Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cold Weather Beauty Tops

It’s been a little while since I last did a favorites list or review, and as I’ve been trying out a fair amount of new health & beauty products it seems like a perfect excuse to share with you all! I think my recent experimentation has been caused primarily by the changing of seasons- as colder weather begins to creep in around the edges (it snowed in portions of Maine this weekend while I was home, crazy!), I am harshly reminded to boost up my skin and body care routines to ward off the onslaught of winter’s dry skin, brittle hair, and cracking nails. This crusade to protect my fragile, pale skin and fine hair has lead me to discover some new products, as well as re-acquainting myself with some old friends. In no particular order, my tops for beauty & skin care finds:

1) Biomega Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner: My wildly talented hair stylist, Megan, at Ki-Ra Salon recently switched me from Moroccan Oil to Biomega during my last salon trip, and I am never looking back. Although I loved the smell and hydration of the Moroccan Oil products, it just seemed to be too heavy for my fine textured hair. I’ve never had a problem with having oily hair, and it seemed if I didn’t wash it every day, I would be left with a lot of oil build-up, not cool. Moroccan Oil seemed to weigh my hair down significantly, causing it to have a lot less of its usual body, and as a result I would just end up throwing it up in a ponytail and ignoring it. After consulting with Megan, she recommended the Biomega products, as she had done for other clients with similar issues. The products smell incredibly fresh and light, moisturize perfectly without being weighty, and come in significantly under the price of Moroccan Oil. I knew it was a perfect match when after washing my hair at home for the first time and doing a thorough towel dry, my hair was already picking up a little volume. I actually did a little photo shoot with my good friend, the very talented Earl Brewer, the next day and even he commented on how fabulous the volume was, and the proof is in the pictures:

Another great selling point? I’ve always had pretty strong gripes with the hair care industry for selling shampoo & conditioner in the same size bottles. Unless you have very long hair, you’re more than likely using ½ the conditioner as compared to shampoo usage, which can be a pain when replenishing your supply. The smart cookies behind Biomega sell their shampoo in 10oz. bottles and conditioner in 5oz tubes. Love it! And if you need another reason to check them out, the parent company, Aquage, is a partner with Susan G. Komen for the cure in the fight against breast cancer and raising breast cancer awareness!

2) Bare Minerals Cosmetics: I think the last time that I wore a liquid foundation would be right around the era of 1999-2000, and for just reason- I could never find one that I like! I have very fair, sensitive skin (thank you, Irish roots), and I would continually feel like I had a layer of frosting on my face any time I attempted to wear it, so I gave up on foundation all together. Fast forward almost ten years later to when my mother discovered Bare Minerals just before my 2008 nuptials. She had been looking for lightweight coverage, and stopped by a great little boutique make-up shop in Boothbay, About Face for a consult. The owner was very helpful and gave my mother a wonderful custom consult with the Bare Minerals products, which she was so happy with she went ahead and purchased. After test driving her products a few times, I bit the bullet and purchased my own. The powder foundation is ridiculously light, you don’t even feel like you have anything on, and any unevenness or blemishes are evenly covered. The blush is very subtle, and their make-up brushes are incredibly soft (I’m a very tactile person!). I have since expanded out to their Buxom Lip Gloss line (all with cheeky stripper-esque names), fortified with lip plumpers, their Prime Time base (gives skin and crazy smooth surface and is super light), and their mascaras that are always feathery and light. I don’t worry about the blemishes that would undoubtedly pop up when using other bases and the coverage is light and flawless. They even recently re-designed their loose powder pots with sealable internal lids, which avoid the ever-popular powder explosion that used to happen upon opening up the pot for the first time after it had been shaken about in your travel bag. Bare Minerals has made me a proud convert to the “Swirl, Tap, Buff” mantra.

3) Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion: If you are a woman between the ages of 17 and 100 and you have yet to discover or try Clinique face lotion, do it now!!! Seriously. This is yet another product pass-down from my mother, and in the 15 or so years that I have been using it, this lotion has never done me wrong. It is totally hypoallergenic, fragrance free and gentle, but tough enough to stand up to winter’s bite. I would honestly guess that one of my first memories as a young girl would be the simple yellow bottle with its polished silver top standing on my mother’s bedside table- a residence it still upholds today. While trends and new revelations in skin care come and go, there is a reason why this little genius has stood the test of time for so many women for years, and for our family, generations.

4) Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear: I am an insult to woman-kind when it comes to my nail painting skills, and I openly admit it. I have always lusted after the girls who were capable of slapping on a perfectly painted manicure in minutes and would stare longingly at their perfect polish applications. I think my fault lies in one simple characteristic: extreme lack of patience. While I love the look of painted nails, I hate waiting around for them to dry, and 90% of the time I end up assuring myself that my nails are “dry enough” before deciding to re-pot all the house plants or clean the bathroom tile grout. This always results in my nails looking like they were done by a four year old wearing a blindfold, and I swear off polishing my nails until the next time I convince myself I can master the task. A few months ago, I discovered the Xtreme Wear line, and shockingly, we’re now BFFs. The colors are all very saturated, go on smoothly and dry quickly- score! Not only do I love the way my nails look just after a fresh coat, the color stand up to everything I put my hands through- cooking, cleaning, slamming around on keyboards and general mayhem- and still look pretty damn good. There is a huge selection of colors as well, and with minimal upkeep, this strengthening polish can look great for a full week, if not longer. Finally, I’m a true girl!

5) Burberry “Weekend” Cologne: Ok, so not really a beauty product per-se, but I felt it was worthwhile to pay homage to my favorite of scents. Technically, I believe this is a men’s fragrance, although I’ve taken to wearing men’s scents for years now. As I am not usually attracted to flowery smelling perfumes, this Burberry scent is the best thing I’ve ever found. It’s a little crisp laundry, a little shaving cream fresh and fully relaxed and subtle enough for everyday wear without overpowering (there is nothing that makes me crazier when you can smell a person’s- male or female- scent spray when you’re more than 5ft away). It evokes exactly what the name is all about: a casual, comfortable scent that’s just as good when worn with a LBD as it is with jeans and an old Hanes. Classic, a little preppy, and perfectly comfortable in any setting.

6) The Body Shop Body Butter: What can I say about The Body Shop’s Body Butter that hasn’t already been said??? This heavy duty moisturizer is like a gift from heaven for those of us that are stricken with dry, sensitive winter skin. I have been using their Brazil Nut Body Butter for at least ten years (I was devastated when they discontinued the Soy version- the Brazil nut was a great consolation), and it has never done me wrong. I keep a pot of this wonder product on my bedside table (right next to my YogaToes) and I love the feeling of the deep moisturization after a post work shower. It relieves cracked hands and feet, takes away the “alligator skin” that sneaks up on your limbs, and doesn’t clog pores in the process. While I don’t personally use this as my everyday moisturizer, I love treating myself to a little extra body hydration once or twice a week to keep my skin healthy and protected from the harsh New England winter weather.

So that’s my list of beauty go-tos for colder temps- what products do you rely on to get you through the frostier months?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MADly in Love

Only recently have Kyle and I discovered Mad Men, and become completely hooked. Yes, I realize that the show just wrapped up its fourth season on AMC, but I am notorious for being slightly behind the times when it comes to good TV. I also happen to really enjoy when you get your hands on an entire season of a show on DVD so that you can watch at your own pace, even setting aside and enitre weekend to consume every last bit of entertainment. There isn't much I can say about Mad Men that hasn't already been said, and probably noted a couple years back- the writing is sharp, the costume and set design are exquisite, and the entire ensemble cast are a force.

