WaterFire Providence


Providence alights with WaterFire.

Tonight, the final fires of the season blazed for WaterFire in Providence, RI.


Sparks fly on a windy night.

A warm night made it a perfect evening for a walk through the city, although it did get quite windy at times spreading the sparks all over the banks of the river.

The 2010 season will begin in May.


My Milkman: Munroe Dairy Delivery

Munroe Dairy Milk

Yes, we've got milk, and it's fresh and delivered weekly from Munroe Dairy.

For the brief stint that we lived in the suburbs of Massachusetts, we had fresh milk delivered from Crescent Ridge Dairy.  I adored this creamy milk delivered in recycled glass bottles.  But no dairy delivers in Boston, and who could blame them?  The traffic would surely consume any possible profits.

So it was with great enthusiasm that Geoff and I recently spotted a Munroe Dairy delivery box on a friend’s Providence stoop.  Soon after, we placed our first order — Bliss Bros. cookies & cream ice cream and raspberry sherbet, Autocrat coffee syrup, and of course milk, both whole and 1%.  This week, we expanded the order to include chocolate milk (tastes like melted ice cream — in other words , delicious), apple cider, bread, and eggs.  You can nearly do your grocery shopping through them — they even deliver laundry detergent.  I was a bit disappointed to discover some of their products are not all that natural.  For example, the bread contains partially hydrogenated oil, and the ice cream has corn syrup.  As for the milk?  Well, just imagine how good milk can taste when it only takes 24-36 hours to get from the cow to you.  Yes, it is that good.

A.B. Munroe Dairy
Delivery throughout RI (except Block Island)
151 N. Brow Street
East Providence, RI 02914

Chez Pascal: Market Menu Mondays


Sweet escargots but was it intentional?

We had planned to go to Tini, a new downtown Providence bar and restaurant serving tiny, tasty dishes, but discovered they are closed Monday nights.  So is Al Forno.  So is Farmstead.  Just as I was starting to think Monday might be the worst night to try to have an elegant and delicious dinner in Providence, I found Chez Pascal open.  Better yet, they offered their special “Market Menu Mondays” featuring all dishes created solely from local ingredients purchased at the nearby markets and farms.

We chose all our dishes from the Market Menu.  Well, except for escargots.  Oddly they were quite sweet which I didn’t notice until Geoff guessed that they had accidentally sugared not salted them.  The waiter attributed it to the pernod, but we never did hear the official word on that from the chef.  Still, we gladly ate them — once we added a bit of salt they tasted a bit more familiar.  Although much breadier than their Paris counterparts, the escargots were just as tender and perfectly paired with some toasted parsley-scented brioche. 


Cortland apple crumble with lemon verbana ice cream.

For an appetizer, I ordered the fresh crisp greens with cortland apples, ginger pecans and sweet honey vinaigrette.  Geoff had the hearty escarole and potato soup.  For entrees, the Market Menu choices were meat (angus strip steak) or more meat (brined pork chop) so we ordered both.  The salty, blackened crust on the steak balanced the tender rare interior, and a sweet sauce complemented the pork chop and braised red cabbage.  Both were terrific.  We shared the baked cortland apple with rolled oat crumble and lemon verbena ice cream. Overall, Chez Pascal was a pleasant surprise, and I was glad to see the restaurant full and the bar humming. There is restaurant life in Providence on a Monday night, after all. Just make it an early night — the kitchen closes at 9 pm.

Chez Pascal
960 Hope Street
Providence, RI

Three Sisters: Breakfast, Lunch and Ice Cream

Three Sisters café -- a cup of coffee and coffee ice cream.

Three Sisters café -- a cup of coffee and coffee ice cream.

I first discovered Three Sisters when I needed an oil change in a hurry.  The East Side Shell service center said they could squeeze me in, but that I’d have to wait a few hours.  Having work to do, I quickly googled for a free wifi café nearby and found Three Sisters two doors down.  All I wanted was an iced tea and a place to work for a few hours.  What I discovered was much more — a thick, gooey egg and cheese sandwich on an english muffin and an atmosphere that welcomed earnest laptop users and moms with strollers alike.

Anyone noticing a theme?  A yummy chocolate ice cream cone from Three Sisters -- I won't tell anyone if you eat it for breakfast.

Anyone noticing a theme? A yummy chocolate ice cream cone from Three Sisters -- I won't tell anyone if you eat it for breakfast.

