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The old Lorraine Mills complex in Pawtucket has an interesting juxtaposition: At the front and center of the massive brick structures is Miss Lorraine Diner, one of a few “semi-streamliner” diners built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company. Coffee is served in sturdy white mugs and the classic breakfast and lunch comforts are piled high for each order.
But behind the diner and inside those old mills, which can date back to the mid-1800s, are dozens of food entrepreneurs rethinking how the dining scene is supposed to nourish us. They come from various backgrounds: From a Los Angeles-based chef, to the owner of a lean manufacturing business bottling Asian foods, to a retired school teacher turned pastry chef. Many of them are collaborating, and creating Rhode Island’s food future.
I spent an afternoon talking (and tasting) my way through the mills ahead of the Lorraine Mills Fest on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10. Here’s what I found.
1. Cakes by Eboni is a business to watch.
Eboni Silva said people have doubted her since she was a high schooler in Cranston. She became pregnant at 17 and was told she’d never be able to graduate high school let alone attend college. That lit a fire underneath her. She graduated from Johnson & Wales University cum laude in 2012. Many of the kitchens she applied to were still male-dominated, and she found herself being turned down for pastry chef positions she was qualified for. After working in pastry for various bakeries and restaurants, she broke off on her own and founded Cakes by Eboni in 2019. Everything is made from scratch and custom orders range from five-tiered wedding cakes with fresh flowers to sweets with celebrity faces like LL Cool J or The Notorious B.I.G. She has her own space in the mills, which she’s in the process of designing. During the festival, she’ll be serving cookies (think: massive oreo red velvet or chocolate chip cookies cookies) and breakfast breads.
2. White Dog Distilling is about to release more flavored moonshine.
Husband-and-wife duo Carlo and Alecia Catucci believe distillation is a marriage of art and science. He has a background in physics and she comes from culinary product development, founding White Dog Distilling in Pawtucket in 2016. They specialize in whiskey, which is made up of 85 percent corn and 15 percent malted barley; “puppy bourbon,” which is aged in 5 gallon barrels for five months; and limoncello, a light-tasting spirit that was inspired by Carlo Catucci’s Aunt Gabriella from Rome. But soon, they tell me, the distillery will be launching a new line of flavored moonshines (one tastes like Reese’s peanut butter cups, the other is reminiscent of apple pie) with a major professional athlete. They wouldn’t give any names away, but stay tuned for a collaboration announcement sometime this fall.
3. Chi Kitchen sells their kimchi juice and it’s delicious.
If you haven’t seen Chi Kitchen’s massive kimchi jars at the market, on the menus in restaurants, or on social media then you are missing out. I had a whole tasting with owners Minnie Luong and Tim Greenwald, who walked me through their traditional-style fermented kimchi. Luong, who previously worked as a chef in Los Angeles, said their products are full of probiotics and are free of preservatives. One thing I learned: Chi sells the excess kimchi juice to various bars and restaurants. I took a little shot of it with Luong in their production room, and found it fresh, bright, and with the slightest kick of heat at the back while going down. Luong said some bartenders will use the juice in their bloody marys or in shooters that are paired with ISCO’s Ostreida, which is the first vodka distilled with oysters.
4. The rugelach from Just Like Nana’s is a traditional recipe that uses healthier ingredients.
Karen Griffin had all sorts of jobs over the years, from being a school teacher to cleaning homes on Block Island for a few summers. But over the years, her greatest joy came from baking. Growing up, Griffin learned how to cook out of necessity when her grandmother became ill with Parkinson’s disease and her mother ran her business. Today, her business Just Like Nana’s is using her grandmother’s recipes — with healthier ingredients like cold pressed coconut oil — to create pastries. Rugelach is an iconic Jewish pastry that Griffin prepares in four flavors: raspberry walnut, apricot walnut, cinnamon, and chocolate. She has a few part-time employees, but Griffin also works with student-interns from the Met Technical High School to bring fresh business ideas to the company.
5. Masa Taqueria is serving true al pastor del trompo out of their new food truck.
Many in Providence are already familiar with Masa Taqueria’s mouth-watering birria, sold from the kitchen of Rock & Rye on Atwells Avenue. But chef Jonathon Kirk, who started the pop-up in his own apartment, is about to hit the road in a new food truck that’s serving true al pastor del trompo — thin slices of pork grilled using a rotating, vertical spit. It originated from Puebla, a region of Central Mexico. Kirk will be updating the food truck’s Instagram account once the truck pulls off from the mill after Labor Day weekend.
If you have suggestions or need a recommendation, shoot me an email at Alexa.Gagosz@globe.com.
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