5 Questions with Paula Silva of Rhode Island Red Food Tours

Paula Silva of Rhode Island Red Food Tours tells us everything foodies should know before vacationing in Newport.

Paula Silva

Paula Silva is a real estate professional who enjoys sharing her passion for all things Rhode Island. From history and historic preservation,to regional foods and the creative arts of Rhode Island, it's rich culture is bar none. Born in neighboring Southeastern Massachusetts and now living in Rhode Island for 17 years, Paula knows her way around distinguishing between a quahog and a clam and how to find the best in the local food scene. As a great champion of RI that prides herself on the practice of localism, you can trust Paula will share her knowledge and enthusiasm for Rhode Island & Southeastern Massacusetts region's food with you.

1. What foods is your city known for?

As a coastal city our state's seafood selection in general, are the go-to dishes, whether it is lobster, oysters, fried clams, clam cakes, steamed little necks, stuffies or fresh fish like cod, halibut or striped bass we pride ourselves on our variety of food from the sea and the many creative ways to prepare it. We seem to be seeing more and more oyster bars and festivals popping up in Newport and all over the state too. However, the #1 dish I would have to say is Calamari or squid, it is actually the Rhode Island State Appetizer. In fact, RI is the only state with a state appetizer. It's a huge part of the RI economy, we catch about 23.5 million lbs a year and are the East Coast Capital for squid, providing most of New England with it. Our Squid is caught in the Atlantic Ocean, it is a soft buttery texture, cut into rings and tentacles, deep or flash fried, then tossed with sweet banana peppers, this RI Style Calamari is copied by chefs all over the country.

2. What neighborhoods should people visit when they come to your city?

For restaurants, I would say the Broadway/Marlborough neighborhood. Broadway is often referred to as Restaurant Row these days with both Upper and Lower Broadway becoming the big hot spot for new restaurants in the city, it's hip, local, authentic and historic. I would definitely include Marlborough and Charles St. in that neighborhood otherwise you would be missing some of the best-known locals hangouts. This area along with Washington Square also offers some amazing American History and Architecture, in fact, I would highly recommend taking a Historic Walking tour of the neighborhood with the Newport Preservation Society, they are very inexpensive and you will learn so much. Many people don't realize, Newport is so much more than Sailing and Mansions!

3. Are there any events foodies should plan their trip to your city around?

There are quite a few worthwhile food events in Newport throughout the year. Great Chowder Cook-Off is in June where you get to taste and judge the best "Chowdah's" in the state. The Annual Newport Mansion Wine & Food Festival held on the lawn of the Marble House Mansion in September is the festival of which all are compared to. This amazing two-day event is sponsored by the Newport Preservation Society with galas and the festival held at three mansions. It is attended by many celebrity guest chefs, both regionally and nationally, several that will be guest speaking or doing demonstrations. In October, we feast on lobster dinners, clam chowder, stuffed quahogs, clam cakes, shrimp, scallops, raw oysters and clams, at the 25th Annual Seafood Festival held on Bowen's Wharf. In those in between months of March or November, when we are looking ahead to spring and summer or getting ready to hunker down for the winter we have Newport Restaurant Week. You then get to try some of the restaurants you always meant to go to but never did. You will have the exceptional opportunity to have three-course prix fixe menus: Lunch for $16 and Dinner for $35, which is a steal anywhere!

4. What can people expect on your food tours?

A walking & tasting tour through an off-the-beaten-path historic neighborhood, where the locals go. We stop at a diverse array of 6-7 tasting locations in 3.5 hours, peppered (couldn't resist!) with historic landmarks, stories and some of the earliest examples of 17th,18th & 19th-century architecture in our country. At the end of the tour you will have had sweet, savory and refreshing tastings from the Oldest Tavern in the US, an Eclectic and Iconic Neighborhood Eatery, Bohemian Mexican Tavern, An Artsy Pizza Place, A Local Cafe & Bakery, The Best Baseball Pub in the Country and a Hip, No Frills Hole in the Wall Hamburger & Hot Dog Joint. All the eateries use locally sourced and in-season ingredients, often organic when possible, for very distinct and fresh regional dishes. People are loving the walking in between our tasting locations where they learn not only about the food, restaurant, owners & chefs but also about many of Newport's Landmark's and History. It truly adds another dimension to the whole afternoon experience because people don't realize just how important a role Newport played in this country's history.

5. Give us some food trivia about your city.

Newport is home to the oldest operating tavern in the country, Whitehorse Tavern, built in 1673. The "Rhode Island Greening Apple" is an American apple variety originating in Newport in about 1650. It is similar to a "Granny Smith" apple, juicy, crisp and tart, with a greenish skin turning yellow when fully ripened. It is the official fruit of the state.


Published August 14th, 2015