Five Things: Local 121, Providence
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A quick glance at the drink list and it is clear that Local 121 takes great care in crafting an admirable cocktail list. In the spirit(s) of sampling, I opted for something old and something new. I was so glad that my go-to classic, the Manhattan, was in the good hands of bartender Jesse Hedberg. He blends together Woodford Reserve, Dolin Rouge, spiced cherry bitters and adds a house brandied cherry (leave those bright red abominations for children’s ice cream parties). This was a great Manhattan, the cherry notes really shone through. Next up was The Dreyfus ,(paying homage to the former hotel that occupied the space) a real cold weather cocktail. Maker’s Mark was blended with Domaine De Canton, plum bitters, fresh lemon, and soda. Warming and refreshing at the same time, this slightly bitter blend was perfect for the season.
Two. Meat Course.
Food citizens of Providence can get a bit spoiled with all of the excellent Charcuterie in town. Local 121 can certainly keep up with all the best in class in this category. The hefty platter was packed with a large assortment of smoked, cured, and pickled bites. Picking favorites from such a carefully curated anthology is a challenge but there were a few big standouts. The slab of smoked bacon from Rutland was flawless, crisp and fatty and flavorful. It instantly elevated the platter. The braised beef croquette was so juicy and delicious that I couldn’t help but want it as an entrée. Of course, the accoutrements really added to this plate as well. The slightly spicy pickled vegetables tasted incredibly fresh and the subtle mustard flavor was much appreciated.
Three. Winter Salad.
I really enjoyed the small plate winter salad. Butternut squash, prepared a few ways (roasted, pureed, and pickled) joined toasted wheatberries, caramelized shallots, pistachios, grilled native corn and arugula. Everything about this dish was worth remembering, the flavors were great, with each bite evolving and showing off for the other ingredients. The varying textures of squash, wheatberry, and nuts really make this a memorable course.
Four. Flavorful Fish.
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical of the Thai green curry. It wasn’t something I would think when someone says Local 121. Well now I have been craving this dish since I had it. Braised native Pollock, littlenecks, and potatoes were all simmered into an excellent, authentic Thai green curry. There was a muted heat that hung around the background of this wonderfully flavorful dish.
Five. Seasonal Bridge.
Many of the flavors I tried at Local 121 were clearly an attempt to bridge the autumn/winter divide and they all succeeded. The sharpest example came by way of dessert, an Indian corn pudding. The warm, nutty corn pudding was accented with an heirloom pumpkin espuma and mint meringues crumble. While some might steer clear of what sounds like a slightly intimidating dessert I would urge anyone with taste buds to jump right in and enjoy this great combination of fall and winter flavors.
Hit “Save”: Local 121. 121 Washington Street, Providence. http://local121.com/home
Would I go back? Absolutely, the cocktails, the food, and the service all add up to one of the best dining experiences in Downcity.
Related Slideshow: Zagat’s 6 Best Burgers in New England
In honor of Burger Week 2013, Zagat has named the region's best of the best, by state.
Sliders at Harry's Bar and Burger in Providence
If you’re from Rhode Island, according to Zagat, it’s likely you’ve heard of Harry’s in Providence, "a place that lives up to the hype." Zagat recommends Harry’s M.O.A.B., which features freshly ground Hereford beef, cheese, bacon, mushrooms and fried onion strings with special sauce.
Burger at Craigie on Main in Cambridge
One of the finest restaurants in Cambridge gets the burger prize from Zagat. Craigie on Main's chef-owner Tony Maws "turned to his Massachusetts roots for inspiration," according to Zagat. "The relatively simple grass-fed beef patties are sandwiched between a homemade bun topped with sesame seeds. But in staying true to the restaurant’s elegant aesthetic, he dresses the burger with mace ketchup in lieu of Heinz." Only in Cambridge.
The Original Burger at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven
Zagat begins its praise of the legendary burger join in New Haven with a little history lesson: "Rumor has it this tiny red-brick building in New Haven, Connecticut, invented the 'hamburger sandwich' in 1900, when a customer walked into the restaurant needing a quick sandwich to go." When restaurant owner, Louis Lassen, assembled ground steak trimmings between two pieces of toasted bread, a classic was born. The five-meat blend is cooked to order on grills that date back to 1898, says Zagat, and cheese, tomato and onion are the only add-ons allowed - the restaurant does not offer condiments.
The Mac Daddy Kobe Burger at Hanover Street Chophouse in Manchester
Another fine-dining restaurant makes the Zagat list, care of its more relaxed lunchtime menu. "The 'Mac Daddy' Kobe burger, named by a sous chef, is good enough to get burger lovers from neighboring states to make a road trip," according to Zagat. The secret: two thin patties are layered with shaved lettuce, tomato, pickles, American cheese and housemade Thousand Island dressing and stuffed between a homemade potato bun.
The Turducky Burger at Worthy Burger in South Royalton
Vermont combined culinary flare with North Country hunting in a crazy combination put at #1 by Zagat. "Yes, this is the burger world’s answer to a Thanksgiving turducken," according to the editors, "but you can get it all year-round at Worthy Burger, a beer and burger bar housed in a barnlike space in Vermont’s Upper Valley area." The editors call the patty is "top-notch, crafted on the premises from pasture-raised turkey and rich duck confit. Get it with aged cheddar cheese and one of the bar’s excellent New England beers from the likes of Smuttynose and Freighthouse Brewing Companies."
Surf & Turf Burger at East Ender in Portland
"When in Maine," advises Zagat, "eat all the lobster you can pry open." That's true, so what to do when burgers are the goal? The answer: a burger with lobster... what else? "This neighborhood gem prides itself on supporting local fisherman and farmers, and co-owners Mitch Gerow and Meg Schroeter have clearly embraced their nautical side with this creation," according to Zagat. "It’s as decadent as it sounds - a beef burger topped with Brie, chive mayo and a hearty serving of lobster meat atop a toasted brioche bun."
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