Rhode Island Food and Drinks to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner
November 15, 2022
Rhode Island is home to a lot of firsts, but perhaps Rhode Island’s list of “firsts” runs longest in the culinary space. The country’s first “food truck” was a horse-drawn cart owned by Rhode Islander Walter Scott in 1872. He’s credited with being the founder of the diner, pioneering bringing readily available affordable food to the working class. The business found a permanent address in 1893 at the corner of Dorrance and Washington streets in Providence. That business had been known as Haven Bros since 1893, and the mobile diner remains steps from its original location today.
Another legendary role in Rhode Island’s food culture was the proliferation of coffee syrup. Though coffee syrup was invented in New Bedford, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border, Lincoln’s own Autocrat Coffee Syrup became the most widely known maker. Other signature Rhode Island foods include Olneyville New York System Weiners, Del’s Lemonade, coffee cabinets from Deleckta’s Pharmacy and pizza strips.
In advance of gathering around the Thanksgiving table, we’ve collected some of Rhode Island’s more recent locally made foods, sweets and spirits that’ll make an impression and bring an authentic taste of the Ocean State to your holiday:
Newport Sea Salt
The words “hand crafted” get tossed around quite a bit, but when you see Matt Mullins emerge from the waters that ebb and flow on the southernmost shoreline of Aquidneck Island hauling 5-gallon buckets of sea water, you get a sense of the work that goes into artisan food making. Mullins, who founded Newport Sea Salt with his wife Tami, then heads to Hope & Main, Rhode Island’s food business incubator in Warren, where he boils the water then packages the remaining coarse salt in beautifully labeled, square glass jars with a cork top. We know some of the restaurants on our Newport Neighborhood Food Tour use Newport Sea Salt in their dishes or provide it on their tables!
Newport Sea Salt makes a beautiful addition to the dinner table or tucked in its signature muslin gift bag and ready to go.
Peter and Katie Kelly launched Anchor Toffee in 2014 and have been growing exponentially ever since. Another small business that started with the support of Hope & Main, Anchor Toffee launched their flagship brick and mortar shop on Newport’s Bowen’s Wharf. Last year, the company moved production to the innovative Farm Fresh Food Hub in Providence’s Valley neighborhood overlooking the Woonasquatucket River.
Butter toffee, almond butter toffee, coconut almond toffee, coffee toffee and especially perfect for the holidays, peppermint toffees, make for beautiful welcome gifts and additions to the dessert table.
Rhed’s Hot Sauce
When two chefs come together to create a hot sauce, you know it’s going to be good. Chef Deja Hart and her husband, chef Karsten Hart, took their hobby of growing peppers in their backyard garden to the next level with the creation of Rhed’s Hot Sauce.
Working with local Rhode Island farms including Lucky Foot Ranch in North Kingston and both Brandon Family Farm and Chris & Kristina’s Market Garden, both in South Kingstown, Rhed’s hot sauces deliver flavor and freshness. Flavors range from original and “Club Jalapeno;” a Mexican style verde sauce, to the citrusy lemon drop.
Salsas include “guaca-verde,” smoky habanero and “sunrise salsa” with fresh tomatoes (never canned) with a touch of heat from Rhed’s signature fermented jalapeno mash.
Barbeque fans should take a closer look at the “Memphis Style” BBQ sauce, “Spicy Mustard” BBQ Sauce made Carolina style with tangy honey mustard and a spicy kick. The BBQ sauce might just be the secret sauce to kick up your turkey this year!
ISCO Oyster Vodka
Shaken or stirred, holiday cocktails are de rigueur this time of year. The Industrious Spirit Company, better known as ISCO, has made a name for itself as Providence’s first distillery since prohibition. As one might expect a spirits company to do, ISCO produces vodka, gins and bourbons, but ingredients are predominately sustainably sourced and everything is completely from scratch on site.
In the ultimate Rhode Island power move, ISCO recently debuted Ostreida, the first vodka of its kind to be distilled with oysters. Capturing the spirit of the ocean, Ostreida boasts “notes of salty seacoast and savory minerality with a subtle hint of bivalve bouquet on the nose.”
This will be the cocktail conversation of the day!
