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Providence Pulse City / Malcontent / Scene in PVD

Let the Good Times Roll

Photography: Mike Braca

If, like me,

you’ve recently found yourself wrapped up in Treme, the new HBO series about musicians in postKatrina New Orleans, you may also, like me, find yourself insanely jealous of how there just always seems to be music out in the streets of the Big Easy. While the Renaissance City’s music scene may never rival the Crescent City’s, you can at least get a taste of that street corner band vibe when jazz returns to Aspire at the Hotel Providence. The Joe Potenza Quartet (pic-

tured) and a revolving cast of guests takes to the courtyard at the corner of Westminster and Mathewson Streets every Friday at 7pm starting June 11 (it’s Saturdays at 8pm until then) for an evening of music, food and cocktails in the (hopefully) balmy summer weather. There is no cover, and Aspire will offer free valet parking and a signature drink menu. So go ahead and, as they say in NOLA, laissez le bon temps roule. 311 Westminster Street. 521-3333; aspirerestaurant.com –John Taraborelli

June 2010 | Providence Monthly

17


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Pulse | City

Cleanup for a Cause

A Hair-Raising Situation

PM Experiment

Glee-ful Sweets

Illustration: Emma Tripp

Candy making goes local and DIY The assignment seemed simple enough. Better yet, it sounded like fun. Make your own candy? Sure, sign me up! I reached out to the folks over at Glee Gum, the Providence-based all-natural candy company, for a Make Your Own Gummies Kit and in a few days a colorful box landed on my desk. As soon as I arrived home I announced to my kids, ages two and four, that we’d be making gummy worms. With both of them excited by the promise of making and eating candy, I opened the box to look at the instructions. Out came four packets with various powders and one packet with a mysterious small twig. I unfolded the instructions and had a moment of panic when I saw there were 11 detailed steps. Then I noticed that the age recommendation was for children over eight. Yikes. What did I just get myself and my way-under-the-candy-making-age-limit kids into? I sat them around the table and continued to read. That twig looking thing turned out to be dried seaweed. There was a whole explanation on how seaweed helps the gummy process, but I decided to glaze over those details and just refer to everything as “magic ingredients.” Now, I’m not someone who likes to follow a recipe ingredient by ingredient. I substitute when I don’t have something on hand and I omit if I feel like it. But

I was getting the sense that my kids would stage a coup d’etat if we ended up with anything but gummy worms, so I read the instructions carefully and grabbed every kitchen utensil called for. We made it through the first few steps, and had measured and mixed a few packets of the magic stuff with water and then microwaved it for a few minutes. Bright pink and bubbling, the mixture looked like it belonged more in a science experiment than an edible recipe. Nonetheless, in a few minutes and to my utter amazement we had seven pink worms on a plate. The next step was to leave gummies in the fridge for ten minutes, and after about 50 inquires of “Are they ready yet,” I pulled the plate out. We threw them one by one into the sour sugar bag and lined them up on the table. Twenty minutes and ten steps into the adventure, we were ready for the final step: to eat our creations. I picked one up and took a few moments to brace myself. As soon as I put it to my lips I could taste the sweetness. It tasted just like Jell-O. I would have preferred a firmer gummy, but I’m sure that can be achieved with longer refrigeration. Overall, the process wasn’t difficult and the end result was actually tasty. Plus, I tricked my kids into eating all-natural candy. It was magic, I tell you. gleegum.com –Jeanette St. Pierre

