Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

One of our favorite restaurants in Southern New England is The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts, and one of their best-selling appetizers is a simple but delicious deviled egg plate with raw tuna on top. It’s so good, it’s the only thing on the menu that my wife and I refuse to share…we always get a plate for ourselves!

We can’t always get back to the Back Eddy, so when the cravings hit, I make my version of this dish at home. Of course, my version has a lot less finesse to it…but a lot more tuna, which is what I crave! It takes a little time to make it, but it’s so worth it…

 

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6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup + extra mayonnaise
8 oz. high quality raw tuna
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
fish roe (optional, see below)
handful fresh spinach, or cucumbers (see below)

 

My favorite method of hard-boiling eggs is to put them in a pot of cold water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn the heat off and place a lid on the pot. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Perfect eggs every time. Remove the eggs from the water and cool them in the fridge, or in a bowl of ice water if you’re going to be serving this dish right away.

Here in Rhode Island, I can get fresh tuna right off the boat. Ideally, they say you should freeze all raw seafood before eating it. In general, killing parasites requires freezing and storing fish at a surrounding temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for seven days; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees or colder until the fish is solid and storing at the same temperature for 15 hours; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees until the fish is solid and storing at minus 4 degrees or below for 24 hours.

That’s a lot of work and worry. I find that I can get high quality tuna already frozen into convenient bricks at Whole Foods or on-line at websites like Vital Choice, one of my favorites for extremely high quality, responsibly sourced seafood.

I always try to buy responsibly sourced, fair trade seafood, like this beautiful ahi tuna.

 

If the tuna is frozen, let it thaw a little. If it’s fresh, place it into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. That makes it easier to cube up. Slice the tuna carefully into the smallest cubes you can make. Once done, place the tuna in a bowl and put it back in the fridge to continue its slow thawing until ready to use.

In a separate small bowl, combine the soy sauce and the chili oil. Set aside.

Finely chop the scallions. Set aside.

Once the eggs have cooled, peel them and cut them in half. Scoop out the yolks and place them in a bowl, starting with 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise. Add more mayo if needed. Mix well. I use a fork or whisk to get as many of the lumps out as possible. If you want to go crazy, you can put them in a blender or food processor to make a creamy puree. You can place the puree in a piping bag and carefully squeeze it out into each egg half. I simply use a spoon.

Once all the egg halves are filled, place them on a spinach leaf-covered dish and put them back in the fridge until ready to serve. Or, instead of the bed of spinach, peel a cucumber and cut the ends off. Slice the cuke into 1/2″ thick slices. Then, using a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds from the center to make a “cuke donut.” Use these as little stands to hold your eggs on the plate.

When you’re ready to serve, take the tuna out of the fridge. Pour the soy sauce/chili oil mix into the bowl with the tuna and mix well. Let the tuna marinate for just 2 minutes. Pour off the excess marinade, or it’ll get too salty.

Remove the plate of eggs from the fridge and carefully put a small spoonful of tuna on top of each one. Garnish with the sesame seeds and the chopped scallions and serve immediately.

 

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Fellow is my dog, and he was by my side as I created this dish. I thought it was only fair to name it after him.

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closet guarded secret, created in 1899 at the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s. Jules Alciatore, the son of founder Antoine Alciatore, developed the dish when they had a shortage of escargot, substituting locally available oysters. Antoine’s is still the only place in the world where you can be served the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe.

Search on line for Oysters Rockefeller, and you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing. Most of them use spinach in the dish, which Antoine’s has said was not in the original recipe.

My version, Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version than the original, which is heavy on the greens, but I think it’s one you will enjoy. I use larger, meatier oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters, but use what you like.

24 oysters
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer (I like Sam Adams Boston lager)
5 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

Place all the oysters in a large pot. Add the beer, peppercorns, salt, and garlic cloves, along with enough cold water to cover the oysters. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat off and remove the oysters onto a plate to cool. You don’t want the oysters to open in the pot! Discard the liquid.

