As we left for our summer vacation on the East Coast, we planned on making the most of the sea’s bounty. It’s no secret that New England has some of the best seafood and fish the US has to offer, most of which we can only enjoy defrosted at home. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity of enjoying some of our favorite foods, fresh as we rarely get to enjoy them.
We started our trip in Providence, Rhode Island. I enlisted the help of two friends, Karen and David, residents of the area, to recommend great restaurants, markets and gourmet shops to visit. David’s expertise is evident through his blog, Eat Drink RI, which chronicles the state’s food news and events as well as the restaurant and bar scene. Karen, a food blogger and recipe developer, treated us to tons of suggestions for Rhode Island and Cape Cod as well.
An 8-hour drive after leaving home, we were in the heart of Providence’s “Little Italy,” Federal Hill. We had a drink on De Pasquale Square (which looks like a mini Italian piazza, with large open terraces and bustling servers included), then we headed to our first dinner in Providence. We then began what became a total pork binge – instead of the seafood feast we had envisioned.
Don’t get me wrong: all of the fantastic restaurants we visited in Providence did offer beautiful seafood & fish dishes, but the pork options always seemed so luscious that we couldn’t resist. Pork is a favorite of the “nose to tail” movement which seemed very en vogue in Providence. We’re big fans of cured meats, and I’ve drooled over too many pork belly dishes shown on TV shows and trendy food magazines to pass on it when I saw it featured in menus.
We had a charming first dinner in Providence at New Rivers Restaurant, a bistro that turned out to be much more elegant that what I thought it would be. Located on the edge of College Hill in one of the neighborhood’s signature red brick buildings, the interior feels intimate and romantic instead of casual and boisterous, as many bistros tend to be. The menu features tempting charcuteries, all made from scratch by chef Beau Vestal, who’s said to be “part small farm and sustainable farming advocate, part charcutier and butcher.” This description hints at the rest of the menu which features dishes made with ingredients from local farmers and artisans.
Appetizers from the Charcuterie menu at New Rivers Restaurant: Hickory smoked thick cut pork belly bacon, duck ham and fish rillettes, served with homemade breads, pickles and condiments.
Main course at New Rivers Restaurant: Grilled RI scallops with smoked bacon.
The next day, we were roaming downtown around Kennedy Plaza, waiting for Friday’s Farmers Market to open. After looking around for a while, we spotted a couple of white tents on the square’s North-East corner, with a food truck parked in front of it. While the small market was charming, Mama Kim’s Korean truck totally stole the spotlight. Pork belly! Kimchi! Korean Pancakes! We’ll sample it all please! We shared a few of the truck’s specialties sitting on the front steps of a nice-looking government building facing the City Hall.
Mama Kim’s Pork Kimchi Slider: Pork belly and loin in house marinade, grilled with fresh house kimchi.
Mama Kim’s Korean food truck; Vegetarian pajeons (pancakes) with dipping sauce.
Providence’s City Hall.
Then we crossed over to College Hill, because the initial plan wasn’t to lunch at Mama Kim’s, but at Chez Pascal’s truck, which, apparently, is one the city’s best kept secrets. Thanks to the truck’s Twitter feed, we knew where the truck was supposed to be parked (at North Main & Smith St.), but when we arrived there, we had a moment of hesitation because the truck was called “Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile” – and not “Chez Pascal,” as we expected. One look at the menu, though, and we knew we were at the right place: “If it ain’t in a casing, it isn’t worth tasting,” said the menu’s byline.
Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile / Chez Pascal food truck.
A drop-dead delicious chicken sausage with spaetzle, blue cheese and celery from the Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile / Chez Pascal food truck.
Very full by the mid afternoon after these two delicious food truck hunts, we ventured further into College Hill towards Farmstead, a gourmet store specializing in artisan American cheeses that serves delicious desserts as well. We couldn’t resist a sinful pecan pie bar with espressos, and we resolved to come back later that night for dinner at the adjacent restaurant, La Laiterie.
Guess what was featured that night at La Laiterie? A special 6-course snout-to-tail all-pork menu! It looked absolutely fantastic and we regretted having eaten so much during the day, because in no way were we able to indulge in this unique creation by chef Matt Jennings. The chef and his team acquired 350 pigs from a local farm, and then detailed the whole animal to make sure everything was used in the 6-course menu that was to be served that night only. It seemed to have been a great success because we overheard the server telling another table they’d run out of one of the courses by 9PM. We settled on sharing three small and one main plate, a more reasonable choice that allowed us to go out and have a drink at Cook & Brown (great cocktails!) with David, Karen and her partner afterwards.
Grilled octopus with pork belly at La Laiterie.
Crispy slow-cooked egg with cured ham, fried potatoes and greens at La Laiterie.
Roasted porchetta, salsa verde, toasted farro and succotash at La Laiterie, Providence.
So we didn’t eat what we expected at all in Providence, but we left feeling that we had explored a delicious side of New England cuisine: honest, seasonal, handmade and local food. Seafood and fish was just around the corner on our way to Cape Cod. More about that part of our trip very soon!
Don’t miss this week’s first ever Providence Food & Wine Festival! Happening this weekend, August 25-27 . I sure hope I was there to sample more of the city’s culinary delights! See the Festival’s website for more info, full schedule and tickets.
See a Google Map of all the places I visited in Providence (also listed below).
Great Bloggers from the Rhode Island Area
- David Dadekian: Eat Drink RI
- Karen J. Covey: Gourmet Recipes for One
- Amy McCoy: Poor Girl Gourmet – Amy also has a book: Poor Girl Gourmet
Eating / Drinking
- New Rivers Restaurant
7 Steeple Street, Providence, RI 02903-1329
(401) 751-0350 / Website
- Kennedy Plaza Farmers Market
Friday: 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM
June 3 to October 28, 2011 / Website
186 Wayland Ave, Providence, RI 02906-4308
(401) 274-7177 / Website
- La Laiterie at Farmstead
188 Wayland Avenue, Providence, RI 02906
(401) 274-7177 / Website
Note : This restaurant doesn’t take reservations.
- Cook & Brown
959 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906-3736
(401) 273-7275 / Website
- Venda Ravioli
Italian Grocery Store: Fresh pasta, olive oil, prepared foods.
265 Atwells Avenue, Providence, RI 02904
(401) 421-9105 / Website
- Tony’s Colonial Food Store
Imported Italian specialties: meats & cheeses, oils & vinegars, antipasti & sweets.
311 Atwells Avenue, Providence, RI 02903-1441
(401) 621-8675/ Website
- Queen of Hearts
Shoes, clothing, accessories and designer gifts
186 Union Street, Providence, RI 02903
(401) 421-1471 / Website
Handmade and crafted gifts.
235 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903-1906
(401) 272-4285 / Website
- Hotel Dolce Villa
All-suites hotel with full kitchens. Clean and convenient. Rooms around $US 149/night.
63 De Pasquale Avenue, Providence, RI 02903-1513
(401) 383-7031 / Website