Steamship Line Poster (circa 1935)
ANNOUNCEMENT: FOOD FIGHT!!
FROM THE WINE CELLAR
It is no wonder that New England’s rippling shoreline, gouged out with inlets and bays, was a sensible stop and haven for mariners and colonists from Europe to settle, offering safe harbors and a seemingly bottomless supply of seafood on which to build a new country.
Newport, set on Narragansett Bay, was one of the most accessible and beautiful sites along the entire coast, which long ago made it a prime seafaring town whose wealth by the mid-eighteenth century made it, in the words of an observer of the time, "the most formidable rival of New York."
By the end of the 19th century Newport was home to many of the wealthiest families in America, whose summer homes were as splendid as the artistocratic châteaux of France and the Great Houses of England, as chronicled by novelist Edith Wharton. Most of those mansions are still among Newport’s great tourist attractions, lining the appropriately named Bellevue Avenue; nearby is Castle Hill Inn, a 19th century mansion located on a 40-acre peninsula, originally the residence of marine biologist Alexander Agassiz.
When it became an inn in this century, it attracted a celebrated crowd that included playwright Thornton Wilder, who wrote his 1973 novel Theophilus North in the turret room here. Today there are 24 rooms spread out over the waterfront, including isolated Beach Cottages among the dunes, where my wife and I spent a very cozy evening, awaking in the morning to a blast of winter sunlight breaking over the edge of the world.
Everything in these cottages is new (right), but based on cherished designs of the past, with pine wood slats, wicker furniture, and a farm sink, as well as all modern amenities; the rooms in the main house are individually designed with more Victorian cachet, the public rooms paneled with polished mahogany.
The great lawn here has been expanded this past year, and the management, under veteran Brian Young, is only too eager to help guests with everything from clambakes to kayaking, sailing and weddings.
The Dining Room in the main house has been expanded into the Sunset Terrace, done in New England bluestone tile, teak furniture and linen-canvas umbrellas. Here Chef Karsten Hart features a fine amalgam of New England, American, and European cuisines, backed by an exceptionally rich wine list. Hart grew up in Louisiana and cooked in various restaurants in New Orleans, giving up that city’s heat and humidity for New England winters.
Our party of four ate extensively throughout the menu, beginning with an amuse of butter-poached lobster with fennel cream and cracker crumbs that made the morsel very crispy. A roasted apple and celeriac soup was an excellent mix of fruit and vegetable, made tastier with the addition of peanuts, guanciale pork cheek, golden raisins and micro-celery, all providing textural contrasts and pinpoints of flavor. Seared diver’s scallops, a little overcooked that evening, came with a winter squash veloute, pumpkinseed brittle and cocoa brioche. These are all smart ideas, and Hart invests all his cooking with exciting contrasts.
I found a confit of pork belly very salty beneath a poached egg, with a refreshing matsutake mushroom consommé. My brother, who is an indefatigable oyster aficionado, pronounced the Rhode Island beauties, with a clementine granita and a touch of fresh wasabi, first rate.
For our entrees, we enjoyed braised veal cheeks, succulent and tender, with a celeriac puree and the nice briny flavor of pickled and fried leeks and a mirepoix vegetable glaze. That buttered lobster amuse was so good, I ordered another version, with quince relish, cauliflower, sweet potato fondant and a curry emulsion that reminded me how Newport was once a port on the maritime spice route all the way to Asia.
Garlic bread-crusted hake with calypso beans, periwinkle and roasted garlic broth, and a bowl of littleneck clams with cardoons and pan-roasted fluke with an oyster stew, red flannel hash, wilted spinach and shaved fennel showed Hart’s range. Good to see and taste was his take on the Portuguese-New England sailors’ favorite, pork with clams, here spiked with bacon and rich Brant potatoes and Rhode Island chowder.
Jonathan Martson’s desserts were up to our expectations--a chocolate hazelnut bar with vanilla milk jam and dark chocolate sorbet; a fried apple pie with bourbon laced caramel vanilla ice cream and a lush brown butter crumble. There is also a selection of New England artisanal cheeses well worth trying.
After dinner, in bed before a crackling fire, with a fierce Northeast wind blowing around our cottage and a cold white moon shining through scudding silver clouds, my wife and I thought ourselves very lucky to be partaking in such a grand, historic tradition of New England hospitality. Any idea of being in an air-conditoned seaside room in the Caribbean never even entered our mind.
