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Outside The Spot

Guest post by Travis Webster-Booth, a songwriter who can often be heard at the Spot under his nom de plume, Straw Man Standing.

And that's just the beer menu...

And that’s just the beer menu…

Where can you go to relax with a beer, munch on avocado frites, and hear the music of eccentric local artists any night of the week? In Providence, that would be The Spot Underground.

I made my way there on a recent “Madcap Monday,” an organized-yet-freewheeling (and free) weekly exhibition of local acoustic music. I parked my car out back (also free) and headed up the steel stairwell with my Martin guitar, equally excited to hear the night’s entertainment as I am to strum a few songs myself.

Mike Baker, at a recent spot performance

Mike Baker, at a recent spot performance (photo credit)

The first performer, who moonlights as the house cook, warms things up with a few numbers. A bafflingly talented singer-guitarist, who might have been a grunge star 20 years ago, croons a set of classic rock songs. Barely missing a beat, an unassuming chap takes over with a hang drum, lulling the crowd into hypnotic bliss. Following him, a pair of older guys grace the stage for a harmony-laden rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” that reminds me how much I love live music. Then again, I’m used to getting my mind blown at the Spot. Several weeks earlier, a young woman got full attention of the audience with an intimate performance on a full-size harp.

When it’s my turn to play, I saunter to the stage, wind a 1/4” cable through my guitar strap, plug in, sound check, and play. I’ve become so comfortable here that I’ve debuted new songs, improvised tunes on the spot, and played with all manner of accompaniment; on one memorable occasion, a talented beat boxer spontaneously joined me on stage, adding backup vocals to boot. As a performer in Providence, you won’t find a safer or more welcoming environment.

Live painting, sometimes *during* performances, is a mainstay at The Spot.

Live painting, sometimes *during* performances, is a mainstay at The Spot.

By the end of the night, I’ve made new friends, caught up with old ones, and notched another performance in my belt. Best of all, I could do it all over again at Re:Creation Tuesday, the Spot’s iconic open mic/open jam (also free). And if I’m not in a mood to play, I can duck back in any other night of the week, when top flight bands of every imaginable genre pack the house and command the dance floor.

The Spot
101 Richmond Street
Providence, RI
www.thespotprovidence.com
(401) 383-7133

farm-dog-and-veg

Music at the market…

Guest post by Nancy Caronia, a Lecturer in the Honors Program at University of Rhode Island. Check out her blog at http://ncaronia.wordpress.com/

fennel

From the bounty of the market: fresh fennel.

I’m from Brooklyn, NY, but I lived in Central New York for ten years. In New York City, I would frequent the Union Square Market, and in Central New York, I happily shopped at the Rochester Public Market. I love farmers, I love the food they grow, and I love supporting them and eating their food.

That’s why I appreciate the Coastal Growers Market near my current home in South County, Rhode Island. The four-season farmers market is like both of these markets, but actually reminds me more of the market when I lived in Cassis, France during a semester long writing fellowship with The Camargo Foundation. The vendors in the open-air market would teach me French and I would bring home the loaves of hot olive bread, fresh greens, rabbit, olives, cheese and fresh eggs. Each vendor was kind, whether I was buying two heads of lettuce or a bouquet of mimosa that was large enough to make me feel like a beauty pageant winner. They were patient and funny as I made a mockery of the French language. At the market, I met the people with whom I would soon be hiking buddies and purchased ingredients that meant I made excellent meals without ever stepping foot into a supermarket.

zephyr-customer

A customer browses at the Zephyr Farm stand.

The Coastal Growers’ Market takes me back to the market in Cassis. The farmers and vendors are kind, patient, and caring—towards their customers and about the food and products they provide. In the summer, when the market is located at Casey Farm, I meet up with friends and we sit all morning on picnic benches and listen to music by different local bands each Saturday morning while drinking iced tea or a cold-pressed iced coffee from The Coffee Guy and eat the most amazing tacos in New England by Chef Jake Rojas of Tallulah’s Tacos.

In the winter, the market moves indoors to Lafayette Mill and we still listen to great music and drink—only it’s more likely to be an apple cider that’s been freshly pressed by Barden Family Orchard or a juice from Fully Rooted. There’s Seven Stars for croissants and fresh crusty bread and Bravo Wood Fire Pizza. We meet up with our farmers and buy our groceries for the week as well. I get my greens from Mark, the hydroponic farmer of Abasaloma Greenhouse. I buy my fresh eggs from Zephyr Farm. And I indulge in nitrate-free bacon from Pat’s Pasteurized, where I’ve gotten to know Deb and Annie, aka Santa’s Elves, who do service work feeding the homeless throughout the year.

I get my fresh seafood from The Local Catch and Matunuck Oyster Farm, where the young children love to hear Gabe’s stories about bivalves and watch as he opens an oyster just to watch their eyes light up in delight. There’s also Yorerganics where I purchase my laundry soapbuds and Susannah of Susannah’s Ice Cream and Sorbet, who makes the best darn Meyer lemon sorbet no matter what the season.

Coastal Growers’ Market has made my transition to Rhode Island simple. I’ve made new friends and I’ve become part of a community of people who care about food and healthy living. If you need holiday gifts, the market is the perfect stop. And if you just want to meet up with terrific people and have a relaxing Saturday morning, the market folks will greet you with open arms.

Coastal Growers’ Market
Lafayette Mill
650 Ten Rod Road
North Kingstown, RI
Every Saturday from 10am to 1pm until May 2, 2015

Our first year at the Brown Street Park Halloween Parade.

