10 August, 2010

East Side Pocket

Thayer Street in Providence sits as the main artery of Rhode Island's academic community. Hungry students demand good food, so bad restaurants never survive. East Side Pocket remains a bastion to the ravages of time that have changed many restaurants on the hill's busiest street. Popular opinion dictates its the best fast food restaurant, and many contend it's the best restaurant in the area.

I ordered a Dolma (stuffed Grape leaves) pocket. Dolmas are always a favorite of mine ever since I first tried one as a child. East Side Pocket's dolmas were quite tasty and not greasy. The stuffing complimented the soft tangy flavor of the grape leaves. Everything went together with some hummus, fresh vegetables, and a nice yogurt sauce. Everything together in the pita worked, and the savory flavors only tasted better with the seasoning used.

I enjoyed the Pocket, though I don't know if East Side Pocket is the best restaurant on college hill. Certainly it's the best pocket I've had, but then that's not to say it was better than anything else. Even small storefront restaurants have a website, and East Side Pocket is no different.

Rating: B+

East Side Pocket on Urbanspoon

09 August, 2010

Tip*C Cupcakes

Rhode Island has a cupcake Rivalry between the Cupcakerie and Tip*C Cupcakes of North Providence. Both offer gourmet cupcakes but they approach the methodology differently on how to produce the most flavor.

The biggest anomaly of Tip*C Cupcakes is their use of liquor to flavor the cupcakes. No, you won't get drunk from eating them, rather the liquor is added before baking to imbibe flavor similar to traditional flavor extracts commonly used in baking. They use the liquor to extend a few base flavor recipes into thousands of combinations based on traditional cocktails and their own creations. They also offer the buyer the ability to create their own batch based on their favorite liquors (or even beer and wine). The biggest question is, how do they taste?

The first two cupcakes my wife and I tasted were the regular Chocolate Cupcake (made without any liquor) and the Devil's Red Velvet (A red velvet cupcake made with Godiva Liquor, Kahlua, and Creme de Cacao). Both looked like a normal cupcake, the Chocolate topped with a chocolate butter cream and strawberry wedge while the red velvet looked to be topped with a cinnamon-cream cheese-butter cream and raspberry. The regular chocolate cupcake had a wonderfully deep chocolate flavor that the smooth chocolate butter cream only enhanced. The moist cake made eating the cupcake a pleasure. The Red Velvet had much more flavor than other red velvet cakes I've had, showcasing how the liquor added to the cupcake's flavor depth. The cinnamon-cream cheese-butter cream tasted wonderful when played off the complex chocolatey flavors present in the red velvet.

This delicious duo inspired my wife and I to obtain a 'six-pack' (more liquor humor :D) of cupcakes, so we picked different cupcakes which we wouldn't normally buy. The strawberry Margarita cupcake was the exception, since many fans told us to try that one out. Otherwise, the five other cupcakes all had different fruit flavors boasting different liquor combinations. One main observation about all 6 were they all used a base batter which may have been either plain or vanilla (hard to tell) and topped with similar tasting butter cream frosting.

The first cupcake we tasted of this batch was the Strawberry Margarita, made with strawberry vodka and tequila. The flavor felt like a Margarita, with the tangy strawberry flavor coming first followed by the rich agave flavor from the tequila. The 'Good Morning' was our second cupcake, again a plain mix flavored with Kahlua and Godiva chocolate liquor. My wife disliked this one, mainly because it picked up a 'boozy' flavor, though I found the flavor quite enjoyable. The third Cupcake was their Mimosa cupcake flavored with Grand Marnier and champange. The orange did not really come through, but the champange dominated the flavor. I would have preferred orange-flavored butter cream to really push that mimosa flavor. Next we tried the Passion Cupcake, flavored with Pear Vodka and Passion Fruit liquor. Both I and my wife disliked this cupcake, feeling the flavor combination did not work. We both enjoyed the blue raspberry cupcake (which looked more green than blue). The Raspberry vodka and liquor gave the cupcake a tart flavor that rivaled a blueberry muffin for the best blue baked good. The final cupcake we tasted was the biggest leap. They offered a bubblegum flavored cupcake. Bubblegum works with many things (gum, jellybeans, slurpees), but cupcakes? Believe it or not, the bubble gum flavor was not too harsh and flavored the cupcake nicely.

Tip*C cupcake's inventive use of liquor for flavoring, wonderfully moist texture, and great butter creams edge out the Cupcakerie as Rhode Island's best Cupcake location. Both are incredibly delicious, but Tip*C's quality and price make it a must experience bakery. Tip*C Cupcakes' website is full of helpful information including address, hour, and a full menu. They actively promote their facebook community, where the bakers release special deals and other information through the social networking site. Don't worry, there is no alcohol in the finished product so you won't be tipsy.

Rating: A

Tip*C Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

05 August, 2010

The Cupcakerie

A staple of the Pawtucket Farmer's market, the Cupcakerie has debuted their own storefront in Cranston, Rhode Island. Since Cupcakes have become the big desert draw of 2010, it seems proper that Rhode Island has healthy competition between two big cupcake bakeries. Since the Cupcakerie is the first I have tried, it will be the first that I have reviewed.

First off, I am not a cupcake man. I much prefer slices of cake (like those served at Pastiche on Federal Hill, hmmmmmm), BUT I will remain open to this new culinary trend.

