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Official Drink of T.O.P 2011 = Pisco Sour

The Taste Of Providence (T.O.P.) weekend started when our friend Walt came to visit us (fromCortlandNY, where he summers) in Providence 5 years ago. We decided that the goal of the weekend would be to have an enormous dinner on Saturday night that was cooked with ingredients we were able to find at the local farmers markets. A few years later, Walt was joined by another close friend, Bert, who also summers in Cortland. They are both teachers, and “summering” in Cortland is not as glamorous as it sounds…but that’s another topic. Friday night we usually go out to dinner. This year we did a bit of an App Crawl.

 

We started at Matunuck Oyster Bar and had several dozen delicious oysters (even though July clearly has no ‘R’ in it)  calamari, and some broiled oysters for good measure. We were all huge fan’s of the calamari, but we decided the local oysters are way too small to work well for broiling.

 

If you haven’t been, the Matunuck Oyster Bar is a great restaurant in a beautiful setting…What a great way to spend a sunny Friday afternoon! We chilled out on the deck over looking the salt pond, had some beers and oysters…life is good!

 

We then walked to the other side of the beach to have a few more drinks at the Ocean Mist. Once back to Providence, our first stop was Mill’s Tavern where we sat at the bar and had a great meal comprised of several of their appetizers. All of them winners. Great cocktails as well! From Mill’s we had hoped to get to New Rivers, but it was closed, so instead we went downscale and enjoyed sliders & fries at Harry’s. The burgers were quite delicious, but man where they salty! We finally got to bed around 1:00 a.m.The next day, we were all reasonably unaffected by Fridays debauchery, and were ready to hit the markets by 10:30am.

 

As mentioned, this is our 5th year. Our first forays into this effort always yielded extraordinary results…at a cost. The food was always excellent, but the early dinners were almost as well known for their length, and quantity of leftovers. One of these was a seven hour affair, and we were often eating well into the early hours of the morning, and more times than not we finished the last few courses as a Sunday Brunch.

 

With each year that’s passed however the process gets smoother and smoother. A few years back we changed to “small plates”, and this year we paired down the number of courses from 10 to 7, and tried to reduce the size of each course. This year also found our buying much more successful. Very few leftovers…I would actually have preferred a few MORE leftovers in fact! The timing of the meal was much improved as well. We even had time to take in Waterfire later in the evening. We still overshot the goal a bit on the courses though as we only finished 4 on Saturday, and completed the next 2 for Brunch, which actually worked out really well.

 

Menu for Taste Of Providence 5

Chefs Mike & Amy

Sous Chefs Walt & Bert

 

Amuse Bouche

Deviled Duck Eggs with smoked paprika

 

Eggs from Antonelli’s Poultry on Federal Hill

 

Appetizer

Seared Bomster Scallops, Blueberry Compote, Fried Leeks

 

Bomster Scallops

 

Salad

Field Greens, Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette, Cherry Tomatoes, Smoked Bluefish

 

The smoked bluefish was incredible. Found it at the farmers market at Lippitt Park

 

Meat Course

Aged NY Strip Steak, Blue Cheese Compound Butter, Pan Roasted Shitake Mushrooms, Fried Green Tomato

 

Aged NY Strip from Whole Foods glass of Jefferson's Presidential Reserve Bourbon in the background.

 

Seafood Course

Poached Local Monkfish &  Sautéed Lobster, Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, Lime

 

Poor man's lobster & rich man's lobster...both local.

 

Dessert

Fresh Local Blueberry Crisp, Homemade Cardamom Honey Frozen Yogurt

 

Local Blueberries from farmers market

 

Cheese Course

Roomano Pradera Aged Gouda, Brie Chatelain, Landaff Farmers Cheese

Served with a German Beerenauslese

 

Cheeses from Farmstead on Wayland Square. That.place.is.awesome!

 

So, I would call this one of our most successful T.O.P’s to date! It’s a great weekend, spent with good food & drink and even better friends.

 

Kimchi seems to be one of those things you either really like, or really don’t. Frankly it’s an odd food. Essentially vegetables left out to spoil “just enough” to let the magic happen. And by magic I mean fermentation of course. One of my favorite confluences of science and cookery…from the process that brought you such treasures as BEER, bread, sauerkraut, and did I mention beer yet?!

Some of the many ingredients that can be used to make Kimchi.

Anyway, because there is a certain amount of alchemy involved, people don’t even think about making their own Kimchi at home. This is a shame because it is extremely simple to make. A bit time consuming I’ll grant you, but simple. Another intimidation factor is that there are a million different types of Kimchi. However, the great thing about making it at home is that you can customize it to your tastes. Do you like Nappa Cabbage? Throw it in there, Turnips? Sure. Baby Bok Choy? Why not? Asian Pears? Absolutely!

A definition is in order. What is Kimchi after-all? According to Merriam Webster it is “a vegetable pickle seasoned with garlic, red pepper, and ginger that is the national dish of Korea”…and they should know right? Well, sort of. They are mostly correct though, Kimchi IS the national dish of Korea, but as I said before there are an incredible array of different types & styles of Kimchi, many based on which region of Korea you are in, and/or the season of the year.

The type I enjoy making centers around Nappa Cabbage. This is the type most Americans think of when they think of Kimchi. Not that many Americans spend much time thinking about Kimchi, but they should ( I know I do). I usually make a huge batch of it and end up eating it exclusively for several weeks on end. Kimchi is very versatile in that it can be used as a side dish, a main course, or a component of something else (Kimchi Jjigae comes to mind, a spicy stew made with Kimchi, tofu, and usually pork).

