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National Ceramics Conference Lands in Providence

The Cate Charles Gallery on South Main Street — the combo efforts of mother-daughter duo Kim Charles and Catherine Schrage — offers up something unique this week in its “Porcelain in Three” ceramics exhibition. The gallery usually features paintings or sculptures, but opted for a porcelain ceramics display including works from Susan Schulz, Seth Rainville and John Oles. This no doubt makes the gallery a prominent stop in this week’s The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference hitting Providence from March 25 – 28.

cate charles

NCECA (pronounced en-see-kuh) works to cultivate new generations of ceramics artists by inspiring people at all levels of the artistic process, whether in working with the artists themselves or by fostering the greater art collecting community. Providence plays host to the NCECA’s 49th annual conference with the theme “Lively Experiments.” In addition to conference programming at the RI Convention Center, dozens of galleries across the state — just like the Cate Charles Gallery — will be included on guided bus and shuttle tours.

“Artists that we’ve talked to said to expect people in the thousands coming in for the conference,” said Catherine Schrage, the Cate Charles Gallery Press & Marketing Manager. “It’s a big deal on the national level. We’re very excited!” According to Schrage, NCECA draws massive crowds not only of enthusiasts, but collectors as well. At Cate Charles and many other galleries, all the work will be on sale at a 50/50 split between artist and gallery.

The Cate Charles Gallery’s exhibition “Porcelain in Three” featured three artists with distinct styles. Susan Schulz recreates objects both natural and manmade down to the intricate detail to produce assortments of objects so lifelike in some cases that you think you’re looking at shells or coral covered in dust.

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One woman’s trash is another woman’s artistic inspiration.

Seth Rainville’s pieces are intricately detailed yet 100% usable bowls and teapots, one of which included a few tiny porcelain chairs he encourages exhibition attendees to move around.

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A perfect landing place for your keys, wallet, and spare change? Or a work of art? How about both?

John Oles’ work included a whole section of porcelain meets stone, featuring small structures of contrast and balance in assorted positions. Among the most compelling was a piece aptly titled “Balance.”

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The aptly titled “Balance”.

The NCECA conference runs through March 28. Take a look at the following links for more information:




Got Beer? Reviews and Luau News

luauNewport Storm Luau!
Every year at Fort Adams State Park, the Coastal Extremists of Rhode Island’s first microbrewery throw a great big party with food, beer, drinks, dancers, games, music, history and a great view of RI’s coastline. It’s called the Newport Storm Luau, it goes down on August 16 and it’s done to benefit the Fort Adams Trust, keeping a piece of Rhody history alive and thriving in our wacky modern times. If you’ve never been, the place is definitely a brand of awesome, and you’ll be partying in the safest place you can imagine if a zombie apocalypse suddenly crops up.

Shop the vendors, try some brew or enjoy some mixed drinks made with Thomas Tew Rum, distilled with love by the Storm crew themselves. And when the lights go down, the real fun starts, with fire dancing and music performed by Smith&Weeden and Rare Occasions, the 2014 WBRU Rock Hunt Winners.

It’s a great time, and if you’re anything like me, you could use a little fresh air and sunshine once in a while. Plus, fire … dancing with fire! Look me in the eye and tell me that’s not awesome. Do it!

Grab a ticket while you can and party for a good cause! Check out more on Facebook or Newport Storm’s website: newportstorm.com.

Brew Reviews
It’s been a while since I reviewed a beer, and considering it’s what I was hired to do at this fashionable rag, I thought it was time to get back to basics.

Narragansett Town Beach Imperial IPA: When I crack into a Town Beach Imperial IPA, the first thing I notice is that it’s not quite cut from the same cloth as your typical IPA, and certainly not what I’d expect for a summer release. This malty, piney behemoth is more reminiscent of a forest than a town beach. This is more of a beer to have while camping, surrounded by the fresh scent of the forest and constantly wiping tree sap off of your picnic table.

I do detect some of the citrus notes bragged about, but they’re subdued over a more pine sap and bitter malt mixture. How odd, considering the base malts are pale and pilsner, which are not known for producing such flavors. It almost has an odd molasses aftertaste.