The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner nightly, and Sunday Brunch with Live Jazz. Three-course dinner is $78, four courses $92, six courses $105.
contrast to the Castle Hill Inn on Narragansett
Bay, Haymount House has the architectural grandeur
of a Newport mansion but lies above the Hudson
River, what Henry James called a swift-flowing
This is a very historic stretch of New York,
with all the attendant reminders of Rip Van
Winkle, the Headless Horseman, and the Hudson
Valley School of painters whose numbers included
Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, Albert
Bierstadt, Asher Durand and Frederick William
Tzolis and Nicola Kotsoni are veteran Manhattan
restaurateurs, and few know the business as they do,
having had long-running successes with the Greek
restaurant Periyali and the Italian trattoria Il
Cantinori. So, combining the two cuisines into a
Mediterranean menu at Amàli makes perfect
sense, especially since their ingredient sources have
been so well established over so many years;l in fact,
each morning they get a shipment of seafood from a
single fisherman in Montauk with whom they share a
partnership in his boat; the rest is filled in late at
night at Chelsea Market.
Amàli is open for lunch Mon.-Sat. and nightly for dinner. Appetizers run $6-$25, pastas $18-$23, and main courses $28-$30, with some served for the entire table; fish is market price.
just a single decade South America’s wine industry has
revamped, even revolutionized, the way they make their
product, not least by starting nearly from scratch. As
much as lack of capital, bad, often dictatorial,
governments have made it difficult to invest in and
improve an agricultural industry without the means to
modernize or market.
Guest Wine Column Sponsored by
New Year’s Wine
Resolution: Drinking Less but
since put away, holiday parties are but a distant
memory (some foggier than
others) and St. Valentine’s arrow is out of the
quiver, but it’s never too late
to keep up with your New Year’s Resolutions. I was pretty well behaved this
past season but must admit
that little extra canapé here and that one
more glass of bubbly had some
the normal rhythms of life has meant some cutting
back at the table and ramping
it up at the gym.
But that doesn’t
mean we have to give up wine!
My New Year’s Resolution was simply to
establish a civilized pace, and
my definition of civilized means moderation, not
Big White – Dropping over $20 a bottle retail for a white wine that’s not Champagne sounds a bit extravagant, but one or two sips of Luna Mater from Fontana Candida will calm your fears. This is a very well-crafted wine from older vineyards in the outskirts of Rome that give a whole new meaning to the word Frascati and is a far cry from the simple light wine usually associated with the area. It’s a complex wine that is a result of complex winemaking, blending tradition and innovation in a brilliant way. Part of the grapes are picked early to contribute acidity and make the wine bright and zesty, and part of them are picked late when their sugar content is high and bring roundness to the wine. Some of the grapes are even dried on racks (similar to the process used for Amarone) before crushing to concentrate their flavors, and others are left whole and added to the fermenting must (similar to the process used in Beaujolais) to add body and character to the wine. The wine is fermented in barrels of Acacia wood to compliment the Malvasia grape’s inherent flavors on acacia flowers and honeysuckle, and after bottling the wine is aged in grottoes carved out of the volcanic stone beneath the winery. The wine is a symphony of flavors, round and soft yet vibrant, bright and edgy.
Bold New World Red – Value is relative; so while $34 might seem like a big chunk of change to drop for a wine from South America, Coyam from Emiliana delivers the value you would receive in a wine twice the price from California and nearly three times the price from Bordeaux. This is a densely flavored, intense wine with old world sophistication and new world charm; an added bonus is that it is made from organically grown grapes. For a bit more more ($92 retail), you can find Emiliana’s ‘Ge’, an even more intensely flavored, deep, rich, complex wine that is Chile’s first bio-dynamic offering (and this is not just for tree huggers!).
Old World Classics – Sometimes value requires comfort and familiarity, and if that’s the case then nothing provides assurance more than an old world classic like Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino at $65 retail, or its sophisticated sibling Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino at $82, made from selected vines in prime vineyards of the same estate. Brunello is one of Italy’s most noble wines, long aged before release and worthy of lengthy cellaring for collectors but an impressive wine to drink at any stage – the 2008 is an excellent vintage and on the market now, with the 2009 to be released next month; if you are lucky enough to find the 2001, 1999, 1997, 1995 or older, you will see firsthand what “ageworthiness” really means and the value it delivers.
Whichever of these beauties you choose, let’s raise our glass (just one) to a value-filled, impression-making year!
Mariani is in no way related by family or in
business with John
Mariani, Publisher of the Virtual
Any of John Mariani's
books below may be ordered from amazon.com.
❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences."
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
An engaging, interactive
wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four
Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com;
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John
Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,
John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein,
Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing
Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,
Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click
© copyright John Mariani 2014