La Arepa Restaurant

The chicken arepa with sliced avocado, black beans and cheese.

The chicken arepa with sliced avocado, black beans and cheese.

After a trip to Rock Spot Climbing, we all seem to work up an appetite (even though only one of us climbs).  Luckily, La Arepa, an unpretentious Venezuelan restaurant, happens to be on our way home.  We’ve now been there a handful of times and have always loved what we ordered.

This time, I chose an arepa (like a tortilla, but thicker) with shredded chicken, sliced avocado, queso cheese, and black beans, along with a side of fried plantains. Our two-year-old wanted only rice (she’s on a strictly all-carbs diet), which she proceeded to eat while sprinkling all over the table, chair and floor so that the waiter asked politely if she needed a bigger plate. Still, even she ate some of the chicken that we ordered for her–it was that good.

La Arepa
574 Smithfield Avenue
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
(401) 335-3711

Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium

Section 4, Row EE. Notice the grassy lounge area in left field.

Section 4, Row EE. Notice the grassy lounge area in left field.

Although we’ve lived in Providence for nearly four years, we only just made it to our first Pawtucket Red Sox (aka PawSox) game this May. Clearly, we are not the most devout sports fanatics.


Our two-year-old may not have been that attentive on the game itself, but she was a big fan of the stadium snacks.

As it turns out, McCoy Stadium is an ideal size, seating 10,000 people, making it large enough to feel the fans’ excitement while being small enough to actually see the game. And, the the general admission prices are quite reasonable at $8 per adult and $5 per child. It may have taken us a few years to get there, but I’m quite sure we’ll be back again this season.

Pawtucket Red Sox

Mystery Meet Podcast Episode 26: Farmstead Inc. in Providence

June 2014: Farmstead has been sold and will no longer be run by Chef Matt Jennings

Badge - Podcast 150x113
Recently, I was interviewed for Mystery Meet’s Find Dining Podcast to share my restaurant recommendations in Providence. To listen to the podcast, visit Mystery Meet Podcast Episode 26: Farmstead Inc. in Providence.

Also, check out some of the links to our blog posts for some of the places mentioned:

Farmstead, Inc.
Nick’s on Broadway
Plouf Plouf Food Truck
Pawtucket Winter Farmer’s Market
Delekta Pharmacy’s Coffee Cabinet
Diners/Delis in RI
Flo’s Clam Shack

Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill

Madeline joins the riders on the Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill.

There are a handful of things that Rhode Island can claim to be the “oldest in America” — such as the oldest synagogue and the oldest lending library. Apparently, we also have the oldest carousel.

The Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill originated in 1876 and is named for the fact that its 20 horses are not attached to the floor but remain suspended from a center frame, swinging out or “flying” when in motion. There is an age limit — no one over 12-years-old may ride, and I particularly liked the sign recommending you re-consider if you are over 100 lbs or over 5 feet tall. Rides are $1 for an inside horse and $1.50 for an outside horse.

The Easton's Beach carousel makes for a great rainy day activity.

Madeline chose an inside horse, and after two rides appeared sufficiently mesmerized so I figured she’d had enough. Our next stop will be either the Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence or the Slater Memorial Park Carousel in Pawtucket…

Carousels in Rhode Island

Flying Horse Carousel
Westerly, RI

Atlantic Beach Carousel
Westerly, RI

Easton’s Beach Carousel
Newport, RI

Carousel Village, Roger Williams Park
Providence, RI

Crescent Park Carousel
East Providence, RI

Slater Memorial Park Carousel
Pawtucket, RI

For more information on Rhode Island carousels, see or KidoInfo’s list.

Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art

Madeline experiments with the Cloth Waves exhibit.

This week, Madeline and I stopped by to see Metamorphosis: The Transfer of Energy, the exhibit created by the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art. This “museum without walls” creates exhibits at available spaces and events, but aims to open a full-fledged museum (with walls) in 2012. The gallery space at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center currently features several interactive exhibits such as Cloth Waves, in which you try to launch soft balls into the center receptacle by creating fabric waves, or the Gear Table, in which you can arrange gears to your liking to play music or spin optical illusions. I think my favorite was Wooden Wave, a table that converts flat pieces of wood into waves through a crank.

Wooden Wave creates a wave effect from flat pieces of wood.

Of course, the challenge of a hands-on museum is maintaining the exhibits. The Water Wheel didn’t quite work properly and a few tubes in the Rainbow Drum were broken — all of which attests to the fact that a museum with walls (and a staff to maintain the exhibits) would be preferable. Fortunately, they seem to have the community’s backing — they’ve received a grant from RISCA and their recent Kickstarter campaign exceeded its goal. Of course, it’s a big leap from a $2,500 Gear Table to a multi-million dollar museum so they’ll need a lot more support to make it happen. So go check out their exhibit, offer your suggestions, and donate what you can (they’ll even take your old cameras and computers).

Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art
Their first multi-week exhibit Metamorphosis: The Transfer of Energy is currently open and free to the public through April 15, 2011.
Gallery at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center
175 Main Street
Pawtucket, RI

Rasoi: South Indian Cuisine in Pawtucket

Chef Sanjiv Dhar from Rasoi (stop #3 on the Rhody Food Tours: Immigrant Cuisines of Providence).

When I miss New York after reading that there is a fancy new yakiniku place around the corner from our old apartment, Michele takes me to Rasoi. I remember that Indian food was lousy in the West Village. And South Indian food? Forget it.

The Thali at Rasoi.

