Archives for May 2014

Sponsored Post: My First Nutella – Spread The Smiles!

Some people remember the first time that they threw a baseball. Some remember their first kiss. I remember the first time that I ever tried Nutella.


I was at a private school after 12 years of public school. That meant that I had to get used to uniforms, 3 different electives a semester (And the choices were things like “critical decision making”), and a half hour commute.

Needless to say, I was in over my head.

The class that I was most nervous about was French class. Most kids who went to this school had been there since, it seemed, birth, and had been taking French since then. When the first day of French class, every kid could rattle off the entire alphabet and count to 100 in this new language, I felt like I had been thrown to the wolves. How would I ever catch up? What the hell was “the subjunctive?” I was, to put it in their terms “le screwed.”

But then, right after I failed a pop quiz (of course), our teacher decided to introduce us to a little bit of French culture. She passed out small slices of baguette and a jar of Nutella with a knife.

As we listened to French pop music, I waited for the jar to make the rounds and come back towards my desk. I dipped my clear plastic knife into the jar and swirled it around the thick, smooth, chocolatey spread, I lifted it to the baguette, carefully spreading a thin layer on the bread. There was no way that chocolate would taste good on bread, but whatever – it beat conjugating verbs for 30 minutes.

Then, I lifted the small tartine to my lips and took a bite. I instantly regretted spreading the Nutella so thinly. It was…unreal. Intensely chocolatey, but not bitter – sweet and creamy. The nutty note was a little salty and very earthy, but not too thick or gritty. It just tempered the chocolate and reminded me a little bit of peanut butter. The biggest revelation was how delicious it was on the chewy, floury baguette. It was the best snack I have ever had before or since.

Since then, I learned to keep up in French class, discovered how to personalize my uniform (cool colored shoelaces, anyone?) and I have eaten Nutella all over the world (including in France), but nothing has tasted as delicious as that Nutella on a baguette in 1997.
To share your own Nutella story, visit the Tumblr and find out where the Nutella truck is going on its 50th anniversary “spread the smile” campaign! If it comes to your town, expect games, prizes, and TONS of Nutella!
Blogger disclosure:
This post was brought to you by Ferrero U.S.A, Inc., the makers of Nutella® hazelnut spread.  I received promotional consideration to write this post to support the Nutella 50th Anniversary … all opinions expressed are my own.

Terpsi en Oia – Just Like Yiayia Used to Make

We didn’t go to Terpsi by accident.

We wouldn’t have. It’s right on Oia’s main drag and looks, for all the world, like any old tourist trap with french fries and watered down wine.

Luckily, a newfound friend of a friend told me that I should go to Terpsi for delicious homestyle Greek food and fabulous service.

20140505_202751 Too bad that she didn’t mention the ugly view.

20140505_201855 It’s just like looking at the brick wall that I face in my apartment in the city, you guys.

20140505_202907 Santorini beer

Nowhere near as good as Santorini wine. Not bad, but a little blah. Not worth it. 20140505_203228 Shrimp with feta, garlic, tomatoes, and love

Okay, it doesn’t say love on the menu…but it should. This shrimp is unmissable. They come beautifully cleaned and ideally cooked – snappy, sweet, and JUST pink so they aren’t at all rubbery. The sauce is stuff of the heavens. Winey, garlicky, sweet with tomatoes that are crushed into the sauce. The feta works well with the shrimp – it picks up the salinity and makes the sauce lush and thick – who would ever put feta with shrimp!? The Greeks, it seems. This dish is bright and well-rounded – plus, the sauce can be eaten like a soup when the shrimp is done.

Oh, it can’t? Well we did it. And it was swell.  20140505_204044 Moussaka

No, not moose caca. This Greek shepherd’s pie is one of the most comforting dishes known to humankind. It’s a layer of creamy, bubbly, bechamel atop gently cooked eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes, ending with a layer of spiced, cinnamon-y ground lamb. Moussaka is delicious even when it’s so so, and here it is sublime. It’s creamy and warming. The lamb is juicy, the potatoes are tender, and the eggplant is silky.  20140505_204158 I mean, don’t you want to just dive headfirst into that?

It’s even better than it looks. If you like lasagna or shepherd’s pie, you will love Terpsi’s moussaka.

