Eating my Way Through Newport
It's been too long since I've done one of these posts, and unfortunately that's because I haven't been on vacation in what feels like forever. This past weekend Sable and I went away for a combined anniversary/my birthday vacation to Newport, Rhode Island.
Since we're both foodies and seafood lovers, Sable and I like to travel around food along the coast. I don't think it was ever planned, but Newport, Mystic, Cape Cod, all New England coastal towns known for great seafood. Thrown in Savannah for some southern eats, and we've traveled and ate pretty well.
How odes Newport measure up? Read on my fellow foodies
As is our norm, we arrived into town at an awkward hour, too late for lunch, too early for dinner, but hungry nonetheless. We opted to jump to dinner and probably have a snack later in the night.
Midtown Oyster Bar
I had a different place lined up but it didn't look to be our scene, and across the street we found Midtown Oyster Bar. Prices on the outdoor menu seemed a little high, but screw it we're on vacation, right?
For appetizers we split oyster stew and steamed littleneck clams in a beer broth. The stew had flavors similar to New England Clam Chowder, but the consistency was very watery. I know that's a staple for Rhode Island, but I'm not a fan. The oysters were whole, and perfectly cooked, a nice chewiness that would have been better served in a thicker broth. Additionally, the stew was lacking salt, Sable had to practically season the stew with what was on hand at the table (salt, pepper, lemon).
Oddly enough the littleneck clam broth was overly salty, but that only hurt the dish slightly. The flavors were absolutely on point that the saltiness didn't distract too much from everything else going on. I didn't taste beer broth per se, but whatever it was, was good.
Sable had a lobster roll, that was over filled with whole lobster claws and tail meat. It was a satisfying amount of lobster, unfortunately the unbuttered, too thick piece of bread they used lacked any kind of flavor, and actually took away from the lobster within. She ended up only eating half of the bread because it was so overwhelming. The roll came with a side of french fries that were tasty and seasoned nicely.
For my meal I chose the seafood pot roast over saffron rice. Basically this was a paella, and it was good. There was shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, and scallops, in a tomato sauce over the rice. There was so much meaty seafood it initially looked like there wasn't much rice, but the more I ate, the more rice there was. Each component was cooked properly, and the sauce melded everything nicely. A few of the mussels and clams were sandy, but overall that was a minor complaint for a finely crafted dish.
The lackluster appetizers and poorly executed lobster roll, are hard to look past even with the good pot roast. It was only later on in our trip that the locals we spoke to suggested we avoid MOB. Always listen to the locals.
ColdFusion Gelato and Sorbet
After dinner we had walked around town, exploring our new locale and passed several ice cream shops. It was only fitting that we had a desert.
Sable had passion fruit and watermelon sorbets, while I had cookie dough and peanut butter cup chocolate gelatos, and everything tasted exactly as you'd expect. Their selection wasn't the greatest, but the flavors they did have, tasted good, and I think that's more important than having 230 flavors no one wants.
Benjamin's Raw Bar
The whole day I had been craving raw oysters, but knowing that I would be hungry before it was time to retire for the night, Sable and I decided to save that for a late-is night snack. That's how we ended up at Benjamin's at almost 11pm where we had a half dozen oysters and a half dozen clams.
I am not a fan of raw clams, I knew this going into the meal, but then again I couldn't remember the last time I ate a raw clam so I thought I'd give it a shot. I still don't like raw clams.
The oysters however were delicious and fresh, and everything you'd expect from oysters in a place where you can see the water they were fished from.
The bar was unimpressive, the decor was dated and the wait staff was inattentive, but then again it was a place that put the bar in front of anything else on the menu.
New England Lobster Bar
The next day for lunch we went to a place that was recommended to us by a few locals, which is almost always a sure fire way to go. They did not disappoint.
The restaurant is larger than you would think from the outside, with a spacious eating area on the inside, but the real show is the outdoor seating overlooking the bay with boats sailing by as you eat. The view was stunning.
