Archive for the ‘Middletown’ Category

My surfboard on the sand

My surfboard on the sand

Ah, summer. Finally, we’re together again.

Although I do enjoy ice skating and skiing, for me, they just don’t compare to lying on a warm beach, swimming, and surfing. And in Rhode Island, we’re lucky to find everything we need to enjoy summer right here in the Ocean State.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a list of ten of my favorite ways to spend a day during the summer in Rhode Island. I’d love to hear yours too, so post in the comments below!

1.  Surf, Beach, and Mini-Amusement Park in Narragansett

Photo by Dee and Tula Monstah.

Narragansett Town Beach. Photo: Dee and Tula Monstah.

For more low-key (read: novice) surfers like myself, Narragansett Town Beach generally offers small (one to three foot) waves, and the water tends to be freer of seaweed than some other local surf beaches. You can set up a surf lesson in Narragansett or rent a board with Warm Winds Surf Shop or Narragansett Surf & Skate, or just head out with your own board. The beach is separated by a surf side and a swim side, so if you’re only up for swimming, you can head to the other side of the beach. Note that Narragansett Town Beach has a fee both for parking and for entrance on the beach.

Prepare to get wet on the bumper boats...

The bumper boats at Adventureland.

For lunch, I love Crazy Burger, which has a great selection of burgers, salads and sandwiches for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

If that’s not enough action for the day, then we’ll stop at Adventureland, a miniature amusement park with a carousel, bumper boats and a kids’ raceway.

We usually like to pick up some local seafood at Champlin’s to cook at home later (likely stopping for some ice cream at the Sweet Spot while we’re there), and picking up some local corn at Sunsets Farm on the way home.

2. Bike Ride and Lunch Along the Bay

Stopping along the East Bay  Bike Path.

Stopping along the East Bay Bike Path.

If it’s not too hot, one of my favorite things to do is take a bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which follows the coastline of the bay between East Providence down to Bristol, Rhode Island. The ride isn’t terribly hilly, and it’s so peaceful to ride along the water.

I like to stop along the way at the Audubon Society in Bristol to explore their outdoor grounds or indoor museum.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray's Ice Cream.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray’s Ice Cream.

Although the food is underwhelming, it’s hard to beat the view at Agave in Bristol. Save room for ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream, which is one of my favorites.

3. Rocky Coast Hike and View of the Bay in Jamestown

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown.

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park.

When I’m up for a more adventurous activity, I love to hike up Fort Wetherill in Jamestown. It’s a fairly easy walk, even with children, and the views of Narragansett Bay are fantastic. If you think ahead, you can pack a picnic lunch. Or, you can make your way into the town of Jamestown to pick a spot along the water.

There’s also the Jamestown Community Playground for kids that need to let off steam before or after their meal.

4. Beach, Boats, Kites and Seafood in Newport and Middletown

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

I usually skip Newport’s Easton’s Beach (“First Beach”) in Newport, and head to Sachuest Beach (“Second Beach”) in Middletown, Rhode Island. The water tends to be freer of seaweed, although the seagulls remain as aggressive as ever here, which is why I don’t recommend lunch on the beach. Plus, who needs lunch when you can go straight from the beach to Frosty Freez for delicious soft-serve.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

We always like to try to make time to take a drive along the coast on Ocean Drive, stopping at Brenton Point State Park, which typically makes for a great kite-flying spot.

We’ve also spent many pleasant hours over the years in the rental boats available at Sail Newport in Fort Adams State Park.

For dinner, I usually head to Flo’s Clam Shack for my favorite lobster roll and clamcakes. Or if I’m in the mood for a more relaxing sit-down dinner, then I head to  Scales & Shells for local seafood or Mamma Luisa for homemade Italian, both favorites that have stood the test of time.

5. Pool, Cake and a Drive-in Movie

Pool-time.

Pool-time.

Although I do love the ocean, swimming in a pool can often be much easier–no waves and sea creatures to contend with.

If you don’t have access to a pool, see if you can find a friend and get invited by someone with a membership to one (guest fees tend to be about $5-10 per person at local clubs).

Wrights Dairy Farm

Wrights Dairy Farm

After swimming (I like to do laps), I like a treat (shocking, I know). Depending on where I am, I might drive to Eskimo King.

Another one of my favorites is an excursion to Wrights Dairy Farm for some coffee milk and strawberry shortcake.

And what better way to finish a summer evening than with an outdoor movie at the Rustic Tri-View Drive-In?

