Phantom Farms in Cumberland, RI

Like the other women in the Vienna branch of my ancestry, I love all kinds of pastry — pumpkin pies, fruit tarts, chocolate molten cakes, cream horns, etc. But my favorite kinds are the breakfast kinds, specifically croissants and scones and especially scones. I can almost never walk into a bakery without eating an entire one, no matter the time of day. And I judge a bakery based on how well it executes the scone.

Scones are very simple to make and yet there is something about the mix of ingredients that requires the perfect balance. I have tasted scones that are too dry, too cookie like and my least favorite — too muffin like. I have found that you need to stop pouring in your liquid ingredients just before the batter looks like a muffin batter.

In my opinion the best scones moist yet crumbly. But instead of the crumbs being dusted all over the place, they stick together. They should be somewhat like a drop biscuit but sweeter.

I have found a coffee shop/bakery in Cumberland, RI that serves a very good scone.

Phantom Farms on Diamond Hill Road has a farm stand, a general store and a said cafe with air-conditioned indoor and patio outdoor seating. It is a charming place, filled this morning with whom I am sure were “the regulars” — a group of smiling and joking seniors.

But this place isn’t intended just for the older set, as evidenced by the jars of candy and displays of gingerbread cookies.

Ladies can also find a nicely curated selection of Top It Off Accessories at closer to wholesale prices. I have always admired this brand’s style but shied away from the price tags in Newport boutiques.

Gardeners can visit the garden center (outdoors) and cooks can select from a small array of fresh produce. Today there was enough varieties of tomatoes to make a good tomato tart.

Hosts can purchase pies or cheeses and invitees can bring the specialty food gifts such as Vermont maple sugar candy.

Coffee? Check. Clothes? Check. Corn on the Cob? Check. I can’t wait for apple season! (There is an orchard.)

Providence Flea

Awhile ago, while still residing in Newport, I saw the Providence Flea promoted in a free paper. Weeks later, I’m just 20 minutes away, so it was easier for me to check it out yesterday with my children along for the ride. Parking was not the usual hassle, since it was Sunday, and the day was sunny and clear.

I hyped up the food trucks to my oldest child, who is almost five (“There are kitchens — IN THE TRUCK! You can buy food right from — THE TRUCK!”), so naturally he was hungry as soon as we arrived. After walking past almost half a dozen gastronome mobiles, we both agreed that a grilled cheese from Fancheezical would be best for him and his sister.  After ordering one Old Skool for each kid and handing my credit card for payment, the cashier told me that the business didn’t accept my form of payment. Wondering if I would run into the same problem while ordering my lunch, I changed my order to just one grilled cheese. More than likely the sandwich was huge anyway. It was $5 after all. More than likely my kids wouldn’t finish a whole sandwich by themselves anyway.  I also held off on the beveridges in case there wasn’t this problem at another truck; the truck that was capable would get most of my money.

My kids were being patient but the wait seemed long even to me. Graciously, I didn’t look at my watch but I noticed that people started browsing the tents rather than stand in line for their orders. After one customer received their order, it was another several minutes before the next order was up. Finally, our simple grilled cheese on white bread was ready. It was golden on the outside and melty on the inside and as it turned out enough for my restless children to split an ordinary grilled cheese but I was disappointed that it wasn’t special in any way. I could have made the same thing at home (on the menu it is described as “just like Mom used to make”), quicker and for much less the cost. It wasn’t really fancheezical, whatever that means, but I assumed it must have something to do with fantastic. If it was fast and cheap, it would have been somewhat fantastic.

The kids didn’t complain, though. Except for the crust. What else is new?

On the way to Fancheezical, I had already made up my mind that my lunch would be ordered at Plouf Plouf but I had considered a taco truck and the Lotis Pepper which serves up Vietnamese food. Plouf Plouf was an excellent choice. It is pricey at $14 a meal but it is organic French food in large portions. And I didn’t need to worry about having enough cash because it accepts credit cards. I told my son, “We’re going all out here. Everyone gets their own drink!” which meant 3 Perriers because it doesn’t serve anything else besides Coca Cola. I love white wine and mushroom sauce, so I got the Sauteed Chicken, Normandy style and added frites.

My order was ready as soon as I finished paying and before I had finished pouring our cans of Perrier into paper cups and grabbing the necessary napkins and utensils.

It was delightful, carrying that surprisingly heavy, hot take-out box to a seat by the river and opening it up to discover that a side of lettuce in red wine vinaigrette garnished my entrée. The chicken melted in my mouth, the frites were truly pommes frites and not chips, as some places are wont serve as “frites.” They were so crispy they seemed double deep fried. And the red wine vinaigrette was perfectly emulsified.

It was worth every dollar and every bite after I was satisfied.