Don’t look at me like that. I’m not hating on Narragansett or Sean Larkin.

I think I’m just taken by surprise at the result. On paper this seems like it would be a beach beer, but I think it somehow turned into a camping beer. Both are adequate for summer – I’m just slightly confused as to how it came about. Maybe it’s for camping on the beach? I’ll drink to that!

Lagunitas Night Time Fear the Dark Ale: Despite sounding like a committee-generated horror movie title or an adventure game from the mid-90s, Night Time is a dark brew with no explanation of what kind of beer it is on the label. From the lightly hoppy aroma, one might think it’s a black IPA, which is great news for me, since I love black IPAs in an almost, “You need to sign in to view this video” kind of way.

Wow. In a bizarre sort of crossover, this brew has some crisp, citrusy hops I’d more associate with a lighter, beach-friendly IPA, yet it lends it to a darker, but understated malt base. Well now … this is a quandary. I’m almost tempted to do another mix and let them fight it out.

If not for a malty background giving this brew a solid body, I’d almost consider it to be a summertime brew. However, this beer does have a bit of a heft to it, which makes it a more complex and interesting brew than it would have been otherwise.

It’s surprisingly light and easygoing while still being a solid, dark, strong brew with an impressive balance between the chocolaty malts and the light zest of hops.

So, a pale that has the body of a dark, and a dark that has the body of a pale. Is this opposite day? If so, I’ve got some lottery tickets to buy! Check out either of these fine brews and decide for yourself.




The Best Roast? Yours! Coffee Roasting 101

Picture entering a coffee shop that roasts its own coffee. The first thing that appeals to your senses is the rich aroma of freshly roasted coffee. Two steps in the door and you are hooked — you’ve got to have that coffee. The barista pours you a cup of this freshly roasted just ground coffee, and if like me, you have it black. Nothing should impair its taste. The coffee looks, smells and tastes heavenly. This coffee will never taste this good if shelved for a week, let alone a month or more as many whole bean coffees are sold. This is why I home roast.

I began roasting coffee on a whim, purchasing a Cafe Roasto, a hot air roaster, from Mal, the barista and owner of Cafe Bon Ami. From there it was off to the internet to learn the art of roasting and to purchase green beans (green beans are unroasted coffee beans that can be purchased online or from local vendors). The internet has been a great help in providing background information, but the site that is far and away the best is Sweet Maria’s. It has many resources, emailed questions are answered and their forums are useful. Local people in the business also have been a great help — they love discussing their trade.

One big surprise I encountered was that there are many different roasts. In my mind there were only three: light, dark, and espresso, but there are many more. Not all beans should be roasted dark because they lose their individual character and taste burnt, which is a common complaint about Starbucks Coffee. On the opposite side of the spectrum is under roasting, which makes coffee bitter — a complaint about Dunkin Donuts. When purchasing beans, ask which roast is recommended. The most common roasts range from a city roast (light) through a French roast (dark). It all depends on where in the cracking phase the roasting ended.

Cracking is the sound the beans make as they roast. Green beans are a lot like popcorn. Both coffee beans and kernels contain water, and under intense heat the water boils within the bean. When the green bean makes a popping sound, the water is released and the chaff, an outer layer of skin on the bean, comes free. When this step is complete, it is a city roast. If a darker roast is desired, keep roasting into the second crack. The sound of a second crack is a lot like the sound of the crackling of burning wood. Some roasts are stopped in the very beginning of the second crack, and darker roasts, later in the crack, but no beans should be roasted till the end of the second crack or they’ll end up burnt.

Choosing the coffee beans to roast, though a personal preference, is also important. There are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are a better quality bean and most commonly used by all roasters. Robusta are a cheaper, lower quality bean that has twice as much caffeine as an Arabica bean. These beans are used in almost all canned coffee. Did you know that a can of decaf coffee could have more caffeine than a caffeinated Arabica bean?