And speaking of healthy eating, what could be more healthy than raw, fermented vegetables? Low calories, high nutrient value (including lactobacilli the all important “beneficial bacteria”),  and delicious…it’s the perfect diet food. No wonder Koreans eat about 40 pounds of it each year.

OK enough about Kimchi. Let’s talk about actually making it! Here is the ingredient list for the Kimchi that I make. You can substitute / add / subtract to your hearts content. It’s the process that is important. As for what goes into it….totally up to you. For example, many Korean recipes add raw oysters, I don’t feel the need to be THAT authentic. As for the shopping, just head to your local Asian food market, it’s all there!

Kimchi Recipe

Ingregients:

Nappa Cabbage: I usually use two medium sized heads or just one if they are huge.
Baby Bok Choy: This gives the final product a nice dark green component.
Daikon Radish: Nice and crunchy with a great peppery flavor.
Asian Pear: Adds some nice sweetness, and crunch.
Carrots
Scallions
Garlic, and lots of it!
Ginger, and lots of it!
Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
Seasame oil
Garlic Chili Peper Sauce
Seasame seeds
Korean hot pepper flakes (the package will say “red pepper powder”, or “course ground red pepper”)
Sweet Rice Flour
Anchovies

Prep:

Nappa Cabbage:

1. Remove any bruised outside leaves from the head, then cut it in half lengthwise. Cut out the hard core at the bottom, then cut the two halves in half lengthwise. Next, cut each of the quarters in half again.

2. Now cut across your lengths of cabbage so that you mostly have rough 2” x 2” square bite sized pieces. It won’t be uniform but that’s OK. Alternatively, cut it however you would think it’s most fun to eat…

Baby Bok Choy:

1. Cut off the thick stem at the bottom.

2. Separate the leaves. No cutting necessary. These are already in perfectly sized pieces!

Asian Pear:

1. Keep the skin on, core it, then slice it fairly thick.

Daikon:

1. I like to quarter the radish lengthwise, then slice it fairly thick. This creates pretty large “pie wedge” pieces.

Carrot:

I thinly slice the carrot on the bias so you get long, thin pieces. Shredded would also work well. This will give you an excuse to the mandoline out of the closet…if you can find it.

Garlic & Ginger:

Minced…and don’t be shy with either.

Anchovies:

This is optional of course, but it adds a nice salty underlying note that rounds out all the other flavors. For a large batch you might use (1) 2 oz tin. For smaller amounts just use half a tin.

Kimchi cabbage soaking

Method:

1. Fill your kitchen sink (or a very large plastic tub) with water. Liberally salt the water, then throw in all the cut cabbage. Mix it around to shake any dirt loose, then let it soak for 30 minutes or so.

2. Remove the cabbage from the sink and put it in a clean kitchen trash bag, or a plastic grocery bag if it’s large enough.

3. Put a lot of salt in the bag and mix it up! What’s a lot? Depends on how much cabbage you have. Let’s say a cup of salt, less for smaller amounts. Basically enough to lightly coat all of the leaves.

4. Close the bag, pierce it all over with a knife, then put the whole bag back into the sink and put something heavy on top of it. As the salt penetrates, the cabbage will begin weeping liquid. This is what we want. Keep the cabbage weighted for 2 or 3 hours, mixing it up every once in a while.

5. When the time is up (or you are getting bored), rinse the cabbage in cold water, then dry it as best you can (salad spinner works well!).

6. Next, we get the paste ready! In a small sauce pan, boil 1 or 2 cup of water. To the boiling water wisk in about ½ cup of sweet rice flour and a few teaspoons of sugar. Cook it for a few minutes stirring constantly. This will become a loose paste. If it’s too thick, just add more water. You’re looking for the consistency of oatmeal. Let this cool a bit then add in as much of the Korean pepper flakes as you dare to. More than you would think possible in fact. Perhaps 2 cups of pepper flakes to 1 cup of paste.

7. In as large a work bowl as you have, bring all of the vegetables (and fruit) together and mix around a bit. I usually need to use several bowls for this.

8. To the vegetables (and fruit) add the paste we made from step 6. Also add the garlic, ginger, anchovies, sesame seeds (to taste. I add a lot). Mix thoroughly, and remember you are dealing with hot peppers so latex gloves are a good idea.

9. Once those items are mixed well add the sesame oil, ginger-garlic chili sauce, and rice wine vinegar to taste. One suggestion…you really only need a few tablespoons of vinegar (up to ½ cup), and a little sesame oil goes a long way. As for the chili sauce, the more the better; Keep in mind it’s pretty spicy though. Mix everything together again.

10. Finally, add some salt & black pepper. Now taste it! Adjust the seasonings to your liking. In my case this usually means more garlic, more ginger, and more hot chili sauce.

11. Once you have it seasoned to your liking, pack it as tightly as you can into one or two large glass jars. Not surprisingly, used ½ gallon store bought Kimchi jars work really well for this! Push down as hard as you can to pack it in as tightly as it will go.

12. Now the fun part. Leave it on your counter for days and days until it begins fermenting! Do not put the lid on the containers (otherwise the jar may explode), simply cover the jars with plastic wrap and let it sit. Once they start to ferment I usually leave them out for 1-2 more days to “sour them up”, then into the fridge they go. Total time on the counter around 5 days, but this will vary.