The other day I was parousing my Google reader and came across a posting on the Sweet Nothings blog showing off the Mad Men inspired "Save the Date" cards made by the smart cookies over at The Wedding Chicks- brilliant! Naturally I had to make my own:

 While they are presented as "Save the Date" cards, I think they would work perfectly for just about any occassion for a couple: anniversary party invitations, wall art, a wedding gift to another couple (say, for a first anniversary, since paper is the traditional gift!)- the applications are limitless.

While I go back to making moon-pie eyes at Don Draper, check out The Wedding Chicks website for lots of cute custom ideas, and you can even make your own Mad Men card here, just pick out your colors and text, fill out the email address portion, and they'll mail you your custom card proof and you can place an order for your own custom cards. Tres chic!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Block Island Holiday

This past weekend, Kyle and I took the ferry out to Block Island for an extended birthday/Columbus Day weekend. There we...

  Stayed at the lovely Harborside Inn
Enjoyed coffee & bagels from Java n' Juice on Payne's Dock

Wanna go ride bikes? 

 Did a lot of sight seeing and playing tourist...

Enjoyed libations & relaxation at The Oar, Mohegan Cafe & Captain Nick's

And found Will & Carolyn's oar!
Champagne & Cribbage on the hotel porch on my birthday!

 Insanely large (and delicious!) breakfasts at Ernie's

An exceptionally well prepared birthday meal at Hotel Manisses
Zee-donk: He's so punk rock, check out that mohawk.
Of course BI has a petting zoo full of exotic animals and a giant tortise fountain...
An abosolutely perfect birthday weekend adventure, and surely not the last time we will be out to the island. Anyone up for making this an annual trip- we could rent a house next year...

Sigh, back to reality...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Well Hello There, Fall

Hands down, fall is my favorite season, due in no small part to my Northern blood and desire to bundle up. While spring is the season of re-birth, summer the time to make the most of the outdoors and winter was made for Hot Toddies, fall seamlessly combines the best of all seasons for me. The air is crisp and dry, the skies are clear, and all of my favorite cool weather clothing comes out of hiding for the long haul. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite five components of Fall in New England:

1) Fall Cooking & Food: It’s an obvious given in my world of food obsession, but fall food encompasses all my favorite flavors. I love it all- pumpkin lattes, Hungarian mushroom soup and rich chowders, hearty fresh-baked loaves of bread (preferably made by my husband!), slow cooked roasts with seasonal vegetables, and of course the quintessential Thanksgiving feast- the foods of autumn represent time spent with loved ones and memories made. There is a sensory intoxication that seems to overtake the self when you walk into a warm home wrapped in the smells of a meal cooking, are handed a glass of red wine, and invited to just unwind and enjoy. I tend to want to linger over these relaxed fall meals, kicking off my boots and listening to stories told by others, finding a good soundtrack to the meal, and afterwards, falling into sleep full, warm, and happy.

2) Boots, Scarves & Sweaters: When I can get away with it, I do my damndest to wear boots year round. My collection is relatively utilitarian, with the ability to be both work and personally functional. My two favorite pairs are both of the brown knee-high variety- one a flat soled riding boot(pictured above), and the other a pair with stacked wooden heels that belonged to my mother in the 70s (even better!). They go with anything from jeans to pencil skirts, and never let me down. There is nothing like the comfort of a soft, snuggly sweater on a brisk fall day! Merino wool or cashmere in any color is always a perfect choice, and if made well will last a lifetime. As mentioned in my previous post, my Brooks Brothers merino cowl necks are what I usually reach for. And nothing says “Hello October!” like a well layered scarf!

3) Fall Getaways: I adore fall travel! Prices drop after Labor Day, and even more so after Columbus Day, making it much easier to visit some of the best seasonal destinations during the skirt season. A lot of hotels off getaway specials during off-peak times, and it’s a great way to see a favorite destination or discover a new place without breaking the bank. If you’re not able to get away for an extended period of time, there are so many fairs and festivals come fall time (around these parts we have the Foliage Festival, Oktoberfest, Newport Boat Show, Food & Wine Festival and my favorite back in Maine, the Common Ground Fair), that a day trip is a great way to take in the best of the season, enjoy a beautiful drive up or down the coast and sample the local tasty treats.

