NEW: Three Rhode Island Chefs Semifinalists for James Beard Award
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Providence continues its assrer itself as a culinary mecca, with two chefs from the city receiving nominations: Matt Jennings of Farmstead Inc, and Benjamin Suckle of Birch. Bristol chef Champe Speidel of Persimmon also was named among the honorees. Both Persimmon and Farmstead have been nominated in previous years.
All of the Rhode Island chefs in the running will be competing against each other -- and seventeen others -- for the title of Best Chef in the Northeast. Persimmon is additionally nominated for the national category of Best Service.
The Beard Awards, often called "The Oscars of Food," were established in 1990 and recognize chefs and restauranteurs across a number of national and regional categories. Click here to see a full list of nominees for all James Beard Foundation Awards semifinalists.
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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