Homemade Kimchi Ready to eat!

It’s finally ready to eat. You’ve worked hard for this…eat & enjoy! It will keep in the fridge for several weeks. One last tip, it is simply wrong to eat Kimchi with anything other than chopsticks.

So that’s it! It’s basically one evening of work, then several days of waiting…but it is well worth the effort!

ENJOY!

INTRO:

Amy & I are big fans of the couch surfing project.  If you haven’t heard of Couch Surfing, the premise is simple, you open up your home to out of town guests! It’s like letting a friend of a friend stay at your place for a couple of days. The friend you both have in common is Couch Surfing, which is an online community of travelers (http://www.couchsurfing.org).

The surfers (i.e. your guests) are vetted by the website in a number of different ways. There are reviews by previous hosts, the surfer’s profile where you can get a feel for their personality (for instance, if I received a request from someone who was in their 40′s and travelling the world following the Justin Bieber concert trail,  I might think twice about accepting their request), as well as a “vouching” system.

The long & short of it is Couch Surfing it not for everyone (in fact, most of my friends think we’re nuts), but if you have an open mind, enjoy traveling, experiencing other cultures, and/or just enjoy showing off your hometown, then it might be for you!

So, all of that is a long way to say that we often have people from out of town staying at our house. After the first few times I quickly saw that it made sense to put together a list of “Mike & Amy approved” activities & places in Providence/Rhode Island. Because we are who we are it seems to be focused around food & drink, but there is also other “stuff to do” as well! Anyway, I thought it might be helpful for anyone visiting the littlest State, so I thought I’d post it here. Enjoy!

MA

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Rhode Island Travel Guide

Ok, it’s mostly an eating guide, but there are also suggestions for a few things to do between meals.

Rhode Island EATS:

Providence has a well deserved reputation as a fantastic restaurant town, especially for it’s size. As a result, there are fine dining restaurants of every stripe available here (though admittedly a bit Italio-centric). If interested I can provide a list of truly excellent full service restaurants to check out as well. HOWEVER, since the assumption is that your time (and budget) is limited, there are several very regional (i.e. “rhode island only”) dishes that you need try during your stay, and thankfully, these tend to be available at decidedly more affordable places….usually with lots of local color thrown in at no cost (read: any wiener joint in the state!)!

With that said, here is a list of regional dishes, usually available only in Rhode Island, that you should try while you are in our state…..

Hot wiener’s (Gagga’s, Weenies, etc.)

What are they? Small, natural casing,  hot dogs with a “mystery” chili/meat sauce. Getting them “all the way” means mustard, raw onions, meat sauce, and celery salt. They are very tasty, but beware…they will stay with you! Several years back I did a “taste of Rhode Island” trip with a group of friends where we went to and rated as many wiener joints as we could get to. I don’t recommend this. However, a couple of weenies at any of the places below is time well spent!

1. Olneyville NY System (Original Restaurant)

20 Plainfield St. Providence RI 02909

2. SAM’s New York System

1031 Mineral Spring Ave North Providence RI 02904

3. Original New York System

424 Smith St Providence, RI 02908

Pizza Strips

As an out-of-stater, pizza strips for me took some getting used to. They are odd to be sure, but when done well they are delicious! Basically just bread dough topped with a modified tomato sauce. No cheese. Their simplicity is their brilliance. It’s all about good crusty bread (corner pieces are much preferred for this reason), and well spiced, fresh tasting, tomato sauce.

1. D. Palmieri’s Bakery

624 Killingly Street, Johnston RI 02919  401.621.9357

These are the best! Most things here are really good in fact. I’d recommend an “old fashioned” pizza strip (only if you love garlic though) and a regular.

2. Crugnale Bakery

1342 Douglas Avenue, North Providence RI 401.353.7166

Pizza strips here are really good.

3. DeFusco’s Bakery

1350 Park Avenue, Cranston (401) 944-0650

They also have decent eclairs and their spinach pies are also very good.

Coffee Milk

Milk mixed with a local coffee syrup. It can be ordered at any diner or “NY System” wiener shop….when ordering wiener’s you are required to have coffee milk. State law.

Calamari

Rhode Island style calamari is the only way I’ll eat it now. Marinara sauce is for the birds. Rhode Island style calamari is squid rings & tentacles breaded & deep fried then mixed with hot banana peppers. I’ve sometimes seen marinara on the side, but usually not. In any event, it’s not needed. Fresh lemon is typically served along side, but it can also be incorporated into a light butter/lemon sauce.

1. Mike’s Kitchen

70 Randall Street, Cranston, RI 02920 (401) 946-5320

If you are having trouble finding Mike’s because there is a VFW where the restaurant should be…don’t worry that IS the restaurant!

2. Caffe Dolce Vita

9 DePasquale Square, Providence, RI 02903 (401) 331-8240

3. Any suggestions?

Spinach Pies

Not a pie at all! Basically just a calzone with spinach as the filling. No cheese, just spiced spinach filling and onions.

1. D. Palmieri’s Bakery

624 Killingly Street, Johnston RI 02919  401.621.9357

2. DeFusco’s Bakery

1350 Park Avenue, Cranston (401) 944-0650

3. Recommendations?

Cabinet

This one I can’t figure out. In Rhode Island, and ONLY in Rhode Island for whatever reason a milkshake is milk mixed with flavorings (so I guess coffee milk is really a milkshake?) and a cabinet is what the rest of the country calls a milkshake. With that said, pretty much everywhere you go a milkshake is a real milkshake (i.e. with ice cream)…but I have seen a few places that have both cabinets AND milk shakes.

