Brew News for the City of East Providence

I have some great news for the craft beer lovers of East Providence! A new brewery called Crook Point Brewing Company is currently under construction and will be the first to open in this small town of mine. The name Crook Point comes from the Rhode Island drawbridge that joins the city of East Providence to Providence.

I had the honor of getting some of the deets from the brewery owner, Ernie Watson. With family roots in the city, Ernie felt that it was the perfect location for his long-sought-out dream that started in 2017. The brewery originally was planned to open in October of 2021. Because of COVID-19and other issues, the progress was delayed.

Ernie saw this as an opportunity to focus on the building and “get things right.”  Located on Massasoit Avenue overlooking the Seekonk River and with views of the East Side, Ernie described this as a beautiful spot. The brewery has two outside areas. There will be a portable tap unit patrons can rent for  outside events. The taproom itself will have eleven craft beers to choose from. There will be food trucks, take out from nearby restaurants and a limited on-site food service. The brewery is collaborating with a local bakery to also provide speciallIy tailored food items, a different daily menu and seasonal specialties. 

The beer menu has not been created yet –Ernie is interviewing candidates for the brewer position.  He explained, “My plan is to create some of the more obvious styles, but there is an enormous underground storage facility that I plan on using as a barrel aging location.” Ernie stated that he was influenced by a trip to the town of Porto in Portugal. He was amazed at their methods of making port wine. “They carve out a cave on the side of the mountains and store barrels and large vats of port wine. I am hoping I can use the space in the same way.” 

The brewery plans to have entertainment based on what customers want. There will be a piano in the event space for patrons who want to play. Ernie shared a story about this: “I had an HVAC contractor doing some work and when he saw the piano he sat down and began playing like Mozart. I was floored.”

What does Ernie want craft beer lovers to know? “I think they will truly love the environment. I want to have good beer, create a space where people feel comfortable and are able to spread out and mingle while not confined to a small table. It will be a place where they can enjoy themselves, make new friends, bring family, children, and friends, and hang out.”

The plan is to be open 7 days a week with extended weekend hours. I am personally excited about this, as a nearby resident. I am sure I will be a regular. I will keep you all updated as I get more information about the beers, brewer, and opening date. (Tentatively scheduled to open in May-June).

RI is for Hope: Kathleen Bellicchi of Bellicchi’s Biscotti

It was 34 degrees out on the first of February in Warren. Clouds were sparse, the sun was shining, and the air was sharp as a paper cut. I stood on the beach in my bathing suit with Kathleen Bellicchi, founder of Bellicchi’s Biscotti, and three other women who’d all come together for an afternoon dip in the ocean.

We called ourselves selkies. Selkies are similar to mermaids. They are seal maidens who appear in Celtic and Scottish folklore. Versions of selkies appear in stories told in cold, northern countries and regions such as Iceland and Siberia, and in tribes of the American Northwest. Selkies tell stories of where we come from, what we’re made of, and how we use instinct to find our way home.

Swimming in the ocean is something Bellicchi does every month of the year, often multiple times a week.

“I’m a summer swimmer, winter dipper,” she said.

Bellicchi sold her first box of Bellicchi’s Biscotti in 2015 on her 68th birthday at the schoolyard market behind Hope & Main, RI’s premier food incubator, where Bellicchi got her start.

“I was there for five years and you have your ups and downs. I’d come in and be in tears feeling like, ‘Alright, I’m at the end of the line, I’m not doing it right, I can’t figure it out.’ And they would say, ‘Kathleen, you’re doing great, look at you, look at this, what do you mean?’ They were always there if I was doubting or in need, someone was always there to take me seriously and listen.”

Bellicchi founded Bellicchi’s Biscotti to honor her husband Eric, who passed away in 2013 from early onset Alzheimer’s. Baking biscotti was an activity they enjoyed and one they continued to enjoy even as Eric’s Alzheimer’s progressed.

“He was diagnosed in his fifties, but as he lost his capabilities, he could still turn biscotti. So we’d put on some jazz, get out the KitchenAid, and bake more biscotti than we could eat. It was like stealing him back.”

