Arts & Culture

Rustic eatery on Hope Street offers a taste of New England

Dishes not inexpensive, but locally-sourced ingredients, warm atmosphere and sizable portions worth the price

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2014

When students venture off College Hill in search of good eats, they usually turn to Federal Hill or downtown to satisfy their cravings. But they’ve been turning in the wrong direction. Cook and Brown Public House, Hope Street’s New England-inspired gastropub, serves up mouthwatering and creative cuisine with a focus on fresh, local ingredients.

Shaped like a Lincoln log cabin with a rustic, wood-hewn interior, C and B boasts a toasty yet polished atmosphere.

The sprawling bar greets diners as they enter. It is cluttered with the constituents of C and B’s illustrious cocktail menu, which offers innovative options like “Bubbly Bee” — Hayman’s Old Tom gin, lemon, vanilla, honey, lavender and bubbles — and “The Orchard House” — Rittenhouse Rye whiskey, St. George spiced pear, peach, lemon, fig, maple and salt.

Because of the dining area’s intimate size, most tables are tucked into corners, backlit by adjacent windows. A mellow and folksy playlist fills the room, less pretentious than Bon Iver but edgier than summer campfire tunes. The weathered chord progressions, occasionally embroidered with a lilting fiddle or the soft jangle of a tambourine, ease diners into a slower, sweeter state of mind.

Most appetizers hover around $10, with entrees priced in the $20 range. Though not ideal for those on a budget, the prices are reasonable considering the food’s quality and freshness. Splitting dishes can be a worthwhile compromise — after a shared entree, side dish and dessert, a bill for two came in at just over $30.

Somehow, the Narragansett Creamery ricotta gnocchi is both light and decadent, a balance afforded by the subtle Moroccan spices that combine with the juices of chopped citrus fruit. Though the citrusy punch was stronger than expected, the garlic confit curbed excess sourness and complemented the savory overtones of the dish. The sprightly crunch of radicchio, sliced to an almost translucent thinness, countered the gnocchi’s traditionally  thick consistency. Though the gnocchi’s pesto was almost impossible to discern among the heat of intermingling flavors, the excess sauce is worth scooping up with the crusts of the complementary bread.

As a side dish, the roasted root vegetables with a beer mustard vinaigrette come lightly infused with warm, aromatic spices, each thickly chopped vegetable reminiscent of warm apple cider. The rice pudding, served with a dollop of salted caramel sauce, was the most generously sized dish. The pudding was creamy and not too sweet — think marshmallow fluff without the artificial aftertaste. This carefully nuanced flavor held true for the caramel, which was rich enough that a little went a long way.

The combination of C and B’s sophisticated dishes and homespun vibes makes for a gratifying dining experience.

 

THE HERALD’S DINNER PICKS 

By Andrew Smyth, Arts & Culture Editor

 

New Rivers

In a crowded field of locavore, new American, farm-to-table eateries, Chef Beau Vestal’s College Hill bistro is the real deal. Top-shelf seasonal ingredients meet innovative preparations in a warm, welcoming dining room. Spring offerings include roasted Rhode Island fluke and stuffed rabbit. A spin down the charcuterie menu might include beef tongue pastrami, Berkshire pork shoulder, pickled grapes and various New England cheeses.

Monday-Saturday 5 p.m. to closing | 7 Steeple Street 

Flan y Ajo

There’s not much space at this beloved downtown tapas purveyor, but the flavors are huge. Owners Siobhan Maria Etxeberria and Diego Luis Perez serve the very best of small-plate Spanish cuisine in a casual atmosphere. The menu changes often, but options typically include classics like imported Manchego cheese, cured sardines on toast and jamon, Iberico along with more inventive dishes like lavender flan and roasted chestnut pintxos. Also, it’s BYOB.

Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, Tuesday-Saturday 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. | 225A Westminster Street

Abyssinia

Patrons ditch the cutlery and roll up their sleeves at Fox Point’s resident outpost of Ethiopian and Eritrean comfort food. Husband-and-wife team Yodit and Amanuel Gebrebiwot dish out sensitively seasoned samples of doro wot chicken, collard greens and red and yellow lentils atop spongy injera flatbreads. Newcomers will get the most mileage out of combination platters, with both meat and vegetarian elements. Portions are generous, so sharing is the way to go. The selection of herbal teas and Ethiopian coffees is also excellent.

Every day 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. | 333 Wickenden Street

Al Forno

It goes without saying but should still be said from time to time.

Tuesday-Friday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. | 577 South Main Street