Sunday, October 11, 2015

Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival 2015

All photos by Dean Igoe.

It was a spectacular weekend.  We were back at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival 2015, this year invited for two days of sumptuous living, dining and sipping.  It is our most trés elegant event of the year and one we always look forward to as an official end to our Newport season.  

Absolute fun, great people and conversation and some unexpected finds filled the weekend.  Like, who would expect to fall in love with a fine pilsner beer made in Barcelona with ties to none other than the world's most famous chef Ferran Adria and the legendary el bulli at a wine festival?  Yet, there it was and we did.  We could explain more but here's a video we are sure you will love that kind of does that for us:  Estrella Damm.

Really, though, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.  We began on Friday night at the Wine At Rosecliff event, the very spot where The Great Gatsby was filmed.  We were greeted with flutes of Champagne Taittinger and joined the guests strolling down the rolling lawn overlooking Cliff Walk and the Bay and enjoying a nearly full moon rising over the shimmering water.

We strolled from room to elegant room meeting and chatting with the wineries and tasting incredible bites from restaurants nationwide.  More on the wines later.  The Maple Leaf Farms Duck by Chef Bruce Moffett was incredible.  Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Cream was followed by Jacques Pepin's Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce.  Need we say more?

We had our run of the entire first floor and lawn, including the ornate, art-filled, formal dining room and reception rooms, the portico and it's famous fountain with lawn that leads down to the ocean and even photographed a wedding proposal.  Congratulations to DJ and Stephanie!

And what's better after filling up on rich foods and fine wines than to dance the night away to the sounds of Big Band music?

The next morning brought us to Marble House for the Grand Tasting.  The experience is incomparable, especially when the weather cooperates as it did this year:  sunshine and warm temperatures with a perfect ocean breeze. This photogenic jewel is the Salmon Mousse Cake provided by Blackstone Caterers who took over the Chinese Tea House Pagoda for tastings.  Did people really live like this all the time?

There were dozens and dozens of wines we tried and loved.  Again, more on that in a separate post. Then there were the restaurants, many from Boston, serving up delectable finds savory and sweet.

The view from the Tea House overlooks, again, the Cliff Walk and water.  People gathered for impromptu mini-picnics on the lawn.

The event seemed less-crowded this year and more intimate with lots of new vendors and restaurants and wineries eager to talk details rather than just pour.  All in all, a wonderful indulgence and a rare treat.  we met people from all over the country who make the annual Autumnal trek to New England just for this event.  And a worthy trip it is.

All photos by Dean Igoe.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Taste Of Perkins 2015

It was such an honor to be invited to the annual Taste Of Perkins as part of the Taste Challenge celebrity panel. "The Taste" is a big fundraising event for the school where donors are invited to sip a few wines and sample a few plates while blindfolded.  And it is quite the revelation to discover just how closely one's sight is integral to food. In fact, most people (including chefs) are unable to discern the flavors and ingredients. The wines, actually, are much easier.  I think that is because we really can't identify a wine varietal by sight anyway.  The food, however, is surprisingly difficult. You try deciphering blackberry and ginger!

I got a few of the flavors, as did the other participants, but no one has ever achieved a perfect score. More importantly, it's a very fun night with very fun people and a chance to meet a few of the talented students who provided some music and displayed their artwork for the crowd.  Just beautiful! The best part is that we sold out the event and exceeded all expectations for fundraising goals.

Thank you, Perkins, for the honor, the opportunity and the wonderful lesson in all of the things we take for granted but should be more grateful for every day.  I may have arrived as a celebrity but I left humble, realizing the great challenges that some people face every day and witnessing how they do so with such joy.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Vine Brook Tavern

It has a real, authentic tavern feel.  And why wouldn't it?  If one is dining here one would literally be in the shadow of Lexington Green, the very place where the battle that gives you all the freedoms you now enjoy (well, mostly) began.  We'd never been, so when owner Marcus Palmer invited us for dinner to sample the cuisine of Chef Chris Frotheringham, we were intrigued and then delighted. This is Vine Brook Tavern in Lexington.

