Sunday we drove to Rhode Island just for the sake of doing so, which really reinforced my desire to live near the ocean - which is tricky for someone who wants to live in the Southwest. Stopped at a surly fish market and came home with shad roe and smoked mussels - I'd asked for smoked scallops, he gave me smoked mussels, they were the same price so I didn't bitch. With the attitude he was giving off (to a disheveled tourist right before closing on a Sunday, to be fair), I couldn't tell if he was fucking with me, tired out, or checking to see if I knew the difference between mussels and scallops.
Anyway - our lunch was big enough that we didn't end up getting dinner, so none of the obvious Rhode Island staples for us - NY System hot dogs, clam cakes, stuffies. Instead, we went another way: we had Portuguese food at Madeira. Rhode Island is not only the only predominantly Catholic state due to its large Portuguese, Brazilian, and Italian populations, it has the largest Portuguese population in the country. Even the little bit we saw of East Providence showed a lot of signs of this - a small, loud Brazilian market filled not only with sodas and Brazilian breads, but medicinal herbs without any English on the packaging, and Brazilian brands of soaps and household cleaners; a Portuguese-American social club; a lot of customers at Madeira speaking what I assume was Portuguese.
And man, was the food good. Crispy tender fried calamari in a slightly spicy batter with a Buffalo-like hot sauce for dipping. Littleneck clams in a tomato sauce with chunks of chorizo, sliced pepper and onion, and I'm pretty sure paprika and saffron - my favorite dish of the meal. More clams, with tenderly braised chunks of pork and roasted potato, in a thin sauce that might have had tomato in it, or might have just had broth and paprika. Bacalhau - codfish - boiled and served with potato, chickpeas, and hard-boiled eggs. Perfectly seasoned beef, tender even when medium-well, on a shish-kabob they hung from a cast-iron hanger above a serving plate. And several different ports that port fans Kathy and Mark picked out - I know very little about port, cocktail obsession having diverted me from my older habit of ordering port or Armagnac with a meal, but they picked out good ones.