Eco-conscious cuisine and innovative diversions are giving
America’s sailing capital a bold new look
n a Saturday night in late February, the nadir of the off-season in Newport, Rhode Island, a beautiful crowd gathers for pre-party cocktails at a waterfront hotel. Ladies in long dresses and men in tuxedos mill about the hotel’s marquee bar, sipping signature cocktails and gossiping. None of this seems out of place, as the city is famous for its high-society glamour. What does stand out, however, is the setting. Forty 1° North, which in May will celebrate its third anniversary, is no Vanderbilt mansion or creaky colonial inn. It’s a stunning homage to Art Deco opulence and an example of how eco-conscious innovation and elegant design can merge seamlessly. And that combination is a trend that Newport is not taking lightly on its quest to become a year-round destination.
A westward-facing outdoor dining area offers spectacular views of sunsets over Newport Harbor
Fast forward to spring. Forty 1° North is at the forefront of the city’s eco-makeover. By May, every guestroom and suite in this LEED-certified hotel (Newport’s first and only) will be reserved. A wireless digital concierge service eliminates paper waste, Malin + Goetz amenities fill the cabinets and reclaimed wood and sea glass pepper the resplendent décor. Floor-to-ceiling windows and guest room balconies offer sweeping harbor views and bring the sea air in, assuming you ever go inside. Named for its latitude, the hotel has a sunset-inspired palette and open-air layout—intended to create a natural ventilation system powered entirely by bay breezes and south-facing windows—that recall South Beach or St. Barth. As the weather heats up, its outdoor dining and living rooms retain a cool, cozy feel thanks to strategically placed reeds and billowing white curtains, which are just right for afternoon lounging and late-night dance parties under the stars.
Guest rooms at Forty 1° North boast large windows and French doors, allowing natural ventilation, while the Oval Bar was crafted from glass and cherrywood
If the hotel’s Oval Bar, with its sleek glass and polished wood construction, leads the pack in Newport’s new nightlife, Christie’s is its cool, unpretentious counterpart. A longtime Newport establishment, Christie’s was recently bought by Forty 1° North and revamped from salty clam shack to laid-back but luxurious restaurant. The menu encourages sharing—small bites are light and Asian-inspired—and each cocktail boasts a different color of the rainbow. Its space is open, with whitewashed rooms at ground level and airy lofts above, and it seems built for casual entertaining. In the summer months, it is often a last stop for revelers, as its late-night DJ sets lure crowds. But even in February, it had a packed house 300 strong for NewportFILM’s annual fund-raiser.
Irreverent retro murals contrast beautifully with midcentury lighting, mod furnishings and an airy, open floor plan at Christie’s restaurant
NewportFILM may not be at Sundance’s level yet, but the year-round film festival is making a name for itself on the industry circuit. Responsible for bringing such recent Oscar contenders as Chasing Ice and Searching for Sugar Man to the coastal town, it now draws patrons from all over the world to wander through Christie’s bi-level lounge space, bid on art and unconventional vacations (an overnight stay in a lighthouse, for example) in the silent auction and dance well past midnight.
Outdoor screenings in the summer and silent auctions in the winter are just some of the year-round events made possible by NewportFILM
ut before any revelry, dinner is a must, and just down the historic main drag is Tallulah on Thames, an unassuming restaurant built into an 18th-century storefront that’s turning out the city’s most inventive cuisine. With an emphasis on farm- and ocean-to-table cooking, owner and chef Jake Rojas crafts nearly every bite with ingredients sourced right in Rhode Island—and not just the oysters. Favorite dishes include Hudson Valley foie gras served on a rosemary waffle with apple and butternut squash, native monkfish with bacon and sunchokes and a deconstructed apple tart that must be tasted to be believed. In addition, dark, rambling dining rooms create an ambience that is anything but old-fashioned, even though the architecture dates back several centuries. Open just a couple of years, Tallulah has garnered attention from The New York Times and draws crowds every night of the week, both during the season and off-season. It’s all with good reason: There’s nothing else like this here.
Named for its latitude, Forty 1° North Marina Resort has a
sunset-inspired palette and open-air layout—intended to create
a natural ventilation system powered entirely by bay breezes
and south-facing windows—that recall South Beach or St. Barth
On any given weekend morning, come rain, snow or sunshine, brunch is in order. The decadent meal is a big-city tradition, but in smaller towns, it has been slow to replace the more sensible breakfast and lunch. Not so in Newport, where local favorite Perro Salado has reinvented traditional Mexican dishes into nuevo brunch staples. Including a tequila-based Bloody Mary and eggs Benedict served over jalapeño corn cakes and drizzled with spicy hollandaise, the menu is a mix of local ingredients and south-of-the-border flavor. Its recently opened little sister, El Perrito, puts a hip, fast-gourmet spin on tacos and enchiladas. The new eatery is standing room only and BYOCerveza, so head there to pick up a snack before going to the beach or sailing.
Newport’s embrace of innovation is not confined to Thames Street. Wind farms may soon pepper the landscape of Aquidneck Island, on which the city is located, and individual turbines already do. On the food front, two nearby restaurants and two regional chefs were recently nominated for James Beard awards, and the culinary event Outstanding in the Field drew national attention for its adventurous twists on communal farm-to-table cooking and dining. The city’s abundance of great seafood certainly helps. And you can find something for everyone: classic architecture, great music, beautiful harbors and beaches and a penchant for all things green. As you plan your summer getaways, keep in mind the city by the sea. After all, everything old is new(port) again.