After a brief tour of the two level space we started right in on cocktails and appetizers.  This Hummus And Spicy Shrimp is served with a warm Za'atar Flat Bread and Olive Oil.  The pillowy soft bread has a great chew, the shrimp fresh and the hummus of good consistency.  Not a bad start.

The Shaved Cauliflower Salad With Kale, Quinoa, Carrots, Beets, Brussels And Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette was a mini boatload (maybe more canoe-shaped) of healthy eating.  A nice, different twist on a serving of a nutrient-packed salad.  It doesn't get more cruciferous than this.

A must-try on the creative cocktail menu is the Ginger Margarita, the house specialty and the drink ordered most.

Steak Tacos On Grilled Corn Tortilla, Salsa Ranchero, Cotija, Black Bean Crema And Lazy Street Corn.  The tacos are also a favorite on the menu and we could have eaten bowls of that corn.    

Dayboat Halibut, Porcini Bacon Risotto with Crab Butter Sauce.  Fresh and substantial with a very nice risotto, this special of the night was a hit.

The New York Sirloin was exactly what one would expect of sturdy, classic tavern fare.  Cooked perfectly and served with a choice of sides.

Sticky Toffee Pudding was reminiscent of colonial times, a square of bread pudding smothered in caramel and plated with a dollop of fresh ice cream.

The scene?  Maybe one level up from the typical eclectic mix one would expect in an affluent locale serving gastropub plates of great quality:  seniors springing for dinner with bright, preppy grandchildren, families with young children dashing in and out for a quick (thankfully) supper, well-dressed couples of all ages and thirty-something singles ensconced at the large, central, first floor bar for the evening. Although we dined early, the cougar and softball team set one sometimes encounters in the suburbs was nowhere to be found.

Perfect for?  Date night.  A nice cocktail and dinner with hassle-free, ample parking.  A special dinner out with the kids while Mom, or Dad, is away on business.  Grandpa and grandson bonding, with adult beverages. Exploring just how good suburban dining can be and showing friends the hidden gems one can find.

Favorite things?  The unique, refined tavern feel with solid food that's inventive yet beyond trendy. The shrimp and hummus and bread.  The no-rush, relaxed yet professional service.  The catch of the day.  Sirloin.

What we'd tell a friend?  Starters about $12, mains about $25,  Absolutely worth checking it out and the chances are quite good you may become a regular.  If so, see you there.

Vine Brook Tavern
20 Waltham Street
Lexington, MA  02421
Telephone:  781.863.2012
Twitter:  @VineBrookTavern

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Off The Common, Park Plaza

We were invited to dine at Off The Common at the Park Plaza recently and experience the stunning renovation of the lobby restaurant just recently completed.  The cocktail program is excellent with drinks to honor Boston landmarks and traditions.  We started with this, the Romeo And Juliet (named after the famed swans of the Public Garden):  Grey Goose Noir, St. Germaine, Pure Cane, Fresh Lemon, Agave and Luxardo Cherry.  Light, smooth and refreshing.

The architectural details are beautiful and the bar is a popular gathering spot.

The Lobster Mac And Cheese arrived in a tiny red Le Creuset crock and was heavy on the lobster meat.  The cheese did not overpower the delicate lobster flavor, the hallmark of this dish when done well.

Prime Sirloin Steak, House Cut Fries And Roasted Garlic And Herb Compound Butter.  Very Good, perfectly done.

Baked Local Cod Loin, Salt Cured Olives, Blistered Tomatoes, Smoked Marcona Almonds And Romesco Sauce. The cod was a bit dry but good.  Perhaps a hefty drizzle of a fine Spanish olive oil over the dish would make it perfect.

The Beignet And Chocolate Sauce was delicious.  The crispy fried dough was rich and the chocolate sauce not too sweet.  A hit.

The Limoncello Flute, Lemon Gelato And Limoncello Drizzle was the tart alternative, also good.