After my son waited patiently for me to finish the last bite, we watched the ducks on the river for awhile and then browsed the tent wares. There were a few outposts of vintage goods and a lot of artisan jewelry. I stayed awhile at a couple of tents and got an early start on my fall birthday and Christmas shopping.

I could have stayed a just a few minutes longer, but my kids were getting bored and tired. It was almost a perfect two hours. The flea didn’t take all day, like some craft fairs do, and yet had enough of a variety to make it well worth the trip.

The Providence Flea is every Sunday 10-4, rain or shine, through September 15 on S. Water Street.  I highly recommend spending a leisurely Sunday morning or afternoon here.

Fall River style chow mein

I have been aware of another long stretch of absence. A change in our lifestyle resulted in less eating out.

This summer, we made a quick move to Attleboro, MA. We’re still trying to find the best Chinese restaurant around here. Back in Newport, which is close enough to just across the Bay from Fall River, we found one sister restaurant which served the famous Fall River style fried chow mien noodles. In the meantime, we made a trip to Fall River for the best noodles ever to be found and served them to our out of town guests. They look forward to them each time they visit!

Read more about the Oriental Chow Mien Company (a.k.a. Hoo Mee) and chow mien sandwich in this great blog post by a Fall River sister and fellow foodie:  Fall River style chow mein.

Jonathan’s Cafe/Ocean Coffee Roasters

Jonathan’s Cafe in Washington Square has often beckoned me. I admit, though I have had my loyalties, I would pop in to get an Italian soda since it is easier to order an Italian soda there than anywhere else downtown. I wasn’t that impressed overall at first, I think because of the service, so I never stopped in more often that I had that craving for something sweet and cold. But one morning I needed to get some work done, there was no parking in front of Empire, and there was one right across the door of Jonathan’s Cafe. Seeing it offered free WIFI, I walked in, determined to try the breakfast.

It was a hub for all sorts of locals performing their ritualistic daily communion with one another, just as I remember some of my customers at Starbucks doing. Not being one of the regulars at Jonathan’s, I got some curious looks as I walked in. I tried to ignore them and act like I knew what I was doing. I made a beeline to the counter and asked questions of the server. This time it was a friendly older gentleman who did not seem a bit annoyed, abeit a bit surprised, at my questions. Do I order here and sit at the counter if I don’t want a table? (That would have been awkward, considering I would have been the only person sitting alone.) May I have a breakfast sandwich? Do I need a password for the WIFI? (The answer was no, which is unusual and convenient.)

After I placed my order and grabbed my fresh cup of Ocean Coffee Roasters’ coffee, I sat down at the counter and made myself at work easily. There was an outlet for my laptop and I got on the WIFI without a hiccup.

My coffee was excellent. I find it a rare thing to get an excellent cup of coffee, which is one you can drink black. If you drink your coffee with milk and sugar, it is because you have never experienced a great coffee or you just don’t like coffee. Otherwise, put coffee syrup in your milk and warm it up, why don’t you? But enough about you. I mean, it’s not entirely your fault. It really is difficult when you take that first sip and the coffee tastes bitter and over-steeped instead of like a squeezed freshly roasted bean.

I guess I had expected my coffee to be undrinkable, but it was so delicious I had way more than I usually do. I also expected to have to get up when my order was up and to have to hunt around for my utensils and condiments but the server at the counter brought over my sandwich, along with knife and salt, and asked if I needed anything else. The last especially surprised and pleased me. “Wow,” I thought. “No, thank you,” I said as pleasantly as I felt.

But my experience was only to get better as I opened my box to find a gigantic sausage and egg on bagel sandwich which had apparently come with a substantial side of home fries – for the same price as a breakfast sandwich anywhere. And I do mean my sandwich was huge. Two giant sausage links were cut in half and laid between two fried eggs.

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One of my complaints about local breakfast places is that they are kind of dirty, meaning I guess that they get too busy to clean their grills and you end up with your food cooked in rancid, burned grease, reeking of a mixture of old food that ruins the taste. I realize we are just talking about eggs and potatoes but they do absorb a lot of flavor and, um, gross. Anyway, Jonathan’s food is as comforting as eating at home, where mom’s eggs are cooked on a nice, clean buttery surface.

The sausage was flavorful, but not too greasy, and the bagel was toasty on the outside and chewy on the inside. The home fries looked hand cut and they were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and seasoned just right. I ate until I could not fit another bite. After writing this, I find I am craving it again even though it’s 10:30 in the evening. Mouth waters and lips smack together as I think of buttery, chewy comfort food.