4) Birthday & Holiday Celebrations: All of my immediate family’s birthdays fall between the end of September and end of November, so it makes it easy to remember them all. When we were all living in Annapolis, my brother, husband and I would have at least one big fall party to celebrate birthdays while it was still warm enough to be outside, but cool enough that the A/C wasn’t cranking obnoxiously in the background. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of all, due in no small part to the loads of homemade food, the gathering of family, and the kicking off of the fall/winter holiday season. Kyle and I really enjoy hosting Thanksgiving for family & friends in our home, inviting them to kick back, watch some football, maybe take a walk to two around town and eat to capacity. This mantra is repeated at least three or four times over a the long weekend.

5) Fall Sports: I am a dyed in the wool New England Patriots fan, so September marks the start of the greatest sports season of the year for me. Beyond my fanatical dedication to my beloved Pats, I am crazy about the entire culture of football- watching games with friends, dreaming of going to the live show @ Gillette (still working on this one!), tailgating, late Sunday and Monday nights glued to the last moments of the 4th quarter, the whole rig! It’s the only time of year where pre-gaming on a Sunday at 10AM is acceptable and bowing out of plans because “the game starts at ________” is completely understood. Just thinking about next week’s game against the much loathed Ravens makes me giddy. The start of football marks the winding down of Red Sox baseball, my second favorite on the sports roster. Fall games bring a crispness to Fenway, and on occasion a pennant chase or two. This year I crossed one of my biggest sports “to-dos” off the list by attending my first Red Sox/Yankees home game. As an added bonus, I went with a great crowd of old & new friends, and it was the farewell game honoring Mike Lowell. Although they weren’t quite able to pull out a win, it was a hell of a fun time to go and be a fan.

This week is truly the culmination of all that fall has to offer for me: Sunday I saw the Red Sox play at Fenway, Monday the Patriots stomped the Dolphins (squish the fish!), today is my incredible mother’s birthday, and this weekend Kyle and I take off to Block Island for a long weekend to celebrate our birthdays and get away from the world for a while. I can’t wait to climb around the island, sample the best of what Block Island has to offer, and breathe in the salty, crisp air. I’m only apprehensive that I might burst into flames from overexposure to awesomeness.

What are the finer points of fall that draw you in? Your favorite fall memory or traditions?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brunch is a State of Mind

The past two weekends, I have made a conscious effort to take some personal time to just kick back and relax. It might sound a bit ridiculous to schedule time to relax, but it sometimes, it just needs to be done. Although I admit to taking plenty of time recently to travel to Maine to visit family, make dinner dates with friends and attending various social outings, a lot of that time is spent with other people.
During one of these recent times home, I had a conversation with my mother where she mentioned that for at least an hour a day on the weekends, she forces herself to stop whatever project she is working on and just kick back for an hour on the porch or in the backyard and just enjoy her surroundings- whether it is with a book, a magazine, a cocktail, a mug of coffee or a snack. Taking this “personal time out” allows you to really pause and appreciate what is around you. This seemingly simple concept and conversation snapped me into the awareness that I rarely take that sort of time, and considering how much solo time I have, it seems ridiculous not to. From last weekend on, I vowed to follow my mother’s advice, and take some time to just stop, breathe and appreciate- televisions, cell phones and distractions aside.

It started during that first weekend back in the treehouse after Ky had gone back to sea. Friday evening was absolutely beautiful- the weather sunny & warm without humidity. I made myself a little tapas plate with olives, hummus, feta and crackers, poured a glass of wine, grabbed my book and headed for the hammock swing on the front porch. Between chapters & nibbles I watched the world pass by out on the sidewalk, let my mind wander, and took in my landlord’s gorgeous flowers. By the time the sun set, I was drenched in a delicious sense of relaxation, and felt completely unwound from my week.

