Robb Report Vices

A Dinner to Remember

  • Shaun Tolson

The ninth annual Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival commences on September 19 and offers a three-day lineup of grand tastings, wine seminars, and a collectible wine dinner that is limited to just 60 guests. (Interested participants can click here for tickets to the various events.) However, another noteworthy and exclusive dining experience is also planned—one that won’t be found on the festival’s website.

Since the mid-1990s, fine-dining aficionados throughout New England have flocked to Jonathan Cartwright’s dining rooms for exceptional meals. The Relais & Châteaux grand chef has held the position of executive chef at the White Barn Grace in Kennebunkport since 1995 and more recently has commandeered the dining programs at the Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, R.I., and the Mayflower Grace in Washington, Conn. On September 20th, Cartwright will welcome chef Champe Speidel of Persimmon to the Vanderbilt Grace for a seven-course culinary collaboration featuring wine pairings from Silver Oak and Twomey. If Cartwright’s last guest-chef dinner at the White Barn—a collaboration with chef Kristen Kish of Top Chef fame—is any indication, diners lucky enough to snag a seat for this one are in for a treat.

Cartwright and Kish’s collaborative dinner in February featured an eclectic mix of dishes: foie gras terrines paired with apple meringue, carrot cake, and walnuts; butter-poached smoked lobster; and truffle-braised crispy pork hock with asparagus risotto and Madeira sauce. Proceeds from the event supported Bocuse d’Or, a nonprofit organization that provides young chefs with scholarships, grants, and internships. It was a shared respect for the organization that led the two chefs to team up for the evening. “There were differences in style and originality, which made it beautiful,” Cartwright said at the end of the night. “If we had put too many parameters on it, it would have stifled the enjoyment for those who came to eat here.”

“The beauty of something like tonight is that it didn’t have to be cohesive,” added Kish. “It was supposed to be playful. That’s the fun part. It showcased him and his team and me. I like that playfulness, and people came in because they wanted food from both of us.”

On that matter, however the chefs held divergent opinions: “A lot of the people only came to dinner tonight for Kristen,” Cartwright said.

Both Cartwright and Kish are veterans of the guest-chef dinner experience, and for Cartwright, the opportunity to invite other talented chefs into his kitchen is a welcomed one. “A guest-chef dinner is like a marriage,” he explains. “If you believe in the same things, it’s very easy to pull it off. It’s always great fun. Is it challenging? I think so. But if there’s no challenge, it’s not fun.”

Seats at Cartwright’s communal-style guest-chef dinner with Cardoz are limited and cost $195 per person. To make a reservation, interested diners should contact the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Muse

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