Block Island Resturant Week

Sunday’s Bite of Block Island kicked off Block Island Resturant Week, which runs from June 12-17th.

 

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This chicken was clucking this morning at The Spring House.

 

Throughout the week many restaurants on the island will be offering specially priced pre-fixed menus.

The week allows diners to try multiple courses at the Island’s dining establishments. Rebecca’s Takeout, Persephone’s and Bethany’s Airport Dinner are even offering special breakfast menus for the week. Other restaurants will offer lunch and dinner. Don’t miss your opportunity to try an island spot you’ve been meaning to visit.

It is a week to let your stomach do the dictating and your head to put aside things like fullness and guilt. Be sure to check out the chamber website for accessing a list of participating restaurants and menus.

Stay hungry. What restaurant have you wanted to try on Block Island? What is the best dish you’ve ever had on the island?

 

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Chopping Block: Clam Chowda’

Seafood diet? No, I prefer the “see food and eat it” diet. Block Island is home to many great seafood dishes. One to highlight on a chilly rainy May day: chowder.

There are different types of chowder, and I am going to break it down clearly because you don’t want to order one type and expect another. That would be a tragedy. So to be clear:

New England Clam Chowder051119065-01-chowders-on-map_xlg.jpgThis is a cream based chowder, definitely the heaviest of the bunch. It is thick and creamy and likely served with oyster crackers. Fun fact: In 1939, Maine legislature introduced a bill hoping to make tomatoes in chowder illegal.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder– This chowder brings all the ingredients of New England but substitutes the cream base with a clear broth.

Manhattan Clam Chowder– This chowder has a tomato-based broth that actually was first cooked up in Rhode Island. GASP.

Long Island Clam Chowder– Less well know, this variant of chowder takes the cream-base New England chowder, but it adds chunks of tomatoes to the stew. See can’t we all just get along?

So where does that leave Block Island, an island located in Rhode Island, in New England, but just a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Long Island?

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Students serve up chowder at BIMI’s CHOWDA’ Fest (Jack Lynch).

Luckily every year on Memorial day week Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI) hosts CHOWDA’ FEST. I had the pleasure of attending this event. There were chowders from 12 local restaurants and I was able to try them all. I was sent on assignment from the paper so below is an honest unbiased journalist take.

So if you are looking for some solid stew when you are on the island the top three prizewinners are a surefire best bet. The winning chowders were:

First Place: Winfield’s-This cream-based chowder included muscles, leeks, jalapeño peppers and an extra smokiness from the added bacon. Be warned this is not a regularly appearing dish on the Winfield’s menu, but its top place speaks to the quality of Winfield’s cooking. If you want to try it, you better ask nicely (with a hundred).

Second Place: The National-This was also a cream-based chowder that was a crowd favorite for its traditional flavor. Creamy, nothing unexpected, but rich. Plus this one is one the menu.

Third Place: The Oar– Another cream-based top finisher. What could be better than a bowl of chowder with a heck of a view? I didn’t try this one but it surely was a crowd favorite.

DSC_4124Honorable Mention: In talking with others at the Chowda’ Fest, Bethany’s Airport Diner was mentioned multiple times. Plus when I was at the airport making a hotel pick, I loved the feeling of fabulousness that is small plane travel. Plus the prices at Bethany’s are reasonable.

On Block Island restaurants typically flirt with both New England and Rhode Island chowders, but the democratic blind vote of the Chowda Fest seems to speak for the masses (or at least show some statistically significance right?): Block Island prefers New England Clam Chowder.

So grab your spoon. I’ll bring the oyster crackers.

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Luckily, I had some help taste testing

What type of chowder do you prefer? Is there a favorite place that you like to get chowder from on Block Island? How much do you want some chowder right now?

Visit Block Island

Summer is just around the corner. That means your trip to Block Island must be coming up too. If you don’t have your trip planned yet, don’t worry. I’m here to help.

I will now be providing travel planning here on Unlocked Block.This will always be accessible through the Visit Block Island page.

Fill out the form below with some basic information about your trip, date, travel companions and budget. With this information and my insidIMG_6173er knowledge, I will put together a preliminary plan for your trip including available hotel rooms for your desired dates, activities for your visit and even restaurant recommendations. I will let you know of any special events going on during your visit as well.

After your review of the plan, I can book any of the reservations for you if desired.

I want all to experience what Block Island has to offer. If you take any of my plan for you and have a great time then I have fulfilled my goal.

Say hello to Block Island’s newest travel agent, Unlocked Block.

Click here to submit an inquiry.

