Saturday, August 07, 2010

July 18, 2010 - Newport Weekend

Between all the time we've been spending up in Somerville, working on my sister's place, and our persistent frugality we haven't been exploiting our proximity to the restaurants and bars in Newport nearly as much as we expected to when we first arrived back home from our trip. We walk by them all the time, but the prices and cover charges keep us from going in. Also, the two times we flew home for the Holidays, from New Zealand and Singapore, we both packed on a lot of weight (the last time we put on 25lbs between the two of us), so we've been trying to be careful about what we put in in our mouths. But this weekend our friends Matt and Monica came up from Philly to stay onboard Mata'irea with us. And so we had the perfect excuse to revisit some old haunts and check out some new places that we'd been hearing a lot about.

Our weekend of gluttony started with an early movie at the Jane Pickens and dinner at Norey's with Sten's mom and sister while Matt and Monica battled the traffic on 95. The food at Norey's was fine, and the beer list was truly impressive (if completely overwhelming). The waitress realized that Sten was stumped and offered him samples of a few brews to help him make up his mind.
It was quite late when Matt and Monica pulled in and they were worn out from the work week, so once we had their car tucked into one of the extremely rare and super secret free parking spaces in Newport, we retired to the boat. Once on board they presented us with a gift of a mixed pack of craft beers from their favorite small breweries. It was quickly apparent that there is a lot that we could learn about beer from these two. Sten pulled a few local brews out of the fridge and we chatted late into the night, getting caught up on each other's lives.

During the early hours of the morning I woke to the sound of the fog horn. I lay in bed, alternatively hoping that it hadn't woken anyone else up, and then wishing that it would. I was so excited to have company that I didn't want to waste a minute of it sleeping. When I couldn't stand the anticipation anymore I got up, made a pot of coffee, and cut up a small loaf of my sister's zucchini bread. Matt perked up as the smell of Kona wafted through the cabin and came up to join me in the cockpit. We talked some more as we watched the harbor come to life.

Once Sten and Monica were up and caffeinated we headed ashore for breakfast at Gary's Handy Lunch, a local institution. It is one of the cheapest places in town to fill one's stomach. It also happens to be very good. It isn't fancy, but I've never had a bad meal there, which is a lot more than I can say for many of the swankier places in town.

After breakfast, Matt and Monica took off for points north and a baby shower. Sten and I took the opportunity to check out the new wine store across the street from the Viking Hotel that we've been hearing a lot about. I was totally tickled to find a bottle of Sir Lambert's, a South African Sauvignon Blanc that we last enjoyed with a meal of clawless lobster in the tiny crayfish port (which also happens to the home of a decent point break) of Eland's Bay, SA.

Next up was a stop at a little barbershop to get Sten's shaggy mane shaped up. For $7 he not only got trimmed, but got lots of info about which bars serve free food with their happy hours. How great is that? We'll be checking out those tips and reporting back on them later.

As the day heated up and the sidewalks became more crowded with all the tourists in town for the Black Ships Festival we ducked into the cool and quiet Newport library to put our new library cards to work (I shudder to think how much I used to spend on paperbacks and big glossy gardening and home renovation books). While Sten perused the periodicals I checked out a few guidebooks about local highlights.

In the past, when we would spend weekends in Newport, I relied upon Sten's family's local knowledge, not bothering to try to learn about the place on my own. I promised myself as we sailed towards home that I would explore the States the way I do foreign places. And so I have been reading Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower, to learn more about the history of New England, and checking out guidebooks, local newspapers, and regional magazines. But mostly I've been talking to people.

I used to assume that having lived somewhere for a while or having visited it a few times, I knew it all. Now I assume that I don't know a thing. So now, as I did while we were traveling, I stop and talk to shop assistants, launch drivers, waiters . . . really anyone I can get to slow down and chat . . . to find out what they know. Just this weekend we've been on a quest to find places for Matt and Monica to park their car in Newport without feeding a meter. Although we knew a few places, and in the past we would have relied on those, I began asking people what they knew. Now free parking spaces aren't something that one divulges without hesitation. But in trading on our secret spots we learned of several more. Just by talking to people.

Matt and Monica were late coming back down from Massachusetts, so we met them out at Pour Judgment, a bar on Broadway that we'd been hearing a lot about. While we waited for them to arrive we ordered up a beer and a glass of wine, a burger and a plate of littlenecks, and watched the Tour on the flat screen over our heads. Pour Judgment's $5.95 burger might just be the best deal in town. No, actually the best deal in town is probably their $7.95 burger and beer combo. And behind the bar they have a seriously eclectic selection of the hard stuff, making this a spot that we'll have to get back to soon.

Matt and Monica joined us for one more round at Pour Judgment before we moved on down the road to Salvation Cafe, one of our alltime favorite places in Newport. With industry night specials, a pagoda and a tiki bar, Salvation is, well, salvation. But I've got to say that their current cocktail offerings leave me cold. The bar is not showing the creativity that it used to. I'm hoping that when the menu changes this fall they will come up with something more interesting than a mohito made with coconut rum.

We closed out Salvation and walked back down to the harbor in time to catch the last launch back out to the boat. After one last round of drinks in the cockpit with some tasty snacks and we were all off to bed.

In the morning Sten whipped up some eggs and sausages. Then we dropped the mooring line to do a little sailing. It was a beautiful day and the bay was crowded, with powerboats throwing nasty wakes. We short tacked out of the bay against the current, out towards the Castle Hill Light. Matt and Monica were both having a great time. Then we turned downwind, demonstrating effectively how much it sucks to go downwind in light breeze in a sloppy seastate. Within moments everyone was feeling punky. So we turned on the engine, furled up the sail, and made for the harbor.

Before Matt and Monica hit the road we did a driving tour of the Gilded Age mansions along Ocean Drive and Bellevue Ave. We parked at the end of Ruggles to peer in through the hedges at the Breakers. While standing on Cliff Walk Monica and I made plans to spend a day sometime soon doing mansion tours.

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