Archive for November, 2009

Locals line up at Hewtin's Dog Mobile at the Roger Williams Memorial Park.

I am usually not the biggest fan of food conceived in a truck, but I have to make an exception for Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile. This gourmet food truck, created by the owners of Chez Pascal, serves up a tasty on-the-go lunch. Emblazoned with their motto, “If it ain’t in a casing, then it’s not worth tasting,” the truck can be found at Roger Williams National Memorial Park and the Pawtucket Winter Farmers’ Market (see below for times). The menu features freshly made soups, sandwiches and sausages — such as a hand-smoked ham with gruyere and apple compote on foccacia and brined pork belly with sunny side up egg sandwich. Of course, you can also opt for a plain old cheeseburger or hot dog (a Grote & Weigel), but even those exceed their ordinary names. Not surprisingly, even their condiments are homemade.

And if you need a little something sweet after your meal, get one of their wonderful chocolate chocolate chip cookies — soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
North Main Street alongside the Roger Williams National Memorial Park
Providence, RI

Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm — during the Pawtucket Winter Farmers’ Market
Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St
Pawtucket, RI

www.chez-pascal.com/HewtinsDogsMobile.htm

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The renovated library at Nathan Bishop Middle School.


Formerly classified as a “school in need of improvement,” Nathan Bishop Middle School seemed a hopeless case just a few years ago. Declining enrollments and lagging scores provoked Superintendent Donnie Evans to announce its closure in 2006. But the Providence East Side community drew together in a network of support which eventually led to a 35 million dollar renovation and subsequent reopening of the school this year with a class of approximately 250 sixth graders.

This evening, the East Side public school hosted an open house with congratulatory speeches from Mayor David N. Cicilline, Providence Councilman Cliff Wood, a current student and former alum. Then neighbors and visitors took to the halls to explore past rows of shiny maroon lockers into their state-of-the-art science lab; art room; basketball courts; library packed with books and rows of new Dell computers; renovated historic theater; and classrooms equipped with smart boards.

Although it’ll be nearly a decade until my daughter enters the sixth grade, it was quite inspiring to see my city taking on the renovation of a school. Hopefully, there are more to come.

Nathan Bishop Middle School
www.providenceschools.org/schools/middle-schools/bishop.aspx

East Side Public Education Coalition
http://www.eastsideed.org/

Councilman Cliff Wood
www.councilmancliff.com

Other Articles:

Renovation makes Nathan Bishop the school of choice

A second life for Nathan Bishop Middle School

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nicks

In my continued search for the Rhode Island equivalent to the world’s best pancakes, we decided to pick a place for brunch this morning.  One of our readers had recommended Nick’s on Broadway, which sounded great from the reviews.  At 9:30 am this morning, there was already a substantial wait, although that’s not such a bad thing on a warm, sunny day.  After about 30 minutes, they offered us three counter seats together where we directly faced the open kitchen.  I love this.  Not only can you see the action, but you can scope out all the dishes and decide what looks good.

g-brunch

Geoff's breakfast: sliced ham and Eggs Benedict.

In my continued search for the Rhode Island equivalent to the world’s best pancakes, we decided to pick a place for brunch this morning. One of our readers had recommended Nick’s on Broadway, which sounded great from the reviews.

Although I had planned on pancakes, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist getting something that came with what appeared to be the best-looking hash browns ever.  Luckily Madeline always wants pancakes, so we ordered her a short stack (in the shape of Micky Mouse) so I could try them too, and I chose a bacon and cheese omelet with an english muffin and hash browns.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.  The omelet had been perfectly cooked (not runny yet no traces of brown), and the hash browns were as good as they looked: a mix of regular and sweet cut potatoes sauteed with red onions.  As for the pancakes, they were just okay.  It seems they put cinnamon in their batter, a strange choice in my opinion.  Madeline didn’t mind, but I, well, you know.  We’ll be back, but the quest for the best pancakes must continue.


Nick’s on Broadway
500 Broadway
Providence, RI 02909
www.nicksonbroadway.com

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apples

Apples aplenty at the first Pawtucket Winter Farmers' Market. These are from Hill Orchard in Johnston, Rhode Island.

Today marked the opening day of the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market season.  Held inside the the central atrium of the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket,  the market gathers over a dozen farms, bakeries, and other vendors come together.

pawtucketmarket

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers' Market

I have a penchant for farmers markets, it’s true, but this one may be my Rhode Island favorite. First of all, it’s such a wonderful concept to begin a market’s season in November, when all the rest have already ended.  Winter can be so barren in New England, and it’s nice to know that whatever can be grown in the coming months (presumably indoors), I’ll be able to buy.  According to Farm Fresh RI, the market offers lettuces, greens, apples, potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, radishes, fresh herbs, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and winter squash all year round.  And of course, the meats (from grass-fed beef to pastured pork) along with cheeses, jams, honey, maple syrup, milk, and eggs will certainly be available year-round.