1. SAM’s New York System

1031 Mineral Spring Ave North Providence RI 02904

2. Newport Creamery

Garden City Center, 100 Hillside Road, Cranston  (401) 944-3397

3. Gray’s Ice Cream (Tiverton is in the boonies…but this place is worth the trip! Try the Ginger Ice Cream.)

16 East Road, Tiverton Four Corners, Tiverton  (401) 624-4500

Chowder

RI has it’s own type of chowder. Just to be different I think. For my money there is only one REAL chowder, and that’s New England Clam Chowder. I’ve only had the RI Style chowder once and I can’t say I’m a fan. It’s made with broth, clams, potatoes, onions, spices, bacon, etc.. Pretty basic. Give me the full fat, creamy, New England variety over this any day. However, since we are also in New England I’ll list my favorite New England Style clam chowders….

1. Aiden’s Pub

11 John Street Bristol, RI 02809  401.254.1940

Simply the best clam chowder ever. 30 minutes is not too far to drive for awesome chowder and a good Guinness 30! Plus, Bristol is a quaint little town worth seeing in it’s own right.

2. Liberty Elm Diner

777 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI  401.467.0777

Their chowder is outstanding…but so is everything else on the menu! Blackbird Farms Burger anyone???

3. Recommendations?

Stuffies

Stuffies are stuffed Quohogs. Quohogs are clams. Ergo, stuffies are stuffed clams…and delicious ones at that! Usually well spiced with clams, pepper sauce, lemon, bread crumbs, onions, peppers, then stuffed in a clam shell, baked, and served with lemon and hot pepper sauce.

1. Recommendations?

2. Recommendations?

3. Recommendations?


Diners

As Rhode Island is the birthplace of the diner it is only appropriate to list a few of the best local diners! Technically, any of the hot wiener places above are diners (and all great ones at that!). However, for my money a true diner has to be in a Worcester dining car. Otherwise, it’s just a restaurant that serves breakfast & lunch…

1. Liberty Elm Diner

777 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI  401.467.0777

This place is awesome! Everything is outstanding and most food is locally sourced. I get the turkey sandwich every time (as for the “Guy”)…with a cup of chowda. Their chowder is some of the best in the state.

2. Jigger’s Diner

45 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI  401.884.5388

One word. GingerbreadPancakes. Everything is good here, but don’t try everything, try the gingerbread pancakes.

3. Modern Diner

364 East Avenue, Pawtucket  401.726.8390

I’ve unfortunately not been here yet, but from everything I’ve read & heard this place is legit.

Portugese Food!

Granted, Portugese food isn’t exclusive to Providence. HOWEVER, RI (& Southern Mass.) has more Portuguese people per capita than anywhere but Portugal. Fact. Now that I’ve explained WHY the Portugese food here is so legit, let’s explore why it’s worthwhile. I can narrow that down to the following 1) Sausage is delicious (and especially delicious if served flaming on a ceramic pig) 2) dual starches should be more prevalent in every cuisine, 3) Vinho Verde is both delicious and affordable, and 4) they offer a good mix of seafood & meat dishes! Take all that into account and check out these great Portuguese-centric places in the area:

1. Chaves Market / Columbia Street

9 Columbia Street, Fall River, MA  508.679.4410 (20 min. from Providence, but a world away!)

Fall River is like taking a trip to another country…Portugal for instance. A strange, strange place, in a good way! Check out Columbia Street for some great restaurants and butcher stores, then end up at Chaves Market which is worth the drive alone! Soak up that atmosphere! A great local market.

What to get: Chorizo, Vinho Verde, baccala, Portuguese sweet bread, etc.

2. Silver Star Bakery

150 Ives Street, Providence, RI  401.421.8013

We go to Silver Star for one thing, and one thing only: Portuguese sweet bread! Everything else might be incredible (I’ve heard as much), but their sweet bread is the best!

3. O Dinis Restaurant

579 Warren Avenue, East Providence, RI  401.438.3769

Great little local restaurant. Authentic food, drinks, and atmosphere. This place is legit. Picture a table full of older, hard nosed fishermen, just off the boat, sitting around a table speaking in Portuguese and drinking white wine…and the owers & waitresses kids running around everywhere.

I get the same thing here every time: hot chorizo appetizer then pork alentejana (spicy pork & potato stew), though everything we’ve had in here has been really, really good.

BEVERAGES

I love beverages! And people get thirsty when visiting Providence.

1. E&O Tap

89 Knight Street Providence, RI 02909  (401) 454-4827

Great local bar on the West Side of Providece. Great mix of people, good drink options, and good prices. Usually they play pretty awesome music as well (unless Kevin is working…he usually plays awesome music, but you might also be subjected to songs from Billy Ocean or Richard Marx depending on his mood).

2. The Avery

18 Luongo Memorial Sq Providence, RI 02903

This place is just around the corner from E&O so it makes a good mini bar crawl (which is different than going from mini-bar to mini-bar)…especially when combined with Julians and/or the Skurvy Dog which are both walking distance.

3. Julians

18 Broadway, Providence RI  (401) 861-177

Good selection of beer, decent food, funky atmosphere.

4. Skurvy Dog

1718 Westminster St Providence, RI 02909

Usually good punk/alternative tunes playing. Decent selection of beers at good prices. Pretty funky little place. Plus, no sign outside which is a bonus, and from the outside it kind of looks like you may be walking into a murder room.