The Scene:  Well-heeled guests and twenty-something friends gathering for drinks at a dazzling, long bar to map out plans for the evening.  On the night we visited the bar patrons were overwhelmingly male, the diners more fifty-fifty, a typical yet polished upscale hotel lobby crowd of  visitors and new faces, although we spotted a few well-known Boston faces.

Perfect for:  A delicious drink and appetizer before the theater in a comfy yet refined setting.  An initial business cocktail in a tasteful, off-the-beaten-track atmosphere.

Favorite things:  Drinks.  Lobster Mac.  Beignet.  Trace and Trust locality dining.

Off The Common
Boston Park Plaza
50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.426.2000
Twitter:  @OffTheCommonBOS

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Davio's Lynnfield

Fine dining is moving to the suburbs and people are supporting the move.  Maybe it's the hassle of driving and parking in the city or the higher prices due to higher rents.  So, when we were invited to dine at Davio's in Lynnfield we thought we should check it out.  The Market Street development represents a newer trend in open air retail shopping where plenty of parking and room for outdoor events seems to be a welcome alternative.  And it's beautiful.

We began with a signature drink, the Blueberry Cooler, which not only was refreshing but also looked elegant on the table.

Next up was the Fusilli Shrimp With Hot Cherry Peppers, White Wine, Lemon And Olive Oil.  The shrimp was very fresh, the pasta house made, just a classic dish well-made.

The Antipasti course:  Parma Prosciutto, Burrata, Truffle Honey, Fresh Fruit and Chopped Pistachios. Again, a classic.  All of the ingredients were top notch.

Of course, Davio's is famous for their Spring Rolls.  We went with the sampler for a taste of each of the five featured on the menu.  Our favorite, believe it or not, was the Reuben Spring Roll.

To cleanse the palate between courses we were served this, with fresh strawberries to wash away the salty, savory flavors lingering on the tongue.  We liked this alternative to the more typical lemon version.

The Prime Natural Aged Ribeye was about as good as it gets, perfectly rich and cooked to order.

Sauteed Veal Tenderloin, Proscciutto, Shallot Polenta, Sauteed Spinach and Marsala came from the Caserecci menu, where the Chef pairs the sides for you.  Great choices and great flavor.

The Smores Cookie dessert was satisfying and not overly sweet and made with a drier cookie.  Some who may like a chewier cookie may not like this one.  We loved it.

And finally was the creme brulee.  We've tasted a lot of these at many different restaurants and can clearly say that this is right up there with the best of them.

This was an outstanding feast with a great cocktail, beer and wine program to accompany the food. The price points ($40 average for mains, $14 average for sides and firsts), the upscale environs and excellent, attentive service may make this a special occasion experience but it was a full house on the early Saturday evening when we dined there.  There is also a lively bar scene and bar menu with plates more in the $11 to $12 range.  With plenty of free parking and outdoor seating available it's great choice.  Sunday brunch is also served and we can't wait to get back to try that.

Davio's is celebrating 30 years of serving the community at a special celebration at the Arlington Street location on Wednesday, September 23rd, with an open bar, food and entertainment.  Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Davio's Northern Italian Steak House
427 Walnut Street
Lynnfield, MA  01940
Telephone:  781.944.4810
Twitter: @DaviosLynnfield

Sunday, August 23, 2015

White Horse Tavern, Newport RI

You'd be dining with Chef Rich Silvia in THE most historic food setting in the United States, the very essence of 17th Century American architecture and the oldest restaurant in the country, one of the top eight oldest in the world.  Lots of well-known people have dined here, from historical figures to movie stars.  It is White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, established in 1673 and still operating in the very same location.

Just to know you are dining at an epicenter of colonial life in New England is fascinating but the food is also excellent.  We began our recent meal, guests of the restaurant, with the Strawberry Gazpacho, cooling and sweetish and a great start we highly recommend.

The Tuna Tartare was above and beyond the others we tried in Newport on our recent dining tour of this famed city, a fresh, tasty plate.