Once the oysters have cooled, remove the top shell off each one, carefully reserving the oyster liquor inside if you can, and arrange them on a lined baking sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped
Fine bread crumbs

 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and then add the arugula a little at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Use all the arugula.

Once all the arugula is in the saucepan, sprinkle the cheese in a bit at a time, letting it melt, until you’ve used all the cheese.

Spoon the cheese sauce carefully over each oyster on the baking sheet, just filling the shell. Top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs.

Bake in the 425-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

 

For me, no dining experience is complete without a great cocktail. If all they’ve got to offer is a martini straight-up with olives, I’ll drink it alright–but I’ll be disappointed there’s nothing more.

Coppa is a wonderful small enoteca in Boston’s South End, featuring small plates by award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette. (They’re also the 2 creative forces behind Toro in Boston and NYC.)

The food was incredible, and this drink, called “Hey, Neon,” was inspired. The glass was rimmed with dehydrated and finely chopped kalamata olives. I tried to recreate that at home, and couldn’t get the texture or the size right. And I could never get it to stick to the glass, either! Ultimately, I simply skewered a few kalamatas and placed them on the glass!

The original “Hey Neon” at Coppa.

 

 

“HEY NEON”

1 1/2 oz. Aalborg aquavit
3/4 oz. Punt e Mes
1/2 oz. Cynar
1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse

Add ice to a cocktail shaker and then add the ingredients. Stir well, until very cold. Strain into a martini glass. Add the skewer of kalamata olives.

 

Aalborg is a brand of aquavit (or akvavit), a clear alcohol similar to vodka but usually infused with other flavors, mainly caraway or dill, popular in Scandinavia.

Punt e Mes is a sweet vermouth, the so-called “little brother” of the granddaddy of all sweet vermouths: Carpano Antica Formula.

Cynar is an Italian bitter and digestif made from herbs, plants and artichokes. Strong in flavor, but delicious!

Chartruese is a French liqueur made by Carthusian monks since 1737, using a recipe that dates back to 1605. It contains 130 herbs and plants. It’s also one of the few liqueurs that ages in the bottle, changing over time. Green Chartreuse is 110 proof, and naturally colored from the maceration of its ingredients. Yellow Chartreuse, at 80 proof, is a milder and sweeter version.

My version of the “Hey Neon.”

 

 

Every major city in the United states has a Capital Grille, and it’s a great place to grab a solid dinner if you’re traveling. Although the Capital Grille in my town of Providence, RI has recently moved from its original location, we can still boast that we had the very first one in the USA.

They don’t do crazy-fancy drinks at the Capital Grille. They keep a very well-stocked bar with high-end booze and make solid cocktails. But there is one signature drink you can find there, and that’s the Stoli Doli. A Stoli Doli is simply Stoli vodka that has been infused with fresh pineapple. If you sit at the bar at the Capital Grille, you won’t be able to miss the very large jar of freshly-cut pineapple pieces swimming in vodka. They literally pour it “from the tap,” and serve it straight up, like a martini, or on the rocks. It’s delicious, and I’ve certainly had my share of them over time.

I decided to make my own at home one day, to serve to my friends at an upcoming party. But to my disappointment, I didn’t have any Stoli vodka in the house. I found a bottle of Stoli Vanil, the vanilla-flavored vodka, and it was a real game-changer! I used that instead of regular Stoli and I came up with a sweeter, smoother drink that is legendary among my friends to this day. I called it…

VELVET ELVIS

2 pineapples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1.75ml Stoli Vanil

Find a gallon-sized glass jar with a lid. Peel, core and slice the pineapples and drop the pieces in the jar. Pour the vodka in, mix well, and seal the jar. Keep it at room temperature for a week, giving it a gentle shake every day.

