Archive for September, 2010

Homemade sweets are on the move via the Sugarush Truck.

Last night, I ate the last of the half dozen homemade “ring dings” my friend brought me from Roasting Plant in New York — quite literally, a bittersweet moment.

But I’m happy to report that today I found a worthwhile substitute.

Classic coconut cupcake

Perhaps it’s my childhood memories of the ice cream man, but there’s something I love about ordering something sweet from a truck.  Of course, these days my standards are a bit higher than a Hood Chocolate Eclair or a Fun Dip (although I’m still known to eat either when the occasion presents itself). However, I’ve met my match with the Sugarush Truck, which has arrived to make its rounds serving up perfectly delicious homemade cupcakes and other sweets.

Today, we checked the truck’s whereabouts on Twitter and found them parked at Providence’s Lippitt Park. The menu consisted of three cupcake choices — classic coconut, chocolate with salted caramel, and a vegan meyer lemon with lavender — as well as homemade whoopie pies. I tried the classic coconut — a soft, moist cupcake with the right balance of icing topped with shredded coconut — and a whoopie pie — a perfectly fluffy chocolate cake surrounding a sweet cream frosting, which could have used a bit less sugar in my unprofessional opinion, but nonetheless delicious.  Mmm.  Some things are even better as an adult.

You can be sure to find me following them around town.

Whoopie pie

Sugarush Truck
www.sugarushtruck.com
Find out where they are on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sugarushtruck
On Facebook at www.facebook.com/sugarushtruck

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Playing in the cozy caves of Underland


Last winter, the Providence Children’s Museum raised funds partly to launch two new outdoor exhibits — Underland and The Climber. Underland has since become one of Madeline’s favorite exhibits. The cave of gnarled trees and dark tunnels with a knotty wood table and wooden chairs appeals to children’s fort-building instincts. Not surprisingly, Madeline’s spent the bulk of her last few visits to the museum in Underland digging in the sand, dressing in animal costumes, and preparing pretend meals with slices of wood and carved cups. She’s been so busy, she hasn’t even yet noticed The Climber…

Underland at the Providence Children’s Museum
100 South Street
Providence, RI  02903
www.childrenmuseum.org/exhibits/underland.asp

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A shiny apple picked from the tree

Madeline proudly displays her conquest.

There’s nothing quite like biting an apple taken directly from the tree — so crisp, a little bit tart, and absolutely delicious.  On the advice of a friend, we decided to drive to Smithfield’s “Apple Valley” to Jaswell’s Farm. A fourth generation family farm, they have acres of apple trees you can wander through to fill up bags of apples for $1.50 per pound. Right now, cortland and macintosh apples were ripe for the picking. They also have a field to pick-your-own pumpkins and another to pick flowers. Jaswell’s is famous for their handmade candy apples and their fresh cider which is milled and pasteurized on the premises. Their daily farm stand offers a selection of locally grown and homemade baked goods, jams and produce.

Madeline loved hunting among the low branches to find the reddest apples. Needless to say, we came home with three big bags filled with 17 pounds of apples. Now, someone needs to bake some pies…

Jaswell’s Farm
pick-your-own apples and pumpkins continues through most of October
50 Swan Rd
Smithfield, RI
www.jaswellsfarm.com

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A Year in Providence

Our garden started out promising enough this spring...

It’s been one year since we moved into our house in Providence — officially making it the longest we’ve lived anywhere in six years.

So perhaps, it’s no wonder, we’re a bit restless.

Our untended garden now has begun to look more like a jungle.

In getting to know Providence, I’ve mostly been pleasantly surprised. Before moving here, I’d spent months visiting playgrounds in Boston with Madeline talking to moms who were friendly enough, but kept their distance. In contrast, on our first outing to the Brown Street Park in Providence, one of the moms invited me to lunch at her house, and another offered me her email and phone number. All I could think was: I got digits!

Although Providence is a city, there is much about it that feels more like a small town. Even in our year here, I’ve discovered people I’ve met know one another — I met a local doctor with his son at Three Sisters once and a few weeks later ran into them at a birthday party of another friend’s son. It’s that small town vibe, I’m convinced, that makes it a bit more civilized. You can’t really honk at someone who might turn out to be a parent at your kid’s school.

I also love our community of neighbors — we chat when we run into each other, we get each others’ newspapers when we’re away, and much to Madeline’s delight, we watched our neighbors’ fish a few times. One time, a neighbor cooked a delicious rhubarb pie and brought us half. That doesn’t happen in New York — at least not the New York that I grew up in — and not in Boston either.

As far as getting around, Providence I’d say is as convenient as Boston — you still need to drive often, although we can walk to restaurants, coffee shops, the post office, and bookstores. I stand by my initial instinct on this: in New York City, you don’t need a car which is positively liberating whereas in Boston you do, but traffic and poor city planning make driving an absolutely enraging experience. In Providence, driving just isn’t stressful. And we’ve managed just fine with only one car (and a Zipcar membership for occasions). In fact, the ease of getting around here has inspired us to explore surrounding towns and sights — it takes mere minutes to head out to ‘rural’ or coastal Rhode Island. And Providence surprisingly boasts plenty of excellent restaurants for its size, which I somewhat expected since even a friend who hated Providence conceded before our move — you will eat well. We still haven’t found dynamite Thai food, but that’s hard to come by in Boston as well (and even in our NYC neighborhood). For that, apparently, you need to go to Thailand.

