Sunday, September 26, 2010

L'Artisan - A Mediterranean competitor to the Wayland Square Starbucks

L'artisan cafe and bakery

9 Wayland Square, Providence RI 02906
401-3314444
 
With free wifi, outdoor seating and a proper Mediterranean food menu, L'Artisan is a newly opened coffee shop in Wayland Square which is giving Starbucks a run for its money.
Keeping the health conscious consumer in mind, nothing is fried, everything is baked. Almost everything from the grape leaves to the pastries are made in house. The sandwiches are prepared fresh every morning. The owner Ghassan believes in the concept of the visual menu. An important aspect of food and eating is visual hence all the items are displayed clearly and with the prices marked. As a result the written menu is small and somewhat hard to read which can be disorienting at first to most of us used to detailed extensive menus. It is definitely an unique touch and once you get used to it, it probably helps sales.

While L'Artisan is new, Ghassan is a food industry veteran and has had a similar operation ongoing in Montreal for 3 years. He also operates a gourmet market in Fall River called Daou market. Among the new and interesting items on the menu are a flat pita called Zaatar which has a mixture of thyme, sesame seeds and olive oil on it. Also very good are the specialty pies some of which have a spinach filling, some feta cheese with tomatoes and olives, some roasted vegetables, some buffalo chicken and some meat and peas (ground sirloin). Among the soups the lobster bisque is good and the portion sizes are great.

We personally found the aluminium coke bottles very cool and were informed by Ghassan that they were started in New York not too long ago. L'Artisan also carries dried fruits and other special foods prepared for them by a company in New York. The concept is distinctly European with a Mediterranean flair. The oven is behind the counter and it is exposed intentionally as was done traditionally. Wayland Square was chosen primarily for the location and foot traffic and Ghassan is targeting catering services soon.

Overall we definitely recommend you try this place.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guest Post: Mediterranean Recipes from Felicia Mcclinton

Emulating all Bloggers of note, this month we have a guest post on our blog. Enjoy:

How to Make a Healthy Mediterranean Meal

Sicilian Swordfish


Ingredients

600 grams of Swordfish
200 grams of tomatoes
1 piece onion
50 grams of black olives
1 clove garlic

This recipe can make 4 servings and you can prepare it in 25 minutes.  Swordfish Sicilian is a typical dish in the southern Italian region.  This recipe creates a low fat and low calorie meal.  

Preparation
To clean and peel the tomatoes, briefly place them in boiling water.  Chop the onion and garlic.  Heat the olive oil in a frying pan then add the chopped onion and garlic until golden brown.  Place the sliced Swordfish in the frying pan and cover it.  Put the peeled tomatoes after a few minutes. Cook for at least 10 minutes.  Sprinkle chopped parsley and black olives on top before removing the Swordfish from the pan.  Serve while still hot. 

Nutritional Value: 

Food
Gr
Kcal
Fat
Carb
Pro
Fib
Water
Swordfish
600
726
24.06
0
118.8
0
453.72
Ripe tomatoes
200
36
0.4
7.84
1.76
2.4
189
Onions
80
32
0.08
7.47
0.88
1.36
71.29
Black olives
50
117.5
8.25
4.6
5.9
0
29.1
Garlic
10
14.9
0.05
3.31
0.64
0.21
5.86
Total
940
926.4
32.84
23.22
127.98
3.97
748.97
A head (4)
235
231.6
8.21
5.81
32
0.99
187.24
Per 100 grams
100
98.55
3.49
2.47
13.61
0.42
79.68

Penne with Ricotta


Ingredients

100 grams of Penne
40 grams of cheese
20 grams of grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper

This recipe makes a meager serving good for one person only.  You can prepare this in 25 minutes.  Penne with Ricotta is an energy meal, rich and flavorful.  Ricotta is primarily a dairy product made from various types of milk.  Penne with Ricotta also contains high level of proteins. 

Preparation
Get a saucepan and boil water mixed with salt.  Cook the Penne and make sure to follow the directions provided on the packaging.  After cooking, drain but make sure to leave approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of water.  Then add cottage cheese and season the dish with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top before serving. 