5. Track 84

4 Kilvert Street Warwick, RI 02886  (401) 739-8484

A strange & wondrous place! If you are a beer geek this is the place for you. Excellent selection. Odd mix of people, odd location (across from the airport in a residential neighborhood), and not much character inside. All that said however, the selection makes this place worth a stop!

6. Coffee Exchange

207 Wickenden Street, Providence, RI 02903  (401) 273-1198

For when it’s too early to drink anything but coffee. Coffee Exchange is the real deal. Free WiFi, and very near Benefit Street. Plus, Wickenden Street is worth checking out as well. If Nadia is working say HI…she is also a couch surfer!

…and Now for the travel part….

If I had only day to see PVD here would be my recommendations.

A good place to start your trip would be a the Roger Williams National Memorial Visitors Center. First it’s an historic location, but mostly they are very helpful there and will make sure you have enough info to get the most out of your trip.

1. Walk down Benefit Street. Very nice historic residential street with some beautiful old colonial era houses. The John Brown house is available to tour.

2. While on Benefit Street the Providence Athenaeum is worth a visit. One of the first private libraries in the country. http://www.providenceathenaeum.org/

3. Also along Benefit is the RISD Museum. RISD is one of, if not the, best art schools in the country. The museum is very good, inexpensive, and a wide range of exhibits.

4. RI State House tour. You can tour the state house building…I’ve not actually done it myself, but i’ve heard it’s pretty interesting. It’s right downtown so very easy to get to.

5. Walk along Atwells Avenue. Federal Hill is the “Italian section” (historically) of Providence and Atwells Ave is the heart of it. Lots of really good restaurants, shops and Italian markets. Here’s a RI “fun fact” Federal Hill is the home of the New England mob, so that guy up there that looks like he could be in a mobster movie…just might be a mobster.

6. The culinary arts museum at Johnson & Wales. See info here: http://www.culinary.org/ . Again, I’ve not actually been, but from what I’m told it’s supposed to be pretty worthwhile. Especially if you are a foodie.

7. Wickeden Street is another nice place to stroll. Some good galleries and small shops. A good lunch spot there would be Duck & Bunny http://theduckandbunny.blogspot.com/ …and grab a beer at Wickeden Pub. Also check out Coffee Exchange for outstanding coffee & free Wifi

8. Hopefully you are here in the temperate months. If you have a chance to checkout Waterfire it is a MUST. It’s worth planning your trip to Providence around a Waterfire date. http://www.waterfire.org/

9. Check out AS220 (http://www.as220.org). It’s downtown and an excellent arts destination. A few galleries, live music, classes available, etc. plus it’s just a cool place to hang out. There is a bar there as well, and their restaurant Foo(d) is very good, and the prices are quite decent. Not to mention it’s one of the few restaurants in Providence where al fresco dining is an option (and you get to bus your own table).

Have a great time in the smallest state!

If you have more than one day to see Rhode Island.

1. Take a trip to Newport (35 minutes). Tour the mansions, walk/shop Thames Street, check out Cliff Walk.

2. Head to the Beach. There are several great beaches, most within an hour of Providence. More information here: http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-do/beaches/

3. Check out to Block Island. Block Island makes for a great day trip. Really good beaches, a couple of light houses, some pretty dramatic cliffs, and hiking trails. The ferry leaves from Point Judith just south of Narragansett.

4. Not in Rhode Island, but the Whaling Museum in New Bedford (30 minutes) is well worth visiting.

Further reading:

A great website for RI facts & local Cuisine info http://www.quahog.org/cuisine/
Article on Coffee Milk: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/CoffeeMilk.htm

Website from RI Tourism: http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/

Another RI Tourism Guide: http://www.visitri.com/
Good article on Rhode Island culinary oddities http://riroads.com/archive/uniquefoods.htm

Great website for all your travels in the USA http://www.roadfood.com Amy & I often plan trips around it! It won’t let you down! Thanks to some guy named Jim you can now check it out based on google maps, click here!

With the weather cooling and other subtle (and not so subtle) signs that fall is here Amy & I decided to try our hand at pickling recently! We are both originally from Central New York and back home we have a group of friends (some old school Italians, some just damn good cooks!) that get together every fall and on one day pickle a massive amount of peppers.  Everything about these peppers are incredible, from the peppers themselves, to the pickle juice which is almost equally valued for it’s ability to turn hard boiled eggs into the most phenomical pickled eggs you can imagine! It is also delicious on pasta with some shredded cheese & cracked black pepper (as Amy will tell you!).

The peppers mentioned above were the muse for our rendition. So we called one of our friends to get the low down on how they make them. We then did our best to mimic their approach. In the end we failed to be honest, but ours are still pretty tasty. Our next move is to sit down with these pickling pros and figure out where we can improve the process, and where we diverted from their tried and true ways!

Originally, the guys used a mix of Hungarian Hots & Cherry Peppers, but they have since replaced the Hungarian Hots with Hot Banana Peppers (easier to get apparently). We may have hit the farmers markets at a bad time for peppers but we didn’t see a large selection of any type of hot peppers and zero Hungarian Hots or Hot Banana Peppers! We did our best to search out moderately hot peppers, but ended up with an assortment of fairly mild peppers with a few jalapeno’s thrown in for good measure. Mind you, in order to come to this combination we made stops at the Hope St. Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods, Shaw’s, and the Asian-American grocery store in Cranston.