That Sunday, I woke up early to get errands out of the way, and was back home by 11- just in time for brunch! Before scooting back down to the porch I made myself a grilled English muffin topped with sautéed mushrooms, onion, garlic & thyme and a poached egg. I settled into the hammock swing with my brunch and latte (if you are not familiar w/ the Bialetti stovetop cappuccino/espresso maker- I would highly recommend checking out the site & getting one, they’re amazing!!!), and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours just relaxing and enjoying the brunch mentality that seems to escape us all during the week.

It seemed appropriate that the week after implementing her practice, my mother would be down for a visit, and I think we did a damn fine job of keeping up the observance. We got up when we felt like it, had a leisurely late lunch (with wine) and took ourselves out to an extended brunch and walkabout on Sunday. As wonderful as it is to spend some time alone, it’s also just as good to spend it with someone who knows you so well that no explanation is ever needed, and the occasional silence isn’t considered awkward.

Whether alone or with others- linger over that meal, read in bed for that extra 10 minutes in the morning, take the longer drive home, fall asleep in the hammock and treat yourself to a little cocktail hour on Friday afternoon. Life is busy enough as it is, so we might as well take advantage and savor the moments that provide that “Brunch Mentality” when they happen- banking those sentiments comes in handy for the times when life forces you to strap on your big kid pants.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Picks- Best of Newport County, Dining Edition

Man, that was a lot of food- here lemme wash 'er down...

Although this is a food related post, I thought it would be a better fit for The Humble Home, as opposed to the Table, since it’s a review not a recipe. Like any other self-proclaimed foodie, I adore going out to eat and trying new restaurants, it is a very close second to making a fantastic meal at home. For being considered a small town, Newport has some really outstanding restaurants, so I’ve compiled a review of the places we frequent, and those we’ve only recently tried, so if you ever find yourself in the area, you’ll at least have an idea of some of the offerings of our local culinary teams. I'm shooting to make this a two-part post, with the first half dedicated to my favorites in the region, so let's start off with the brightest stars.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, we ended up living in a great neighborhood for food. The upper Broadway area of Newport has arguably some of the best restaurants in town. As an added bonus, it is a bit off the main drag, so the tourist traffic is less than the America’s Cup/Thames St. area down on the water. We’ve made a pretty good go at checking out the restaurants in this area, and it plays host to our favorite go to spot, which is where I’ll kick the list off:

(A quick note: I've included links where possible to the webpages of these restaurants, but I do not have any photos of the meals I've enjoyed. It's a bit of a personal issue with me, but I find it extremely distracting to take photos of a meal when out with friends. Most of the sites have menus & photos, so you can get the idea from there on the offerings!)

1) Salvation Café: This is easily my favorite place in all of Newport. It has a very funky, eclectic style, and the food is always outstanding. Almost every time we have guests in town, we’ll take them to Salvation. They run a well thought out, seasonally inspired menu with offerings for any taste- their hanger steak & frites is outstanding, the pad thai (offered with chicken, shrimp or tofu) is generous and fresh, and the offer rotating specials that are always spot on. Their appetizer/starter selections are on par with the rest of their menu, and their beet salad and mussels with frites are a personal point of obsession (they ran out of mussels the last time we were there, and I was completely crushed, but was well consoled by the hanger steak in homemade Worcestershire sauce), and eat well as a meal. I sampled a friend’s calamari a few weeks ago, and it did not disappoint. Cocktail, beer and wine offerings are all great, and their infamous Sangria lives up to the hype. On the last visit, I tried their Tiger Tea (a mix of sweet tea vodka and house made lime aid), and am now hooked! Service is usually very good, but being the hotspot that it is, it can get a little spotty at times. As an added bonus for year round residents, they run a lot of weekday specials after peak season, including Taco Tuesdays and the Real Winos of Newport County. The place is packed most any night, so getting there early is a good idea, and if you’re waiting, the back yard tiki bar is not a bad place to hang out with a cocktail.

