Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival Celebrates 10th Year with Martha Stewart, Jacques Pépin, Claudine Pépin & More

Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival. Image property of Rhode Island Monthly

Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival. Image property of Rhode Island Monthly

Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival Celebrates 10th Year with Martha Stewart, Jacques Pépin, Claudine Pépin & More

Champagne and Conversation with Stewart and Pépin Added to Weekend 

The Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, one of the East Coast’s most sophisticated and anticipated events, returns for its 10th year from September 25 – 27, 2015. Once again, the Marble House lawn will be the setting for the two-day Grand Tasting, which offers guests the chance to sample hundreds of wines from around the world and cuisine from nearly two dozen regional restaurants and caterers.

Martha Stewart will return to the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival for her second year, headlining a brand new signature event with French chef Jacques Pépin. During A Conversation with Martha Stewart and Jacques Pépin, guests can enjoy a lively and engaging conversation with the lifestyle expert and the French chef while sipping Champagne Taittinger in the Marble House Gold Ballroom before heading out to the Grand Tasting. Stewart, an Emmy Award-winning television host, entrepreneur and best-selling author of 83 books (and counting), and Pépin, an internationally recognized chef, cookbook author, and cooking teacher who has published more than two dozen books and hosted 11 acclaimed public television cooking series, will discuss what’s hot and what’s not in lifestyle and food trends, providing the audience with a rare opportunity to engage with them in a spectacular setting. 

Chef Pépin will also join daughter Claudine Pépin for a cooking demonstration on the KitchenAid Culinary Demonstration Stage during Sunday’s Grand Tasting. Claudine Pépin joined her father in preparing delicious meals and sharing cooking techniques on three public television shows and has served as a Brand Ambassador for Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon Champagne. She recently wrote her first book, Kids Cook French, a collection of thirty favorite, simple, classic French recipes in both English and French, illustrated by her father Jacques and daughter Shorey.

Also participating in the weekend cooking demonstrations will be several other local and regional favorites. Ben Pollinger, Executive Chef of Oceana restaurant in New York City, is known for blending the finest seafood with the best ingredients from a global pantry.  A 2015 James Beard Award Rising Star Semifinalist and Chef de Cuisine of The Cecil in Harlem, NY, JJ Johnson is constantly in search of new flavors and has found them everywhere from Ghana and back to some of New York’s most esteemed kitchens. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Allison and Matt Robicelli of wholesale bakery Robicelli’s have reinvented the cupcake craze for a more sophisticated palate, making each a small piece of the greatest cake ever made. Another sweet demonstration will feature Amy Guittard, author of the Guittard Chocolate Cookbook, and “Mr. Chocolate” himself, Jacques Torres. Rounding out the weekend's cooking schedule will be local favorites Matthew Petersen, Executive Chef of Newport Harbor Corp; Jamestown Fish Owner and Executive Chef Matthew MacCartney; and Frank Terranova, Johnson & Wales instructor and host of the NBC10 daily television segment “Cooking with Class.” 

The elegant Friday night Wine & Rosecliff gala will feature a special selection of fine wines and food amid seaside Gilded Age splendor.  Also returning is the Collectible Wine Dinner at The Elms on Saturday night. This esteemed dinner will give guests the chance to taste and learn about a variety of high-end collectible wines paired with delectable dishes.  All of the wines will be hand-selected by the Festival’s Director of Wines, Michael Greenlee, a 25 year veteran of the industry.

Guests will have an extra opportunity to enjoy late night bites and cocktails by some of the Festival sponsors with the return of Newport After Dark, taking place on Saturday night at Forty 1˚ North on the Newport waterfront. 

Seminars will take place on Friday at the Hotel Viking Newport, allowing visitors the opportunity to learn about wines from different regions of the world. Guests are encouraged to ask some of the industry’s most respected experts about tasting, pairing and buying of wine.

