Posts filed under ‘TRAVEL’
There is no shortage of outstanding inns with fine dining throughout New England, but the White Barn Inn is the only AAA Five Diamond, Mobil Five Star restaurant north of New York City. Nestled in the coastal enclave of Kennebunk, Maine, the legendary property makes for the perfect escape from Newport, Boston and beyond. Less than three hours from Newport, the White Barn Inn has an intimate connection to the City-by-the-Sea: Vanderbilt Grace is considered its sister property. The inn’s Executive Chef, Jonathan Cartwright, one of the most celebrated chefs in New England, also creates and oversees the menu at Muse at Vanderbilt Grace.
In the mood for a weekend getaway, I headed north to experience the White Barn. Like Newport, Kennebunkport might shine brightest in the warmer months, but this time of year, there’s a serene calm that permeates the village. Much like Newport’s Ocean Drive, Kennebunkport’s Ocean Avenue weaves around the rocky coast and offers an up close glimpse to stunning “more is more” homes. And like Newport’s presidential connections, Kennebunkport has its own famous first family: the Bush compound, where George H.W. and Barbara spend much of the year.
The White Barn Inn is less than a mile from Kennebunkport’s iconic Dock Square and close to the Lower Village. Constructed from a boarding house on the site that dates back to the early 1800s, the White Barn Inn evokes bucolic charm but with unmistakable Relais & Château luxury. (To give you an idea, Newport’s Castle Hill is also a Relais & Château property). With a blend of rooms, suites and private guest cottages located inside a private gated compound on the Kennebunk River, you’ll find diverse lodging options. The elegantly appointed junior suite I stayed in, awash in hues of soft blues and crisp white, included a gas-burning fireplace, queen- size down-topped bed, large flat-screen TV, comfortable lounges, and an oversized granite and marble bathroom stocked with Molton Brown bath products, Jacuzzi tub (opposite the fireplace) and separate walk-in rain shower.
Despite White Barn Inn’s luxury accommodations, the Inn is most recognized for its dining, making most gourmands bucket list. Housed in a 19th century barn and appointed with its signature floor to ceiling picture windows, the décor embraces it’s rustic surroundings with warm wood walls and ceilings and authentic antiques celebrating the region’s heritage. Whether dining in the main restaurant which offers a legendary prix-fixe, four-course chef’s tasting menu, or the Bistro, the menus both reflect flavors of New England and coastal Maine as well as landlubbers’ favorites. (CLICK HERE to learn more about the Bocuse d’Or Foundation Dinner on 2/20 featuring a collaboration between Chef Kristen Kish, Winner of Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 10 and Chef Cartwright.) Our server, Angela, was extraordinary and helped us sort through the many decadent choices. She also helped us decide on a fabulous wine: MollyDooker Cabernet, an Australian wine known for the MollyDooker shake—a hearty tussle given to the bottle before pouring to shake up the nitrogen the winery infuses during the winemaking process in place of sulfites. Back the Main House, sherry and port wines are available 24/7 in self-serve decanters, so an after dinner drink by the fire might be the perfect nightcap.
If your ideal getaway includes some pampering, the spa at the White Barn Inn offers a full menu of services, and coffee, tea and light bites are at the ready in the living room. Breakfast, as expected, was perfection with a “hot” menu featuring eggs, French Toast, omelets and more as well as pastry, cereal, and parfaits. Assistant Innkeeper Albert Black and the staff at the White Barn Inn can help guests find anything they may need to make the story more comfortable (though I can’t imagine what might be missing). For more information on the White Barn Inn, visit www.whitebarninn.com
Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary room night at the White Barn Inn for purposes of this independent review. All opinions are my own.
When you live in a place as beautiful as Newport, “staycations” are an easy sell. Appreciating the best the City by the Sea has to offer is a treasure, and one of the best places to feel far away—while still in the same zip code—is by staying at the Rose Island Lighthouse. I’ve pitched the “stay in a lighthouse” story idea to media for years, but never actually stayed there until a year ago. Since then, it’s turned into a late summer tradition with a fabulous group of friends.