After one week, strain it, squeezing the pineapple pieces to get every bit of liquid out. Keep the Velvet Elvis refrigerated. Serve over ice.

Chicken Rollatini was one of the first dishes I learned how to make back in my teenage days on Long Island, working at a local Italian restaurant called Pizza City East. (The original Pizza City was in Ozone Park, Queens.) It was a simple dish: a chicken breast rolled up with prosciutto and mozzarella, and baked in a mushroom cream sauce. My version these days substitutes ham for the prosciutto, provolone for the mozzarella, and an Alfredo sauce for the mushroom cream sauce.

 

4 chicken breasts cut lengthwise to make 8 thin breasts, about 2 pounds
8 slices sliced ham
8 slices of provolone cheese
Remove the chicken tender portion of the chicken breasts and set those aside for another day.
I don’t like to pound out my chicken breasts. I like the texture of “real meat.” So I take a large breast, and slice it lengthwise to make 2 thinner breasts. I lay the breast down on the cutting board, add a slice of “real” ham (not the deli-sliced stuff, but a ham that I sliced myself), then a slice of provolone, and carefully roll it up, securing it with toothpicks. Sometimes it’s easier to roll the ham and cheese first, then wrap the chicken around it. Place the rollatinis on a baking sheet. Set aside, preferably in the fridge, until ready to cook.

Rolled and ready!

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
Combine these ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
2 carrots
2 parsnips
2 celery stalks
1/2 medium onion
Olive oil
Peel and chop the parsnips and carrots into quarters. Peel and chop the onion in half. Chop the celery into quarters as well. Place all the vegetables on a sheet pan and drizzle olive oil over the top, tossing them in the oil. Roast the vegetables in a 400° oven until caramelized, and the  carrots and parsnips are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and let the vegetables cool. Once the veggies have cooled, chop them finely with a knife or food processor. Set aside.
3 cups your favorite rice, cooked
Cook the rice according to package directions. Once the rice is cooked, mix with the chopped carrots, parsnips, celery and onion. Set aside.
1 cup cream or half-and-half
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper
For the Alfredo sauce, heat a saucepan over medium heat, melting the butter and then adding the cream or half-and-half. Once it’s warmed through, add the cheese and whisk until it has melted and the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set it aside, to re-warm later.
Take the pan of rollatinis out of the fridge to warm to room temperature, and reduce the heat of the oven to 350°.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the rollatinis and rub it in. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake them for 30-45 minutes, until the chicken has cooked through.
To serve, remove the chicken rollatinis from the pan and plate on a bed of arugula (optional) with the rice on the side. Serve with the Alfredo sauce.

Yes, you can. Wouldn’t make sense to write a blog about it otherwise, right?

They key ingredient in making a good fritter batter is beer. But up until recently, there weren’t many gluten-free beers to choose from…and the ones that were out there tasted like crap. All that has changed.

Now you can pretty much find a gluten-free craft beer in every state, and there are several regional gluten-free beers as well. Easy enough to find: just go to a good beer store and ask. They almost always carry a couple of brands.

Gluten-free beers can be divided into 2 types: truly gluten-free: brewed with gluten-free ingredients and safe for Celiacs to drink…and gluten-reduced: beers that are brewed with ingredients containing gluten, then had an enzyme added to reduce  the gluten. These are fine for those, like my wife, that have an intolerance to gluten, but are not Celiac. Read the labels!

 

The beer that I used for my recipe is a beer that they say  is “crafted to remove gluten,” meaning there’s still a small amount left in there.

Ultimately, if gluten is not an issue for you, follow the recipe at the bottom of this page. It’s my original, and not only uses a tasty lager full of gluten, but also a special fritter flour, which can be found in many stores.

However, if you have to “live the gluten-free live,” and you’ve told yourself you can never have another fritter, I have good news for you: you can…and they’re delicious! This is a large batch, so feel free to reduce it if needed.

