Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Food and History in Newport, RI



Ah, family reunions!  

Hosted by Cousin Tim and wife Mitch
They bring you back home. And, in my case, home is south-east Rhode Island - which includes one of the best places in the north-eastern US - I'm talking about Newport...think about Vanderbilt mansions, America's Cup races...Yes, it can be a big tourist pit, but if you know where to look you can have a great time at reasonable cost. 

(More on the actual family reunion in a later post!)

I was (and still am) the black sheep of the family...left home...the small seaside town of Tiverton, RI to go to college - and never permanently returned.  You may not have heard of Tiverton, but you pass through it on the way to Cape Cod from New York. 

always enjoy coming back to the Newport area. I still have a brother and two sisters living there.

This trip was especially enjoyable because my wife Dianne (always exploring the internet), found a "tour" that sounded like it could be fun.  Turns out, it really was!

We found the Rhode Island Red Food Tours (rhodeislandredfoodtours.com) and its creator Paula Silva. What intrigued us was that it focused on the local eateries of Newport, not the big (read: expensive) tourist attractions. 

Paula Silva

We met Paula, and the rest of the restaurant explorers (11 of us - she only does a maximum of 12) at the Salvation Cafe on Broadway. She immediately set three goals for the tour: 

  1. Have Fun
  2. Learn something new about Newport 
  3. Leave with a full stomach!


The tour, pleasantly, turned out to be as much a historic tour of Newport as it was a restaurant tour.  Paula knew her stuff...dates, building architecture and historic facts (as well as myths). We focused on the lower Broadway area and the historic sites around Washington Square.

But this was a food/restaurant tour so back to the food part. Paula arranged with seven very diverse establishments for tastings in what took a good three and a half hours.  A quick rundown included calamari, pizza, cookies, Mexican short ribs, beer in a baseball dugout, a hotdog and deep fried cheese cake. Talk about running the gamut!
The Salvation Cafe

We started at the Salvation Cafe (salvationcafe.com), a very eclectic establishment founded and still run by a local artist.  This 24 year old bar/restaurant was the first to establish itself as a driver of the restaurant scene on lower Broadway.  It specializes in farm/sea-to-table eats along with other specialties like coconut mojitos and pomegranate mimosas from the bar. Here, we were treated to a small plate of calamari as our first stop. 


Calamari with mild wasabi
Paula hit us with a culinary fact that most of the US East coast is supplied with calamari/squid from the waters off Rhode Island...oh, and the calamari was served with a mild wasabi sauce that matched the squid perfectly!

(More on Salvation in a later blog as Dianne and I had brunch there on Sunday...and don't ask about the pomegranate mimosas!)

Paula was very conscious of her brood of visitors and provided a pace that was extremely leisurely.  Even as she was expounding on the history of this or that building (all with great stories) she kept us in the shade and out of the 80+ degree sun. 
VanGogh Pizza

In relaxed order we want next to VanGogh Pizza (vangoghpizza.com), with its Vincent VG and America's Cup themes (thin crust with any topping you can think of).  

Cookie Monster Delight
This was followed by humongous oatmeal raison cookies from Washington Square Cafe and Baking Co. (sort of desert in the middle of the tour - my wife and I saved them for later...don't tell her, but I am eating one of them as I write this...gooooood).


Fall off the Bone!

Next we headed "South of the Border" - after some information of the history surrounding Washington Square - for some Mexican short ribs at Perro Salado (perrosalado.com).  The meat was spicy-sweet, delicious and it just fell off the bone!  
View from the Mudville Pub

Number five on the list was a welcome relief for those of us who prefer a libation (or two) with our food. We headed for the local baseball diamond, the Bernado Carcines Memorial Field (actually older than Fenway Park in Boston), and the Mudville Pub (mudvillepubnewportri.comfor a local beer.  Its claim to fame is that it has a dugout (i.e., a bar) right on the first base line.  Neat way to watch a game!


On to Mission (missionnpt.com) for a home-made hot dog.  The casing was firm and the interior packed with great tastes...all topped with a multicolored slaw and artisan mustard.  

At this point, Paula had certainly hit her objective number three: a full stomach...but we had one more to go...uhhhh

Last, and certainly not least, was the second story (supposedly) haunted room at the White Horse Tavern (whitehorsenewport.com). Again, we were entertained with Paula's rendition of the story of its haunting.  But, we were better served with the final episode in this seven inning gastronomic adventure - and I'm not sure I can describe it adequately - a deep fried cheesecake with local fruit.

This was a leisurely paced historical and gastronomic adventure that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Newport.






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