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Welcome to Bucktown, Population: Delicious

It must have been a Saturday in something like late June when I introduced one of my good friends to Long Live Beerworks, as I’ve been quite an evangelist for the relatively new craft brewery on the West Side of Providence. It’s a neighborhood I lived in for a few years, led a Motif neighborhood profile on, and now, it’s a fantastic place to try out some new beer.

This was before the new beer laws were passed, so after running through samples of Long Live’s Lonely Weekend and other delicacies, my posse and I decided to head down the street to North or The Avery for a drink. Along the way, we were perplexed by what looked like a renovated shack, clearly in the later stages of being outfitted for becoming a restaurant; seating and all manner of kitchen equipment was piled inside. It was halfway between Whittaker and Carpenter on W Fountain Street. Buzzed, we pressed our faces against the glass windows and anxiously peered about looking for a sign. What was this place?

It was only days later that I discovered via Long Live’s Instagram that the location was a new restaurant that would be something of a chicken and fish shack with local beer (so local, they probably just rolled a keg from Long Live straight down the street for the opening on Friday, June 24). This was Bucktown, in a location I’m told used to be the old Fountain Spa.

Opening night wound up being an oddly eventful evening for me, as I had to drop my fiancee off at the Block Island ferry for a weekend of bachelorette party revelry. A fish sandwich at Jimmy’s Portside in Galilee – of all things in all places – kicked things off. After a lengthy drive back into the city, I spent some time at the Ocean State BBQ Festival at The Steel Yard. I was new to the urban green space, and loved it as a venue for that type of event, especially when Pork Belly and Brisket Tacos from El Rancho Grande were involved, along with a Fanny IPA from Revival Brewing Company.

After a brief Me Party enjoying these fares in the sun, I dashed out to catch an early showing of the short but immensely fun The Shallows, in which Blake Lively’s adventurous surfer angst is on display more than her LA face and Oakland booty as she battles both shark and Millennial listlessness.

The enjoyable viewing left me more thirsty than hungry, which made a journey back to the West Side to see Bucktown in action perfect. In this first foray, I was greeted by a narrow but packed drinking porch out front and a pretty densely seated interior. The cooking area is to the right with ample dining space throughout. Polished hardwood high tabletops with stool seating sits atop a concrete floor; it was an ideal juxtaposition of class and grit.

The back door was wide open, revealing a foldable table with one of those cooler kegerator systems you always see at beerfests. Shamefully, I brought a thirst but no appetite, and opted for a Lonely Weekend IPA from Long Live Beerworks. Oddly enough, after paying for my drink, I was awarded a red solo cup and was directed out back to where I filled up my own beer. I scored a seat right at the quiet corner of the aforementioned tiny porch. A group of friends jovially chatted across from me while I silently took in the night of West Fountain Street. The character of Bucktown is so comforting and welcoming that I couldn’t help but feel content.

More than a month later, when I went back for a less contemplative and more engaging encounter with Bucktown, I was not displeased.

I went back on an extremely hot Monday evening, and though they were clearly running some sort of AC it was still pretty warm inside, but straddling the Goldilocks zone of comfort, especially with a can of ice cold Flying Jenny Pale Ale from Grey Sail. The smell of fried chicken and waffle fries wafted throughout, and a decent number of people were enjoying the Cajun-styled fried cuisine.

The vibe of the place off as rather casual; the high top tables are large, basically requiring groups of diners to share space. Instead of napkins, there are rolls of paper towels, and cardboard six-packs hold the condiments, which mainly consist of honey and hot sauce. Ketchup is found in the corner in packets, next to the plastic utensils.

The person who took my order recommended either the chicken or fish fried sandwich, but I’ve also heard great things about the burgers. In looking at the menu, I was puzzled by the appearance of “hush puppies,” so also tossed in an order of those. Upon ordering, I was given a card – the eight of diamonds – a surprising service method not unlike what Ogie’s does with license plates.

While waiting for my food and sipping my beer, I was again struck by a feeling of comfort in this small locale. “Open” by Rhye was playing, a bit of a haunting song focused on the nebulous nature of love. It set the contemplative mood that was unceremoniously destroyed by my ravenous appetite at the sight of my sandwich and hush puppies, which are savory fried balls of cornmeal-based batter with a bit of what I’m guessing was green pepper or scallions mixed in. They were served with honeyed butter, which is a thing I’m seeing everywhere these days. The spice gave them a bit of a kick, but they were largely a wonderful blend of sweet and savory flavors.

The fish sandwich was a beaut: far too large and far too hot for the bun and my mouth, which is never really a bad thing. The texture was neither too flaky nor too crispy, and the spices offered up a real kick. There was some sort of Cajun or southern creole spice going on that left my face and neck hot and sweaty for several minutes (have mercy on my poor, French Canadian body), but it was also served with slaw and tomato on the bun, which you really don’t see on most fish sandwiches.

The food at Bucktown really is something special. Though neighboring eateries like North Bakery, Slow Rhode and North aren’t exactly the cheapest around either, Bucktown suffers from a bit of an identity crisis in that its vibe is very hole-in-the-wall but most of its menu prices say a bit the opposite. But to me, paying for quality this high is always worthwhile, especially when it’s as exceptional as Bucktown.

Bucktown Chicken and Fish is located just off of Luongo Square at 471 West Fountain Street serving up Southern-style seafood and other fried deliciousness.




Conscious Financial Coupling

Richard Soucheck, Air Traffic Controller, recently told me his keys to financial success:

  1. Make a lot of money.
  2. Spend little.
  3. Save more.
  4. Boom. Financial dominance.

Though this was largely a close friend trolling me on Facebook when I asked for insight into how Millennial couples manage their finances, some measure of truth rings in this advice. Actively saving and spending less than you make is essential to, um, “financial dominance” – whatever that is.

David Mailloux, a financial planner with LPL Financial in Portsmouth, also stressed the importance of saving, and expressed how important a personal financial advisor is in a time where people are much more likely to just Google their money problems: “Google is not wisdom,” he said. In our conversation he said the best financial advice is to “save, save, save.” Thankfully, according to a recent survey from Bankrate.com, Millennials seem to be saving more than some of the generations before them.