6. Fishing, Baseball and Fireworks

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

What could be more American? Start with fishing and a ride on the carousel at Slater Memorial Park.

Then head to a Paw Sox game at McCoy Stadium, where you can grab some beers and a Super Pretzel, some shelled peanuts, or hot dog, and spread out on the lawn to watch the game. If you pick a night with fireworks after, then you can end the night with a close-up show.

7. Beach, Cocktails and Oysters

One of my favorite state beaches is East Matunuck Beach–it’s a bit rockier than some, but it’s has a great atmosphere for children. Plus, you can eat at the waterfront Matunuck Oyster Bar before or after. Am I the only one who finds the beach makes them hungry?

If I’m looking for a more lively beach day, I might head down to Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI and have cocktails and lunch at The Andrea’s newly restored bar, right on the beach.

8. An All-Providence Summer Day

Breakfast sandwich from Pat's Pastured.

Breakfast sandwich from Pat’s Pastured.

On Saturday mornings, you’ll typically find us at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market in Lippitt Park, Providence. There are dozens of farm vendors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and throughout the summer, the produce increases in variety. You’ll also find the Pat’s Pastured Pork stand for breakfast sandwiches, or Tallulah Tacos for lunch. There’s even a series of local craft vendors if you want to do additional shopping.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

On other days of the week, I might head to Venda Ravioli, where you can eat outside in DePasquale Square on Atwells Avenue.

You might not think of the zoo as too appealing on a hot summer day, but the Roger Williams Park Zoo now has Hasbro’s Big Backyard with sprinklers and water play for the kids (and I suppose, over-heated adults). Don’t forget to squeeze in a few minutes to see some elephants, giraffes and gorillas while you’re there.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Then, it’s hard to deny the tourist appeal of Providence’s Waterfire. It was the first event that brought us into Providence before we moved here, and its success has led to its adoption in other small cities. It’s one of the only times you’ll see actual traffic in downtown Providence, as a novelty, I appreciate it, especially since I don’t have to drive.

In my ideal day, I’d begin with watching them light the fires, then enjoy a meal at Figidini or Gracie’s, and finish off with a concert at Lupo’s.

9. Berry Picking and Wine Tasting on Aquidneck Island

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

When I get sick of the beach (it takes a lot of beach days in a row for this to happen), I love going to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown for berry picking. They also have a small gourmet grocery shop with other tasty treats.

Then, I’d enjoy a relaxing snack and glass of wine at Newport Vineyards at their outdoor seating overlooking their rows of grapevines.

10. Biking and Surfing on Block Island

Ok, this one is actually on my ‘to do’ list.

It’s a bit absurd to admit, but even after living in Providence several years, I have failed to make the short ferry ride to Block Island. But I’m determined that this will be the year.

List of Places Mentioned (without links):

Narragansett Town Beach
39 Boston Neck Rd.
Narragansett, RI
www.narragansettri.gov

Crazy Burger
144 Boon St.
Narragansett, RI
www.crazyburger.com

Sunsets Farm
www.farmfresh.org

Audubon Society of RI
1401 Hope St
Bristol, RI
www.asri.org

Agave
805 Hope Street
Bristol, RI
www.agavebristol.com

Jamestown Community Playground
41 Conanicus Ave.
Jamestown, RI

Sachuest Beach
474 Sachuest Point Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.visitrhodeisland.com

Brenton Point State Park
Ocean Drive
Newport, RI
www.riparks.com

Sail Newport
60 Fort Adams Dr.
Newport, RI
www.sailnewport.org

Scales & Shells
527 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.scalesandshells.com

Mamma Luisa
673 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.mammaluisa.com

The Andrea
89 Atlantic Ave.
Westerly, RI
www.andreabeachbar.com

Hope Street Farmers’ Market
Lippitt Park
1059 Hope Street
Providence, RI
www.farmfresh.org

Venda Ravioli
265 Atwells Ave.
Providence, RI
www.vendaravioli.com

Gracie’s
194 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.graciesprov.com

Lupo’s
79 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.lupos.com

Newport Vineyards
909 E Main Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.newportvineyards.com

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The simply plain lobster roll at Flo’s.

‘Tis the season for the lobster roll — and I’ve started with my personal favorite from Flo’s Clam Shack in Middletown (across from Newport’s First Beach). It’s no frills — just chunks of plain lobster meat in a hot dog bun with iceberg lettuce. They serve the Hellmann’s on the side, which is perfect for those (like me) who’d rather go without.  And don’t forget to throw in a side of clam cakes — their fried cornmeal balls with clam mixed in.