 

Adventures Etc: Like Mother Like Daughter

I have to admit that as I have gotten used to the island, I sometimes find myself not completely seizing the moments I have here. Luckily this weekend a visit from my dearest mother reminded me of the need for embracing every one of my island hours.

My mother’s visit was a short weekend, arriving late Friday and departing mid-day Sunday. This meant that we had to hit the ground running. We hiked, biked, kayaked and ate our way through as much island as possible. Here are the highlights.Take notes for how to squeeze in a whole lot of Block in a very short amount of time.

As soon as she arrived I knew we would have a great time, I started a count of how many things we went to do the same of, some included; wearing matching pants, carrying matching purses, ordering massive scoops of ice cream, bringing along a light jacket, waking up at the crack of dawn, and it doesn’t end even there . Hey, what can I say she raised me!

Dinner at the Beach Head was a great way to sink Karen into the island vibes with great seafood, views of the beach and sunset and it’s just a hop away from town. The highlight of the night was our ice cream cones scooped by my buddy Borris at Aldo’s. Flavors to try; Pralines and Cream and Coconut Chip. A beautiful sunset walk on the beach in-between course sweeten the pot.

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Saturday was planned to included as much activity as possible. To fuel our fun, we started with our Hotel Manisesses’ Champagne Breakfast at the 1661 House. I consider myself a hotel breakfast connoisseur and this place impressed. Starting with drinks, take your pick from hot coffees and teas, juices and milk oh and BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS. It’s self-serve so mix it up how ever you like, throw in a splash of cranberry if you’re feeling frisky. On to the buffet, place your order for a custom omelette of your choice, and continue to fill your plate with whatever else you fancy, most impressive to me was the giant cod choice. I took full advantage of the non-standard breakfast fare.

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Located directly across from the 1661 is the Abram’s Animal Farm. It is open daily, from dawn til dusk with free admission. The farm is home to a number of exotic animals kangaroos, giant turtles, black swans, lemurs and more. But I was there to cross off a major to-do. Pet the Yak. Check on that one.

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His name is Justice and he enjoys being served.

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We also met the one-eyed Zedonk. Yup, that’s a thing. Half Zebra, half donkey, and completely adorable.

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A short bike ride up to Clayhead, brought us to the edge. Don’t worry, we came back, but sadly empty handed. The orbs were hiding extra well on this hike, but Clayhead views make cloudy days mystical.

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If all this outdoor fun has your stomach growling, make like we did and stop at Old Post Bagel Shop. This place is my hangout many mornings, but this was my first lunch visit. And Old Post supplies! Try the #1, grilled eggplant, goat cheese, roasted red pepper, basil and balsamic drizzle to make you drool.

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Shark week was last week, but The Block Island Giant Shark Tournament plays by it’s own rules. With a grand prize of $5,000, the real fisherman were in town. We caught a glimpse of a competitive Blue Shark being weighed. In my opinion the following chopping up of the shark that occurs was happening way too close to the tournament t-shirt sale.

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Rounding out the Block Island Experience was a bike ride to Mohegan Bluff, where we joined the wave of rock stackers. #artsy

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The lesson I learned over the weekend was that, every day I have the opportunity to go do something that pretty soon, will not be an option. The benefits of the island life are numerous and a sometimes it takes an outsiders view to remind us of our own. So as comfortable as that beach chair is, try not to get too comfortable. The island’s adventure are endless.

Type A Itinerary: Love like This

Have I found my Block Island soul mate? My summer love? Ha, no. But my cousin Shannon and her husband Joe visited the Island this weekend and reminded me of how great of a place the island is for couples. Here is Shannon with a break down of a romantic anniversary weekend done island style.

 

Having grown-up in Rhode Island and visted the island many times before, Block Island was a pretty getaway following our Jamestown Wedding last summer. To celebrate a job well done (one year of happy marriage) Joe and I returned to our island escape.

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9 am- The Love Boat

We caught the traditional ferry out of Point Judith. We were last on ferry with our moped. But we felt like total VIPs because we had the privilege of having to say with the bike for the ride, but we were happy to; upstairs the ferry riders were packed in like sardines and struggling to even come up for air. Like the frugal fannies we are, we came prepared with our own drinks and snacks. #yoursavingsaresexy

10:30am- Stairway to Heaven

With our own moped and island knowledge, we knew exactly were we wanted to head once we docked. The moped makes a few miles drive seem like we are somewhere and Europe and I just met Joe at a Beret and Baguette Sale. The Mohegan Bluffs provide the setting for love and other drugs of hormones to get the blood pumping. I mean descending cliffs with the assistance of a well tanned muscular man makes the blood start pumping. On top of that when we summited the stairs on our return, we have accomplished something together, and the bond is strengthened, gush, gush, gush, I know.