In Motif’s last Economy issue, I took a deep dive into the generational tensions between Millennials and Baby Boomers, finding that “Millennials currently contend with higher rates of unemployment, less money and a higher likelihood of living in poverty than our parents did.” We’re the most educated generation in the history of the world, so why can’t I be married with kids and a house big enough for more cats (and maybe a dog) already?

The traditional financial structure of conscious coupling involves joint checking accounts and a mass pooling of marital resources, but how does that landscape look when a couple has income disparity, or where student loan debt impacts their decision to settle down, marry, have kids or buy a house?

In my case, our finances are pretty independent: We each have our own student debt, car payments and checking and saving accounts (though we do have one joint savings for impending wedding expenses), but for the most part we pay for all our own things. We split expenses 50/50 on the essentials, and we track that progress via a Google Doc spreadsheet.

Nearly all of our large decisions are severely impacted by our financial situation. In the years since we’ve dated, we’ve lived with each set of parents for a time, and also in an apartment with two cats and four humans (our own non-nuclear fam included in that count). Buying a home just isn’t in the cards, and living independently hasn’t been financially viable. Like many excited and eager future husbands, I delayed my marriage proposal mostly for financial reasons. I was in grad school until May 2015, and we largely do not have the income to support anything … drastic?

It’s the same for many couples out there, like financial center manager Troy Cassidy and his girlfriend Katie Beesley, a client service analyst. Recently, Troy told me, “If it were not for student loan debt, we would very likely have already bought a property.”

Couples like Rachael Dunn and Nick DeStefano, a learning specialist at a university and assistant team leader at Whole Foods, “dated for four years before getting engaged and the idea of financial stability was a big reason why” they waited. Their choice to rent instead of buy a property has everything to do with the current market and their financial situation. Large amounts of student debt are a burden. Like my fiancee and me, they have independent checking and savings accounts with joint savings for their upcoming wedding.

Though they try their best to share expenses evenly, uneven incomes are a factor, and Rachael told me, “We don’t like getting too detailed with making sure we’re paying exactly half of everything all the time because we just feel like it isn’t healthy in a relationship that is centered around sharing our lives.” But at the same time, “Neither of us want to completely conjoin our finances/accounts,” she explained. “Because we think it is important to maintain some level of independence.”

Our other couple, Troy and Katie, also split housing expense and other necessities evenly, mainly by having weekly, consistent deposits from their respective accounts put into a joint checking account. Any overflow gets put into a joint savings account. Troy also offered up a sage bit of wisdom on love and money: “The key to everything with finances in our relationship is the fact that we have agreed on a budget. We both set aside enough money to go out for food or drinks, but we also put a great deal of emphasis on saving for our future.”

Financial advisor David Mailloux explained, “When it comes to debt, couples should just attack whatever highest interest rates they are dealing with.” And there’s no correct way to manage a couple’s finances; both joint accounts and financial independence can work. “I’ve seen it successful in both cases. There is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s just a matter of finding out how it works within the couple.”

Also keep in mind that loan consolidation is only beneficial if it means getting a better interest rate overall. Student loans can be overwhelming, but Mailloux reminded me of the Creighton Abrams quote: “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” For some young couples ready to take the plunge into marriage, working together to aggressively pay off the loans with the highest interest rates – regardless of whose they are – could be a way to foster long-term financial success.

Some tips and resources:

  • Roth IRAs are the best go-to for maximizing retirement savings. They’re built for people who make less than $117,000 per year.
  • Digit is a really cool app that basically hacks your checking account and squirrels away some spare money for you, sounding a lot like the transaction virus from “Office Space.”  
  • Acorns is a comparably sneaky app service that will pull regular amounts of money from your account (no minimum) and invest it. There’s also a feature called “Round-Up” that will round every transaction up to the dollar and move that remainder into your account.
  • Mint is another popular service that aggregates all of your accounts and cards and helps you track your spending categories and maintain budgets.
  • One couple I talked to suggested a program called “You Need A Budget”, a robust budgeting software

 




Pokemon Go Goes Faster than Any of Us Thought

As a young, bespectacled, nerdy boy, I was enthralled with the world of Pokemon. The sense of adventure, customizing a team, optimizing strategies. I was into the original games, the anime, everything. I refused to cheat and never used a Gameshark to get Mew. I did, however, defeat an older kid on a plane once, and part of the wager was that he’d give me the elusive #151 should I win. This was the equivalent of getting 100.7% completion on a game.

I played future games in high school and then again in college, where I even wrote a Pokediary for the school newspaper that was almost nominated to win an award! (almost…). This is my way of conveying that even though you might be having a lot of fun with the recently released, world-dominating mobile game Pokemon Go, my level of enthusiasm is in the top tier of fervency.

The structure of your usual Pokemon game is nigh identical each iteration, refined and expanded through six generations (with the seventh coming out in Pokemon Sun & Moon this November): You start out as a kid who picks their first Pokemon from three types: a water, fire or grass. These ubiquitous little monsters are captured as digital data into balls that children carry around. Said children build teams, because certain types of Pokemon are strong or weak compared to others (think rock-paper-scissor but with 18 types), and they fight other people’s Pokemon. There’s a derivative story in these games, culminating in growing strong enough to beat everyone else.

But Pokemon Go? It’s something new entirely, and everyone is talking about it. It’s a “free-to-play augmented reality mobile game” with an interface markedly different from the already mobile games that exist as the main games in the franchise. Like many mobile games, it’s free to download with the option of in-game purchases to enhance the experience. In many ways, this game is pioneering into largely untapped territory in the field of augmented reality gaming. By utilizing GPS, the game allows players to wander around their physical world hunting down different Pokemon and catching them.

When I first heard about the game, I thought it would be on some sort of an epic scale, where individual Pokemon were tethered to exotic locations. If you want a high-level Rock Pokemon, prepare to go deep into a cave out in the wilderness. But I find myself wondering if there really is some method to the madness of a game that will spontaneously spawn Pokemon in peoples’ bathrooms. You can find Pokemon in your office, in your backyard, at your local CVS and yes, in any room of your house in any circumstance.