2) Norey’s Star (fan page available on Facebook): Located a couple of doors down from Salvation, Norey’s was a great stumble-upon find. Looking for a place to grab a beer and an appetizer while my Dad was in town, the three of us ended up at Norey’s, and have been back many times as a result. Norey’s has a funky modern diner sort of aesthetic, with an extensive offering of beers and wine (cocktails are not available). They pride themselves on having the most extensive offering of bottled beers from both national and international breweries. Similar to Salvation, their menu seems to change seasonally, although staples can be found any time of year and also have a great offering of fresh raw bar selections. A standout on the appetizer menu is their Fried Goat Cheese plate, which pairs a disc of lightly breaded goat cheese with their incredible fried spinach and toasted baguette slices. The combination of the warm goat cheese with the crispy spinach is absolutely outstanding. Other great offerings include their mussels (which were on the winter menu and show up occasionally as a special), the bistro steak w/ blue cheese, lobster mac & cheese and their burgers. Full service is available at the bar, and I have found that the bartenders are a bit more attentive than the floor staff. The food at Norey’s is thoughtfully prepared, and makes for a great out of the way spot to grab dinner and catch up with a friend.

3) Pour Judgement: I love Pour Judgement not only for their witty name, but their unpretentious approach great bar food. From the outside, it looks like your standard bar, and in part, it is. PJ offers a great lineup of 17 beers on draught, as well as bottled offerings of some lesser known brew houses. They also boast a solid wine list and full cocktail service. Their menu has everything from standard chicken wings and burgers to hand cut fries with smoked Gouda cheese sauce, nori of the day, and an impressive offering of entrees. I habitually order their Portuguese Littlenecks- steamed in white wine with chorizo, onions, peppers and garlic- and they are always perfection. Kyle has adventured further, and their nightly specials are always well prepared, the fried shrimp Po’boy was a remembered standout. As an added bonus, I just found out that they do a Sunday brunch, and I’m looking forward to taking a stroll down the street for further research soon. The staff is always on their game, and with a constantly changing draught beer lineup and nightly specials, it’s hard to get bored.

4) The Fastnet Pub: Fastnet is exactly what you would expect out of an Irish pub- well poured pints, a good selection of standard drinks, and pub fare. Fastnet certainly isn’t looking to re-invent the bar, and they do a great job at bringing a little of Ireland in Newport. The food selection is pretty standard- burgers, deli sandwiches, wings and the like, and my personal standout would be their homemade curry sauce for their Curry Fries and the Fish & Chips, two staples of any good pub. I’ll go just about to the ends of the earth for well done Fish & Chips and Curry Fries- luckily for me I only have to go to the end of the block. And there’s nothing like a freshly poured Magners for refreshment, which is enough to keep me loyal for years. The interior of Fastnet looks like something right out of Dublin, with dark wood, a good sized bar and hi top tables. On Sundays they have live Irish music, and in the summer they roll open the shutter windows for an open air, relaxed feeling. They’ll also open early for televised international rugby games (on the projection big screen), and you’re sure to find crews from far and away sporting their motherland’s jersey and enjoying a pint.

5) Empire Tea & Coffee: Although not really a restaurant, per say, Empire is a fantastic coffee house. My brother-in-law Brandon and his wife Ugne were actually the first to discover Empire during a visit this past winter, and I am eternally grateful to them. The crew at Empire really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to tea and coffee, and they are more than happy to share their knowledge with their customers. While they have the standard coffee/espresso/latte/tea offerings you would expect, they can also broaden your horizon with their extensive selection of loose teas and unique beverages like their “Third Degree Burn” which pairs espresso with spicy (as in hot pepper) Mexican chocolate for a unique and delicious combination. They also carry one of my favorite guilty pleasures- Bubble Tea!

