Recently, the creators of Newport Gourmet Tour offered to provide me with tickets to attend their Bellevue Tour. I gratefully accepted and made arrangements to attend on a recent Thursday. With the tour starting at 2:00 pm in front of the Viking Hotel and lasting for approximately two hours, I was prepared for an afternoon of strolling and nibbling.
Beginning in front of the Viking, the tour’s first stop was the banquet facility and restaurant at the hotel. We viewed the banquet facilities first. On the day of our tour, we were guided by the chef de cuisine, Kevin Scott. After viewing the banquet dining room, we were taken to the banquet kitchen and given samples of white bean salad. Topped with a dressing of white balsamic vinegar and bacon cooked in brown sugar, it was light and flavorful.
The tour of the Viking continued upstairs at their restaurant, One Bellevue. There we were treated to Asian meatballs, made with ground beef and pork, garlic, Thai basil, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Continuing with the Asian taste, the chef created a sauce that mimicked duck sauce. Made with an applesauce base combined with tomatoes, it had a delightful sweetness. Topped with a pomegranate reduction, this dish had the perfect combination of sweet and savory.
The second stop on our tour was Newport Wine Cellar. It was opened in 2008 by David and Maria Glade as a means of sharing their passion for wine with the Newport community. Both David and Maria have “day jobs” but have a passion for wine, which is obvious when you meet them. Their goal is to provide high quality, small production unique wines. During our visit, we were served a sample of 2008 Coenobium Rusticum from Lazio, Italy. This white wine was complex and had a great depth of flavor.
The third stop was literally only three steps away. Conveniently located next door to the wine shop is Le Petit Gourmet. Specializing in cheeses, crackers, and meats, this adorable little shop was opened in November 2009 by Louise Ruggeri. In addition to unique cheeses from around the world, they also offer local cheeses from New England. While touring the store, we had samples of bra tenera, a cow’s milk cheese. We also sampled a mousse trufflé, a tasty combination of chicken and turkey livers, duck, and a hint of truffles.
The longest part of the walk, a mere four or five blocks, was between the cheese shop and the fourth stop, Canfield House. This restaurant opened in 1860 as a casino on the first floor (a brothel was located on the second floor). Chef Edie Banky is newer to the restaurant, having worked here since May 2010. However, she knows her way around this kitchen quite well. We sampled Mediterranean shrimp served on greens. The shrimp was topped with a sauce consisting of garlic, lime, sundried tomato, fresh tomatoes, and kalamata olives. This warm and creamy concoction was topped with a sprinkling of feta cheese. A final garnish of raspberry sauce added a delightful amount of sweetness to the dish.
A short walk around the corner brought us to the fifth stop, Laforge Casino Restaurant, which is located next door to the Tennis Hall of Fame. Owned by the Crowley family for 35 years, it has courtside tables and an air of history to it. Here we enjoyed clam chowder and lobster bisque. The chowder has a hint of dill, which gave a nice bright flavor to the soup. The bisque had a hint of sweetness courtesy of sherry that is added to it.
From there we walked a short distance (approximately two blocks) to Sardella’s. Owned by former mayor Richard Sardella, Kevin Fitzgerald has been chef at this Italian restaurant since 1983. While talking with Kevin, his passion for cooking and food was quite obvious. He excitedly talked about making his homemade red sauce, purchasing fabulous loaves of country bread from a bakery in Hyannis (delivered daily), and working with a tight-knit team in the kitchen. He provided us with heaping bowls of penne topped with a red sauce flavored with garlic and butter. He also had us sample the aforementioned country bread with his homemade olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce and his homemade foccacia.
Our last stop was the perfect ending for a gourmet food tour, Newport Chocolates. This shop is owned by Laurent Vals. All of the chocolates in this shop are made by Laurent or Matt Nichols, who is a fourth generation candy maker. We were able to watch Matt complete the two-day process of making a filled white chocolate. Although these candies had a day of resting ahead of them, there was a tray of candies to sample. Among the assortment were mint patties with a hint of orange and a thin layer of dark chocolate that melted in your mouth.
Two hours of walking and dining is quite a fine way to begin exploring a community. Be warned though, you will be sampling quite a few delicious dishes, so don’t eat a big lunch or make reservations for an early dinner.