With the peppers procured, we donned our gloves and started chopping. When finished, we had enough to fill 20 quart sized Ball jars. To the chopped peppers we added a mix of finely chopped flat leaf Parsley, Basil Leaves and olive oil. We mixed this well (using a plastic trash bag made it an easier chore) and let it sit for a while as we prepared the brine & got the jars ready.

The brine was simply a mix of apple cider vinegar & water, basically 50/50, but with slightly more vineager than water so maybe 55/45 along with some salt & pepper. That was placed in a  pot and set to boil. As that was heating we placed all the Ball jars on the counter and in each placed the following: a sprig or two of Dill, 2 cloves of garlic, some peppercorns, 1/2 t of alum, and perhaps a 1/2 teaspoon of Trinidadian pepper sauce (I was afraid our peppers weren’t going to be spicy enough!).

We then jammed as many peppers into each jar as we could. Once the jars were full we dipped a pitcher into the near boiling brine and begun filling the jars. As each jar was filled with the hot brine we placed a lid on the jar and moved to the next one until they were all filled. As I recall from making the peppers with “the guys” the jars would seal themselves after a few minutes. Of course, none of ours sealed! Luckily I have a Food Saver with a Ball jar attachment, so I used that to force seal all the jars. It was late at night on a Saturday when this process was finally finished (~2:00am-ish), so we placed the jars back in the boxes and set them aside for 2 weeks then finally headed to bed with a terribly messy kitchen!

Two weeks later we opened one of the jars and snacked on a few of our homemade pickled peppers! I should start by saying that they are pretty good…just not nearly as good as the ones from our friends in Central NY! Their brine is delicious. Just sipping it from the jar is delicious! It’s a harmonious taste of vinegar, peppers, spices and oil that tastes way better than the sum of it’s parts. Our brine on the other hand tastes like what it is, vinegar & water! We did like how nice and crunchy our peppers were though, and they actually taste pretty good so we are actually happy with them, but now we need to sit down and figure out how to improve.

Now our mission is to eat 20 jars of peppers as quickly as we can so we can try again!

A few lessions learned:
1. I think they didn’t seal because we didn’t pre-heat the jars.
2. I believe the brine needs to be more seasoned…more salt & pepper, perhaps a few other spices
3. Need more olive oil in the jars. Perhaps pouring some oil in each jar prior to the hot brine?!

Any of you pickling pro’s out there have any suggestions?!

Inspired by all the local tweeting about Blackbird Farms from local foodies & restaurants, and the fact that the farm is down the street from where I work, I stopped by their new farm stand last week. What I saw got me very excited!

It’s a very small farm stand sitting in one of the farm’s pasture at the corner of Limerock Road & Douglas Turnpike. The tiny hut contains one cooler, one freezer, some space for a few vegetable boxes, and a small cash register. That’s it! The real magic is inside that freezer. HUGE steaks of grass fed beef (several cuts), large (and small) roasts, and some very nice looking local pork. In the cooler there were some convenience items then cartons of their fresh eggs!

Blackbird Farms Pork Chops

Unfortunately I only had $13. on me, otherwise I would have gone to town! Perhaps it worked out for the best actually. Instead of several large Ribeyes I ended up with (3) packages of pork chops. Each package was in the $4 range which I thought was very reasonable. I mistakenly believed each package to contain one large chop, but there were actually two chops per package, but they were still a good size.
While still at the farm stand my mind was already racing to figure out how I was going to cook these chops, and what to serve them with. As usual that’s half the fun! I’ve always loved the combination of pork with apples, and with the weather starting to lean more towards fall I was also thinking about cabbage and more hearty fare (it’s stoemp weather as they say! They do say that right?!). The end result was pan fried pork chops with red cabbage and apples.

I chose to pan fry the chops to keep it as simple as possible. Since this was my first encounter with Blackbird Farms pork I wanted to make sure I could taste the meat and nothing else! So keep it simple I did. I thawed them out, removed them from the packages, and patted them dry. Afterwards I liberally salted & peppered them on both sides and that was that. Next, I heated the pan, added some olive oil and browned the chops on both sides so they were still slightly pink in the center.
For the side dish my mis-en-place was as follows:
  • sliced red cabbage
  • thinly sliced onion
  • sliced granny smith apples (skin on)
  • brandy
  • minced garlic
  • honey
  • bavarian beer vinager (but any type would do!)
In the pan I used to cook the pork chops (some nice fond at the bottom, and very flavorful oil!) I added the onion and cooked them until they were nicely browned/caramelized. I then added the garlic and continued to saute for a few more minutes then added the brandy to finish deglazing the pan. Next in was the cabbage and apples which I sauted for another 10 minutes or so until both were soft. At this point I added a little honey, and the beer vinager which gave it a nice sweet & sour component. This continued to cook for another 5 minutes or so. One final taste at the end to make sure it was seasoned properly with salt & pepper and it was ready to plate!
I was really happy with the end result. The earthyness of the cabbage paired well with the sweetness from the cooked apples and the sweet & sour honey/vinager thing kind of rounded it all out…all with a hint of brandy in every bite. The star of the show however was the incredible Blackbird Farms pork! Those pork chops were just incredible! I’m glad there were two in each package after all. Amy finished her two, and that left the other four for me…

Location: Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Hour: 10:00 am-ish?

Mission: see some seals!