Of course, this meal makes more sense when following hours of swimming or surfing, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Flo’s Clam Shack
4 Wave Avenue
Middletown, RI 02842

Park Avenue
Portsmouth, RI 02871

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A lobster roll at Champlin's.

In my experience, there are no two lobster rolls created equally.  Sometimes they have mayo, sometimes they have butter, and other times, neither. I’m willing to try them all, but I only like a few.

In Rhode Island, my favorite remains Flo’s Clam Shack, which makes the plainest lobster roll I’ve ever had — unadorned lobster meat on a hot dog bun with lettuce. You can add the mayo yourself (I don’t).  Knowing that dessert at Frosty Freez is not far away, makes it even better.

Recently, I tried the lobster roll at Champlin’s Seafood, where they mix the lobster meat with mayo and celery. Of course, you can’t beat the location — as my out-of-town friends gazed at the boats in the water at Galilee, they said, “This is exactly what you think of when you think of New England.” I also had them order one of my local favorites — clam cakes (think hushpuppies with clams mixed in) — which were a huge hit as well.

As a local, perhaps my favorite part of Champlin’s is the seafood store downstairs, where you can buy fresh scallops, tuna, swordfish, shrimp, etc. to cook at home. And if you pick up some fresh-picked corn at a farm on your way home, you’ll really have the perfect summer meal.

Flo’s Clam Shack
4 Wave Ave
Middletown, RI

Park Avenue
Portsmouth, RI 02871
www.flosclamshack.net

Champlin’s Seafood
256 Great Island Road
Narragansett, RI
www.champlins.com

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The Gold Standard: My beloved pancakes from the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo by möca.


Why is it that I’m always reading blog posts and newspaper articles about great breakfast places that turn out to be subpar? Surely, I am not the only pancake purist in Rhode Island. After having eagerly gone from diner to hotspot and back again in my quest for Rhode Island’s best pancakes, I’ve decided I am going about this all wrong. When I discovered the best pancakes near Boston, I discovered them not through a blog (if those even existed then) nor through a magazine or newspaper article, but through an accountant friend who happened to live in the area and really liked pancakes.

Here I am with my Deluxe Town Diner pancakes.

Here’s how I know that the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts has amazing pancakes: it is the only thing I order there. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted by tuna melts, homemade stews with fresh (not frozen) vegetables, and burgers with sweet potato fries. But the pancakes made with sour cream and buttermilk are just too good: they rise to thick height and remain fluffy, perfectly browned, made the size of your plate in a stack of three (or two if you so choose, but you’ll be sorry), and smeared with butter with a side of real maple syrup.

I know Rhode Island is the smallest state, but I refuse to shrink my expectations accordingly. So, fellow citizens, I beg of you: show me the (amazingly good) pancakes. Post a comment with your local favorite, and I promise to go, eat and report back.

Surely Not Rhode Island’s Best Pancakes List
(or the places I’ve tried so far)

Note: My criteria for the perfect pancake includes: 1) fluffy texture; 2) neither too wet nor too dry; 3) excellent flavor, more specifically a well-orchestrated recipe of ingredients that culminate in a caramelized flavor balancing salty and sweet; 4) made and served with real butter; and 5) served with real maple syrup.

Despite a wonderful old-fashioned diner atmosphere amidst the strip malls, you won't find the best pancakes at Star Diner.

Atlantic Grille
Middletown, RI
Why not? One of the RI Monthly reader’s choices for best breakfasts, this is truthfully the only place I can stand to eat pancakes on Aquidneck Island. Yet they are no match for the perfect pancake (decent flavor, but not fluffy enough) and fail to provide real maple syrup.

Corner Café
Newport, RI
Why not? Such a cute little spot, but they use margarine — a deal-breaker in my opinion.

Eddie & Sons Diner
Providence, RI
Why not? Here you’ll find decent pancakes (although too light indicated not enough caramelizing butter, sugar, salt), but nothing spectacular, and the diner lacks real maple syrup.

Gary’s Handy Lunch
Newport, RI
Why not? Although I love this place for its atmosphere and enjoy their thin old-fashioned french toast, their pancakes are thin and mealy.

IHOP (The International House of Pancakes)
Middletown, RI
Why not? There is no better option when you absolutely need pancakes at 1 am and are too lazy to make them (yes, it’s happened to me). But, let’s face it, as good as they may taste at that moment, we all know that IHOP is not the real deal.

