Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Five States in Seven Days: Day Two--Newport and Providence, RI

After exploring Newport's Cliffwalk and The Breakers, our light breakfast had worn off and we were ready to start thinking about lunch. Dede and Carter decided to check out a pizza joint. I love pizza, but I was interested in sampling more local cuisine, so I left them and headed a couple of blocks over to Spring St. where I stumbled on a cute little artisan cafe called Rosemary and Thyme


It was just the kind of place that gets my of a kind, tiny (only about four tables) and everything made in house. 

I walked up to the counter, studying the menu. Everything sounded delicious! Salads, artisan sandwiches, tartines, vegetarian options, and all kinds of baked goods, I wasn't sure how I was going to choose. Finally, I narrowed my choices down to two, either the Brie and Pear or the Bahn Mi. The Brie and Pear was built with poached pears, French brie, caramelized onions, prosciutto and fresh greens on a French baguette. The Bahn Mi had roast pork, pork paté, pickled vegetables, and scallions on a baguette. Completely different, but they both sounded divine. Which one do you think I chose? If you said the Bahn Mi, you would be correct. And what put it over the top? The pickled vegetables! I just could not resist. I also could not resist one of these chocolate pastries with almonds and hazelnuts. They were just sitting there in the case staring at me!

I chose well. I think this one little sandwich was the best thing I ate all week. It was so good! I ate half of it and took the other half with me and ate it for breakfast the next morning.  And that Pain au Chocolate? Delicious! It was flaky, chocolaty, and the almonds and hazelnuts provided the crunch and saltiness that elevated the whole thing to the next level. Rosemary and Thyme, I love you so! Would it be too much to ask you to open up a satellite shop in Alabama?

Saint Mary's, the church where Jackie and John Kennedy got married, is just a short walk from Rosemary and Thyme. Later when we were driving around checking out the scenery, I happened to look up and see that we had just driven by Hammersmith Farm where the Auchinclosses, Jackie's mom and stepfather, lived and where the wedding reception was held. These are places I have read and heard about all my life and suddenly were right there.

Newport is so beautiful..lots of wonderful old buildings and understated elegance. We enjoyed driving around town and at one point, we found ourselves back on Rhode Island's rocky shore at Brenton State Park. As beautiful as it was, we were still completely amazed that people were perched on the rocks with their beach chairs and umbrellas. For someone used to the sugar white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, this really was an unusual sight.

This guy didn't seem to mind that we were visiting his beach.

We left Newport, all agreeing that it was really beautiful and a place we would like to visit again. Next stop? Providence. We were headed to the capital city for an event called Waterfire. We didn't have any idea what to expect, but it sounded intriguing. 

That's Independent Man standing tall on top of the State House

Founded in 1636, Providence is one of the oldest cities in the country. We parked near the Rhode Island State House and walked to the downtown area where Waterfire is held. Three rivers, Providence, Moshassuck, and Woonasquatucket (say that five times real fast) all converge in Providence giving it a European flavor. On certain nights from May to November, bonfires are lit in the water throughout the city and we were lucky enough to be in town for one of those nights. With the fires burning in the water, boats and gondolas carrying performers and music setting the mood, Waterfire is quite an event.


All along the water's edge, there are restaurants, shops and businesses. We passed by a vendor selling Del's Frozen Lemonade. Since that was one of the "we gotta try that" items on our list, we bought one to share. I was a little skeptical as to how the cold treat could be as good as the hype surrounding it. Once again, I was proven wrong. It really was delicious lemonade. I loved it because it was mellow, not face-squinchingly tart like some lemonades I have had. I can see why Rhode Islanders are proud of it.

We walked around a bit more before we decided it was time to grab dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, The Capital Grill, while we waited for the festivities to begin.


While we studied the menu, our server brought us a basket of homemade breads. We tried them all. They were really fresh and delicious. 


Everything on the menu sounded great. There was a lot of fresh seafood, steaks and tasty sounding sides. But it was hot outside and we just weren't that hungry, so we settled for corn soup and salads.

The corn soup was really good with lots of fresh corn flavor. It was accented by a touch of crème fraîche and was especially good with the homemade bread.

Dede chose a wedge salad with fresh tomatoes, blue cheese and applewood smoked bacon. You just can't beat a good wedge salad!

My dinner was a spinach salad with chopped boiled egg, applewood smoked bacon, thinly sliced onion, and mushrooms.  It was topped with a drizzle of warm bacon vinaigrette. It was very good, too.

By the time we finished our salads, Waterfire was about ready to begin. We found ourselves a vantage point for watching the festivities along the edge of the water. We could see the wood stacked on top of iron platforms which were scattered up and down the length of the rivers. As daylight faded, boats floated past. The occupants carried torches which they used to light each of the bonfires. At the same time, music began to blare from speakers, helping to set the mood. When all the bonfires were blazing, more boats came by carrying performers. It was like interpretive dancing being performed in gondolas. People lined every edge of the water, snapping pictures and watching the show.

 As we walked back to our car, we noticed the State House was joining in the performance.

Newport and Providence had completely exhausted us. We drove back to our little home away from home in Jamestown and fell into our beds! We had to get rested up for day three...Salem! Get ready! We were bewitched!

