Sunday, February 24, 2013


Megabus was having a promotion to get people to travel during the cold winter months.  The cost?  $0 and both ways, plus a 50 cent fee.   I looked at the list of where I could go from New York without a really long ride and to a place I’ve never been.  Providence, Rhode Island, about would take about four hours.  Perfect and booked it way in advance.   I would be leaving New York at 7 a.m.  Oy!
It was extremely cold when I arrived at the Megabus area located on 34th Street between 11th and 12th Avenue and just across the street from the Jacob Javits Center...but not accessible.   In fact there were several areas set up with signs to various destinations and no shelter from the extreme cold.  
Having never taken Megabus I did not know what to expect.   The seats are high, not leatherish and more like an airplane seat.  I think the seat reclined further back than many I’ve been on the airlines.  Seat belts, although the driver never acknowledged that they were there.   A few tables for people to put their laptops.  Free wi-fi and outlets to plug your gear.   I’m not sure but the ride felt more like it was electric then gas.

Arriving in Providence I checked into the Hotel Providence, located in the downtown area at 139 Mathewson Street.   Artsy hotel…bookwise.   My room was called the Herman Melville Suite.  Very friendly looking lobby and staff as well.  Jim, the bellcap, always had a smile and most likely knew the secrets of the hotel and best sights and places to dine.   I never got to eat at the restaurant in the hotel as I was seeking some special ones for my research.  

I took a quick tour of the downtown area and a few others before it was time for lunch at Hemenway’s, located in the downtown area at 121 S Main Street.   Seafood is the cuisine of which the menu seemed to emphasize what I term as the “non-kosher fish”.    That’s okay with me as I was in the mood to sample some local oysters.   I had: Onset, from Onset Ma, the Cape; Walrus and Carpenter from Charleston, RI; Powder Point from Duxbury, MA; and a non-local called Beau Soleil from Nova Scotia, CA. They were all delicious!

Steve Long, the Executive Chef, brought out an amuse bouche.  It was a sauteed scallop with pea greens along with a ragu of root vegetables with pancetta.  Wow, did that whet my appetite.  That would certainly make for a fabulous entree! 

Next was the Tuna Tartare, a wasabi ginger and soy-spiced tuna with wakame salad and lotus chips.   Normally, I would not order a burger.   What a smart idea of making one using lobster and crab!  It was served with lettuce and tomato on a toasted Portuguese sweet roll.   Reminded me of P’Town.  What stood out about Hemenway's is that the seafood is local. 

I cannot resist going to a zoo.  I just love animals and wish that I could pet each one.   Off to the Roger Williams Park Zoo.  The zoo is located in a 40-acre park and houses over 100 species of rare and some fascinating animals.  I was able to get someone from their marketing department to take me around in a golf cart.   The best part was when I was able to pet a baby wallaby.  It was so cute.   I don't think that the red eye is the result of the camera.

Each restaurant that I chose had a specialty.  Local 121, located at 121 Washington Street, in the downtown area, was all about seasonal, regional, organic, sustainable cuisine and building relationships with local farmers. I enjoy dining at restuarants that promote "farm to table". A Roasted Beet Salad struck my palate. There were a few varieties of beets used along with fennel, arugula, caraway granola and a goat cheese crema.  Kind of like have a heavy sugarless whipped cream. 
Wanting to sample the local cheeses, this appetizer included a tomato jam made on the premises.
It was local enough to sink my teeth into the Vermont Rabbit Ragu with creamy polenta, pecorino romano and anise hyssop. The rabbit tasted like a cross between chicken and veal. 

When it comes to art, the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (referred to as “Ris-D”) is the place to go and in the downtown area.    I viewed a gallery with your typical old flavor paintings as well as sculptures and designs by students, alumni both conservative and the unusual.

Providence is well-known for food and the location of the Culinary Arts Institute.  They do not have a restaurant as visitors will have to settle for the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University outside of the downtown area.  There is a huge emphasis on the Diner and instruments used for cooking as well as two areas just for kids.  Diners are one of the major exhibits.

So now I'm in Federal Hill, the Italian section of Providence and having lunch at Mediterraneo Caffe at 134 Atwell Avenue, the main strip.  Although they are known for having a large variety of wine, it was lunchtime and not ready for anything alcoholic.  I had Insalata Mista: radiccio, frisee, romaine lettuce, red onions, grape tomatoes and goat cheese.  Added olive oil.   Entree was the Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese: fresh egg noodles pasta with a thick meat sauce of stewed veal, beef, pork, San Marzino plum tomatoes and a touch of cream. No dessert as I was continuing on to a few more places.

I checked out a huge Italian market called Costantino’s Venda Ravioli, located on part of the same strip known as Depasquale Plaza.  The store is like a mini-Italy unto itself.  Upon entering you see an island of food where you can purchase cheese, cooked meats, olives, sandwiches, entrees, and it goes on. Take it to go or dine at the side café. 

The 35 or so varieties of ravioli are made across the street that houses equipment imported from Italy and using No1. Duram Semolina. Take advantage of it being a grocery store with authentic Italian imported foods.  You’ll most likely find some of the best olive oils and vinegars.  I had a lesson on reading labels. Nutella, for instance. If you buy it in a plastic jar, it is not Italian.  In fact, the imported ilk does not contain palm oil.  Do I spread it on bread? Hell, no!  I take spoonfuls from the jar…why waste the calories?

Dinner was a Pane E Vino, a fine dining Italian restaurant.  I had burrata with speck as one appetizer.
A second appetizer of  a pan fried calamari with semi-dried tomatoes, hot peppers (I asked them to remove), white balsamic vinegar and lemon aioli.

There’s nothing like the smell of baking, especially at the nearly 100-year-old Scialo Brothers Bakery ( The pastries, made the old fashioned way and passed on to generations, tasted more like the ones I have had when I was in Naples, Italy.  I sample Sfogliatella, a cannoli, and a slice of cassata cake, which has a combo of cannoli cream inside and almond paste as the topping.

There were two show happening at the Convention Center, one of which was the Spring Flower and Garden Show.

There were two shows happening at the Convention Center, one of which was the Spring Flower and Garden Show. The other was a rather small Food and Wine Tasting.  It was there that I discovered Coffee Syrup.  I found out that it is a Rhode Island tradition to have coffee milk the way we would have chocolate milk. This particular brand called Daves Coffee offers a coffee syrup that does not contain corn syrup as well as one that adds Madagascar Vanilla.  I have been experimenting with it and using it in cooking.
Final restaurant was called Blaze, located on the East end at 776 Hope Street. Partners Phyllis Arffa (chef/owner) and Christine Edmonds (General Manager/owner) present an eclectic menu that hints various cuisines. This place is one of the “in spots” of Providence.  Only having time for a quick lunch I chose a salad and hamburger with sweet potato fries. Fresh and flavorful. Menu has lots of vegetarian options.

For further information on Providence, go to

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