Terpsi is delightful. The food is real Greek home cooking and the views are also real Greek…real awesome! The service is congenial and quite speedy, the food is wonderful, and the views are magnificent. It’s  as if your favorite neighborhood joint was suddenly manned by your very own yiayia and the views of the alley were replaced by the most magnificent views on earth. This is one of my favorite restaurant experiences because it was so casual and homey but with such delicious food and such a dreamy view that it couldn’t help but be romantic.

The honeymoon now moves to the big city: Athens!

I promise, Santorini, I shall return.

Next stop, Athens!

Lunch at Perissa Black Sand Beach

Many people just do the beaches in Mykonos and skip the ones in Santorini.

Say it an’t so!

We headed to Perissa (a beautiful 45 minute drive from Oia) to enjoy one of the island’s famous black sand beaches. The sand is actually volcanic rock and it gets INSANELY hot. Good thing that you can relax on some loungers, order a drink, and just enjoy the sun without burning your feet.

20140505_140315 Anemos is a beachside hotel in Perissa with a fabulous bar/restaurant/lounge setup. Basically, you relax on a huge lounger, under an umbrella, and swim in the Aegean, sun yourself, or just relax in the shade, all while ordering food from the excellent open air taverna. Honestly, it’s tough being on honeymoon. When you are tired of splashing in the (FREEZING) sea, come up to your lounger and dry in the soft sunshine as you order ice cold Coca Cola Lights that come in a bucket of chilled ice…
20140505_140956 and lunch that is brought to you in a ginormous hamper.  20140505_141029 Even light meals here start with some rather forgettable bread and some totally unforgettable spicy feta dip. It’s zesty and really packs a spicy little punch – it’s soft and easily dippable or spreadable – I ate this with a fork and you will, too!
20140505_141520 Pita with halloumi and salsa

I don’t know what kind of cotton crap I have been eating for almost 30 years, but it sure as hell ain’t pita. This stuff is almost bread of the angels. It’s soft and chewy, with a wonderful char from the grill and a really wheaty, wholesome taste. The halloumi is crispy and salty with that pleasant rubbery halloumi texture. The chopped tomatoes and onions are as sweet as sugar, and the accompanying dipping sauce is a creamy, smoky sauce that reminds me of chipotle mayo. YES! 20140505_141603 Tomato fritters

Santorini is famous for these tomato fritters – ripe tomatoes, peeled, dipped in fluffy batter, and fried.  20140505_141620 Well, this is just a little hand-held pizza pocket. Yep, that’s what it is. Tastes like the world’s yummiest (Sorry, snobs, sometimes yummy really is the best descriptor) marinara sauce –  sweet, light, soft inside its crunchy batter. There is some cooling yogurt alongside, but ignore it. It’s all about that fritter.  20140505_141716 Zucchini fritters

Thank you, sweet waitress, for being bossy and making us get these. I promise to never ignore you again. These are the highlight of our beach lunch. YES! The zucchini is sweet and juicy inside the airy whipped ricotta fritters. They are crispy, creamy, and perfect with the yogurt dill dressing. I ate about 3 of these and could have eaten 30.

Anemos at Perissa is a blast! The alcoholic drinks are a little pricey but the food is quite well priced, the atmosphere is both unusual and cool – lying on a beach while you eat fried food and gaze at the Aegean and the black sand must e the ultimate pleasure in life. Come here to veg at least one day of your honeymoon or vacay – then go to the restaurant we ate at for dinner that night!

Ambrosia is…Ambrosia

We had a couple of splurge dinners on this vacation. One of them was in London and one of them was in Santorini.

The one in Santorini is a meal that I don’t think that I will ever forget.

20140504_202657 Ambrosia is one of the best restaurants in Oia. There are only a few tables, and the terrace faces out into the volcano and the sea. In fact, it’s entirely outside except for 6 seats, which guarantees for an uber romantic view, unless the winds are too high to enjoy the weather. That’s very rare, though.

So, obviously, it happened the night that we had reservations.

