When is Rhode Island going to get its just deserts, when it comes to desserts and other fine edibles?
“There are still a lot of people, the vast majority I’m sure, who don’t know how many fantastic things are going on here,” said David Dadekian, founder of Eat Drink RI, a popular local foodie website. “The bottom line is [we have to] let people know what’s here.”
Dadekian is hoping the upcoming inaugural Eat Drink RI Festival, happening downtown at various locations April 19-21, will make giant strides in getting there.
The festival will have three days of events all aimed at showcasing the state’s culinary treasures and trends. Providence has long marketed its vast culinary offerings as a major tourism draw, pointing particularly to the cuisine of Federal Hill, numerous local wineries and an accelerating focus on farm-to-table service.
“This is something that we really wanted to have for a long time,” said Kristen Adamo, vice president of marketing and communications for the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I think now is the perfect time. We’re really starting to get more of that national attention.”
Rhode Island has made some foodie news of late. Travel + Leisure in November 2012 named Providence America’s best “foodie city.” The magazine last month named it the second-best city in the country for pizza, behind Chicago’s famed deep-dish pies.
In February, the James Beard Foundation announced that Matt Jennings of Farmstead Inc. and Champe Speidel of Bristol’s Persimmon are in the running for Best Chef: Northeast and that Providence’s Cook & Brown Public House is listed as a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category.
“I think it’s been growing over the past five years and I feel we’re reaching a plateau,” said Adamo, who is serving on the festival committee. “Instead of up and coming, it’s almost as if we’ve arrived as a culinary destination.”
But Providence, and the state as a whole, has not yet had a lot of success with food and drink festivals, which often draw criticism for being poorly organized, overcrowded and without a wide variety of vendors and activities.