Your terrain does seem to play some sort of a role in the Pokemon you encounter; around the Motif office there’s been a plethora of water-based Pokemon (we are in Pawtucket just next to the Blackstone River). I’ve caught a Psyduck, Magikarp, Horsea, Slowpoke, Tentacool and Starmy, but also oddly enough a Zubat and more Drowzee than anything else.

My dapper Pokemon trainer in the early days. Notably more realistic looking than in the main games.
My dapper Pokemon trainer in the early days. Notably more realistic looking than in the main games.

When you start out, you get a hasty introduction to the world of Pokemon, and much like in the regular games, you have to name yourself, design your character (picking your “style” rather than “gender”) and, of course, pick your starter! The options are the same as the original games: Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. Interestingly enough, there are methods of getting Pikachu as a starter, which basically amount to wandering away from the trio of starters in the physical world until you find a different set.

From there, you must physically move through the world around you in search of more Pokemon to catch. You can see what specific monsters might be near you, with indicators telling you how far. When they actually do pop up, you enter into an encounter, where through your phone’s camera, you can see them in the world.

Motif interns Caitlyn Picard and Ricky Mejia assisting in a brief stroll around the Motif office
Motif interns Caitlyn Picard and Ricky Mejia assisting in a brief stroll up the street from the Motif office

While out on a morning excursion, we bumped into a young man also wandering around, phone in hand. When he was close enough, rather than just keep walking past, he smiled and asked if we were playing Pokemon Go. This kind of camaraderie and enthusiasm is everywhere with this game.

In addition to Pokemon and other trainers, Pokestops are also scattered throughout the world; these real life locations are checkpoints of a kind where with a flick of the wrist you can get a handful of random items, most importantly more Pokeballs. Many other locations are Gyms where you can battle the current trainer in control and participate in a faction-oriented turf war.

According to Kotaku.com and other sources, a host of these locations are actually churches! This I can personally vouch for, as the Polish National Catholic Church in North Smithfield is indeed the first gym I tried to take on. And then there is the case of the Massachusetts man whose home is a renovated Church; yet another location beset by dozens of strangers at all hours of the day.

Even the Westboro Baptist Church has been transformed into a Gym, and taken over by LGBT champion “Pinknose” whose Clefairy named “LOVEISLOVE” took up residence. In true Westboro Baptist Church fashion, they’ve responded with a slew of tweets using Pokemon alongside their typical, delicate phrasing. No word on whether they’ll actually create a trainer to regain legitimate control over the Gym.

What you might need to understand is that the culture of Pokemon is one built on the mantra “Gotta catch ‘em all!” where collecting each and every little beast is a fundamental part of the experience. Players will go to great lengths to catch every last one. It’s for that reason that we get a warning every time you log in:

Careful! You might get eaten by a giant sea serpent.
Careful! You might get eaten by a giant sea serpent.

A Gyarados (monstrously powerful sea serpent) looms over an unsuspecting player: “Be wary of your surroundings!” At first I took this as an edgy, inspirational “warning” meant to keep you constantly aware of when a nearby Pokemon might pop up, but now I’m realizing it has more to do with preventing accidents, like the mugging in Chicago, in which a teen was stabbed for his iPhone. Turnto10.com also relayed a story from Wyoming that provides details on how a player actually discovered a dead body by a river while exploring in search of Pokemon. There are certainly negatives with this game when it comes to an overall lack of awareness, a common problem with cell phones that is now exacerbated.

But then again, there is also the recent development that has to do with the account: When logging on, one of the options is signing up / in using your Google account. In some, but not all cases, this means both Pokemon Go and developer Niantic has full account access to your Google account. Among other things, this allows them to read all of your emails and access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them). Many are suggesting this might be just an innocent oversight, albeit a HUGE one.

A wild Spearow appeared at Buzzards Bay Brewing!
A wild Spearow appeared at Buzzards Bay Brewing!

Despite setbacks, the overall experience seems to be offering up far more joy than problems.

Motif’s very own Caitlyn Picard also works at the Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland, an establishment that doubles as a brand new Pokemon Gym: “A bunch of younger customers have come up to the windows excitedly letting us know that it is [a Gym],” she explained. “Some of the guys that make the ice cream play it and are overjoyed at the fact it is a Gym.” For those who work and live around there, it has been the “talk of the shop” since the game’s release, and cars of players are there at all odd hours of the day battling at the Gym. In this way, a number of local businesses are bound to see increased traffic, and there are even ways to lean into this and promote your business.

Here in the RI and MA communities, it’s been really catching on, with public events and online groups coordinating hangouts. Stavon Joy created a public group on Facebook called “Pokémon Go – SNE,” which has blown up since the release with almost a thousand members. “It’s awesome to see how many people are happily going out and meeting new friends,” she said. “We’re all on our phones anyway, but instead of awkward silence we’re talking to people. It’s great.”

John Killian, a local junior web developer, had the following to say on Facebook:

Today, I found a Ghastly in my work computer, found a Jynx at Walmart, witnessed an enemy stop at one of my gyms who then pulled his phone out, swiped and tapped for a bit, scowled and drove off. I then battled and took over four more gyms, started hatching two eggs with six more ready, had my phone die fighting for a sixth gym, forgot how I got to said sixth gym, wandered for a bit as it was getting dark, found a familiar looking street name, followed it for a bit, found more familiar things, made it home eventually to find another Eevee which gave me enough candy to evolve one, got a Jolteon. This game is awesome.

Similarly Nicole Cote, a research specialist in North Providence, said the following:

I love Pokemon Go. I went for a walk this morning and saw several other players walking about. Some of us hung out by the CVS on Thayer since there was a lure, and someone in passing told me where there was another lure. It’s cool to have a game that encourages exercise and let’s strangers interact with each other. Also, some guy asked if i was taking pictures of his car and I had to explain I was trying to catch an imaginary bird.

You can possibly encounter the two of them – and many more local trainers – at a meet up to be held on Friday, July 15 at the Roger Williams Temple to Music. There’ll also be one on Saturday, July 23 at India Point Park coordinated by Motif’s own Spocka Summa.

