Providence Potholes

Our streets are notoriously bad, and this winter was apparently murder on the pavement, so it was heartening to read this in the latest Providence city newsletter:

Mayor David N. Cicilline yesterday announced an aggressive program to systematically repair potholes in the capital city. The City has intensified its efforts by adding Parks Department vehicles to the fleet of Department of Public Works (DPW) trucks so that there will be, effective today, eight fulltime crews filling potholes throughout the city. The trucks are equipped with a new high performance patch material that has proven effective in repairing potholes, even in wet conditions.

“Of course, the most effective, long-term solution to improve road conditions is through our citywide repaving program,” said Mayor Cicilline. “However, given the impact of severe weather on our roads, we will act quickly to improve safety and reduce the wear and tear on people’s cars.”

Citywide repaving sounds like a good—and stimulative!—idea to me. In the meantime, it was good to learn this:

Anyone with concerns about specific potholes on city streets should contact the Office of Neighborhood Services at 421-2489 and the City will dispatch a crew to repair the pothole within two business days.

Providence Potholes

Rice Wars

The Rhode Island Supreme Court today upheld a lower court ruling that Cathay Cathay has an exclusive right to sell white rice at the Providence Place Mall. Japan Cafe had argued that, nuh-uh, it was selling parboiled rice, but apparently white rice is white rice.

Basmati rice, however, is—or rather, may be!—an entirely different item, and the high court has ordered a new trial to determine whether Gourmet India “knowingly contracting to sell white rice in violation of plaintiffs’ exclusive right to sell certain food items.”

This case is, of course, hilarious, but let’s agree at least that Cathay Cathay is the most delicious food at the Providence Place food court.

Rice Wars

A Catholic State?

As you probably know, dear reader, I’m not Catholic, nor am I particularly religious. If you are Catholic, therefore, I wish to apologize in advance if you’re offended by how gut-bustingly ridiculous I find this (A1! above the fold!) article that appeared in today’s Providence Journal:

Pastor drops ban on white dresses for First Communion

The Rev. Joseph Creedon, who has led Christ the King Church for nearly three decades, had forbidden Bailee, and all First Communion recipients, from wearing white.

But he relented yesterday, agreeing to let Bailee receive her First Communion with a sweater covering her dress.

His requirements are that she “disguises the white dress with a blue sweater,” he said, and that her mother, Christine Cota, attend Mass regularly. His change of heart, he said, was guided by prayer.

Father Creedon ended a phone conversation with a reporter abruptly by hanging up when asked to explain his objections to white.

The article is great because it has the form and structure of a news article while being, in actuality, a “no, seriously?” story about a hilariously petty man.

I wonder if it says something about the ProJo or its readership that the in-depth reporting on the tense negotiations over what a seven-year-old may or may not wear to church got higher front-page placement than this article. Seriously, I feel like I’ve been punked.

A Catholic State?

Move Along, Nothing To See

In the middle of band practice at my house tonight, we heard a weird sound. It sounded, well, you know what, in the movies, five gunshots in rapid succession sounds like? It sounded like that.

After a bit of “Should we call the police?” “What would we tell them?” “Maybe it was a car backfiring. Five times.” we decided to get back to rehearsing, until about 20 minutes later Stephanie wandered over to the window and said, “There’s a police car at the end of the block.”

Make that five police cars, and the concomitant number of cops milling around the house on the corner, shining flashlights in every direction. We spent a good ten minutes ZOMGing, scrambling from window to window to get a better view, and spinning wilder and wilder fantasies about what might be going on a couple hundred feet away from our house. Finally I decided to call the Providence Police to see what was going on.

Phone ringing
Woman: This is Diane.
Me: Um, hi. Hello. Yes. Um, I’m trying to reach the Providence Police?
Woman: This is.
Me: Oh! OK. Um. Yes, I live on [my street], and I can’t help but notice that there seem to be several police cars and several officers at the end of the block. Is something going on? Is it safe to leave our house?
Woman: [my street]?
Me: Yes.
Woman: Yeeeeah. Yup, we do have some things occurring, but it’s nothing you need to concern yourself with. [emphasis mine]
Me: (pause) So… we should just go about our business?
Woman: Yup.
Me: (pause) Thanks?

So, there you have it. Some things occurred on my street tonight. I feel so much safer.

Move Along, Nothing To See

Artist Gets Probation for Building Secret Mall Apartment

Michael Townsend is an imaginative artist, and one of his projects just got a lot more attention. Mike and his wife were the first people I met when we moved to Providence and they told us about their project of building an apartment and living in the Providence Place Mall. They showed us a video a couple years ago that documented the building and living. After watching the video, Mike told me I shouldn’t really tell anyone, even though I was bursting to, so I’m glad his project can now get the attention it deserves (though sad that Mike got probation out of it (though happy the punishment wasn’t more severe.)) Anyway, check out the video and think about what it would be like to live in a mall for 3 weeks.

