Sponsored by Discover Newport
When executive chef Andy Teixeira of Brix, the popular restaurant at Newport Vineyards, wants to try something new on his menu, he texts a farmer — specifically, Jim and Michelle Garman of Garman Farm, which is located just a few minutes down the road from Brix, in Middletown, Rhode Island.
The Garmans grow specialty crops for their chef-neighbor, including French Tarbais beans that Teixera will use in a fall cassoulet, Amish Paste tomatoes to be canned and used throughout the winter, and Long Pie pumpkins that will be roasted for a pumpkin beer that is brewed and served directly at the vineyard’s on-site brewery, Taproot Brewing Co.
Sometimes Teixeira requests that whole crops be devoted to dishes he’ll be serving in the restaurant, which also pours wines made from 100 percent estate-grown grapes produced on the vineyard.
“How I do business with farms is mostly through text message,” explains Teixeira, who has worked for Newport Vineyards for more than three years. “They send me a list and pictures of what’s growing — especially some of the farms that grow exclusive stuff for us where we are committing to the whole crop.”
Diners will get a great chance to taste some of the fruits — and veggies — of many such chef-producer partnerships at Newport Restaurant Week, which returns November 1–10. More than 50 restaurants have created special menus for this dining showcase featuring $20 two-course prix fixe lunches and $35 three-course prix fixe dinners, with select restaurants offering a premier menu for $50 per person that features higher-end choices for cuisine or wine and beer pairings.
As an added enticement, the footprint for Newport Restaurant Week extends well beyond the City by the Sea. “We get a nice spectrum of restaurants and we include all of Newport County, which encompasses Jamestown, Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Little Compton, and Tiverton,” says Discover Newport’s senior communications manager, Andrea McHugh. “We also include Bristol County — so Bristol, Barrington, and Warren.”
Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the nation, but it is home to more than 1,200 farms, which means chefs have the best resources right at their fingertips. The freshest produce is often just a text message or phone call away.
“Our chefs absolutely take advantage of both the accessibility and diversity of farms in Rhode Island and our immediate borders,” McHugh says. “There are a lot of chefs who have longtime personal relationships with farmers and foragers and fishermen, so they really know what’s coming down the pike.”
For their part, the Garmans say they love working directly with chef Teixeira. “He challenges us to up our growing game. Chef and his team are the most serious farm-to-table people we’ve ever encountered,” says Michelle Garman. “It’s an incredible honor to work with people who are engaged with the growing process from the moment the seed goes into the ground to the great day when the product arrives at their restaurant.
Newport-area restaurants also use Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Market Mobile platform to order deliveries from more than 70 local farms and food producers. Brian and Katie O’Donnell, the co-owners of Bywater restaurant in Warren, source ingredients through Market Mobile as well as through individual farms like Nest and Song in Westport, Massachusetts, and Four Town Farm, in Seekonk, Massachusetts. “They know that sometimes the best way to get onto our menu is to randomly text me a list of what they have that day,” says Katie O’Donnell. “It’s so much easier to be creative when your farmers are also creatives!”
For their pending Newport Restaurant Week menu, the Bywater team is looking forward to working with leeks, Brussels sprouts, apples and orchard fruits, German Butterball potatoes, various kinds of squash, and locally foraged or grown mushrooms. The restaurant is also hyper-local in that it sources from a cook’s kitchen garden; it also uses apples harvested at nearby Long Lane Orchard in Touisett as well as hard ciders made from those apples at Warren Cider Works.
The local bounty doesn’t end with produce, either. Narragansett Bay Lobsters and Massachusetts-based Foley Fish, for instance, take seafood orders for many participants in Newport Restaurant Week, including Scales & Shells, Brix, Fluke Newport, and Newport Restaurant Group stalwarts such as The Mooring, 22 Bowen’s, and Castle Hill Inn.
Narragansett Bay Lobsters operates seven trucks on the waterfront in Point Judith, Rhode Island. Boats come in all day, and the fish is processed, packed, loaded, and delivered to chefs at Newport-area restaurants. “Most of my fish is coming in directly out of the Point,” says Tom LaFazia, the company’s manager of fresh fish and shellfish. “The more stuff the chefs are using from me benefits everyone. We have small boats, big boats, engine guys…. The economic legs reach out in six directions when they are using a local purveyor.”
One of those customers is Fluke Newport, which specializes in local sustainable species like its namesake fluke, black bass, hake, and striper; bycatch fish like John Dory; and lobster. Executive chef Eddie Montalvo started out at Al Forno in Providence, and then spent two decades working in the kitchens of David Bouley, Laurent Gras, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, and Danny Meyer. Now he’s introduced his classic technique to the Ocean State while sourcing from area farms and local commercial fishermen.
“We work off the seasons; sometimes the seasons close and open frequently depending on what you want to work with,” says Montalvo, who sources shellfish and scallops from individual oyster farms and purveyors and seafood from Narragansett Bay Lobsters. He also gets fish directly from commercial fishermen throughout the Newport area. “We literally meet them at the dock and pick it up,” says Montalvo. “They are just coming in, and they unload into our cooler, and the fish is on the menu that same night.”
Bywater also creates fish dishes based on whatever comes in that day from area fishermen. The restaurant sources oysters from Rhode Island farms like Walrus and Carpenter as well as shellfish from Cape Cod, Maine, and Canada; Bywater also uses reputable seafood distributors to ensure tracking and quality, including Quality Seafood, Island Creek Oysters, and Red’s Best.
As for Newport Restaurant Week, both chefs and restaurant owners say diners are beginning to understand — and welcome — the fact that they can only get certain dishes or items at specific times of the year, based on the local growing and fishing seasons.
“Our guests really respond to the change of seasons here in New England, and that means changes in what’s available in the oceans, too,” Katie O’Donnell says. “So there’s no reason not to embrace that as part of what makes the restaurant special.”
For more information on Newport Restaurant Week, including an updated list of participants and menus, please visit discovernewportrestaurantweek.org. Note: As of this fall, Newport Restaurant Week is changing from a twice-yearly event to an annual one; the spring version is on hold for 2020.