Newport, Rode Island is rich in history, architecture and social lore. Its Gilded Age mansions and maritime tradition, anchored by the America’s Cup, is legendary. Now add to that the annual Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival — featuring Food Network stars and local chefs — and you have an unbeatable recipe for a culinary destination.
Let’s face it, a town that attracts the richest people in the world provides reason enough for a visit. In fact, this historic state, first founded in 1636, was built on religious tolerance and became the summer Mecca for the rich of the Gilded Age and their famous friends.
If you love exploration and planned some time to kill before the festival, an excellent activity is the Broadway Tour, a chef lead culinary walking tour to discover and taste some of the gourmet food scene that makes Newport a foodie Mecca. Head out of Newport proper to nearby town, Little Compton, for an afternoon visit to Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards. Sharing the same latitude as some of the most famous wine producing regions of the world, this sprawling property is home to many grape varieties. Noteworthy is the “Blessed Blend,” a combination of the Vidal Blanc grape and Chardonnay, developed by dedicated winemaker, Elaine Bernier.
Elaine’s team will organize a wine tasting to accompany the gourmet fare prepared by Chef Jimmy Tsimikas of Russel Morin Fine Catering. Chef Jimmy’s Australian roots and international experience gives this café at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards an intriguing and downright delicious global slant.
Plan a side trip to another town near Newport, bucolic Bristol, known as “the most patriotic town in America.” No white lines as street dividers here. It’s a red, white and blue strip painted down part of the main drag. While there, visit Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum (one of the finest garden estates in New England) and eat at Redlefsen’s Rotisserie & Grill. Serving eclectic fare with an emphasis on artisanal European brews and German food, the former warehouse is decorated to mimic Southern Germany, very reminiscent of Munich’s beer halls . Particularly noteworthy is the Kaesespaetzle (baked spaetzle and Swiss cheese, with camelized onions and bacon crumbles) and the beautifully prepared Traditional Wiener Schnitzel.
Once you're ready to kick off the 8th Annual Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, a gala opening celebration at the Rosecliff Mansion will be waiting for you. Enjoy live music, premium wine, spirits, cocktails and delectable food in the grand ballroom of this magnificent estate.
Continue this gourmet weekend at the Grand Tastings on Saturday and Sunday, located on the back lawn of Marble House Mansion. The festival showcases over 100 of the finest New England restaurants featuring the freshest of local fare and a global selection of wines, including vineyards from Rhode Island. You can participate in cooking demonstrations by Iron Chefs and James Beard award winners, seminars with food and wine experts, dinners and brunch prepared by celebrity chefs, and all in the rarified ambiance of the stately mansions.
Your time spent indulging in the delights of the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival will make you feel like you are living “high on the hog,” if only until next year’s invitation to the ball.