6) A-1 Pizza: Well made, fresh pizza is a thing of unbridled beauty. My family prides ourselves on being quite the pizza connoisseurs, and thinks nothing of driving ridiculously out of our ways for a good one. Lucky for Kyle and me, we found a fantastic place literally around the corner from our apartment. A-1 creates incredible Greek style pizzas (thicker, pan style crust) out of their humble little shop, with offerings to suit any taste. It’s not just my personal accolade for the best pizza in Newport- they have won the “Best Cheese Pizza” in Newport County award for years- and the proof is in the pie. Their extensive menu of specialty pizzas takes up two pages on their menu, and thus far, I haven’t been disappointed. Favorites in our house include the Pizza all Bubba (pepperoni & sausage covered in a mix of sautéed onions, garlic & peppers), Grecian Delight (Tzatziki sauce, spinach, black olives, feta & tomatoes), Gyro (marinated slices of lamb & beef) and the Buffalo Chicken. During a visit from my brother, who is not shy about his passion for great wings, we threw in an order of their Italian Wings, and they were outstanding! Fried extra crispy, the wings are tossed with Italian herbs, chopped garlic and olive oil- unbelievable! The meat was juicy, and the flavors worked together beautifully. While A-1 is not your typical $8 pizza joint, they’re well worth the money, and have stood the test of time for the past 34 years for a reason. As a matter of fact, after writing this list, I went straight home, called my husband, and told let him know that I had place an order for takeout, if he would be so kind as to swing by A-1 on his way home from the base.

7) Café Zelda: I know I’ve mentioned Zelda’s a couple of times before, and with good reason- they are consistently great! Like many of my favorites, we stumbled on Zelda’s while wandering around downtown in search of a place for brunch on Sunday. The interior has a bit of split personality, with the dining room reminiscent of a seaside French bistro with white tablecloths and attentive servers, and a rich wood-laden, no frills bar that is full of the sailing crowd at any given time washing down pints and trying their hand at the well-known Virgin Island “ring game”. Food at Café Zelda is always spot on, and they stay true to their Bistro roots- offering such favorites as Pissaladiere (a French tart with caramelized onions, black olives and anchovy paste), a classic Savoyard sandwich, Eggs Benedict, Truffled Foie Gras “Crème Brulee”, Steak Frites and what is arguably the best burger in all of Newport. Although I’ve only made it to Zelda’s for lunch and brunch, I am looking forward making the trip downtown for dinner once the crowds start to die down- their Bouillabaise and Braised Short Ribs sound like the perfect thing to take the chill out of a fall night!

8) Bouchard’s: Interestingly enough, I had heard about Bouchard’s long before I even knew I would be a resident of Newport. Once we had established residency, I knew Bouchard’s would be the sort of place for a truly special occasion, as was such for our 2 year anniversary. Set in an old converted house which also plays host to a small Inn, Bouchard’s main dining room is warm and intimate, a place where you don’t feel crowded or rushed. One look at the menu and you know that the chef and namesake, Albert Bouchard, knows his trade. I had a difficult time narrowing down my selections to anything past “the entire left page, please”. Our server was wonderfully attentive without being overbearing, and when the wine Kyle selected was no longer offered, she pointed us to a similar option without trying to “upsell” us on our price point. As we placed our order, our server let us know that they had a Grand Mariner Soufflé for desert that evening, and if we hadn’t had it before it was not something to be missed (it was advised to place that order with our entrees, as it is a bit time consuming). Done and done. We started off with the Pate de Foie du Chef and the Filet Mignon Carpaccio, each of which set the tone beautifully. For mains, Kyle had a Bone-in Veal Chop from the specials and I had the Duck Breast with Coffee Crust- there is a reason for the price point on these dishes. Chef Bouchard is thoughtful not only of each component in his dishes, but of the entire flow of a meal. For us, it was a grand slam. While clearing our entrée plates, our server inquired as to what we were celebrating, and we informed her it was our anniversary. Minutes later she came back wih two glasses of complimentary champagne, which we enjoyed over dessert. The soufflé arrived with its head held high before our server cracked the surface and poured in the crème angliase. It was an absolute perfect note to end a memorable meal on. While clearly not for the everyday (at least not on my salary!), Bouchard’s is not to be missed when toasting a special occasion.

