Quotable RI News Story
Thanks, Jo for linking to this exclusive news story about an unknown scary creature. Oh, Rhode Island – “I grabbed her by the ass”!
Block Island is not the easiest place to get to (it requires a ferry ride and a reserved spot for your car about a year in advance) but once you’ve arrived the long journey is forgotten and only peaceful, lazy, summery thoughts fill your head.
Most of our days were spent with the family at our rental house (PS, do NOT rent from Phillips Realty lest you want a bunch of bogus charges) where we bbq-d, fed the local ducks, and Van, showing his true city kid ways, found himself weary of this thing you call “grass” and a lover of trees.
It’s the beach closest to town on that side and is perfect for babies and children (hence the name) because the water is calm, the waves gentle.
We loved spending afternoons here, Van especially, who was kicking and giggling in the ocean so much he had to take a beach nap with his pops.
On Block Island, it’s all about seafood and I am going to steer you away from the mediocre to the great.
Starting with Ballard’s, which is often party central, I’m talking dudes with tramp stamps (a phenomenon we speculated and joked about all trip), and views of all sorts of revelers on Ballard’s Beach. You might think the place was a mere tourist trap, and even if it is, it’s got the crab legs to make your summer blissful. Great oysters, chow-dah, mussels, and steamers too. And of course, once can’t pass up their Del’s plus vodka.
Another Old Harbor favorite is Finn’s, which also boasts great steamers and fried whole belly clams with a great outdoor deck. We also got huge shrimp for their market for barbecuing.
We started our trip with a dinner of great fried clam strips and weird but good doughboys from Rebecca’s. Heard their lobster rolls aren’t so hot, but just hop across the street to the Del’s spot for a pretty good one.
Best meal, though, next to those succulent crab legs, goes to Three Sisters, a tiny outpost of sandwiches during the day, and an amazing fish cook out menu at night. We had blackened bluefish, grilled zucchini, awesome clams, and incredible slightly teriyaki tuna steaks which made me obsessed with making tuna this summer.
Our recent visit to Block Island was a blast (more info coming soon). I expected a great time with the family, the ocean, and seafood but was surprised to come home raving about donuts and pies.
Aldo’s Bakery supplies the pies – we had an excellent blueberry one with a buttery crust that was heaven a la mode with their homemade ice cream.
The true gem though, are the fresh “killer” donuts from Payne’s in the New Harbor. Now, I have had many a great donut in my time, but these warm, sugar dusted treats rank among the top five at least.
I had three(!) in one sitting, truly living it up when on vacation.
These are so addictive that they could make anyone fat within a few months, so it’s a mixed blessing that they aren’t available closer to home.
I stumbled across J.Cosmas Vintage Photography quite by accident but was immediately drawn into the arresting images.
Surely I am not the only one among us that can’t resist the eyes of the past and if you too are a fan of vintage portraits, this is an incredible collection.
Priced reasonably, these would make a great gift for the lover of antiquities in your life.
The website is well organized, with large, clear scans, and informative and enthusiastic descriptions. Clearly, they have a passion for their trade (and the passionate are the most fun to buy things from).
Plus, they’re based in one of my favorite American cities, Providence.
If you find yourself as I was, craving a cupcake in the middle of the day in Providence, there’s no need to worry. Not only will you find a cupcake at the adorable Duck and Bunny, but you’ll find a great buttermilk honey cupcake with Lavender Icing. Nutella sandwiched between two peanut butter cookies was Jim’s preferred indulgence and the modern wonderland in black and white decorated spot also boasted some pretty good coffee and a relaxing back garden.
Fried dough, Olde Timey photos, and bajas? Must be a festival!! Fortunately for us, this one also featured a bevy of Rhode Island seafood, hence the name the Seafood Festival. Located in Charlestown at the Ninigret Park, this modest fest was pleasant and we ate well. At Chowder Kitchen we tried the stuffed Quahogs, at Salty Dags we opted for the Fisherman’s Lobster Roll (warm with butter and the best bite of the bunch), at D&L Lobster Express we got the cold lobster roll (with a touch of mayo and celery) from a cranky lady and washed it all down with the state’s greatest contribution to summer drinking, Del’s frozen lemonade.
We totally got one of the olde timey portraits too.
Block Island is flanked by two lovely lighthouses, one to the North and another to the South. The Northern Lighthouse is in Sandy Point and accessible by road, but is a far way to walk from the main port (cars and bikes are easily available to rent).
There is a museum, which was not opened when we went, but the main building is not open to the public, You can get pretty close though along a beautiful New England stretch of beach. Once summer is in full swing, a hot dog stand is parked in the lot.
The Lighthouse to the South is much more dramatic, set above the stunning Mohegan Bluffs. Several points along the cliffs offer amazing photo opportunities of the red brick structure. The building itself is being restored but the grounds and a museum are open for exploring.
While my friend's attempt to keep her beau's birthday cake celebration a surprise was foiled – the cake itself -?was a rousing success. From Scialo Brothers in Providence, an Italian bakery that has sat on Atwell's Ave since 1916 (!), the cake was huge, chocolaty, and rich.
There is an online shop where you can get cakes, cookies and biscotti delivered, but you'd be missing out on the beautiful fine looking counter girls we were told about that work there.
