PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
Luckily, the sprawling mall in downtown Providence hasn’t totally wiped out the small retailers and restaurants in the neighborhood because I was anxious to have lunch as far away as possible from this unsightly building. As usual I had a list of restaurants in the area. How would I choose? By menu? By price? Actually we started driving around (with no GPS, no map and lousy mapquest directions) and our decision was made for us. Local 121 was the first restaurant we found. When you look at Local 121’s website, the photographs of the establishment make it look like an old pub. They do in fact have a bar but the real eating (and drinking) goes on in the highly (and well) designed dining room adjacent to the bar. The room, decorated in shades of black, white and gray has a very comfortable feel to it. When we were seated in white leather chairs nearly the size of small loveseats, we regretted we still had a four hour drive back to New York as we could have easily settled in for more than a lunch time hour.
In the last few years, there has been a trend among chefs to hop on the “locally grown” bandwagon. In Europe, this has been a standard for years. Say you order a simple meal of sausage, cheese and bread. The guy (or girl) making the sausage will get a credit, as will the baker baking the bread, and the dairy farmer making the cheese. (One day I’m convinced they’ll credit the particular cow, sheep or goat by name for the milk that made the cheese.)
California restaurants have been doing this for years, especially since there is just so much more fresh food available and grown in California . East Coast restaurants however, have just picked up on this trend. Reading Local 121’s menu that day, there were no fewer than 25 purveyors listed — from poultry breeders to fish mongers to vineyards, creameries and plain old vegetable farms. Who was responsible for what out of the way, we started with grilled bacon-wrapped scallops with fresh parsley, celery and red onion in a tangy vinaigrette. Lynn moved on to the lunch special of boneless short ribs on a roll with cheese and hand cut fries. I opted for the homemade spinach pappardelle with onions, shreds of eggplant, sausage and ricotta salata.
It was an awesome but somewhat heavy lunch in the middle of the afternoon. A nap would have been in order but we got back in the car, vowing to try and eat lighter but relishing our choices.