For appetizer we shared a New England Clam Chowder, Fish tacos, and Chilled Lobster Claws. The chowder was short on pepper, but other than that it was a good New England representation of the famous dish. The soup was sufficiently thick, with nice chunks of clams and potatoes.
The fish tacos were fried cod with a pineapple salsa, and the fish were so lightly battered and fried that they felt airy. It was such a refreshing dish, I wanted it as a main course.
Following those we had the chilled lobster claws. These just felt like something we needed to have while in town, and they were as good as you'd anticipate, nothing special, but they weren't meant to be.
Main dish for Sable was a Blackened Salmon Sandwich, that came with a local bag of kettle chips. The salmon was a full sized filet that you'd get for a dinner dish over rice, instead it was between a bun with lettuce and tomatoes. Once again the amount of bread was a little much, and she ended up eating the fish without most of the bun, the salmon had near perfect crust of blackened seasonings with a nice kick, but not overpowering the natural taste of the fish.
I ordered the lobster salad roll, and unlike the one Sable had the previous day, the bread on this one was properly seasoned and cooked with just enough butter to cut through the mayo of the lobster salad. The lobster had a good amount of chunks and claws, but weren't too big to eat in sandwich, no need for silverware. The mayo had a hint of dill that played nicely with the citrus of the sauce.
I'm not a fan of kettle cooked chips, but Sable enjoyed them on the ride home.
Shells and Scales
Earlier in the day we went shopping at a little home furnishing store, nice place, and the owner suggested we try a restaurant a few blocks away. As I mentioned above, always trust the locals. I had actually wanted to go here the night before for oysters, but we were on the other end of the town, and Benjamin's was recommended by a different shop owner.
Irregardless (yes I know that's not a real word) we finally ended up here at Shells and Scales, and it did not disappoint.
For an appetizer we split an order of fried calamari, and the waiter asked if we wanted a side of marinara sauce. After he clarified there were no other options, we accepted. (this becomes important later for two reasons. Let's call it the marinara dilemma). The calamari were lightly breaded, leaving the natural flavor of the squid to come through. The seasoning was gentle, but evident. It was a delicate dish, and a nice first impression. The marinara was nothing special, you could get the same at almost any Italian place.
As an entree with split the Lobster Fra Diavolo. It was a large skillet filled with a bed of linguini soaking in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, housing shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, and a whole lobster. Writing this review, it's very similar to my dinner at Midtown Oyster Bar, and while I liked the rice more from there, this dish blows the rest of it out of the water. Each flavor played into the next, combining into a sweet and spicy mix dancing together. There was enough pasta to support the sauce without being too much. We finished feeling satisfied without being bloated.
Marinara Dilemma #1
The table next to us seemed to be regulars, and new the ins and out of the restaurant better than us. They knew of this creamy aioli that sounded delicious and their waiter said it was probably the best thing on the menu. So why did our waiter not give us that option?
Marinara Dilemma #2
We get the bill at the end of the meal, and it wasn't too bad by any means. Knowing what we ate and drank (which were also great by the way, they have their own house bottled sazerac that may have been the best I've ever had). But tell me why if our waiter offered the side of marinara, and there were no other options for sauce, were we charged nearly $2 for a side of marinara with our calamari? Being that it was only $2 and getting late in the night (the restaurant actually closed up already by this point) we didn't argue it, but that was a sour note to end on.
I won't bore you with a review of Ben and Jerry's that we had for desert afterwards.
Before we even left Sable promised me a surprise meal I'll never forget for my birthday and that the reservations were for dinner before we leave Newport for home. As such she didn't want us eating a big lunch, so we opted to eat a little at a vineyard that we'd be stopping at before dinner.