Nutritional Value:

Food
Gr
Kcal
Fat
Carb
Pro
Fib
Water
Semolina pasta
100
371
1.51
74.67
13.04
3.2
9.9
Ricotta
40
55.2
3.16
2.06
4.56
0
29.76
Grated Parmesan cheese
20
86.2
5.72
0.81
7.69
0
4.17
Salt
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
Pepper
2
5.1
0.07
1.3
0.22
0.53
0.21
Total
164
517.5
10.46
78.84
25.51
3.73
44.04
A head (1)
164
517.5
10.46
78.84
25.51
3.73
44.04
Per 100 grams
100
315.55
6.38
48.07
15.55
2.27
26.85

Greek  Crostini


Ingredients

1000 grams of bread
200 grams of Greek Kalamata Olives
100 grams of Greek Feta Cheese
8 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic
Salt and Pepper

This recipe is perfect for 8 persons and you can prepare it in 35 minutes.  It is a very flavorful and sumptuous dish inspired by the Greek feta croutons and black olives.  This is also one of the easiest recipes to prepare.

Preparation

Make 1.5-inch thick slices of bread.  Place the sliced bread in the oven or toaster.  Rub garlic on each slice of bread after toasting.

Meanwhile, cut the feta cheese into small cubes.  Cut the olives into quarters or halves.  In a separate mixing bowl, mix the cubed feta cheese and olives and season with olive oil.  Make sure the toasted breads are still hot before sprinkling the cheese and olive mixture.  Serve and Enjoy. 

Nutritional Value:

Food
Gr
Kcal
Fat
Carb
Pro
Fib
Water
White bread 00
1000
2900
0
680
80
30
290
Black olives
200
470
33
18.4
23.6
0
116.4
Greek cheese, feta
100
264
21.28
4.09
14.21
0
55.22
Olive oil
20
176.8
20
0
0
0
0
Garlic
2
2.98
0.01
0.66
0.13
0.04
1.17
Salt
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
Pepper
2
5.1
0.07
1.3
0.22
0.53
0.21
Total
1326
3818.88
74.36
704.45
118.16
30.57
463
A head (8)
165.75
477.36
9.3
88.06
14.77
3.82
57.88
Per 100 grams
100
288
5.61
53.13
8.91
2.31
34.92

About the Author - Felicia Mcclinton writes for the blog mediterranean recipes , her personal hobby blog she uses to help people learn how to make Mediterranean recipes to eat healthy to prevent diseases.

La Masseria - A farmhouse in Times Square opens a location in Rhode Island

Phone: (401) 398-0693 | Address: 223 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818

Our review is based on a regular Saturday dinner at La Masseria attended by NotABear and his friends and a PR menu sampler event attended by Tasmanian. La Masseria is an Italian restaurant, opened by first generation Italians and childhood friends from Capri, Enzo and Peppe with Chef Pino who grew up on a farm in Puglia. Masseria essentially means fortified farmhouse and is described by the owners as the inspiration for the simple, fresh and flavourful food served at their restaurants and in the Masserias of Puglia. The restaurant did well enough in New York that they decided to open a location on restaurant row in East Greenwich, backed by investors from Rhode Island.

NotABear's take:

I got a sense that the restaurant was doing well when I tried to secure reservations for 7:30 and could only get a table at 8:15. Arriving at 8:15, we found the 110 seat restaurant and bar packed. A downside of this popularity is that even with reservations, we had to wait for our table and we recommend that if you go, you definitely make reservations and go with time to spare. Once we were seated, the service was excellent and we learned that some of the staff members were relocated from the New York location.

Tasmanian had been to the PR event so we had some insider information on the menu and we ordered the meatball appetizer and the Bocconcini Di Pollo Bada Boom Bada Bam which is essentially chunks of boneless chicken with mushrooms & sausage, in a red wine and shallots sauce . Both were excellent and the food at La Masseria is delicious and from what we can tell, authentic Italian. The meatball appetizer is particularly interesting because it's essentially two huge very tasty meatballs which are made from Rib eye meat. It reminds me of the anecdote I have heard about Henry Ford II's burger obsession. Apparently Henry was particularly obsessed with burgers made by his chef in the executive dining room and claimed they were the best burgers he had had. Curious to find the secret Lee Iacocca asked Ford's chef how he made such a good burger. The Chef apparently pulled out a filet mignon from the refrigerator and cut out a burger from it. Clearly ingredients make a huge difference and La Masseria's philosophy of using the freshest ingredients definitely doesn't hurt the dishes. The chicken dish was good and was cooked in a sweet brown sauce and did not taste like any Italian dish I have had, in a good way. My friend had the crab meat risotto which on first inspection she condemned as bland looking and to be fair it did look somewhat like a white blob. However it was delicious and in her words "buttery and creamy". Everyone at the table was generally happy with their dishes except the token vegetarian who complained her salad was slightly bitter. Moral of the story: Eat meat kids. (Just kidding please refrain from sending hate mail).
The best part though was Dessert. We decided to share the Tiramisu and the flourless chocolate almond cake with ice cream. The Tiramisu was good but the star of the show was the almond cake. The almond and the chocolate flavors really went well together and when combined with vanilla ice cream, it's worth the spinning class that we recommend you go for after dinner here. On the note of extra calories, we had one complaint, there was no olive oil to go with the bread. Even if it's authentic Italian protocol we are not big fans. The bill came to about $50 per person for appetizer, entree, wine and a shared dessert and including tax and tip.