I choose beans I roast by asking questions about the quality of the bean when I purchase locally through Mills Coffee. But if I purchase online, I read the descriptions and coffee ratings. Once roasting on a regular basis (at least monthly) you will have a good handle on which beans you want to roast. The hardest beans to roast are decaf, because it is very difficult to hear when the first crack ends and the second crack begins,  because the process that turns the beans into decaf affects the amount of water in the bean. Regardless of the bean I use, I have to sit by the roaster and listen for the cracking. My first roaster was the Cafe Roasto, a hot air roaster, but after a year I switched to a Behmor 1600, primarily because it is quiet, which allows you to hear the cracking more clearly. It also roasts a larger quantity, up to a pound depending on how dark you want it.

There are several types of roasters available, but none in the $300 to $1,000 range roast much more than a pound. Roasters that can do 3 pounds or more are commercial roasters cost a significant amount of money. Start small in price and size, then move up to meet your needs.

Once you’ve roasted your first batch, you’ll need a way to grind the beans and brew a cup of the fruits of your labor. Beans are best ground in a burr style grinder, which are found just about anywhere that sells coffee makers. A burr grinder will do anything from a coarse grind to a fine powder. Selections are made by simply turning a dial. The coffee is at its best when ground just before use, but because that is not convenient during the morning rush, I usually grind a batch for several days, then store it in an airtight container.

There are countless ways to make a cup of coffee and which you choose is a matter of preference. Pure coffee enthusiasts usually prefer a French Press, because you get full flavor of the bean. Pod style coffee makers are not the choice of coffee purests. The water passes through the coffee much too fast to absorb the flavors, the ground coffee is sitting in the pods for an extended time, and you have little control over the brew. They sell strictly because they’re convenient.

Home roasting is not difficult. With practice you will recognize the different cracking sounds and know the time between cracks, the characteristics of the bean, and the little idiosyncrasies of your roaster. Expect some rookie problems in the beginning. I often missed the stages of the cracking because I was preoccupied with something else and the hot air roaster was so noisy that it obscured the cracking sound. I either ended up with coffee under roasted and too bitter to drink or a barely drinkable dark roast. And smoke detectors were always going off in my house and still do despite my practice — medium and dark roasts produce smoke.

As a home roaster, you can be creative. Blend two or three different kinds of beans or roast the same bean as a dark roast and again as a light roast then blend them. If decaf is your desired roast, home roasting gives you more choices than the two or three offerings in most cafes. There are more decaf green beans available, and through blending, you extend your options. Above all, have fun and enjoy the process from shopping for beans to drinking the freshest, tastiest cup of coffee you will ever drink.




A History of Revolution Leads to the Providence Prohibition Party

Progressive Change with Providence Prohibition Party

hempfestIn 1972, one of the first documented hemp festivals in the US took place in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was a response to new Michigan legislation that reduced the penalty for marijuana possession from 10 years to 1 year and the penalty for marijuana sale from a life sentence to a 4-year sentence. Though these changes seemed a great victory to those against marijuana prohibition, some felt that they didn’t do enough. And so was born the Hash Bash. Shortly thereafter, Michigan made even greater strides toward reform, practically decriminalizing marijuana use by replacing prison sentences for possession with a $5 fine (now $25).

Hundreds of other cannabis-related events take place each year. In 1989, the Boston Freedom Rally began and has become one of the largest hemp festivals in the world. In 1991 the first Seattle Hemp Fest took place and has become the world’s largest public gathering to advocate for marijuana decriminalization. Even under the scrutiny of federal law, these events continue to sprout up and grow each year, defiant of the unjust laws that bind them. In states such as Colorado and Washington, rallies have led to massive changes in laws and regulations. Decriminalization and medical marijuana laws now are recognized in over 23 states with many others, including Rhode Island, seeking full legalization and regulation.

In Rhode Island, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana was completely discarded by the house judiciary committee this year. In response to the legislature’s refusal to acknowledge a shift in public opinion, Rhode Islanders will make their own statement. 13 Folds Magazine is hosting Providence’s first hemp festival, dubbed the Providence Prohibition Party and sponsored by Motif, MBS, Green Side Up, Regulate RI and a variety of  other organizations that want to end RI’s failed war on drugs. This event will feature local celebrities, political activists, vendors and performers as well as some of the very best local and national bands, including Boo City and Atlantic Thrills. There will be an indoor dance party running all night for those who like to travel with glow sticks, and a beer tasting sponsored by New England breweries, such as Fool Proof and Bucket Brewery, will take place between 4 and 7pm.