The architecture of the building reminded us a bit of Chelsea Market in New York, but in fact the market itself is more like a Paris market where you’ll find everything you need for a balanced meal — bread, meat, legumes, cheese.  You’ll also find local sweet and savory vendors such as The Cupcakerie, Olga’s Cup+Saucer, Seven Stars Bakery, Kafe’ Lila (for ice cream), Tina’s Caribbean Food, and even Hewtin’s Dogs (Chez Pascal’s food truck) so you can stop for lunch and dessert as well as get your food shopping done.

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 11am-2pm from November 7, 2009 to May 29, 2010
Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI
www.farmfresh.org/food/farmersmarkets_details.php?market=29

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Pot au Feu

wines

Wine and champagne bottles line the perimeter of Pot au Feu.

We first stumbled upon Pot au Feu as we were walking aimlessly around downtown Providence.  The menu looked great — a traditional rustic French with some unique twists.  As I peered in the window, I could read a posted quote from Julia Child who apparently adored the place.  And it’s been there since 1972.  These are all things that seem to come together to make a truly stellar restaurant, so I was somewhat surprised to discover it only earned 3 1/2 stars on Yelp.  But that didn’t stop us.  We in Providence and are here to stay, and as such feel it’s our duty to try things ourselves that intrigue us.  What do Yelp users know anyway?

So last night we dined at Pot au Feu.  It’s a bit like walking into a cave, and when I say that I also mean a French cave, meaning “wine cellar.”  The brick walls lined with bottles of wine and champagne (even a sabered salmanazar) create a festive and cozy atmosphere.  It seemed odd that there were only two other tables occupied on a Thursday night — how they can have such a large menu with such a thin crowd?

snails

Escargots served in their shells

To make up for that, we decided to order all the courses, as well as a bottle of wine.  We started with the escargots — a classic French dish perfect for setting the standard.  The snails were perfect in their shells with a buttery garlic and parsley sauce.   The bread could have been better, however.  It was warmed which was a nice touch, but just not very good (or fresh perhaps).

All entrees come with a salad so that came next, along with their two homemade dressings — a creamy mustard and a raspberry vinaigrette.  Our server recommended mixing them together, which we did (he was right).  Of course, we had ‘upgraded’ ours to include blue cheese which was sprinkled atop and a welcome addition.

For dinner, Geoff had the boeff bourguignonne — a plate of deliciously tender braised meat with a decadent gratin dauphinoise (potatoes with cheese and cream — a winning combination).  I had the sirloin steak which was a thick cut and yet a juicy medium as I had requested.  The baked sweet potato and broccoli were fine, although even I can make those.  I was more impressed by the sweet winter squash served in its skin.

Dessert came next.  I ordered the pot du chocolate, which was topped with delicious fresh unsweetened whip cream.   The chocolate had great flavor; although since the cup had been refrigerated, it was a bit colder than it should be.  Geoff had the vanilla bean mousse — a delicious spin on an old favorite.

Overall, a wonderful meal.  Not cheap at $160, but we did have a lovely four-course meal with wine and steak.  It’s clear the chef puts a great deal of effort into his preparations and cares about his customers.  After I started eating my steak, the server came over to say the chef wanted to make sure it was cooked to my liking.  I said yes, but his real answer came by the fact that I finished every bite.

Pot au Feu
44 Custom House Street
Providence RI 02903
www.potaufeuri.com

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Providence Steel Yard Iron Pour

A giant jack-o-lantern blazes at the Steel Yard's Annual Iron Pour.

Sometimes I wonder how Geoff hears about these things.  With little prior warning or details, we drove out the other night to The Steel Yard to witness their annual Iron Pour.  We arrived a bit after the ‘performance’ had begun, and there was already a significant crowd (of taller people) blocking the view to the action.  We literally couldn’t see anything.  We imagined something fascinating happening since every so often we would hear a collective ahh and see sparks fly out from the center of The Steel Yard.

Madeline happily viewed the show from Geoff’s shoulders.  However, I was most definitely not happy.  All I could see was the backs of people’s heads, and smoke from the fires our blew into our faces.  Upon complaining loudly, a neighboring observer (if you could call him that since he couldn’t see anything either) told us that the crowd had doubled from last year.  The bleachers, which were full, had been brought in this morning in anticipation of a larger crowd.  Yet it still struck me as so odd how so many people remained attentively facing the center although they couldn’t see a darn thing.  Not me.  I was ready to go.

Iron Pour

Stoking the fire at the annual Iron Pour.

On our way out, we happened to find less obstructed, if more distant, view of the Iron Pour.  From here we could see the iron workers stoking the fires of the furnaces, and the blazing Jack-O-Lantern.  When they would pour the molten metal, sparks scattered across the yard.  We lingered a bit longer to watch.  Madeline truly loved the display, so much so that she started to protest loudly when we announced we were leaving.  It’s a good thing there was a man making balloon pumpkins — it made the perfect parting gift.

The Steel Yard
Their 5,612 square foot industrial shop is a multi-use venue featuring studios where artists craft ceramics, glass and jewelry, as well as shops for welding, metal working and blacksmithing.  Classes are offered on the premises.
27 Sims Avenue
Providence, RI
http://thesteelyard.org

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