Tasmanian's take:
Libby Langdon designed the interior of this fantastic restaurant. She's a design expert on Hgtv's show. The design has created a warm and inviting dining experience which is reminiscent of ancient farm houses. The place looked like it would be great for a group dinner with friends and family. The hosts were gracious and very helpful and informative so we recommend you aid their mission of taking over the world, one Italian restaurant at a time.

If Enzo is on site, I would highly recommend asking him to pair the perfect wine with your meal. As a boy, Enzo would accompany his grandfather to the local vineyards and stomp grapes to make their family wine. The man clearly has a passion for wines and has spent time in Southern Italy to find lesser known wines for La Masseria's extensive wine list.

Here is my take on the dishes:

Costoletta Di Vitello Alla Milanese - Thinly pounded breaded veal chop with arugula and tomato salad. I felt the fried veal was ok. It was very light but I felt they overdid the breadstick breadcrumbs. Enzo explained that in a unique twist, they only used breadsticks for the breadcrumbing process. It did have a nice flavor though.

Polpette Di Manzo Della Masseria - Fresh meatballs made daily with tomato-basil sauce. This dish probably had the best meatball I have ever tasted, Excellent, excellent, excellent!!! The flavor was exploding from the dish and the basil sauce really made my taste buds go wild. One of my favorites and the key to this dish is the ingredient. It's made with rib eye steak meat.

Gnocchi Sorrentina - Homemade potato Gnocchi served with tomato basil sauce and fresh mozzarella. This is some serious comfort food - again exploding with flavor. The pink sauce was packed with flavor and wonderful aromas. This is another favorite starter. Fresh fresh fresh!!! 5 stars.

Penne Masseria - Simple but impressive with lots of flavor in another tomato basil sauce and perfect portion size.

Desserts:
Torta Di Mamma Paola - Flourless chocolate almond cake with vanilla ice cream, was super delicious with just the right touch of sweetness.

Torta Di Ricotta Alla Vaniglia - This was amazing. It was very light and went perfectly with my fresh Lavazza espresso. I would highly recommend this, and this dessert is a huge success in New York. One of their signature desserts...

Bathroom test: Spotless, drying towels which were high quality with La Masseria logo, very impressive with all the little details.

The presentation, service and the little details from the silverware to the wine pairings were perfect, although it was for a special event. The owners mentioned that in the summer there would be a few tables set out outside.

Overall we definitely recommend you go to La Masseria for authentic, fresh and delicious Italian food. The prices while not cheap are not excessive either and are fair for the quality of the food.

La Masseria Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Temple - Hit by a Mediterranean blast from California on March 15th

Phone: (401) 919-5050 | Address: 120 Francis Street, Providence, RI 02903

Full Disclosure: We were invited to a complimentary media lunch on which our review is based and we received a complimentary cookbook autographed by Chef Goldstein. We don't think it biased our review but we just wanted to get it out there in case we are ever investigated by the SEC.

Temple Downtown, the restaurant at the Renaissance Providence Hotel, used to be a Masonic lodge and a favourite hangout of ours. We did procrastinate on reviewing it and thanks to our procrastination we now get to review it in it's latest form. We always did know procrastination was good for you.

What drew us to Temple before was the ambiance, which is subtly classy. Luckily it hasn't changed much. The only difference we noticed was some of the walls painted in more Mediterranean colors.

Temple recently brought in well known chef Joyce Goldstein of California - an expert on Mediterranean cuisine - to team up with local executive chef David Cardell to develop a Mediterranean-inspired food and drink menu. Mediterranean cuisine refers to the cuisine of the 22 countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea and we were glad to see the menu extended beyond the usual suspects to the cuisine of countries like Morocco not usually seen in Mediterranean restaurants.