Our first year at the Brown Street Park Halloween Parade.

I grew up in New York City, which meant that on Halloween, I put on a costume and trick-or-treated in my apartment building, which as I recall was a quick run through a few neighbors in brightly lit and well-heated hallways.

But in the third grade, I went to a friend’s new house on Long Island for Halloween. And that has always felt like my first real Halloween–crunching on autumn leaves in the dark, shivering in costume, and skipping from house to house to gather more candy than even I can eat.

The first year that we moved to Providence, our neighbors mentioned that there was a Halloween event at Brown Street Park, so we decided to go. Of course, we had no idea that it included free games and treats for the kids and a costume parade throughout the East Side led by Providence’s own What Cheer? Brigade. Needless to say, it was a hit, and we’ve been back every year.

This year will mark the 8th Annual Halloween Celebration and Parade at Brown Street Park, which will take place on Friday, October 31 from 4 pm-5:30 pm. For more information, visit www.friendsofbrownstreetpark.org.

Hot wieners

The star of the show.

Guest post by Allan Miller

“Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog.” Fateful, if slightly existential, and somewhat paraphrased, words from Sigmund Freud. But apparently Freud never had the occasion to visit Olneyville New York System in Providence, because sometimes a hot dog is not just a hot dog, but is instead an Olneyville New York System hot wiener.

Ambiance

Don’t go for the atmosphere.

You won’t want to visit for the faintly greasy-spoon ambiance. You won’t want to visit for the diner-like menu. No, you’ll be going for the same thing that lured me there three times in one week during my short stay in Providence: these are quite frankly the best hot dogs that I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. And I’ve had a lot of hot dogs.

But don’t call them hot dogs. Follow the lead of the friendly and boisterous staff and call them by their true name: hot wieners. Freud would be proud that his name and the name of these heavenly delights share the same Germanic roots.

Here’s your quick tour guide to Olneyville. Get there about 12:30 AM, when life is just starting for the place. Order two hot wieners “all the way” (with meat sauce, grilled onions, mustard, and celery salt), a coffee milk, and a plate of fries. The coffee milk is just a giant glass of milk (take your Lactaid on the way there) with a tinge of coffee flavoring, and serves as an unexpected and delightful complement to the main course. The fries are nothing to write blogs about, but are pretty good and serve as a nice side dish.

Olneyville New York System is something you don’t want to miss if you are in Providence. It’s definitely worth breaking your low-carb diet, as it did mine. See you there in the wee hours.

Olneyville New York System
18 Plainfield Street
Providence, RI
http://olneyvillenewyorksystem.com/

Thin crust, the right ratio of tomato to cheese -- it looks like a New York pizza.

Thin crust, the right ratio of tomato to cheese — it looks like a New York pizza.

When a friend who grew up in Long Island posted on Facebook that she discovered the “same pizza [she] ate as a little girl,” I knew where we’d be eating out next.

Of course, nothing can ever beat Mario’s Restaurant for me, but there are plenty of New York pizzas that I still love when I’m back in New York City — Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, and Joe’s, to name a few. But since we moved to Providence, I have searched to no avail for an authentic New York pizza. Well, finally, it has arrived.

Last night, at The Pepperoni Grill, we ordered two large pizzas — a pepperoni and a plain. I was impressed with its thin crust, its fresh tomato taste and ‘right’ amount of cheese — this is the New York pizza I remember. The restaurant itself is nothing fancy — but that’s exactly the appropriate ambiance for an authentic NY pizza, in my opinion.

The restaurant has opened so recently that they don’t yet have menus or a credit card processing machine, and they’re not even listed yet on Yelp. They expect to be have their full menu (with salads and pasta dishes) at the end of July. We met the owner, who is a New York transplant who has decided to make a go of it in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He ships his tomatoes from Brooklyn–he says he can’t find anything comparable locally. And he said he plans on having several salads with fresh mozzarella. And as if it couldn’t get any better–they deliver within a three-mile radius, which just barely makes it to our house in Providence.

They also sell them by the slice.

They also sell them by the slice.

The Pepperoni Grill
287 Pawtucket Avenue
Pawtucket, RI
http://thepepperonigrillri.com/

It starts out as a bus...

It starts out as a bus…

...and turns into a boat.

…and turns into a boat.

For a year, I lived directly across the street from one of the boarding locations for the Boston Duck Tours. I lost count of how many times tourists waved and quacked at me.

But that fact made me no less excited when we discovered one of the amphibious WWII vehicles boarding passengers at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

The vehicle tours around the scenic drive of the park, then dives into Cunliff Lake for a boat ride. And they let both my daughters take turns driving the boat, which most certainly never happened in Boston.

Roger Williams Duck Boat Tours
https://www.providenceri.com/parks-and-rec/boating

 

Summer = ice cream

Summer = ice cream

It has long been no mystery to my friends that any day that includes both swimming and ice cream is a ’10’ in my assessment. Maybe that’s why The Sweet Spot in Narragansett remains one of my favorite ice cream shops in the state — I don’t think I have ever been there without having first spent the day swimming at the beach. Although I usually come from one of the many beaches within a short driving distance, Sweet Spot happens to be located directly on the water, in front of Salty Brine State Beach, so close that it may even be possible to be swimming while eating ice cream.

They have the usual flavors — vanilla, chocolate, strawberry — and all are homemade, but I usually go for their Black Raspberry Chip (yogurt or ice cream) or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or, my favorite, Coconut Chip.

The Sweet Spot
256 Great Island Rd.
Narragansett, RI

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