No matter, as we were able to get one of the seats inside, though others who arrived later for their allotted times had to be tuned away or left out – literally! – in the cold.  The restaurant itself is humble inside, with a jumble of old fashioned paintings and curiosities, a bar, and a few tables. That’s it – nothing that screams “watch out tastebuds, you are in for a treat!” 20140504_203127 Ouzo

Because when the proprietor of the restaurant beams and offers you a glass of his favorite ouzo, how can you say “Dude, I have been drinking all day? I’m HUNGOVER?” So, you drink it, and as its licoricy warmth spreads through your body, your headache lessens and you decide that a hair of the dog was just what you needed. So, you decide to loosen up a little more and order a dry white wine from Santorini’s famed Sigalas winery. It’s dry but not too much so, almost like a chenin blanc. It goes well with everything. So a bottle isn’t too much.  20140504_205247 Roasted garlic dip, tomatoes and capers, kalamata olive dip

This is one of those times when all of the dips are equally delicious. The roasted garlic is sweet with an earthy depth and the kalamata olive one is briny and pleasantly fruity. The feta in both is airy and mild. The tomatoes and capers are other worldly – sweet, juicy, salty, and bursting with flavor. I can’t say enough about the capers and tomatoes on this island…they are unreal.
20140504_211106 Ambrosia tartlets with caramelized mushrooms, tomatoes, and brie

Yes, feta, we cheated on you with this brie. And it felt so right. The brie is warm and melty, atop juicy tomatoes and flaky puff pastry.  20140504_211252 Inside are sweet caramelized onions, the ideal counterpart to the rich cheese and a dab of garlicky pesto. It’s a rich starter, but if you split it with someone it’s ideal.  20140504_212526 Blackberry and wild mushroom risotto

Heart-stoppingly outrageous. Unbelievable. Who would put blackberries in risotto? Ambrosia, apparently, and to wonderful effect. This is a must get, and a must recreate. The mushrooms are so savory and meaty, and the blackberries are juicy and tart-sweet, but with that same earthy backnote that connects their taste to that of the mushrooms. The risotto is creamy and soft, but not mushy. It almost melts in the mouth. Don’t forget to drag your fork through the tangy balsamic drizzle on the side – it adds some unexpected acid to the risotto. This is unexpected and fantastic.
20140504_212532 Pan fried sea bass with lemon sauce

Excellent, though not as incredible as the risotto. Fresh, flaky fish with a light, lemony sauce and some sweet baby vegetables. I would eat this again but I wouldn’t order it again because that risotto was such a standout. 20140504_220531 Moroccan sweets with pastry cream and nuts

This was also delicious. I wish I could remember more, but I was several glasses of wine deep, remember? It’s nutty, it’s dripping with honey, and it’s filled with vanilla-scented pastry cream. Basically…YES. 20140504_221040 Even drunk off of wine and risotto, the vin santo is still not my cup of…digestif.

Look, this restaurant is delicious. It’s fairly priced (to say expensive), with excellent, enthusiastic service. We didn’t get that famous view, but we did get some eye-opening risotto, fantastic wine bottled right on the island, and a night to remember.

Next up, beach day!

Have a Meaningful Memorial Day

The title says it all.

I hope that all of  my American readers have a day surrounded by family and friends and take some time to honor those who serve and who have served in our armed forces. For those who are not my American readers, this holiday is often associated with BBQs, the beginning of summer, and massive department store sales – which are all fantastic! – but it never hurts to remember the real reason behind the day.

So, tune back in tomorrow for more on delicious Greece!

Kastro – Lunch with a View in Santorini

Everywhere in Santorini is lunch with a view. It just is. You have to try really, really hard to dine somewhere that doesn’t have a view like this. I’m sure if you put your mind to it you an. And I’m sure that this results in some less-than-stellar restaurants that rely on the swell view instead of swell food.

But that isn’t the case at Kastro.

20140504_142416 Kastro is located at the old castle fortress, at the very tip of Oia. It has a direct sunset view, and is entirely outside – if you want to come for dinner, prepare to make a reservation and bundle up for the view. However, the views are just as beautiful during the day…

20140504_135217 I took that with my cell phone, people. And I am NOT a photographer. I have never seen such stunning views in my life as I did on Santorini.
20140504_140529 Bruschetta

