Chef Shares Inspiration Behind Christmas Feast
Carolyn interviewed Middletown Chef Bob Bankert about crafting just the right Christmas Day menu at one of Aquidneck Island's most talked about Christmas feasts in Newport.
Most restaurants across Aquidneck Island close over the Christmas holiday, however the few with holiday dining tend to offer an extraordinary dining experience that begins with a carefully crafted menu.
I interviewed Middletown's own Chef Bob Bankert of Castle Hill about their thinking that goes into the development of such a special menu for Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve, Castle Hill Inn on Ocean Drive in Newport will feature its regular lunch menu from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:45 p.m. 9 p.m. On Christmas Day, a special four-course menu will be served from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.
"When writing the Christmas menu, we try to focus more on comfort foods, seasonality, and what we ourselves would eat on Christmas," Chef Bankert began. "Pate and goose are pretty traditional Christmas time items so we thought that everyone would enjoy a goose pate to start their meal. Throughout the rest of the menu, you will see a bunch of other Christmas inspired ingredients: Chestnuts will be turned into a chestnut soup (veloute), persimmons, apples, pumpkins, apple cider, cinnamon, etc."
"We came up with a beautiful lamb dish featuring Elysian Fields Lamb from Pennsylvania," he continued. "It's a play off of a lamb stew, but with a roasted rack of lamb, and a braised lamb leg terrine. We will use traditional vegetables used to make a stew as garnishes for the dish: Petite glazed carrots, turnips, and potatoes. Then turn the braising liquid from the terrine into a 'stew' sauce. "
The authors and chefs who developed this menu are Jonathan Cambra, Bob Bankert, Karsten Hart and Andrew McWilliams.
Goose-Serrano ham pate served with Pumpernickel bread, pickled vegetables and caraway-mustard sauce brings the traditional Christmas goose to the table as the first course.
For the second course it is your choice of chestnut veloute with slow cooked rabbit, leek confit and Meyer lemon crème fraiche; Georges Bank scallops, pan-roasted, crispy kale, spaghetti squash, port rillettes and molasses foam; Hudson Valley foie gras, persimmon pain perdu, pomegranate gastrique, black walnut-foie gras dome and baby greens farm field lettuce with herb crepe, winter squash, apple, and pumpkin-honey vinaigrette.
For the main course you have your choice of five entrees: Skillet roasted Scottish salmon with almond-sunchoke puree, hedgehog mushrooms, frisee and cider vinaigrette.
Just as an aside, I did not know what a sunchoke was. It is what they are now calling the Jerusalem artichoke and probably have for years, but somehow I missed it.
Next, Caldeirada de peixe, a fresh take on Portuguese fisherman stew made with cod loin, littleneck clams, octopus, chourico, potato and Vinho Verde; For the adventurous--cinnamon smoked Canadian wild boar, Kenyon corn grits, foraged mushrooms and cider-chile emulsion; One of my favorites--grilled Hereford beef filet served with creamed spinach, short rib-potato cannelloni and tomato bordelaise; Last but not least, a roasted rack and braised Elysian Fields lamb, winter greens, petite vegetables and stew sauce.
Dessert brings a luscious choice of Castle Hill interpretations: Key Lime pie with Graham cracker macaroon, cardamom angle food cake, citrus caramel and honey-yogurt ice cream. Chocolate Marquise made of spiced sponge cake, Tanzanian chocolate mousse and hazelnut cremieux.
Neapolitan custards: Strawberry and Champagne, café mocha and Grand Marnier-white chocolate.
As always, the chefs of Castle Hill get it just right. Stay tuned for the New Year's Eve menu.
Castle Hill Inn, located at 590 Ocean Drive in Newport, will feature its regular lunch menu from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:45 p.m. 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, a special four-course menu will be served from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. The cost of the four-course Christmas Day menu will be $75 and $25 for children 11 years of age and under. Tax and gratuity are additional. For more information or to make reservations, please call 401-849-3800 or visit www.castlehillinn.com.
More Holiday Openings:
On Christmas Eve at The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar, located on Sayer's Wharf in Newport, in addition to the restaurant's regular menu of top-of-catch seafood, prime cuts of beef, and locally grown, organic produce, guests will be able to enjoy an appetizer special of Tempura Fried Shrimp with soba noodles and a ponzu vinaigrette; entrée choices of a Rack of Lamb, goat cheese and herb-crusted and served with truffled Yukon mashed potatoes, sautéed Brussels sprouts, and dried cherry-lamb demi glace; grilled Pacific Halibut with North West harvested wild rice, marinated roasted tomatoes, and lemon-thyme hollandaise; and Winter Cassoulet: confit duck, venison sausage, fresh cranberries, white beans, foraged mushrooms and house made toasted brown bread. The evening's dessert will feature Warm Chocolate-Bourbon Bread Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce. The Mooring will serve dinner from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and will be closed Christmas Day. For more information or to make a reservation, please call 401-846-2260 or visit www.mooringrestaurant.com.
22 Bowen's Wine Bar & Grille, located at 22 Bowen's Wharf in Newport, will offer Christmas Eve specials in addition to its regular menu of USDA Prime beef and New England's finest seafood, from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 22 Bowen's will be closed on Christmas Day. For more information or to make a reservation, please call 401-841-8884 or visit www.22bowens.com
Looking for a quick bite over the holiday weekend? The following restaurants in Middletown offer holiday hours.