Sunday, April 27, 2008

Beak to Beak

This morning I awakened to my friends the cardinals engaged in some face time on my balcony. It looked like Benedictus was feeding Betty some seeds. They quickly flew away as soon as they sensed my stirrings, but it looked kind of like this (except my birds are much cuter).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cardinals in the Courtyard

We have a pair of Cardinals (Eastern Cardinals - Cardinalis cardinalis) in our courtyard. We awaken to their songs as they hang out on the balcony. I put out a spread of seeds for them in an effort to keep them coming back for more. I had read something online that said they eat a diet that is 70% seeds and 30% insects. Apparently they are fond of sunflower seeds. I could only find salted pumpkin seeds in the house, so I scattered those around. I just hope they don't get too bloated.

I am fascinated by these birds. I find myself crouching in the doorway of my bedroom, watching as they drink and eat. I can hear their clear song all day - the "cheer cheer cheer", the "what what what". We gave them names. I bestowed upon the male the name Benedictus; the Dinnerman named his littly woman Betty.

Birds are amazing. It must nice to fly so high above it all.

The Fruit Man Riseth!

Like the Phoenix, but on Thayer Street. Corner of Waterman. My friend Kenny has risen again after a winter of misery waiting for the weather to break. The Fruit Man has finally come back to life, like those animals that grow from capsules into sponges.

Bad analogy? Maybe.

Great produce? You bet.

Go there now! Corner of Thayer and Waterman. Say Steph sent you, and you might get a complementary clementine or something.

Gardening Is Fun

I really miss having a house with a yard, because if you add me to a house with a yard I plant a garden. I have lovely memories of days past and Mays past - of the last time I lived in a house and was free to dig up the dirt, which was about 8 years ago. I would wait until it was mid to late May around the time of the full moon for my journey to the farm to buy small plants. Why the full moon? I can't remember the explanation or even who told it to me, but it's one of those things that stuck, like not running with scissors and placing your knives blade first into the dishwasher. My garden always thrived and for that I credit my planting time. Well, not really. There were too many variables but the outcome was always delicious and bountiful, the process always satisfying and therapeutic.

I planted everything I could think of; I brought home every little plant I could find at various area farms. There were big red beefsteak tomatoes, medium sized yellow tomatoes, tiny yellow and red pear-shaped tomatoes, purple eggplant, white eggplant, all manner of herbs, lettuce, and hot peppers, bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash (by was mislabeled, but it was awesome), string beans, snap peas, snow peas, brussel sprouts, radishes, and cucumbers. Most of my plants came from Schartner's Farm in Exeter and some farm in Johnston whose name escapes me...Defazio maybe?

I tried to get some garlic and carrots to grow but those were my only failures. Who knows what I did wrong?

The first garden I planted was in May of 1999, right after I had graduated from college. It was a rare time of self-satisfaction and I had a lot of time on my hands. I remember wandering into the garden early in the morning, clad in my ever-so-fashionable wife beater and boxer shorts with martinis all over them, not to emerge until my then-fiance came home from work and begged me to come inside. My dad, a veteran gardener for as long as I can remember, was very happy that I too was nurturing a fondness for the dirt. He would visit to offer his advice and take me to the farm.

I loved everything about that garden, which I had for 2 seasons. I took so many photos of the different stages of growth. I loved being among my plants, smelling and touching them. I even grew curious of the various insects that took up residence there - strange big worms on my tomato plant that I looked up and found were actually helpful, the lucky praying mantis, the slugs on the lettuce leaves. To me, there was nothing better that kneeling in the dirt in the bright warm afternoon sun to weed my plants or harvest my veggies, and standing in the quiet moonlight with the hose, singing to myself, watering my plants, gazing at the heavens.

A few years ago I tried to grow tomatoes in a pot on the porch of my apartment. It didn't really work well, but I did get to smell the plants and reap a few fruits of my labor. Here's a pic.

It's so easy to dig up a patch of earth and throw some plants in the ground. They don't ask for much - maybe a little Miracle Grow, some water, and a good thought or two.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I am still here!

We've been busy, but of course we've been eating too. We had a terrible meal at Bacaro, and we won't be back anytime soon. We had some mediocre sushi from Sakura, and that's me being kind. Both places are working their way down my list of places I consider edible.

Al Forno is definitely rising up that list again - they've stepped up their game which had already steadily risen to a very high level over the past couple of years. We've eaten a couple of great meals at Madeira, which is nothing new. I love Madeira.

