Postcard from Tom: Providence, R.I.
Post food critic Tom Sietsema reviews three Providence, R.I., eateries: Cook & Brown Public House, the Farmstead and Persimmon.
Cook & Brown Public House is a 50-seat gastropub owned by Chef Adam Nemo Bolin and his wife Jenny. The restaurant is named for Bolin's maternal grandparents. "There's an easy elegance to the plate, a style that turns out to be the restaurant's signature," writes Post food critic Tom Sietsema.
Pictured: mixologist Hannah Kirschner.
Like the food, the drinks at Cook & Brown reflect the owners' desire to "do what they think is great," Nemo says. "My friends and I are captivated by the attention mixologist Hannah Kirschner lavishes on a trio of anonymous customers; the bar manager's graciousness on a busy Friday night is equaled by her smooth bar skills," Sietsema writes.
Kirshner prepares an 'Aguas Calientes' cocktail.
"Cook & Brown mixes a first-rate rye Manhattan and a Jakewalk with just the right splashes of tequila, white rum, elderflower liqueur and lime. Thin stone coasters support each drink," Sietsema writes.
Kirschner gave Sietsema handwritten instructions on how to make certain drinks.
Pictured: The 'Bee's Nose' cocktail.
When Sietsema visited, the menu -- which "reads like haiku" -- featured only nine items. Chef Nemo says "everything we're doing, we're proud of."
"Local sweet corn is pureed with corn stock to come up with a soup that tastes like corn times 10. Tabasco butter injects some heat into the equation, while lemon zest makes the bowl brighter," Sietsema writes. Here, the tomato soup.
"When we come in every day," says the chef, "we start from scratch."
Pictured: the smoked bluefish fritters and rillettes.
"'We have burrata and it's phenomenal,' raves a handwritten sign on the counter of the tidy Farmstead," Sietsema writes.
Cheese Monger Darren Montgomery helps customers at the Farmstead.
The Farmsted, owned by New England natives Matt and Kate Jennings, sells cheeses including "Dancing Cow's Sarabande, a raw cow's milk cheese from Vermont, and Divine Providence, an aged gouda-style raw milk cheese whose sweetness comes from a rum that, like the cheese, is made locally."
"We have access to incredible ingredients," says Matt Jennings.
The menu consists of mostly sandwiches all made with crusty ciabatta and lots of cheese. The soups change daily. Sietsema tries a corn chowder that is a "cool combination of corn and buttermilk, elegantly set off with diced bell peppers, [that] went down like summer in every spoonful."
Brian Barbieri prepares a sandwich for a customer.
The Farmsted is connected by a 34-seat dining room called La Laiterie that serves "snack-size 'treats' including tender grilled octopus tweaked with pickled tomatillo and fennel and bruschetta topped with smoked beef tongue."
Bailey Mcrae of Providence, left, and Deborah Mars of Big Horn, Wyo. enjoy their lunch of cheese and meat.
"Vegetarians will have to fend off intruders who want in on the fava bean hummus and feta cheese sandwich, gently crisp with sliced radishes and cucumbers. For the carnivore, there are slabs of pork meatloaf striped with a barbecue sauce bolstered with smoked paprika and served with a crunchy slaw of celery root," Sietsema writes. Chef Mario Batali is a fan of the latter sandwich, pictured here.
Persimmon is a 35-seat, candle lit restaurant in the seaport town of Bristol owned by Chef Champe Speidel -- who decided to quit drumming and become a chef after watching "Great Chefs" on PBS -- and his wife Lisa. "The producers make my job easy," the chef says.
"One of the sweetest pleasures on the menu was the simplest, a plump local oyster nestled in its shell with a bit of buttery seaweed and a drop of ginger oil," Sietsema writes.
"The chef's petite interpretation of a clambake [pictured here] gathers clams, lobster, crisp corn and spicy chorizo, and slips in a surprise: a trail of smoke, reminiscent of a campfire, when the lid of the dish is lifted. The beautiful food is worthy of a magazine cover -- say, Vogue. Speidel freely admits that he prefers 'artsy-fartsy fussy' food to that which is not," Sietsema writes.
"Selfishly, I'm thrilled that his band dissolved. If Speidel had gone on to drum for a living, chances are I might never have experienced one of the most amazing soups of my life, a clear gazpacho [pictured here] that tastes like the distillation of a garden's worth of tomatoes, cucumbers, celery and bell peppers. Little balls of tomatoes in different hues and a scooplet of cucumber sorbet further distance his soup from what the chef calls the usual 'red sludge,' " Sietsema writes.
Washington Post Photo Store
More Photos and Videos
Photo Editor, Producer
upgrade your Flash plug-in
to view our enhanced content.
More on washingtonpost.com
More Photo News
View More Activity
© 2010 www.washingtonpost.com