Quick Weekend Trip

While justtwomorethings is crossing states off her list, she asked me to check on her apartment. So this weekend, I Amtrak’ed up to Providence. Given that the only vehicle I had were my own two feet, didn’t do anything crazy–just walked around enjoying the sunshine (pleasant at an easy 70 degrees).

I did run into this little Portuguese Festival in the evening though. It appeared to be just starting–the band was just setting up–but the food stands were taking orders so I grabbed something for dinner. I had this thing called a “St. Michael Bihana”–which turned out to be the Portuguese version of a BBQ chicken sandwich. It wasn’t bad–the sweet of the chicken BBQ went well with some spicy mayo and offset by a light, crusty bun. There was also this dessert–the espresso mousse part was good, but the almond cookies it was layered with are too soggy by the time you make it to them (was tempted by the doughy goodness of…something that they were frying in a giant vat next door…but these were HUGE, too big for 1 person).

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I also was in the mood for a movie, so ate my dinner while watching the live action Cyborg 009-1 on Netflix. Alright, I wanted something stupid and ridiculous but…wow. Well, the movie is clearly catering toward a specific audience. And if questions like “Why would a spy wear bright red leather?”, “How on earth does she reload those machine-gun breasts?,” and “Does every single injury really result in you spouting 8 pints of blood from your mouth?” bother you, you are not that audience.

Food: V-Day for me

I’m not much of a believer in the idea that you need to wait for people to give you what you’d like, especially with a holiday that tends to result in tons and tons of subpar chocolate lying around.  The local bakery, which leans French, had a couple Valentine’s Day specials up and I stopped by just before the latest snowstorm hit to make sure I was well-supplied with sugar:

Bouchon, macaroons and meringues, Ellie's Bakery

Bouchon, macaroons and meringues, Ellie’s Bakery

The meringues were more pretty than flavorful, with only the lavender and the peppermint+cocoa really standing out, while the bouchon was dense and creamy but slightly overwhelmed by the strawberry topping.  I think my favorite had to be the red wine and pomegranate macaroon (the really deep pink one), with the wine adding a really nice, earthy base note to the fruit.  Definitely better than a box of random chocolates.

Rhode Island Brewfest 2015

We’re currently in the grips of another snowstorm, but in the brief window in between snow dumps, I got out to the Rhode Island Brewfest, an annual gathering of mostly local breweries with the odd out-of-state (also, national?  Sierra Nevada Brewery?).  They give you a two-ounce plastic cup and you go around and sample till you drop.  I hit about ten or so, and my favorite had to be the blueberry-flavored kolsch from Newport Storm.

Blueberry Kolsch beer, Newport Storm Brewery

Blueberry Kolsch beer, Newport Storm Brewery

The kolsch style is light and airy anyway, and instead of dialing the sugar up to eleven, they concentrated on the fruity notes of the blueberry, which was nice.  Of course, if you do want sweet (*nudges entropyenator*), Chaucer’s had honey mead on sale.  Raspberry or original, and sweeter than Bailey’s.

Raspberry Honey Mead, Chaucer's

Raspberry Honey Mead, Chaucer’s

Food-wise, I was introduced to the stuffie (which, spurred on by too many hoppy IPAs, I ate without photographing), a variation on the stuffed clam that is like a fist-sized ball of delicious clam-tinged Thanksgiving stuffing.  Yes, please.

Providence: Arcade Shops

So, yesterday I had an unsuccessful trip to Boston in search of holiday markets.  Part of the failure was due to scheduling issues that delayed me till the market was closed (but really, what weekend market closes at 3:30?), but part of it was definitely a lack of motivation to hurry around once I got out into the dreary, rainy, cold day.  Ugh.  Even a wool coat and waterproof boots can’t make that inviting.

Today was sunny, but super chilly, which was equally effective at sapping my gift-searching strength.  Days like today, I think wistfully of the one winter I spent in Geneva, Switzerland, where the local businesses (including yes, the banks) all put out a giant round barrel of mulled cider or wine, allowing you to hopscotch your way through town with a perpetual steaming cuppa.  Providence doesn’t have that, sadly.

What Providence does have is a covered arcade, so all the sunlight streams in through the glassed ceiling, but all the cold stays out.  If only the arcade was longer.

Ah, Construction

As someone who’s spent plenty of time in Middle America, I’m very used to the endless rhythms of road construction.  Or, rather, the endless lack of rhythm in road construction, as those piles of dirt and orange cones hang around for years and years without any perceptible change.  You learn to ignore it and it becomes background, except that around fall/winter it sort of comes up again because all the pretty, distracting foliage is gone and the outdoor work winds up and you realize you’re going to be stuck with this for yet another year.

