Friday, December 14, 2007

Tippy Top 40.

Speculation about what will make the, a subsidiary of the Gault-Millau guide, Top 40 list are already beginning in earnest. Last years list is pretty up-to-date and I'm unaware of any major openings that stand a chance of making it. I would imagine that a few high-end places that were left off of last years list will simply be put on this list, and then they'll swap places next year.

Sadly, even though I love Rhode Island cuisine, I can't think of any places here that would belong on a top 40 of the entire country. I do think that Providence Prime would put in some serious competition for the top 10 steak houses. Hell, even Boston only has L'Espalier, and even then, I'm not sure it deserves to be on the list.

One large criticism I have of the list, and of Gayot in general, is that it ignores Canada. Montreal especially has restaurants that deserve to be listed in American publications and I think it a crime that they are not. I also think it's a real problem for American gourmets. Lots of us live near the borders and Canada is as much a local drive as any American place. Put all the damned restaurants in one publication!

But anyways, go check out the 2007 list to prepare for the 2008 list which should come out sometime in February.

The Gayot 2007 Top 40 (Via

Thursday, December 13, 2007

REVIEW: Gregg's- ***1/2 / $

It's hard to review a Rhode Island institution, and usually pointless. Everyone knows about the place and already likes it or doesn't, so really, this review is more or less a declaration of love for what may be the very best average restaurant around. Founded in 1972, Gregg's now occupies four locations: North Kingstown, East Providence, Providence, and Warwick. All four locations have identical menus, and the menu is huge. Not quite as large as, say, The Cheesecake Factory, but larger than most other places.

Only the North Kingstown location has a different decor, which is kind of disappointing. I like the warm and woody charm and color of the other three locations. Still, all four locations scream family restaurant from every beam and board. The generally relaxed manner of the staff and the simple options on the menu continues this theme. I like the menu a lot. It's all "down home" recipes. Pot pies, chicken, gravy, and sandwiches galore. It's all perfectly affordable for almost anyone on any budget. And this is all fine since basically everything in the menu is delicious. Delicious not in a fine-gourmet kind of way, but delicious in a down home, made-by-mom kind of way. It's comfort food and, man, is it good.

Gregg's is perhaps most famous for their desserts, which they sell to seemingly countless local stores and restaurants. The chocolate cake is a multi-award winner, the cheesecake is has few peers, and their chocolate chip cookies, made with BUTTER, taste like fresh Toll House cookies made by grandma. Gregg's is bested in the pastry department pretty soundly, though, with Emilio's Bakery. But they should take solace with their chocolate cake. It really is the best around. Again, it's the cake mom made.

I keep using the motherly allegory, but that's the best way to describe Gregg's. It's mom. Unless your mom was Julia Child, this is what mom made, and in that capacity, Gregg's is perfect. Any night. Any time. If you don't really know what you want to eat. head to Gregg's. They'll take care of you right.

Greggs: ***1/2 (But my soul gives it ****1/2)
Price range for two: $15-$30

Hours All Locations
Sunday through Thursday 11:30am to 12:00am
Friday & Saturday 11:30am to 1:00am

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I hate hazelnuts. Little bastards are impossible to open. You try to open them, squeeze the nutcracker, and BEW! Little shits fire off at mach 2. You never find them! Somewhere in my house are 47,000 hazelnuts. It would be a squirrels dream. Lots of hidden nuts for him to find.


I've been coming across ads for some liquor I've never heard of. It's called Canadian Club and they've been running the ad in a number of magazines. The basic idea, I guess, is that old men who were lascivious bastards when they were young, back in the 1960's, drank a lot of whiskey. What a great advertising message! What a great message! Skeezy men drink our whiskey! You should, too!

The other, equally disgusting direction, is that they directly reference "your" father. Your... father?! What the hell were they thinking when they decided to bring up images of good ol' dad banging everything with two legs while drunk?! This doesn't make me want to drink, it makes me want to obsessively shower.