It was Bellicchi’s first husband’s mother who taught her about biscotti.

“I’m Irish and Polish, I’m one of nine children. We ate a very meat and potatoes diet. I loved to cook, to bake cakes, but I did not know biscotti. I learned so many wonderful things from my mother-in-law. She couldn’t cook a ham; she couldn’t cook a turkey; she couldn’t cook anything that wasn’t Italian, but you could not beat her Italian cooking.”

Bellicchi’s mother-in-law taught her to use fennel instead of anise when making biscotti, she taught her about the science of baking, about the benefits of exactitude and size.

“Anise gives you an overpowering licorice taste, but with fennel you get a crunch of almonds and a blast of fennel, you get a different taste with every bite… If your biscotti is too thick, it tastes kind of powdery when you bite into it. Ours has a crunch that’ll stand up to a good dunking. Our tagline is: Dunk, crunch, yum.”

At 76 years old, Bellicchi teaches executive presentation skills, is training for an Alzheimer’s memory run, takes spin classes twice a week, and attends a yoga class 4–6 days a week. She donates a portion of Bellicchi’s Biscotti profits to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, which she has done since day one, and hopes to launch a new line of biscotti by the end of the year: Nona the Stonah’s Cannabiscotti.

“The name created itself. Cannabis. Biscotti. Cannabiscotti! My grandmother name is Nona, although cannabis has never been my thing, I really only got paranoid; however, my son-in-law said, ‘Nona the Stonah’s Cannabiscotti!’ and of course the name was born.”

Bellicchi was the last to leave the ocean. She wore a pom-pom hat, special water gloves and booties, and talked about the boats bobbing behind us; they reminded her of her time in Alaska, when she worked aboard a boat her brother captained. In 30-degree water temps, amidst a background of glaciers and moraines, she’d go for a swim, take a dive off the dock, swim ten strokes out and ten strokes back in water so cold it felt warm.

I focused on Bellicchi’s words; she spoke of “Alaskan sunshine,” the crew’s term for when it rained. My thoughts kept to my breathing – the moment felt familiar, like we’d talked about Alaska and boats before, but I began to come out of it. Around the three-minute mark, my toes stiffened and I shot out of the water, my torso exposed, and Bellicchi said, “Don’t stand like that for too long.” We were warmer in the water, she said, which I didn’t understand, but knew to be true.
Bellicchi’s Biscotti is available at Whole Foods in RI, MA, and CT, and at Hope & Main’s new Downtown Makers Marketplace at 100 Westminster St., PVD. To view a complete list of locations visit bellicchisbest.com.

Rhode Island is for Hope: Martha Tsegaye, Ethiopian eats

In 2010, Martha Tsegaye and her family immigrated from Ethiopia to Virginia; it was her first experience with snow.

“I had only seen snow in the movies or on television and then I got to touch it.”

Ethiopia is mountainous with high plateaus and dry lowlands, with a climate that ranges from arid in its northeastern and southeastern deserts, to wet and humid in equatorial rainforests running along the south and southwest; yet Tsegaye says of Rhode Island, “It seems like my country, I love it. I love the fall. In Virginia, it was so hot or so cold, here there are the seasons.”

She grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a place she describes as diplomatic, full of diversity and culture, “It is so big, everything is there”; as a place with heavy rains in winter but not the cold. 

“When I was a child it was suitable weather, but globally, everything has changed. Even my family has told me, ‘It’s so cold and so wet now.’ After the rain you can feel the coldness, but before, when I was a child, we went out and played in the rain… we enjoyed the rains.”

When she lived in Ethiopia, she and her older sister ran a restaurant. Tsegaye did a little of everything, from front of house to back of house, but she was always the one people wanted to cook. 

“I mostly handled the kitchen, I was the one cooking. They begged me to cook, holiday food, everything… They loved when I cooked.”

In 2015, her husband’s work brought her and her family to Rhode Island. During the move, one of their movers warned her of “big Rhode Island snows,” but living in Virginia had prepared her. 

