Cornucopia

A culinary oasis
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  September 6, 2007

Cornucopia | 241 Main St, East Greenwich | Wed-Sat, 12-3 pm, 6-10 pm | Major credit cards | Wine + beer | Sidewalk-level access | 401.884.5660

One look at the decor and menu and a careful listen to the background music confirmed the sign outside Cornucopia in East Greenwich: “Regional and international.” The soothing colors in the dining room and the crisp table linens project a Continental feel. Hawaiian songs played softly. The menu showed touches of French, Greek, and New England influences.
 
Chef and co-owner Pamela Johnson, a Rhode Island native, has cooked all over the world, sometimes traveling as a personal chef, sometimes settling in one place, such as Hawaii. Last winter, she returned home to set up a restaurant with her sister Victoria Tefft, and Johnson’s high standards include serving organic and/or locally grown or harvested products as much as she can.
 
That’s the main reason for this eight-month-old eatery’s recent switch to a prix fixe menu. But if you must have an a la carte meal, try the lunches at Cornucopia ($6.95 to $14.95), which feature a Gruyere-and-Stilton-filled burger, rib eye steak with Bernaise sauce, Cajun fish stew, a lobster roll, a goat cheese and tomato baguette, and a hot dog with “cherry bomb” relish.
 
The three-course prix fixe menu encompasses the option of soup or salad, plus two appetizers and five or six entrées to choose from, all for $26 to $34. Though that might seem pricey at first glance, the price is a super-bargain considering the quality and quantity of the food. For example, the salad on the evening we were there featured beautiful heirloom tomatoes, and the soup was a delicately herbed zucchini puree with chunks of young summer squash that added to the texture. Both were absolutely delicious.
 
The appetizers were mushrooms stuffed with herbed bread crumbs or smoked mackerel with horseradish cream, both excellent. Other possibilities, mentioned on the Web site, are cracked crab claws or a goat cheese tart — obviously none of these four are as common as bruschetta or mozzarella sticks.
 
We picked our entrées from coquilles St. Jacques, chicken Florentine, Greek lamb ragout, beef tenderloin tips, and a vegetarian medley that included a portobello stuffed with garlic mashed potatoes. Bill was in the mood for the beef tips, and I for the Bell and Evans chicken filet.
 
Bill’s tips were sautéed with mushrooms in a brandy-mustard cream sauce, and they were accompanied by sliced and buttered roasted carrots — about which he rhapsodized for a while — and small round white potatoes that tasted like red bliss without jackets. He buttered and salted his, but I didn’t find a need to enhance their flavor. He liked the beef, the sauce, and the generous amount of mushrooms.
 
My plate had the same veggie accompaniments, along with two chicken filets that had been gently sautéed and were served atop a bed of spinach. Over the whole was a colorful orange Hollandaise which complemented both the chicken and the spinach.
 
We were quite full from these three courses, but our professional duty is to also try a dessert, especially if they are house-made, as are Cornucopia’s. I gave a nod to Bess’s cheesecake and was almost roped in by the Huguenot torte with apples, pecans, and bourbon cream. But the real decision-making fell between the “chocolate hyperbole cake,” with its dark chocolate cake filled with raspberry puree and chocolate mousse, topped with a chocolate ganache, or the Pavlova, a meringue shell filled with fresh fruit and mounds of fresh-whipped cream.
 
The chocolate cake was too much for this visit, but the Pavlova conjured up memories of my mom’s meringue shells with fresh blueberries, and I had to taste it. Named after ballerina Anna Pavlova and claimed by both Australia and New Zealand to have originated there, this dessert is like a meringue cake and a toasted marshmallow, softer on the inside, crispy on the outside. In its cavity were blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, slightly sweetened and smothered with soft whipped cream. It was heavenly.
 
The wines here are carefully selected from Europe, South Africa, Argentina, and California. Non-alcoholic drinks include homemade lemonade and South¬ern “sweet tea” (sweetened iced tea).
 
The service at Cornucopia was impeccable, and our whole experience was a relaxing oasis in a busy week. It would be just the right spot for a romantic evening out or to celebrate a special occasion.

On the Web
Cornucopia:
www.cornucopia-ri.com

Johnette Rodriguez can be reached at johnette.rodriguez@cox.net.

  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Cheese,  More more >
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