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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

We leave on Friday, late morning, and check into the hotel: The Newport Harbor Hotel (49 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport RI). From Boston it is about a 90 minute drive-smooth sailing until you actually try to get into Newport where there is heavy traffic. It’s one of those situations where you’re sitting at an intersection-the people who are going when you are stopped rush the intersection so when your light turns green, you can’t move…and when you can finally move-your light is red…and every light cycle only one or two cars is moving through.

We have to be here for a wedding-and peak season in Newport means that most hotels require you to stay a minimum of two nights. The rates for the hotel were right around $250 per night with taxes and parking etc. So fresh off the road, complete with road rage, we pull up to the hotel. There is a guard at the gate that lets you in-and we see the hotel. I’m thinking in my head, from the outside, this could just as well be a Holiday Inn or something-but I am trying to keep an open mind. The lobby is outdated and worn. We check into our room….

We are on the second floor-and the positive thing is that the view is wonderful-right on the marina.

I have to say, for $250 a night (and that’s WITH the room block rate), I was expecting more. The hotel is a bit damp and on the older side-I am disappointed. I guess that it’s all about location…..

The room is clean, but just feels a bit dirty-maybe it’s the salty air, maybe it’s just because I’ve been sitting in traffic for 30 minutes to get two blocks.

The bathroom is small, with some paint missing on the wall and the light in the shower area isn’t working. There isn’t a fan in the bathroom-so make sure to leave the door open a crack to let the steam out.

So at this point, I am just looking for things to be wrong. I look at the ceiling and there are unknown substances sticking to it, and here’s the kicker-there is HAIR in the tub. Soooo eew.

We head over to Bowens Wharf which is right next door to the hotel for lunch at 22 Bowens (22 Bowens Wharf Newport, RI 401.841.8884) We ordered the tuna burger ($14.95) and the duo lobster roll ($18.95). 22 Bowens is part of fare rewards a program where if you spend $500 at any of the partnering restaurants, you get $35 in dining coupons.

The tuna burger was surprisingly good-I wouldn’t have chosen it just because it isn’t my go-to food. It wasn’t fishy at all, and had a little kick to it-plus the black beans gave it a nice touch. It also came with a tomato avocado salsa and lime scented sweet onion.

The lobster rolls were really tasty-not too much mayo which is such a pet peeve of mine. The rolls were buttery and fresh, but I have to admit it was a little awkward to eat them the way they were cut. The fries were so good-crispy and light, just enough salt-super fresh.

Try and get a seat outside-it’s completely covered, but you still get to have prime people watching seats. The service was good-the only down side being our waitress was wearing sunglasses. While I understand that it’s sunny and it hurts the eyes, there was just something about that just bugged me. I think it’s impersonal-you want to have eye contact. Other than that-great lunch!

22 Bowen's Wine Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

I had looked up the shops at Bowen’s Wharf-and was excited to try the smoothie place. So for around $6 you can get a three fruit smoothie. All the fruit is fresh and stored in clear bins-nothing is canned.

I read a review on yelp that said that the base was apple juice-but it looked like simple syrup to me when she poured it. I had a strawberry, raspberry, mango smoothie-she put the mango and strawberries in, but poured raspberry syrup in the smoothie, along with something looking like agave or honey.

So it’s fresh, and fruity-but I think that I prefer my smoothies to be thicker-and with ice cream or yogurt. We also got a fresh squeezed limeade. She squeezed the limes fresh-it was pretty good-nice and tart.

There were some cute shops in the area-although we didn’t end up buying anything. There are clothing stores, boutiques and jewelry stores nestled among an army navy store and some other touristy types of places.

We stop in at destination chocolate. I had read good reviews of this place-they supposedly had great chocolate. It’s a small shop-and really-there isn’t much in it. There is a case in back where they have the a la carte pieces, and around the store there are pre-packaged goods, but in reality-there isn’t much merchandise here.

The chocolate here look almost too good to eat-I tend to find that the chocolates that look really nice aren’t as tasty as the ones that are simple and well made. The chocolate was good-don’t get me wrong, but I have had better. Clockwise from the top left are hazelnut, caramel, milk chocolate truffle and mint chocolate chip. The hazelnut was good-a like the nuts on the top for extra crunch. The caramel was smooth and creamy with a little bit of a salty taste to it. The milk chocolate truffle was smooth with a clean taste, but I think that hotel chocolate has a much better flavoring to it. Finally, the mint chocolate chip- tasted like an andes mint and had one little chocolate chip inside the filling.

We bought the caramels for a gift for friends…if you’re looking for a nice hostess gift, this would be your place-nice packaging but not very affordable.

We decide to spend the rest of the day before dinner at the hotel. They have chairs on the lawn where you can  sit and read or just enjoy the marina. You have to go through the pool or the locker room to get there-no one was at the pool and there were a few people sitting on the small deck outside sunbathing. When we were out there we noticed that if you had a room on the first floor, you would have a sliding glass door out onto this area.