Of course, Providence has a long way to go as a livable city. It’s an underdog with a murky reputation and corrupt political history. We need more business incentives and less obstacles to bring more jobs here. We need better transportation, like the proposed streetcar, to link diverse parts of the city. Still, I believe it’s a city worth fighting for, and I was buoyed to see Angel Taveras win the democrat candidacy for mayor. There’s a lot to be said for a smart, eager upstart with vision taking the helm.

The current state of our bathroom, currently "under renovation."

So then why our restlessness? Are we doomed to go wandering the earth again in search of what — I’m not sure? Or will we somehow squelch the urge? I’ll admit that part of our discontent derives from our house itself. Although I adore our house, what can you expect from a hundred-year-old house? Everything needs work. And it’s all a lot more expensive than I had thought. Geoff has long had this theory about the burden of ownership — even if you own a lawn mower, it requires a certain amount of maintenance in its lifetime. You need to buy gasoline for it, have it repaired, etc. So how much of your free time then does a car absorb or worse, a house? And worst of all, an old, out-of-date house?

I think left to my own devices I would probably let the yard and the house fall into disrepair. Geoff says I have a Grey Gardens approach to home ownership. If a 40-year-old brittle blind tears, I roll it up so you can’t tell. And when a toilet breaks, I think — let’s just close off that bathroom — we’ve got others. But Geoff would rather not live with leaking toilets, a yard full of weeds and dying trees, peeling lead paint on the windows, and a 50-year-old heating system. I guess I can’t really blame him. So we’ve begun the renovation of one bathroom, and have found the time, the cost and the hassle all a bit more than we’d like.

Is this what makes so many “grown-ups” jaded? If we keep moving and never own anything, even a toaster, can we ward that off? I do know that our years living nomadically had a perpetual abandon to them. Don’t like this apartment? Let’s find another! Hate this city? There’s lots more to chose from! And although we suffered the futility of grievances that accompany a lack of ownership — the smoke alarms routinely blaring, a too-small hot water tank, a bad smell often drifting in the hallway — there was the freedom in knowing: this is only temporary.

And therein lies our struggle — are we here to stay? Even after a year, we find we can’t commit. Loyalty to place perhaps doesn’t come naturally to either Geoff or me. I suppose we are like a perpetual bachelor who falls in love, but still ponders: is there something better out there? And, if so, where? We’ve lived in enough places to rule out some of the seemingly best options. Still France still looms as an imagined oasis. Although considering I wouldn’t send Madeline to the French-American School because it seemed too strict, I’m not sure how I’d stomach sending her to an all-French school in France? We’ve also pondered San Francisco since it’s another technology hub and home to so many of our friends, but do we want to move that far away from family?

Of course, I’m tired of moving and searching. The less glamorous part of the nomadic life is that you spend half your time packing and unpacking and the other half searching for a place to live. It hasn’t been long enough for me to forget that. And I’m not sure I have it in me again, at least right now. Plus, I like it here. Despite, or maybe partly because of, our aging dame of a house and the risky bet of this city, I might even love it here. But is that enough?

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Two burgers are definitely better than one.

Two aren’t always better than one, except as it turns out, in the case of hamburgers. The recently opened Harry’s Bar & Burger grills up freshly ground certified Hereford beef burgers and serves them on toasted potato rolls with their own special sauce and a variety of your choice of toppings. The novelty here is that rather than one large burger, you get two “sliders” or mini burgers, which makes for an absolutely sublime balance of burger, bun and toppings. My personal favorite is the Harry’s Classic Cheese, but there are plenty of choices for all sensibilities. You’ll also want to order a side of their thin crispy fries, and if you still need more calories (sometimes I do), a homemade milkshake.

Since it opened, I’ve been here about a half a dozen times, and I’ve never been disappointed. The service is efficient; the food is excellent; and they’ve got walls covered with chalkboard paint so Madeline can draw on them while we wait for our food. I simply couldn’t ask for more.

Harry’s Bar & Burger
121 North Main Street
Providence, RI
www.harrysbarburger.com

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Arriving at the Rustic Tri-View Drive-in.

Until last night, my impression of drive-ins derived largely from a few scenes from Grease. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite like that — it was better. Currently the only active drive-in theater in Rhode Island, the Rustic Tri-View houses a triangular design of three screens and fits over 500 cars. Despite the line to get in, there was plenty of space to park (even when we had to get back in our car and move because we wound up facing the wrong screen showing a Samuel L. Jackson shoot-fest instead of the animated Despicable Me).

Waiting for dusk at the drive-in.

Even though drive-ins weren’t part of my childhood, I found there’s something charmingly nostalgic about driving your car into the movies. It only took us about 20 minutes from Providence to arrive at theater in the ‘rural’ town of North Smithfield, but it felt like another world. We brought some beach chairs and blankets so we could sit outside next to the car on the cool night (blasting the car radio so we could hear the dialogue). Some people even lounged on airbeds. It’s a popular outing with kids, and for good reason — with people more spread out, talking during the film (or getting up to go the bathroom or snack bar) doesn’t disturb other viewers.

As a summer outing, their peak schedule is in July and August, but they continue to show films on Friday and Saturday nights through September 25. For $20 per car, you can watch two films back-to-back. I’m hoping they start screening a new kid-friendly film before the season ends, but I might be willing to see Despicable Me again.  And movie snob that I am, that’s saying a lot.

Rustic Tri-Vew Drive-in
showings continue Friday & Saturday nights through September 25, 2010
Route 146
North Smithfield, RI
www.yourneighborhoodtheatre.com/theaters.php?ID=7312

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