Some fun facts:

  • Formatting is a doozy in this article, but we’re taking the AP’s style as the standard here:

Notable locations in the app:

  • The Chipotle on Bald Hill Rd in Warwick is a Gym
  • India Point Park in Providence is popular for trainers
  • Slater Park in Pawtucket is another popular spot
    • Rahim Shloul: “I’ve live[d] in Pawtucket for 27 years and I’ve never [seen] Slater park as busy as I’ve [seen] it lately.”
  • Gasbarro’s Wines on Federal Hill in Providence is a Gym
  • Patriot Place has a number of Pokestops

Have any fun stories about Pokemon Go or tips about interesting Pokestops or Gyms that could be added to this list? Comment here!

 




Locale Profile: Dine at Massimo for Maximum Yum Yums

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

Papa Hemingway was known for his zeal when it came to wine and all other manner of alcohol; I was reminded of this as I perused the menus at my new favorite place on Federal Hill: Massimo.

Billed as “new world Italian with local flavor,” Massimo opened this summer in a heavily renovated space that once housed Mediterraneo. Having shut its doors in November of last year, Mediterraneo was not only a favorite date night my spouse and me, it was a popular location for celebrities who traveled to The Hill, former mayor Buddy Cianci included. We were fond of brandishing Groupons to cut the cost just a bit, and especially with the homemade limoncello offered at the conclusion of the meal, it offered a pleasant evening out, one that a great number of diners enjoyed since its opening in 1997.

The bright blues and yellows that once inched toward gaudiness have been completely rehabbed into the classy, chic locale known as Massimo. Joseph and Esther DeQuattro, owners of Pane e Vino just up the street, acquired the location to produce a dining experience markedly different from Pane e Vino, which serves up southern Italian cuisine. By utilizing locally sourced ingredients and contemporary recipes from all over Italy, Massimo was curated with a vibe that strikes a markedly different chord than the family recipes at Pane e Vino.

We opted to dine at Massimo on a gorgeous Thursday evening in June, just past 7pm. Although the restaurant was very busy, we were seated almost immediately. They have those large, foldable windows that basically transform the restaurant into an extended al fresco dining space. We sat at a sidewalk table within sight of the Fed Hill pineapple and almost immediately were served some focaccia and Italian loaf, sliced and served with a spiced and herbed whipped butter that had a vaguely green tint to it. I could have subsisted on that butter alone!

The menu is rife with pleasing fonts, and in the wine menu there are Hemingway quotes (featured above); one from A Moveable Feast, but also some words from from Pablo Naruda. The wine list is wide and varied, as is the cocktail menu.

I’ve been on a real mezcal tear lately (short description: the crossbreed of scotch and tequila), so I opted for what amounted to a compromise between a margarita and an old fashioned; it was sublime. My spouse ordered a blood orange martini, a drink with a color closer to traditional orange juice, but that did indeed have quite a nice bite to it. You can tell that Massimo has a mindful and creative bartender; the individual ingredients blend really well to create an all-around interesting taste.

Massimo Calamari Fritti

Because I am about as basic as they come, I ordered the calamari fritti to start, which was served with sun-dried tomatoes, pickled sweet cherry peppers, arugula and a spicy lemon aioli. It was a refreshing alternative to the typical serving of fried calamari, and I would definitely have it again.

My date ordered the arugula salad, which came with prosciutto di darma, shaved grana padano, red onions and lemon vinaigrette, she got an order of seared scallops on top, and wow! Each was larger than a baby’s fist.

Massimo Food

I was initially conflicted about my order; I tend to not eat much pasta because carbs are the devil, but the rigatoni con pollo was calling me with its simple but decadent mix of the grilled chicken, san marzano pink sauce and shaved grana padano atop al dente rigatoni. My biggest beef with ordering pasta in most restaurants are the gargantuan portions, but when I received my rigatoni it was on a perfectly portioned plate. If it hadn’t been for the gorging on the delicious bread with that whipped butter and the calamari, it would have been the most precise meal I’ve ever had.

Though we barely scratched the surface of Massimo, the two-story dining establishment also offers a pub menu open late with items like burgers and pizzettes. All in all, Massimo offers a solid dining experience that lives up to the long-established RI standards its predecessor was known for.




Open and Closed

[OPEN]

A new chicken and fish place, Bucktown, recently opened on the west side of Providence. They also have beer on tap from Long Live Beerworks, which is right up the street! 471 West Fountain Street, PVD. facebook.com/bucktownpvd

Homestead Creamery, a new ice cream shop at the Homestead Gardens property on Industrial Drive in North Smithfield opened, offering the usual ice cream flavors, floats and shakes. Grand opening was July 4th weekend. homesteadcreameryri.com

The Sage Clinic is a collaborative clinic with holistic practitioners and licensed health care professionals on 201 Waterman St, East Providence that held its grand opening on July 2. sageclinicri.blogspot.com

The Barking Crab is now The Boat Yard Bar & Grill, which serves modern American food. Newport’s newest destination restaurant offers al fresco dining in warmer weather on the patio and under the canopy. 151 Swinburne Row, Newport. boatyardnpt.com

A traditional Irish pub arrived in Wakefield in the form of Mary Murphy’s. Like any traditional pub, they have live music, trivia nights and, of course, cold pints.

An Italian favorite in Newport and Boston, Pasta Beach is coming to Wayland Sq, PVD. The new location promises to be an intimate place for gourmet thin-crust pizza, focaccia panini and, of course, pasta dressed in homemade sauces. pastabeachrestaurants.com

Podsnappery opened an addition to their shop, The Galactic Theater, a 20-seat movie theater in the back of the store that will show vintage movies, which pair perfectly with Podsnappery’s vintage appeal. galactictheatre.com

Don’t come for the books! The Library is a laid back atmosphere restaurant with full bar, valet parking and famous Doritos Crusted Mozzarella Sticks. Located at 142 Atwells Ave on Federal Hill. fb.com/thelibraryri

Monrovia offers west African and soul food with some Southern American flavor added to the mix! Gansett Ave, Cranston. fb.com/monroviakitchen

Get your fill of delicious frozen treats perfect for cooling down on those hot summer days at U Scream Ice Cream. Located at 1 Smithfield Rd, North Providence. fb.com/U-Scream-Ice-Cream-568616136649112

Tom’s Bao Bao will bring authentic Chinese steamed buns to Providence this summer. tomsbaobao.com

