Sunday, February 28, 2010

Milestones ~ 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Speech in Providence

Federal Courthouse Building
Federal Courthouse now stands where the Railroad Hall once was.

150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln, fresh from his speech at the Cooper Institute, spoke in Providence at the Railroad Hall (a second-floor auditorium in the Union Passenger Depot). Lincoln spoke for 2-1/2 hours, in what was probably a recap of his Cooper Union speech. There's no record of his speech, though it was reviewed in the local papers at the time.

This and more information on Lincoln's connections to Rhode Island are available at the site www.rilincoln200.org, a site dedicated to celebrating the anniversary of Mr. Lincoln's birth.

When I heard about the anniversary of Lincoln's speech, I took a disinterested Bear downtown to check out the commemorative plaque on the side of the Federal Courthouse. She didn't believe me when I assured her that she'd remember and appreciate these adventures when she was dragging her own reluctant teen to stare at a plaque on an obscure historical anniversary, but she will. She will.

Lincoln plaque

Thanks to the Providence Daily Dose for their blog post, or I wouldn't have known about today's historic significance.

Dining ~ Jigger's Diner, East Greenwich

Jigger's
145 Main St.
East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Jigger's Diner exterior

Bear and I decided to try Jigger's Diner today. I've read about them in several Rhode Island books and wanted to check them out. Since all the sources talked about their johnnycakes, that's what I ordered.

Bear is less adventurous and knows what she likes. She got a Monte Cristo, which she really liked. Our waitress also told us it was her own menu favorite.

But on to the johnnycakes... I haven't had them before, so I don't have a comparison. They look a lot like latkes, a smallish pancake based on potatoes, but these are made of white cornmeal. I liked them, although they probably would have been better with a side dish, perhaps applesauce or some sausage. Just a touch of syrup also helps add some flavor. I can't say whether Jigger's makes especially good johnnycake or not (compared to others), but I thought they were pretty good. Next time, I want to try the gingerbread cranberry pancakes.

The building is a 1947 Worcester Lunch Car. It's well-kept and very charming.

Jigger's Diner interior

It was very busy when we went in, but we were seated right away and Ed, the owner, took our drink orders from the counter. He checked on us regularly. Our waitress was also friendly. The food was served quickly with good presentation. We'll certainly go again.

Note: Ed recently lost a building in a fire. They're collecting for "Ed's Fire Fund."

Rhody Bloggers ~ Savor the Thyme

Savor the Thyme


Jen is a Rhode Island food, lifestyle and family blogger who encourages healthy eating. I had the good fortune and pleasure to meet her at the Night in Newport Tweet-Up, and I wish we'd had more time to talk. She's very knowledgeable about food, parenting and blogging, very positive and energetic.

She's participating in the National Food Blogger's Bake Sale to benefit Share Our Strength, and hosts giveaways (currently for beef - yum!). Very busy lady!

Pop over to her blog and/or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. You'll learn a lot!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dining ~ Red Ginger ~ Johnston

Red Ginger
560 Killingly St.
Johnston, Rhode Island

image: Red Ginger

Lazy day today, even too lazy to cook, so Bear and I decided to try Red Ginger Chinese Restaurant takeout.

We ordered the PuPu platter for two and went in to pick it up. The inside is nice, clean, intimate. It wasn't overcrowded at 7 on a Saturday night, but there was a line of three or four waiting for takeout. Our food was waiting for us and I added bubble tea to our order.

The coconut bubble tea was amazing. Fresh and creamy, slightly sweet but not thick or cloying. Bear and I both loved it.

The PuPu platter had a good variety for a reasonable price: Egg Rolls, Chicken Fingers, Crab Rangoons, Beef Teriyaki, Boneless Spareribs, Chicken Wings and Fried Shrimp. The egg rolls, beef teriyaki and spare ribs are all really good. The spare ribs are awesome. Bear loves the rangoons, although I'm not a fan. They're heavy on onion and the center isn't very creamy. The fried food is decent, much like you would find elsewhere.

The staff is friendly and accommodating. We'll definitely go back.

Accomodations ~ Hotel Viking, Newport

Hotel Viking
1 Bellevue Ave.
Newport, Rhode Island

photo: Trails.com

I arrived nearly half an hour before the Night in Newport Tweet-up. It was my own fault... the bad weather had me worried that I'd be late, so I left much earlier than I needed to. Bonus! The extra time gave me the opportunity to look around the hotel a little.

