Friday, September 5, 2008

"Like a Masochist in Newport, We're Rhode Island Bound"*

Dear Boo,

Last Friday I met that pesky little deadline and decided to celebrate by getting the H out of this GD city. My vacation began first thing in the morning when the Boyfriend surprised me with a congratulatory one hour massage at Graceful Spa. Genius. Let me say that if you need some knots worked out, which I know you do, you should immediately go visit the guy who worked on me. Apparently in addition to being a kung fu master, comedian, and international singing sensation, Jackie Chan also moonlights as a masseur on 14th Street. Seriously, this guy looked exactly like him. AND shortly into my massage I realized he had leapt with the grace and agility of a fox ONTO the table in order to use all parts of his arms for maximum jellification of my muscles. On my way out, slightly woozy and partially blind, I asked what my masseur's name was and was told, I kid you not, "oh that was Jackie". I rest my case.

We had decided to take a trip up to Newport, RI as I've been to visit practically every February for the past few years to perform this show at Salve Regina University and every time I say, I have to come back here in the summer. Also, I'd recently read this post on The Amateur Gourmet which made me nostalgic for my college years in Providence. I got us a room at the really cute Windsome B&B in town for Friday night, and decided we'd stay in Providence, just a short 30 minute drive away, on Saturday. We arrived around 5pm, found our B&B, washed up, and set out for the wharf, taking our host Valerie's advice to walk down Kay Street lined with beautiful old homes glowing in the late afternoon sun.

We wandered around the bustling wharfs and settled into two stools at an outdoor bar for a cold beer and a snack overlooking the harbor sunset. A perfect antidote to the 4/5 at rush hour. Remember the calamari at Paragon in Providence--it was served with spicy banana peppers and lemon instead of the regular old marinara sauce? Apparently this is the way it's done across Rhode Island. Someone in New York should really start doing this. If they have, someone let me know where I can get it, please. It's unbelievably good.

After our appetizer and aperitif we window shopped a bit further down the main drag to the less touristy Waite's Wharf, in search of The West Deck, recommended to me by a local. We fought through the Hamptons-esque drunken throngs of late 30-somethings on the deck to the quiet, romantic dining room where we snatched up the last unreserved table. We ordered a seared tuna salad, sesame encrusted over spinach and edamame with some kind of coconut dressing, pan-roasted salmon with lump crab meat, tobiko, and beurre blanc, and a side of spinach. The salmon, perfectly cooked and buttery, was declared by the boyfriend to be the best he's ever had. Trust me when I say these pictures do not do it justice.

We waddled back to the B&B via the funky Broadway route lined with artsy bars and cute restaurants, but not before buying some homemade fudge. Don't hate--everyone eats fudge when you're in a beach town. Granted, not everyone eats said fudge in bed, after a day of eating to the point of illness and exhaustion. I have a photo but he'd kill me.

The next morning we were greeted with this, courtesy of our hosts:

We'd planned to go to the beach for the day on Saturday, but unfortunately the weather was crappy--spitting rain, in the 60s, and generally gray. Instead we took a gorgeous drive along the coast along Newport's Ocean Drive, and visited the Third and Elm Press. By that time we were starving (what else is new) and we drove over to Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown right near the beach and across from the hotel I'm usually put up at when I visit Newport. Somehow, I'd never explored this little gem, dubbed Best Clam Shack in Rhode Island, and some might say all of New England.

After much debating in line outside, we ordered a lobster roll platter, fried scallops and a flo's combo including clam cakes, chowda, and a beer, all of which we feasted on at a table upstairs with a view of the beach. Next time I'm trying Flo's fiery stuffed quahog. If you have the chance, GO HERE. Here is our lunch in all its glory:

Stuffed and happy, we took a stroll along Newport's famous Cliff Walk, beautiful even in the rain. Since we had eaten Newport out of house and home, we decided to head off to Providence. On the way we got lost courtesy of Mapquest's creative renaming of roads. Naturally the best way to remedy this is to stop for ice cream. I got a coffee Awful-Awful, Newport Creamery's specialty milkshake, but it tasted kind of like burnt marshmallows. The B's pecan caramel turtle was delicious, though.

In Providence, we took a romantic stroll along the canals during Waterfire, and then took a break from seafood for a relaxed dinner at a bar near the water. In the morning, we drove through the crowds of Volvos unloading freshman and their plastic tubs of belongings up the hill to the college favorite, Louie's. It's been cleaned up a bit, but other than that not much has changed since college. The "Poached Passion" I used to order--poached eggs over spinach and tomato on an english muffin, covered with cheese was as delicious as ever. Afterwards, we headed out of the city to the Boyfriend's cousin's home just outside Providence. This is the same cousin who fed me my first taste of the family's Arroz con Pollo, so I knew I was in for a treat. We had only planned to stay for a couple of hours but after spending a few minutes with their adorable family in the sun drenched backyard, and perhaps one or two of these:
we opted to stay the night. Soon after we arrived we had a bowl of Rhode Island Chowder in our eager hands. Apparently, Rhode Island's version differs from the tomato-y Manhattan and the creamy New England. Like Rhode Island, it's rustic, beautifully simple, down to earth, and damn tasty, with a clear broth, plenty of clams and potatoes, and a healthy dose of black pepper. I may be a convert. Sorry, Dad. I still love yours too.

For dinner we had halibut topped with a crab meat stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh corn from a farm nearby. Perfect summer meal after a day spent roasting on the deck with a cold mojito in hand.

After a breakfast the next morning of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and blueberry muffins (I kid you not), we headed out on to the road, sad to say goodbye to the family, and Rhode Island. They were headed to a Labor Day clam bake and I contemplated chaining myself to the minivan. Ah well. All good things must come to an end.

Unless of course, you're a member of our family which means you NEVER STOP EATING. We had to drop the car off at the parents' and figured we might as well have a bbq for the holiday while we were at it. I'll spare you the details since you were there, but here it is:

Did I mention I'm going on a diet?

The Mouse

*Hungry for More?
If you're not already a Family Guy fan, what's wrong with you? And if you are, this is worth another viewing. Emmy Award winning tv, people. And a singing dog. Brian and Stewie present, "The Road to Rhode Island"...


Meisner said...

omigod I am so full...great article - felt I was right there sharing the goods...never saw family guy before - perfect! keep 'em comin'

ASobler said...

This entry was only made more perfect by your Family Guy clip."Like a masochist in Newport..."

What, no Meeting Street Cookie?

SO nostalgic for the good old days on Thayer Street...

Sounds like you had a delicious trip.

Doug Cress said...

what a great end of summer. its only 10am here and im having a craving for calamari (and beer).

The Boo said...

I've always wanted to go to Flo's Clam Shack!! Seriously.