Excellent, as well, was the Beet Salad, a different presentation of the classic salad dish and bursting with layers of fresh flavor.

Greg opted for the Beef Wellington, the, again, classic dish with a thin layer of foie gras paté and wrapped in a perfect puff pastry, the beef tender and satisfying.  Many times the portion of this dish is daunting but this one was just right.

My Lobster Risotto was also exemplary.  Nice chunks of fresh lobster in a buttery-rich, creamy bed of arborio rice.

Dean's Ribeye was slathered in a delicious herb sauce, medium rare melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

And then there was dessert.  The Chocolate Indulgence is a mix of white and dark chocolate, dense and flavorful, not overly heavy and just beautiful on the plate.

The stunner, however, was the not-to-be-missed Root Beer Float made with currently highly popular Not Your Father's Root Beer and finished with a hefty slab of bacon.  We had planned to make our own root beer floats using this product but I guess Chef Silvia beat us to the idea!  Needless to say it's a fantastic confection to end your feast.

Although the structure is old the menu is clearly farm-to-table, upscale American fare with some elegant twists. The myriad of excellent local ingredients and sources is listed on the menu.  The wine list is impressive and the space has none of the kitschy, touristy feel one might expect.  Service was totally professional, informative and fun.  It's simply legendary dining suited perfectly to a special occasion, a real stunning example of dining in Newport. We give this a big thumbs up and strongly suggest making reservations in advance.

The White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough Street
Newport, RI  02840
Telephone:  401.849.3600

Here's a great, brand new video capturing the experience you will have at the Tavern and featuring some of the very dishes we enjoyed:  White Horse Tavern.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Splurge: Newport Wine and Food Festival 2015

You have about a month to get ready and you know you deserve a splurge to usher in the cool Fall weather.  The beach chairs and blankets will probably be packed away, the wardrobes changed out, a new social season beginning and the cool, sunny, refreshing evenings welcome.  Besides, it's an experience that you will never forget.  We're talking about the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival 2015, taking place this year on the weekend of September 25-27.  And this being the tenth anniversary of the event, it promises to be better than ever.

This is probably our favorite food and wine celebration of the year and part of the fun will be the impressive backdrops, the characters, the fashions and formality, the conversation and all of that stunning architecture by the sea.  Our itinerary starts out on Friday at Wine and Rosecliff.  Amidst the glowing gilded rooms of the mansion we'll sample exclusive wines not available at the Grand Tasting. Rosecliff has been featured in a number of films, including The Great Gatsby, True Lies and Amistad so we'll also be walking in the history of film and the Gilded Age.

On Saturday, the red carpet will be rolled out to welcome guests to Marble House for the first full day of the Grand Tasting.  Again, there will be lots of wines for sampling as well as food and lifestyle products.  Last year we made tons of new food and wine enthusiast friends, including TV Chef Sara Moulton.

Photo ops, great food and wines, a peek inside opulence, relaxing on the lawn overlooking the Cliff Walk, just imagining life in a bygone era where it was all about elegant social interaction ... exactly the kind of thing our readers love.  If that's not enough, Martha Stewart and Jacques Pepin together will join the crowd for a once-in-a-lifetime presentation.

The entire event usually sells out.  So, don't miss it.  Many people would give anything just to tour one of these incredible residences.  You should join us for a party in one.  We'd love to see you there. Tickets and information can be found here.

Newport, here we come, again.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

On Food Bloggers

I've been blogging for over eight years now and during that time the blog landscape has changed considerably. When I began there were maybe six or so food bloggers.  We were all known to Chefs and restaurants and, I am told, were often the topic of conversation when Chefs gathered for a drink after the restaurants had all closed. Today there are hundreds of bloggers writing about all kinds of topics.  Many have carved out a specialized niche where they write about, say, only cupcakes or hamburgers.  

