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eG Foodblog: chrisamirault - Place Settings


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What a wonderful story, Susan! I'll try to give a few responses/footnotes.

About five or six years ago the Food Network was doing a tour of Food Network Live shows around the country, and I went to the one held at the Rhode Island Convention Center.  That was maybe the first time that I traveled alone on a pleasure-only trip; I had traveled to lots of cities going to work conferences by myself, but it was an adventure to go solo just for fun.  Providence was an awesome place for it, and I'll add that before that trip, I had heard that people "up north" from the Delmarva peninsula were in general less friendly people and rather cold  :biggrin: (like the weather, maybe?), but I experienced many examples proving that to be wrong.

Well, just as long as you don't ask for sauerkraut on your weiner, you'll be fine!

I don't know which was the bigger thrill for me, meeting and talking with Jacques Pepin and the others at the show or my visit to the JWU Culinary Archives and Museum.  Being an antique lover almost as much as a food lover, I adored the museum and have been wanting to go back ever since.  I happened to arrive there by cab when the timing worked perfectly for me to have a guided tour by a relative of the curator who was a J&W graduate, a Navy officer, and a Chef Louis Szathmary expert. 

I've never been, but I have been told by many that the museum is truly great -- and perhaps all of us will get a chance to judge tomorrow, eh? :wink:

Next on my agenda that day was Federal Hill, and he offered me a ride instead of a cab.  He actually got lost on the way, so I got a look at more of Providence than I would have otherwise seen, and he bought me a Dell lemonade.  (...A local favorite, I understand?)

Del's frozen lemonade is a summer fixture here in RI! It's sort of like a wonderful Slurpee (without the intense awareness that you are eating chemicals). If it were July, you'd all get a virtual Del's, believe me!

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Oh, absolutely. We are retired teachers,so our budget is limited as well. When we go to "the latest place" I often wish I were at my fav. old dependable where the food is always interesting and well cooked. Not so many fireworks, maybe, but I like their style better.

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My 1 meal there was great. This was about 5 years ago. They were a "favorite punching bag" on food boards but I really enjoyed it...I remember the grilled pizza and a clam/sausage dish.

Like Al Forno, the restaurants that we go to most often (Lucky Garden, Haruki in Cranston, the Red Fez, Flo's -- and the dear departed Empire :sad:) are places that we know we like, that have people whose enterprises we want to support, and in which we feel comfortable, well fed, and part of the community. The cuisine, price point, ambiance all vary, but those things remain the same.

We also function on a tight family budget. Both of us work in education, and we have the usual family expenses (plus some new ones that are approximately seven months old :wink:), so we don't want to drop $140 to find out that the food quality varies wildly from meal to meal, or that things are skidding downhill after a quick, hype-driven media frenzy, or that the buzz is more about the hipster fish tanks in the entranceway than about the fish that have been removed from the tanks, cooked, and plated. (Just as an example. Ahem.)

I know that Providence gets points on the foodie scene when it has new places to trumpet. But those of us who live here, I think, really value places like Al Forno, New Rivers, Neath's, and the like, places that have deservingly stood the test of time. To write them off as dinosaurs visited only by the stodgy few is to miss, entirely, the point.

I'll bet that's true for many people in the eGullet Society. I notice, for example, that next week's blogger is going to Tru and not to Alinea -- how untrendy is that?

Is it true for you?

Funny you should mention the restaurant with the fish tanks (ahem). That's the place we went - whatever its name - instead of going to Al Forno on our big night out on the town, on our trip a few years ago. Al Forno had been enthusiastically recommended by an acquaintance on the cooking forum I frequented at the time, but when we saw the price and the wait we decided to go elsewhere. Now that I read what you have to say about Al Forno I'm a bit sorry we didn't get there - but I have to say, in the interests of fairness, we really enjoyed the food at that other place and thought we got our money's worth. We don't much care whether it's trendy, because we're clueless about trends. We do want good food, preferably of a type we can't get out here in the Midwest.