UPDATE 4/2/2010: I found this great spoof ad that really turns the concept on its head.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I noticed that almost everything I've posted in the past few days is about East Greenwich. I don't even live there. I need to hang out in different towns.

Monday, December 10, 2007

QUICKVIEW: Cornucopia- ++ / $$$

The friendly staff elevated an otherwise bland experience. The insides is arranged in such a away as to provide a feeling of high-class dining, but the Wal*Mart-chic decor ruins the impression. Tables sit right up next to the window, giving diners a nice view of Main Street, and walkers a nice view of diners. Menu is limited on any given night with an affordable prix-fixe menu. Choice of soup, appetizer, and main course never totals more than $30, making this a good choice for those looking for an upgrade to TGI-Fridays. The mid-day menu runs 'till 2:30pm and is also very affordable. Nothing cracks $15, making it a good spot for lunch-hunters. Entrees are decently imaginative with nice ingredient choices, but preparation is sub-par and ingredients are sometimes underwhelming. Certainly not bad enough to never go back. If I'm in the neighborhood I'd probably make another trip.

Cornucopia: ++
Price range for two: $50-$60

241 Main Street
East Greenwich, RI. 02818

Friday, December 7, 2007

QUICKVIEW: Black & Blue- ++ / $$$

Black and Blue advertises itself as a restaurant and speakeasy. I don't understand the speakeasy part. It just seems like a restaurant to me. Taking the place of The Indian Club, they changed the color scheme to a subdued, trendy blue; and almost nothing else. Nice interior, with a gigantic explosion of color in what looks like Jackson Pollock's nightmare on the wall as the centerpiece. The dining area is somewhat small, with the bar inefficiently taking up most of the back. The menu is, again, steakhouse-ish. Damned steakhouses are everywhere. The menu is competitively priced. Wine list is very good. A large list of affordable wines combines with an even larger list of more expensive wines. List skews American, with many high-end options.

Appetizers are average. Fried lump crab meat was acceptable, but barely spiced and rather bland. Seafood is nice, but prepared sub-par. Scallops were overcooked and sandy. Sauce was too salty. Steak was overcooked, but not by much, and the pinot noir reduction sauce was sweet and satisfying. Orange and spice chicken was very tasty. Cappuccino was below average. Desserts were disappointing. Flourless chocolate torte was dry, while the banana & ladyfingers thing was very bland. Entering the crowded steakhouse scene means lots of competition from excellent places. The nearby Eleven Forty Nine outclasses this place turn for turn. Still, it was good enough where I might come back.

Black & Blue: ++
Price range for two: $40-$75

455 Main Street
East Greenwich, RI 02818

QUICKVIEW: Eleven Forty Nine- +++ / $$$

Eleven Forty Nine takes the place of the old Bravo and changes things up a bit. The story of its creation is almost legend, and the final product lives up to some expectations, but not all. The inside has been completely redesigned, for an unknown reason. Bravo was extremely nice. I like the new layout more, though. Service is excellent and professional. Atmosphere is uber-trendy, with a bar-full of pretentious yuppies to match. The menu is totally changed, with an emphasis on steaks. Pizza exists as an apparent nod to Bravo's previous favorites, but is out of place. Everything is affordable with most non-steak Entrées at or below $20. The steak is the obvious focus of the menu and sides are à la carte, which leaves Eleven Forty Nine as, basically, a steak house. The options are competitively priced, being roughly equal to Fred & Steve's. Not quite as good as, though. House-made desserts satisfy. It's close to me, so it's a definite return.

Eleven Forty Nine: +++
Price range for two: $45-$85

Eleven Forty Nine Restaurant
1149 Division St.
Warwick, RI 02818

Sunday, December 2, 2007

May the Force be With You.

Pressure, that is. I've been thinking about buying a lever-actuated espresso machine. There are two kinds, apparently, a spring powered variety, where you essentially cock the espresso machine. After doing that the spring applies the desired pressure to the water as it's forced through the grind. I have tried to figure out which brand to buy, so I went to If it wasn't for the gigantic database of consumer reviews, the site would be useless. In a recent review of the Rancilio Silva, a perennial favorite espresso machine, the reviewer actually brags about not reviewing the product. Well, then, what the hell are you doing? I don't care about anything else you have to say. Review the God damned product for me. Enlighten me. That's what I'm coming to you for.