Though it may not carry the same recognition as other festivals, this event is just as relevant. It represents a challenge to unjust laws and a desire for progressive change. Decriminalization and medical acceptance are a step forward in the fight to end prohibition, yet they are not enough. Too many families, communities and futures have been destroyed by the authority’s actions toward a substance less harmful than tobacco, alcohol or even sugar. Too many tax dollars have been spent and too many lives have been lost in an attempt to eradicate a substance that was once considered this country’s number one cash crop. Too many lies and misconceptions have been perpetrated for us to accept anything less than a complete overhaul in our marijuana laws and reparation toward those unjustly prosecuted. In order to fully right the wrongs that this war against marijuana has caused, we must follow the lead of those who pioneered the historical Hash Bash and push for full legalization and regulation … and nothing less.

Please join the Providence Prohibition Party on Saturday, July 12, at Simon’s on 677 Valley St., Providence, to support the movement. Ten percent of all proceeds will go to Regulate RI to help fund the mission to reeducate society on the truths behind the war on drugs, its effects on our community and its negative impact on cultural and industrial progress. This event will also provide local artists and musicians the opportunity to gain exposure and support themselves. The Providence Prohibition Party will allow our community to come together in support of one another and demonstrate our commitment to bringing about change to archaic regulations.

To learn more, visit 13 Folds Magazine‘s events page on Facebook: facebook.com/13FoldsMagazine/events




Summer in the City

What to do when the Rhode Island heat gets you down

10492533_10152508372169712_7050950148635490993_nFor the average Rhode Islander, summer generally consists of longingly staring out the window at work, braving beach traffic (has this term been recognized by the dictionary yet?), or hiding from the heat wherever air conditioning exists. I understand — the heat mirage that radiates off of the Providence skyline is a bit disconcerting. Breathe, we’re here to help.

For the Summer Vacation Warriors

If you’re a parent, nanny or a poor soul who gets stuck with some

one else’s child for no monetary compensation, chances are that by July you’re running out of cheap things to do with the kids on summer vacation, likely getting a little weepy at the thought of hauling children, two coolers and 10 pounds of sand toys to the beach (I’m starting to sound like Kim Kinzie). Don’t let the Xbox tempt you. Bring the gang over to the India Point Park playground.

Nestled under shady trees alongside the breezy bay, this maritime-themed playground has the classic swings and slides accompanied by one small, one rather large and one massive set of geometric climbing ropes and nets. These interactive pieces of architecture are home to a series of obstacles, bridges and hammocks suitable for small children or energetic 12-year-olds.

India St., Providence

Cool Off … Locally

There comes a point in the summer when you start saying to yourself, “To hell with fun in the sun, I’m damn hot.” I know what you’re thinking. But please … say no to the mall. And please, for the love of all that is sane, don’t spend any more money on another Transformers movie. Get your air-conditioned cinematic kicks at The Avon on Thayer or The Cable Car on South Main Street. Both of these Providence staples screen award-winning indie flicks seven days a week. Keep an eye on The Cable Car’s schedule for special events and screenings of local films.

The Avon, 270 Thayer St., Providence, avoncinema.com

The Cable Car, 204 South Main St., Providence, cablecarcinema.com

Go Culture Yourself

It’s not any sort of best kept secret in town — Providence is home to the RISD Museum. You’ve seen billboards, you know it’s got the giant Buddha statue, and it likely never comes up as an option on the Saturday morning, “I don’t know, what do you want to do today,” conversation,  but when was the last time you actually went? The summer’s feature exhibit focuses on the freakish glamour of the 19th and early 20th century circuses. Bask in yet more air conditioning and get lost (possibly literally, but there are maps) in visual stimulation.

If you 1) have a short attention span, 2) want to peep some locally grown art, or 3) prefer your art with a side of wine and cheese, Providence Gallery Night is for you. Hop on the free gallery shuttle and cruise to a set of participating studios and galleries around the city. Choose between six different guided tours or visit any of the 26 participating galleries by foot on your own.

RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St., Providence, risdmuseum.org

Gallery Night shuttle stop, 1 Regency Plaza, Providence, gallerynight.org

Boozing, Cruising

My go-to summertime weekend, “I’m bored, it’s 3pm, there’s no way I’m actually going to the gym today,” activity is heading to a bar with a deck on the water and grabbing a cocktail in the sun. And if said bar has a boat docked outside, and if you can take said cocktail onto this boat and take a scenic tour of the Providence River. does it get much better? This exists. The Providence Riverboat Company is the only one of its kind on the river and leaves from The Hot Club daily. The riverboat tour is a slow cruise from the storm barriers to the basin of the Providence river and back again for a perspective most locals have never seen before. And the mini history lesson is interesting regardless of whether you’ve finished your drink. Hang on the Hot Club’s newly renovated deck with a drink, and bring it onto the boat when it’s time to set sail. Bon Voyage.

Tours leave from The Hot Club, 575 South Water St., Providence, providenceriverboat.com

Go For a Posh Dip

Lounge on a plush chair beside the pool and cabana bar  surrounded by greenery, escaping the harsh city concrete. This isn’t a scene out of “Sex and the City.” Actually, I’m fairly certain this exact scene did occur in “Sex and the City.” This could be you. This really exists downtown. AQUA Marriott is the city’s only poolside lounge. Stop by for a drink or get real elegant with it for the afternoon in a private cabana, perusing the cigar and cognac menu. PS: Salsa dance party every Thursday night. Andale!

AQUA at the Providence Marriott, 1 Orms St., Providence, marriottprovidence.com/aqua




‘Obstacles are Illusions’ Grand Opening to Ascension NXT

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By: Josh Estrella

Photos by: Surya Moreira

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung cut the grand opening ribbon this Wednesday, June 11, for Ascension NXT, a “new age” wellness center that puts a modern spin on old alternative healing techniques. The owners, Ashley Vingi and Stephanie Guglielmo, met less than a year ago and decided to combine their talents to create a shop with innovative energy healing tactics that differed from other centers. And that is what they did. The new shop has an inviting, relaxing atmosphere with soft music and items around the walls that immediately catch your interest from custom made gnomes, to exotic crystals and even paintings by local artists, all created to help you relax, and all available for purchase.

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The center serves its visitors many purposes ranging from relaxation to guidance. Ashley explained that the atmosphere is great for those that are grieving and seeking comfort, anyone who needs to relieve stress, and anyone who feels they are stuck in a rut and need direction. As experts in the arts of Reiki, Integrated Energy Healing, chakra clearing and card reading, the owners guaranteed that their modern techniques of healing can help everyone. The shop does not focus on one religion, all are accepted and welcomed. They are all about positive energy, whatever you believe in and makes you feel better is encouraged.

Ashley and Stephanie emphasized that their shop is different from what most would think of when they picture alternative healing centers and hope to offer a fun, creative experience for all ages. See for yourself; give one of their weekly classes a try.

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Thursday June 12; free REIKI Share class, 6-8 pm

Saturday June 14; Angel & Oracle Card Certification Class, 1-5pm

Thursday June 19; Aliens 101, 6:30 – 8

Ascension NXT is open Monday-Thursday 12-8pm and Friday 3-10pm, located at 1675 Cranston Street.

 

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Toy Soldiers Take Over the Columbus

It’s not every day that a band like Philadelphia’s Toy Soldiers comes along

toyPhiladelphia troubadours Toy Soldiers, along with Quiet Life, came to the Columbus Theatre on June 8 to give the people of Providence some late-night entertainment. The intimate show took place upstairs at the Columbus Theatre, a small space that makes it feel like you’re watching bands perform in your living room.

The show kicked off with a set of songs from bluesman Mark Milloff of local group the Cannibal Ramblers. Backed by an impromptu band made up mostly of members of the other acts, Milloff sounded like a preacher possessed by the power of the blues. He hadn’t even met the other musicians before, but the set went very smoothly. “This song is gonna have a stop somewhere … we’ll figure it out,” he instructed at one point. The set became more like a sprawling jam session with the tunes fluidly blending together.