I could eat this every day of my life. Salty feta, sweet tomatoes,and juicy olives in a garlicky olive oil dressing. It tops warm, cheesy toast and it is heavenly. The feta is soft and provides a salty hit to those sweet tomatoes and the juiciest, mildest olives I had the whole trip. The bread soaks up all o the wonderful flavors of the topping and the garlicky olive oil, and it manages to be rich and light at the same time – thanks, awesome olive oil! I licked this plate clean.
20140504_140533 Salad with goat cheese and berries

Good but not great – it was fine, but after the salad at Floga, my expectations were sky high However, the berries were standouts. They were small and bursting with sweet and tart flavors. This salad is tasty, don’t get me wrong – the cheese is grassy and the lettuce is fresh, but it’s just not a must-get.
20140504_143712 Keftedes

MMmmmm. These Greek meatballs are one of my favorite things on any menu. Grilled until they have a thick, crunchy shell and tender meat within.

20140504_144009 Though it’s a little dry, it is well spiced with mint, a cooling addition to the earthy lamb. It’s served with grilled vegetables and some very cool homemade fries. Tzatziki accompanies, and it has absolutely replaced ketchup as my fry sauce of choice. It might have to duke it out with garlic aioli.
20140504_143716 Chicken souvlaki

The shish-kebab’s tamer sister. This is marinated in plenty of lemon juice and oregano, for a bright, herby flavor and super tender meat. The grilled artichokes are marinated in tons of that rich olive oil for a lovely, light side dish and yeah…I ate all of those fries, too. 
20140504_145606 Walnut cake

How many times can I eat walnut cake? Why as many times as I am offered, thank you ver much. Not quite as tasty as the one at the Mykonos Grand – the nuts are too coarse here and the cake is too dense and not moist enough – but it’s still tasty. I mean, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers.
20140504_150014 Vin santo.

They force fed us this the entire trip and I hated it each and every time – like raisins seeped in Robitussin then perfumed with skunk.

Blech.

But that was on the house so I can truthfully say that the meal that we paid for was well worth it. The food is wonderful and the view is incredible. The meal is pricier than it should be, but you pay for the view – and why wouldn’t you. The service is leisurely (hey, it’s Greece!) and friendly, and…did I mention the view?

The bruschetta ain’t bad either.

More delicaies continue for dinner.

Relationship Themed Restaurants

I had some personal family business to attend to, so in the meantime, I arranged for a guest post from one of my favorite writers. Katlin McGrath writes the hysterical blog Party in the Lifeboat, where she shares her thoughts about life as an actress, life as a woman, and life as a human being. Head over there for videos, blog posts, and the PERFECT accompaniment to your glass of wine and bowl of Cheez-its. She is also a fearless eater. This girl can down a slab of toast covered in bone marrow like nobody’s business. Ignore the fact that she is rail thin. Don’t worry, we all hate her. And kind of want to be her. Read this and you will see why:

If Your Relationships Had a Theme Restaurant, The List Would Look Like This:

Relationships and food have a lot in common. Relationships and restaurants have even more in common. Seriously. Think about it- we ultimately seek a relationship to fill a void that cannot be filled by us alone. Restaurants are the same thing! Sure, you can cook at home- but you may not have the expertise, ingredients, ambiance, music or well stocked bar that the restaurant does. Therefore, no matter how much we love cooking at home, we eventually venture out into the world to experience new things. I mean, when you really think about it, Yelp and Tinder have an awful lot in common… In either scenario, we are driven by hunger, need and passion, whether in romance or the pursuit of culinary adventure, and we take a gamble. We just hope we leave with our stomaches, wallets and hearts in tact at the end. After 5 years; good meals, bad meals and boys of all kinds, here is my humble guide. Please keep in mind, that while I have an adventurous palate, New York City is a BIG place and I have not sampled everything. I’m not that kind of girl.

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Brother Jimmy’s: AKA “The Out of College Frat Boy.”

Remember when you moved to New York? Bright eyed and bushy tailed, navigating the subway like it was some uncrackable mystery. Experiencing sticker shock on everything from milk to beer to band-aids (which you needed a lot of because, hot damn, you had never walked more in your life!). So inevitably, as a young twenty something you found your way into Brother Jimmy’s. The casual atmosphere somehow comforted you. Football on every TV, reasonably priced beer you’ve actually heard of, mac and cheese and fried pickles. Letting your guard down, you find yourself enticed by “him”, the Axe-wearing, polo clad frat boy that reminds you of your not so distant past. Double points if he has an accent or shares your love of college basketball. There’s nothing really wrong here, except that the more space and time you get from this one, you realize the immaturity of it all. It was okay then, fueled by alcohol and fear of the unknown, but now you expect more. Plus, if you’re going to (and should) eat BBQ in the city, this is the LAST place you should go. Your palate is more refined and you want more adventure and spice than is offered here. While “he” will never change, “he” will continue to help the small town girls and college kids traverse lonely transitional periods.