Once in Rhode Island, her sons encouraged her to turn her passion for cooking into an opportunity. The only Ethiopian restaurant in Rhode Island had just closed, and her sons wanted her to do what she loved – to cook. And to sell what she made best: vegetarian Ethiopian cuisine — soft, spongy injera, stuffed jalapenos, seasoned beetroot, spicy misir wot, aromatic atakilt; unique stews and salads of creamy brown lentils, onions, cabbages, carrots and potatoes to scoop up with strips of tangy injera and share communally with family and friends and savor with the piquant warmth of comfort food.

“We have a culture of feeding others, it’s called gursha, so you can express your love by feeding… We share, we talk, we laugh, it is so amazing, you can connect with each other. That’s the way we eat.”

Like many Ethiopian Orthodox Church members, Tsegaye fasts nearly 200 days a year — every Wednesday and Friday, and at various dates throughout the year in observance of religious occasions. As fasting requires abstaining from meat, dairy, and eggs, many Ethiopian dishes are packed with nutritious plant proteins.

“Ethiopian food is fairly unique, aromatic, and spicy… It starts with our flatbread, injera, which is made from teff flour. Teff is an ancient grain we’ve been eating for thousands of years… Berbere is a blend of different spices and creates an exotic flavor. Beetroot is cooked with onions, tomatoes and turmeric. It has a spicy flavor but the seasoning of different types of garlic and ginger give it a full taste. Brown lentil salad combines cooked lentils with raw vegetables… There’s a lot of jalapenos, garlic, ginger, and olive oil. We put it on top of the injera, roll it up, and eat it with our fingers. Our bread is our utensil and it is also our meal, so the taste when combined is very different.”

With the encouragement of her family, Tsegaye enrolled in business classes at CCRI. There she found a supportive community of professors. “They made me feel comfortable, they encouraged me, it was so amazing.” 

When she graduated from CCRI, COVID hit. It was too risky to open a restaurant, so she took to the internet to find another way to start her business. Through a process she calls “digging,” her term for searching the world around her until she hits upon what she wants (“I’m not a quitter, I dig.”), she discovered the culinary incubator Hope & Main.

“I didn’t waste any time, I jumped into my car and drove. I didn’t even call. I went there and spoke to them and they gave me an appointment… I started there and the response was amazing, everybody was so excited.”

At Hope & Main she found the support and resources she needed to turn her passion into a business, and just over a year ago she did it — Tsegaye founded Ethiopian Eats, the only place in RI serving Ethiopian food. 

If Virginia is for lovers, then Rhode Island is for hope.

Tsegaye currently sells her cuisine every Saturday from 9am–1pm at the Farm Fresh Providence Farmers Market. Late last year, she was one of six finalists in the Sam Adams’ Brewing the American Dream Pitch Contest, a contest that helps local food and beverage entrepreneurs gain access to capital, networks, and business coaching. She hopes to expand her presence at farmers markets and, when the moment’s right, open her restaurant.

To connect with Martha follow @ethiopian_eats or visit ethiopian-eats.com.

My Darling, Clementine: A night out at Providence’s new cocktail bar

Clementine's Fugo Bianco cocktail
Fumo Bianco

Only days before bidding adieu to 2022, this former Motif writer sought out a new cocktail bar in the heart of Providence, secretly joining with friends in her beloved city for one more night on the town. One could say it was a clandestine affair at Clementine Cocktail Bar: elegant, intimate, memorable – just like the drinks themselves.

It’s been a year since I left Rhode Island, but as soon as I looked at the address for Clementine, I did the most Rhode Island thing possible and said, “Oh, it’s where birch used to be.” I still remember when birch opened my inaugural year of moving into the city, a hallowed empty space that closed during the pandemic and now reopened almost exactly two years later. Although the space looks strikingly similar – a horseshoe-shaped bar extending through the middle of the room with barstools around it – the red brick wall has since been painted white and is now adorned with vibrant art pieces. A golden dandelion chandelier, like a bursting firework, hangs from the ceiling, and at the time of our visit, Christmas wreaths and small sparkling trees added splashes of holiday cheer.