Named after longest-serving volunteer, Pearl Nathan, Cafe Pearl will serve coffee-based beverages and light fare from Providence bakeries. Near the Benefit St entrance at the RISD Museum. risdmuseum.org

Food Network legend Guy Fieri’s signature cuisine is coming to Foxwoods this fall in Guy Fieri’s Kitchen + Bar. The 8,200-square-foot, 190-seat restaurant will boast an open kitchen and bar design, with bold flavors. guyfieri.com/restaurant-brands

“Iron Chef” star Cat Cora’s newest restaurant, Cat Cora’s Wine Bar, will feature a tapas bar, wines and Mediterranean small plates and creative cocktails. Opening this fall at Foxwoods Resort Casino. catcora.com/restaurants/

Richard Rawlings of “Fast ‘N’ Loud” fame will open The Garage Bar & Grill, serving Texas roadhouse-style barbecue, burgers and local beer. Opening this fall at Foxwoods Resort Casino. foxwoods.com

A Las Vegas import, Sugar Factory American Brasserie has a retail section that will offer a selection of the company’s candy bins and Couture Pops. Opening this fall at Foxwoods Resort Casino. sugarfactory.com

More than your average Chinese, Jade Tree Asian Bistro has already established itself as a cornerstone of Asian cuisine. Dine in, take out and delivery. 220 Atwells Ave, PVD. jadetreeasianbistro.com

Quality Massage Now is opening its new location at 960 Reservoir Ave (Suite 28) in Cranston with a grand opening in July.

With more than 100 TVs showing nearly every sports package available, Arooga’s may just be the holy grail of sports bars. Located at 615 Greenwich Ave, Warwick. aroogas.com

Quality BBQ has finally arrived in Newport in the form of Binge BBQ. 12 Broadway, Newport. bingebbqri.com

With one location in Warren already open and another to come in Jamestown, Preppy Pig BBQ will soon be serving delicious BBQ to both the East and West Bay. 632 Metacom Ave, Warren. preppypigbbq.com

A new location of the Mexican & Tex Mex Moe’s Southwest Grill is opening soon on Washington St in Attleboro. moes.com

Chef Robert Sisca opened his new restaurant, Garde East, in Martha’s Vineyard. The menu features dishes from both land and sea with locally sourced ingredients, along with a beverage selection guaranteed to impress any wine enthusiast. 52 Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, Mass. opentable.com/restaurant/profile/264916

[CLOSED]

Something’s Brewing, a cafe on Route 2 in North Kingstown, has closed down and will reopen in 4 to 6 weeks under the same ownership as their previous brand, Sophie’s.

Lois Hollingsworth, who owned dress shop Zuzu’s Petals at 288 Thayer St for over 25 years, said that parking meters were the “last straw” in her decision to shutter the Providence location and focus on stores in East Greenwich and Barrington.

Bonefish Grill in Chapel View is shutting down in Cranston due to a Bonefish Grill revitalization plan.

Following a fire some months back, the Newport location of Teas and Javas has permanently closed. Their Providence location remains open on Wayland Square, aiming to serve “love in a cup.”




Food Truck Profile: Gastros

You might call Gastros a hot dog cart, but all you need to do is take a glance at their well-designed logo to know that it’s so much more. “Gastros” is printed in a cursive font, with subtext of “handcrafted perfection” all in front of a cutting board and chef’s knife. They advertise “gastronomic eats” out on the interwebs, but what does that mean, exactly?

“It’s the art of eating and creating great food, my man,” said co-owner Owen Doyle with a smile. He and his co-conspirator Travis Gervasio have been in business since June 2015. Gastros was a part-time gig for them both until early April 2016 when they decided to go full-time with it.

“This year is going to be breaking the stigma of the dirty water cart,” Gervasio said. Your typical hot dog cart sells boiled dogs out of murky water, but Gastros? They make everything locally sourced, all natural and from scratch. “We try to source everything as super-local as possible,” said Doyle.

Before throwing all in with Gastros they “did the whole corporate thing” with Doyle being a banquet supervisor at Foxwoods and Gervasio a cook at ProvidenceG’s Rooftop, studying under Aaron Thorpe at the time (who now owns and operates Cook & Dagger in Smithfield). Before that, Doyle and Gervasio both went to Johnson & Wales and were roommates before they were business partners.

“A good day off for us then was just cooking for 10 hours for our friends and hanging out,” Gervasio explained. Now, the two-man operation is a combination of Gervasio’s culinary skills and Doyle’s business acumen. And if the public’s response to their food is any indication, they’ve got something special.

Gervasio (Left) and Doyle (Right)
Gervasio (Left) and Doyle (Right)

I met them at Foolproof Brewing Company before a beer and sausage night took place there (a match made in heaven if you ask me). They immediately had me try some of their Homemade Teriyaki Jerky with meat from Kinnealey Meats, which was pretty darn good, and explained how it was becoming something of a local trend with the breweries, especially Foolproof in Pawtucket and Long Live Beerworks in Providence.

Then it was on to some Charred Broccoli topped with Cheddar Mornay, which was literally torched before being slathered in the cheesy sauce; really quite good.

Before I could lick my lips, I was presented with The Country Dog, and let me just stop and say that for foodies like myself, it’s very rare to be truly blown away by something new. Flavors tend to be derivative, spices are usually the same. I don’t know if it was the perfect confluence of my favorite specific flavors, but the Gastros Country Dog is one of the greatest things I have ever eaten. (So sorry I didn’t get pics, readers. It was just too damn good, and gone too damn fast.)

It’s a house-made hot dog with bacon gravy and crumbled cornbread, topped with peppercorn maple syrup. It had the spice, it had the sweet, it had the savory, and the textures! I love a good piece of cornbread, and this was some great cornbread crumbled atop this spectacle. The dog itself had some explosively succulent flavor, and though some people might be averse to syrup on meat, there are few things I enjoy more (try chicken Vermont in your lifetime).

It didn’t stop there! I was also able to sample the “Not Foolin’ Around,” which was a special version of their usual bacon cheddar wurst. It was their go-to house-made hot dog stuffed with bacon and cheddar and topped with braised onions on a brioche bun. The thing is, though — those onions? They braise them in beer from the brewery they’re at. In this case, it was the Barstool American Golden Ale (my personal favorite mainstay from Foolproof). At Long Live Beerworks that meant the Bricks and Mortar Brown Ale. This dog, too, was fantastic. The pockets of cheddar pop in your mouth like cheesy gushers and the onions were sublime.