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Liqueteria: AKA “The Activist/Nutritionist/Makes His Own Deodorant”

New York has a way of creeping up on you every so often. Not in a good way. One morning, you wake up, disgusted by the pollution, trash, rudeness and smelliness. That’s when you stumble across this one. Sharing your love of recycling and good, clean fruits and veggies, you’re lured in by the clean freshness and the unmistakable aura of someone who actually cares. Which they do. Not a preservative in sight over here. Unfortunately, the longer you stay, that fun, optimistic potion of ginger and cardamom and pineapple, slowly turns to unfiltered kale and judgement. Whatever you do, don’t let any of “his” friends find out you buy your toiletries at Duane Reade or, God forbid, eat cheese. There’s just more going on here than you can feasibly commit to. But, that’s okay. You’ll run into each other from time to time, feel good about yourself when you do and even better about the fact that it’s just an every so often thing. After all, “his” crap is expensive.

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Barcade: AKA “The Hipster”

Oh, this was exciting! The first time you came here, you had never felt cooler. Local beer, vintage arcade games and graffiti covered bathrooms. You may as well be a Sex Pistols groupie! Reeled in by the skinny jeans, tattoos and “I have a band and ride a bicycle everywhere” attitude of it all. For a few beers, it’s sexy and exciting and you want to be a part of it. That is… until the hunger sets in… And “he” is over in the corner playing Frogger. As the delirium of overwhelming appetite sets in, you realize, not only do you not want a tattoo, but you don’t own nearly enough flannel. Plus, you watch HGTV un-ironically. Will they judge you for liking Disney? Or not knowing whose song this is? Or only owning one Radiohead album? The truth of the matter is, while “he” is really cool for a beer and a quickie, you don’t want to be this cool everyday. Plus, you can only walk of shame it back from Brooklyn so many times before you start to lose your cool.

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Red Rooster: AKA “The Foodie”

For Pete’s Sake, “he” is good. With good press, great recommendations and located in “up and thriving” Harlem, every single part of you feels good about being here. It appeals to you in so many ways. Covered in visual art of the neighborhood, while listening to the Nate Lucas Quartet every Sunday to the Deviled Eggs made with CHICKEN SKIN mayonnaise, you are so frigging happy to be here. Everything is awesome. Signature cocktails in pitchers, the best damn jerk chicken you have ever tasted and the funky Southern American/Swedish fusion going on throughout the menu. Your downtown friends arrive with trepidation and leave wondering if there are any apartment vacancies near by so they can be closer to the magic. Now, on the surface, “he” really is everything you want. Unless, you care about your thighs, waist and general heart health. Sure, “he” offers salads, but why would you eat salad when you can have shrimp and grits?! You have to pry your finger nails from the table and goodbye is so hard, but you know your arteries can’t handle “him” emotionally or physically (pun intended). You’ll come back someday, if only for a reminder of how good it really was.

ABC Kitchen: AKA “The Elitest”

Finally. You finally made it in. Between the fact that you have to make reservations to see “him” weeks in advance, as well as save up to even go, you sometimes wonder if taking a 5 day Disney vacation would have been more practical. Yes, they are the freshest of ingredients, “he” seems to remind you of this constantly, and the ambiance makes you feel like you should feel lucky to even have been allowed inside. It’s delicate and delicious and the pizzas make you think, “maybe he is a little down-to-Earth…” The unfortunate part is when you look around at all the furnishings and accouterments from the next door ABC Kitchen and Home, you realize that not only can you not afford “his” salt and pepper shakers, you don’t think he can handle the fact that you’re wearing H&M. Maybe someday, when you’re a rich and famous celebrity, you can come back here and be on “his” level, or better yet, have eclipsed said level, but for now, it’s just flat out too much. Too much money, too much freshness, too much you don’t have in common. Who knew vegetable could make you feel so inadequate. Lesson learned. At least it tasted damn good on the way down.