I suppose it wasn’t just my loyalty to other establishments that prevented me from really trying Jonathan’s. It was the fact that I thought I would be disappointed while there were so many good offerings out there. If I want a good cup of plain ol’ Joe and a tasty breakfast sandwich or muffin, I’m sure to go to Ma’s, where they have both. If I want a relaxing atmosphere, I go to Empire. And if I want to be barraged by marketing tactics as soon as I step in, I go to Starbucks. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.) Why would I potentially waste my time and money? But I am glad the fates guided me there that day, glad I braved the piercing gaze of the crowd of strangers. Because it turns out, Jonathan’s is a great place to sip, eat and work.

I snapped my laptop shut, packed up my things and strutted out of the cafe like I knew what I was doing. I was coming back again, so I had to keep up the façade.

Oven Toasted S’mores

Sometimes you have s’more makings. It just happens. There’s a sale at the grocery store; you like s’mores; you buy graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. Even though you don’t have a firepit. Or a grill. Or a gas stove. You wouldn’t dream of using the microwave. What do you do? Use your toaster oven, of course.

Yes, all of these things happened to me a few years ago. I started making s’mores in the toaster oven, really loved how they came out and kept doing it that way. In some ways, it is way better than using a fire. Nothing compares to a fire charred marshmallow, but if you’re looking for consistency (or electricity is the only option), this is the way to go.

Ingredients:

Oh, you know —
graham crackers, broken into squares
medium sized marshmallows
chocolate bars, broken into individual pieces (I prefer dark chocolate.)

Cooking Instructions/Commentary/Pictures:

Line a baking sheet with foil. This is not just to keep your baking sheet from getting marshmallow goo on it; it is also to keep the graham from burning.
Assemble the s’more, leaving the top graham off: layer the ingredients square graham, a single piece of chocolate and a marshmallow.

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Place in the toaster oven on the bottom rack to allow enough clearance for the marshmallow to puff up and toast at 350 degrees (Do not preheat the oven. You want the marshmallow to be crispy, don’t you?) for 7-9 minutes. Watch very closely around minute 5, as your oven might toast unevenly, yadda yadda yadda.

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When the marshmallows are puffy and goldeny, it’s time to pull the s’mores. If you wait until the marshmallow is brown, unfortunately the chocolate will be way too hot and the graham will burn. However, if you pull the s’more within the right window, you will have the most consistent layers in a s’more you’ve ever had. Unlike the s’mores made with a fire, the chocolate will be nice and melted and the graham crackers won’t break. But the chocolate won’t be so hot and you can eat ‘em right away, while the marshmallow is still gooey. Just top with the remaining graham cracker square and let cool a minute or two.

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The simple directions:
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Assemble the s’more, leaving the top graham off: layer the ingredients square graham, a single piece of chocolate and a marshmallow.
Place in the toaster oven on the bottom rack and toast at 350 degrees (Do not preheat the oven.) for 7-9 minutes, until the marshmallows are puffy and goldeny. Top with the remaining graham cracker square and let cool a minute or two.

The Ellaroo Wrap

Since a few moms have asked me about it, I thought I’d further share my enthusiasm for a specific type of baby carrier, the Ellaroo wrap. But, first, I admit this is not the only carrier I own. I carry my little one every day and I’ve found that different occasions call for different carriers. When Liberty (my girl of 11 months) was a newborn, she was cradled in a pouch, which is snug and secure because it does not slip. Now that she’s older, we love the ring sling I borrowed because my hands are mostly free and she is up front and can see what I’m doing. And when we go for a walk, I strap her on my back in the Boba and I am totally free while she is so content she might fall asleep there. Yes, that means I use four different carriers. In fact, I would love to try a Mei Tai and make it five.

But when someone asks what kind of carrier they should get, I always suggest a woven wrap. If you are going to own one carrier, it is the way to go. A wrap is an amazing carrier because it distributes the baby’s weight evenly and is therefore the most comfortable. It is very easily adjusted to a snug fit once you have it on. And it is the most versatile in terms of carrying positions. I originally bought mine so that I could nurse Liberty in it. I also keep it in the diaper bag because it takes up the least amount of room and it’s versatility means I am prepared for any occasion. It’s a plus that it looks good with just about anything I am wearing! And it’s the lightest, most breathable one I own.

I decided to go with a woven wrap because I’ve tried the stretchy one and did not like it: I had to adjust it every few minutes because it kept stretching and stretching as I moved until Elijah (my firstborn) was hanging down past my hips – so frustrating! A woven wrap is more secure due to the force being distributed in the different directions of the threads. It works not just for babies up to six months but for toddlers. Since my babies apparently tend to grow really quickly in the first year and I found myself at times carrying my son up until he was three years old, I knew this attribute was a must.

Why the Ellaroo wrap? It mostly came down to pricing. The Ellaroo is in the mid price range, which is where I tend to go when purchasing things, if I can. Here is a chart of the woven carriers I found, along with their pricing and other features.

