In the midst of the July heat wave, restaurants from Providence to Newport to Narragansett were reporting busy outdoor dining areas on decks and patios as well as in the air conditioned comfort of the dining room. But it is more than just the weather – dining out is entertainment.
It was not long ago that a restaurant meal was a mere stop before or after a night at the theater or a sporting event. Nowadays those out for a night on the town are just as likely to skip the theater and spend the evening (and the entertainment budget) on dining out. We are also likely to look to professional chefs for home-style cooking, with so-called comfort food menus and casual fine dining in style these days.
But there are still a few meals that, while they may create a real taste of home, just cannot be duplicated in a home kitchen. One is the New England clambake. After all, a real bake cannot just be popped into the microwave. And sometimes it takes a newcomer to remind us of what is literally right under our noses.
Brian Young is the new general manager of Castle Hill Inn in Newport. The historic inn recently opened a new outdoor dining area and bar called The Lawn. Planning for the space has been in the works for almost a decade.
Young said that as Castle Hill has became more popular, management – the Newport Restaurant Group – realized that it needed to find more space in which to serve guests. The Lawn at Castle Hill features three bluestone terraces and an outdoor bar so that guests can be served outdoors but have an identical experience as that found in the main dining room and bar. Young anticipates keeping the space open through Columbus Day, weather permitting.
Executive Chef Karsten Hart has developed a menu based on local ingredients in keeping with the “farm to table” philosophy started by longtime chef and now Newport Restaurant Group Chief Operating Officer Casey Riley. Castle Hill Inn maintains five gardens on its property, growing a variety of vegetables such as cutting celery, which garnishes the Inn’s lobster rolls.
One of Hart’s menu items features local clams with smoked seaweed gathered from Narragansett Bay outside the inn’s doors. That dish is designed to conjure up a clambake. But the chefs at Castle Hill are going one better, preparing an authentic Newport bake just about every Tuesday for 25 guests for the remainder of the summer on The Lawn.