Today, the East Side Shell brought me back to Three Sisters since this morning we had a flat tire.  I’ve been meaning to try their homemade ice cream, but keep showing up there at breakfast.  In fact, I have nothing against eating an ice cream cone at 10 am, which is why I bought a pint of chocolate and some cones and took them home to eat.  It’s a grittier chocolate — you can feel and taste the cocoa — but absolutely perfectly thick and creamy.  Oh, and they also sell Only 8, a highly addictive frozen yogurt safe for dieters, diabetics, and those with lactose-intolerance.  Yet I have the strange feeling that I won’t be getting the Only 8 next time either…

Three Sisters
1074 Hope Street
Providence, RI

East Side Shell
1100 Hope Street
Providence, RI

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

I usually take issue with things named spectacular, but I have to admit in the case of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, the name fits.  The sheer number of pumpkins sacrificed to the cause of creating this glowing presentation is extraordinary.  You’ll pass hundreds of hand-carved unique faces along the winding path and see the hundreds more lit lanterns shimmering in the trees and across the ponds.

Each evening it starts at 6pm, although sunset comes a bit later.  We arrived at 5:30pm, waited in line, bought our tickets, then meandered near the entrance buying pretzels and drinking coffee.  What we didn’t realize is that there is another queue within the zoo for people to wait until it’s dark enough outside, and there’s plenty of stands (and time) while you’re on that line to buy SuperPretzels (not as deserving of their name).  Despite the line’s seeming to contain the entire population of Rhode Island, once dark descended, it moved fairly well.  And the fiery tribute to one of the prettier traditions of Halloween is truly worth the wait.

Roger Williams Park Zoo
Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular (october 8-November 1, 2009)
Providence, RI

Rhode Iln Ice Cream

A coffee ice cream cone from Rhode iln Ice Cream's stand.

A coffee ice cream cone from Rhode Iln Ice Cream's stand.

After a bungled attempt to find ice cream last weekend, it surprised me to stumble upon a great cone just a short walk from our house.  Yesterday, Madeline spotted the little cart of Rhode Iln Ice Cream and demanded, “I want ice cream!”  I have to admit, I almost never say no to ice cream, usually because I want some myself.  Yesterday was no exception, and I replied by immediately getting in line.

Here in Rhode Island, a small is two scoops, a fact I greatly appreciate.  Madeline requested a chocolate cone, so I dolloped off one of her scoops into a spare cup so Geoff and I could have a taste.  It was so pale that I thought it was coffee ice cream at first, but it had a light chocolate malt flavor, not too sweet and perfectly creamy.  In general, I prefer a darker chocolate, but it was quite good, and there were no complaints from Madeline.  The coffee ice cream (my choice) blended just the right amount of subtle coffee flavor with sweet creaminess.  Both were equally smooth and soft (no traces of icicles here).  And as an all-natural treat made with local ingredients, you can feel good about indulging.  At least, I did.

Rhode Iln Ice Cream sets up a stand at farmers' markets and Water Fire.

Rhode Iln Ice Cream sets up a stand at farmers' markets and Water Fire.

Sadly, Rhode Iln Ice Cream doesn’t have its own store which makes them a bit elusive.   Right now, you can find them at the Hope Street and Rhode Island College Farmers’ Markets, as well as WaterFire (one more this season scheduled on October 31).  Founded by 20-something co-owners Tom Seiter and Jocelyn Nestell in 2008, the company’s success has already prompted them to increase their locations this year.  Their future plans even include packaging their ice cream for supermarkets.  Seeing as the farmers’ markets and WaterFire both end this month,  I’m hoping those future plans come to fruition soon.  I’ll certainly be buying.

Rhode Iln Ice Cream


Schartner Farms: Hay Ride, Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

Over the weekend, we spent a day with our family at Schartner Farms in Exeter, RI.  The farm stand alone is an impressive sight– in autumn, they sell over a dozen crops grown on their 85 acres — beets, apples, peppers, carrots, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, string beans, potatoes and of course, pumpkins.  They also offer fruits, vegetables and flowers from other farms so you can pick up staples like lemons when you need them. From their on-site bakery wafts the smell of their pumpkin, apple, and berry pies which are obviously quite popular judging by the volume they churned out last Sunday.

Heading into the corn maze on Schartner Farms.

Heading into the corn maze on Schartner Farms.

