The purchase of a ticket provides a tour of the luxurious interiors and grounds of the “summer cottages” along Bellevue Avenue, such as The Breakers, Rosecliff, or The Elms. And by “summer cottages,” I mean gigantic, gorgeous mansions of the families of wealthy business tycoons like Vanderbilt and Berwind. A visit to the mansions is like stepping back in time to the Victorian era and the Gilded Age, complete with gorgeously maintained landscaping and incredible views of the water.
Speaking of stepping back in time and gorgeous architecture and landscaping, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum on Bellevue Avenue is an absolute treat to visit in Newport. The Hall of Fame & Museum is housed in the historic Newport Casino built in 1880 during the Victorian era. Here there are thirteen grass courts and lots of information on the history of tennis and the inductees of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Running parallel to Bellevue Avenue a few blocks west is the popular Thames Street, named after the River Thames in England, but pronounced THAYMZ here in the States. Here there are lots of historic buildings and homes complete with boutiques, ice cream shops, and restaurants. What you may not know about Newport is that chefs are doing more than just serving up well-prepared seafood. One chef who is doing truly innovative and creative preparations is Chef Jake Rojas of Tallulah on Thames.
During my visit to Tallulah on Thames, I got to use a food dehydrator in order to make a blueberry merengue. The vibrant purple-colored wafers were artfully placed on top of a lemon curd and sprinkled with a shortbread crumble. This dish was more than a dessert. This dish was a work of art. I almost felt bad eating it, but not that bad as I consumed that deliciousness right away.
Another work of art was the pork two ways dish we prepared. It's as if Chef Rojas gets bored with just preparing food that tastes amazing, he needs to challenge himself creatively on a fantastic preparation, which includes texture, color, and taste. An additional challenge that Chef Rojas eagerly takes on in his restaurant is sourcing the best tasting and most local ingredients available. He purchases ingredients from over twenty local farms to supply his kitchen. Lucky for him Rhode Island is chock full of great farms with diverse offerings. If sourcing from local farms wasn't enough, Chef Rojas has utilized Tallulah on Thames's backyard as a garden and greenhouse space for fresh herbs and edible flowers to flavor and beautify his artfully inspired dishes.
In addition to the upscale Tallulah on Thames, Chef Rojas has gotten in touch with his El Paso, Texas and Mexican roots and opened a taco shack in Southern Rhode Island. While Tallulah on hames is beautifully decorated with antique chandeliers, wood work, tables, and lovely upholstered chairs, diners can order two barbacoa tacos with guacamoleand an agua fresca for less than eight dollars at The Shack at Dutch Harbor, five miles away in Jamestown, RI.
The line winds out the door of this tiny, spotless shack where artistic food pictures taken by Chef Rojas hang on the walls. Taco and burrito eaters can take their dishes to the nearby picnic tables to enjoy their lunch and dinner during the week and even breakfast on the weekends. While at The Shack, Chef Rojas insisted that we make his lobster taco as he wanted to share a dish that incorporated his El Paso roots with his New England home. I started with a Mexican shrimp cocktail, lunched on a lobster taco with fresh guacamole, and got to wash it all down with a refreshing agua fresca. Between Newport and Dutch Harbor, I can't think of a better way to spend a summer day in southern Rhode Island.