Hotel Viking opened in 1926 as a way to house the guests of Newport's famous "cottages." The mansions are big, but they really don't have a lot of bedrooms. The brick exterior is architecturally interesting, without some of the Victorian flounce of the mansions. It's...stately.

Once through the big, heavy brass door, you can see some of the building's history in both the decor and the photographs of events that adorn the walls. There are lots of brass fittings and appointments, a big make-an-entrance staircase, elegant sitting area and lovely glass-walled reading room. There are ten Mansion Suites, designed to "capture the essence" of the famous Newport Mansions. I'd love to get inside to see!

Lobby sitting area Sitting area Downstairs hallway staircase reading room

The staff are obviously well-trained to greet everyone with a smile. I passed one guy who was on his way out, either for a break or the end of his shift. Even though obviously off-duty, he smiled and asked how I was. Likewise, the service was excellent, and the appetizers and cheese were delicious. Everyone raved about the chicken salad.

Thanks again to Hotel Viking for hosting the Tweet-Up. If anyone is looking for a luxury hotel in Newport, I would send them straight to you!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Events ~ A Night in Newport Tweet-Up

Hotel Viking
1 Bellevue Ave.
Newport, Rhode Island


Last night I attended my first Tweet-Up, a meeting of people active in social media. It was hosted by the Hotel Viking in Newport (they get a separate post). The event was coordinated by Jim and Stacy Reck, and attended by about twenty social networkers from Rhode Island and Southern New England.

Everyone had a great time, and circulated very well. It's important to note that, while some of the attendees already knew each other and/or had met before, I never felt like an outsider, and it didn't seem like anyone else did, either.

Here are a couple of shots of the attendees - a great mix of people from all walks.

Tweeps

Tweeps

Tweeps

The Hotel Viking's staff was great, the food was good and the atmosphere was high-energy and good-natured. I learned a lot and met some people who are more than good contacts, people I enjoyed spending my time with and would love to see again. It was more than worth the drive in the rain.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Retread ~ Sights ~ RISD Halloween Pumpkins in Downcity, Providence

Originally published 11/1/09
Downcity Shopping District
Providence


Cage pumpkin and friends
Originally uploaded by boliyou.


Yesterday afternoon we took a walk through Downcity Providence to check out the displays of pumpkins decorated by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) students. It was a fun excuse to wander downtown, where the weather was warm and breezy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Events ~ The RI Flower Show, Providence

Rhode Island Flower Show
RI Convention Center
Providence, Rhode Island

C was out for a visit this weekend, which is why the blog has been rather silent. However, we weren't silent. We were busy exploring the Rhode Island Flower Show.

The Flower Show is an annual event held at the Rhode Island Convention Center, and has been around for nearly 20 years. The focus this year was on organic gardening, and they had demonstrations, lectures and activities for all ages.

The show featured a theme garden competition called "Timeless Gardens." The entries were very impressive. Below are some of my favorites.

Tranquil Reflections: Kevin Fox, Ray Thayer Chris Seger, Jan Irwin
Tranquil Reflections: Kevin Fox, Ray Thayer Chris Seger, Jan Irwin

Harmony: Samantha & Neil Best
Harmony: Samantha & Neil Best by boliyou

Metamorphosis: Michelle Sousa
Metamorphosis: Michelle Sousa

There were some extraordinary floral arrangements as well:

vegetable arrangement
Including one of vegetables

floral arrangement

This is one of a set of tiny (note the needle and thimble for scale) arrangements:
Mini arrangement

There was live jazz...
Jazz Duet

Also fun, but very confusing to me, was a group of sand sculptures. I don't really associate sand (however beautifully sculpted) with flowers or gardens. Perhaps a seaside garden.
The Times they are a'changin - sand sculpture

Naturally there were vendors of all types. We tried a dozen or more herbal dip recipes and bought a few home with us. We also signed up for the Caitlin Raymond International bone marrow donor registry.

We left footsore but highly entertained. It's definitely a good time, especially if you like flowers or gardening, but even if you're just there for the aesthetic.

Events ~ Viewing Party for Liberty Elm on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Providence

Everyman Bistro
311 Iron Horse Way
Providence, Rhode Island


There's a lot of buzz around the Providence blogosphere about tonight's viewing party, but it deserves yet another voice.

The Everyman Bistro is hosting a crowd of Liberty Elm supporters and well-wishers as the historic Providence diner is featured on tonight's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on The Food Network. Live music by Killdevils, Lucky 57 and Mark Cutler and Friends starts at 8:30. The show airs at 10:00. Come down and lift a glass to the Liberty Elm, with a big thank you to Everyman Bistro!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Retread ~ Sights ~ Providence Athenaeum

Providence Athenaeum
251 Benefit St.
Providence, Rhode Island

Athaneum in autumn
The Athanaeum, founded in 1753, is the oldest library in Rhode Island, fourth oldest in the country, and one of the few remaining subscription libraries in the United States.

