A Great Respite in Newport

15 Apr

Lori and I wanted to get away for a couple of days, and chose Newport, RI as somewhere we hadn’t been together, is within easy driving distance (of Lexington, MA), is walking friendly, known for having some excellent restaurants and has a couple of wineries, one of which we hadn’t visited before. Indeed, we had wonderful food (Bouchard and Tallulah), did a lot of walking (Cliff Walk, the Mansions along Bellevue Ave, Fort Adams Bay Walk, etc.) and visited both local wineries (Greenvale and Newport Vineyards)….but this isn’t a travelogue. We had a fine meal along the lines of Classic French food (with a twist) that more than met expectations, with superlative service, but the highlight was dinner at:

Tallulah on Thames is exceptional. If you want fresh local ingredients made into innovative and delicious food, you will love Tallulah. The picture shows  the Schartner Farms Roasted Spring Beets, from their first set of selections, “Farms and Fields”. In additions to the beets, the plate has small wedges of goat cheese, pickled ramps, fennel crisps, tarragon vinaigrette and little splashes of delicious sauces. This paired well with a Clairette from France, which had nice aromatics, stone fruit on the palate, with both a creamy texture and nice acid to blend with the acid in the dressing.

Every course was a wonderful combination of delicious freshness (it’s hard not to be repetitious). The Taste of Spring was just that, English peas, favas, fiddlehead ferns, spring onion, teenie carrots, purple and orange mini-cauliflower, micro-broccoli, etc. on pappardelle pasta made at the restaurant. This dish was a work of art to look at (another constant theme at Tallulah). A Pignoletto from Italy was a classic great pairing in that the wine by itself was just OK, but with the food it blossomed into a delicious and complex wine.

The Hopkins Farm Lamb, 3 ways (neck stuffed in a red pepper, belly and loin), with couscous, veggies and a touch of Tzatziki cucumber sauce was another winner, with The Prisoner from Orin Swift, a big Zinfandel blend a surprisingly good pairing.

Marcona almond panna cotta was presented in a shallow dish, with fennel chips, spots of apple compote, dabs of cucumber gelee, and pieces of crystallized pecans sprinkled along the surface….amazing.  The creaminess of the panna cota was offset brilliantly by the freshness of the cucumber gelee.

Earlier in the day we revisited Greenvale Vineyards (we’d visited a couple years ago) and were hosted by Nancy Parker Wilson, the General Manager. We carry their Vidal Blanc at Pairings, the best of that varietal we’ve had and at a reasonable price. Their wines continue to improve, and we’re looking forward to Nancy presenting Greenvale wines at Pairings in the near future (probably the Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc). We’re wondering if there isn’t a secret ingredient in their wines…. see (in the picture) a bull grazing among the vines.…just kidding, of course. It’s a friendly place to visit, with the tasting room in a barn in a majestic setting looking out over the vines and to the water below.

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