Next up was Quiet Life. The Pacific Northwest has exported a number of successful indie folk bands like Blind Pilot and Fleet Foxes, and Quiet Life seem right at home in this kind of company. Led by frontman Sean Spellman, the band is right at home playing rockabilly, up-tempo tunes (lead guitarist Robert Jenson is a fret board wizard), but the most powerful moments of the show came with more acoustic, straight-ahead folk tunes, including the showstopper “Shaky Hand.” Spellman commented at the surprisingly appealing atmosphere of the Columbus, formerly a pornographic movie theater.

toysolToy Soldiers took the stage after a brief intermission, and it looked like they were having a great time performing. They brought it back to 1971 with a powerful cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Early in the Morning” first performed by Louis Jordan. Their amped-up version of this mellow tune was exactly what you’d hope for from a band like Toy Soldiers. “Heart in a Mousetrap” explored classic country tropes (“you’ve got my heart in a mousetrap, you’re like a brick thrown at my head”) with tasteful background licks from guitarist Matt Kelly. “Tomorrow is Today” began with a slow, wistful intro then built into a salsa feel, with impeccable drumming from Domenic Billet. Frontman Ron Gallo’s voice is instantly recognizable and sounded like a kind of rock ’n’ roll crooning.

Toy soldiers released their excellent album The Maybe Boys in 2013, combining the energetic blues-rock of the Stones with the organ-laced sensitivity of The Band. Surprisingly, the band only played a few songs from the album during their hour-long set, which is probably a testament to their prolific songwriting ability.

One of the highlights of the show was experiencing the camaraderie between talented guys who clearly enjoy each other’s company; throughout each band’s set, various members of the other groups joined in onstage. Both drummers were playing together for most of the show, and Toy Soldiers bassist Bill McCloskey played with Quiet Life almost the entire set.

In the age of electronic music sensory overload, it’s great to see bands that can still take it back to their roots. These two acts with bright futures made staying out until after midnight on a Sunday night totally worth it.

Ron Gallo will be playing upstairs once again at the Columbus Theatre, along with songwriters Christopher Paul Stelling and Jonah Tolchin on June 27 at 8pm.




Because You’re All in My Grill …

BarbecueThe Grill Isn’t Just for Burgers Anymore

Some folks know me in my capacity as a mortgage banker. Some know me as a comedian, or actor, or director, or “that big bald dude I always see around.” But did you know in a perfect world, I would have been a chef? Of course that utopia is a place where I actually have the skills to be in the kitchen, and despite what Belinda Carlisle says, heaven isn’t always a place on earth.

One of the biggest reasons I put up with the potholes and corruption that will someday sink Rhode Island to the bottom of the ocean is that we are truly a culinary mecca. The chefs here are world class James Beard level badasses who love cooking as much as I love eating. Could any one of them go orange crocs on us and start selling $40 plastic spatulas at Home Goods? Yes, and most of them have the looks to pull it off. But they don’t, and there is something about that that makes me like them and their food even more, the way we are nostalgic for musicians who never sold out.

When Motif asked me to do a piece on grilling, I thought, “Hell, yeah! High heat propane flame and more red meat than in an Argentinian gaucho’s colon.” But I stopped and thought, “What would Matt Jennings do? Or Jake Rojas, or Derek Wagner or Beau Vestal, or Champe Speidel? They would think outside the smoker and elevate the ingredients and the medium. I am sure my dishes won’t compare, but I didn’t want this article to be yet another boring boy meets grill story. I wanted to stretch the limits of what someone short on skills but long on desire could bring to my own backyard hunger games. I decided to get creative.

I reached out to David Dadekian for some inspiration. David is resident and primary writer/editor of Eat Drink RI; Outreach chairperson and member of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council; cooking instructor and private chef; photographer of people, places and things; PR Director for Blackbird Farm; husband and father of two girls; and a walking encyclopedia about almost everything I enjoy. He gave me some direction on what to put on the heat besides the usual meat.

This is not for a backyard BBQ. This is when you are making dinner for just a few folks or trying to impress a date. There is prep work, and you may want to do it ahead of time to make the actual time in front of the grill look effortless. I am not going to do step-by-step, but these things are easy and you can Google almost anything, right? The meal I served was three courses.