“Not Foolin’ Around”
“Not Foolin’ Around”

By midsummer, Gastros is hoping to roll out a new, larger rig that will allow them even more flexibility, storage and output.

To learn more about Gastros, find them on Twitter: @gastros401 or Facebook at Gastros401. To see the current locations of Gastros and other local food trucks, visit motifri.com/food-truck-locator, brought to you by FoodTrucksIn RI (foodtrucksin.com), a Providence-based company allowing users to find local food trucks or food trucks in over 1,300 cities nationwide.




DareMe: IV Infusions

Oftentimes in journalism you approach an assignment with a particular focus, or even expectation, and it’s always exciting when your discoveries change everything. You’re forced to lean into the curve.

That’s exactly what happened when I was dared to try IV infusions at The Petteruti Center for Life Extension in Warwick. Because IV infusions are a method of combatting hangovers, this dare was perfect for our Spring Beer issue. We’ve all heard the rumors about IV trucks in Las Vegas or the lounges at LA beaches – the magical panacea that staves off hangover ailments. Are they even real? Does it really work?

Rest assured, it’s an exceedingly effective means of easing the stiff headache that comes the morning after one too many stiff drinks, and it’s only one of many services offered at the center.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Petteruti Center going in other than a swanky IV infusion area they call the Drip Bar, but I was pleasantly surprised to uncover what feels like a mecca of alt-health in Rhode Island.

Holistic health is a subsection of alt-health that focuses on the whole person rather than the reactionary treatment of a particular ailment (which is usually what you get from traditional medicine). It’s a proactive way of looking at things that has you focusing on “how you can live your most healthy, vibrant day, today,” according to the center’s founder.

Dr. Stephen J. Petteruti DO, the eponymous doc running the show, operates as a concierge doctor, meaning that rather than the traditional, pay-as-you-go model of care, you get a slew of services included in a monthly fee. The full name of the center includes “Life Extension,” which converges with several branches of the practice: a highly effective weight loss program, overall concierge medicine and the Drip Bar.

“We take the best science out there and apply it to the patient’s greatest needs in the moment,” Petteruti says. The administration of hormones and macronutrients as part of a proactive health plan isn’t exactly something that’s approved by mainstream medicine, but some studies have shown that they can slow the process of aging, helping some to live not just longer, but better. And that’s what Dr. Petteruti is all about.

“Much of what ages us is modifiable.” He’s talking about things like sarcopenia, the muscular atrophy that naturally begins to occur in all of us between the ages of 50 and 60. “You don’t lose your hormones because you get old, you get old because you lose your hormones.” The body changes in natural ways, but that doesn’t mean you can’t slow the changes. “What drives me is the concept of living to 120 and taking youth with us.”

Dr. Petteruti spent years as a traditional primary care physician, boxed into the framework of health insurance requirements and rigid regulations. After a particularly frustrating day, his wife Shannon suggested they rethink the entire practice, and they did. Several years back they rebuilt and rebranded the practice from the ground up, and last year began the IV infusions.
Now, it’s an alt-health center where you can get a drip before a night of drinking to help your body process alcohol better, or perhaps even after. It’s reflective of the holistic approach to the practice as a whole: You can promote good health by way of supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, but you can also receive the substances needed to help your body fight whatever illness it might need to. That means cancer, Lyme disease, even fibromyalgia.

After a lengthy conversation with Dr. Petteruti, I settled into the Drip Bar with IV specialist Ashlee Hammerschmidt, who welcomed me with a smile and explained a bit about my particular drip. It’s called the Energy Drip, packed with several different B vitamins, calcium gluconate and the real kicker: glutathione. This powerful antioxidant, while available in dark greens like broccoli and Brussel sprouts, has low bioavailability, meaning that the body can only really accept trace amounts of it into its system. But getting it injected directly into your veins? Way more effective. First-timers can get a Classic Myers Cocktail for only $99, but most infusions hover around the $120 to $165 range.

Ashlee is an expert with the needle; I used to donate blood quite a bit and have been to the hospital more than once, and I have to say she is among the best I’ve encountered at sticking a vein. Thankfully, she warned me of a very strange little side effect: Some people begin to smell or taste things in the back of their mouth. For me, it was an aftertaste that was pungent and tinny, almost skunk-ish. Before long, I felt a pleasant little rush that lasted for a long time. I animatedly proclaimed that it felt like the peak of a caffeine buzz, but it lingered longer than the five seconds most coffee buzzes do. Energetic doesn’t quite capture how good it made me feel.

“The generalized effects could last up to a full week,” Ashlee explained. “Some people come in weekly for a while to really reap the benefits.”

Later that day, by the early afternoon I felt a bit sleepy and cheerful, the kind of comfy, happy tired you feel when you wake up late on a Saturday morning and you still want to – and get to – sleep. Each night since then, I’ve had some of the best sleep I’ve experienced in a long time. I don’t fully understand how these nutrients are affecting my body, but I have to say I can feel some definite effects.

And these effects are scientifically proven, just not widely accepted. There is a difference between alt-health and fringe health.
“This type of medicine is ready for the mainstream,” Dr. Petteruti said near the end of our meeting. I’m inclined to agree. So the next time you have one too many and wake up with a throbbing headache, skip the Gatorade and greasy breakfast and head on over to the Drip Bar instead.