Regardless, I'm getting tired of my Jura Capresso Z5. Yeah, I sound like some whiny little twit, complaining about my $5,000,000 Über-machine. Still, as far as a super-automatic goes, it's fantastic, but boy howdy does it have some limitations. The lack of a manual steaming nozzle/wand is a big drawback for me, since a cappuccino with heaps of foam is impossible. Don't get me wrong, it produces wonderful foam, but not a lot of it and, importantly, it never seems to get everything hot enough. Oh, and I can't even count the number of times I've clogged it with dark roasts ground too fine. Do not even get me STARTED on flavored roasts, like my nemesis, Irish Cream.

So I'm off and running on trying to find a dedicated espresso machine that will allow me to tamp my own grounds and press however-the-hell much water I want through them for however long. So I'm back to the two kinds of lever presses. I mentioned the spring-loaded one, well the other one is a pure lever-pressure model. This one requires a smooth hand that can deliver constant pressure to the water flow so as to not cause any amount of water to either go too quickly or too slowly through the grinds. Unfortunately, much as with the rest of the world, EVERY model out there seems to have something terribly, horribly wrong with it.

So I hit again, and I noticed that they never seem to dislike any machines. Every machine reviewed gets an 8 or above. That doesn't help me at all. So I poked around until I found the companies that made my desired design, and two brands kept popping up, La Pavoni and Elektra. Both of them make fantastic, fantastically expensive machines, and all have something wrong with them that can be fixed easily and cheaply.

Temperature regulation on these machines is apparently a novel and absurd concept. Many of them have no insulation to speak of and blast off heat from their boilers. Oh yeah. The Green Team will be happy with that one. We already have global warming from CO2, we don't need it from heat. Others, like the La Pavoni, would get so blistering hot as to actually ruin espresso shots. I think I'm going to go with the full lever-actuated one and forgo spring mechanisms. I really want to get a true, barista experience and also get as much control as possible. The constant problems with boiler pressure messing with milk steaming times gives me some serious pause, though. I swear. Am I going to have to buy a fully professional model for ten grand? Because I won't. I'll just go to friggin' Starbucks and leave my soul at home.

QUICKVIEW: Providence Prime- +++ / $$$$$

In this new section, I will give a quick review-type-thing of a place that I have only visited once and don't really have enough to go on to do a full review. The star rating changes from five-stars to three pluses. One plus means I will not return, two means I may or may not return, and three pluses means I will definitely return. The price range rank remains the same as for full reviews.

Providence Prime takes the crown for steakhouses in Rhode Island. The inside is cozy and beautifully appointed. Very chic and professional, the wood tones and leather bleed urban elegance. The wait-staff is very knowledgeable about the meats and will give you a full presentation if you ask. The wine list is excellent if a little expensive. Appetizers are utterly yummy across the board. The steaks are the best in Providence. Thank GOD they have actual Bearnaise sauce. Side dishes are large and very tasty. The steakhouse intentions shine through with recipes that are simple and austere. This is a compliment since the chef is flawless. The excellent meat is allowed to take center stage. The mind-numbing 38oz porterhouse will defeat you. Don't bother even trying to finish it. Seafood selection is limited, but if you want that, go next door to their sister-restaurant, Providence Oyster Company. A gem of Providence dining, Providence Prime puts the chain steakhouses to shame. If you love meat, this is a must-try.

Providence Prime- +++
Price range for two- $80-$140

Providence Prime
279 Atwells Avenue
Providence, RI 02903

REVIEW: Rasoi- *** / $$

Nestled in an absolutely hideous strip mall in Pawtucket are three, very unique, very impressive restaurants. First up is LJ's BBQ, next to that is Rasoi, and then The Garden Grille. Strip malls are not exactly bastions of high dining, but, for some reason, this one is. The trio represents a dynamite combo of food that could keep you busy for months. From the irony of having a vegetarian/vegan restaurant fifteen feet from a temple to slow-cooked meat, to the figurative and literal middle-ground inhabited by Indian food, Blackstone Place in Pawtucket is a destination that no Rhode Island gourmet should miss.