Dinner on Friday is at The Mooring (Sayer’s Wharf, Newport, RI 401.846.2260) just a few blocks from the hotel.Make sure to make a reservation because wait time can be up to an hour if you don’t have one. And if you can get a seat outside-totally worth it, just remember your sunglasses.

The view is impressive of the marina and the service is some of the best I’ve had in a long time. The waitress was knowledgeable and friendly. She gave us good recommendations and was always available when we needed her.

We have the shrimp and crab dip ($11) as an appetizer. I love that the crostini came in a brown paper bag- I really notice the small details and can appreciate them. We also had bread delivered the same way-and the waitress even came by while we were eating to close up the paper bag to keep the bread warm. The dip had fontina cheese, spinach, fresh crab and baby shrimp. I can’t even describe how good it was-not too fishy, warm and smooth and creamy (oh my!) We wish we had also tried the bag of doughnuts which were lobster, crab and shrimp fritters or the stuffies which are stuffed cherrystones.

For dinner I had the scampi ($36). Lobster, shrimp and scallops over pasta. Well worth the $36-there were a ton of scallops-so many that I couldn’t finish them all. And they were perfectly cooked! A lot of places serve scampi with tons of pasta and only a little meat-but not so here. The sauce was wonderfully flavorful-an overall great meal.

My dining companion had the special which was a half chicken on a bed of roasted corn and sweet potato ($24). I have to admit that I like my chicken sans bone. I find it hard to cut off the meat in a lady like way in public, and I wouldn’t dare pick it up and eat it. The chicken was good-it had a little bit of a smokey flavor to it in addition to the sweet bbq sauce. The corn and sweet potato hash was excellent-just a really nice mix of texture and flavor.

The Mooring is  part of the fare rewards program I had mentioned above in the review of 22 Bowens.

Mooring on Urbanspoon

We head back over to Bowen’s Wharf for some ice cream at Sprinkles. What a cute name right? They have soft serve and a handful of hard ice cream choices. They are cash only so make sure to stop at the ATM before you stop by. When we had ordered and we were waiting for our ice cream-I noticed they serve Gifford’s Ice Cream. If I had known that that is what they had- I wouldn’t have stopped here. You can get Gifford’s in a lot of places-we could have just as easily gone to Ben and Jerry’s down the street if we wanted the ordinary. So the ice cream was par for the course-nothing special.

We went back to the hotel and turned in a while later. Note that the Pier 49 restaurant is next door and I don’t know if the noise was coming from there or from a party on someones boat, but there was loud music and yelling outside all night until about 3:30am. If you make sure to keep the ac fan on, it drowns out most of the noise, but we didn’t figure that out until night #2. An additional fact about the hotel is that there was a sign when we checked in that says that they have a zero tolerance policy-if someone complains about you, you get one warning-if they have to come again, you will be escorted out by the Newport Police and will not be given a refund. They are pretty strict in theory. On the way in to town there was a sign that stated a $400 fine to loud motorcycle engines or loud radios-strictly enforced.

Jonathan’s Cafe for breakfast on the concierge’s suggestion. The picture is fuzzy from the hazy weather and bright sunlight-sorry! Jonathan’s is located at 22 Washington Square-just past Banana Republic and a short walk from the hotel. The place is a little bit dumpy-a typical diner if you will. If you are expecting gourmet or top notch service-look elsewhere.

We didn’t see many other places for breakfast-the other choices would be panera or starbucks. We don’t drink coffee but they have a separate menu just for their coffee selections.

I order the egg scramble with swiss cheese, and as you can see in the picture-the cheese is just thrown on top and when I got it, you could just see all the grease pouring out of it. The potatoes were good-and the toast came dry…when I opened the butter packets on the table, they had separated and were about 75% liquid inside..needless to say I had dry toast that day.

My dining companion gets the breakfast sandwich which is about as good as my eggs. We order juice and are given two bottles of minute maid juice and straws. So there is nothing fancy to this place, but if you want a stick to your ribs kind of meal-this is your spot.

We decide to go to the Cliff Walk to work off the 8 billion calories we just consumed at breakfast. The concierge told us that for $1.75 you can take a shuttle that leaves from the visitors center right down the street from the hotel. She said it’s supposed to come every 20 minutes, but with all the Newport traffic, it’s not as reliable as you’d like it to be. So we concede to taking the car out of the lot and driving down there. The concierge told us that if we went to where the Cliff Walk starts, we would have to pay for parking, she showed us that if we started about a mile into the Cliff Walk where we could find free parking. If you do go to the place a mile down from the start-go early because our concierge isn’t the only one that knows about free parking. It was filling up as we got there around 11am. We walked about a mile and a half down to the tea house and then turned back, making a 3 mile walk…and it was starting to get hot with the sun beating down on us, make sure you stay hydrated!