9) Easton’s Beach Snack Bar: On the absolute opposite side of the spectrum from Bouchard’s, you will find Easton’s Beach Snack Bar. Why did it make the list? Two words: Lobster rolls. I’m pretty sure this has got to be the best kept culinary secret in all of Newport County, and I’m apprehensive to even put it on the list, for fear of word getting out! I would have never even known of the Snack Bar’s existence, had it not been for my friend and IYRS colleague Jill, who slyly turned to me one afternoon while finishing up a shift at the library and asked “Do you know about the Snack Bar???”. She proceeded to give me the full story of how this little seaside cash-only snack bar was producing the best lobster rolls anywhere (big claim, I know!). I came to find out you get not only one but two fresh-made lobster rolls to an order, served on a bed of Boardwalk Fries for, wait for it, $10.99!!! Insanity! After my first experience, I was a complete believer. The lobster meat is fresh (as in off the boat fresh) and well picked, served the right way, on a butter grilled hot dog roll and mixed only with a little Hellman’s mayonnaise (I’ll save my ode to Hellman’s for later), with just the lightest line of shredded lettuce running down the bottom of the bun for a little crunch. There is nothing like it, and I think I’ve gone every time I can come up with an excuse. As a testament, I got them once when my mother was in town, and she was even floored. Now if only there was a way to convince them to stay open through the winter…

10) Jamestown Oyster Bar: Although not technically in Newport, this little seafood restaurant on neighboring Jamestown Island is a great spot if you’re in Jamestown exploring. We had spent the day over at Beavertail, and were looking for a place to grab a light bite. Since we had walked by the Oyster Bar a couple of times in the past, we decided to give it a go. The interior is simple and clean, with a long bar running against the right wall, and bright white dressed tables scattered throughout. It was a hot night, and one of the servers recommended we take a table by the window, so we settled in and looked over the menu. Their appetizer/small plate offerings are quite extensive, and we picked out a couple to try. They have an extensive by the bottle wine list, as well as a complete bar, and their daily by the glass offerings are listed on the large “Specials” blackboard in the middle of the dining room. We started off with an order of mussels in white wine and garlic (shocking, I know), and the escargot sautéed with sweet onions and served over toast points- we were looking forward to trying the freshwater smelts, but they were out. While I admit to being a relatively adventurous eater (especially when it comes to seafood), I had yet to ever try escargot for some unknown reason, but went with Kyle’s excitement. The escargot were delicate and subtle in flavor- well complimented by the butter and sweet onion sauté- and I am thrilled to have finally had the chance to enjoy the little guys! The mussels were simple and well prepared, with the focus on the freshness of the product. For our second round, we went with 9 oysters on the ½ (our server informed us it was 2 for 1 on oysters on Sundays!) and Clams Casino. At most establishments, Clams Casino consists of Cherrystone clams topped with buttered breadcrumbs and crisp bacon. At the Oyster bar, their twist replaces the bacon with baby Maine shrimp, and it was a welcome change, even for a bacon aficionado. The oysters were of good size and notably fresh, served simply with lemon, cocktail sauce and extra horseradish- perfect! We had a fantastic night of sampling , and really enjoyed the relaxed, yet polished atmosphere of the Oyster Bar, something that will definitely draw us back again.

Phew! So that rounds out my list of “tops” in the area for dining and drinks- I think that should take care of it! I’m shooting to have my less than stellar reviews up in the next day or so, although I think it will be a shorter list. ;) If you do find yourself at any of these spots, I’d love to hear your thoughts, as no two palates are alike!

Thanks for visiting Newport!