Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Susie's Peanut Butter Graham Gateau at Gracie's

This is just one of Susie's most recent "winter menu" deserts at Gracie's in Providence:

This consists of a peanut butter grahm cracker cake cake with a layer of peanut butter spread and a layer of chocolate glaze, topped with candied peanuts and a peanut graham cocoa nib florentine, sitting on a bed of chocolate sauce, graham cracker crumble and paired with a caramelized banana ice cream.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bacaro and Chez Pascal

Providence is a food town. If you’re not from here you can, of course, find yourself eating someplace where your food dollar (or euro) buys less than it should. (Think Atwell’s Avenue.) Anyway, we have really never had a bad meal in this city, and in fact the meals generally are way above average. Getting value for your dollar is the true test.

Take Bacaro and Chez Pascal as two shining examples of exceptional value. (photo below, interior of Chez Pascal.)

Bacaro is located smack on the river just before it heads into Narragansett Bay – the views are nice if you get a window seat, but the interior space is equally inviting and open to some spectacular people watching. Susie had eaten there with the rest of Gracie’s staff for their Christmas party last year but this was my first experience and we can give this place two very big thumbs up.

We decided almost at the last minute to go to Bacaro. A colleague at work had raved it about their pizza last Thursday and on Friday I had the good sense to make reservations for Friday evening. The restaurant’s automated reservation system worked well – and although we arrived a few minutes late we were quickly seated upstairs.

Along with the regular dining menu and wine list we were given a little pencil (like you might find at a miniature golf course) and a cheese and cold meats menu – much like a tapas menu. Everything comes from their own “salumi e formaggi” counter on the main level (the bar and casual dining area). I had an olive selection and an incredibly delicious cacciocavallo cheese plate – perfect for a starter. Susie ordered the Caesar Salad.

For the main course Susie ordered the spiced pumpkin pizza and I had the ditali in tomato sauce with veal meatballs. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway) the food was wonderful. The crust on the pizza was perfect (rumor has it the chef had started out at Al Forno’s), the flavors enchanting – and I do not like anything remotely connected with pumpkin. But I liked this pizza. My ditali was cooked just right and the sauce rich without being heavy and the meatballs juicy and full of smooth veal flavor.

Bacaro’s has a very nice wine list, bent largely toward Italy, with prices being generally what you would see and expect in Providence. Which is to say I’d like to see lower wine prices here, particularly by the glass prices, but there’s just too much money to be made in alcohol.

The service was attentive and friendly, the staff overall managed a nice balance of being there when you needed.

Saturday Susan came home from work with news that Chez Pascal would be holding a local artists sale Sunday – along with a raffle to benefit the Rhode Island Food Bank. They would also have their mobile hot dog van (“Hewtin’s Dogs”) right outside to provide hot food since the restaurant would normally be closed Sunday mornings and afternoons. Chef Matt Gennuso makes his own dogs and sausages and has the tastiest condiment’s you’ve ever lathered onto a bun.

If you’ve never eaten at Chez Pascal this place needs to be on the top of your list. Owners Matt Gennuso and his wife Kristin operate the back and front of the house respectively. These two young people are incredibly hard working and exceptionally talented. Their food is Rhode Island fresh with a large twist of France thrown in for good measure. And Matt does his own charcuterie to boot. You won’t find a more pleasant person working the front of any restaurant than Kristin – her kindness just permeates the room.

Susie and I arrived around 1pm, ordered a couple of Mimosas and strolled the artist booths – we also bought a couple of raffle tickets. After checking out the art we sat at the bar (see photo above), I went outside and got us a pair of sausages, which we devoured in short order.

What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

262 South Water Street
Providence, RI
Phone: 401-751-3700

Chez Pascal

960 Hope Street
Providence, RI
Phone: 401-421-4422