Updated to add this much more informative link from the ProJo including a quotation from a mall spokesman claiming the mall felt “violated”.

Updated again to clarify story and to add an opinion column from the ProJo praising the mall’s artists-in-residence.

Artist Gets Probation for Building Secret Mall Apartment

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday was a big day. For one thing, it was my first day of school. Hooray for school! I’m feeling more educated already.

However, yesterday was also my third wedding anniversary. Yes, three years ago this morning Rachel and I were jumping in a lake. Three years might not seem that long, but since we’d been dating for seven years before we got married, 2007 is in some senses our tenth anniversary, which seems like a biggish deal. Just like last year, we decided to have a nice dinner in rather than a nice dinner out, and so I turned to my fanciest cookbook, The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky.

(This is a really cool book, by the way. I picked it up for a song at a used bookstore in Northampton, and every recipe in it is guaranteed to impress the hell out of your guests. Last night was my second time making a recipe from the book: about a year ago I made the Braised Short Ribs of Beef with an Aromatic Barbecue Sauce. I’m kicking myself that there are no pictures of that meal, since the recipe is four damn pages long and people seemed to like it.)

We got another ridiculous haul of incredible tomatoes from Ledge Ends, so it was clear they’d be involved. I happened to flip the book open to:

Two-Tomato Coulis with Three Basils

Except here’s the thing: I couldn’t find purple basil, or basil flowers, but I did have a bag of fresh Ledge Ends green basil, so I just made:

Two-Tomato Coulis with One Rather Delicious Basil

Two-Tomato Coulis Two-Tomato Coulis

The recipe for this is pretty ludicrously simple. Just chuck a whole bunch of red cherry tomatoes in a blender, and puree the crap out of them. Then do the same with some yellow tomatoes, and put both purees in a bowl with some basil, white pepper, and kosher salt.

The recipe called for 2 pounds each of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, which is ridiculous, so as I was only trying to make two servings I used a pound each, and supplemented the cherry tomatoes with some fabulous heirloom globe tomatoes. I also left out the sugar because, uh, I forgot it, but it didn’t need any. Delicious, sweet, and garden-y.

This was by far the most visually striking thing I’ve ever prepared. So cool. When we started eating, we discovered that the colors stay separate even as you move them around a bit, so if I ever make this again I might go for swirlier patterns instead of just the yin-yang.

Fun With Spoons

When we were in Maine a few weeks ago, Rachel reminded me how much she loves lobster so it seemed clear that would be in the main course. Kunz and Kaminsky provided:

Lobster in Syrah Reduction with Aromatic Grits

Lobster in Red Wine Reduction with Aromatic Grits Lobster in Red Wine Reduction with Aromatic Grits

I mean, delicious, right? Not even too difficult to make.

The sauce is a piece of cake: sauté onions, garlic, shallots, carrots, and celery until soft, and then pour in a bottle of red wine. Reduce, strain out the vegetables, and reduce again until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in some butter at the end, and you’re good to go.

The grits were also easy and delicious. I couldn’t find the quick-cooking grits the recipe calls for, but a pretty standard 4:1 milk and water to cornmeal ratio produced what I wanted. A little nutmeg and white pepper and butter go in at the end.

Finally the lobster: the hardest part was buying them, since Whole Foods apparently doesn’t sell live lobsters any more. However, I was pleased to discover Captain’s Catch in North Providence, which does, and has a pretty good looking seafood selection. Once I got the doomed fellows home, they were blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, shocked in ice water, and relieved of their shells. (I now have a Ziploc back full of lobster parts ready for the stockpot.) Five to ten minutes in a 350 degree oven (with butter, of course) finished the cooking.

‘Twas damn good, and we even had room left over for dessert:

Lemon-Basil Sorbet

I’d bookmarked this recipe for Lemon-basil vodka gimlets as they looked delicious and refreshing, and indeed they were, but the fact is I don’t drink anywhere near enough vodka to use up all that syrup. As soon as I tasted it, though, I said: sorbet. Now, the syrup is way too sweet to make a sorbet on its own (and yes, I went through the trouble of making a batch to find that out) but with the juice of about four lemons added to it, it because perfect. Light, tart, with a subtle herbitude.

Lemon-Basil Sorbet

So, that’s three years. Believe it or not, Rachel just gets better and better. Don’t think for a second I fail to realize how lucky I am to have a wife willing to support us while I quit my job and sleep in every morning go back to grad school. A plate of lobster and a song are the least I can do.

Our Third Anniversary Dinner

Happy Anniversary


Saw the Buddy Cianci movie last night at, appropriately enough, the Providence Place Mall. While I don’t think it was a particularly good film, it told a very interesting story. I don’t know how interesting it would be to someone who doesn’t live in Providence, and I imagine that watching the movie with a theater full of Providence folks (Providencians?) adds significantly to the experience. My two companions left the movie with more sympathy for Buddy than when they went in.