Since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico alerted the U.S. to the hazards of offshore oil drilling, hair salons and others are joining in the effort to try to sop up some of the spilled oil using human and animal hair. Many are sending their hair to Matter of Trust, a San Francisco based organization which distributes the hair donations to the Gulf coast, where it is used to collect oil along the shoreline. According to the owner of Total Image Hair Salon located at URI’s Kingston campus, Brenda Celona, her salon has been sending hair through Matter of Trust’s hair mat program. Christiaan’s Hair Salon on Benefit Street also recently sent a shipment of hair cut at their business. At “Boom-BCue” events, the hair is collected locally and stuffed into pantyhose to create hair booms. Also getting into the act, groomers at Providence’s PETCO have been collecting dog hair from all kinds of dogs, including Portugese Water Dogs and American Eskimos. At Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in East Greenwich, they have been collecting hair as well and are planning to ship it soon. Although the spill in the Gulf is ongoing due to the difficulty of capping its flow, other much less serious spills occur every year. According to the Matter of Trust website, about 2,600 small oil spills occurred in the world last year. If you’re looking to do your part to help but can’t reach deep into your wallet, scratch your head and ponder what else you could possibly donate. –Conrad Gould

June 2010 | Providence Monthly

19


Pulse | City Providence Style

The Biggest Little Hits the Runway Come watch the Bring this coupon in for a

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve got a lot of pride for our little city. We measure up to bigger metropolises in plenty of ways (especially when it comes to food and drink) – and this month, we’re adding world-class fashion to that list when the first StyleWeek Providence hits town. From June 6-12, local and national fashion designers will hold runway shows at venues all around the city. Providence favorite Karen Beebe, who owns downtown’s Queen of Hearts, will show her Lucille line; I’m Your Present designer and RISD grad Kelly Eident will also show. Expect to see nationally known designers like Samuel Vartan, Karan Sabag and Sam Mendoza. Project Runway alum Jonathan Joseph Peters will close the show on Saturday night at the Hotel Providence. While the runway shows are invi-

Design by David Chum of Selah D’or

tation-only, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a fashion injection of your own during StyleWeek. Each night after the private events, a hotspot in the city will host an after-party that’s open to the public, where you can view footage of the night’s shows and spy the fashions on roaming models. Visit styleweekprovidence.com for the schedule. –Julie Tremaine

Spell Check

Calling All Brainiacs

95 Empire Street, Providence www.perishable.org

If you’re tiring of the sycophantic praise you get for your vocabulary from your pococurante acquaintances, it’s time to try your hand against some real spelling aficionados at the annual Not About the Buildings Spelling Bee at AS220 on June 21. Not About the Buildings founder Matthew Lawrence has held the spelling bee since 2007, and every year it’s gotten bigger. His elucubration has created a huge event, with spellers clamoring for the limited spots, and bringing in voluminous amounts of cash and attention for Not About the Buildings, which aims to save the Providence Public Libraries, which have been in danger since the trustees

20

Providence Monthly | June 2010

Last year’s winner Daniel Cohen and runner-up Kathleen Knight

of the PPL voted to close down twothirds of the branches in 2006. In part due to the foundation’s efforts, none of the branches have been closed, and new management has been brought in to preserve them. It’s $5 to spell and free to watch – but don’t misunderestimate the fun in making friendly wagers on the success of your favorite spellers. Local businesses donate prizes for the winners. Be there, or be quadratical. notaboutthebuildings.com. –Michael Madden


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Providence Monthly | June 2010

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are blessed with omnivorousness – an ability to survive off of and digest almost any kind of food. This is what has produced the staggering breadth and wealth of food cultures across the world. Take for example the Chinese and the French: both tend to eat just about anything – including many foods that at first glance may seem repugnant – yet they are perhaps the most important and influential food cultures in human history. I mention this because so often when I’m out to eat I encounter people with self-enforced dietary restrictions that fly in the face of our glorious omnivorousness. Far too often, these lifestyle choices don’t appear to be rooted in nutritional science, doctor’s advice, health concerns, physical ailments, sound reasoning or common sense, but rather hypochondria, dubious health claims, fashionability and general liberal white angst. No longer content with just vegetarianism and veganism, the hip, overeducated intelligentsia has moved onto food allergies and intolerances as their ascetic cause celebre. In the past several years, for instance, there has been a dramatic spike in gluten-free diets. This protein, found in wheat and several other grains, is the new bogeyman of the dinner table – and a potent one too, as it turns up in a surprising variety of foods and is quite difficult to avoid. For some people gluten is indeed a problem, causing diarrhea, vomiting and other unpleasant symptoms and damaging the lining of the small intestine. On the worst end of the spectrum there is celiac disease, which causes a drastic and harmful adverse reaction to gluten passing through the digestive system. However, celiac disease is estimated to affect just 0.75 percent of the population in this country, and even assuming that a number of cases go undiagnosed, that hardly accounts for the 28 percent growth in the gluten-free food market over the past five years. Another food bogeyman is lactose, with many people swearing off dairy products due to their supposed intolerance of this dastardly sugar. Lactose intolerance is admittedly much more common than, say, celiac disease, but