Morning Dew

My husband and I arrived at 4:30pm on a Thursday, trying to beat the crowds, and we were told that by this time the day before, the bar had been completely full. Given its proximity to Trinity Rep, it’s the perfect place for pre-show cocktails and snacks. Thankfully, on this night, we still had our choice of seats.

Two of our friends had already arrived and were waiting for us at the corner end of the bar, having just made their acquaintance with Christian Cantaragiu, the general manager who would be serving us that evening. Originally from Moldova, Christian has an internationally acclaimed bartending background, having worked from London to Los Angeles, and the menu he’s curated is unique and sophisticated. My favorite aspect of the menu, however, is the selection of alcohol-free options. As it turns out, the owner of Clementine and former mayor of Providence, Congressman David Cicilline, has something in common with my husband – both do not drink. It’s nice to visit a cocktail bar where my husband does not feel out of place.

For the first round, our two friends ordered the Sunset Limited, described on the menu as “citrusy/tropical/bittersweet,” and containing the bar’s homonymous ingredient, clementine juice. (The bar is actually named for Cicilline’s great-grandmother, Clementine.) This non-alcoholic option, made with cherry and tomato syrup, offers a well-balanced sweetness and a beautiful orange-zest garnish. However, if you follow the lead of my friend Morgan, who asked for this mocktail to be made with vodka, this turns into a high class version of jungle juice and is dangerously drinkable. “This tastes like straight juice,” she said, “which is how I like my alcohol.”

My husband, Rob, started with the Morning Dew, a nonalcoholic option made with homemade honeydew and bay leaf marmalade. Although entirely green in color, its presentation reminded me of a Bird of Paradise flower, with fresh bay leaves as its crest and a slice of honeydew for its beak. It was refreshing with a distinct taste of melon, like a honeydew-infused lemonade. I decided to rock the tropical boat with the Fumo Bianco, described by Christian as a “White Negroni,” with a white peppercorn infused vermouth and “roasted red pepper washed mezcal.” I wasn’t sure what the latter meant until I saw the garnish – a dehydrated roasted red pepper that had been sliced into a thin sheet. The red pepper had first been soaked in mezcal, the same red peppers that had infused the alcohol, so that the drink – albeit smoky – also had a hint of sweetness. As one who likes both negronis and mezcal, I was delightfully impressed.

We debated ordering a second round – it was hard to leave the warm and intimate atmosphere, so we stayed for another. Rob opted for the Pear Bellini this time, a flamingo-red mixture of prickly pear cordial and nonalcoholic prosecco, served in a tulip-shaped flute glass with a dehydrated pear garnish. Elegant and bright, this was certainly fruitier and sweeter than the first.

Again, I went the hard opposite and ordered the Sea Gibson. “You know this is basically a gin martini?” Christian asked, perhaps as a warning because I’d ordered two very boozy drinks in a row. “Sure!” I said, having not known that, but choosing to go with it anyway. I found this drink incredibly intriguing. Described on the menu as “salty and vegetal,” it was, indeed, both. I like my martinis dirty, and that’s what this was—except instead of olive brine, they used a sea asparagus concentrate. If the state of Rhode Island had a martini, I think it would be this one. The sea asparagus garnish was a delicious bonus.

By the time we checked our watches, the evening had caught up to us and we couldn’t stay for tapas, but they had a little something for everyone – from charcuterie and cheese to house-cut fries with harissa mayo. There’s always next time.

As soon as I’m back in the little big city of Providence for another clandestine meeting, I will be sure to call on Clementine’s.

Clementine Cocktail Bar
200 Washington St, PVD

Llego La Navidad: Breaking down the traditional Puerto Rican Christmas feast, one dish at a time

The holiday season is here, which means parties, giftgiving, acts of kindness, and yummy food. It’s the time of year to not only give and receive, but also to celebrate the different ways to celebrate, so that we can relate to one another. And what better way to do that than to see what’s cooking for the holidays across cultures?