 

In making this recipe, I tested 3 types of gluten-free flour: Cup4Cup all-purpose flour, Bob’s Red Mill GF Baking Flour, and a Canadian brand (not available here yet.) Cup4Cup (far left) was the clear winner for taste and texture of the fritter.

1 lb. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like Cup4Cup)
2 lbs. frozen or fresh mussels
1/2 cup (or more) gluten-reduced lager beer (I use Omission)
oil for frying (I stay away from canola, but use what you like)

 

Pour an inch or two of water in the bottom of a pot, and place a strainer on top. Pour the mussels, fresh or frozen, onto the strainer and cover the pot. Set the heat on high and steam the mussels until they’re cooked, about 5 minutes. If you’re using fresh mussels, throw out any of the ones that didn’t open. Frozen mussel meats (without the shell) are also available in many areas. They work with this method, too.

 

Steamed New Zealand green-lipped mussels. Available frozen in many stores. Get the plain ones, not the ones that already come with sauce.

Remove the meats from the mussels, and toss them in a food processor. Give them a quick chop…not too fine, because you want to see and taste them in the fritter.

Save the “mussel juice,” the water in the bottom of the pot. It’s got lots of mussel flavor.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the chopped mussels. Add a 1/2 cup of the mussel juice and a 1/2 cup of the beer. Mix thoroughly, using a fork or your hands, until you get a batter that’s a bit gooey, but not really wet. You might need to keep adding small amount of broth, beer or flour to get just the right consistency. Once you’ve done that, let the batter rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Keep it at room temperature, and do not stir again! If you need to wait a while before frying, cover the bowl with a wet towel.

In a heavy pan or a fryer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.

 

Once the oil is hot, take small meatball-sized globs in your hands and gently drop them into the oil. Don’t fry too many at once or the oil temperature will drop too quickly. Fry them until they’re golden brown and cooked all the way through. Drain the fritters on paper towels, and season them immediately with salt and pepper.

The dipping sauce recipe I have listed at the bottom is not gluten-free. But most tartare-type sauces usually are, and are equally delicious.

Of course, you can make fritters with anything, from mussels to shrimp to lobster!

 

You’d never know they were gluten-free!

 

Here’s the original recipe, full of glorious gluten!

It was a fall afternoon in Newport, Rhode Island, at the now-defunct Newport Yachting Center’s annual Oyster Festival. We’re gorging on freshly shucked oysters and clams, boiled shrimp, and…what have we here? I never heard of a mussel fritter before, but once I took a bite, there was no turning back.

They couldn’t be easier to make, but it is crucial to have the right fritter batter. And that starts with a Rhode Island product called Drum Rock fritter mix. If you live in New England, you can find it in just about any seafood department at Whole Foods. If you live further away, you can check out their website (www.drumrockproducts.com) or try your luck with a local brand of fritter mix.

 

fritter ingredients

 

If you’re using fresh mussels, be sure to clean them well and remove the beards. Steam them in a pot over a small amount of water. As they open, they will release their flavorful juices and you want to save every drop of that broth for the fritters. Here in New England, frozen mussel meats are available in some seafood stores. All you need to do is thaw them, steam them saving the broth, and you’re ready to go.

For the fritters:
1 lb. fritter mix
2 cups cooked mussel meats
1/2 cup mussel broth (saved from steaming mussels)
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality beer (I use Sam Adams Boston Lager)
Oil for frying (I don’t use canola oil)

 

Steam the mussel meats until they’re just cooked. Remove the mussel meats, and reserve 1/2 cup of the broth. Pulse the mussel meats in a food processor, but leave ’em chunky…or chop by hand.

Put the fritter mix in a large bowl. Add the mussel meats, mussel broth, and beer. Stir gently until just mixed. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and do not stir again. (If you’ve got guests coming, you can prepare up to this part ahead of time, covering the bowl with a wet towel, and leaving it at room temperature.)