What always puzzled me about Felina was that she didn't really seem to care about the guy until he died in her arms.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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Lunch:

gallery_19804_437_17035.jpg

Oh, and on the linguica/chorice front, cooking.com's cooking glossary says,

Linguica, a type of chourico sausage, is a Portuguese dried sausage with a distinctive garlicky flavor.

Sorry for the delay on that definition!

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Lunch:

gallery_19804_437_17035.jpg

Oh, and on the linguica/chorice front, cooking.com's cooking glossary says,

Linguica, a type of chourico sausage, is a Portuguese dried sausage with a distinctive garlicky flavor.

Sorry for the delay on that definition!

Those are good!

I see Korean ramen everywhere in LA. Well it feels like everywhere even on Hispanic catering trucks. I've seen people squeeze lime juice and a bit of hot sauce.

You are clearly a man of taste, Chris. :wink:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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I see Korean ramen everywhere in LA. Well it feels like everywhere even on Hispanic catering trucks. I've seen people squeeze lime juice and a bit of hot sauce.

Thanks, Farid! You're right: a bit of lime and some sriracha would be good.

In fact, sriracha would be good on a LOT of work food....

Does anyone indulge in rooster sauce while on the clock?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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In fact, sriracha would be good on a LOT of work food....

Works for me too. Sriracha and harisa are the only hot sauces I really like. Sriracha with homemade mayonaisse to dip spring rolls in.

I see that sauce EVERYWHERE in Los Angeles, even at a halal Bengali restaurant, Korean places, catering trucks....

It's a staple in my refrigerator.

EDIT: Your neighborhood is much more diverse than I expected. But then again I know little of that area. It looks really charming. I like the photos of the little stores alot.

Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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I'll bet that's true for many people in the eGullet Society. I notice, for example, that next week's blogger is going to Tru and not to Alinea -- how untrendy is that?

Is it true for you?

That is very true for my husband and I, we held our wedding reception at a wonderful Italian restaurant that isn't right downtown and doesn't make the boards very often. It's a neighborhood place where when we walk in the hostess turns to the kitchen and yells "VIPs in the house!", the chef often comes out to chat with us and if we haven't made a reservation but have stopped in on a whim the manager will look down in the book and say "of course, I have you right here, table for 2!".

We obviously have our best memories here and love that is is a place that is comfortable for us. And I love the food there!!

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Here's the front of Al Forno restaurant in Providence RI:

gallery_19804_437_25556.jpg

You'll be seeing more of that from the inside, front of house.

Thanks to Brian at Al Forno, along with Phil, Josh, Tomas, and Adonis, I am happy also to show you the back of Al Forno as well. This mid-afternoon, I came by the kitchen to see what life is like as the cooks and chefs prep for a busy weekend (it's Brown University's Parents Weekend, apparently :wacko:). Here's what I saw!

That's Phil prepping:

gallery_19804_437_33988.jpg

Tomas making dressing (I think):

gallery_19804_437_19167.jpg

Phil and Josh at their station (other side):

gallery_19804_437_18130.jpg

Josh had been on eGullet and praised it, so he got more face time:

gallery_19804_437_14134.jpg

More prep (I saw squash, cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, and perhaps some squab or quail):

gallery_19804_437_31169.jpg

gallery_19804_437_26237.jpg

gallery_19804_437_41313.jpg

Food machinery porn:

gallery_19804_437_2465.jpg

The wood grill whence wonderful pizza comes:

gallery_19804_437_53032.jpg

As you can imagine, I'm clock-watching now!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Breaking News: I just got the thumbs up on permission to snap photographs tomorrow at the Johnson and Wales open house, featuring baking instructor Mitch Stamm (boulak here in eG land), and in the University's Culinary Arts Museum. Thanks to Miriam Weinstein at J&W!