I have never considered myself to be a restaurant critic.  I will visit a restaurant and write about my impressions and tell the food stories behind some of the players.  Everyone seems to have a friend who dines out often, is eager to try new places, cooks at home and enjoys lively discussions about food.  I am that person.  What I write is pretty much the way I would describe a restaurant to a friend who asked about it.  To that I try to add as many pictures as possible - of the plates, the atmosphere and the people who both work there and visit.

As a former magazine columnist who still is lucky enough to be offered freelance assignments, the blog was a way for me to keep my journalistic muscles in shape.  Many bloggers and food writers have no background in writing.  I think of it as being the publisher and reporter of my own, little publication.  I get to call the editorial shots which, is often the best part, seeking out stories and deciding for myself just what I'll cover.  Food is an endlessly interesting subject.

I also have a lot of fun writing the blog, as you can imagine.  I enjoy the social aspect of "social media" and most often the fun of it all is getting together with other writers and bloggers at food events and restaurants.  I often will self-parody myself and make fun of the so-called "celebrity" status of being a well-known blogger.  We do get invited to some extraordinary and elegant events that people who are strictly restaurant critics do not.  On the other hand, without a staff of proofreaders and assistants, we all make mistakes.

I try to use that status to give back.  I have helped promote many charitable causes (I have a flawless record of helping to sell out all of the events that I promote and attend) and most readers know of my volunteer work with the very worthy organization Future Chefs both as an advisor and mentor.  This has been the most rewarding part of it all and I wish more food bloggers would adopt an important non profit to support and align with. Seeing a few of our alumni go on to become the next generation of top tier Chefs in Boston has been worth more than any payment for freelance gigs or photos in society columns.  

I have been invited to sit on panel discussions for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and Publicity Club Of Boston to share my insight on what bloggers like to write about.  Chefs have given me exclusive stories that have gone viral and the broadcast media has cooperated with hundreds of thousands of page views.  I do radio shows.  ABC TV has called me for media comments.

I receive email from people all over the world who are coming to Boston and want to know where to eat.  I've endured criticism for being a "foodie" but feel quite confident that most people are okay with that label.  In fact, when someone in London googles "Boston foodie" this blog has been the number one return for many years now.  A good forty percent of my audience is international.  I've been sent hundreds of gadgets and food samples to try. Frankly, most of them are not worth writing about so I don't.  I've been invited to audition for several reality TV shows but I'm not much one for manufactured drama, no matter how many hits it will get me. And when people take cheap shots at me I still, sometimes, feels compelled to point out that no one is forcing them to read.

The food blog community in Boston is a friendly place.  Many newer bloggers attack it competitively at first, dollar signs in their eyes as the next famous food critic.  Every photo is watermarked.  They run home after an event and stay up all night so that they can be the first to post.  I used to, too.  After a while, however, you realize that there is room for everyone at the table.  Your voice will find an audience if you are good at it.  And, quite often, your post will drive traffic into the restaurant.  

I'm not an investigate reporter.  I don't need scoops.  I am enough of a writer to find an angle that nobody else has thought of.  I am not threatened by the fact that there are now hundreds of food bloggers and probably will be for a long time.  

With all of that in mind, I recently reached out to Chefs and restaurant owners to share their thoughts on the current state of food blogging in Boston.  I had a great response with some real insight and a range of opinions. Here it is.  

“I think food bloggers are still an absolute and important part of the local food community. To me, they can carry more weight, information and sincerity than horrific “user” sights like Yelp!.  Bloggers can be a trusted source for the online community of people interested in learning about food and restaurants.  

I do believe newer bloggers could benefit from the more seasoned athletes (guys like Marc Hurwitz, Patrick McGuire, William McAdoo, Rachel Cossar  and others) on respecting the "pen is mightier than the sword" philosophy.

For the most part, these guys stay clear of undeserved business bashing and understand that restaurants can and will have an off night and they always respect the hospitality workers including the servers, hosts, cooks, dishwashers and everyone in between.  

Newer bloggers should remember that there’s only a few professional critics left in the city and they should blog with information and facts; random bloggers that come in and demand free food and after the third Grey Goose martini start bragging that their wife always thought they should be a food critic or (gasp) restaurant owner… These are the bloggers to be wary of. There's only one Boston Globe and Devra First so new bloggers should stick to blogging, not criticism. 