Using a thermometer, heat the oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees, and using a small spoon or scoop, drop the fritters in the hot oil, turning gently, cooking 3 to 4 minutes until golden.

Drain them on paper towels, and season with salt and pepper immediately. Serve right away!

 

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An easy, delicious dipping sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Ponzu sauce

The perfect dipping sauce for these mussel fritters is made from two ingredients: mayo and Ponzu sauce, a citrus-based soy sauce. Combine both ingredients in a bowl. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

It’s National Pancake Day!

These pancakes, based on a recipe from chef April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in NYC), are made from fresh homemade ricotta cheese. Light as air…and really delicious! I’ve made a few batches of fresh ricotta cheese in my day, but when the family has a craving for these pancakes at the last-minute, a good-quality store-bought ricotta cheese will do.

 

 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup GF flour if I want to make these gluten-free)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup fresh ricotta

 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta,  and egg yolks. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

In a large stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold gently into the batter.

Spray a non-stick griddle with a little cooking spray and drop about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes per side, until golden and fluffy.

pancake

I’m always on the lookout for a great cocktail, and these days, a great restaurant very often requires a great mixologist at the bar…not someone who can simply whip up a Cosmo, but someone who puts as much creativity in his drinks as the chef does in their dishes.

Over the years, I’ve created a list of cocktail recipes that bartenders have been willing to share with me, scribbled on business cards and bar napkins. Here are some from my travels…

The classic negroni is made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. I love negronis, and this cocktail is inspired by them. It comes from chef Tony Maws’ restaurant Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (www.craigieonmain.com) It’s been a decade since we dined there but the drink remains a favorite of mine. When our server communicated to the bartender that I was willing to be his guinea pig for creative cocktails, I was served this one–so new at the time, they didn’t have a name for it. I took a sip and exclaimed: “Holy Shit!” and the server laughed and said: “That’s as good a name as any!”

I still call it the…

“HOLY SHIT!” COCKTAIL

1 1/2 oz. Bols Genever
1 oz. Gran Classico
1/2 oz. Punt e Mes

Add some ice to a cocktail shaker, and add the ingredients. Stir well. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube.

Bols Genever is a Dutch spirit, the ancestor of gin, created from lightly distilled Dutch grains and a complex botanical mix. It is made according to the original 1820 Lucas Bols recipe which stood at the basis of the cocktail revolution in 19th century America.

Gran Classico is an alcoholic aperitif/digestif created following a recipe dating from the 1860s. It’s made by soaking a mixture of 25 aromatic herbs and roots in an alcohol/water solution to extract their flavors and aromas. The maceration creates a natural golden-amber color, although many other producers, like Campari and Cynar, dye their product red.

Punt e Mes is a pleasantly bitter, slightly sweet red vermouth, the “baby brother” of Carpano Formula Antica. The formula was developed in 1870 in Antonino Carpano’s bar in Piedmont, and the distinctive 15-herb recipe is still a family secret.

 

I sampled another negroni-inspired cocktail in Cleveland, Ohio, dining at chef Jonathon Sawyer’s The Greenhouse Tavern. (www.thegreenhousetavern.com) Crazy creative food, and this mind-blowing drink that inspired me to buy a small oak barrel and start cask-aging everything I could get my hands on at home. The OYO Stone Fruit Vodka, a key part of this cocktail, is not available here in Rhode Island. And my online source will no longer ship it! (www.thepartysource.com/oyo-stone-fruit-vodka) Store pick-up only.

 

OYO STONE FRUIT “NEGROSKI”

1 oz. OYO Stone Fruit Vodka
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

 

If you’re doing it The Greenhouse Tavern way, combine large quantities of these ingredients in the right proportions and pour them into an oak cask, then let it age! Experience tells you that newer and smaller casks will mellow flavors faster than larger, older ones. But it’s all about experimentation. Having a taste every once in a while is must, because you don’t want to over-age it, either.