Be sure to tune in tomorrow late afternoon for those, Wildcat fans! Any alums out there who remember HAL 6?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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This is going to be quick, but I wanted to get the images from dinner up tonight. We went, of course, to Al Forno:

gallery_19804_437_27429.jpg

gallery_19804_437_3337.jpg

We started with their signature grilled pizza, this time with San Marzano pomodoro and sweet pumpkin, and it was, as always, outstanding:

gallery_19804_437_16946.jpg

Pasta was tagliatelle con i fungi, with a perfectly poached egg on top. The pasta was a bit stuck together in spots, but otherwise this dish was excellent:

gallery_19804_437_50797.jpg

I drank a swell glass of 2003 Luigi Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso with those two dishes. Finally, we had the one misstep of the night, a set of five pulled pork "po' boys" (not really, but hey) with shoestring potatoes. As Andrea pointed out, the dish really revealed why shoestring potatoes don't often work, as they were cold within five minutes of arriving at the table. The po' boys were perfectly fine, sage-y, but unremarkable:

gallery_19804_437_7111.jpg

I had that with half a glass of Red Hook ESB. Finally, we finished with a very light and wonderful espresso granita, which had the texture of moist winter snow, topped with whipped cream:

gallery_19804_437_19956.jpg

A great celebration, all in all!

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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It looks like Al Forno changes their menu seasonally, what with the pizza with pumpkin on it. How much do they in fact change menu items with the seasons?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Good morning! Just checking in before making breakfast for the whole clan. It's still really miserable outside, one of those mornings that makes you really appreciate Miss Silvia! :wub:

It looks like Al Forno changes their menu seasonally, what with the pizza with pumpkin on it. How much do they in fact change menu items with the seasons?

Yes, they do change seasonally and even weekly, but honestly, Michael, I don't go often enough to know how much. They have some particular farm sources (a primary one in Little Compton RI, I believe) upon which they rely for certain ingredients; all of their fresh tomatoes, for example, come from there. When they don't have fresh tomatoes (last night they had a green tomato sauce on the menu, but that was it), they use only the San Marzano. We went looking last night for their midnight pasta, a variation on carbonara with fresh peas and radicchio, and that wasn't there (no peas, presumably); that's why we got the tagliatelle.

That granita looks fantastic-like the real thing.

I've never been to Italy -- a tragedy, I know! feel free to send airfare and hotel to help me right this terrible wrong -- so I can't say definitively whether or not it is authentic. But it didn't have that granular quality of all of the other granitas I have had or made. For example, when I've made granita using the sheet pan method, breaking it up with a fork every 15 minutes or so in the freezer, it makes sea-salt-sized grains. This grains in this stuff were literally the size of powdered sugar, barely discernable as grains.

More soon!

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I love Al Forno. My uncle and aunt in Worcester used to take me there for dinner every summer within the first two or three days of arriving in the States for vacation. The caesar salad there marked the beginning of the summer holidays for me. I remember imagining that each leaf of romaine had been hand-painted with dressing before being arranged on the plate. So I would talk to my salad and eat it very slowly.

When I was in college in CT, I'd sometimes stop in Providence on the (long) way to Worcester, to have dinner on Federal Hill and pick up some snail salad or gnocchi for the same aunt and uncle.

I still talk to my salads, btw. Just not in the same way.

Excellent blog!

Edited by Verjuice (log)
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Breakfast! Pancakes and bacon for the whole family. Also made two cappucinos, a french press coffee for my dad, and decaf tea for my mom.