We arrived to a set of Cocktail samplers from the menu. In a nod to the Mediterranean theme, there was the Med Spritzer with tomato and basil in it. While it may sound odd it actually tasted good, albeit quite different from the usual cocktails available around Providence. Our favorite was the Fluer de Marseille. St. Germain, a sweet French liqueur made from elderflowers, is in our opinion somewhat hard to mix (and yes we did try it at home) but this cocktail mixes it perfectly with Lavender syrup and sparking wine and it is garnished with a Turkish Rose Candy (called Turkish delight, this is a rose flavored traditional Turkish Taffy which lends its flavor to the drink). Our only advice is if you are a guy, consume this delicious taffy discreetly. We liked it enough to post the recipe below:



Fleur de Marseille
1/2 oz. Lavender syrup
1/2 oz. St. Germain
Shake w/ ice and strain into large red filled w/ ice top with 3oz. Sparkling wine
Garnish: Turkish Rose Candy
Glass: Red Wine

The final sampler was the Turkish Coffee cocktail which again was interesting but didn't suit our palate.
Our talented bartender Maria assured us that every drink is customizable to individual tastes.

With the cocktails they brought out the flatbreads and we were glad to see the flatbreads survive the menu changes.
Both the traditional Margherita made with tomato, whole milk mozzarella and fresh basil and the roasted Cremini mushroom flatbread were delicious. The cremini mushrooms were particularly tasty and well cooked. This was a theme throughout the meal. Temple clearly is not the cheapest place to dine in Providence but the ingredients are all top notch. The starters are around $9 each and the main courses range from $14 to $29. Also while the flatbreads remain, to our disappointment the sliders are gone. It's really unfortunate that Mediterranean cuisine has yet to discover the noble American slider.

We started the sit down meal with the Temple Mezze Platter consisting of Tzatziki, Baba ghanoush, hummus, dolmas, spanakopita, moroccan spiced carrots and warm pita. The hummus had nice flavors in it but if hummus were peanut butter this version would definitely be chunky not creamy. The Spanakopita was a little greasy for our taste but everything else was good. The Domas which are essentially rice stuffed grape leaves, in this case with eggplants and raisins thrown in were interesting because they had used Basmati rice. Tasmanian felt the grape leavces needed a touch more of olive oil.

While the Mezze platter was good, the high point of the meal for me was the Calamari. I love Calamari and I would go so far as to say this is the best Calamari I have had in Providence. It's very light and comes with zucchini and lemon slices with lemon, garlic and parsley sprinkled on top and served with a lemon and garlic aioli. The best part about it was that it wasn't heavily breaded and in some pieces half of it was lightly breaded and the other half exposed. Overall I would go back just for the Calamari, the Cremini flatbread and a glass of the Churchill Duoro.

Word of caution: This is NOT Rhode Island style Calamari. There are no bold flavors, banana peppers or thick breading. In general Temple in it's new avatar is not a Rhode Island style restaurant and it will be interesting to see if Rhode Islanders take to the Mediterranean cuisine. Chef Cardell did mention he was open to experimentation while keeping the Mediterranean roots intact

The final appetizer was the gratin of shrimp and aged feta in which they used the largest gulf shrimp we have seen in Providence.

The entrees were led by the pasta dishes which were good but not memorable. The Penne al Forno alla Bolognese was an oven baked penne dish made with meat sauce and parmesan cheese. The Spaghetti alla Puttanesca was well prepared but in our opinion would have been better paired with some sort of meat or fish.

The entrees were paired with a Portuguese red wine, Churchill Duoro 2007 which really hit the spot but unfortunately is not served by the glass and comes with a $48 price tag. The final dishes were Moroccan inspired Tagines. The presentation of these really stood out as they came in Moroccan style pyramid shaped covered containers. The Tagine is essentially Moroccon spiced vegetables or cod served with couscous and chickpeas. The vegetable Tagine was specifically made by Chef Goldstein for vegetarians and is not simply the Cod tagine minus the Cod. The Cod tagine was delicious and while the spices were good what really stood out was the quality of the Cod which was flaky in a very good way.

When we go back we plan to try the Anadalusian-Style Pork Kabobs and the Temple Burger (we are still not over the sliders)

Dessert was a buttermilk Panna Cotta with berries and honey on top which went well with the Mediterranean theme. We want to try the Chocolate tart though which is apparently made with caramel and sea salt.

