5 RI Comfort Food Classics You Need To Try
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Root Beer Braised Short Ribs, Canfield House, Newport
Just when you thought you've hear of every preparation of short ribs known to man, we come up with another one for you to try. Make your way to Newport and check out what the Canfield House chefs have whipped up: a short rib braise that uses the flavor of root beer. The idea behind the root beer is twofold. First, it helps to tenderize the meat during cooking; second, the "root" flavor you get during cooking pairs well with the root vegetables that accompany the dish. This dish has made us cross the bridge just to taste it again!
5 Memorial Blvd.
Boeuf a la Bourguignon, Pot au Feu, Providence
There are few French classics that stir the soul quite like boeuf Bourguignon. When we think of Julia Child we invariably think of this dish and where better to get it than a place where Julia herself enjoyed the dish? People tend to think of French food as overly-sophisticated, but this is real stick-to-your-ribs good. This version of the classic features large chunks of meat that have been marinated and slow-roasted in red wine until tender. It is perfect with the potato gratin that comes with it and a glass of red wine.
44 Custom House St.
Coq au Vin, Parkside Rotisserie, Providence
There is something about a perfect piece of rotisserie chicken. It's crisp yet juicy. If you need an example of good rotisserie in Rhode Island, you need travel no farther than Parkside Rotisserie, in Providence. Owner Steve Davenport has been perfecting his version of rotisserie for decades now and we think he's got it down pat. The Coq au Vin is a classic dish where a chicken is stewed with red wine and pearl onions. Here, Davenport takes his tender chicken and sauces it with a delicious rendition of the classic sauce.
76 South Main St.
French Toast, Nick's on Broadway, Providence
Comfort doesn't always have to happen at dinner. Sometimes the warm embrace of a perfect breakfast starts the day off just right. When those kinds of days hit us we say thank god for Nick's on Broadway. Chef Derek Wagner is always on point with his food and the near-perfect vanilla-battered, house-baked brioche French toast with Vermont maple syrup was our choice. They start with bread made in-house and then build it up with delicious ingredients and flawless technique. The Vermont maple syrup finishes this dish wonderfully.
XO Meatloaf, XO Café, Providence
This classic has been around for longer than we need mention. It is now in the super-capable hands of Chef Marty Lyons. Chef Lyons was recently named Chef of the Year by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and he's one of our favorites. He has taken this dish to new heights by perfecting the flavors of the dish and bringing a little of his own style to it. It is always tender and the demi-glace sauce on top works well with the Berkshire blue cheese. As always at XO...order dessert first!
125 North Main St.
Related Slideshow: 5 New Food Trends to Try in 2014
Upscale Chefs go "Downscale"
It's an incredible expense of time and money to be among the best chefs around. All of those high-end ingredients cost an arm and leg and the pressure to stay on top is enormous. Most cooks began learning at the feet of their older relatives--moms and dads; grandmas and grandpas. It's this food that calls them back. We see local Chef Jake Rojas rejoice in dropping the tweezers and cooking those SoCal family recipes he grew up eating. Local faves Thames Street Kitchen embarked on a burger concept this year and Providence icon Chez Pascal has its "Wurst Window" serving homemade sausage and comfort food. They're upscale food is wonderful, but this might be their best!
More Gluten Free Options
As we continue to pay the "processed food" price, our nation's food allergies continue to soar. Restaurants have been on the forefront of the movement towards options that take these allergies into account. The gluten allergy has taken the fore as bread and pasta and coated French fries became the first food victims of this allergy. Local establishments such as the Grange have taken gluten free to new heights with terrific vegetarian offerings. On the Hill, Pane e Vino has got an almost 40-item menu of gluten free options. It features everything an Italian meal could need without the worry.
Vietnamese as the "Go-To" Asian Cuisine
Every year it seems as though America "discovers" a new Asian country's food and gets hooked. This year it's the foods of Vietnam. Vietnamese food and ingredients have been a part of local Asian food for years now, but this time it stands on its own. Vietnam's food is highlighted by fresh, simple ingredients treated respectfully and flavorfully. Broths and noodles; lightly cooked meats and fresh vegetables all combine in a balanced meal. Locally we love Pho Horn in Pawtucket and Minh Hai in Cranston. Both are very good local versions of this wonderful cuisine.
Look...here's the problem with us Americans: we only eat the mild stuff. The muscle meat. It's chicken breast and tenderloin and striped bass filets. The problem with this style of eating is what it does to our ecosystem. Local fishermen used to be able to catch a bounty of swordfish BETWEEN the mainland and Block Island, now it's a day's trip to find them. Local chefs and fishermen are working diligently to bring back the mackerel and the sardine and the scup. Fish we have long since forgotten, but helped our forefathers thrive. Check out any of our top-notch "farm to table" spots--Persimmon in Bristol or Farmstead in Providence for example--to try a forgotten yet delicious fish.
As with most things food and beverage, the last 10 years have seen a move towards "smaller is better". Big box stores are gone and chain restaurants are suffering locally. It was only a matter of time until these ideas began making their way into our cocktails and boy are we psyched to see what the future holds. Locally we have Sons of Liberty in South Kingstown, producing small-batch whiskey, single malts and, even vodka. Our state features Coastal Extreme Brewery which makes Thomas Tew rum along with their Newport Storm beer. We've only gotten back into the distilling business here in Rhode Island in 2006 but we think tasty things are coming soon!
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