I use Mark Bittman's pancake base for my own (from How to Cook Everything), and make one of the substitutions he suggests, using 1/2 c corn meal with 1/2 AP flour. Thankfully, because I live in the Biggest Little State in the Union, I have the best stone ground corn meal available on earth, Kenyon's. Click here for their interesting web site.

gallery_19804_437_66008.jpg

We also use (though less devotedly) Rumford baking powder, the first calcium phosphate baking powder, which is the namesake for the neighborhood in East Providence that used to house the manufacturing plant.

gallery_19804_437_48140.jpg

Bittman separates the eggs to make the pancakes more airy. Here are the four egg whites beaten until stiff but not dry:

gallery_19804_437_19918.jpg

So, the simple batter: 1 c milk and the 4 yolks beaten, then mixed with the dry ingredients (1/2 c corn meal, 1/2 AP flour, salt and sugar, 1 1/2 t baking powder) until combined. The batter with the egg whites folded in:

gallery_19804_437_12878.jpg

The finished products. These pancakes are truly wonderful, I must say, with the corn meal giving them a slightly toothy, substantial body. Of course, to get that fantastic mottled crust, you need plenty of butter.

gallery_19804_437_45279.jpg

The bacon is Whole Foods 365 brand (thanks, mom!). How do people cook their bacon? I really haven't found a better way to do it, although I'm open to other ideas.

gallery_19804_437_42919.jpg

A pretty damned good start, I must say!

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for the compliment, Verjuice! And great anecdote about Al Forno.

When I was in college in CT, I'd sometimes stop in Providence on the (long) way to Worcester, to have dinner on Federal Hill and pick up some snail salad or gnocchi for the same aunt and uncle.

Do you remember where you got it? I'd be very interested to know. Several of the great old stores on Federal Hill are gone, including Providence Cheese Company, every last one of the vegetable and fruit sellers (the guys who used to snap at you if you touched their stuff; they wanted to place it into the bag themselves) and the House of Veal, source of many good things not limited to veal, like great sausages, venison, and huge bags of porcini mushrooms for a fraction of the cost elsewhere.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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How do people cook their bacon? I really haven't found a better way to do it, although I'm open to other ideas.

Although it may not be practical for a small amount, I think the best way is to lay the strips out on a cookie sheet (one with a rim all the way around!) and bake it in a 350 degree oven until crispy, flipping once. Convection ovens are best, but it works well with a regular oven too. This is hands-down the best way to cook large amounts of bacon, and I think it even beats frying on the stovetop or griddle for small amounts. For one, the strips always turn out flat when you bake them, with no curling or buckling. Of course, you can then pour the bacon fat out of the cookie sheet, through a paper towel or coffee filter and into a container. Keep the container in the freezer and dig out a teaspoon every so often when you want to give sautéed mushrooms or other foods just a little extra kick of flavor.

--

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I put mine in the George Foreman. We refer to it as the George Forman Pork Machine. The only things I ever use it for are hot dogs, bacon, and sausage patties. :raz: Anyway, it keeps the bacon long, straight, and it cooks really fast. If I don't feel like dragging it out, I throw it in the cast iron skillet and fry it up the old fashioned way.

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How do people cook their bacon? I really haven't found a better way to do it, although I'm open to other ideas.

Although it may not be practical for a small amount, I think the best way is to lay the strips out on a cookie sheet (one with a rim all the way around!) and bake it in a 350 degree oven until crispy, flipping once. Convection ovens are best, but it works well with a regular oven too. This is hands-down the best way to cook large amounts of bacon, and I think it even beats frying on the stovetop or griddle for small amounts. For one, the strips always turn out flat when you bake them, with no curling or buckling. Of course, you can then pour the bacon fat out of the cookie sheet, through a paper towel or coffee filter and into a container. Keep the container in the freezer and dig out a teaspoon every so often when you want to give sautéed mushrooms or other foods just a little extra kick of flavor.

This is what I do as well. Keeps the top of the stove clear for other things and there's no spatter to deal with. When I really want to make things easy I place a cooling rack over each half pan, laying the bacon out on top. No flipping needed.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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I brought a bag of Kenyon's Corn Meal home to London from Massachusetts this summer. Just made the Bittman pancakes: thank you, they were much appreciated, especially by two small children. :smile:

clb

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