The meal ended with Limonstillo which is a greek-style limoncello served with saffron on crushed ice.
It wasn't too sweet and was a nice ending to an elaborate and fabulously long meal.

Temple Downtown on Urbanspoon

Van Waffles - Holland's answer to the chocolate chip cookie, made right here in Rhode Island

Van Waffles is a waffle cookie startup based right here in Rhode Island. Their delicious cookies are made by cutting a freshly made waffle in half, smearing it with caramel and letting it cool. Inspired by the Dutch waffle cookie known as "stroopwafel", you can thank Abhishek Pruisken a Dutch Native and senior at Brown for exposing our palates to this Dutch treat.

This young entrepreneur saw an opportunity when his friends finished all the stroopwafels he brought back from home after vacations. He teamed up with a friend and they experimented with different versions, toured stroopwafel factories in Holland and came up with a cookie which has been bought 800 times and counting and features in coffee shops such as Meeting Street and Blue State.
 
We spoke to Abhishek and learnt that the traditional way to eat this cookie is to place it on a steaming cup of coffee to warm it up and let the caramel melt. These cookies are to the Dutch what chocolate chip cookies are to Americans. On average 20 of these cookies are consumed per person per year. We tried it and it's delicious with coffee and a great snack. They are 2 for $2 and we recommend you try one. It's our goal to beat the Dutch average and show them who's best. We hear that there might be fruit and chocolate flavors in Van Waffles' future and can't wait for a chocolate or gnutella version.
 
Cool Logo
 
Cool Fact: Their cool logo is designed by Ed Fella, a famous graphic designer whose work is featured in the Moma in New York and who designed the logo for Van Waffles for free
 
 
 
 
 
Van Waffles at Blue State

El Rancho Grande - Fresh Mexican made while you wait

Phone: (401) 275-0808 | Address: 311 Plainfield St., Providence RI 02909

Restaurant Verdict: Go there for price, authenticity or taste, you pick

We visited El Rancho Grande this past Thursday. We can't seem to get past the tacos and for good reason. This family run hole in the wall restaurant on the West side makes us feel guilty for ever having set foot in Tortilla Flats and Don Jose's. The salsa that accompanies the chips has fresh cilantro, is made fresh daily and really sets the tone for the dishes to come.

Thus far, we have tried all the different kinds of tacos and can't find any we don't like. One of our friends did complain about the lack of sauces and we believe the reason for this is that the ingredients don't need to be hidden as in other places. Hot sauce is naturally available on request.

On my last visit I ordered the quesadilla appetizer and was pleasantly surprised by a meal sized portion (for $2.50) with eight small slices. It came with a dipping sauce which was delicious and on inquiry turned out to have been made using sour cream and a spicy tomato salsa. It is worth ordering the quesadillas for the dipping sauce alone. I washed down the tacos and quesadilla with Horchata, a sweet, milky rice drink common in Mexican restaurants. The total came to $8.09 which brings us to the second theme of El Rancho Grande, it is ridiculously cheap. The ambiance is nice (especially given the prices and location) and both times when we went, there were quite a few people there.

We definitely plan on going back there soon and trying the other items on the menu.


Koala's take: Best Mexican food in Providence at rock bottom prices



Pros: Price, Taste, Authenticity, Freshness

Cons: Location (for some)

Bathroom Test: Passes it with a clean bathroom

Deals: $1 tacos on Thursdays

Insider tips: Order the Horchata to wash down your tacos instead of a boring coke

El Rancho Grande on Urbanspoon

*Extra* The New York Times takes on Behavioral Psychology and Menus - Two of our favorite things

Some cool insights from the article:

  • The average person makes more than 200 decisions about food every day
  • We spend more when prices are not accompanied by dollar signs
    e.g. Le Fancy Hot Dog      14
  • Menus are like ads in your hand before you part with your money
  • Profitable dishes are highlighted on the menu so what your server recommends may be the best item or it might be the highest margin item
  • Finally, the sneakiest trick is to place a really expensive item at the top of the menu for contrast
    After all when the Steak and Lobster is $55.00 you might not feel that bad spending $27.00 on the Chicken a la Kiev

There are apparently four types of diners. We are "Entrees". Are you an "Entree",
"Recipe", "Barbecue" or a "Dessert"?

Read the article and let us know in the comments section