If you don’t have an oak cask lying around at home, it’s still delicious without it…

Combine all the ingredients in a rocks glass with ice. Stir gently, adding a splash of soda, and garnish with an orange peel.

 

OYO Stone Fruit Vodka gets its wonderful flavors from stone fruits: cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds. Terrific on its own, but amazing in this recipe.

Campari is a world-famous aperitif and bitters, and a must in any decent home bar.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is a sweet vermouth, made in Italy from the Moscato grape.

 

Clam fritters, conch fritters, lobster fritters…I suppose you could fritter anything. But the first time I had them with mussels, I knew that I would never fritter my life away with any other!

It was a fall afternoon in Newport, Rhode Island, at the now-defunct Newport Yachting Center’s annual Oyster Festival. We’re gorging on freshly shucked oysters and clams, boiled shrimp, and…what have we here? I never heard of a mussel fritter before, but once I took a bite, there was no turning back.

They couldn’t be easier to make, but it is crucial to have the right fritter batter. And that starts with a Rhode Island product called Drum Rock fritter mix. If you live in New England, you can find it in just about any seafood department at Whole Foods. If you live further away, you can check out their website (www.drumrockproducts.com) or try your luck with a local brand of fritter mix.

fritter ingredients

 

If you’re using fresh mussels, be sure to clean them well and remove the beards. Steam them in a pot over a small amount of water. As they open, they will release their flavorful juices and you want to save every drop of that broth for the fritters. Here in New England, frozen mussel meats are available in some seafood stores. All you need to do is thaw them, steam them saving the broth, and you’re ready to go.

For the fritters:
1 lb. fritter mix
2 cups cooked mussel meats
1/2 cup mussel broth (saved from steaming mussels)
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality beer (I use Sam Adams Boston Lager)
Avocado oil or lard for frying (I don’t use canola or vegetable oils)

 

Steam the mussel meats until they’re just cooked. Remove the mussel meats, and reserve 1/2 cup of the broth. Pulse the mussel meats in a food processor, but leave ’em chunky…or chop by hand.

Put the fritter mix in a large bowl. Add the mussel meats, mussel broth, and beer. Stir gently until just mixed. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and do not stir again. (If you’ve got guests coming, you can prepare up to this part ahead of time, covering the bowl with a wet towel, and leaving it at room temperature.)

Using a thermometer, heat the oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees, and using a small spoon or scoop, drop the fritters in the hot oil, turning gently, cooking 3 to 4 minutes until golden.

Drain them on paper towels, and season with salt and pepper immediately. Serve right away!

 

IMG_3043

 

An easy, delicious dipping sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Ponzu sauce

The perfect dipping sauce for these mussel fritters is made from two ingredients: mayo and Ponzu sauce, a citrus-based soy sauce. Combine both ingredients in a bowl. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Years ago, before Alex & Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian bought Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, its success at creating quality wine was mediocre at best.
I heard stories that the grapevines on the property were there just for show. The story goes that the land was contaminated, and they couldn’t use it for winemaking. So despite having this magnificent piece of property, just about all of their grape juice was imported from South America.
To me, that defeated the purpose of going to a local vineyard. You expect them to grow the grapes and then use those grapes to make their wine.
Fast forward years later, the property is now called Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, and their website claims that they make their wines from the grapes they grow on their land. Is this truly the case? Or is this a bunch of BS? It’s hard to really know for sure.

The tasting room is full, especially on rainy days!