12pm- We are The Champions

Joe and I know this island. We know which spots we love, which spots have lines and which spots we refuse to leave the island without hitting. We both have a sense of GO, so hitting all of them is doable. Mudslides at Champlain’s Marina was the first bar we hit, followed by a short wading walk to The Oar. We met up with another couple shortly, but we stuck to our guns and bulleted to our next to-do. A little foresight in our planning made hitting all of our favorites a breeze.

3pm- Come Sail Away

The cool thing about Block Island as a getaway is that it is not an extremely exotic distant place. So we know people here, like my cool cousin Jenna who lives on the island. Jenna brought us over to the Block Island Club for Stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and a nice dip in Great Salt Pond. Jenna reaffirmed to Joe he married into the right family.

5pm- Looking the PartIMG_3811

Looking good for Joe is part of the fun of marriage. Jenna and I stopped by The Tipsy Mermaid to find some “That’s my hot wife” clothing.

6pm- Don’t Stop Won’t Stop

Up the hill to the Spring House for drinks with a view, was a great way to start the evening. Blueberry Lemonade was my cocktail of choice, and I can highly recommend it. The slowed down pace of the lawn, views and atmosphere of the Spring House allowed us to just relax and talk while Jenna probed questions on just how Joe and I came to be the pair that we are.

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7pm- 69 Kittens

On the return to our hotel, Joe and I stopped by Yellow Kittens for nachos the size of the island itself and margaritas to wash them down. We had visited the spot on our Miny-moon, and it was great to return, plus our real honeymoon had been in Mexico so a hint of lime sents us right back.

8pm- Love Shack

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We stayed the night at The Barrington Inn, located in New Harbor. Our room was great with a full sized bed, which left no complaints from us; There was even a twin size bed as well in the room which left us questioning, should we put the bed on Craigslist and get a roommate? The highlight of the room was the porch, and having a private sunset drink was romance that makes Nicholas Sparks cry.

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10pm-Keeping The Flame Alive

My cool cousin had a great spot for us to have our final drink and dessert of the day. Chocolate Espresso Martinis and S’mores at The National Fireside did the day justice. Chatting around the fire with strangers about who we are, where we come from and just how great we are reminds us of what we have together. The firepit itself reminded us of the most memorable moment of our first year together, building the patio in the back yard of our new home.

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Our trip to Block continued with a morning of mimosas on the beach, with Old Post Bagel Shop scones and a ferry ride home more in love than ever before #hatersjustbejealousofmyman

Block Island is great spot to spend a night or two and feel a world away with your honey. The convenience of getting there coupled with the options abound once arrived means everyone is happy and in love.

What do you think of Shannon and Joe’s weekend adventure? What other romantic activities have you found on the island? What is the most romantic spot you’ve found? How do you keep the flame alive?

Pre-Island Preparations: Unsolicited Advice Part II

Back at it and with plenty more to share. The island is small, but I still find more and more everyday. With this comes expert know-how and the desire to inform the public. Here is round two on my traveler’s tips.

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  1. Your pants will still fit when you leave

Awe vacation. A chance to eat and drink whatever with an easy resolution to get back on the health track once you return home. But before you fret, consider this. Block is home to so many activities that get to break a sweat without a thought. The fun of biking all around the island, walking on the beach for miles at sunset or an early morning run with the rising sun all burns baby burns. You will have an appetite post island exploring and Block Island offers plenty of great options for refueling. Mudslides and Fish and Chips feel a little less heavy once you’ve conquered the Mohegan Stairs. At the same time, it’s hard to find a restaurant or café that doesn’t offer home grown produce or natural ingredientIMG_3385They don’t mess around with ice cream here. So balance your diet with fresh produce and gorgeous salads.
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  1. Warning: GLASS ON THE BEACH!glass-float-project

Heads up! Important to know that as soon as you step off the ferry, there is hidden glass all over. But don’t worry, this is a good thing. We are not talking about broken Coronas, but instead Orbs. Hidden hand blown glass balls, called orbs are hidden through out the island for you to find and keep! Most are hidden along the beach and nature conservancy trails. Insider’s tip: a new batch is hidden every Thursday evening, making Friday morning a prime time to go hunt. Tap in your inner pirate and take home a free souvenir.

  1. There She BlowsIMG_3515

The heat of a New England summer is not exactly what you will find on the Island. The ocean moderates the temperate and it is hard to find a day without a breeze on the island. Many of the hotels do not have air conditioning due to their age, but save yourself the extra fee on the room with AC. The breeze keeps the heat the island does endure pretty comfortable. With this I will add, it does get cool unexpectedly. Pack a jacket and pair of pants for this vacation, so you can still enjoy outdoor dining and fun even when the coast howls and tries to mess up your hair.

  1. Best of both worlds

You love the ocean waves, the sand in your toes and the free salt-water mermaid hairdo. Your travel partner likes to kayak, swimming without rolling over and going on hikes. The Fresh versus Salt-water debacle ends here. The island is home to beaches, obviously, but also fresh ponds. Additionally, though it is salt water, Great Salt Pond is great for smooth water activities like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, small-boat sailing. And for those granola-crunchy types the Nature Conservancy trails make for hiking and turning your beach vacation into a greener than expected getaway.

  1. Smash Open the Piggy Bank

With the small businesses on the island making your mouth water with delicious baked goods, and shops making you want to do your Christmas shopping in July, a good thing to be prepared for is a hand-written sign taped haphazardly to the cash register reading “ CASH ONLY”. Rob a bank before you leave the main land and fill your wallet with straight paper. There are plenty of ATMs on the island, but running to them and paying fees to get money just feels wrong . Be prepared, because nothing is worse than having skip the lemonade stand because they don’t except AMEX.

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Pre-Island Preparations: Unsolicited Advice Part I

You didn’t ask for it, but here you go. A little advice never hurts, so to make your trip to Block Island #asgoodasitgets, follow these tips for a hole lot of awesome. As many find themselves finally headed to the island for their summer getaway, I have put together a short list of a few insider tips for your island time. With my first (over-night) visitors coming out next week, I felt inspired to share my “expert” advice.

Give it read, if you are already an island connoisseur, what would add? If it is your first trip, take notes, a little bit of preparation and foresight can make a world of difference to your much-deserved vacation. They’ll be coming at you in two parts, so keep an eye out for part two later this week.

  1. You Heave you LeaveIMG_3584

Well the classic Hot-dog eating competition slogan, can be applied to Block as well. The point here is that medical care on the island is limited. The access to medicine and doctors is available, but the island is not the place to treat real issues. So if you are truly sick, hurt or need special care, be prepared to leave the island. In addition, pack extra medications, painkillers, sunscreen, and etc. What is available on the island is very often more expensive than on the mainland. Or if you are not feeling 100% before your trip consider postponing your trip.Sometimes the High Speed is the Culprit for tummy troubles, plan meals accordingly.

  1. Can I Speak with Someone in Charge?

Yes, yes you can. As you go about the island, you will notice there are no chain retailers or hotels (the one exception is Ben & Jerry’s, but we’ll give them a pass). This means that all businesses are small and the owner is often in the building when it is open, if not taking your order at the counter. Knowing this, seek out the owners in the places you like best, the owners will likely love to hear your praise and make you their new drink of the day. This goes the other way too, if you are unhappy with the service, there will likely be someone ready to respond.

  1. Can I take your order?

In addition to the owners of many businesses being extremely present, the employees of the island seek to please. One thing to know is that many employees are living off the tips you are leaving, and many work multiple jobs to do that. With this, be patient with foreign employees, they will bend over backwards to help you and want to speak as much English as possible. Talk to worker, though they are seasonal they know the island, and can give the best advice, directions and know-how (they have even have a blog about the island).

  1. Pack Yo’ Bags

Considering the journey you will be taking, pack accordingly. I am referring to how you pack. The ferry trip and walk to your hotel may be a few extra steps that you are used to taking with luggage. Break out that mega rollie bag you brought to Europe and stuff it up, lightening the extra multiple bags juggle.

Another something to remember as you pack up is a backpack. Biking around the island is the best way to commute, but you will want to bring your things along (think towel, snacks, wallet). A backpack is a definite must have for island adventures. Plus they make a for an easy time on the ferry.

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Backpacks make for a better life.

  1. Two Wheels are better than None (or make that 4)IMG_3392

Don’t bring your car. Seriously, the island is small. You are able to get anywhere where you want to be in a matter of two miles or less, further if you are adventurous, but a bike or moped does the trick. Bring your own bike if you can and save yourself the rental fees, but even if you have to rent enjoy the island as some time away from the four-wheeled SUV that you have come to loathe. Remember to lock your bikes whenever you leave them, it is a very safe island, but bikes do disappear whether it be a greedy soul or a confused renter who mistakes yours for theirs. If a car is a must, make sure to make a reservation for the ferry!

IMG_3628There’s the first half of my list of good to knows. What have I missed? Experts what would you add? Newbies, what questions do you have left? Comment below, and I’ll answer anything I missed in Part II.