Newport, Rhode 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 attracted 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.
One of the main draws of Newport, Rhode Island is the opportunity to visit the restored mansions that are owned and managed by The Preservation Society of Newport County.
You can witness, first hand, the extravagant life style of the mansions. This is possible by hearing—via superb audio tours—the legend and lore of its famous owners, including the Astors, Vanderbuilts and Dukes. Visiting the mansions of Newport is riveting, and this is just the start of a memorable trip to Newport County.
Hop on the Viking Trolley just outside the visitor’s center for a 90 minute tour of Newport, including the current news about who is moving into the neighborhood. For your information, Larry Ellis of Oracle is restoring a mansion that he intends as a museum. And, by the way, the mansion on that corner just sold for 14 million, and this mansion has just been converted to condominiums at one million and up. You get the picture.
Another excellent tour you can take is the Broadway Tour, a chef lead culinary walking tour to explore 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 of 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, for a trip back in time to the place 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.
At the town of Bristol visit Blithwold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum with one of the finest garden estates in New England, eat at Redlefsen’s Rotisserie & Grill, serving eclectic fare with an emphasis on artisanal European brews and German food. Enjoy the local color of Octoberfest year round in this former warehouse decorated “to the nines” in Southern Germany, 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.
Don’t miss the Herreshoff Marine Museum & the America’s Cup Hall of Fame to better understand the pervasive maritime influence of the county.
Kick off the 8th Annual Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival with a gala opening celebration at the Rosecliff Mansion. Enjoy live music, premium wine, spirits, cocktails, and delectable food in the grand ballroom of this magnificent estate.
Short of living in high society in the Gilded Age, experiencing this grand occasion— as only the elite would have done—is a privilege and a pleasure to be savored.
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, all in the rarified ambiance of the stately mansions.
Although you may not be quite so rich and famous as the former mansion residents, 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.
For more information on lodging, dining, attractions, transportation and more, visit www.DiscoverNewport.org.
If you’re heading back home through Boston (an hour or so drive from Newport, Road Island), plan a stop at the Museum of Fine Arts. Ranked as one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world, this museum is opened every day of the week and this world class museum not only offers engaging and informative exhibits, but delicious and affordable food venues.