The Petteruti Center for Life Extension
250 Centerville Rd, Bldg E, Warwick




Locale Profile: Lotus Pepper

Motif has introduced a new sort of Locale: Food Truck Profiles! We’re looking at a new Food Truck each month leading into the warmer season to get you ready for Food Truck Fridays in the summer. Also be on the lookout for Motif’s upcoming Food Truck awards!
Slapping a sandwich together at home is one thing, but crafting a truly majestic grinder is another. For me, the real beauty of a sandwich comes in a blend of its toppings with contrasting textures and temps: warm-hot meat with cool, crisp veggies and a sauce slathered about that adds an explosion of flavor. Though I didn’t expect it, that’s what I got – and more – at Lotus Pepper, the only Vietnamese food truck in the area.
It’s called Banh Mi on the Lotus Pepper menu, a term that translates literally to “bread wheat” yet has come to refer to all manner of breads, especially baguettes, which were introduced to Vietnam by the French during six decades of colonial control. The cuisine that came out of that era is a dynamic fusion of the two cultures. Colloquially, Banh Mi refers to a “Vietnamese Sub,” a mix of Vietnamese ingredients served on a small, flaky baguette. Lotus Pepper’s bread actually comes from a Vietnamese bakery all the way up in Boston; you just can’t find it locally.
In the case of Lotus Pepper’s Banh Mi, you get cucumber, carrot, daikon pickles, cilantro – all of which are noticeably fresh – and your choice of meat. For mine, I opted for the BBQ pork at the suggestion of co-owner Thang Huynh, “The pork is everyone’s favorite.” He’s young, charismatic and talkative, recognizing and welcoming at least a dozen students who walked by, many of whom ate from the truck when I swung by on a Tuesday afternoon. Lotus Pepper was at its usual spot around 180 Thayer St in Providence, right in the heart of the Brown University campus.
“Around 85% of our business comes from Brown students, and the other 15 from faculty,” Huynh explained, laughing. Lotus Pepper operates almost year-round, with the only off-season being the six or so weeks that Brown is on winter break. Plenty of students opt for Lotus Pepper or Mama Kim, which frequents the same area, over one of the many stationary culinary options on Thayer. As students rush between classes or from one commitment to another, food trucks like Lotus Pepper offer a faster alternative to sitting down in a restaurant.
“Brown students are really open-minded to trying different kinds of food, and they seem to like some of our healthier options on the menu.”
Thang started Lotus Pepper with his mother, Young, three years ago (almost to the date, on April 12, 2013).
“She’s my partner in crime,” he smiles. “She came up with the idea. She’s always loved cooking and everyone in the family would always ask her to do parties.” When I asked about the name, Thang explained that the Lotus was a national symbol for Vietnam, a flower that grows in muddy water before rising just above the surface to bloom. It’s a symbol for purity, peace and optimism for the future; a fitting choice for an ornate blossom adorning the side of the white truck whose petals have been replaced with red chili peppers. They love representing Vietnam, but they also love adding a little kick.
From inside the truck Young Huynh proudly urges Thang to talk about their secret sauce. Right next to a nearly empty bottle of Sriracha was an unmarked jar of Lotus Pepper’s secret sauce, which might as well be a namesake with its murky appearance and spiciness. It definitely had a tremendous amount of red pepper flakes, along with some kind of oil and vinegar, but beyond that I couldn’t fathom a guess. When I asked, Young smiled sweetly. “Many have tried to copy it, but nobody comes close,” she said. I had the sauce on my Banh Mi. Sure enough, its flavor profile packed a wallop. It alone is worth returning for.
I also sampled a crispy spring roll, or Cha Gio, which included a mix of ground chicken, taro (root veggie not unlike a potato), carrot, celery and cabbage wrapped up in rice paper and fried until golden. These were simply divine, with just the right amount of spice.
I was also able to snag a fresh summer roll, or Goi Cuon, which included shredded lettuce with bean sprouts, mint, vermicelli (a kind of pasta noodle like spaghetti) and shrimp wrapped in clear rice paper, served with a spicy peanut sauce. I’m always intrigued by the soft, gooey texture of a summer roll.
Perhaps the greatest strength of a truck like Lotus Pepper is its ability to please any kind of palate: you can get the fresh- and veggie-focused, or the deep fried goodness, or a sandwich with a little bit of everything, or even a mixed bowl with rice and meats. I’ll definitely be returning next time I am in the neighborhood.
You can find Lotus Pepper on most weekdays from Noon to 7pm around 180 Thayer St, Providence, but also at other events like Food Truck Fridays and flea markets.
To learn more about Lotus Pepper, find them on Twitter: @LotusPepper or Facebook at LotusPepper. To see the current locations of Lotus Pepper and other local food trucks, visit motifri.com/food-truck-locator, brought to you by FoodTrucksIn RI (foodtrucksin.com), a Providence-based company allowing users to find local food trucks in over 1,300 cities.




Locale Profile: Wara Wara

I arrived at Wara Wara – the new Japanese-drenched tapas joint on Hope St – just after 7pm on a Tuesday to a full house and was greeted by a curious vintage yellow gas pump robot monster. Thankfully, it did not attack. I looked around, peering at a colorful bar off to the left side, complete with a television toward the corner that was playing the Kurosawa film Sanjuro on a loop with subtitles. A dividing wall neatly separates the bar area from the main dining area with the half-open kitchen to the back of the space.

The atmosphere was bustling, energetic. Even the decor is busy and exciting; there’s a lot going on inside the old location of Blaze. A chaotic collage of Japanese culture greets you at every casual glance, from the ukiyo-e-esque mural on one wall to the small Godzilla figurines lining the shelves.

Co-owners Kazu Kondo, X Premwat and Nick Mazonowicz apparently enlisted the help of local designer and RISD alum Kyla Coburn to decorate.

I was able to get a table for two almost immediately, despite having to wait a short while thereafter for my plus-one. I spent at least a few minutes after being seated staring across the expanse of the space, wondering how they got a picture book about geishas so high up on the shelf next to the TV. It’s a lot to take in, which makes for an interesting dining experience.

It took a short while to parse through the mysterious cocktail menu, which includes names like Open Kimono, Tokyo Martini and Saketini written on a chalkboard high above the kitchen. Pretty much everything includes some measure of sake. I opted for the Tokyo Martini, which had vodka, sake and chartreuse, which was really interesting in that the first and last sips seemed to taste vastly different.

The really interesting thing about Wara Wara is that the menu is pretty far from what you might expect. The restaurant logo pushes the “Oysters, Sake, Noodles,” and if you were to ask me to describe Wara Wara, I’d probably call it Japanese tapas, and even that really wouldn’t quite do it justice. The menu includes a raw bar along with tapas (meat, fish, veggie) and also a selection of ramen. Before my dining partner arrived, the waiter came by to see if I wanted anything to start. I panicked and blurted out the calamari. Though I was initially ashamed for ordering something you can get just about anywhere in the greater Providence community, I was pleased when it arrived shortly after my plus-one did — a mix of rings and tentacles with a fantastic red pepper mango sauce.