Nora Dooley’s famous children’s book Everybody Cooks Rice comes to mind, where the main character gets to sample dinner at every house in her neighborhood while searching for her brother to bring him home for their own dinner. Not only did she get her fill of delicious food, but she had a world of possibilities opened up to her, all while realizing that despite their differences, each dinner had one common denominator: rice.

In Puerto Rican culture, the traditional Christmas feast (held on December 24 or Noche Buena) definitely has rice as an absolute must. Every nook and cranny of your place fills up with smells and warmth to make your mouth water and cheeks flush with anticipation. And now, a la Nora Dooley, I’m going to break down each dish that makes up this coveted feast. A comer!

Main Course

Pernil y Arroz con Gandules

It wouldn’t be a Puerto Rican Christmas without Pernil (roasted pork shoulder) and Arroz con Gandules (rice and pigeon peas). The pork is seasoned, then slow-roasted in the oven for most of the day (just like the turkey on Thanksgiving Day), and by the time it is out of the oven, the tender meat and juicy pork skin slide right off the bone. The rice is yellow from a combo of sazón and tomato paste, getting its distinct flavor from sofrito, the first ingredient that goes into the pot, along with recao, oregano, and bay leaves.

Side Dish #1


The best way to describe the magic of Pasteles: simply delicious. You start with a plantain-based masa and fill it with all the good things – cubes of meat (mainly pork), chickpeas, and large green olives with a cherry tomato piece in the center. Although a delight to eat, they are time-consuming to make, taking hours to mash up the masa, mix in the fixings, and wrap them up in banana leaves. Pasteles are typically made in large quantities and frozen for consumption for up to several months, making them easy to get from family or close friends when you are too tired to make them yourself.

Side Dish #2


In between bites of your Arroz con Gandules, Pernil, and Pasteles, fill your fork with some well-seasoned Morcilla. This blood sausage can also be eaten on its own as an appetizer, and despite its name, it is well-cooked and consists mostly of rice, onions, and seasoning mashed together. The f irst bite is a mix of firm crunchiness from the outside casing and warm, fragrant softness from the rice and spices, with a little spicy kick at the end.



At some point, you will need to wash down all the deliciousness described above. The go-to Boricua drink is Coquito, a coconut eggnog rum that will keep you smacking your lips long after the first sip. Coquito is celebrated in Puerto Rican culture for its toasty, sweet taste and creamy consistency that will make you reach for seconds in no time. Along with coconut milk and rum, the drink is made with condensed milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks – a recipe for extra holiday cheer. Just make sure you drink it on a full stomach!


Arroz con Dulce / Turron

And last but certainly not least is dessert, a quintessential classic – Arroz con dulce. But this dish is more than just sweetened rice with cinnamon sprinkled on top – it’s the island itself embedded in each grain of rice soaked in coconut milk and vanilla extract. While you can definitely warm it up, the dessert is typically eaten cold, just like rice pudding.

If Arroz con Dulce is just too rich and creamy to pair with the Coquito, there is always Turron, another traditional Christmas dessert that gives peanut brittle a run for its money. Turron is a firm, toasted almond nougat candy made from egg yolk, sugar, and honey that will keep you crunching up a storm all the way to the New Year.

Just Like Nana’s: The best authentic rugelach in Rhode Island

In the world that Karen Griffin grew up in, there weren’t many exciting job opportunities for women. Instead of pursuing baking, she decided on the “realistic” goal of becoming a teacher. After retiring and working with a few other businesses, she knew this was something she wanted to continue, “I started taking workshops at Hope & Main, not just for the baking side but because of the business side to help me figure out how I was going to start my own business.” Griffin decided to gift Rhode Island with her Jewish culture and make the delicious rugelach from her childhood.