its alleged prevalence still seems out of line with the facts. People often refuse cheese, but the fact is that most cheese contains little, if any, of the sugar. During the curdling process, most of the lactose is drained off with the whey, leaving the curds, from which cheese is made, with very little lactose as compared to milk. Futhermore, the aging process through which most decent cheeses go renders the lactose content virtually nil. Still, the self-deniers remain undaunted. While none of this really affects me (and in fact, leaves more delicious cheese for me), I nonetheless find it irksome because it seems so disingenuous and nonsensical. I would not be as dubious about the prevalence of these food allergies and intolerances if the demographics weren’t so suspicious. When dining among the general rabble of working class folks, unhip suburbanites, immigrant families and Republicans, I generally encounter very few dietary restrictions. Grab a table at some hip urban bistro with a party of white, artsy, well-educated liberal folks, however, and one would be hard pressed not to believe that lactose and gluten intolerance are epidemic. So what is truly behind this dietary asceticism? Who knows? These choices often seem to have little to do with the food itself and are more about affirming one’s own self-image, making a political statement, expressing the ennui of the tragically hip or those spoiled by choice, rebelling without a cause, or simply having a predisposition towards being difficult. More than anything I just feel bad for these people: they’re denying themselves some of life’s simplest pleasures for seemingly no good reason – and worse, not addressing the real cause of whatever neurosis caused them to make that choice in the first place. When you consider the vast multitudes of hungry and malnourished people around the world, it all seems silly and trivial at best, if not downright arrogant and unappreciative. So go on, take a moment to relearn what the French and the Chinese have known for centuries, millennia even: that we humans can eat anything, and so much of it is delicious. Bon appetit.


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Scene in PVD

| Pulse

Providence Monthly had its 15 minutes of fame at the RI PBS Spring Fling. Supporters of PBS sipped peach sangria, enjoyed delicious food from Russell Morin Fine Caterers and got a preview of the PBS annual auction.

Made for Walking

Photography by Mike Braca.

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June 2010 | Providence Monthly

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Providence Monthly | June 2010


Not Just for Kids Anymore The gourmet cupcake craze hits Providence in a big way By Jen Senecal

Photography (clockwise from top left): Lindsay Logan, City Girl Cupcakes, Benjamin Britton, Dan Schwartz

T

he dictionary might define the cupcake as a mini cake baked in a muffin tin, but I define it as the Glory of God, a perfectly packaged baked delight that delivers joy and happiness and, quite possibly, a Hallelujah with every bite. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love a cupcake? Though it dates back to the 19th century, the cupcake is anything but ancient. In fact, it’s trendier than ever, speaking to the masses like Chelsea Handler speaks to vodka. They’re everywhere – and they’ve transformed. What once may have been a basic sponge, glazed with sugary icing (which, my friends, was never a bad thing) has evolved to glamorized concoctions of exotic and unusual ingredients piled high with imaginative spreadables. Drooling? I am. Which is why I’ll let you in on the local cupcake hotspots.