It's a cool Greek Revival building near RISD, just a block from the RISD museum (more on that later). The current building was designed by William Strickland and built in 1838.

Bear and I spent a happy hour there on Sunday afternoon, and we've brought friends from out of town to enjoy it as well. It's a great old library, crammed full of books and history. But it's not just gathering dust. The Athenaeum recently went wireless. They have new books and materials as well as special collections.

Athaneum Interior

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shop local ~ Food ~ Wintertime Farmer's Market, Pawtucket

Wintertime Farmer's Market
Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket

image via farmfreshri.org

Bear and I make it a point to get to the Wintertime Farmer's Market at least once per month, sometimes more often. It's located in the Hope Artiste Village, a refurbished mill of some kind that has been converted to sales and live/work space for artists (more on Hope Artiste Village itself in another post).

There's a great selection of locally grown and produced foods at the Market. Many are organic and/or, in the case of animal products, free-range. There are also breads, cheeses, spreads, pestos, cut flowers, live plants, cupcakes, pies and prepared foods. I'll focus on some of our favorite vendors in other posts. If you want to know who's at the Market on a particular week, you can check out their information on farmfreshri.

Tables and hallway             Purple Pear table

The Cupcakerie table
Bear, as usual, makes a beeline for The Cupcakerie's table.

The market is popular, often crowded, but the crowd tends to be very good-natured, and so are the vendors. Most of the shops in the market are also open, which makes for convenient one-stop shopping. The best part is that the food is fresh and local. You may find things that you didn't know grew locally as well.

The tables line the halls of the Artiste Village, but there's a large empty store front that's developing into a kind of food court. They have live music, and it seems that there are more new vendors every time we attend. I tried some carrot cake jam in one stall, bluefish spread in another, where crepes were being prepared right next door. There truly is something for everyone.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rhody Artists ~ Christopher Garrison photography

I stumbled on Garrison's work during my browsings. He's based in Woonsocket and does both fine art and commercial photography. I like the ghostly quality of his floral series.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Events ~ I heart Providence

I Heart Providence
City Hall
25 Dorrance St.
Providence, Rhode Island

February 11 was the second annual "I Heart Providence" event at City Hall. Bear and I went to check it out. It was pretty cool, but crowded when we got there. Of course, this is a good thing.

First up we saw a table for the Providence Public Library, and the U.S. Census was there as well, recruiting.
U.S. Census table
Census table

The first floor also held a cash bar, chocolate fondu by Whole Foods University Heights, Providence-themed postcards by artist Carolina Arentsen and the United Way's information booth for their 2-1-1 service (February 11 = 211): 
Carolina Arentsen       United Way 211 table

Four different Miss Rhode Islands were there. This young lady saw me lining up the shot and struck a pose for me:
A Miss Rhode Island

On the second floor we found our friend Iris of Cutie Pies. She let us try a mint concoction that was just wonderful! I have to get in touch with her again to find out what it was called. **Update** Iris tells me the chocolate/raspberry/mint flavor is called "Falling in Love." Wonderful!
Iris Moore - Cutie Pie Lady

Fine bakery was near her, and offered me a lovely chocolate bourbon cupcake sample. The Bear enjoyed the red velvet.
Fine Bakery

Moving around the room, there was next a restaurant that may have been giving out samples of Mexican food. Whatever it was, the crowd loved it. I saw people with plates of it, and their table was swamped. There was no getting near it for a photo.

Past the live music area and another cash bar we found Tip*C cupcakes. They have an inventive list of flavors, many of them alcohol-based. While it all sounded delicious, Bear and I opted for a vanilla with lemon frosting. It was very good, and the owners were friendly.
Tip*C Cupcakes         Lemon vanilla cupcakes

Next up was Quahog.org. I've been reading their site since I made the decision to come to Rhode Island. It's a great resource, with tons of interesting facts. Many of our list of "places to see in Rhode Island" were discovered at Quahog.org. We were lucky enough to meet with its founder, Christopher Scott Martin.
Christopher Scott Martin - Quahog.org        Quahog.org table

Just past there was a stop to make Valentines for Providence. Bear and I got a pink one and a puple one to write our messages on.
I Heart Providence Valentines