Bloggers that express a deep love and understanding of food, beverage and vibe are the ones I love to cook for (and forgive my previous rant as 99% of the bloggers I've met in this city are people I love to read and follow). Bloggers have been a tremendous part of the Boston restaurant fellowship and growth and I am genuinely happy to see them when they dine with me at the restaurants."

Brian Poe, Chef & Owner of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, The Tip Tap Room, Bukowski Tavern – Cambridge and CLUCKIT!

I agree with Chef Poe on Devra First.  I have long said that she is the best restaurant critic in print although I do not always agree with her.  She seems to have unlocked the key to it:  that food is an emotional experience, not just a list of ingredients and the names of mixologists.   The classic form of print restaurant critic is already outmoded.  People don't want 10,000 words and one or two photos. She seems to keep it fresh.

"In today's world of social media where everyone has the opportunity to become a critic, food bloggers are the new opinion leaders and trend setters. They are often more influential than the mainstream press because of the instant access to their content." 

Chef Jacky Robert of Ma Maison

Even in print I have noticed that publications will not wait months to visit a new restaurant.  They now are quick to offer a preview or first peek inside.  Conversely, given the economic realities, new restaurants are set to be on top of their game from opening night.  Far more time is spent on training and they would rather delay an opening than not be ready for critics from day one.

“It seems to me that everyone is a food critic these days with all of the social media sites and review opportunities. I know when I am researching where to eat in a new area, I love to go online to see what others think of a potential restaurant. When I stumble upon a blogger though, I tend to regard their input higher than the reviewers on Yelp or Trip Advisor. Typically they have a wider experience and also have a food or restaurant background. They seem to see the big picture and really try to interpret what the chef or restaurant is trying to accomplish, rather than what they wish they were trying to portray. I also love when they include photos of what they are enjoying.” 

Jennifer Ziskin, Co-Owner of Heritage of Sherborn and La Morra

“Food Bloggers are very important to the local food/restaurant community. With so many choices in your local community and with consumers realizing that many paid sites are biased, guests are looking for a trusted expert in the food industry for suggestions on their next culinary experience.” 

Peter Ackerman,  Senior Vice President Salvatore’s Restaurants

“Bloggers have always been a big part of our success. I want people to come in, evaluate and if they like what we’re doing become passionate ambassadors of our restaurants.” 

Paul Turano Chef/Owner Cook in Newton, MA | Tryst in Arlington, MA

“Bloggers are extremely important to the food community. We’ve always found them to be supportive of the restaurant and by them communicating via their blogs more and more people have become aware of our location." 

Salvatore Boscarino, Co-Owner Pier 6

“Food Bloggers are an incredible resource for local restaurant communities today - they are an amazing form of marketing that stretches beyond an establishment’s everyday reach. Food bloggers are modern day journalists - they breathe life and individualism into the media landscape."

Brooke Barsanti, Food & Wine Programmer, Boston Center for Adult Education

“It is becoming increasingly more important for us as restaurateurs to have media exposure online. The rich SEO content that bloggers provide carries a lot of weight and when done responsibly we always welcome it.” 

Jack Bardy, Co-Owner, The Beehive/Beat Brasserie

"There are so many great chefs and wonderful new restaurants in the greater Boston area, it can be hard to keep track of what’s new as a hospitality professional, let alone a consumer. I think the food blogger community plays a crucial role in providing timely and relevant information to the public, as well as informing us on what’s new, different, and interesting in the ever-changing restaurant world."

Corey Barriera, Regional Director of Operations at Papa Razzi

“Food bloggers are very important to the restaurant community. These days there are so many vehicles to get insight on a restaurant and whether you should dine there or not. We all have fallen into the routine of the quick google search before dining; good, bad, or indifferent it’s what we do. Having people who write about you that people trust and follow can help get a true and honest perspective on what your venue is. There are so many choices for diners today, which is a great thing so a positive review from a blogger that people trust can really go a long way to help your establishment go to the top of the list. BLOG away, hopefully it’s all good!”