So I applaud whoever had a little fun here.  Might as well make friends with the blight.

Your friendly neighborhood WIP spot

Your friendly neighborhood WIP spot

Providence: Del’s Lemonade

Del's frozen lemonade

Del’s frozen lemonade

According to the Del’s company website, there are thirty locations selling Del’s frozen lemonade.  Presumably, a “location” doesn’t include the dozens and dozens of cornerside carts shlepping the stuff that have popped up all over the city, since I think I could find thirty of them within ten minutes of my apartment.

Del’s is supposedly in many states but I never heard of it before I came to Providence.  It is, as advertised, frozen lemonade: I think literally lemonade that is frozen and then milled to grains small enough that they feel grainy on your tongue but that don’t require any actual chewing, as opposed to shaved ice with lemonade flavoring poured on top of it, since the ice doesn’t get paler as you suck the melted liquid out from the bottom.  Probably not totally free of artificial flavors.  I think the lemon is real enough–there are even little scraps of actual lemon peel dispersed throughout, which gives the lemon a more fragrant, fruity taste, away from pure sourness–but the sweetener definitely is processed sugar.  Still, it’s a cool, soothing little regional thing, an easy $1.75/3 (depending on how much frozen goodness you want) as you pass by the cart.

Food: Local 121, Providence

Eggs benedict with smoked trout, Local 121

Eggs benedict with smoked trout, Local 121

Before I lived in New York, I was pretty fond of brunch.  Waking up late, fresh hot tasty food, the promise of a lazy morning, that’s what brunch meant to me.  Then I moved to New York, where brunch is kind of a “thing” and moreover, a “thing” that usually sucks because it means half-heartedly repurposed leftovers, bad cocktails and the inability to get an actual lunch on the weekends when you don’t feel like breakfast food.

But I think I’m slowly rediscovering the pleasures of brunch.  Local 121 isn’t exactly daring in its approach to food, but it executes well and with feeling, and it’s not above a pleasant tweak or too.  Eggs benedict with perfect poached eggs, a hollandaise sauce that actually tasted as if it’d been seasoned (so many hollandaises just taste of egg, which is the blandest thing ever without salt), and smoked trout.  The muffins underneath soaked up the sauce without going all mushy, yet were easy to chew, while the smoked trout was less sweet than the usual smoked salmon, adding a nice, delicate savory note.  And the bellini in the background was smooth, peachy and fizzy, not a hint of cannedness about it.  That’s how you start the day late.

Rhode Island Flower Show 2014

Lately the weather’s been nothing but snow, snow, and snow, with the occasional slightly warmer day so the snow can melt and then freeze into treacherous road ice overnight.  To cheer up a bit, I bought myself a ticket to the Rhode Island Flower Show in Providence, figuring that at least I could get some new flowers (I had to junk a couple in the move last fall).

I was…underwhelmed by the show.  The “vintage” theme seemed to be an excuse to combine the show with vintage autos and broaden the appeal, but I’m not a vintage auto type.  As for the flowers, since the show was held in a convention center, you ended up walking around in a large room between piles of mulch on concrete, with poor overhead lights.  Some of the poor plants were wilting as you watched, and the lack of ventilation meant that the smell was–odd and definitely unappealing.  And the displays had a very unironic 1950s take on “vintage,” complete with some faceless mannequins necking in the back of an auto in one display (which I did not photograph because it gave off a creepy voyeuristic/night of the living mannequins vibe, and I don’t need that living on my phone for even a couple minutes).  Still, there were a couple neat bits.  Also, live chickens:

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The show also had an interesting section devoted to incorporating flowers into art, although its decidedly abstract tone clashed with the overall 1920s/1950s vibe.

Lastly, the market stalls were weird (five different dip mix hawkers) to sad (only three to four garden stalls in the whole thing, with little more than pansies and African violets).  I suppose my flowers will have to wait till actual spring.

Happy Lunar New Year!

CNY 2014 by entropyenator

CNY 2014 by entropyenator

Threw on a new sweater dress this morning, took off from work early, and ate at the Teriyaki and Korean House in Providence.  Truth in advertising with the name there.  The bubble tea was meh, probably the first time I’ve felt cheated on how many tapioca bubbles I got (and they weren’t fully soft, but were still hard in the center).  The bento box was nothing special, but a good deal for the amount of food at $9.99, and the squid sauce was flavorful with just a little heat.  I know I should be eating fish if I really want to be traditional, but that was the closest I saw on the menu.