The family fun begins with a hay ride which winds you deeper into the farm along dirt roads.  It drops you off at the ‘pumpkin patch’ where you find an assortment of activities for the kids.  Madeline enjoyed the waist-high mini-maze, but gave up quickly on the the larger corn maze which I continued on alone.  Their maze is based on a quiz  — this year’s theme was insects so the questions centered on the peculiarities of mosquitos, dragonflies, cockroaches and more.  For example, how long can a cockroach survive without it’s head?  The right answer leads you to the correct path.  Let’s just say it took me a little while to get out of there — I apparently don’t know much about insects.

They also have a number of photo ops in addition to their pumpkin patch like their enormous funky scarecrows, Halloween-themed pictures to poke your head through and some larger-than-life cartoonish bugs.  You’ll also find a handful of carnival-like games (guess the number, ball toss).

After you’re done, you take the slightly bumpier hay ride back to the farm entrance and by then you’re certainly ready for a snack (or at least we were).  No need to leave, you can get hot dogs, their custom soft drinks and tasty french fries made on the spot with their own fresh farm potatoes.  For dessert, pick up a slice of one of their pies (we preferred the crispy apple pie to the pumpkin).

French fries freshly made from farm potatoes.

French fries freshly made from farm potatoes.

On your way out, you can pick up a pumpkin (if you hadn’t already at the pumpkin patch).  At their stand, they have all shapes and sizes — tiny ironsides to ones large enough to need two hands and your full attention to carry.  They even have a collection of decorated and painted pumpkins which come with names like “Grumpy Dave” and “Scary Mary.”

Shartner Farms
Route 2 and 1 Arnold Place
Exeter, RI

Oatley’s Restaurant

French toast and corned beef & hash at Oatley's Restaurant.

French toast and corned beef & hash at Oatley's Restaurant.

My dad has lived in Rhode Island for my entire life, but since my parents have been divorced for most of that, my childhood in the Ocean State comprised of a few weeks in the summer.  The rest of the time, my dad dutifully drove down to wherever I was living (somewhere in New York or Connecticut) every other weekend.  I’d joke that he was as reliable as the post office, delivering himself on my doorstep through rain, sleet and snow.  So it’s no wonder our moving to Rhode Island would evoke his enthusiasm.  The other day, he stopped by to mow our lawn.

And this morning, he and my step-mom (who Madeline calls Grand-Donna) treated us to brunch at Oatley’s Restaurant in North Kingstown, RI.  Even the name of it, I liked.  From the outside, it has the woodsy charm of a country store and inside it’s an old fashioned restaurant with several tables and a counter dishing out homemade comfort food.  At 10 am there was a bit of a line, which I took as a good sign.  Since they make their own breads and muffins, I chose the french toast made with raisin bread.  French toast on homemade bread can sometimes be dry especially if it’s sliced too thickly, but this was perfectly eggy and not too sweet.  (I’m glad to report that they don’t blanket their french toast with a mound of powdered sugar).  With some crisp, meaty bacon on the side, it made my ideal brunch.

Oatley’s Restaurant
717 Ten Rod Road
North Kingstown, RI

From Gray’s Ice Cream to Newport Creamery (or Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me Ice Cream Season Was Over?)

Not a bad consolation prize: the all-Oreo ice cream sandwich from Newport Creamery.

Not a bad consolation prize: the all-Oreo ice cream sandwich from Newport Creamery.

I’ve had some darn good ice cream in Rhode Island which is why I’ve been eager to check out the serial Best of Rhode Island winner Gray’s Ice Cream. Deciding it wasn’t wise to promise a two-year old ice cream, get in the car for a half hour and then not actually get it, I opted to call first. Apparently, there’s no phone in their new Bristol shop, but the Tiverton staff member I spoke with assured me they would be open until 9 pm today in Bristol. After our scenic drive, we hopped out of our car and headed to Gray’s Ice Cream’s picture-perfect dockside building. Imagine our horror to find that same building dark and locked.

Don't believe everything you read.

Don't believe everything you read: Gray's Ice Cream's posted hours.

Immediately, I called the Tivertown branch to inform them (much to their surprise) that there was, in fact, no one working at the Bristol store but there wasn’t much they could do. Since we had come all that way, we took a walk through the charming waterfront town of Bristol and stopped in at Organically Good and Quito’s (opposite ends of the culinary spectrum). We learned that since it had been raining all day, no one had really come to Bristol — for all we know, we were the only ones peering into the dark windows of Gray’s Ice Cream. A few blocks away was The Daily Scoop, but it too was closed, this time more officially for the season. I then tried calling the next closest place, Frostee’s Ice Cream and Desserts in Warren, RI, but there was no answer. So we resigned ourselves to an old standby: Newport Creamery. We had passed one on the way down in Barrington and were so confident they’d be open we didn’t even call first.