Davide Crusoe, General Manager of Chopps American Bar and Grill 

“At The Palm Boston, we value the feedback of the blogging community tremendously. Diners look to bloggers as experts and as a trusted source with knowledgeable and independent thoughts and opinions on their personal dining experiences. These opinions carry more weight than public review sites and definitely impact the consumers’ everyday dining decisions.”

Brian Brosnihan, General Manager of The Palm Boston

"Food bloggers play an integral role in the restaurant industry across the globe, especially here in the Boston area. We’ve found that the Boston blogging community shows an extraordinary interest in the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into our work on a daily basis.  Boston blogs tend to dig a little deeper into the creativity of the hospitality industry to give readers insight into what we have going on beyond the menu.”

Israel Medina, Executive Chef of BOKX 109 in Newton

“Food blogs have become much more prominent in the Boston restaurant community over the past decade and readers truly value the opinions of a knowledgeable blogger. The blogging community really sets the stage for prospective customers, providing them with valuable insight and a firsthand perspective into the restaurant’s culture, offerings, and experience before they even walk through the door.”
Bill Brodsky, Chief Culinary Officer, Boston Nightlife Ventures

I also heard from some Chefs and restaurant owners who wished to remain off the record. A few said that they no longer pay attention to food bloggers preferring, instead, to solely focus on serving the best food and giving the finest service that a restaurant is capable of.   Bravo! NOT a bad set of priorities.  You can have all the food bloggers in the world at your restaurant.  Without impressive food and service it won't help at all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Barking Crab Newport

Our trip to Newport, Rhode Island could not have been more fun.  We hit town just before the tourist season rush, comfortably ensconced in our elegant but not overly ostentatious digs, the seasonal home of a great TBF friend, with stunning ocean cliff views and acres of wide open, lush green land.

Naturally, we engaged everyone we met with a discussion of the local food scene.  We had invites galore to dine here and there, meet people for drinks and explore new business ventures with young entrepreneurs.  We randomly picked because even a week was not enough to do and see all that wanted to.

On our first evening we ended up at The Barking Crab.  Sometimes a restaurant that is located in a place where the population swells in the summer as people flock to the oceanside can be spotty.  The number of patrons that visit can be overwhelming.  There's always that one place where the drinks and the fun crowd make food take a back seat.  So, if I were to describe this place to a friend I would say that it is one of those places.  Most of the locals we spoke to concurred.  The food is okay but not a standout.  I also have to say that I have found the Boston location to do much better on the food while still being a fun place to visit and enjoy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail.

The dip served with our locally crafted beers, Wachusett Blueberry, was not a bad start.  It was early and admittedly less crowded in the pre-July 4 season.  And we were guests of the restaurant.

The appetizer plate of Hummus, Tuna and Chips with Cucumber Caviar was okay, too.  The little jewels of caviar were probably the best part and playful but not exactly a new idea.

My main course was the Grilled Salmon and Citrus With Beets.  Again, a great idea yet executed in an average way with a super thin, slightly dry flank that lacked the rich flavor of a good salmon.

The Lobster Roll and Sweet Fries looked good but, again, not stellar.  Flaky meat was more prevalent than rich chunks.  And the bits of green onion might have been more fun on the fries as a new twist.

The slice of Key Lime Pie, however, was clearly fresh and made on the premises.  It was creamy and rich and beautiful and, really, one of the best we've had.  This was a clear hit and the highlight of our dinner.

The locals we surveyed all gave us the same report:  popular with tourists looking for a drinking crowd.  Although we never made it back after dark we're pretty sure it's not a top dining hot spot.  It does, however, seem like a conveniently located venue for sips and flirts.  And if you can fit in a slice of that pie, you'll enjoy it.

The Barking Crab Newport
Brick Marketplace
Newport, RI  02840
Telephone:  401.846.2722