Griffin started pursuing her goals after years of keeping them on hold. “I didn’t want to make another muffin, another cookie, because I knew I couldn’t do it better than anybody else. When I was looking for a challenge and something to do, I wanted to create a unique product that other people weren’t doing.” That’s where her rugelach came in: a sweet pastry, typically rolled and filled with a fruit or chocolate filling, originating from Jewish communities in Poland.

Griffin started her bakery in 2015 but her love for baking goes back to her teenage years. Due to Griffin’s mother being busy running her own business, Griffin and her grandmother worked together and cooked for the family. When Griffin’s grandmother passed away, she carried her memory with her, creating the name Just Like Nana’s. 

Now in her 70s, she still loves her job as a baker and continues to work hard. “My children are worried I work too much.” Griffin mentioned. “Do you think you work too much?” It took her a moment to respond but she ultimately agreed with her children: “Sometimes, but I enjoy it.” Griffin heads to the bakery everyday to mix, bake, package, and deliver her pastries all over Rhode Island.

When Griffin was asked about people in her life that motivated her, she talked about how she didn’t have anyone in her corner. When asked the opposite, was there anyone that discouraged her, she laughed and shook her head. “I wouldn’t say anyone discouraged me, but my friends think I’m crazy.” She said that didn’t matter to her, she was just happy to do what she was doing, although there was one thing that did upset her: “I hate when people say it’s a hobby, because it isn’t a hobby. I put too much work into my business for it to be a hobby.”

Griffin explained that her hard work is crucial to her business, every time she finds a new place that sells rugelach she tries it and she knows when it’s authentic or not. Griffin knows rugelach can be labor intensive but also knows that it’s worth the effort. 

Griffin isn’t in a rush to expand her business due to her age(she added air quotes as she said it), but she does have dreams of opening up a store-front bakery: one where a family could come in, have a piece of rugelach, a cup of coffee, and spend time with their children. For now, she’s happy and proud of how far she’s come and hopes to continue selling her authentic, artisanal rugelach. You can visit Karen Griffin (Just Like Nana’s) at 540 Mineral Spring Ave in Pawtucket at Lorraine Mills or if you are looking for bigger batches for celebrations, email karen@justlikenanas.com or call at (859) 333 – 9096. To see more of the pastries offered, go to www.justlikenanas.com. You can also find her products in stores (see website for details).

Go Truck Yourself: Winter is coming!

Done, done and done… yup, my season is over. I’ve been around long enough to know rolling ice-cream in the snow just doesn’t work. I gotta tell ya though, there are a number of trucks out there despite the weather, fearlessly facing the woes of the winter season. You can bet that if they’re not serving crispy fried fingers and grilled people feet these winter warriors are freezing their nuts off. 

My friends at The Hot Potato and Farm to Sandwich tell me they survive doing mostly catering, pop-ups, breweries, and scheduled events when summer fades and turns into the cold, icy friend of Jack Frost. Die-hards like Rocket, Nanu, Incred-A-Bowl, Saugys and Reds man a small brigade of trucks who brave the snow and ice at events like The Providence Flea on Sims Ave every Sunday but I’ve done that a few times myself and can say from experience: Nope, nope, nope. If you happen to see them along with any other truck that might be out there please stop and support!

Cause you can trust and believe these people are more than “colder than a well digger’s ass,” more than a tid bit nipply, hell they are down right brass monkey baltic in there! Even with a heater, a hot grill, a highly volatile fryolator, and an Alaskan parka, the window is still open and the icy spindles of winter find their way through the floor, over the counter tops and into their bones… A day on a food truck in winter is like a day with the Snow Miser bringing on the freeze of the century and singing over the river and through the woods to the land of frostbite.

You can find lovable Eddy from Modesto out when the temperatures run around 40 degrees but you’ll be hard pressed to find a 40-degree day in Jan and Feb. I gotta give them props, these people live for this stuff. They make their living serving good food and drinks day after day, season after season hoping you’ll frequent their rolling restaurant of yumm and enjoy their delicious edible wares….

Sometimes, working outside is great, but sometimes, it really sucks… Hell, don’t take my word for it, get out there people! Support! 

