By Courtney Goodrich
Each September, the Newport, Rhode Island, Gilded Age mansion at 596 Bellevue Avenue, the opulent Marble House designed by Richard Morris Hunt, awakens to the aroma of scrumptious dishes, the allure of new and specialty foods, the refinement of high-brow wine varietals, and a happy and inquisitive crowd of vendors and visitors from around the country. The Preservation Society of Newport County presents the weekend-long Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival (it’s celebrating its 10th year) for people who simply want to share and talk about the best in food and wine in a magnificent setting as more than 75 tasting stations are set up on the sprawling lawn overlooking the ocean
With all that seafood, it was a smart idea for Newport’s Forty 1° North to serve up a rib cap steak (a tasty cut of the ribeye) on top of roasted bone marrow and toast by chef Terence Feury.
Dizzying as the array of wines of different regions, vintages, flavors, and complex mixtures of sugars, acids, and enzymes might be, we managed to narrow the field to our two favorites: Folonari’s Valpolicella, an Italian wine with currant and blackberry flavors made in the Vento region near Verona, is sometimes compared to Tuscany’s Chianti but decidedly not as dry, due to the mixture of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes instead of Chianti’s dominant Sangiovese. For rose wine, we liked Arriviste by Blackbird Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley. With nearly equal parts of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, this light rose dances on the tongue and would be perfect on a summer picnic on the beach.
And what’s wine without cheese? The big purple wheel of Merlot Bellavitano made by Sartori in Wisconsin is a creamy cheese with the berry notes of Merlot, and it goes well with (no surprise) Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Sherry, as well as nuts, prosciutto, and chocolate.
Traditional European aperitif cocktails such as negronis and aperol spritzes have gathered a following, and Lillet has a part to play in that movement, too. The French aperitif wine, which is made from a blend of Bordeaux and citrus liqueur, comes in blanc, rose, and rouge. A few cocktails were mixed up with some exotic ingredients, but Lillet served on ice with a slice of lemon will always be my preference. Next to Lillet, St. Elder natural elderflower liqueur topped with prosecco is another simple favorite.
At a food and wine show, desserts can really stand out. Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, headquartered in Oklahoma, is unpretentious, but the flavors are spot on. After trying the toasted marshmallow, we had to go back for pumpkin pie. The booth also attracted a crowd with its assortment of toppings, Fruity Pebbles among them.
Newport’s Castle Hill Inn is a gorgeous place, and so is this dessert. A ricotta tort with ricotta mouse, gooseberry syrup, and crushed pistachios is fun and delicious.
And though we’ll never forget the ice-cold coupe of the blissful Devaux champagne made in Bar-sur-Seine, France, our favorite of the day was a pumpkin and chocolate macaroon by Deuxave’s pastry chef Jaime Davis. Lucky for us Deuxave is so close — on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston — so, unlike the champagne, a visit for more won’t be hard to make.
Great design is always at your fingertips! Read Design New England’s September/October issue online!