Another big Yums Up to Rosemary and Thyme, Del's Lemonade, and the Capital Grille! Yep! We are fans of Rhode Island!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Five States in Seven Days: Day Two--Jamestown and Newport, RI

You might think, after our long first day of flying into and then walking up and down the streets of Boston, day two would involve sleeping in, but, no, at least not for me. I woke up bright and early. After we left Boston, we drove to Jamestown, RI on Conanicut Island to check into our accommodations. We had arrived so late that it was really hard to tell what things looked like, so I was anxious to get a glimpse of my surroundings. As soon as the morning light began streaming in through my bedroom windows, I jumped out of bed and stepped outside onto our deck.

What a lovely surprise! Our rooms at the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn looked right out over Naragansett Bay. The sun was shining over the amazingly calm water, studded with dozens of boats and bedazzled with thousands of diamond sparkles. If I looked to my left, I could see the pretty suspension bridge we had driven over the night before. Farther on down to my right, I could see the road curving along the shoreline, dotted with with houses along the way. The coast was rocky near the road with coarse gray sand along the edge of the water.


Our tiny island was only 9 miles long and 1 mile wide and I was anxious to explore. I quickly dressed and tiptoed outside, so as not to disturb my sleepyhead roommates. I decided my best bet was to walk along the road that curved along the water. It was a beautiful day, surprisingly cool and without the suffocating humidity we had left back in Alabama. I enjoyed looking at the homes and trees, as well as the gorgeous ocean view. The majority of the homes were shingled with gambrel roofs which gave them all that quintessential "barn" look. 



I'm not much of a botanist, so I couldn't identify the unusually dark trees on the island, but they were striking. The leaves were so deep and purple they appeared to be black. I asked several of the locals, but they had no idea either. 

 I stayed on the water's edge until I came to an enormous condominium complex situated on a corner that appeared to veer off into a downtown area, so I hung a right and kept walking. 

Pretty soon I found myself in a quaint little downtown district full of one of a kind shops and eateries. I learned that there are no chains of any kind on Conanicut Island (you should hear Siri pronounce that) and the island has only one gas station. 

I was beginning to get a little hungry when I passed by a tiny cafe called Slice of Heaven. Who can resist that! People were sitting at tables on the outside patio and seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I climbed the stairs and ventured on in. 

A line had formed inside the small cafe, so I followed suit and studied the cloche covered plates of muffins and pastries on the counter. Oh, brother, this was not going to be an easy decision. Additionally, Slice of Heaven had omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, yogurt, coffee, pancakes and lunch items. 


I finally selected a ginger lemon poppyseed muffin, but we came back to Slice of Heaven at least two more times before the week was over. Over the course of the week, we sampled more muffins, I tried a breakfast sandwich and Dede enjoyed some banana pancakes. I think the muffins were still my favorite, especially the ginger lemon poppyseed and the blueberry versions. 



By this time, my buddies were ready to head out, so I made my way back to the Inn, we jumped in the car, drove back over the Newport Bridge and headed into Newport. There were several things we wanted to see in Newport. First of all, we wanted to see the mansions and we wanted to hike along the famous Cliffwalk, which runs along the rocky beach at the back of Newport's enormous mansions.  We started out on the 3 1/2 mile Cliffwalk, but pretty soon realized we weren't going to be able to get a good look at the homes if we continued. We decided to cut back over to the main road so we could see the front of the houses. 

The old mansions, or summer cottages, are all magnificent, each one unique. 

                           Ochre Court, the second largest mansion in Newport is now home to Salve Regina University.
The largest and most famous of them all is The Breakers, built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Construction began in 1893 and the house was finished in 1895. The place is massive...62,482 sq. ft., 5 floors, 70 rooms, and 20 bathrooms, but it still is nowhere near the size of Biltmore (built by Cornelius' younger brother George Washington Vanderbilt II) at 135,280 sq. ft. 

The Breakers

The Grand Staircase at The Breakers

No detail left undone...the back of the grand staircase

The view from The Breakers is spectacular. The rear of the cottage looks out over the Cliffwalk and beyond. 

Upper loggia on the 2nd floor opens to sweeping views of the Atlantic.

Neighbor's cottage in the distance

Looking down on the Great Hall from the 2nd floor balcony

One of 20 bathrooms, this tub was carved from a single slab of marble and weighs approximately one ton.
Let's be honest here, the house was grand, but my favorite room had to be the kitchen. In fact, this may be my favorite kitchen of all time. It is enormous, with high ceilings and lots of natural light. The long worktable in the center is covered in zinc with a rack above to hang the gleaming copper pots.

The ice room, where ice was stored, was much cooler, so it was also the place for making pastries and confections.

Look at that sink!


But the piece de resistance, at least to my mind? The 21 foot cast iron stove with no burners. The solid top heats up as a single element so the cooks could heat up a pot anywhere on the stove! Talk about ahead of their time!

The butler's pantry

Typical Vanderbilt family menu

I thought I could finish up day two in one post, but we just crammed too much into our days. Next time, I'll close out our shenanigans in Newport and then we will move on to Providence. Yep! That was all in day two! Until next time, have muffin will travel!

Traveling on!

Three Friends and a Fork give 3 Grand Yums UP to Slice of Heaven, Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, the town of Jamestown and The Breakers!