The potluck in Rhode Island almost didn’t happen.
We had a venue set up weeks in advance, a farm whose work we admire, connected through a friend of ours who seems to know everything about food and drink in Rhode Island. We couldn’t wait.
But the day before the potluck, as we were traveling down the road in our blue minivan, I received an email from David. The owner of the farm had a terrible family emergency on her hands and she wouldn’t be able to host us the next day. What should we do?
Danny and I thought and thought. We could have easily just canceled it. After all, we had been on an incredible journey —— New York City, Pennsylvania, Hudson Valley, Vermont, and Maine, plus a day in Cape Cod with good friends —— and we were feeling mighty tired. Maybe, given the circumstances, we should just cancel.
However, in February of this year, we flew to Providence for the wedding of a very dear friend. We flew in a few days early to experience the place, which, in most cases in our lives, means eating. Oh, the eating! Providence has some of the best, most genuine restaurants I have ever dined in. We didn’t want to miss this place.
So I threw up a question on Twitter and Facebook, the constant companions to the three of us on the road: Anyone know a place in Providence where we could have a potluck?
Within a few moments, someone wrote to say: Sure! Come to my home.
I’m telling you, people. There’s such goodness in the world. We drove toward Rhode Island, toward a party that night.
And what a party it was.
People brought homemade baked goods, spicy soup, custards and cupcakes, and clam cakes. There was so much food we needed a table in the kitchen and a table in the dining room to hold it all.
For the first time, there was an equal amount of gluten food to gluten-free food. Good! We wanted to see it. Danny ate this meat pie, a specialty of Rhode Island, and pronounced it delightful. I took photos.
These are Rhode Island clam cakes, which someone bought from Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House. According to Danny, they are a batter like a fritter —— not light like tempura — with some clams, deep fried. He’d put more clams in them. And we might have to make them with Dungeness crab, to put a Pacific Northwest spin on them. But eating these helped him to understand how we will make this recipe right.
And these? Well, these are fried dough. As I wrote in the post about Maine, Americans love their fried dough.
These are doughboys, which seemed to be a white bread dough, deep-fried, and covered immediately in sugar. You probably don’t want to check the nutritional information on these. And you probably shouldn’t eat them more than once or twice a year.
But oh, Danny made happy sounds when he ate them.
There was plenty of gluten-free food, however. This was a lemon-raspberry cake. Delicious.
And these are homemade gluten-free apple pies.
Look at the lattice on that crust!
Rhode Islanders, you are more passionate about your local foods than any of of the other places we visited. I’m not kidding. There were fierce discussions of the correct kind of coffee syrup to make coffee milk. Coffee milk! I swear I had never heard of this before we sat around the table with a wonderful group of vociferous people, interested in capturing the best of Rhode Island. Some of them claimed the only coffee syrup to use is by Autocrat. Others stated firmly that the far more artisan brand —— the one with fewer preservatives and more Brazilian coffee —— named Dave’s Coffee is the only one to use.
I only know that I must make coffee milk a thing on Vashon. I mean, come on. We swim in our coffee here. We debate it and expound on it and sigh happily after that first sip every morning. But we’ve never seen a single glass of cold sweet milk with the taste of coffee in these parts. Time to make that situation right.
Thank you to the wonderful woman who brought these coffee milk custards to give us a proper taste of the official drink of Rhode Island.
Thank you, most of all, enormously, to Brandy and her marvelous family for letting us hang out in your home for the evening. Brandy’s husband had been gone on a business trip until 2 am the night before. Brandy had to work all day. Her aunt cleaned her house, made three dishes —— all delicious —— and bought the two foods from Iggy’s. Her uncle turned out to be a middle-school teacher, long ago, of our friend David, and they have all stayed friends ever since. David thought Brandy came forward with the offer because of their friendship. It turns out she’s a reader of this site and didn’t know our connection to him.
I’m telling you. This trip has only strengthened my belief in the goodness of humanity.
Thank you, Brandy. It was such a wonderful evening in your home.
We want to send out a huge thank you and acknowledgment of the good companies that have come forward to sponsor this American Road Trip Potluck Tour for us all.
Melissa’s Produce is providing us with great fresh produce for every potluck. We love their fruits and vegetables!
Thank you to these companies for their sponsorship of this tour.