Take a bite out of these destinations – Part I
The best way to get to know a place is to sink your teeth into the culture and history that help shape its food traditions. Here are two epicurean adventures that let you taste the authenticity of a given destination’s culinary profile.
Newport, Rhode Island
In the land of coffee milk, “stuffies and chowda” and endless seafood – including the largest catch of squid in the country – Rhode Island has a unique and evolving culinary scene anchored by the state’s appetizer of calamari.
Bringing a sampling of the City by the Seas to the table is Rhode Island Red Food Tours. Its 3-hour Newport Neighborhood Food Tour exits the beaten path in favor of one meandering through a rediscovered neighborhood distinguished by 17th and 18th century colonial architecture.
Learn the local legends and lore while munching through six tasting locations, including Perro Salado, serving locally inspired Mexican dishes in a former 18th-century Naval officer’s home; Stoneacre Brasserie, offering a locally sourced seasonal menu paired with boutique French wines; and the Mad Hatter Bakery, where the stuffies specialties, quahogs (hard clams), is stuffed with spicy chourico.
Mission is hip on burgers and dogs. The Tavern On Broadway dishes up Rhode Island faves, including clam chowder, in a beautifully renovated 200-year-old colonial building. The Vanderbilt Grace, a boutique hotel in a mansion built by one of America’s richest families, serves up five distinct dining venues.
Covering about 1.8 miles, the Newport Neighborhood Food Tour operates 12-3:15 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from April 20 through late November. Tickets: $69/person includes all food; $82/person includes all food and three alcohol tastings.
Overnight at Newport’s Cliffside Inn, a luxurious bed and breakfast just steps from the historic Cliff Walk, with formal gardens, walking paths, wrap-around porch and outdoor fireplace. A member of Select Registry, the inn is tucked into a circa 1876 Victorian mansion that coddles guests with sumptuous beds and imported linens, whirlpool baths and spa showers.
Dining here brings its own epicurean delights, with a multi-course breakfast featuring seasonal, savory breakfast entrées, homemade granola, fresh-baked breads and muffins and a coffee, roasted daily and blended exclusively for the inn – all served in an elegant Victorian parlor.
Traveling a bit farther afield, Intrepid Travel’s 8-day Italy Real Food Adventure presents an insider’s guide to regional Italian cuisine that has participants salivating from Venice to Rome. Of course, there is pizza and pasta, but fresh seafood, sharp-scented cheeses, cured meats, 12-year-old barrel-aged balsamic vinegars, desserts like tiramisu and sweet kranz are on the menu, too – not to mention a Cicchetti Crawl through the wine bars of the City of Canals.
Known for creating hyperlocal real-world adventures for small groups (usually no more than 10), Intrepid Travel emphasizes authenticity. Step into landscapes of canals, churches and other historic buildings and monuments, Tuscan vineyards and a medieval walled town, but also scenes of farmers unloading the day’s catch and locals’ laundry snapping about on clotheslines.
Watch the masters roll pasta and then stick your own hands in to craft tagliatelle al ragu. Overnight in a farmhouse in Tuscany and taste olive oil made from the fruit of the surrounding olive trees.
Departures to Italy’s epicurean wonderland are scheduled May through October. Epicureans should pack as lightly as possible as participants carry their own bag/s and travel is primarily by comfy trains.