Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Chain Gang

Last night, a friend and I had a beautiful dinner at Farmstead in Providence. As always, the food and the service at Farmstead were perfection.  We shared a selection of 3 artisan cheeses, Prince Edward Island muscles in rich broth and a to-die-for burger with gorgonzola cheese and fat polenta fries. Our server was warm and friendly and allowed us to draw her into ourcackly conversation with good humor. As I ate, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we are to have such a wealth of amazing food and restaurants in our small city. From food trucksto fine dining, we Providonians, in particular and Rhode Islanders, in general, are fortunate enough to have access to amélange of mind-blowing culinary experiences… if we choose to.

That’s where my itty, bitty, tiny rant for the day comes in. There seems to be a strong contingent of folks who are happy to avoid the amazing, independently owned establishments and instead veer toward the safe, the bland… the chain. I know Rhode Islanders who hate to come “into the city.” There are one way streets! They might have to parallel park! The horror!

But it’s not even just those who don’t want to come to Providence, because I know there are tons of great restaurants in the other 38 cities and towns. I know Rhode Islanders who fear trying something other than their usual dish because they might not like it. Or fear a particular ethnic cuisine because it’s unfamiliar to them. Or fear trying that new place because “it looks sketchy.” Or fear the food truck because where will they sit?

And it’s not just Rhode Islanders. On a recent visit to my parents’ place in the South, they took me to a VPN certified, Neapolitan-style pizza place. It was incredible. Thin, crispy crust, hand-made mozzarella, delicate sauce, fresh basil. But the place was struggling because the neighborhood is used to Domino’s. I think my parents are eating copious amounts of Neapolitan pizza, single-handedly working to keep this place in business. Then there was a former co-worker of my husband, who told me that when he travels, he only eats in chains “because he knows they’ll be clean.” Sad… and also false.

I know I sound harsh here. I get it - for some people, food just isn’t that important and there’s no real reason for them to venture outside of Chili’s or Applebee’s or… Shenanigans? Is that one or am I thinking of a fictional movie restaurant?  I just wish that some of those “meat and potatoes” folks would every once and a while step outside of their comfort zone. Just for a bite or two. When I was growing up, my parents made me try everything. And while their tastes were not necessarily exotic, it showed me that there was a wide world out there and you can only benefit from venturing a nibble. Even if you hate it, you can at least check it off the list. (I'm proud to note here, that in my 35 years, I've found only one food I don't like - okra - shudder.) 

You may find me preachy. You may roll your eyes all the way to the back of your head. But do yourself a favor - leave the chain gang behind.

I hope to see you out there.

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