The call came earlier this spring from a local food writer to a Providence restaurateur: “You have been written up in the Los Angeles Times!” was the excited message.
The business owner said, “What did we do to get their attention?” The answer was, just doing what comes naturally every day, serving unique, flavorful food and giving diners a memorable experience.
The local restaurant was CAV in the Knowledge District, which is becoming somewhat of a Restaurant Row in its own right. CAV has been doing its eclectic thing there for nearly two decades. It is one of the city’s must-eat restaurants for graduation celebrations and proprietor Sylvia Moubayed often talks about taking reservations for commencement-weekend dinners a year or more in advance.
I have broadcast from Moubayed’s landmark eatery on numerous occasions over the years, most often lately during weekend brunch. On the brunch menu is a special egg dish that attracted the attention of the West Coast. Added to fluffy, scrambled eggs are chunks of lobster and a Thai chili cream sauce that achieves the harmony between sweetness and heat as only Thai cooking can.
The eggs and lobster are served atop toasted brioche that has a sweetness of its own. Poached lobster-claw meat tops the dish. The reporter asked Moubayed about the Asian flavor profile, most likely thinking there was a chef in the kitchen who hailed from there, or a similar explanation.
But it turned out to be much more. Moubayed has a genuine affinity for Thailand. “Every year for the past 10 years, I [travel] to a remote area of Thailand in Chiangsaen – where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet – to live simply, like the people, restore our spirit and come back to CAV renewed,” she told the Times. “Thus, I wanted to have some Thai dishes on our CAV menu, to bring back a little of the spirit of Thailand.”
When chef, author and television personality Ted Allen came to the state on his book tour, he had hopes that he could squeeze in a visit to another of our iconic restaurants. Allen, who won a James Beard award this year and is known for his hosting duties of the Food Network’s “Chopped” series, signed his latest cookbook and posed for pictures with fans and foodies who braved a rainy, spring day to see him at Dave’s Marketplace.
He even found time to do a radio interview with me as I broadcast from the supermarket. After a couple of hours of signing and chatting, he wondered if it were possible to have dinner at Al Forno. He wanted to go and have the experience because proprietors George Germon and Johanne Killeen’s cookbook, “Cucina Simpatica,” was one of the first books he says inspired him in a life of cooking. As luck would have it, Germon and Killeen were in the restaurant that night. As Allen said in a Facebook post, “I finally got to eat at Al Forno!”