The first cupcake reviewed will actually be one me and my wife bought at the Cupcakerie's Farmer Market stall, which was the Cinco de Mayo. Combining chocolate with chilies is also a recent trend which both I and she welcome, so we were eager to try it out. The chili-infused chocolate cake tasted wonderful and the cinnamon-vanilla butter cream on top complimented the deep flavors. It tasted original and delicious, two things cupcake bakers focus on when producing in this medium.

The next two cupcakes we tried were sampled at their Cranston location. My wife ordered the Chocolate Diva. She was disappointed that it came with pink butter cream rather than a nice dollop of ganache (she dislikes butter cream), but she thoroughly enjoyed the deep flavor and moist texture of the chocolate cake. I disliked the gritty texture of the pink butter cream, which came from the sugar added rather than the largers pieces of 'glitter' added atop to make it 'fabulous'.

The Peanut Butter Cup-cake was my choice. The idea of peanut butter cake tantalized me, given the wonderful peanut butter cookies at Wright's Dairy Farm and peanut butter ice cream at the Ice Cream Machine. Unfortunately, the cake did not deliver. While nicely baked, it tasted too generic without the rich peanut flavor. The chocolate butter cream did taste much better than the pink one and was on par with the cinnamon-vanilla variety offered on the Cinco de Mayo. Still, I would have preferred ganache.

The flavors are solid and feature classic and modern varieties. I definitely look forward to trying other flavors from this bakery. The Cupcakerie has a full website describing the various flavors and toppings offered at the little cafe. They also feature seasonal flavors and new flavors all the time, so be on the look out to try a new dessert if even for a quick snack.

Rating: A-

The Cupcakerie on Urbanspoon


Often it is pricey to enter a Japanese restaurant and feel the need to sample every piece of sushi and sashimi available. Many people are new to eating sushi and often have not experienced the different flavors and textures present in the different cuts and rolls presented. Minado offers all-you-can-eat sushi for a pre-set price with over thirty different options PLUS a full assortment of entrees and desserts. To me, Kyojin in Miami is the gold-standard for all other Japanese buffets due to the incredible quality. How does Minado in Natick compare?

The interior feels much more Boston than Japan, which is not a bad thing. Massive plastic models of different sea life adorn the ceilings and walls. Everything was clean, and the massive amount of tables forecasted the quality of the meal.

The Sushi/Sashimi bar looked impressive at first sight. The selections were rather generic (Salmon, Tuna, Snapper, etc.) but the rolls were highly creative. I enjoyed the dynamite roll, topped with Korean chili powder and rolled with tender tuna. The Mackeral nigri were also delicious and a sign of truly fresh fish. Me and my wife were a bit disapointed that they did not offer Sashimi for the Lunch serving, but it was easy to peel the fish from the nigri rolls.

Minado's hot food selection really places this buffet above all others. Many Chinese and Japanese buffets put out bland or over seasoned generic 'Chinese' food for the rubes to eat as an alternative to the sushi. Minado put out an impressive selection of steaks, tempura vegetables and seafood, Delicious noodles, and impressive Gyoza. I was genuinely surprised to see actual steak offered.

The Udon Bar also surprised me. A chef made each bowl of noddles and broth to order complete with a nice array of 'toppings'. The noodles, while a bit gummy, taste wonderful in the rich broth. Salads and cold pasta dishes also went well as an interesting side quest to the Sushi buffet, but they stood up well as individual offerings.

Dessert was decent for the buffet. The Jello was juicy if a tad firm and the pastries were a bit better than standard Chinese buffet mini cake. Fresh melon and pineapple (not canned) seperated Minado from lesser buffets. The soft-serve Vanilla and Green Tea machine produced decent ice cream but it made me miss the home made Green Tea and Red Bean flavors availible at Kyojin in Miami or at Enn in Lincoln, RI.

Minado delivered an impressive Japanese feast for less money than any Japanese restaurant could ever provide. Everything was tasty and cooked well (unless it was meant to be raw). Me and my wife enjoyed Minado and will return whenever we are in the Natick area. It was not the best Japanese Buffet I have been to, but it's definitely the second best.

Minado has a full website with all the information on both the Natick location and every other location, wherever they may be.

Rating: B+

Minado on Urbanspoon

Early Riser Breakfast

The Early Riser Breakfast ucked away in sleepy North Smithfield. Like many other breakfast spots, they advertise a varied menu of many breakfast classics. How does this mom and pop (mom serves and pop cooks) operation rate?

First, I and my wife entered a clean dinning room. Our waitress (the wife) offered us fresh coffee. She said it was Dunkin' Donuts, which was perfectly brewed. I ordered scrambled eggs, corned beef and hash, hashbrowns and wheat toast, while my wife ordered sunny-side up style eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and white toast. We did not wait long for both plates, which smelled amazing.

My dish, which also came with home fries, was perfectly cooked. I did not like the canned Hashbrowns offered, though the large quartered coins of potatoes tasted wonderful with the slightly singed scrambled eggs. My toast was decent but tasted too much like wonder bread for me to get excited over it.

My wifes eggs were perfectly cooked, something of which I still struggle with when preparing her eggs sunny side up. She did not enjoy her hash browns, but she did enjoy the crispiness of the bacon. Her white toast was rather bland and dry.

Overall, we received a quick and tasty breakfast that did not impress us, but it also did not deter us from returning. If you're looking for a quick bite to eat and a hot cup of coffee, feel free to visit the Early Riser in North Smithfield.

The Early Riser has a full website with everything you could want to know.

Rating: B

Early Riser Breakfast on Urbanspoon

About Me

Rhode Island, United States
I am a lover of Food. I review restaurants, markets, snacks, wine, beer, and spirits. Life is too short to eat bad food.