And just before we left, we caught a brief glimpse of Queen of Hearts jewelry. I wish I'd had the chance to really stop and explore. It looked like she had some beautiful pieces.
Queen of Hearts Jewelry

The crowd was loud and happy. It looked like people were having a good time, checking out the tables, talking, writing Valentines and generally having a good time.
City Hall steps

Crowd at I Heart Providence

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nightlife ~ LOST premiere party at McFadden's, Providence

McFadden's
52 Pine St.
Providence, Rhode Island

I met the Newcomers to the Providence Area Meetup Group at McFadden's for a LOST premiere party last week. McFadden's is a sports bar/saloon/restaurant, with plenty of televisions around the bar, a couple of video games in the back and lots of interesting memorabilia on the walls. It also has lots of dark wood and glass. There were a couple of families with small children having dinner when I arrived. Later in the evening, they hosted live music. Unfortunately, I once again forgot to bring my camera. Before the party started, I stopped at the main bar and tried their Bailey's Mintini, which was good, and very sweet. Note to self: this is a dessert drink.

photo: McFadden's

There's a back room for special parties, which is where our party was located. The back room has a small bar (not in use for us), and wait staff were in and out regularly. They were very friendly and welcoming. We were able to watch and enjoy the show with much less background noise, and it really was a lot of fun. People who have followed the show from the beginning mingled with people who watch occasionally, or haven't watched at all and just wanted to get out of the house for the evening. Everyone had a good time, using commercial breaks to discuss what had just happened, and how it fit in with the show's history and mythology. The wait staff was really good about not interrupting during programming, while still being attentive. Overall, the Meetup group and McFadden's were a good combination.

As far as food, they have a full menu. I tried the skewer appetizers, which were excellent. Love the peanut dipping sauce!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Food ~ The Cupcakerie

Providence, Rhode Island

photo: The Cupcakerie's Facebook page

The Bear and I discovered The Cupcakerie at the RIC Farmer's Market last summer. She's been addicted to their cupcakes ever since. Each time  we go to the Wintertime Farmer's Market, I can be sure a portion of Bear's allowance will go to a Velvet Elvis (red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and sparkles). I'm almost as bad. The Cupcakerie's coconut cupcake is heaven, and their Lavender Vanilla is amazing. They have plenty of other flavors as well, and we've tried most of them (I made a lunch out of their Carrot Cake one Saturday). They're made with fresh local ingredients, and reasonably priced.

Today The Cupcakerie and its sister business, Jack's Snacks, were on the front page of the Providence Journal's Food section. Congratulations on the well-deserved attention!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Museums ~ Marble House, Newport

Marble House
596 Bellevue Ave.
Newport, Rhode Island

One of the summer "cottages" in Newport, owned now by the Preservation Society of Newport and formerly by a Vanderbilt (as a gift, for Mrs. William Vanderbilt - Alva - who divorced her husband shortly after its completion). It's the second of two Vanderbilt mansions in Newport, and Alva worked closely with the architect in its design.


For whatever reason, my camera jammed as I tried to photograph the front of the building, so I'm using an image from Wikimedia Commons. It's very imposing, with beautiful iron grillwork on the doors. Tours are guided, and I have mixed feelings about that. I like having an actual human being that I can ask questions of, but I prefer to wander and explore at my own pace.

Marble House rear
rear view

Our guide was very knowledgeable, and showed some enthusiasm for the property, which was nice. Also, we finally learned about all those blue and white "votes for women" plates we've seen in the gift shops. It turns out Mrs. Vanderbilt-Belmont devoted her adult life to securing women's suffrage. The plates were specially designed for the rallies she held in her backyard, and were frequently given as mementos.

The rallies were frequently housed in the Chinese Tea House she had built on the grounds for that purpose. Although Alva was mostly interested in French history and architecture - and it shows in the architecture and decor of Marble House - the design for the Tea House was probably influenced by her only daughter, Consuelo, who had a keen interest in China.

Chinese tea house

The inside was as over-the-top ornate as you'd expect from a fabulously wealthy Victorian family. There are intricate details and huge sculptures. Lots of gilding and silk and marble. The house was intended to make a statement, and it does. I was particularly impressed with the second parlor, that was done as a Medieval church with beautiful stained glass windows and other architectural details.

We would love to take "backstairs" tours of the mansions and see what the servants' rooms were like. I know one of the houses does offer those tours on occasion, so we may check that out.

update: I found a photo of the interior of the dining room.

baronial dining room via Golden Newport

So far, Bear and I have visited The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms, and we agree that this is our favorite of the three.