Tip*C Cupcakes

The people who say that mixing liquors is a bad idea have it all wrong. For starters, they’ve never had a Long Island Iced Tea (or maybe they have). But, perhaps more importantly, they’ve never tasted a Tip*C cupcake. “Tip*C started as an experiment gone right,” coowner Chanara Yen tells me. “We [her, and partner Mini Keomeuang] were bored and started to bake when we came across a bottle of Kahlua and decided to use it in our cupcakes. Friends responded well to it and soon began asking if they could order from us. One thing led to another, and we

opened our shop five months ago.” The first cupcake company nationally to substitute alcohol and juice for water, Tip*C has close to 500 wildly creative flavors that grow everyday. Fifteen to 20 flavors are rotated daily in their modern and inviting North Providence store, and they specialize as a custom-order shop, turning whatever drink you desire into a small, beautifully designed baby cake with a bad-ass name, like “Dirty Rich,” “Jack’s Mistress” or “The Pool Boy.” However, my personal favorite didn’t need a fancy introduction or scandalous name (although I wouldn’t have minded): the Strawberry Margarita tasted like just that – minus the headache, high price tag or inability to have more than one. The best part about Tip*C is that it’s G-rated. “It would be nice if you could get tipsy off of them,” explains Chanara, “but all of the alcohol is burned off, leaving just the taste behind.” Chanara and Mini bake everything themselves, mastering their recipes through trial-and-error, since neither has a formal culinary background. It’s their love for food and travel that inspires and motivates, and they both have a genuine appreciation for customer satisfaction. And, let’s face it: they’re baking bartenders who can pour on their own time and don’t have to deal with that drunk guy who just tried to pee in the corner. That’s my kinda gig. 1270 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence. 305-3503; tipccupcakes.com.

Kate’s Rustic

It turns out that the folks over at Farmstead know a thing or two about being awesome. First, they open a domestic and imported artisan cheese shop. Then, they open their sister restaurant, La Laiterie. (Um, can you say gourmet grilled cheese? I can in 10 different languages that all end in “Go there and get one.”) Next, they open a lunch counter/sandwich shop downtown. After that, they expand the original shop with a custom-build cheese aging room. And, as if there are no limits, Kate Jennings, co-owner of this food empire, lines the shelves of their storefront with her own line of baked goods, Kate’s Rustic. Kate first became interested in baking when she worked part-time at Formaggio kitchen in Cambridge. Wanting to pursue more, her and her husband Matt moved out to California, where she attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for a one-year baking intensive program. Finding their way back to Rhode Island, Kate baked bread and pastries at Olga’s Cup ‘N Saucer for a short while, but it wasn’t until their restaurant opened in 2006 that Kate was granted a kitchen and given the green light to get her hands back into the mixer. Plain and simple, Kate’s style is all about comfort. Her cupcakes exist in this world of homeyness, where basics like flour, sugar, eggs and real

June 2010 | Providence Monthly

27


butter are embraced and “light” and “fat-free” are checked at the door. While the likes of chocolate, vanilla, nut-free carrot and red velvet pose as the norm, other variations like lemon, peanut butter, mocha, snickerdoodle, banana and coconut don’t go unnoticed. And, let me tell you, one bite and you’ll be longing for an oversized couch, a glass of milk and an episode of Golden Girls. It’s really that good. 186 Wayland Square, Providence. 274-7177; farmsteadinc.com.

City Girl Cupcakes

since up until now, they’ve sold their cupcakes out of Isabella’s family-run food store, Tony’s Colonial on Atwells Avenue. So stop by, meet the girls, eat a delicious cupcake and know that your purchase may have just helped put food on someone’s table. Now that’s something to smile about. 99 Weybosset Street, Providence. 580-1271; citygirlcupcake.com