And check out my blog at atomicblondeblog.com to find out more about “The Winter Trucks.” Or don’t, tell you what, how about you just “Go Truck Yourself!”

Go Truck Yourself: La Birria’s Tasty Tacos

Growing up, the carnival was one of my most treasured adventures. A summertime tradition filled with fun, fright, and fantasy! My best memory of that sacred event was the food! Caramel apples, fried zucchini and Doughboys! I suppose that’s why I’ve always found food truck events to be a bit carney. Carney cool, obviously: Think drive-in movies or Coney Island (minus the tattoo-covered barker, the scary clowns and the rides, of course). You do get a few sideshow freaks though which always add to the fun! 

I’m convinced these outdoor picnic party events have become a necessity though, with COVID lockdown, social distancing and the threat of nuclear disaster, what’s better than a truck that serves you outside with beautiful open sky, live music and delicious food? I spend a lot of time around food trucks so I’m excited to tell you a little about them. The most interesting ones to me are the ones where you’re not quite sure what you’re getting. I know of a few of these strange and wondrous trucks – Lucky for you, I’m also adventurous and have tried a few of these non-traditional street eats, whose gourmet food items are truly something to go out for… I’m talking, “This sh!t is GOODAH!!!” When I say “BEST EVER,” you can trust and believe this picky little bitch is spot on with her choice of chow. 

One of my favorites is a fairly new truck… Carlos Guillen is the chef and owner of La Birria Gourmet.. You’ll find La Birria the rest of the season at Mulligans Island in Cranston on Fridays, and I believe he will be trying Broad Street for the winter season: With the sub-zero temperatures, snow-covered sidewalks and arctic winds, even your flat-top grill and fryolator full of blistering oil will strain to keep your toes from turning into pudgy little blocks of ice. I’ve tried it and wish him luck. You can also follow labirriagourmet on Instagram and Facebook, of course.

Look for the long line at the window if you happen to find him out somewhere because the street tacos are kick-ass! Chewy corn tortillas, meat, onion and cilantro. Carlos has perfected his beef taco recipe, which he calls La Birria tacos with a short rib, ribeye and flank steak combination he created using his DR heritage and Mexican food training, These savory little street tacos come with a juicy little pot of consume for dipping delight. La Birria has other menu items like empanadas, street corn and burritos with flavor that will blow your mind.

Check out the full menu: @labirria2021 or fb.com/labirria2021

Lara Sebastian is a new writer for Motif and co-owner of the Atomic Blonde Ice Cream Truck, found at many regional food truck events. You can see and learn more at atomicblondeblog.com

Ra Ra’s: Cheesy fun

I think men who can cook are sexy! Don’t care what it is, where they do it or how long it takes. Now the taste is a matter of scrutiny and I can get a bit hostile when it comes to what goes in my mouth… 

As I argue with my friend Joe about the difference between Blue and Yellow corn tortillas, I realize that one of my favorite food truck temptations is taquitos! Rolled tacos, if you will – or “a quick delicious meal I always go for when I come across the award winning taco truck RaRa’s Surf Shack…” I talk about sexy men because Joe Boisvert, the owner of said truck, can always be found on the truck cooking away and serving these amazing little packages of love. He’s one of those guys who’s been in the business since he was a youngster, from ice-cream trucks at age 18 to fry shacks with shakes in 2022.

I imagine that’s where he developed his culinary skills that create an awesome blue corn tortilla taco, yummy nachos and tantalizing taquitos. And the extra grilling he gives to cheese overflow in his Quesadillas is magical. The funky, nostalgic graphics on the truck always draw me in as well. Joe’s empire, along with RaRa’s truck, includes Axelrod’s Fry Shack in Warwick, and a brick and mortar RaRa’s Surf Shack on Pontiac Ave, in Cranston. He’s a big burly guy with a nice smile, luminescent eyes and a fair sense of taste. As you might know, he won the Favorite Taco Award at the Motif Food Truck Awards, where you (perhaps) voted.

