If you read We Blog the World often enough, you’ll know that we’re huge fans of sustainable and organic dining establishments and applaud local, Farm-to-Table execution. Let’s be honest – it’s not easy always sourcing from local purveyors, especially in locations when the climate isn’t ideal. Meet Local 121, one of Providence Rhode Island’s most elegant and local restaurants.
The spot is just perfect. After all, you can’t go wrong with ambiance when you’re housed in the gorgeously restored former Dreyfus Hotel. Executive Chef Tyler Demora works with local fishermen and farms to create a constantly-evolving menu of American seasonal cuisine, all complemented by a diverse wine list and seasonally-crafted cocktails.
The former Dreyfus Hotel, which was built on Washington Street in the 1890s sets the scene for Local 121, which was painstakingly restored to its original beauty in 2007. Imagine cozy banquettes and oversized leather chairs that highlight Art Deco details while remaining elegant in the process. The Tap Room features floor-to-ceiling original mahogany paneling and stained glass windows that provide a sophisticated backdrop to a 12-seat bar and table seating. Downstairs, the Speakeasy – named after its purpose in the 1920s – is an intimate setting for private parties and events.
Although I investigated the Local 121 menu prior to our most recent family adventure to Providence and was excited by so many dishes, I knew I’d have a hard time choosing, I was a tad nervous about bringing two kids along whose palette had not yet been groomed for finer dining. The great news is that the chef also had small children and knew just the thing — linguini with melted butter. While not on the traditional menu, it was so delicious that Anthony and I caught ourselves sneaking more than one taste of Jake’s pasta dish. Who said adults have all the fun?
At Local 121, Chef Demora practices his penchant for perfect technique and snout-to-tail butchery on ingredients that he personally chooses from local farms. The result is a menu that changes daily depending on the season and availability of ingredients at any given time. We were pleasantly surprised by a cold potato soup teaser with pomegranate as soon as we sat down. (photographed above).
The kids of course loved the fact that while we may have been in foodie heaven over everything else on the menu, they took pride in devouring the Chips and Dip.
We decided to taste a couple of their spring cocktails before the evening began since their list was so exciting. How about a New Cumber served with crop cuke vodka, skinos mastic, lime, simple syrup and celery shrub bitters or a simple Bellini, which is champagne, white peach puree and giffard peche. Or, how about something light and crisp like the Hibiscus Sangria, which is a rose wine mixed with hibiscus tea (yum!), fruit, ginger ale and lemon?
We opted for the Gypsy Rose Lee, a champagne, pamplemousse, grapefruit juice and lime cocktail with peychaud bitters and the Grapefruit Tarragon, which is infused vodka, elderflower liqueur and grapefruit juice. Oh so fresh, oh so good!!
3 highlights worth pointing out on the appetizer menu are the Bomster Scallops, served with coffee roasted kabocha squash, vadouvan curry, pickled raisins and winter greens (scroll down to be enticed), the Crunchy Point Judith Calamari with papaya, frisee, cashews, and smoked chili gastrique and of course, one of my favorites, but uniquely prepared – Foie Gras, from Hudson Valley. He roasts it with French green lentils and a sauce bordelaise. Enuf said — it was….to die-for!!
We had a sampling of wines because we were toying with the menu so much — from foie gras, scallops and lobster to rabbit and pasta. They had a delicious Aime Roquesante Provencal Rose, Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay and a La Joya Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, followed by some of their deeper reds, starting with the lightest of the lot – the Nicolas Potel Pinot Noir. Below, the scallops preparation will have you at hello.
Tyler felt that we “must” try the Risotto Carbonara, although it wasn’t originally on our list. I can see why he strongly encouraged us to taste – this exquisite risotto number shown below is made with shucks Maine lobster, cured egg, bacon, chives and uni cream. Have you died and gone to foodie heaven yet? If lobster isn’t your thing, then how about a Monkfish with lentils, maitake mushrooms, tomato confit, a fried slow egg and fennel nage?
After the lobster, we moved our wine pairing options to the J. Edwards Stone Table Red (this blend was surprisingly good), the Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the boldest one on the list, the Hendry Ranch Zinfandel.
While everything was freshly prepared and so beautifully presented, my favorite was hands down, the Chianti Braised Fava Farm Rabbit. There were conversations I simply missed because I was so lost in his preparation of this decadent rabbit dish, which he prepared with oat pappardelle, bitter chocolate (yes really), black prunes and a thyme jus.
Other entrees on the menu worth mentioning include their Giannone Farm Statler Chicken with celery root, apple-rosemary puree (Yum!!), timeless farro, and brown butter butternut sauce and a non-meat option, the Timeless Beluga Lentils, made with roasted carrots, chimichurri, frisee, and narragansett creamery yogurt. Remember that everything is seasonal so the menu options may change depending on what time of year you’re there.
Desserts are equally delicious and fresh — below, your mouth will start to water at the sight of some of their after dinner plates, from Lemon Mousse and Passion Fruit Gateau, to a Dark Chocolate Cremeux, a caramel mousse, hazelnut crumble with a sherry reduction and caramel ice cream.
The cherry on the cake so to speak however was the ice cream triage: chocolate peanut butter, chocolate chip cookie dough, graham cracker ice cream, chocolate cookie crumble and peanut butter caramel. It was a slightly different trio when we were there and included a Salted Caramel ice cream, which was so delicious that we polished the plate off in a couple of minutes.
The inside of the restaurant at night…
I love the fact that Tyler, together with owners Joshua and Nancy Miller, are committed to responsible cooking and build relationships with local farmers and suppliers, paying attention to how the food is harvested, respecting both land and sea. Bravo!!
A huge call out to Emily, our server, who is a true stand out! In my earlier life, I managed restaurants, waited tables, cooked…you name it, and trained servers across several countries. Even at a five star resort or restaurant, you don’t always find someone who cares so deeply that they not only give you their best every time they visit your table, but they go above and beyond, anticipating your every need before you have a chance to think about it — this my friends, is what makes Emily such a stand-out, a precious rarity among rarities.
Nancy Miller’s authentic warmth and hospitality didn’t go unnoticed either nor did the special touches that Tyler brought to the dinner experience that evening. Knowing our interest in farm-to-table and sustainable cooking and cultural interests, Nancy introduced us to Liz Carlisle, who was dining at the table next to ours, and is the author of Lentil Underground. The introduction was yet another great example of their above and beyond service and attention to detail.
We learned a bit about Liz’s latest project and book, which is an eye-opening and richly reported narrative about the future of American agriculture and natural food. A protege of Michael Pollan, her story goes deep into the “why and how” organic lentils can make a big difference in helping us achieve resilience in an increasingly uncertain world. More at www.lentilunderground.com.
Two thumbs up!! A truly memorable foodie experience we’d gladly repeat and the fact that it was such a success with children in tow is a genuine testament of how professionally savvy their culinary and restaurant management team is at Local 121’s gem of a location along Providence’s Washington Street.
Be sure to also read my Ultimate Foodie Guide to Providence which includes Top Restaurant Picks — Local 121 was most definitely a highlight!!
121 Washington Street
Providence, RI 02903
Note: I was hosted by the restaurant but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.