Other than that, I've been doing a lot of grilling outside, which we had missed terribly. It's nothing fancy, just some chicken, steak, fish, or shrimp on the barbie with grilled jalapenos and a salad. It's a quickie, but we all know how satisfying those can be when you need one.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

South Carolina Part I: Cloying, Insipid, and Boring!

The Dinnerman and I are back from our 4 days on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina. I learned a lot on our trip. For one thing, I learned that the Isle of Palms is a separate city and not part of Charleston proper. It's located just over the IOP Connector, which makes sense, and is not more than a 30 minute ride from downtown "old town" Charleston.

So, you'd think it would be a given that we, staying on the Isle of Palms for 4 days with a rental car at our disposal and no pressing obligations, would find a way to make it downtown? After all, that's where many of the renowned restaurants are. There's Tristan, The Charleston Grill, The Peninsula Grill, The Hominy Grill, SNOB, Jestine's Kitchen...the beat goes on. Everyone knows the first priority in our travels is food and drink, so naturally we'd venture out to downtown Charleston. Especially in the wake of Anthony Bourdain's recent show - albeit sans assless chaps - about Charleston.

Sadly, well, no. It just didn't happen.

Maybe it was the result of our many months without breaks. As soon as our white asses hit the king-sized bed and we were given the key to the mini-bar, we were rendered powerless. I mean, imagine the bliss! After a cold and dark cigar-smoke filled Rhode Island winter, we manage our way to a low-country beach hideaway for a few nights. Drive downtown? No, thank you.

So, we ate on the Isle of Palms, and nearby Mount Pleasant (yes, the irony is not lost...having attended Providence College, I am all too aware of that local neighborhood).

The first night we had dinner at The Boathouse on Breach Inlet - on the Intercoastal Waterway. It was a mere 15 minute drive down Palm Blvd. from our resort and what a beautiful drive it was! Being a Wednesday we thought it wouldn't be too crowded. We called ahead, and were told we did not need a reservation. Upon arrival, however, we were greeted with a very bustling place and hung out at the bar for an hour before our table was ready.

This place had a very high-energy staff, with a bartender who was quick and precise. We ordered Maker's Mark Manhattans. They came our way unbelievably quickly - I sang the bartender's praises all night.
The restaurant certainly has a fantastic location. It's on the westernmost point of the Isle of Palms, located on the edge of the Intercoastal Waterway so that the Atlantic Ocean is across the street and you can see the sun set on the Intercoastal from the dining room. It's very beautiful.

The food is good. Yes, good, not great.
We started with fried green tomatoes and shrimp cocktail, the former I had never had and the latter, well, how do you ruin these?

They were ok. Batter fell off. Meh. Remoulade had no flavor.

The Dinnerman had the she-crab soup - very creamy, not much flavor.

I had the blackend grouper with collards and grits. Very fresh, but meh. Collards way too sweet. Grits great, but the honeymoon is not over with me and the grits yet.

The Dinnerman had the seafood mixed grill plate - again, meh. Nothing special!

Just nothing special! No great attention to us, as it was so busy and we were clearly not from town, and the food was so-so.

In fact, all the food we had on this trip was cloying and insipid. If I had been there one day longer I swear I would have asked for hot peppers grilled straight-up. I hate to say it, but even the Q was boring. Maybe I need to head over to Tennessee. Music's better there too.

Sorry, it was not great.

I will continue with our other experiences later.
Sorry no pics - my software drivers or whatever are not in working order.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Waterman Grill

We ate at the Waterman Grill tonight, which lives in the space that was the Gatehouse for many many years.

The place is as beautiful as ever, all hardwoods and windows, with the smell of the wood-burning grill and stunning views of the Seekonk River and East Providence predominating. You can see where the EP cops like to hide out and talk with one another if you come at the right time. We did, for that.

The rest of it was meh, with the exception of a couple of stellar Stoli Dolis on the rocks.

Let's just say that I miss the Gatehouse. It's kind of like what my dear cousin Michelle said one time, when visiting Rhode Island from her native California. The year was 1986; I was a lass of 13. We were brought to TJ Maxx by my aunt Crystal, who has always loved to shop. Michelle said, "These clothes - it's kind of like it would be ok if you had them, and ok if you didn't."

I wanted to love it, but it was just ok. Nothing was really wrong, but nothing was really remarkable either (except for those Stoli Dolis! They are not easy to perfect. I've tried.)