I’ve eaten at Newport Creamery dozens of times over the past several years and I have a lukewarm feeling about their food (although fond memories of their Earth & Turf Superburgers). Summers in Newport, I never went there, opting instead for Frosty Freez in Middletown or Cold Fusion in downtown Newport. But it was open, and apparently in October, that’s the main criteria.

An undiscovered treat on the menu caught my eye: the Cow’wich, an ice cream sandwich made with your choice of ice cream smashed between two giant Oreo® cookie wafers. I decided to go all-Oreo choosing cookies & cream ice cream for the middle. It was a good choice. The Oreo® wafers made the perfect crisp counterpart to the rich ice cream. Even just seeing it made Madeline’s sundae look like a meager substitute. And what kid doesn’t like a giant cookie? Needless to say, I had to share.

Sad Update 10/24/2009:  After one of the worst meatball sandwiches at Fellini Pizza, I decided to go for another Cow’wich consolation prize.  But sadly, the Newport Creamery in Warwick, RI has started refrigerating their cookies making them wet and mushy.  I’m not sure yet if this is a company-wide decision, but I’m in mourning nonetheless.

Newport Creamery
296 County Road
Barrington, RI

Organically Good
267 Thames St
Bristol, RI

411 Thames Street
Bristol, RI

Gray’s Ice Cream

Bristol, RI and Tiverton, RI

Cupcakes, Jerk Chicken, Natural Soda (oh, and Fruits and Veggies too) at Providence Downtown Farmers’ Market

Peanut butter cupcake with dark chocolate frosting -- why didn't I think of that?

Peanut butter cupcake with dark chocolate frosting -- why didn't I think of that?

A bit of squash, some onions, certainly apples — these are the things I expected to find at today’s visit to the Providence Downtown Farmers’ Market in Kennedy Plaza. And although it’s a small market, there were certainly enough vendors to satisfy, including some of my favorites from the Newport and Middletown markets — Simmons Farm (squash, lettuce, corn, heritage pork, etc.) and Barden Family Orchard (peaches and apples). I also discovered some new farm vendors — Big Train Farm, Hill Orchards and Heritage Farm.

Madeline wakes in time for The Cupcakerie.

Madeline wakes in time for The Cupcakerie.

What I did not expect to find were cupcakes. Now, I do agree that there is a cupcake bubble. Yet I have to agree with a friend of mine who recently admitted that there’s no ceiling on the price he’s willing to pay for one of those small perfectly iced cakes.   But the disappointing truth is most cupcakes are just awful and usually the better they look, the worse they are.  A trip to New York is worth it if only for a sloppy Magnolia cupcake, but I only needed to try once the delicately designed and lousy imitation cupcakes from Sweet in Boston or Crumbs (from New York to California). So I remained fairly skeptical as we paid $2.75 per impeccably iced cupcake from The Cupcakerie stand at the market today. Our choices: a lemon cupcake for ourselves and a peanut butter with chocolate frosting for Madeline who instinctively awakened from her nap as we approached the stand. I’ve never had a peanut butter cupcake with a smooth dark chocolate frosting, but now that I have, I’ll say, it’s about time. It was one of the softest, tastiest cupcakes I’ve ever had — a perfect balance of light cake and rich frosting.  The lemon cupcake equally impressed us with a simple cake and and heavy-on-the-butter (I’m not complaining) lemon frosting.

The stands at the Providence Downtown Farmers' Market.

The stands at the Providence Downtown Farmers' Market.

The market was full of other wonderful sweet and savory surprises like the fabulously tender jerk chicken from a stand by Tina’s Caribbean Restaurant and a clearly addictive agave-sweetened and purple corn infused soda by Misti.  Oh yes, I’ll be back.  And I’ll try to remember to pick up some fruits and vegetables while I’m there too.

Providence Downtown Farmers’ Market
Kennedy Plaza & Exchange Terrace
Providence, RI
Fridays 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM from June 12 to October 30, 2009

The Cupcakerie


Tina’s Caribbean Restaurant

Simmons Farm

Barden Family Orchard

Heritage Farm