Course one is a grilled oyster with Champagne mignonette. The mignonette is super simple and you’ll get a lot of credit just for knowing the word. It’s basically champagne vinegar (I’ve used a rice vinegar and Prosecco concoction in a pinch), chopped shallot, pepper, parsley and honey. Combine and set aside. You can even make this the night before. Find the freshest oysters you can and once the grill is warmed to 350 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit, simply place them on the grates, flat side up. When they pop open they are done. Simple.

For the second course I sliced and grilled some polenta, asparagus and squid. This was also much easier than I expected. I put some olive oil, and salt and pepper on the asparagus and placed that on first, then the polenta. Then I prepped the dressing for the squid. In a bowl, I tossed lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and oregano. I threw the squid on the grill in a grill pan on high heat and cooked it for a few minutes on each side. Serve it sliced and covered in the dressing with the polenta and asparagus.

For desert I sliced some peaches and apples the night before and coated the peaches with honey and cayenne pepper and the apples with honey and brown sugar. I put them on the grill after cleaning it from the second course. Then, in a bowl I whisked together an egg and almond milk with some brown sugar. I dipped slices of bread in the mixture and put it on the heat. Yes, I made French toast on the grill AND IT WAS GLORIOUS!! Place the French toast and fruit in a bowl and cover it with mascarpone cheese or vanilla ice cream and serve. It’s so good that your guests will totally forget if you messed anything else up.

I hope you have a chance to spend some time outside this summer. Rhode Island is beautiful and our beaches are fun, but if you are like me, it’s not summer until you tame fire and share a meal with the people you love while the sun goes down. Cheers.




Puzzling Pieces

 

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This weekend saw the opening of a very puzzling art exhibit at the Machines with Magnets studio in Pawtucket. Part bar, part performance space, part gallery and part recording studio, Machines with Magnets could be a called a puzzling environment on its own. In the gallery section of the space, you can now view recent work by Umberto Crenca. Crenca, the founder of Providence-based arts organization AS220, is known in the community as a champion of the arts and an advocate for unjuried art exhibitions. In his own work, he’s known for his use of art as social commentary. This show displays a recent part of his puzzle piece series, a decades-long endeavor that encompasses about 135 pieces created by Crenca. Not literally puzzle pieces – although those make some appearances – this series is really an exploration, in two dimensions, of social and political topics that intrigue, frustrate, or simply puzzle the artist.

“Some of them are saying something pretty clear,” says Crenca, “and if others seem ambiguous, well, they might be. Some of them certainly approach issues I’m a little confused about, and that probably comes across – I hope it does.”

The show is titled “Puzzled: Ode (Owed) to Channing?” and includes a large blow-up of Crenca’s first review, decades ago, by Providence Journal critic Channing Gray. Crenca credits the sometimes scathing review with inciting the creation of AS220 and a deeper dedication by Crenca to his own work. (see a TED talk on the subject here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD-T4LIddtE )

Compositionally, some of the work is striking, some deliberately off-balance or disturbing. All of it is visually and mentally intense – the sort of work you want to get up close to, to examine the details and numerous levels of meta-reference.

“That’s Gaddafi’s severed head. The Black liquid is oil, the red is blood. I think that one’s pretty straightforward,” says Crenca, contrasting two of the pieces. “This one, though, takes a lot of explaining. I’m sure there are things in here that only mean something to me,” he says, rattling off a list of authors whose thoughts are represented in various abstract ways. Oh, and the numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are carefully scattered about that canvas as well.

Some pieces feature tiny thought bubbles, on others you’ll find referential figures tucked in the corners. One piece includes a lot of glitter. Figuring out each theme can feel like assembling a puzzle in your mind.

While the puzzle analogy has numerous applications to this collection of work – from pun to metaphor – it also seems like the artist may be hoping that someday, the collection as a whole will fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, granting insight into the conceptual and emotional makeup of the artist, complete with contradiction, confusion and clarity.

A series of  pieces and one very large work are on display from now until April 27th at Machines with Magnets, 400 Main St. Pawtucket, RI – www.machineswithmagnets.com

 




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