Providence Preservation

December 13th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Economic doldrums can be healthy for architectural preservation. Two cases in point: Nantucket Island, Mass. and downtown Providence, R.I. When the whaling industry shifted from Nantucket to New Bedford, the island went into an economic depression that lasted for more than a century. The beneficial result is Nantucket’s beautifully preserved architecture. Nantucket Island retains a true 18th Century flavor (one of the factors contributing to astronomical real estate prices). Over the last 50 years, downtown Providence lost its vitality as a financial and retail center. Distinguished (and some flamboyant) commercial buildings were left untouched. There was no economic incentive to tear them down or “modernize.” Thus, Downtown remains virtually intact. It is now thriving. Its innovative shops, excellent restaurants and theaters, are luring thousands of visitors. The city’s various economic incentives seem to have produced beneficial results. HG has had long experience with Providence’s efforts at urban renewal. Some 50 years ago, HG was public relations counsel for the New York real estate investment group that developed a portion of Providence’s South Main Street with assistance from the city. A big success. The housing that was developed has been well maintained and, of course, has risen in value. The street is now lined with stylish shops, restaurants, hair salons, etc.. BSK had a splendid haircut in a salon yesterday and HG/ BSK strolled leisurely. (Very much beguiled by a curvy aluminum chair in an antiques shops window. More sculpture than seating, HG/BSK are debating a self indulgent purchase). Today, HG/BSK wandered through the downtown arts district. Bought a few modest Christmas gifts. Lunched at Ken’s Ramen on Washington Street, a small, very busy Asian restaurant. Besides the ramen which is served with chicken broth that has been simmered for some 30 hours, Ken’s offers pork buns, rice bowls topped with uni, spicy tuna or salmon roe; seared or braised pork bellies; pulled chicken, etc.. Ken’s was out of broth so HG/BSK had some big bowls of Tan Tan Mazeman. These were thick, wavy, al dente noodles mixed with pork bellies and a variety of vegetables. HG/BSK added sesame sauce and Ra-Yu hot sauce. The result was a spicy, hearty dish that was more Chinese than Japanese. Wonderful eating. HG wants to go back and sample some rice bowls and chilled sake. Be warned. Ken’s is cash only and deservedly popular. Be prepared to wait.

PPAC-providence

Tiny Taters

August 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

All over Prince Edward Island vendors are selling a Spud Isle specialty — tiny, new potatoes. These potatoes (the largest are the size of a golf ball) have a unique, slightly mineral taste, the product of PEI’s red earth and salt air. They are great tossed with parsley, olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. Equally good with melted butter. HG likes to smother them in a mixture of chopped dill, garlic, olive oil and Greek yogurt. Unadorned, the little spuds are a nice companion to any cold soup (like the beet borscht and sorrel soup HG’s Mom used to make). When BSK makes roast or grilled chicken she usually usually roasts a big pan of the wee taters with an abundance of herbs, olive oil and garlic. Crisp and intensely flavorful. The potatoes should not be overcooked. They should remain slightly al dente. Only potato to match the PEI product are the little ones La Famiglia would consume on Nantucket Island many years ago. These were a favorite of young gourmand SJ. There must be something about potatoes grown on a salt sea island.

Scallops

August 3rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG loves scallops and eats them often since BSK is allergic to crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crabs). Luckily, bivalves (oysters, clams, scallops) create no problem for the beautiful lady. BSK lustily indulges in all other sea creatures (with the exception of eels and Chinese jelly fish salad). The waters between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia contain superb sea scallops. BSK honors them in the kitchen by giving them a quick saute resulting in a crisp exterior and a lush, juicy interior. Last night BSK prepared two pounds of scallops flanked by steamed bok choy. Exquisite Maiko added to the festivities by preparing cold soba in mentsuyu broth. There were a host of toppings — slivers of egg crepes, scallions, cucumbers, nori, tomatoes, garlic scapes. Perfect summer dining.

The best scallops in the world are Nantucket Bay scallops. Unfortunately, the season is very short and when frozen these morsels quickly lose their flavor and texture. HG and BSK owned a Nantucket home many years ago. They had a friend, a Nantucket native (family had lived on that magic isle for countless generations). who often went scalloping. He once invited HG and BSK to enjoy his catch in the traditional Nantucket way — raw, straight from the shell, no seasoning. Unforgettable, tasty experience.

Fish Cakes

July 31st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has always loved fish cakes but has rarely had good ones (except in London and at the Downy Flake restaurant on the island of Nantucket where they are served with a scrumptious egg sauce). Splendid fish cakes are (happily) turned out by Brilliant Lesley R. And, that’s what La Famiglia Prince Edward Island ate last night with copious amounts of sauteed snow pea pods and Theresa’s Mustard Pickles. Here’s how BLR made them. A modest amount of mashed potatoes was added to two pounds of poached cod. This was mixed with chopped onions, fresh garlic, garlic scapes and parsly. Some beatend eggs bound the mixture. The cakes were fried to crispness and then finished in the oven. Before going in the oven, each cake got a dollop of garlic mayonnaise enriched with some Sriracha. This gave the cakes interior moisture and a bit of heat. Post dinner watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. The spectacle confirmed La Famiglia’s belief in English eccentricity. Engagingly crazy.