There are a few options—you can stay for a night, a weekend or a full week, the latter of which requires you be the official lighthouse keeper and perform related keeper chores, much like the keepers did a century ago. Alas, we’ve opted for single night stays, though if you saw the amount of coolers and provisions we collectively brought, you’d think we were moving in for the month. We didn’t exactly “rough it.” Veuve, bold reds, crisp whites, Dark n’ Stormies, steaks, sliders, summer salads, s’mores…it’s called “glamping,” if you haven’t heard the term, and it’s like camping, only with the creature comforts of home (like plumbing…and gourmet eats). By day, explore the 18-acre island, full of one-of-a-kind views. By night, fire up the grill, and bring some firewood for a bonfire. Take in the twinkling Newport skyline in the distance, the glow of Fort Adams and the slowly moving lights of boats passing by. Whether you stay in the lighthouse itself (restored to a 1912 appearance), in the Fog Horn building (the best digs on the island, in my opinion, perched upon the rocks next to the lighthouse) or in the newly restored Barracks building (huge), it’s sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget.
I’ve been writing about New England vineyards for various magazines for nearly 10 years, so when Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton went on the market a few years ago, I (along with many others, I’m sure) was hopeful that the stunning 170-acre property would remain a vineyard. When news broke in May that Carolyn Rafaelian, president of Rhode Island’s own Alex & Ani, had bought the property, there was a collective sigh of relief. If her purchase and admirable restoration of Newport’s Belcourt is any indication, rest assured the vineyard is in good hands (with dozens of expanding bangles of course).
I recently had the pleasure of experiencing the new Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards where there’s a palpable excitement in the air. Though there have been a few changes to the property already, including the addition of a sizable event tent that offers views of grapevines, pastures and the peaceful Sakonnet River, there are also big plans to improve the property with a re-purposed space for meetings/gatherings, an expanded cafe and more events, like the 2013 Little Compton Antiques Festival (Aug. 3).
Already wine production has climbed to over 30,000 cases annually and longtime winemaker Elaine Bernier continues to oversee the production of the vineyard’s Vinifera varietals including Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc as well as Vidal Blanc, a French-American hybrid and my personal favorite made by the winery.
The cafe is being run by Russell Morin Fine Catering, and I have to say when I had lunch there, it was outstanding. A cool breeze coming off the Sakonnet River, grapevines as far as the eye can see, and a wine flight that offered up all the differing varietals combined for a feast for the senses.
One fabulous way to experience the vineyard is by gathering up some good friends and heading to their Summer Concert Series, held on most Thursday nights (CLICK HERE for a schedule).
Here’s an inside look at it all…Cheers!
Apologies for the hiatus! During the past three weeks or so, I’ve traveled 5,994 miles by air, 1962 miles by road, 530 miles by rail, and 165 miles by bus … so it’s been a bit busy. A large chunk of that time was spent in Ireland, where I traipsed around Dublin, Cork and briefly, Kerry. I‘d been to the Emerald Isle before, but never to Newport’s sister alluring city of Kinsale. Like the City-by-the-Sea, it’s an extraordinary place full of extraordinary people with cobblestone streets, amazing restaurants, welcoming accommodations and fresh, salty air.
It’s easy to see why Ireland’s unofficial mantra is Céad Míle Fáilt—a hundred thousand welcomes. From cab drivers to pint pour-ers and everyone in-between, it may just be the friendliest country in the world. There’s also a hundred thousand reasons to experience Ireland, and if you (are lucky enough) to boast Irish American heritage or simply appreciate Irish interests, 2013 is the year of The Gathering. Described as “a spectacular, year-long celebration of all things Irish,” The Gathering invites those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants to come home and discover from whence you came. Find out more by clicking here.
And of course, I made notes of Irish style, which was perhaps best displayed around Dublin’s Trinity College, Temple Bar (which was hosting an amazing TradFest event, part of The Gathering festivities) and fashionable Grafton Street areas. Trends included peplum dresses and tops:
And platform, studded footwear EVERYWHERE– on heels, flats, boots, and shooties (the last of which is very popular paired with everything from skinny jeans to dresses). I guess it’s a global trend because I featured it on Newport Stylephile just two weeks ago in THIS POST. Here’s some shoes I snapped in Dublin: