San Francisco’s restaurant scene is known for three main types of cuisine: California, fusion, or both. Local and sustainable ingredients are routinely showcased; it’s common to find names of farms and vineyards featured alongside menu items. Special occasions and pop-up dining events are often an excuse to feature ingredients not otherwise available on the menu.
Once you pass underneath the gateway arch at the foot of Federal Hill, you’re in Providence, Rhode Island’s Little Italy. Classic red sauce restaurants—some of which date back a century—line Atwells Avenue. In between, there are Italian specialty shops where dried sausages hang in the windows while songs by old crooners are piped out into the street. There are bocce courts, and an Italianate fountain in DePasquale Square with twinkling lights hanging overhead. This time of year, there’s also a huge Christmas tree illuminating the piazza. If you can catch it during one of the season’s first snowfalls, you’re not likely to find a more magical scene.
When I first moved to the South years ago, one food item stood above the rest as an introduction to my adopted new food culture: Grits.
Though not commonly spotted on Northern menus, grits are a standard feature on Southern menus, from humble eateries to fine dining establishments.
Grits are a humble ingredient and can be prepared a number of ways, from thick and creamy to light and fluffy, from runny to firm cakes. In skillful cook’s and chef’s hands, grits are treated to such inventive uses that the more I discovered about grits the more my infatuation with them grew.