Next up was a double whammy of meat and veggie tapas: hakka eggplant with garlic basil and spicy hoisin sauce along with lemongrass pork sausage with ginger scallion vinaigrette and pickles. In my time as a journalist, I’ve never had just cause to use the word “succulent” to review a dish; that is, until now. The lemongrass pork sausage at Wara Wara is nothing short of a treasure. And the explosion of flavor brought on by the pork sausage was complemented by the tangy, spicy flavors of the melt-in-your-mouth eggplant.

To round out the rest of the meal, we split an order of the sesame chicken ramen with soy broth and yu choy that they served in separate smaller bowls (extra convenience points!). It also came with shiitake, bamboo, seven spices and a flavored soft-boiled egg. The overall flavor of the ramen was incredibly smoky and potent.

If intensely Japanese decorum amidst oysters, sake and tapas sounds like your style, then head on out to Hope Street and check out Wara Wara!




Salve Regina French Film Festival

‘Tis the season for francophiles in the Ocean State. As Salve Regina University in Newport celebrates its 11th year appreciating the best in French cinema, viewers get to watch up to six French films (with English subtitles, of course!). This year’s coordinator is Dr. Dean de la Motte, a professor of French at the University. “The Alliance Française of Newport has been involved from the beginning,” he said. “The public for the festival has always been a mix of community members, students and faculty.”

The opening screening for the festival used to be held at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, but as part of an ongoing effort to bring the Salve Regina and greater Newport communities together, some things have changed.

“We are working with different constituencies on campus to raise the profile of the festival,” he explained. “Even our food service, Sodexo, will prepare French food all day on the Friday prior to the festival.”

A number of groups across campus are co-sponsoring the festival, both academic and administrative. “This year we made a concerted effort to involve more students, faculty and staff,” de la Motte explained. Anyone with a Salve Regina ID card is granted free access to each screening, all of which will be screened on campus in the O’Hare Academic Center’s Bazarsky Lecture Hall (Salve Regina University, 100 Ochre Point Ave, Newport). There’s even a student discussion hosted by the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy the day after one of the films.

3 coeurs / 3 Hearts: Sun, Apr 3, 4pm; Wine and cheese reception to follow in McAuley Hall (adjacent to Bazarsky)

Eiffel Tower made of film strips Illustration by Jacob Saariaho
Illustration by Jacob Saariaho

After Paris-based tax auditor Marc (Benoit Poelvoorde) misses his train home, he spends the night in a small town in southern France, where he meets the melancholic Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Drawn to each other, they never exchange names or numbers, instead agreeing to meet by a fountain at the Jardin des Tuileries in the French capital. This romantic plan is thwarted, however, when Marc, en route to the destination, suffers severe chest pains and is rushed to the hospital. Dejected, Sylvie returns to her unhappy marriage and soon leaves for the US. Marc, meanwhile, meets and falls in love with another woman, Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni), who, unbeknownst to him, is Sylvie’s beloved sister.

Bande de filles / Girlhood: Tue, Apr 5, 7pm

Celine Sciamma’s third feature focuses on Marieme (Karidja Toure), a 16-year-old who absorbs the wrath of her older brother and assumes responsibility for her two younger sisters while their mother works the night shift. She falls in with a triad of tough girls, abandoning her braids for straightened hair and her hoodie for a leather jacket. Girlhood follows Marieme as she moves toward adulthood while consistently being reminded of her limited options.

Timbuktu: Thu, Apr 7, 7pm

In his magnificent fourth feature film, Abderrahmane Sissako demonstrates his remarkable ability to condemn religious fanaticism and intolerance with subtlety and restraint. Timbuktu concerns the jihadist siege of the Malian city in 2012. A ragtag band of Islamic fundamentalists announce their increasingly absurd list of prohibitions via megaphone to Timbuktu’s denizens, several of whom refuse to follow these strictures, no matter the consequence.

Deux jours, une nuit / Two Days, One Night: Sun, Apr 10, 3pm; A coffee and pastry reception at 2pm

Acclaimed directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne join forces with one of the most talented performers working today, Marion Cotillard. The actress plays Sandra, an employee at a solar-panel factory in an industrial town in Belgium, who learns that management is offering each of her colleagues a 1,000 euro bonus if they vote to make her redundant. Sandra meets each of her 16 coworkers over a weekend to convince them to forgo the cash and let her resume her position at the company. These encounters reveal the Dardenne brothers’ signature compassion for characters torn asunder by the demands of late capitalism.

La religieuse / The Nun: Tue, Apr 12; 7pm

In Guillaume Nicloux’s adaptation of Denis Diderot’s 18th-century novel, Pauline Etienne plays Suzanne Simonin, a devout 16-year-old who, lacking a dowry and a vocation, is forced by her aristocratic, though financially troubled, parents to enter a convent. Although her time in the nunnery was supposed to be short, Suzanne soon finds herself imprisoned in the abbey when her mother announces her daughter is an illegitimate child and must expiate the family’s sins by staying in the convent indefinitely. A scathing examination of religious hypocrisy and a profound treatise on freedom, Nicloux’s adaptation also stars the great Isabelle Huppert and Louise Bourgoin.

Hiroshima mon amour / Hiroshima, My Love: Thu, Apr 14, 7pm

One of the most influential movies ever made, Alain Resnais’s masterwork from 1959 would not only shape the nouvelle vague benchmarks made in its wake, but liberate filmmakers from linear storytelling. “[I]n my film time is shattered,” Resnais once said. Hiroshima mon amour, which was scripted by Marguerite Duras, consists of multiple flashbacks. Spanning approximately 36 hours, the movie centers around the time-toggling conversations of two characters, the French actress known only as She (Emmanuelle Riva) and Japanese architect known as He (Eiji Okada). While the two reflect on the horrors of wartime — She on living in a Nazi-occupied country, He on the incineration of more than 100,000 of his compatriots — they begin to debate the unreliability of memory.

The Salve Regina University French Film Festival runs from April 3 – 14. For more details about the festival, visit salve.edu/french-film-festival. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets and passes in advance online: web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/29095.