So we were heading to a small rock outcropping where seals are known to congregate in large numbers at low tide. It was a beautiful and sunny ride through the small channels and rocky islands of coastal Maine on a small inflatable dinghy. With my hand dragging in the cold Maine waters we meandered past rustic seaside cabins, large summer homes, a small horse farm, and boats of all shape, size, and utility.

As we approached the rocks anticipation was high…until we realized it was no longer low tide!! No seals to be found sunning on the rocks. Fortunately, we did see a few poking their heads out of the water and that was sufficiently exciting. In truth, the ride there was always going to be the highlight anyway.

Once our destination was reached thoughts turned to food. It was nearing 11:00am and since we skipped breakfast we were all quite hungry. This proved fortuitous as our hosts Tom & Cheryl knew of a small place nearby.

Once set in motion, the dinghy continued its slow journey and about 15 minutes later we approached the Trevett Country Store. The store is on the edge of the water (literally!), and sits next to a very peaceful, small channel of water crossed by the last manual swing bridge in the country

YouTube video: Trevett Swing Bridge (it starts slow, but stick with it)

We tied up at the dock of the lobster co-op behind the store, and walked into a text book small New England general store/grocery. You could buy beer, Dinty Moore Beef Stew (as well as Dinty Moore Chicken Stew….didn’t even know that existed!), live lobsters, etc. A little bit of everything. However, our attention turned to the back of the store as this is where the real magic happens.

There is a small kitchen area with a menu board posted above it. When we walked in it was 10 minutes until opening and the person at the counter was pulling apart fresh lobster meat. I was excited!! What we finally got was hands down the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. It was a huge mound of fresh lobster meat in a toasted New England hot dog roll resting on a small amount of lettuce. There was a trace amount of mayo, but only enough to allow the small pieces of leg meat to cling to the larger chunks. Absolutely sublime.

The Lobster Roll was perfect, but the fries were also very good, and the burger looked awesome as well. Since Tom didn’t offer me a taste I have to assume it was as good as he said it was.

The Trevett Country Store has it all…New England charm, a unique swing bridge out front and picnic tables overlooking a peaceful, slow moving waterway. The perfect setting for the perfect Maine Lobster Roll, and a great way to spend a sunny summer afternoon with friends.

So, the bride & I finally got up to Boothbay this year! We have friends that keep a 38’ sailboat at Brown’s Wharf, and we like to get up to see them a few times per summer. This year has been tough though, and we haven’t been able to get up there…until last weekend that is! And what a great weekend to be in Maine! It was hot & sunny all weekend long, and a good breeze for sailing!

We had an awesome day sailing on Saturday, and we were out while the “tall ships” were racing. I’m still not 100% sure how a sailboat race works, but it is very cool to watch nonetheless. My favorite was the ship (boat?) of an executive from Campbell’s Soup…see if you can guess which was his….

BUT ON TO THE FOOD & DRINK!

There are several places in the Boothbay region that are WELL worth checking out. In fact, I’ll start with a place that you will actually pass by en route to Boothbay. The Lion’s Pride Pub (http://lionspridepub.com/).

The Lion’s Pride is the sister pub of Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell Maine.  Ebenezer’s is often ranked as the best beer bar in the world (yes…world, not just U.S http://www.ratebeer.com/places/top-rated/) and for good reason. Chris Lively is a publican of the highest order and through connections in Belgium and elsewhere has access to some of the rarest and most sought after beers in the world. You never know what you will find on a trip to Ebenezer’s, but what you DO know is that it will be awesome. With the Lion’s Pride, Chris has taken the same guiding principles at Eb’s and brought them to the populated part of Maine!

Above & beyond the world-class beers though, service is what sets both of these places apart from every other beer bar you’ve been to. Chris’ staff is passionate about beer and they clearly enjoy passing that excitement on to the customers.

So, back to the trip…on the way to Boothbay Harbor we passed right by Lion’s Pride and had to stop. I started with a La Torpille from BFM which is unquestionably one of my favorite breweries. Afterward I ordered a Wild Pannepot, and Amy had a Petrus Aged Pale. They were all awesome! If you are anywhere near Brunswick Maine I highly recommend heading to the Lion’s Pride for a beer or two.

Once in Boothbay Harbor proper there are a few local favorites we get to each time. McSeagulls & Dunton’s Dog house! And thanks to Tom & Cheryl, on this trip we were also introduced to the quintessential Maine Lobster Roll!

But I’ll start with Dinner. Dinner is usually at McSeagulls (http://www.mcseagullsonline.com/enter/) where the Lobster & Chicken Bomb is the de facto order. A large chicken breast is pounded thin, and then stuffed with lobster meat and feta cheese. The bomb is then rolled into a ball, breaded then deep fried and served with huge chunks of lobster meat and an Alfredo sauce. Low fat? No!! Delicious? YES!

Sadly, every trip to Boothbay must come to an end…and on the way out of town is Dunton’s Doghouse. One of the better hot dogs you will ever find!

When you order your dog a few things happen. First, they take it out of the cooler! All dogs cooked to order! Once it’s placed on the griddle they dab a healthy portion of butter on top (no better way to start the cooking process!). Then, when the dog is nearly ready to be served they dab yet more butter on the classic New England hot dog bun (no crust on the sides) and place it on the grill next to the dog. When it all comes together you have the perfect dog. Buttery grilled roll and perfectly browned dog!

Now that I think about it, the Lobster Roll place was so awesome it deserves its own post….so that’s up next.

