One filet of cod fish is not the same as the next, nor is a teaspoon of pepper, or a cup of vinegar. If the meal is to be spectacular, each ingredient has to be appraised. A recipe can’t explain how to do this. Great meals are created by cooks who have scientific precision along with artistic vision; those things and a bunch of know-how and experience. These meals are not created by the ordinary, sometimes uncaring cook.
Restaurant kitchens each have their own flavor. Each is a combination of science, artistry and elbow grease. A commercial kitchen in a nursing home or a chain restaurant will usually be more science and less art. In these kitchens, although not many will admit to it, they are looking to produce consistently mediocre food.
Great restaurant food is only found in the kitchens of better independent restaurants.
It’s January. The weather stinks. Most of us are broke; we overdid the Christmas thing. We always overdo the Christmas thing. Restaurant owners feel your pain; they are paying for heating and plowing, taxes are due, and business is imitating the weather …it stinks. It’s not a good time of year to be in the restaurant business.
I stopped by Crowther’s; it’s always a great place for a meal, a drink, or both. Bring your GPS if you are not native to Little Compton. (If you are from Little Compton, you can just have your chauffeur drive you to 90 Pottersville Road.) Kane and Kenny Lewis are the proprietors of this long lived and long loved place. Dave LaFrance, formerly the Country Harvest, is the head chef. A few of the kitchen and waitstaff have worked there since the eighties.
I had a good chat with Kane regarding January; he has some interesting plans. In addition to their football game day specials, they will be running different promotions on every January weekend. The highlight will be on the Martin Luther King holiday weekend when they will be presenting a Roaring 20’s themed weekend and dinner. Check their website, www.crowthersrestaurant.com, or call 401-635-8367 in early January for specifics.
Crowther’s is always a safe bet for a good traditional meal in a unique atmosphere, -without breaking the bank. You probably won’t be wowed, but you’ll never be disappointed: it’s that kind of place. Bundle up and take a January ride out to Little Compton; enjoy the countryside, enjoy the food, and give yourself a little something different.
Churrascaria Novo Mundo
It’s not an easy name for us English speakers to say. It’s even more difficult to spell. It means “new world barbeque restaurant.” I wouldn’t know about this place if it hadn’t been featured on national television. Ted Allen, a Food Network guru, highlighted its barbequed chicken as the best thing he ever ate...
The restaurant is located in a very non-descript storefront at 98 County Street in New Bedford. It’s not the type of place that you’d drive by and think, “let’s stop there …that place looks nice.” Their phone number is 508-991-8661.
I had lunch there on a Tuesday afternoon; I delayed my lunch until 1:30 so I could let the lunch crowd subside since the place has eleven tables and now has a national reputation. It was about half full when I arrived.
Once in and seated, you could be in Portugal. The unpretentious décor is very relaxing and the feeling is of genuine friendliness and pride. Portuguese is the primary language among the staff and many of the patrons. The menu is bi-lingual, so is the waitress, Carla. She’s worked there for the 18 years that Churrascaria has been open. She could not have been nicer. So far …delightful.
I looked around. This place is clean. Small, busy restaurants are almost impossible to keep spotless, there is always activity going on everywhere, it’s tough to clean where somebody is working. This place is spotless.
The menu is simple but with good variety. I was there to try one thing …the now famous barbeque chicken that is cooked on rotating spits over coal fire. (I’ve been in hundreds and hundreds of kitchens in my career; I’ve never seen anything like this chicken cooker.) I expected to pay a premium for this celebrated chicken. There it is on the menu, “Half barbequed chicken (hot sauce) ..$6.49.” So far, so good.
I’m not a barbeque fan. I don’t hate it; I just normally prefer something else. That was before I’d had this chicken. It’s not the smoky barbeque we expect from Tex-Mex cuisines; it has a little heat, not an overpowering amount, and a wonderful light vinegar, tomato, secret spice taste that delights. The combination of the cook technique and the sauce ...it’s a gift.
I was seated alone so I was only given a half loaf of bread and 8 butter cups. The plate comes with nicely prepared rice and shoestring fries, enough to equal two of the burger place’s extra-large orders. Use the extra sauce to season the fries... sinfully delicious.
Okay, I hear you, 3 starches and a protein …this is Portuguese comfort food, not diet food.
I ordered a duplicate meal, take-out, to bring to my wife, and I had a soda; the bill was under $15. I might move to New Bedford.
Down to Earth Natural Foods
I have heard a lot of buzz about this “Down to Earth” store in New Bedford; I had to check it out. It’s not a restaurant or a deli, it’s not really a health food store; it reminded me of an old style market from the 50’s; the type that only the old-timers among you will remember.
It’s located at 751 Kempton Street and is jam packed with all sorts of interesting stuff that real people need in their real lives, not just the earthy-crunchy types; from tins of Rumford baking powder to tubs of protein supplements, this place has it.
Most Americans are now aware of and consciously shopping for more natural and more ethically packaged food and clothing items. “Shopping for” is the key term here, because when they see the price, most stray back to the synthetic mac and cheese. I’m one of them. I prefer to buy local products from soil that has been virgin for 7 years and that is at least a mile upwind of non-compliant soil and all of that stuff, until I see the price. I don’t mind paying a premium, but I don’t want to pay double.
I had a short shopping list in my back pocket: I had planned to stop at a market on my way home. I didn’t have to. I don’t think I spent anything extra. They even have dog food that was on my list. I don’t currently own a dog, but I do have dog-sitting duty five and a half days a week. I’m attached to the little bugger but he is one fussy eater. Yep …you guessed it. He ate it. I’m going back. Maybe I will move to New Bedford.
Down to Earth will be hosting a “Natural Health Choices Event,” at Rachel’s Lakeside, 950 State Road in Dartmouth, MA on Saturday, February 18th, 2012. This will be a free event. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, for further details, or call 508-996-1995.
Alice’s Last Stop
Alice no longer runs Alice’s. Brian Stone is now the owner/proprietor, and his sister Pam fills in part time (70 hours/week).
I am biased here; I like this kind of restaurant …the type that is descended from the traditional diner. These places are disappearing. When I lived in different parts of North America, there are sections where these places no longer exist. The chains have run them out.
But this one survives, at 1901 County Street / Route 138 in Dighton. www.aliceslaststop.com or 508-669-9062.
Alice’s is open at 4 am through lunch, Sunday through Wednesday and until 8 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. An excellent coffee is a must in this type of place. Alice’s serves an excellent medium to mild roast coffee. Like other diner-type restaurants that we are gifted with in the area, they have an extended menu and most of the food is good to very good.
Alice’s is most known for their homemade corned beef hash and their chourico hash. On a cold January day, there is nothing more comforting than chourico hash and eggs with Alice’s tremendous home fries. If that frightens the diet out of you, they do have more diet friendly entrees. Veggie quesadilla is one of my more health-responsible eating favorites.
The wait-staff at Alice’s wear t-shirts that read, “where the coffee is always fresh, and so are the waitresses.” It’s true, they might give you some sass, feel free to give it back, just smile when you do give it back.
You know, you can have some fun in January. It is a great time of year to hide a few extra pounds …so go on, have a good time.