Here's what my friend had to say:
“They make cakes, pies, bread, and all sorts of Italian cookies and pastries. I particularly like their soft dinner rolls, pignoli cookies, and apricot & almond paste tart. I also LOVE that the place is mostly staffed by young, girl-next-door types who are very cute.”
There are lots of things you might expect to see while strolling around Block Island: weather beaten wooden beach houses, fields of grass, even an Indian burial ground seems somewhat appropriate?but I truly thought that the three and a half hour walk I'd just taken was making me see things when I caught a glimpse of a huge camel nestled in-between vacation homes.
The Manisses Hotel, one of the best elegant dining options on the island, is also home to an impressive wild animal farm. While some might consider it family only fun for the kids, I spent a long time watching the emus, camel, zorse, geese and goslings, ducks, lemurs, donkeys, llamas, lambs (one provided lots of entertainment when a tree branch stuck to his butt made him freak out), and my most favorite and fascinating, a giant, majestic yak.
The site will make you wonder who was behind it and why, but no worries, there's a plaque to explain:
“As a hobby, I have assembled an unusual collection of animals from many parts of the world. You will notice most of the animals live in complete harmony with each other (this is true). The farm also provides education and enjoyment to all visitors?Justin Abrams”
If you take the ferry from Port Judith, you will arrive on the quaint vacation Block Island in Old Harbor, the island's town center where most dining and lodging can be found. We stayed at the Inn at Block Island, a nice Victorian style bed and breakfast, that while completely pleasant was pretty hands off as far as services and breakfast (we had to help an arriving lady in with her luggage and opted to eat out after eating in once.) Still, it was in a nice location and priced fine and?we don't really need a lot of frills, so we were content.
As for eating, there's a lot to choose from in Old Harbor but I'll try to walk you through the highs and lows as I saw them.
On the better side of things you'll find The National Hotel, a classic family ridden hotel bar and restaurant that surprised us with their excellent garlicky clams and tasty pesto salmon sandwich. Clams were also the name of the game at Finn's, a seafood joint close to the dock with unusual weekday hours and a boisterous wood paneled atmosphere. I tried whole fried clams, a rich and decadent dish, there for the first time. For a fancier meal in a doily tea room ambiance, I was impressed with our meal at the Hotel Manisses. Managing to even make lobster bisque?(an often too thick concotion) light and delicious, the focus is on vegetables and herbs from their own garden. Our final A plus meal was the outdoor Old Harbor View Takeout, one of the first places you'll see on embarking. As a major vacation style indulgence, I had a big frozen lemonade and a foot long grilled hot dog for breakfast.
In the middle of the scale sits Ballard's Inn, a very popular seafood spot that offers great seating pretty much right on the beach (pictured). This was an ideal setting to enjoy the few moments of sun we had our first day, along with the Del's vodka drink I mentioned last week. Their oysters were pretty good, lobster roll was average, but the price, like many places on the island was higher than expected or deserved. Three Sisters, only open a few hours a day, was a tiny spot with decent meatloaf sandwiches and cookies that are a nice break from overpriced sit down meals.
Now for the bad… The biggest disappointment was Eli's, a restaurant I had read rave reviews of. While parts of the meal were great: the huge dirty martini and the hard to eat tuna carpaccio nachos, my main dish consisted of undercooked rice, undercooked and nearly cold grilled shrimp and canned black olives. Jim faired only slightly better with a mellow but bland fish of the day. We also had the worst coffee I've ever tasted in my life from Juice N Java. We had to throw our lattes out after only a few sips. A day later, with no other options open to us, we gave them another chance with Chai but had to toss those even earlier. You've been warned.
If you've never heard of Del's Lemonade, you've probably never experienced a summer in Rhode Island. Though the chain has gone nation-wide, the frothy, icy, sweet and tart beverage is still considered a state tradition (even though it's lost the title of “official state drink” to coffee milk) that, like many American foods, was adopted by immigrants who brought the best of their homelands to their new shores. According to the Del's site:
“Great grandfather DeLucia made the earliest Del's Frozen Lemonade in 1840, in Naples, Italy. During the winter he carried snow into nearby caves and insulated it with straw. When summer arrived and the local lemons were ripe and flavorful, he mixed their juice with just the right amount of sugar and snow.”
Recently, on a trip to Block Island, the excellent refreshment got even more spectacular when a beach-side seafood place called Ballard's added vodka. Now that is brilliant.
We really packed a lot into our recent visit to one of America's most historic resort areas, Block Island, that I'll be telling you about it over a couple weeks. I'd like to start with the most unusual and dramatic experiences at Crescent Beach just North of Old Harbor.
As many people can probably relate, less than ideal or seasonal weather put a spin on our vacation and we visited the island (which you have to reach via ferry) during foggy, soppy, and sometimes downright rainy weather. On the plus side this made us feel like we were right in the middle of a Stephen King novel, and never more so than our last evening there when we took a stroll along the beach before sunset.
A pristine stretch of soft sand, I can imagine Crescent Beach in the summer is usually packed with tanning revelers and the waters filled with summer visitors cooling off. When we visited though, it was stunning in its beauty but nearly vacant. Off the shore, a wall of cloud bank could be seen and we watched it slowly roll in, swallowing the town in the distance before surrounding us in an eerie and beautiful haze.
While it's a beach experience not many who visit are likely to see, it was one of the most memorable highlights of my trip.