The Duck and Bunny

28

Providence Monthly | June 2010

The Cupcakerie

Aside from the totally fantastic name, The Duck and Bunny has something going on. The selfproclaimed “snuggery” (translation: a cozy and comfortable place, or, better yet, my new favorite word) owned and run by husband and wife team, Jessica and Dan Becker, is a collaboration of each of their dreams – a tea house and restaurant/bar respectively – housed in a historic 200-year-old colonial on Wickenden Street. “When we designed the menu, we wanted to include all of our favorite foods — from baconwrapped dates to peanut butter and banana sandwiches to cupcakes,” Jessica explains. “We really wanted the flavors of our cupcakes to stand out and not be just sugary. They are quite literally homemade, and don’t all look the same.” Sure, the red velvet is their signature, but Jessica is proud of their creativity in developing new and ever-changing flavors alongside her two talented Johnson & Wales pastry chefs. One such creation was a spin on one of their classic Parisian crepes, the Chubby Ella, a banana cake stuffed with Nutella and

In trying to describe the The Cupcakerie, the only words that keep popping into my head are Martha Stewart, Tiffany’s and Food Network. From the perfectly colored logo to the quaint storefront façade on a picturesque street in Cranston to the aesthetically refined treats behind the glass, this charming bakeshop would have no problem blending in on the streets of any big city. Kristin Brennan, owner and head baker, is as sweet as the desserts she serves. No, really. She is one of those women who are so super nice that

Photography (from top left): City Girl Cupcakes, Dan Schwartz, Lindsay Logan, Sugarush Truck

When I think back to high school, over-processed hair, an undying love for Chess King and a parttime job serving peanut butter cup sundaes at Friendly’s comes to mind (which, incidentally, also gives a good indication to my age). What doesn’t come to mind is running a cupcake business and donating all of its net profits to local and national charitable foundations, with hopes of helping to end world hunger. But, that’s exactly what two Providence teenage girls are doing. Catherine Corrente, a Moses Brown student, and Isabella Veader, a Lincoln School student, both 15, put their passion for baking to the greater good. “Isabella and I are inspired by helping those in need,” declares Catherine. “We give back to our community by donating to local charities and our unsold cupcakes go to the Ronald McDonald House. And, we’ve just reached our first goal of donating $1,000 to Feeding America’s Hungry Children. If we can put a smile on someone’s face and help others along the way, we’ve done our job.” Alongside very supportive families and a partnership with Whole Foods (which donates organic eggs, milk and butter), the girls and their baker create, test and perfect organic, nut-free recipes, ranging from the ever-popular Red Velvet (which, I can say firsthand, is moist, creamy and beautiful to look at) to the summer’s Grove Stand Lemon to the winter’s Gingerbread (and many other flavors throughout the year). When the girls are not in school, they’re baking, icing and decorating, yet still find time to shop, play sports, see movies and golf. You know – normal teenage stuff. Perhaps the most exciting news of all is that they’ve opened a storefront on Weybosset Street,

topped with banana butter cream. If that isn’t enticing enough, how about Brownie Mint Surprise or Portuguese Sweetbread Pudding with raw sugar toffee glaze? Not to be outdone by their predecessors, there’s the Sparkling Elderberry and Mexican Chocolate and even the Fig and Bacon with salted butter cream. Oh, and, of course, the Guiness cakes for the men. The Duck and Bunny recently worked with Brown University for 5,000 concert-going students during Spring Fling weekend, showcasing their “Snoop-cakes” (hemp cakes with gin and juice glaze) in honor of Snoop Dog’s appearance. I have to wonder what they might come up with if the Jersey Shore cast were in town. Celebrity jokes aside, Jessica and Dan are truly inspired by the Providence community and have never felt so welcomed as they do here. They strive to buy locally and they support fair trade, organic products and sustainable agriculture. Whether they’re enjoying their sixth straight year of the Providence Preservation Society House tours or immersing themselves in the shops, culture and numerous restaurants our city has to offer, one thing’s for sure: they want to share their piece of Providence with you. 312 Wickenden Street, Providence. 270-3300; theduckandbunny.com.


you want to buy a cupcake off her smile alone. Kinda like Buddy the Elf, smiling might be her favorite. It wasn’t until Kristin was laid off from her event design business that she entertained the thought of opening a cupcake company. Her larger-than-life passion for cooking and baking paved the way to the mixer. But with no money to buy expensive equipment or rent a shop, she began driving to Dartmouth Grange Kitchen daily to rent by the hour, and started selling at local farmers’ markets. However, last October, luck had its way and the owners of Jack’s Snacks and Besto Pesto were also looking for a Rhode Island kitchen, so she offered to share oven space and the rest is Cupcakerie history.

