During the month of March, thoughts turn to the Emerald Isle, especially in Newport. For the past 11 years the City by the Sea has hosted a celebration of Irish traditions, including its vibrant and flavorful food.
The port town of Kinsale, Newport’s sister city, is known as the gourmet capital of Ireland. The two cities were drawn together by the similarity of their locations. Kinsale is located on the south coast of Ireland in County Cork, southeast of Killarney. The two cities share other attractions such as sailing and strong Irish-American links have remained over the years, forged by the interest of many Newport residents in the land of their ancestors.
But food continues to be at the forefront.
The annual Kinsale Festival of Fine Food is held in Newport each spring. The culinary expertise of Newport’s sister city, as well as local chefs, are in the spotlight. The chefs prepare specialized, Irish-inspired menus. The fare they serve up is tasty and creative. Then in the fall, there is a corresponding event in Kinsale, as the chefs exchange roles with their American counterparts.
Over the years a group of chefs has traveled back and forth between Kinsale and Newport to put on cooking demonstrations at each other’s restaurants. Some have become as familiar around the City by the Sea as they are in their own hometown. Executive Chef Frank O’Reilly of Pier One restaurant in the Trident Hotel Kinsale is so well-known that for this year’s exchange around St. Patrick’s Day, he literally mailed it in. His schedule did not allow him to travel to Newport so he created his menu in Kinsale and put its preparation into the hands of Chef David Rutkowski of The Windward Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Newport. Rutkowski will be preparing O’Reilly’s roast monkfish fillet with smoked bacon lardoons and basil pesto, a tart filled with spinach and goats cheese from Ardsallagh, a farming community just up the coast from Kinsale, a seafood terrine and a marquise-a gourmet torte made with butter and coffee, dark chocolate and Bailey’s.
Another Kinsale personality who has become well-known in Newport is Derek Davis, who is a food-show host on Irish TV and radio. He also furnished a menu for the festival to be prepared by Chef Eric Steinhauer of Fathoms at the Newport Marriott featuring grilled filet of beef wrapped in smoked pepper bacon and seafood stew served with colcannon (mashed potatoes mixed with chopped cabbage), baby carrots and haricots verts.