Dave’s Coffee Syrup
Coffee milk is the official beverage of Rhode Island, and Dave’s Coffee wanted to perfect the syrup that’s been a tradition for nearly a century. Founded in South County, Dave’s Coffee has expanded to a 7,000 square foot roastery in Narragansett with retail cafes in Charlestown and Providence.
The best part is Dave’s is all natural — no corn syrup, no artificial flavors or colors, no corn sweeteners and no preservatives. It’s perfect to brew after Thanksgiving dinner or to give as a “buzz worthy” thank you, especially if you opt for the Dave’s coffee gift subscription.
Thomas Tew Rum
Aged 3-5 years, bottles of Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum (named after a notorious Rhode Island pirate) make a beautiful presentation with a wax dipped top and signature amber glow. Made in Newport in a pot-still with blackstrap molasses replicates the way rum was made here in the 18th century, when this port city was considered the rum capital of the world. Distilled to 84 proof, Thomas Tew’s Single Barrel Rum is a sipping rum, making it ideal for an after dinner drink – before the tryptophan nap kicks in.
Gansett Craft Chocolate
Rhode Island’s newest small batch, beans to bar, chocolate maker has arrived. Gansett Craft Chocolate launched just last year, bringing beautifully packaged chocolate bars made with highly touted Chuncho cacao beans that are directly sourced from small farms in Peru to the local market. The natural cocoa butter comes from Tanzania, and all organic cane sugar is sourced from Brazil. And it all came together to create a new Ocean State sweet treat in flavors including dark raspberry, dark chocolate, peppermint crunch, milk chocolate and a white chocolate bar in coffee milk. The hostess will thank you as they tuck it away for a sneaky treat when no one is looking.
Sweet & Salty Cheese
From an on-farm creamery in Little Compton, Sweet & Salty Cheese offers eight incredible cheeses ranging from softer, younger cheeses to firm, aged cheeses. Cheeses are aged on premises anywhere from two weeks to a year inside a cheese cave built into the side of a hill on the family farm.
A sure-fire Thanksgiving crowd pleaser is Sweet & Salty’s “Peach Fizz,” a firm and dense cheese washed three times a week with Westport River Vineyard’s Farmer’s Fizz sparkling wine, giving it a sharp, palate pleasing flavor with broad appeal.
Ellie’s Pumpkin Cheesecake
The easiest way to win hostess and guest favor at the Thanksgiving table and guarantee seconds is by arriving with a pumpkin cheesecake from Ellie’s in hand. Providence’s favorite Parisian-inspired intimate eatery is well known for long standing relationships with local farms and farmers, ensuring fresh flavor whether sweet or savory. Ellie’s is always one of our favorite stops on our Downcity Providence Food Tour! Ellie’s pumpkin cheesecake is a crowd pleaser with its perfectly crisp and crumbly gluten-free graham cracker crust and decorative Chantilly cream. And the cheesecake itself tastes like a slice of fall on your plate. But, orders must be placed by 5pm on Nov. 19th or you’ll miss out!
Israeli Shepherd’s Pie from Buns Bakery
Having a small Thanksgiving or want to enjoy authentic fall flavor but you haven’t been tasked with chef duties this holiday? The best dish you have never heard of is hearty Israeli “shepherd’s pie” from Buns Bakery. This reimagined dish often associated with Irish menus will impress the vegetarians at the table but offers flavor that will win over even the most veggie-averse carnivore.
Inside, the nest of flaky Bureka crust – think pillowy phyllo dough – is filled with roasted honey-nut squash, pine nuts, and plant-based Beyond Meat with authentic Middle Eastern spices. Since founding Buns Bakery, owner Guy Hanuka has built a cult-like following most especially for his Jewish and Israeli specialties including challah, babka, and rugelach.
Sowams Cider Works
Sowams Cider Works in Warren has become a neighborhood favorite, and with its vintage Victorian bar, it’s an interesting space for a tasting flight. But showing up to Thanksgiving with cider from Sowams in hand will let you share this fresh and tangy flavor from one of Rhode Island’s finest heirloom apples – grown at the cidery’s Touisset orchard.
The three acre orchard is home to nearly 800 trees bearing more than 40 varieties of apples. These include regional heirloom varieties and British and European cider apples
With an abundance of foods from Rhode Island, there are many choices when it comes to what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. For the sake of staying Rhode Island true, we suggest the Rhode Island Greening or Orchard Blend Cider to take you through this festive fall day of thanks.