He’s also one of the organizers of the Ocean State Food Truck Festivals so if you’d like to TRUCK YOURSELF, check out his social media @osfoodtruckfestivals.

See Lara’s blog at atomicblondblog.com to get more info, pix and maybe a recipe or 2.

Back to School Meals and Snack Guide

As a recent alumnus of the Johnson & Wales University Culinary Nutrition program (2018, but adjusted for Covid-19 years), I learned that eating during a busy day can be tough – and cooking even tougher. There’s only so much mental capacity you have after a busy day of class or work to dedicate to feeding yourself. More often than not, if campus dining isn’t an option, people resort to going out to eat, which can squeeze the budget and lead to unhealthy eating habits.

That’s why I want to share some quick, low-cost, and (mostly) easy eating tips for a busy day. Lots of these can be prepared ahead of time on the weekends and enjoyed through the week so you can keep your focus up without letting your blood sugar drop.

For a snappy breakfast, I’ve always been a fan of soft-boiled eggs made ahead of time. In a lidded saucepot, bring 1 inch of water to a boil and gently place in 6 eggs. Cover and boil in the shallow water for 8-10 minutes – the shorter time producing a jammy yolk and longer making a set yolk. Remove and place in ice water to stop the cooking process, peel and eat with salt and pepper or any other sauce you enjoy! You can also get fancy with it and make them ramen-style with a soy sauce, sugar and water marinade. 

Next there’s the joy of granola bars and fresh fruit for breakfast when cooking isn’t an option. A wide variety of protein-packed granola bars and seasonal fruit are available. An apple a day keeps the hangry away!

For lunch, I prepare bean and grain salads ahead of time with whatever is in the fridge. Leftover sauteed vegetables – GREAT; a half-full bag of spinach – PERFECT; cooked barley – ON A ROLL! Mix together 1 can of drained and rinsed beans, ~2 cups of cooked grains (like barley, quinoa, or brown rice), bite-sized cooked or raw vegetables, chopped herbs (like parsley or cilantro), and your favorite prepared salad dressing. If you don’t have any salad dressing, simply dress the salad with vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

If you have 15 minutes to cook something for lunch, I love grilled cheese sandwiches. However, I make it even better with spicy, flavorful, and probiotic-packed kimchi! I always gravitate towards Pawtuckets’ own CHI Kitchen Vegan Kimchi, sandwiched between white cheddar slices (or any melty cheese) and two slices of a country-style loaf, grilled in a skillet on both sides until the cheese is melty. You have to taste this!

For snacks, sometimes the simpler the better. I have been ravenous after a long day and make a whole bag of microwave popcorn for myself. It’s actually pretty low-calorie and high in fiber, plus I use seasonings like Japanese Furikake or Sriracha salt to make it taste even better! If the day really got you down, sometimes just a simple bowl of cereal with milk makes a quick comfort snack. Take a quick nap, you deserve it.

When I was a freshman, we technically weren’t allowed any cooking equipment in the residence halls (no kitchens at a culinary school — go figure), but I snuck in a slow cooker. This is perfect for slow-cooking a pork loin with Mexican spices like cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, all day on low, before shredding to make carnitas. For dinner you can craft tacos, quesadillas, tortas, rice bowls, and more with some homemade (or jarred) salsa, chopped cilantro, and minced onions.

If you forgot to start your slow cooker this morning or the prep is still too intensive, one of my favorite quick dinners is fancy silken tofu. I have a fully written recipe on ForgeToTable.com, however, you can make the abbreviated version by scooping out a whole 14-ounce package of silken tofu and dressing simply with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic powder, and chili crisp or hot sauce. Most people haven’t tried soft silken tofu but it’s pretty much all protein and is an excellent flavor absorber. 

Hopefully, some of these options will inspire you to cook more and budget better while balancing everything else on your plate. Cooking for yourself can truly be a lot of fun and it’s best to start with a small rotation of favorites and expand your culinary horizons slowly with a new cookbook or the ever-popular TikTok recipes. Maybe one day you’ll be hosting your own dinner parties! Happy cooking.