Louie’s
Providence, RI
Why not? Generally their pancakes have fairly good flavor, although they are always too flat and light. Plus they lack consistency: a few times, the pancakes were metallic, which Geoff says is an indicator of too much baking powder. They serve them with real butter but artificial maple syrup.

Mel’s Diner
East Providence, RI
Why not? According to Providence Journal’s food writer Gail Ciampa, these are “some of the best pancakes around.” No way. Slathered with margarine, these pancakes were bound to lose. They were the right color and thickness, but ultimately too gummy with the wrong flavor.

Modern Diner
Pawtucket, RI
Why not? Their pancakes had great texture (just a tad wet) and were quite fluffy, yet the flavor was wrong — not sweet nor salty enough.

Nick’s on Broadway
Providence, RI
Why not? In general, breakfast here was terrific, but the pancakes sadly not so. Cinnamon in the batter definitely doesn’t fit the bill.

Oatley’s Restaurant
North Kingston, RI
Why not? I had high hopes here with the homemade breads and muffins, but ultimately the pancakes missed on both flavor and fluffiness.

Star Diner
Rumford, RI
Why not? Pancakes were greasy and burnt. By the taste, I highly doubt they were made with butter in the batter or on the griddle. And they don’t serve maple syrup.

T’s Restaurant
Why not? Pancakes were dense and dry with lousy flavor. They’re also served with a butter ‘blend’ (aka margarine), blanketed with powdered sugar, and a side of phony syrup — need I say more?

Top Photo Credit: möca

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That's me out in the 'washing machine' waves that were last weekend.

Not the most impressive wave, but at least I'm out there, I caught it and I'm standing.

I want to be a surfer. I know the sport seems much cooler than I am. Plus, I’m a woman, and a mom, and not terribly athletic. Still, I want to be a surfer.

Once the waves from Hurricane Bill subsided last weekend, I finally decided to paddle out on the 8’2″ epoxy surfboard I bought last year. To my frustration, I spent most of the time getting knocked around in the water. It’s funny how the waves always seem so small from the shore and so huge from my surfboard. So I decided to come back the next day and take a lesson with one of the instructors from Island Surf whose fully-stocked truck parks all summer at Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

My friend Tarek (who surfed once before last year) and I had both signed up for a joint lesson. When we pulled in and saw the wild, high waves (instead of the clean, calm 1-2 foot crests more typical of Second Beach), I hesitated. But not Tarek. “Confidence,” he advised. Joe, another 40-something surfer, taking his board off the car next to us agreed.

“How long have you been surfing?” I asked Joe.

“A year,” he said. How is it that a 40-something-year-old guy who’s been surfing a year has more confidence than I do? My first surf lesson was in 2005 — does that mean I’ve been surfing four years? If so, I think I’ll keep that to myself.

“Just go out there and laugh a lot,” said Joe.

Before we headed out, I got a quick lesson on ‘turtling’ which is how you handle a longboard in larger waves like these. As the wave comes toward you, you grip your board on its sides and roll sideways underwater so the board is on top of you. Then when the wave passes, you roll back, supposedly no harm done. It sounds simple, but terrifying. I’m not sure I can do it.

I’ve been swimming in the ocean all my life. I never hesitate to go for a swim even in ‘overhead’ waves. But with a surfboard, everything changes. Utter panic rushes through me as I see a 6-foot wave heading to break on me. Our instructor kept us in the whitewater (the foamy water rushing in after the wave breaks). Here, you are pretty much guaranteed to catch a wave, which we both did. And as I slide along that wave, I tingle with an electric exhilaration that keeps me coming back.

Still every time I faced the ocean to head back out, I felt terror. My instructor had called the conditions a “washing machine” and I certainly agreed as I felt myself drawn in, tossed about and spitted out by a wave.

“Hey great turtle!” my instructor beamed at Tarek. I looked over and spotted him taking his second perfect turtle and thought, what is wrong with me? This is his second day surfing, and here I am hogging the instructor, letting my board fly all over the waves and panicking instead of turtling. Confidence. So I turtle. It works, so I turtle again. The only problem is that I seem to be swallowing a lot of water in each turtle — I’m thinking so hard that I keep forgetting to hold my breath. After a few more minutes battling with the water, I surrender, exhausted, and head back to shore.

The next day, I go back out and play in the whitewater without an instructor but I feel like I’m cheating — I should be surfing real waves.