Sugarush Truck

Our inspiration?

Baking alongside her two Johnson & Wales alumni assistants, Kristin has developed a menu that resulted from many months in the making. She offers 12-14 varieties daily, ranging from basic vanilla and chocolate to Lavender Bean and Velvet Elvis. I happened to visit the shop on Cinco de Mayo, which is incidentally also the name of one of her cupcakes. Naturally, I savored every bite of that chili chocolate cake topped with Mexican Vanilla butter cream and shaved cinnamon chocolate. But it wasn’t until I bit into the Wake Up and Smell the Cupcake that flavor exploded in my mouth like a star explodes in the sky. A mocha cake with espresso cream cheese frosting, topped with a chocolate-covered espresso bean can only be described in one way: ridiculously good. “Making people happy is my greatest inspiration,” Kristin tells me. “There is nothing better than seeing the joy in a bride’s face when she first notices her cupcake tower at her reception or a customer’s smile as take their first bite of a cupcake!” The Cupcakerie creates cupcakes for weddings and events, and sells at the downtown Kennedy Plaza market, the Hope Street/Lippit Park markets from June through October. 1860 Broad Street, Cranston. 4672601; thecupcakerie.net

Forget the ice cream man – there’s a new truck in town. Sugarush, a gourmet cupcake shop on wheels, is the brainchild of imaginative friends Kristin Amico and Erica Saladino. Kristin, who has a degree in journalism and has worked for various news outlets and PR firms, has always loved to bake – from her high school French class presentation of recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to the various pastry classes she’s taken at Johnson & Wales and other esteemed establishments. Erica, an artist and craftsperson, who is also a RISD graduate, learned to bake from her mother. She is also a bookbinder, sewer and quilter, and is passionate about learning new things, whether it be auto-body repair and restoration or how to make New York style bagels. It wasn’t until Kristin’s unfulfilling job in PR coincided with the dissolution of Erica’s Brown University position that they came together to put forth their enthusiasm and talents to become “upscale street food vendors.” Aiming to please a more adult palate, they incorporate local, organic and seasonal ingredients to create a less sweet, more sophisticated cupcake. And not to leave anyone out, they offer both regular and vegan varieties, and are working on gluten-free options as well. Popular flavors (which change daily) include chocolate with salted caramel, lemon lavender and lemon goat cheese, and, of course, good old-fashioned chocolate and vanilla. The truck will be on the road by mid-June and locations will vary. Look for them in the Kennedy Plaza area weekdays during lunchtime and along Hope Street on Saturday afternoons. They’ll also frequent special events and festivals. This is one truck you’ll want to flag down, and you won’t even have to wait until after dinner to do so. sugarushtruck.com.

5 More Places to Get Your Cupcake On Sweet Cakes 1227 Kingstown Road, Peace Dale. sweetcakesbakeryri.com Sweet Indulgences 905 Warwick Avenue, Warwick. mysweetindulgence.com Nancy’s Fancies 294 Atwells Avenue, Providence. nancysfanciescakes.com It’s My Party 4 Coddington Highway, Middletown. itsmypartynewport.com Coldstone Creamery 10 Dorrance Street, Providence. coldstonecreamery.com

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Trollbeads parties! a great reason to get together with friends, family, & coworkers...whatever the event. Girls’ night out! call to plan a Trollbeads party! 401-245-0580 123 Maple Ave. Barrington daisydigins.com

June 2010 | Providence Monthly

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