sat on the deck, how lousy they felt later. For some people eating at a clam shack is akin to indulging in "secret airport vices", i.e. throwing normal caution and restraint to the wind for a dive into oil-soaked and salt-encrusted pleasures.

The fried clams at Blount's Clam Shack (335 Water Street, Warren  401-245-3210) aren't actually very greasy (not very clammy either). My friend enjoyed them. Liked the fries (though definitely could be hotter) and chowder too. Wednesday night is fish taco night so my enthusiasm was high. The "taco" turns out to be a wrap, a fish burrito really, which was disappointing for sure. The wrap itself was overlarge and actively cold. It encased the fish, some lettuce and a little hot sauce. Unfortunately my mind had a background image of Austin, Texas, and two soft-shelled fish tacos with fresh salsa, shredded lettuce, and a little sour cream. Still, with some surgery to alter the size of the wrap, it was good enough given the great circumstances - early evening sun, Wednesday night races, the crunch of clam shells underfoot.

Personally, clammier, greasier and hotter works better for me but Blount's cleaned-up version of a clam shack is likely healthier and the location is just right.

Note: This is a totally outdoor, summer-only, venue.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Socrates  75
Cocktail Culture, the popular RISD exhibit which showcases artifacts from Jazz Age drinkers through the 19th century's first hip wave of the '60s and '70s, ends its run on Sunday, July 31 (when the museum closes until September). Reviewers have called it the history of cocktail drinking but that's an overstatement. The curator steered clear of politics, economics and war so don't run to the exhibit expecting enlightenment. Go, instead, to look at its best parts - the dresses and the assorted accessories, from shoes to martini shakers.

RISD  224 Benefit Street, Providence  401-454-6500

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


People like to drink on roof decks, fire escapes - anywhere with an aerie view.

Gracie's (194 Washington St, Providence  401-272-7811) has a roof garden, not on its own roof but nearby at 229 Westminster ( The video isn't great but you get the idea.

Gracie's drinks director, Brendan Roane, is choosing 50 wines (actually, not all wines - some beers and spirits too) for its rooftop tasting on Sunday, July 31. Hors d'oeuvres and live music.

Sunday, July 31    7:00 - 10:00 p.m.    $75.00

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Restaurant Weeks participants are offering set-price lunches (three course - $12.95) and dinners (three course - $29.95) through July 23. Its labeled "Providence" but several of the participants are out of town (e.g. DeWolf in Bristol, Grill on Main in East Greenwich). Note: some restaurants offers variations of the deal; check individual websites for facts (usually a good idea).

Some names from the list:

Bravo Brasserie
Café Nuovo
The Capital Grille
Chez Pascal
Cook & Brown
Don Jose Tequilla Restaurant
DeWolf Tavern (Bristol)
La Laiterie
Mill's Tavern
New Rivers
Pane e Vino
Providence Oyster Bar
Red Fez
Red Stripe
Ten Prime Steak & Sushi

etc. etc.

Check the site

Friday, July 8, 2011


Urban Edge Farm (35 Pippin Orchard Road, Cranston) is Southside Community Land Trust's 50-acre spread where a group of fledging farmers raise organic produce and flowers. What the farmers produce at Urban Edge Farm is sold locally at farmers' markets. Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) has provided agricultural education and gardening assistance to local youths and adults for thirty years. Read SCLT's website to learn more. (

Hayrides and other farm-related activities are planned and Bill Harley, the Grammy-award-winning children's entertainer (, will perform at 2:00 p.m. Families should bring their own picnic basics and blankets; the farm will supply watermelon and cupcakes.

Tickets are $15 for adults, children 12 and younger free.  Info at 401-273-9419

Sunday, July 17    12:00 noon - 4:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Westport Rivers' (417 Hixbridge Road, Westport, MA  508-636-3423) 2nd event marking the vineyard's 25th anniversary is a Chardonnay Barrel Tasting. Chardonnay is what put this vineyard on the wine map and WR is celebrating with tastings accompanied by lobster and oysters. Call to reserve. (

 Saturday,  July 30     4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.    $85.00 per person

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Bumper stickers like "I Brake for Squirrels" seem kind of dumb and passive-agressive to me but last week in Little Compton an "I Brake for Strawberries" sticker might have been useful. Fortunately, not much traffic. With six quarts of strawberries purchased road-side, it was time to make strawberry jam.

In the past I've made strawberry preserves using an old North Carolina newspaper recipe. The preserves were delicious but there were two flaws: 1), the process took two days and 2), the strawberries floated to the top of the jars. The recipe here is easier and the berries stay in place.

Begin by washing and thoroughly draining the berries and preparing the jelly jars and equipment (see Raspberry Jam

Then core the strawberries - use a small knife to cut out the stem and a little of the white hull (you can see the white hull in one of the strawberries pictured here). Instead of cutting straight across the top of the berry you cut inward around the stem.

Strawberry Jam
3 lbs strawberries*
4 cups sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice**

* rarely is the pint or quart of strawberries you buy an accurate measurement so weighing is the best method here
** if your berries are not very ripe you can use less lemon juice but 1/3 cup is a safer bet

Put the strawberries in a wide pot and smash them a bit. You can use a potato masher or a dough blender if you have either but, in a pinch, take a strong whisk and poke it up and done several times. You aren't trying to annihilate the berries, just break them up a little.

Bring the fruit to a simmer and cook at a simmer for about ten minutes. Think almost but not quite boiling.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then bring it all to a boil and cook, stirring every minute or two, for about twenty minutes. Now comes the tricky part. You can make raspberry jam by formula and the timing is always the same but with strawberries a little testing is required - my jam took twenty minutes but your jam might take only ten or fifteen minutes; much depends on the size, type and ripeness of the berries. At the ten minute mark dip a teaspoon in, take it out and hold it sideways over the pan. If the juice falls all at once into the pot, it's not ready. You are looking for the spoon to lose its coating of syrup a little slower, falling in slightly thickened drops. You can test with a candy thermometer but if you cook to the "jelly" mark on the thermometer your jam will be a thick blob of strawberry rubber, so learn the spoon method.

The moment the strawberries look ready to you, turn the heat off and ladle the jam into prepared jars, wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth and seal. Cool on a strong rack (strong so the jars don't slide to the middle).

Do your thing with labels and Voila!

Note: If you insist on changing the proportions (want to eat less sugar, etc. etc.), you are on your own. There's a chemical balance here that makes the whole process work.