The next day I went out was the Saturday on Labor Day weekend. I thought I’d beat the crowds to the water, but by 9 am I found at least a dozen surfers out in 3-4 feet waves — both which intimidated me. I worked up my courage and went back later, simply trying to avoid injuring myself and anyone else. At one point, I started to catch a wave and my board nosedived and spiraled so that I got crushed under the water for a seeming eternity. Winded and frightened, I called it a day.

Sunday, I arrived even earlier at 8 am. What I’m lacking in confidence, I’m sure I can make up in determination. A group of people performed tai chi on the sand, and another small group socialized in the parking lot. But not a soul in the water: perfect. The waves were smaller about 1-2 foot: even more perfect. So I gathered my board, and set it on the sand as I started to put on my wetsuit. That’s when fellow surfer Ron approached and asked me if I was heading out.

“Yeah they look about small enough for me today,” I answered.

He laughed and said everyone’s been hanging around trying to decide if it’s worth going out and then they saw me suiting up. So apparently here I am, leading the way. Ron says he’ll get his board and come out too. He’s been surfing six years, so I ask him if he knows why my board nosedived the day before. He says you need to find that groove where the nose of your board is a few inches out of the water as you’re paddling out. You’ll notice it, he says, because you’ll be able to paddle faster.

I catch my very first wave but I lose my balance as soon as I pop up, and fall off. Ron meets me out in the water and congratulates me for catching a wave. While we’re out there, a third surfer comes out: Bill. When I ask Bill how long he’s been surfing, he says “Since 1963.” Not surprisingly, he masters the water brilliantly, catching small shallow waves and larger waves with ease. He seems to know instinctively where to line up to catch the. He makes it look easy. I take some comfort in knowing that in another 40 years I might be able to do that too. And actually we do have a few laughs. I miss a lot of waves, but no tossing about — the waves come easy today even if the rides don’t. Still, I make a deal with myself to stay out until I catch one good ride. And I do.

Related Resources:

Island Surf & Sports
86 Aquidneck Avenue
Middletown, RI 02842
401-846-4421
www.islandsports.com

Second Beach Surf Report
www.surfline.com

Wax Buddy
Invented by surfer Ron, the Wax Buddy helps you remove old wax from your board.
www.endlesswave.net

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Picking Berries at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.

Picking Berries at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.

There are so many reasons to love Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.  In the fall they have pick-your-own apples and pumpkins (they make the best pumpkin muffins on the planet — perhaps, the universe).  Also, their farm stand stays open from mid-April through the end of December, which extends the ‘market’ season by several months.  Even better, their farm stand doubles as a quaint grocery store that carries mostly local products — you can buy the Sweet Berry Farm jams, honeys and pastries, but you can also buy milk, eggs, cheese, and pasta.  They even make their own frozen gourmet dinners.  The farm also has a little café (indoors and outdoors) where you can sit and enjoy some of their  muffins, soups, sandwiches and salads.

On their 100 acre farm, they grow vegetables (beets, carrots, corn, salad greens, squash, etc.), fruits (apples, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, etc.), flowers, and trees.  Their extensive pick-your-own schedule  begins with strawberries in early June and ends in December with Christmas trees.  (They allow you to tag your tree months in advance, but if you’re like us, it also works to pick one of the unclaimed orphan trees around December 20).

Today, Madeline and I went to pick our own — peaches (firm but tasty), blackberries (beautiful but tart) and the last of the raspberries (perfectly sweet).

Pick-your-own peaches at Sweet Berry Farm

Pick-your-own peaches at Sweet Berry Farm

Here’s the picking schedule, in case you want to try for yourself…

Strawberries: Early June through early July
Summer Raspberries: July through mid-August
Fall Raspberries: Late August through September
Blueberries: Mid-July through August
Peaches: Late July through early October
Blackberries: Early August through September
Apples: September through early October
Pumpkins: Late September through October
Christmas Trees: Tagging starts in October

Sweet Berry Farm
915 Mitchell’s Lane
Middletown, Rhode Island
www.sweetberryfarmri.com

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Simmons Farm Petting Zoo

Simmons Farm Petting Zoo

Simmons Farm — what a sweet little stop along the side of Route 114 in Middletown, RI.   Not only do they have a farm stand with the best corn on Aquidneck Island (which we refer to as ‘crack corn’ for its addictive properties), but they also have a petting zoo. For 25 cents, you can purchase some grains to hand-feed the goats, llama, lambs, and horses. Forget feeding the pig, who will inevitably be too fatigued to bother with you.

Simmons Farm
1942 West Main Road
Middletown, RI
www.simmonsorganicfarmri.com/petting-zoo/

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