Rasoi sits in between the PETA nightmare that is LJ's BBQ and the PETA wet dream that is the Garden Grille. I knew it was going to be a tough sell what with India about thirty seconds down the street. India really raised the bar for Indian food around these here parts, but the food is kind of Americanized. While there's certainly nothing wrong with this, for no one could ever argue that India tastes bad, my tongue yearned for a more authentic, Indian experience. I was hoping Rasoi would give me that.

The sign, design, and Indian-looking folks running the place all gave a solid impression. In fact, the logo and sign are so well done that you might be fooled into thinking it a chain. The design of the interior doesn't quite follow from the impression the sign gives you, and it's very inferior to the sumptuous interior of India's two locations. Still, it's an open, welcoming, and well appointed interior. On the night I was there, the music was too loud. As a result, I had a terrible time trying to hear the waiter. Which was unfortunate. He was very friendly. I noticed that the wait staff was all Indian, and everyone in the kitchen appeared to be white. The shoe is on the other foot, it seems. Damn the white man. Yeah. Overall, I was hoping for a more Indian feel and didn't get it. Maybe pillows, or fornicating statues would have done it.

The disappointment continued on into the menu. Lots of good-sounding food stuffs, but all visibly Americanized. The samosas are good, as is the Tawa Jhinga, but the appetizers are otherwise unremarkable. One area where Rasoi shines is its fantastic bread selection. Every bread is excellent, and the naan is a treat. It's the best naan I've ever had. Airy, sweet, and moist, with a wide variety, this is the one area where Rasoi truly outperforms India. The honey and ginger naan is sweet, and the flavor of ginger is perfectly balanced. The coconut and date naan is almost a dessert.

The entree list is large and runs the gamut of usual Indian meats of chicken, lamb, and shrimp. They also separate vegetarian meals with a list of about ten options. The whole of the list is well balanced and quite affordable. All in all, it's a tad cheaper than India, but I encountered some chicken with tough parts. The ingredients at India have never been anything but top-notch. Dessert offerings are almost non-existent, but they offer pretty decent coffee. Nothing much else, but as I said, if you didn't get any at the start, you might as well finish with the honey-date naan.

As far as value goes, Rasoi has a real winner with the lunch menu. It's very large and very affordable and they obviously do not skimp. And for the gourmets who consider themselves more as gourmands, two buffets, a vegetarian one on Saturday and a standard Indian buffet on Sunday, are sure to send your belt out a notch or two. Here, the fact that Rasoi does little to differentiate itself from India doesn't matter. You get an enormous amount of bang-for-the-buck that India doesn't match.

Rasoi makes a good run at India's dominance of the local Indian scene, but it doesn't manage to do any dethroning. They offer delivery, which is a party piece that India is lacking, so homebodies need apply, but for someone more than ten minutes away, that's meaningless. Maybe if Rasoi had gone for fully traditional dishes, or offered a more inventive set of non-traditional ones, they would have gotten somewhere. Rasoi doesn't even deviate enough from Kabob & Curry, the owner's other restaurant, for it to be an entirely separate entity, in my mind. As it stands, they offer some very well made, not-terribly-inventive, Indian dishes that anyone would be well-served to get. And since good Indian food is very hard to come by in the Rhode Island area, Rasoi offers enough differences from the nearby India to make a trip worth it for diners who would like to try something a bit new.

Rasoi: ***
Price range for two: $30-$50

727 East Avenue
Pawtucket, RI 02860
In Blackstone Place
delivery 401-272-3463

Monday through Thursday 11:30am to 3:00pm then 4:30pm to 9:30pm;
Friday 11:30am to 3:00 pm then 4:30pm to 10:30pm;
Saturday 12:00pm to 10:30 pm
Sunday 12:00pm to 9:00pm