Not in Providence. There are several great South Indian places nearby, and Rasoi is one of them. Upon every visit, I order Thali — but I never have the same meal twice. Six or 7 small bowls surround a mound of rice, and tonight the bowls were filled with spinach and homemade cheese (Saag Paneer); yellow lentil stew; a thick, sweet sambar; red-roasted cauliflower; homemade yogurt; a sweet potato curry; and a little dessert.

As an aside, I should mention the mixed pickle at Rasoi. For me, mixed pickle is the corned beef hash of the Indian restaurant world — it’s a barometer of how good the food is. The mixed pickle here is a delicious mixture of pickled lemon, peas, and bitter melon — and it’s tender (I don’t like that hardened lemon skin in most store-bought Indian pickles).

The traditional Indian dishes here are great too. The simple Chicken Tikka is delicious, with a crisp shell and fresh herbs instead of the more common red pellicle-crust that covers it after a bake in the tandoor. Their version of Biryani combines a sweet and savory assortment of whole spices. And a bowl of their Idli Sambar is as good for dinner as I imagine it’d be for breakfast in India.

Rasoi Restaurant
727 East Ave # 6
Pawtucket, RI 02860-6184
(401) 728-5500

Rhody Food Tours

La Sorpresa

At La Sorpresa, this little sampler is ideal.

When I walked into La Sorpresa’s new location on East Avenue, I immediately noticed some thick slices of crisp pork belly. But it was an enticing little sampler dish that the customer ahead of me ordered that piqued my interest.

A fresh paper tray of plantains, morcilla, smoked sausage, tiny potatoes, crisp-skin pork belly and thin, roasted rib meat (seen in the photo, wedged between the morcilla and the plantain, in the center) was prepared for me, and I ate a beef empanada while I waited. I spotted a particularly puffy pastry on my way out, which turned out to be their delicious homemade version of a raised Colombian doughnut filled with dulce de leche.

La Sorpresa Bakery
498 Broad Street
Central Falls, RI 02863-2844
(401) 475-0032

La Sorpresa
385 East Avenue
Pawtucket, RI
(across from the Modern Diner)

Little Bites of Heaven – Peruvian Treats

Buttery cookies filled with dulce de leche.

I had never tried Peruvian desserts before yesterday, and now I know what I’ve been missing. This weekend , I stopped by the Little Bites of Heaven stand at the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market and tried several of their offerings including “Sweet Divine” (Alfajores) butter cookies with dulce de leche filling; “Blissful Choco-tejas” soft caramel and pecan candies covered with dark chocolate; “Holy Cake Roll” a vanilla cake with dulce de leche filling; and “Heavenly Lucuma” chocolate shortbread cookies with lucuma filling. Lucuma, for those who don’t know (I didn’t) is a fruit native to Peru with a flavor resembling maple.

Soft caramel and nut inside a crisp chocolate coating.

Since they don’t have a store yet, you’ll have to go to the winter market to sample for yourself (which is well worth the trip anyway). Perhaps soon enough they’ll go the way of the Cupcakerie and have a store of their own…

Tiny Bites of Heaven
available at the Winters Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays

20 Minutes and $5 at the Wintertime Farmer’s Market

The Yams and one of their biggest fans.

It was 12:25 on Saturday when my daughter said she wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market. “Ok, hurry up, it closes in half an hour,” I said, rushing her out the door. I had only $5 in my pocket, but no time to stop at the ATM. I didn’t think there would be much time for shopping anyway.

We walked hand-in-hand into Hope Artiste Village at 12:40, and it was still busy. First stop, McCarten Violins. They moved across the hall this year to a bigger space, and gauging from appearances, this was needed. The shop was full, and Madeline loved to watch people testing out the instruments.

Next stop, across the hall in the “Greenhouse,” all the food vendors are set up. Thankfully, Tina’s Caribbean is here now too. The Yams are still playing, and Madeline spent our first dollar on a small bag of Nettie’s Kettle Corn. Our time slipped by with dancing, and the Yams got dollar #2. A few minutes before 1pm, we finally walked the hall, and watched everyone finishing up business. I was happy to see that all of the studios lining the market hall were filled with designers and artists, and we stopped in to draw a picture, pet a puppy, and watch a painter at work. The last three dollars were spent on a meat pie at Tina’s, and Madeline and I talked with some friends and listened to the last strains of music. It was a well spent 20 minutes.

Kafe’ Lila

Kafe' Lila's entrance in the Grant Building lets you

When you call your ice cream “Really Good Vanilla,” you’d better mean it. Luckily at Kafe’ Lila, they do. I first discovered their small batch, homemade ice cream at the weekly Winter Farmers’ Market (and yes, ice cream in the winter makes perfect sense to me). Their Bittersweet Chocolate is absolute perfection — rich, dark, smooth and creamy. They have a variety of fruit flavors like Local Plum, Local Peach and Local Blueberry — all made (obviously) with local fruit. They also have a flavor sweetened solely with honey (quite good) and a variety of vegan flavors (never tried them).

It actually is "Really Good Vanilla."

I decided to go check out their Pawtucket ‘headquarters’ last week and found they have a wonderfully charming little café — the well-worn chairs and retro coffee tables create a warm atmosphere and fit in well with the rough-around-the-edges atmosphere of downtown Pawtucket (a.k.a. Downbucket).

For people not obsessed with ice cream, they also sell coffee, teas and a variety of sandwiches, salads and pastries.

Kafe’ Lila
The Grant Building
250 Main Street
Pawtucket, RI

Their ice cream is also available at other locations. See their list for details.