Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Winfield's on Block Island

As the summer comes to a close here in Boston, I figure now is as a good a time as any to post my review of great New England destination restaurant. My wife and I have been taking vacations on Block Island for the last few years and have made it a point each time to stop into Winfield's for dinner at least once.

Winfield's is a casual fine dining restaurant attached to a great night spot called McGovern's Yellow Kittens which features live music every night of the week during the summer. Winfield's presents a contrast to the sometimes rowdy night scene at Yellow Kittens, with it's own bar and comfortable dining room. You're almost certain to have a good, comfortable, delicious meal every time you visit.

Now Block Island, for those of you that don't know it, is a small island that is part of the state of Rhode Island and is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 13 miles (21km) south of the mainland. Less than 10 square miles in area, this is no Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. While the island may be small, there is no shortage of beaches or quiet places to relax. There are many good restaurants and several fun bars to hang out at and there are lots of houses for rent and great B&Bs at which to stay. If you decide to visit the island, I highly recommend The Old Town Inn; the inn keepers, Lucinda and Dave, are wonderful people and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Dave is very capable in the kitchen and the daily breakfasts are outstanding! He bakes an assortment of fresh breads daily to go along with hot egg dishes, fresh fruits, juices and more.

Now, back to Winfield's. On our visit this year J and I had some friends with us and once again had a great meal. The food is consistently good and on each visit there have been a variety of specials. On this night, I started my meal with Winfield's signature salad, a mix of field greens with toasted pistachio, cucumber, dried cherries, blue cheese, and tarragon vinaigrette. The sweetness of the dried cherries balanced out strong, stinky blue cheese paired and the crunchy, meaty pistachios added nice texture. The salad was a little heavy on the herby tarragon vinaigrette but it was very good.

Winfield's Salad

J and I also shared Winfield's Tuna Crudo appetizer. The incredibly fresh tuna was mixed with olive oil and smoked sea salt and served with with caponata, lavender, taro chips, and soft herbs. The smokey, salty, melt-in-your-mouth good tuna was excellent, no teeth needed, and the taro chips were nice and crispy.

Tuna Crudo

Our friends had some clam chowder to start, but this was no ordinary clam chowder. Most people know that New England Clam Chowder is cream based and that Manhattan Clam chowder is tomato based, but do you know that Rhode Island has its own version of clam chowder that is broth based? Winfield's take on Rhode Island Clam Chowder is a clam broth based chowder with whole in-shell clams, crushed fingerling potatoes, and tasty chunks of lardon. There was also a nice small crust on top. I had a taste of this chowder and it was excellent, well seasoned, lots of clams and potatoes and a very interesting and creative presentation!

Clam Chowder

For my entree I ordered a pan-seared wild sea bass served with morels and cippolini onions in a creamy oyster stew. The wild sea bass was local and line-caught and incredibly fresh. Cooked perfectly, the fish just melted in my mouth and was seasoned very nicely. The morel mushrooms and a nice earthy flavor to the sauce and the cippolini onions added a nice little zip. The star of this dish was definitely the perfectly cooked wild sea bass but it would have been lost without the incredible oyster stew. The oysters were tender and sweet and the stew was seasoned perfectly. A great dish.

Pan-Seared Wild Sea Bass with Morels, Cippolini Onions and Oyster Stew

J ordered Winfield's Steak a La Mamma. The steak was a Painted Hills Farm sirloin served with roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted asparagus, and a green peppercorn-garlic demi-glace. Painted Hills Farm is in Oregon and their cattle are raised naturally, free of antibiotics and growth hormones and are fed a 100% vegetarian diet consisting mainly of barley, corn and alfalfa. This steak certainly tasted like the cows lived a happy life before their time was up. It was tender, flavorful and cooked to a perfect medium temperature. The potatoes were roasted to a nice crisp exterior and had a tender, creamy interior, and the asparagus was cooked just enough to give it nice roasted flavor while retaining the some of the crisp crunch of a good fresh vegetable. The green peppercorn demi-glace was nice but neither J or I are much into saucing our steaks.

Grilled Steak a La Mamma

We washed all this delicious food down with a couple stiff cocktails. J and I like vodka, really good, premium vodka. In fact you might find six or seven different top shelf vodkas in our bar or freezer at any given time, vodkas like Stolichnaya Gold, Stolichnaya Elite, Belvedere, Ciroc, Van Gogh Espresso and Van Gogh Double Chocolate, plus a handle or two of good old regular Stolichnaya. Stoli is definitely my go to vodka when other premium choices aren't available. I like to drink it chilled, straight up with olives, no vermouth, no olive juice, just give me the vodka - also known as a bone dry martini. J on the other hand likes her vodka martinis dirty.

Finally, the one negative part of our dining experience. Since we were on vacation and expected to party hard into that night, J and I decided to finish our meals with a couple espressos. We placed our order with our server and he went off to take care of things. I had a view into the server station at the entrance of the kitchen and witnessed an unacceptable, atrocious act perpetrated by our server who up until this point was very capable and attentive. The restaurant was not very busy at this point but I think our server may have been in the weeds. In Winfield's the servers are responsible for pulling their own espresso drinks and our server must have felt like he did not have the time to brew two doubles. With my own two eyes I watched our server pour regular coffee from the carafe into two espresso cups and bring them straight over to our table! He didn't see me see him but I certainly knew what to expect. As I was about to say something the manager came over to ask how our meals were and the server walked away. I told him that I saw our server pour coffee into the espresso cups, there was no crema on top and the coffee was certainly not the dark, rich color of good espresso. The manager apologized and went off to brew two new espressos, which I did see him do. Can you believe that?!

Have any of you ever experienced something similar in a restaurant where you ordered one thing and either knew your server was duping you or suspected that you did not get what you expected? How did you react? I've worked in restaurants in the past, as a server, in the kitchen, in the front of the house and I know what it's like to be in the weeds, the densest, thickest, Everglades weeds, but NEVER would I pour coffee into an espresso cup and try to pass it off.

Otherwise we had a fantastic meal and we will definitely go back. Here are a couple pictures from a visit to Winfield's in July 2008. Enjoy!

Pumpernickel Crusted Salmon with Chickpea Ragout and Shaved Fennel
Pumpernickel Crusted Salmon with Chickpea Ragout and Shaved Fennel

Wild Rack of Boar with Swiss Chard and Creamed White Beans
Wild Rack of Boar with Swiss Chard and Creamed White Beans

Winfield's on Urbanspoon


  1. Great review! Will you review some of the other restaurants on Block Island?

  2. Hi BIJobs, I have written about a few other places on Block Island. Specifically, The Oar, Finn's, and H.J. Willy's Dog 'Waggin.

    I'm also a fan of the Tuna Nachos at Eli's and the flaming coffees at Hotel Manisses. I am sure I'll write about BI again as soon as I make the time. In the meantime, here's a link to my Flickr set from Block Island [and Tiverton (Evelyn's)]

  3. Hi One Food Guy-Went to Winfield's twice over the holiday weekend. There's a new chef in town and it was amazing! Best meal I've had in 20 years on the island.

  4. Hi Anon, I'm so excited to hear that Winfield's got a new chef (although the previous chef was fantastic) and that you had a great meal! I'll be on the island later this summer and will definitely stop in for dinner one night. I can't wait!!