Amy & I spend an inordinate amount of time on beer & food related travel. By way of example, we were driving down to North Carolina to visit my sister a few years ago. We couldn’t find any flights less than $600.  so we decided to drive (~ 13 hrs as I recall).

Much of our pre-travel planning was time spent researching potential Road Food stops (http://www.roadfood.com) then tailoring a route to maximize the deliciousness of the trip. Mission accomplished! 5 hours into the trip we had already been to 4 outstanding New Jersey hot dog joints, including stops to compare and contrast two versions of the glorious Newark style hot dog.

By the way, I would NOT recommend beginning a long road trip by over eating delicious hot dogs and fried potatoes…but I digress….

The point is, we go out of our way to find really good food & beer! And this weekend is no exception. We are headed to Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell Maine for their Belgian Beer Festival! While Lovell is almost literally in the middle of nowhere, for Belgian beer lovers it is a true Mecca! http://ebenezerspubevents.blogspot.com/2010/06/6th-annual-belgian-beer-festival.html .

For for information on Ebenezer’s, check out their website @ http://www.ebenezerspub.net or the outstanding site for everything craft beer, Beer Advocate (http://beeradvocate.com/).

We’re heading up Thursday afternoon then camping out at Ebenezer’s on Friday & Saturday night for the festival. Here is a partial list of the unbelievable beers that will be available:

De Struise Black Albert
DeStruise Black Albert Batch0
DeStruise Batch 0 Black Albert Barrel Aged
DeStruise Pannepot 2009
Black Damnation 2
Dirty Horse
Pannepot Reserva
Red Hair Jeanne
Wild Pannepot
Pannepeut
Earthmonk ( A special trial blend with Extra Cherries and aged in several barrels)
Cantillon Vigeronne
Cantillon Iris 2009
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek 2005
Cantillon Framboisem 2006
Cantillon Cuvee De Champions
Cantillion Rose De Grambinus
Cantillon Gueuze
J and J IV Saison
Alvinne: Melchoir, Xtra, Podge, and Gaspar
De Dolle Mad Bitch 2009
De Dolle Stille Nacht 2009
Oude Beersel Framboise
Kasteel Cuvee de Chateau

In addition, beer geeks from far flung locales flock to the campsite to share their rare beer finds, and/or trade beers. I’ll be bringing the last of the Westvleterens I’ve been saving for a special occasion (2 Green caps…hopefully they held up! We drank the 8 & the 12 a few years back!).

We’ll see what happens…I can’t wait.

Greek Yogurt

Greek Style Yogurt

So a couple of months ago I got very excited about making my own yogurt at home. Not just any old yogurt of course, I wanted greek yogurt! Amy & I discovered Fage Yogurt a few years ago and have gone through stages where we were actually buying it by the case from a local natural foods store. The stuff is awesome. However, we’ve also noticed that along with it appearing in more places  (i.e. the regular grocery store) the price was also climbing up…and it was expensive to begin with. In the Providence area Fage is now at least $1.99 per 6oz cup. Which doesn’t seem like a lot until you factor in that we were eating 10 or more per week.

So I google “homemade yogurt” and there are tons of sites that will show you how to do it at home with very little equipment. I tried several different methods…with only occasional success! Yogurt made in a cooler, yogurt made with a hot pad, etc. I just wasn’t having much luck.

I finally ended up buying a yogurt maker from Amazon called the “Euro Cuisine YM100″. It still took quite a bit of tinkering, but I finally have it down! I purchased the YM100 which comes with 7 jars and lids, I also bought an extra box of jars, and the “Euro Cuisine Yogurt Starter” packets.  There is a booklet that comes with the yogurt maker, but you really have to just play with it until you find the right recipe to suit your tastes.

Mike’s Greek Yogurt:

5.5 jars of 2% milk (I use good, fresh, organic milk)

1.5 jars of half & half

1 packet of starter (or 1 jar/serving of yogurt with active cultures)

4 T of non-fat powdered milk

Directions:

1. Combine the milk and half & half in a sauce pan and heat until it’s warm. About 105 degrees I guess. Warm to the touch, but not hot. If it’s too hot you will kill the yogurt culture.

2. Wisk in the powdered milk & starter

3. pour into the jars, place in the machine, and set it for 9 hours (perfect sourness for me…go 10 if you like it more sour, 8 or 8.5 for less sour).

Greek Yogurt Ready To Eat

Greek Yogurt Ready To Eat

Secrets I’ve learned:

Make sure not to jostle the yogurt maker while it’s working. Otherwise the yogurt won’t be smooth.

Don’t go overboard with the powdered milk. 3 -4 T is really all you need.

When the yogurt is finished, put it in the fridge for at least 3 – 4 hours to set. THEN, loosen the lids and store the jars on their sides and place them on paper towels. This strains the yogurt and makes it more in the style of Fage.  Whey will separate out over the course of 24 hrs or so, just pour it out and keep the jar on it’s side until the  yogurt is as thick as you’d like it! When properly thick, tighten the lid and store it upright.

It took quite a bit of practice but I’m at the point now where I can consistently make good, thick yogurt. It’s nice and rich, has the perfect tangyness, and will get as thick as you need it to. It’s still not as cheap as the low budget yogurts, but it’s much more wholesome, and it’s fun to make! Even with the starter and organic milk I think it ends up costing about $1. per jar or so.

One more tip: If you dump the jar of finished yogurt into a paper towel (or cheese cloth if you have it) and put that in a strainer overnight in the refrigerator you will end up with a product very much like cream cheese…only much healthier!

Give it shot!