The Bundleboo isn’t a traditional wrap; I wanted a wrap that could be put on without fussing over where the middle is. The Mamaroo company does not seem like a reliable company. The Ellaroo has all the features that are a necessity to me, it comes from a company that other businesses deal with, is available in different sizes – so you know it will fit – and looks beautiful. When it arrived at my home, I was very pleased with how it felt, especially after I washed it. (You do have to treat the fabric so the dye won’t run but it’s very easy to do. The only downside is that you can’t put the Ellaroo in the dryer or it will shrink.)

I got mine from Joven-kids.com. This online store had the best selection for the best price at the time. My wrap came quickly and was enclosed with a friendly little note.

Did I forget to mention something? Ask me a question. Have something to share? Tell me which carrier you love!

Other Resources

How to wear your wrap: http://www.wearyourbaby.org/Default.aspx?tabid=89 (See the links on the left.)

http://www.thebabywearer.com/index.php?page=WrapInstructionsChart

Dairy and Citrus Free, Conveniently

Speaking of dairy free foods, they are difficult to find anywhere, not just in restaurants. Even your run-of-the-mill prepared or packaged foods contain dairy: breads, crackers, soups, frozen meatballs, salad dressing, etc. Add a citrus allergy and then it seems you are going to die of starvation. As a result of nursing a baby who was allergic to both, I’ve had to find the right recipes and make a lot of my own items from scratch. However, since I’ve never had the time to make everything from scratch, I’ve also ferreted out some dairy and citrus free convenience items. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but since it is common for small babies to be allergic to these foods, I thought it might be helpful to others. Just be sure to double check the facts if you have a serious allergy. Then enjoy!

Takeout food

Asian cuisine: Some Southeast Asian cuisine heavily features lime but most Chinese or Japanese food is citrus free.

Burgers: Burger buns usually have dairy product in them. But Ruby Tuesday‘s buns are free of the allergen. Some burgers come with cheese so be sure to ask for no cheese. For a list of other entrees from Ruby Tuesday that are dairy free, see its allergen info here. And of course there are the vegan burgers at Crazy Burger.

Dessert: Pastiche has macaroons and homemade dark chocolate made without dairy. Crazy Burger has vegan options. And Keenwah on Broadway has a fantastic vegan brownie.

Fast food: McDonald’s buns and featured salads contain allergens so I get the Chicken Selects with a side salad.

Mexican cuisine: Avoid Taco Bell; there are virtually no options there. Look for a local spot that doesn’t marinate meat in lime juice. I found SAPO Freaky Burrito, which has pretty plain meats. El Perrito has a variety to choose from and uses fresh corn tortillas (which means no citric acid as a preservative).

Pizza: I haven’t found a chain which makes pizza dough without dairy and/or citric acid but locally, there’s Mama Leone’s. I order my pizza with extra sauce and no cheese. Just be careful about the toppings; lots of sausages and pepperonis contain citric acid so ask about them or avoid them.

Pockets or wraps: The good news is pockets or wraps don’t contain dairy. The bad news is most Mediterrean cuisine features yogurt or lemon so it’s out. One exception may be meat pies. I’ve never had a problem with the meat pies from Sam’s Bakery in Fall River. Also try the Steak Bomb from D’Angelos with no cheese. I’m pretty sure it’s also citrus free since I’ve never had a problem with it.

Sandwiches: An Italian grinder from Marzilli’s or Marcucci’s in Fall River. Hold the cheese.

Pre-packaged food

Breads and buns: You can almost never go wrong with the store brands, which use the least amount of ingredients. As a general rule, go for freshly baked, light and fluffy. Calise & Sons is another option for buns and rolls.

Breakfast sausage, frozen: Jones Breakfast Sausage.

Chicken tenders, frozen: Perdue Breaded Chicken Tenders.

Dessert: Dairy free ice cream such as So Delicious. Oreos, Junior mints, Peeps and Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups. Many brands of dark chocolate.

Meatballs, frozen: Cooked Perfect Turkey Meatballs.

Pasta sauce: Ragu or Bertolli Tomato and Basil varieties.

Pizza crust: Top This Pizza Crust is one of the very few brands that does not contain dairy and/or citrus. It’s made in Rhode Island.

Jelly/jam/preserves: Sorrell Ridge is the only fruit spread I know of which does not contain citric acid.

Salsa: Nature’s Promise, Brad’s Organic, Victoria’s and Mrs. Renfros basic varieties.

Sausage: Aidell’s Cajun Andouille Sausage. This takes like chourico, which is a bonus, because chourico is made with dried milk.

Tortillas: Chi Chi’s is the rare tortilla which does not contain citric acid.

Other Resources

Avoiding citrus: Vicki Clarke’s Citric Acid Intolerance Site

Avoiding dairy: GoDairyFree.Org