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I sampled just about everything at a recent Rhode Island food fest. Here’s what stood out.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s annual Local Food Festival paired area farms with some of the top chefs to create delicious creations

Donna Jo Corse of Newport Vineyards plating fried focaccia dishes at Castle Hill Inn for the annual Local Food Fest event by Farm Fresh R.I.Alexa Gagosz

This story first appeared in Globe Rhode Island’s Food & Dining newsletter, a free weekly email about Rhode Island’s restaurant industry that also contains information about local events, Q&As with chefs, dining guides, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.

Growing up in a smaller town, in a community that didn’t trust outsiders or big box stores, it’s still engrained in me to shop local — from the farmers to the restaurants where farm-fresh food is displayed on plates like a pieces of art.

Since moving to Providence, I’ve told people there are plenty of tasty reasons to allow your appetite to guide you throughout Rhode Island. And frankly, it’s kind of how I ended up here, writing a weekly food and dining newsletter.

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Shellfish from New Rivers, a Providence restaurant, at Castle Hill Inn for the annual Local Food Fest event by Farm Fresh R.I. Alexa Gagosz

Earlier this week, I was invited by the folks at Farm Fresh R.I. to attend their annual Local Food Festival at Castle Hill Inn in Newport. It’s the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year, where you can meet local food stars, watch live dish plating, and taste (and taste some more) through a collection of goods from local farms and food businesses were paired with chefs from some of the top restaurants in the state.

So I brought my appetite and sampled just about everything that was on display under that big tent at the Inn and across the lawn that overlooking the Newport Bridge.

Here’s what stood out to me the most.

Pulled pork with applesauce barbecue glaze on a garlic toasted crostini from Harvest Kitchen.Alexa Gagosz

Pulled pork with applesauce barbecue glaze on a garlic toasted crostini from Harvest Kitchen.

I need to get myself a jar of that apple sauce that chef Sean Kontos whipped up. This was something I was hesitant about trying. I mean, how good could a simple apple-based sauce be? Simple in terms of ingredients, yes. Simple on the tastebuds it is not. Harvest Kitchen created the plate and made the applesauce but the pork came from Meatworks in Westport, Mass.

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Brazilian feijoada, which was made with mushrooms, diced veggies, jasmine rice, farofa, collard greens, and beans from Gnarly Food Truck.Alexa Gagosz

Brazilian feijoada from Gnarly Food Truck.

Esther and Joel Bishop, the husband-and-wife duo behind Gnarly Food Truck (and Farm) in Tiverton, say they are “accidental farmers.” On their 16-acre farm, they raise animals that are fed project verified non-GMO grain, and they are considering automation to help with the labor shortage. They were serving goat sliders, chicken moqueca, and Brazilian feijoada, which was made with mushrooms, diced veggies, jasmine rice, farofa, collard greens, and beans.

Fried focaccia with stracciatella, bacon, and peaches from by Newport Vineyards.Alexa Gagosz

Fried focaccia from Newport Vineyards.

While Newport Vineyards was serving samples of their dry rosé, sparking chardonnay, and other wines, they also had Donna Jo Corse plating dozens of fried focaccia dishes with stracciatella from Narragansett Creamery, bacon, and peaches from Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton.

A pork belly sandwich with local greens and tomatoes from Easy Entertaining.Alexa Gagosz

Pork Belly sandwiches from Easy Entertaining.

I didn’t think I particularly enjoyed pork until I went to this event. Easy Entertaining, which is a full-service catering collaborative and venue in Providence, crafted sourdough BLTs featuring tomatoes from Little River Farm, which is a Warren-based no-till farm that uses regenerative farming techniques and high tunnels to grow food year-round. The sandwich was piled with local micro greens, smoked pork, and candied jalapeño aioli on a house-made sourdough baguette.

A charred squash hummus with thin and crunchy zucchini chips, purslane zhoug, and sumac-tomato gastrique from the chefs at Troop.alexa gagosz

Charred squash hummus from Troop.

Troop excels at recreating dishes that were inspired by street food traditions around the globe. Using organic herbs from Allen Farms in Westport, Mass. they created a charred squash hummus with thin and crunchy zucchini chips, purslane zhoug, and sumac-tomato gastrique.

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Blueberry dumplings with a basil sauce from Mei Mei, a Boston-based company founded by Chef Irene Shiang Li.Alexa Gagosz

Blueberry dumplings from Mei Mei.

Mei Mei Dumplings are based in Boston and their founder Chef Irene Shiang Li already won a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award this past year. During the pandemic they closed their restaurant, hosted dumpling-making classes, and found other ways to sell their wares. Their blueberry dumpling with a basil sauce was the perfect dessert to end the night.

If you have suggestions or need a recommendation, shoot me an email at Alexa.Gagosz@globe.com.

Visit Food & Dining in Rhode Island for more. Because everyone’s gotta eat!


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.