Not Your Usual Afterschool Snack: A Trip to Newport Wine and Gourmet with Maria Chiancola


So, this visit took an interesting turn. Having delicious memories of a previous cheese tasting with Ms. Maria Chiancola, we again met with her at the splendid new store on Memorial Blvd. where one shop provides gourmet foods and the other, lovely wines. The connecting wine shop has a large dining table and chairs, so it was easiest to sit there and have our tasting. However, in the process of trying various cheeses, charcuterie and pizza, the students were curious about the many bottles that surrounded us, so asked about wine pairings. Ms. Chiancola’s knowledge and anecdotes were informative and entertaining, despite the lack of wine tasting itself. Take yourself to Newport Wine and Gourmet for their delicious offerings, and where you are likely to bump into several Abbey students who work there! (

Students comment:

Downtown Newport never fails to surprise me with its culinary diversity. Just a short drive away from the Portsmouth Abbey campus, we culinary treasure hunters unearthed a brand new cheese and wine boutique on par with anything you can find in France or Switzerland. I like to think of myself as the Nicholas Cage of our little group of young patrons, and I dove right in to the fine fromage the second we stepped into the boutique. The cheddar cheeses made me question the soberness of my taste buds, the gorgonzola forced me to thank the cow from which it was procured, and blue cheese held me down and interrogated my conception of the color blue. Most memorable of all, however, was the brie. Although adventurous as the conquistadors, my tastes buds could never appreciate the tangy taste and waxy texture of brie. That of course had to change, for I knew the raw potential of brie on a nice cracker. This small Newport boutique did not just unlock this potential, but knocked the whole door down in front of me. What was once waxy to me turned into a slow flood of molten savory-ness across my tongue, and whatever tangy and bitter pinch I tasted in previous bries was exaggerated like an emotion in a Greek tragedy. On a similar note, I do not particularly like the taste of red wine, so maybe this year’s culinary adventures will change my opinion on that too. (Note: or maybe not, but nice try-Mrs. Bonin)  David Ingraham ’17 

Cheese always fascinates me from the variety of flavors it possesses. The cheese we tasted at Newport Wine Cellar and Gourmet did not fail to fascinate. It had a wide range of flavors, from lavender with coffee to just plain brie. I also liked how our host talked about presentation of food. I also believe that food is an overall experience incorporating all five senses. Even before eating the smell and the visual experience excites our palate. The pizza she gave us made my mouth water and pleased my eyes even before we got to delve into it. I think this experience was valuable not only because we got to taste a variety of cheese but also because we got to learn about the advertisement of food. It was a fresh experience, and I hope to come back again. — Seha Choi ’16

I love Newport because of its culture, history, and most importantly, food. Ms. Chiancola, who gave us an amazing lecture on cheese last year, opened two new stores, Newport Wine Cellar and Gourmet, up the street from Pasta Beach in Newport. Decorated in different styles, the café and the wine shop both generate an atmosphere of affability. The café offers people a feeling of home with its open kitchen, refrigerator, and racks filled with cooking materials, while the wine shop exhibits its elegance with wine bottles meticulously arranged throughout the store. I sat down with other Culinary Arts Club members at the extravagant dining table in the center of the wine store. While Ms. Chiancola introduced her store and explained the principles of depicting food, delicate pizzas–made with various herbs and cheeses artistically organized together–were served and appreciated. The combination of learning and eating satisfied both our physical hunger and spiritual craving. What can be better than to end a day like this? — Kevin Jiang ’17

The Culinary Arts Club went to Newport Wine Cellar and Gourmet for a cheese tasting. Before the tasting, we spoke with the owner Maria Chiancola on writing about food. She explained that eating food is an experience, and that it is important to use descriptive words in order to really capture that experience. She also spoke about photographing food and how to get the right angles and lighting to make the dish seem as appealing on film as it is in person. She then brought out a cheese platter along with a pizza and bread. The pizza consisted of a thick, doughy crust topped with cheese, vegetables, and porchetta. She had a variety of different cheese for us such as different cheddars, blue cheese, and brie. My favorite was a cheddar cheese topped with lavender and espresso. The combination of sweet and savory flavors was absolutely delicious. It was a great experience, and I cannot wait to work there this summer. — Grace Gibbons ’17

Last year, Ms. Chiancola’s cheese tasting was my first event with the Culinary Arts Club, and with those fond memories I was eagerly looking forward to visiting her newly opened shop. As the group shuffled into the leather-bound booth seats in the corner of the wine shop, we were presented with rustic squares of pizza and a delicate cheese plate. I was ready to tuck into my favorite cheeses from last time (like Midnight Moon), but Ms. Chiancola opened the session talking about food, writing, and what they both meant to her. She made the excellent point in that food is not only for consumption, but also to be discussed, looked at, and savored. Looking forward to my last two months in the club, it is my goal to emulate her words because not only will the food taste even better, but I will be able to appreciate the art, time, and preparation behind what I’m putting into my stomach. There has been a many a time when I was just so happy to be eating non-dining hall food that I wasn’t thinking about the complexity of flavors unfolding on my palette. As always, the pairings suggested with the cheese was fantastic, and I enjoyed using the dried fruit chips in place of bread. I hope to revisit her shop very soon and recreate the delicacies that I experienced with the club. — Lucy Ferry ’16

The Culinary Arts Club had the magnificent opportunity to visit the newly opened Newport Wine Cellar and Gourmet in Newport, RI. As soon as I entered the café, I could not help but fully immerse my attention toward the beautifully displayed cheeses, jams, and breads. As we entered the wine shop, I was taken back by the design and colors that created a bold aesthetic throughout the room. Finally, we got to the cheese tasting. I was surprised by the variety of flavor and aroma among the various cheeses. The dried fruit and nuts complimented the Midnight Moon, as the fresh bread meshed nicely with the soft and creamy Brie. After discussing the savory array of cheeses with the group, I found a new appreciation for the experience of eating. Food is received differently by each taster, providing a distinct reaction and induced feeling. — Cassie Schuchert ’16

The Culinary Arts Club made a trip to the Newport Wine Cellar and Gourmet for a class on food photography and writing which somewhat evolved into learning about the different types of wine and how to pair them best. Ms. Chiancola has both shops set up beautifully in order to showcase her various wines and gorgeous gourmet foods. As a former English teacher and current food blogger, she is very experienced in writing about food in order to allow the reader to experience it almost as fully as if they were actually eating it. She asked us to describe how each of our senses processed the five different kinds of cheese, which we sampled as well as a delicious pizza. My favorite of the cheeses was a sharp cheddar which had been rubbed with lavender and espresso granules. I do not really enjoy the flavor of coffee so I was not expecting to like this cheese, but to my surprise, the lavender and espresso gave it a distinct but appealing aroma, and when I tried it, there were many complex levels of flavor, and I couldn’t help but love it. Food presentation and photography was another topic we covered, and Ms. Chiancola explained that cheese is hard to present because it is mostly just flat and white. So, in order to make it look good, she plates it on a simple white platter and adds colorful dried fruit and assorted nuts to give the plate depth, color, and texture. This was a great trip, and I learned so much about food writing and presentation while sampling some delicious foods. — Hannah Banderob ’17