Monday, June 28, 2010

Spotlight: Castle Hill Inn

Castle Hill Inn
590 Ocean Ave
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 849-3800

When it comes to dining out, service and ambiance can be just as important as the food.  Castle Hill Inn is a triple-threat in every sense of the term.  Food, service, and ambiance are all exceptional.  I wish I could get out to Newport more to enjoy it here, but in the few times I've dined at Castle Hill I've fallen head over heels in love.  The Inn itself is absolutely beautiful, located at the end of a winding road. The pictures speak for themselves. No amount of words can describe the amazing view. Adirondack chairs are lined up just waiting for people to relax and take in the breathtaking scenery.

Not only does Castle Hill boast excellent dining, but it is a full service hotel where guests can stay at the Agassiz mansion (The Inn), the location of the award winning Turret Suite, or the Harbor House Rooms, Beach House Rooms, the Chalet or one of the Beach Cottages.  They also host weddings, and I can only imagine how stunning a wedding here would be.  Since I've never stayed here or been to a wedding here, my only commentary can be on the dining experience, which is outstanding.

The menus as Castle Hill feature local ingredients, and change seasonally.  Last summer I dined here with my sister, sitting indoors in the dining room with the bay windows (they feature four dining rooms).  We ordered the mussels appetizer to split, and the kitchen actually served it to us split into two smaller dishes. I've only been to one other restaurant before this that actually takes the initiative to split an appetizer onto individual plates in order to make eating it easier (and more personal) for the people sharing it. I honestly think that's a sign of a really great restaurant... seriously. They pay attention to every little detail! Now the mussels were not only served in separate dishes, but they were Heavenly!! The broth was delicious, the shallots added a delicious bit of texture and mild onion flavor, the tomatoes were juicy and plump, and the mussels themselves were large and flavorful... the perfect dish!

Last summer's lunch menu, minus starters which were featured on the left-hand page... 

MAINE MUSSELS - Shallots, garlic, grape tomato, white wine, parsley butter (Half Portion)

My sister had the salmon. I tasted each component of her dish and I thought it was really really yummy, everything from the velvety risotto, the crispy-skinned salmon, the earthy morels, and the perfectly cooked asparagus. I had the scallops. They were cooked perfectly and complimented with a really yummy ancho chile sauce. The corn cake was tasty, but I think the presentation would have been better if each of the four scallops was served on smaller corn cakes instead of one giant one, since the middle of the cake was a bit softer, and the edges had a much better texture. Smaller cakes would have had more crusty edges to contrast the softer scallops. Just a thought... otherwise the flavors were great!

SCOTTISH SALMON - Spring garlic risotto, morels, asparagus, lemon-chive butter $24

 GEORGES BANK SCALLOPS - Pan roasted, spiced sweet corn fritter, Green View Farm arugula, Ancho chile vinaigrette $25

Last week we brought our guests from Armenia here for lunch.  It was a beautiful day!  The photos without the clouds are from last week, the cloudier pictures were from last year's visit :)  I had made reservations for 10 people, and the folks at Castle Hill Inn were very accommodating, giving us a lovely table under the canopy by the bar outside, nice and shaded with gorgeous views all around.

As usual, the food was wonderful.  My brother-in-law and sister shared the organic green salad (which as expected, the restaurant split onto two plates for them).  I tasted it, and it was incredibly good for a salad!  I took a small bite containing greens, cheese, onion marmalade and an almond and it was just the perfect bite!  I decided to start with gazpacho, which was also very tasty, perfectly refreshing for the warm day.

The current lunch menu! 

 ORGANIC GREENS - Marcona Almonds, Onion Marmalade, Hannabells Cheese, Tangerine Vinaigrette (Half Portion) $8


Next onto the entrees... I got one of the specials (couldn't pass it up), as did three other diners at our table.  It was a wrap filled with pan-seared sole, arugula, avocado, tomato salsa, and cilantro cream.  It was quite frankly the best sandwich I've ever had!  Everything was perfect.  The fish was perfectly cooked, nice crust, light, flaky, and moist, with the addition of creamy avocado, a touch of acid and texture with the tomato salsa, crisp, fresh arugula, balanced out with a light touch of cilantro cream, all wrapped up in a soft and slightly chewy wrap, a melange of flavors and textures.  Total sandwich nirvana.  I have every intention of trying to recreate this sandwich sometime!  It was served with a side of pasta salad, as were all of the sandwiches.  It was fine, but clearly an afterthought.  I'm sure it was meant to be a more summery side dish than fries, but I think fries would have been better suited.  Maybe in the winter they offer something else with their sandwiches.

My brother-in-law enjoyed their lobster roll, which is exploding with fresh lobster!  I tried it, and it was tasty, chock-full of sweet lobster meat and a delicious tarragon-creme fraiche dressing.  You basically have to start eating it with a fork since there is so much lobster meat you can't fully form a sandwich with all that filling!  No complaints here :)  My sister followed up last years pick of Scottish salmon with another Scottish salmon entree served with different accompaniments this time around, a sweet sunchoke puree to take the place of the risotto, different mushrooms from last year's option, tender asparagus and finished with a luscious Pinot Noir reduction.  All in all, everyone LOVED their food here, and the view was spectacular.  Service was stellar.  Our waitress even offered to come down to the lawn later to photograph our group if we wanted.  What a great place to bring guests, or even just yourself ;-)

LOBSTER ROLL - Chilled Lobster, Tarragon-Creme Fraiche Dressing, Fried Onion Strings, Sesame Bun $22 

SCOTTISH SALMON - Skillet Seared, Sunchoke Puree, Asparagus, Trumpet Royal Mushrooms, Pinot Noir Syrup $24

TURKEY SANDWICH - Arugula, Pancetta, Fontina Chese, Roasted Garlic-Thyme Aioli Sourdough Bread (with Mayo on Side) $15

I can't wait till my next trip to Castle Hill Inn!!  I wonder what I'll have :)


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