Talkin’ ‘Taste of Newport’

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“What has 30 restaurants, three dozen wineries, live cooking demonstrations, name entertainment, and happens only once a year?” I asked Stasha.

“The Taste of Newport, of course,” she replied.

“Correct! You win a prize: a ticket to Taste of Newport. It’s coming up next weekend.”

“Has it already been a year since the last one?”

“It has, and this year there are a handful of new restaurants, lots of old favorites, and one longtime landmark that’s missing.”

“Which one?”

“Five Crowns. Chef Dennis Brask used to make his signature roast beef sandwiches every year, but he retired. However, after looking at the lineup of restaurants and menus for this year’s Taste of Newport, there are plenty of other fabulous culinary creations available to taste.”

The Island Hotel's New Zealand Lamb, top, and Macaroni and Cheese will be offered at the Taste of Newport.

“You’re right,” said Stasha, peering over my shoulder. “I recognize most of those restaurants. Oh, The Ritz will be there. I wish they could serve their amazing carousel appetizer, but I know that’s impossible.”

“So do I, but the idea is to sample a taste of each restaurant’s signature items – at least the ones that are easy to serve to the thousands of people that attend Taste of Newport each night.”

“True,” agreed Stasha. “Let me see that list.”

She quickly scanned the selections.

“We haven’t written about The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove yet, but their menu is impressive,” I offered.

“This sounds fabulous: mini seafood pot pie with chunks of lobster, swordfish, shrimp, scallops and vegetables cooked in a brandied lobster sauce and served under a flaky puff pastry.”

“They also have lobster gazpacho shooters. When’s the last time you had something like that?”

“Not in a while,” Stasha grinned.

“Commonwealth Lounge has prime dip sliders, those sound fun. And Ho Sum Bistro has six items on their menu, including their famous chicken and vegetable dumplings.”

“Wait! I want to go to Olive Oil and Beyond,” stated Stasha. “They’re offering tastes of infused extra virgin olive oil. Now that sounds good.”

“So does the macaroni and cheese, and the grilled New Zealand lamb chops, from Palm Terrace Restaurant at the Island Hotel. Remember the private preview tasting we had there last year? You could not get enough of the lamb chops,” I recalled with a smile.

“And you could not get enough of the mac and cheese,” she countered.

“Here’s a new one: Le Pain Quotidien,” I continued. “They opened a few months ago in Fashion Island. They have a dish that shouts Stasha: chia seed muffin, which it says is an antioxidant and protein boost with bananas, dates and agave.”

“You mean they have healthy food too?” Stasha asked hopefully.

“And lots of Chinese and Japanese food—P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is serving up some of their favorites, as is Kitiyama, Pick Up Stix, and San Shi Go. But you’ll probably find me at Sabatino’s Lido Shipyard Sausage Co. I had their sausage sandwich last year, and I’m going back for more.”

“I can’t believe how many restaurants are on this list,” said Stasha. ”Port Restaurant, Rockin Baja, Royal Thai, Ruby’s…”

“The original Ruby’s is on the end of the Balboa Pier,” I interjected.

“Thanks, Mr. History buff,” She laughed. “Let me finish. Soprano’s, Tapas…”

“They’re serving their paella.”

“…and The Yard House.”

“And don’t forget the wines for sale. I count more than three dozen, including Perrier Jouet, Mumm Napa, Coppola’s Sofia sparkling wine, Robert Mondavi, Wild Horse, St. Jean …”

“That’s an impressive list,” she agreed.

“Wait, we forgot about the Pelican Hill offerings,” I told her. “Among their five dishes is Irvine Ranch sweet corn and baby zucchini risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano.”

“Do you think they’ll cook it in their giant parmesan wheel the way they did when we had lunch at Pelican Hill?” wondered Stasha.

“Only one way to find out—we need to go to Taste of Newport. Would you like to go Friday night? Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are headlining.”

“Only if you buy dinner—and wine.”

For more information on Taste of Newport visit www.tasteofnewport.com.

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