That issue aside, the vineyard seems to attract a lot of tourists, especially on rainy days when there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do in Little Compton. Sampling a variety of wines, even if they’re not really that great, is better than sitting at home and watching television.
The property also has an outdoor stage for mellow concerts when the weather is cooperating. (They were denied a permit to have a larger concert venue established on their property, because of the traffic and noise it would create. The town of Little Compton has had a bug up its ass lately…just ask the folks trying to get the historic Stone House open again.)
And there is a café, which is open seven days a week through Columbus Day…and weekends through the winter months.
That’s good to know, because there isn’t a huge choice of places to dine nearby. There’s a luncheonette and pizza joint in Little Compton Commons, and there’s a grill and sandwich place at Tiverton Four Corners. But that’s about it.
The café at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards serves up a tasty menu of freshly prepared sandwiches, flatbreads, salads and more. At a recent lunch, my daughter and I enjoyed their steamed pork dumplings as a starter. My daughter chose the Sakonnet Club, a turkey and ham sandwich on sourdough. I went with the Grilled Tuscan, which featured Genoa salami, capicola and soppressata and mozzarella on sourdough, all freshly made and grilled to melt the cheese. The table next to us had a bachelorette party, and all the gals there had different flatbreads, which looked really delicious…something to keep in mind for our next visit. Our sandwiches came with a light salad and a bag of chips on the side.
I had a glass of mediocre Albariño with my lunch, but it served its purpose.
All in all, a really nice lunch, and other things on the menu that I am looking forward to trying in the future.
I didn’t taste more than one wine at the vineyard that day, so in all fairness, I need to make a return visit for that purpose. But for me, the best wines in the area are located down the road at Westport Rivers. Although they don’t have the beautiful room and property that Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard has, they more than make up for it in the quality of their wine.

I’ve known Plum Pt. Bistro owner Ralph Conte for about 20 years now. Back in the day, Ralph owned Raphael Bar Risto in Providence. At that time, it was not only the best restaurant in town, but The Tunnel Bar at Raphael’s was also the hottest singles bar in town.

My buddy, Charles, and I would spend every Friday and Saturday night there, from dinner until closing, chatting with the ladies, sipping cocktails, and enjoying incredible food. As much as that kind of lifestyle can take its toll on your health, so can running a restaurant like that. And after a number of years, Ralph decided to close the doors on our beloved restaurant.

I was heartbroken, not only because it was a favorite hang out of mine, but it was also where I met my wife!

Fast forward a half a dozen years later.

Restaurants are in Ralph’s blood, so it was no surprise that he opened a smaller, family-run establishment, this time far away from the noise of Providence. Plum Pt. Bistro in Saunderstown became an instant hit with the locals and there’s rarely any empty seat in the house no matter what day you go.

Plum Pt. Bistro is smaller and more manageable than the old Raphael’s, and Ralph has his family to help him. His wife, Alyssa, daughter Zoe, and son Raphael, all work at the restaurant. The result is a comfortable atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re home. Ralph’s skills with Mediterranean flavors has not diminished in the least.

Although I love many of the standards that are on their menu, I always look to the blackboard first for the night’s specials. On a recent trip, there was fresh locally caught striped bass, tuna, and black bass. The tuna tartare was sensational. The whole fried black bass, served in a lemon butter caper sauce, with fresh seasonal vegetables and potatoes on the side, was the best whole fish I’ve had in many years. My daughter devoured the fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta cheese, sitting on a bed of beautiful marinara sauce. And her favorite regular dish on the menu is the potato gnocchi with pesto. My wife had the lettuce wraps, which were surprisingly fresh and tasty, dipping them in the Asian-style peanut sauce on the side. And a beet salad was raised to the next level by adding a perfectly cooked marinated steak to it.

My whole fried black bass, before I devoured it.

 

Plum Pt. Bistro has great bartenders that will make you your favorite cocktail, or create a new favorite for you. My buddy, Skip, from the Raphael days, still works for Ralph behind the bar. And they have a decent wine selection, too. Reservations are highly recommended. You need to call them since they don’t offer reservations online.

Plum Pt. Bistro is on the mainland of Rhode Island, right at the end of the Jamestown Bridge…just a stone’s throw from Wickford. Absolutely worth the trip if you’re spending any time in Newport. Cross the bridges and get some amazing food! Hey…I live on the other side of the state and it’s worth the trip for me!