The Presenting Sponsor of the 2015 Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival is FOOD & WINE Magazine Additional  sponsors  include National Trust Insurance Services, KitchenAid, Alex&Ani, Atria Senior Living, Newport Hospitality, Inc., Hyatt Regency Newport, Hotel Viking Newport, Residence Inn MarriottNewport/Middletown, The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina, Alaska Seafood, Chef Works, Arrow Prestige Limousine & Coach, Marchesi Antinori, Maple Leaf Farms, Ruffino, Dock & Harbor Maine, Harney & Sons Fine Teas, WhistlePig Rye Whiskey, Verterra Dinnerware, Meridian Printing, Brinley Gold Shipwreck Rum, Bouchaine, Coravin, Guittard Chocolate Company, Champagne Taittinger, Sequoia Grove, Nobilo, Coca Cola Bottling Company of Southeastern New England, and United Airlines.

All proceeds from the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival benefit The Preservation Society of Newport County, a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes and decorative arts.  Its 11 historic properties—seven of them National Historic Landmarks—span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

For more information and to purchase tickets for the 2015 Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, visit, call (401) 847-1000. Their Facebook page is Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival.

Newport, Rhode Island :: The Bells

About 25 years ago when I was in college some friends and I stumbled across The Bells. It is now chained off but it wasn't back then and we were able to go inside and walk among broken glass, pieces of stone, metal and brick that had given way and fallen.I thought there was something spectacularly beautiful in this dilapidated old barn. As I rarely went anywhere without my camera (then and now) we went in and took loads of photos. I had a roll of black and white film in and shot what would turn out to be some really dramatic photographs with the sunlight shining through and casting the most amazing shadows inside the building. 

One can no longer venture inside as the building is now fenced off. Even with my daring, I'll do anything for a photograph attitude, I was not about to risk my well-being... Had I had a hard-hat on, I might have! But I was alone, early morning, armed with only my iPhone, camera and 2 lenses. 

I was as taken by the beauty of this old ramshackle building as I was 25 years ago. In fact I was more taken. Because my photographs were all black and white, my memory was too. I was amazed by all the color within and on the walls. I was taken by the beauty of the destructive vandalism. I happen to love graffiti. I think it's beautiful and those of you who have been following me for a while will know this. I truly believe there is destructive graffiti that is vandalism, and I do believe there is artful graffiti. 

I walked around the building with my camera and I tried to imagine her in her glory. Oh if these walls could just talk! Much has gone on within the four walls and I am thrilled that the city of Newport has kept The Bells in tact and not tried to raze her. She is after all, a great part of the city's amazing history. While not The Breakers or Marble House, she has her own story to tell and her own beauty within. It was here, I believe, that I first fell in love with graffiti. 

Following is a brief history of The Bells.

The Bells is located in Brenton Point which was named after Governor William Brenton, an early settler, who owned the land as a large farm in the 17th century. The area was originally called "Hammersmith" which he named after his hometown in England. (The original name survives in Hammersmith Farm, the estate once owned by the family of First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis.)

In 1776, during the American Revolution, a battery was set up on the southwest part of Brenton Point as a coastal defense. About 1876, lawyer and businessman Theodore M. Davis built a mansion known as "The Reefs" which later became known as The Bells. The property was then sold to the Budlongs.

During World War II, Brenton Point was also considered a strategic defense area, as it overlooks the entrance to the East Passage, which allows access to Newport and to Conanicut Island. The home was seized during the war in order to erect the coastal defense battery. When the war ended, the battery was dismantled and the property was returned to the Budlongs, who then donated the land to the State of Rhode Island for a public park.

The original manor house was partially destroyed by fire in 1960, and torn down in 1963. Today, the former laundry/servants' quarters building serves as the park's visitor center, with restrooms and the park ranger's office located inside. Until the mid-1990s, the Rhode Island State Park Police maintained an office in the building. The former carriage house and stables of the mansion still stand on the property.

Image via Preservation in Pink

This last shot was taken from the top of the observation tower behind the old barn. It's not that high but I have a terrible fear of heights that seems to have worsened over the years. I stood in the middle of the tower, shaking terribly and clicked quickly - just for you - and hurried back down to safer ground!

All images save for the one of the inside view of the barn are mine and were taken with my Canon T-3 using both the factory and a zoom lens, as well as my iPhone 4S. The image of the interior is the image of Preservation in Pink.