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Escape for the weekend - an adventure is only an hour away

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You don't have to travel miles away to find a great escape weekend adventure. An hour or less from Boston, Providence offers art, theater, an increasingly sophisticated dining scene and Waterfire, an event along the waterfront that brings throngs of people together to network and watch small fires lighted along the river where gondolas and boats are available to transport them to get close and personal with the beauty and drama.

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For many years now, the dining scene has blossomed, thanks in part to the growth of Johnson & Wales' culinary graduates, many of whom have transformed it to a farm-to-table experience with fresh, sustainable, local products artfully prepared.

This year alone, a number of new restaurants have appeared on the scene including Faust, a German restaurant in the new Dean Hotel in partnership with a local supplier, Foremost Baking Company; Rosalina, an Italian concept in partnership with Narragansett Creamery; Tallulah's Taqueria, the second "chef-inspired street food" outlet from Chef Jake and Kelly Ann Rojas who also have Tallulah on Thames; and GPub 61, a large, lively bar in a 1920's structure with 17 LED TVs, karaoke booths, and billiard and shuffleboard tables.

It's part of a shift from more formal, high end fare to comfort dishes, says publicist, educator and food writer Ann Moan Martini, who's seen J&W graduates such as Benjamin Soukle, former apprentice at Noma in Copenhagen, return to Providence to open Birch, an acclaimed small restaurant, with his wife. The chef and the restaurant were up for James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef awards this spring.

Martini praises the evolution of the city's restaurants from operations run by business people to chef-owned and operated establishments over the past 30 years.

Similarly, David Dadekian of EatDrinkRI, a four day festival he founded five years ago, praises the many chefs who've brought a local, sustainable perspective to their operations. The city, he notes, will also be getting a public market, thanks to his receipt of an foundation award recently. "Providence was one of two winners from 343 applicants," he recalls.

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