We drive from the Cliff Walk to The Pier for lunch on Howard Wharf. There is free parking here-so that’s a bonus. There are tables outside by the marina but we sit in the area that is farther away-so it’s basically like eating in a parking lot with a view of the marina.

My dining companion gets the house salad ($5)  and the calamari ($8) that is tossed in a sweet and spicy red pepper glaze with diced peppers.

The calamari is a little bit soggy and the glaze is like the one found on General Gao’s/Tso’s chicken.

I have the “Pier Burger” ($10) that is an 8 oz burger with caramelized onions, mushrooms, proscuitto and swiss cheese. It sounds better on paper than it actually tasted. I thought it was just ok. The service was spotty at best-the servers were kids from high school or maybe on summer break from college that were more interested in talking with each other than giving good service. The drinks came in plastic cups-so that should have been a dead giveaway of what to expect.

The Pier on Urbanspoon

We walk down the street to grab some ice cream at Cold Fusion. I had seen this place the night before when we were walking around-there are all these articles in the window about how they were featured on Food Network or other shows, so I made a mental note that we should go back. The AC was broken that day so it was hotter inside than it was outside-bummer.

They have a nice variety of sorbets and gelato-some classic some a little more exotic. They are made by hand-not by machine. You can have a kiddie size that gets you one flavor, but if you get a small you can mix it up with two (and they encourage you to sample!)

I had a small with strawberry sorbet on the bottom and pistachio gelato on the top. Once you have gelato-you might never want to have ice cream again-it’s much denser and there isn’t any air whipped in. The pistachio was rich and flavorful and when I got the the sorbet on the bottom it was so clean and refreshing-LOVE IT! This may have been the bright spot in the day! I wish we had gone here the night before instead of Sprinkles.

Cold Fusion Gelato on Urbanspoon

We stopped back in Bowen’s Wharf at the Cookie Jar for some snacks for later. A cute little shop with a case full of cookies.

First up the double chocolate mint chip cookie-and let me just say that mint chips are awesome!! I’m wondering where I can get them!!

Next we have a “Brookie” a brownie cookie. I swear that’s not a bite taken out of the cookie-it broke when I tried to take it out of the bag. It was a little too crumbly for my taste but it was moist and rich in flavor. A cute place to stop for a quick snack!

On the way out of town Sunday morning we stop at Sweet Berry Farm (915 Mitchell’s Lane Middletown, RI 401.847.3912). We grab a bite to eat for breakfast in their self serve cafe.

A sunshine muffin with carrots, coconut and raisins. Not as sweet as carrot cake, but boy is this delicious! They have a really cute outside picnic area where you can have your meal or grab a cup of coffee.

They have quite a nice garden area and sell freshly cut flowers in their store.

They have a nice selection of fresh produce, specialty goods, prepared foods and home made baked goods.

We get 3 pints of ice cream, Susanna’s. I had heard about her ice cream and sorbet-wanted to see if it was worth the $8.99 price tag. We got the strawberry sorbet, the meyer lemon sorbet and the salted caramel swirl ice cream. The meyer lemon was tasty-but I could do without the lemon zest inside-but that is just a personal preference. The consistency was like an Italian ice.

The strawberry sorbet was by far my favorite-so light and refreshing, it was sweet like strawberry jam. And let me tell you that $9 sorbet goes just as quickly as the $4 sorbet you buy at the store-it just hurts twice as much that you paid extra. This is worth it though!! The strawberry sorbet was much creamier than the lemon-not as icy. The salted caramel swirl was tasty-the ice cream was rich and creamy. The first bite was all salt-I cringed and went in for a second bite that was much more appealing-it must have been a section that had settled and concentrated. I love love love salted caramel flavor-so three for three-worth the high price tag and a trip to Rhode Island. Susanna also sells at a local farmer market and has samples of more of the flavors-so check her out.

We also picked up triple berry jam made by the in house chef. Total price for 4 items $32.47.

We stopped on the way back to Boston in Providence at Venda Ravioli (275 Atwells Avenue Providence, RI 401.421.9105). They have an extensive meat counter and prepared food area. I have to say that I thought that the pasta was going to be fresh, but it was all frozen. If you go on their website you can get a 10% off coupon that is good until September 2010.

We got the asparagus tortelloni ($7.95) they are HUGE! They have a great flavor and large bites of asparagus inside.

We also had  the sweet potato ravioli ($6.95). I love when you cook them you can smell the cinnamon…mmm. The pasta was excellent-highly recommend a stop in if you’re in the neighborhood-next time we go we will make sure to buy more than two packages. They also do a mail order business in case you aren’t coming out that way.

So all in all a good trip-we made it through the weekend-had a few great meals and have some new favorite spots.

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