Enter the Newport Vineyard. Usually I wouldn't get into the wine too much, but it's rare that we find a vineyard that has so many different wines that we like. Most places have an extensive red wine selection, but the whites are only a few. Here it was the opposite, and we ended up buying five different wines, where normally we'd be lucky to get a single one.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we did the wine tasting we had a quick bite at their cafe to hold us over until dinner and so we didn't get wasted during the tasting. Well Sable gets drunk off of one glass anyway, but it was more for me.
She got a beet and black bean burger that was pretty damned amazing. It came with an herb mayo and sat on a Portuguese bolo bun. It was one of the few meals that I wish I had ordered what she got, because I usually order the better food than Sable (sorry hun)
I ordered the Not Your Momma's BLT (no relation to the Not Your Father's line of drinks). It had peppered applewood smoked bacon, arugala lettuce, tomatoes on a thin buttered toast. It was a nicely crafted sandwich, and satisfied the hunger building, but sable's burger was much better.
Both dishes came with a side of homemade chips and sweet pickles, both were a good companion to the plate.
Castle Hill Inn - The Dinning Room
Now for the main event!
As talented as I think I am with words, I don't know if I can properly describe the meal that we had overlooking the beautiful Narragansett Bay at sunset. Firstly, the room only had about 10 tables, most of which were lining a semicircle of windows atop the bay. The staff were beyond professional, real white glove service.
There were basically 3 dinner options, a three course meal, a four course meal (same as the three course but with an extra appetizer) and a six course chef's choice tasting menu. They have a rule that is one party gets the chef's menu, everyone at the table has too. If you couldn't tell from this and the previous "Eating My Way" Sable and I like to eat as many different dishes as we can while traveling (only when traveling, back in Jersey she can't have any of my food), so we opted to get a three and four course meal.
Before the appetizers came out we were served complimentary champagne for our anniversary/my birthday.
Additionally, each meal was accompanied with apiece of shrimp with a marmalade. There was more to it, but it was a single bite, and although I remember liking it very much, it didn't leave much of an impression.
For the appetizers we started with a beet risotto, that actually had no rice, but the beets were diced and cooked with potatoes to give them a starchiness and an extra bite to them. It was topped with braised beef that was fork tender. A lot of beets for one day, but man were they good. there was a dollop of crem fresh and rye bread to bring it all together.
Next was a angus beef tartar that was atop potatoes, or pommes maxim, cut so thinly they were actually translucent, arranged in a flower pattern, with the tartar acting as the sweet nectar within. Mixed in with the beef and below the art was a goat cheese sauce. I can't describe it any more without getting hungry again, so just look at the picture. It was difficult destroying this piece of art to eat it, but not too difficult that I didn't clean the plate.
The final appetizer was Chilled Behan Family Oysters. There were half a dozen of them, with finely sliced shallots, and Szechuan peppercorns withing, and topped with aged rice vinegar. They were a refreshing interlude to the main course.
Sable chose the Seared Duck Breast, that came with kohlrabi, scallions, and plums. As expected from a place like this, the duck was perfectly cooked, which is not an easy thing to do. It wasn't too fatty, but just enough to cut through the plum sauce.
For my main course, I had the waitress choose between the scallops and Slow Cooked Angus Beef. She chose the beef, and although I had already had angus beef with the appetizer as a tartar, I was good with this. It was two good sized cuts of medium rare steak, damn near perfectly seasoned, I barely needed my knife. It was accompanied with roasted white and green cauliflower, garden greens, and on the side (by request) a bleu cheese mousse that Sable liked, but I'm not a blue cheese fan. This dish is why everyone should eat meat.
Dessert was a Chocolate Hazelnut Bar consisting of Hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate crémeux, Earl Grey gelato (most of that is gibberish to me, but it was delicious, and that's all that matters.
And for Sable a Peach Soufflé with Ginger crumb, and crème fraîche gelato. She also liked this very much, although it wasn't for me.
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better meal to end a vacation with, or a better person to spend the time and calories with. Can't wait for the next one, and be sure to come back for all the mouth watering details as I eat my way through another vacation.