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La Esquina: AKA “The Tall, Dark and Handsome”

Oh dear, sweet sexy pants. If ever there was a sensual mystery of a man, and that man was a restaurant, it would be La Esquina. Entering through the unassuming taco shop, whispering your name to an attendant you will never see again, you are whisked down the stairs, into an underground lair of danger and mystery. Surrounded by dripping candles and exposed brick, you’re given a margarita laced with sweet tropical flavor and an ever so subtle burn. The food comes in waves, familiar and spicy, delivered in the near dark, exciting and enticing all your senses. “He” makes you feel like a real woman, with equal parts comfort and danger. When you finally decided to leave the folds of this exotic cave, you emerge… (Sun blinds you as you step out) “UGH, why is it bright outside?! Why don’t I have sunglasses? Oh my god, this headache is going to kill me…. and WHERE did all my money go?!” It was magical and sexy, but you can never decide whether it was worth the hangover or the hit to your bank account.

Union Square Cafe: AKA “The Your Parents LOVE Him”

Like the ricotta gnocchi that graces the menu of this Danny Meyer NYC staple, it is so damn smooth. Not in a gross way, either. “He” is just straight up classy. From the herb scented bar nuts, to the personal and familiar service, to the carefully selected wine list. They even have black napkins, because “he” knows just how much your mom hates getting white lint all over her clothes. You love it here, not only because you somehow feel completely at home, even while receiving four star service (again, pun intended), but because it feels familiar, and safe. Like you can see the future here. Except for one small problem. The problem is you. You love everything about this place, but you also have a hankering for deep fried mac and cheese and slutty brownies and Cheez-Its. There is a part of you that loves how classy “he” is, because part of you is too. You want this to be all of you. But, just like Charlotte York couldn’t handle the “always perfect” MacDougal family and ran straight into the hands of the gardener, you know you need both sides of the coin. Don’t worry though, “he” is so classy, you can come back anytime. He will always be around and more importantly, so will the gnocchi.

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Sarabeth’s: AKA “The Barney Stinson”

You held out long enough. You’d heard the stories everywhere. “Oh my god, how have you never been there?” You’d found yourself on the outside, seeing the tourists and locals alike waiting outside in line; judging them. Surely, there was breakfast this good elsewhere. Have some dignity, people! Then, it happened. You found yourself there. With your MOTHER, no less. She practically encouraged you. And just like Barney Stinson and the legendary playbook, “he” has everything designed to lure you in like Winnie the Pooh to a honeypot. Homemade preserves, never ending coffee and lemon ricotta pancakes with strawberries. My God. It’s the most delectable booby trap you’ve ever seen. PLUS, it’s breakfast, the most important meal of the day! How did you stay away so long? Then, as you sit there, in that cushy seat, enjoying your coffee, you ponder, “Just HOW MANY people have been here before me?” I mean, there’s no discrimination here- business men, Portuguese tourists and little old ladies who’ve lived on York and 83rd for 37 years. It’s not that “he” isn’t nice, delicious and comfortable. You just wonder if “he” will remember you after you leave. It’s a good stop over every so often, but you don’t want to get attached to this one. No one wants to show up and wait 45 minutes in the rain when you thought you had a connection. And by connection, I mean reservation. Obviously.

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Delmonico’s: AKA “The Older Man”

“He” really does have many leather brown books and smells like rich mahogany. Touted as being one of the first restaurants in the United States, “he” hasn’t just seen things, “he’s” made them. Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, the Delmonico steak… There may be variations and imitations and re-imaginings, but “he” INVENTED them. While it feels a little more mature than your usual, there’s something you can’t turn down about stopping by here for a bit. Who are you to scoff at a tradition of excellence? There’s so much to learn here, and the stories are half of the appeal! You feel proud, patriotic and very worldly here. The only downside, is you find yourself feeling the same way you do when you watch “Fool’s Rush In”. Longing to have been old enough to romance 27 year old Matthew Perry. If only it was 1994 and the two of you could ride off into a perfectly positioned sunset. Unfortunately for you, it’s just a little… icky. “He” may be so many things, but one of them is just too old for you. You learned so much, but had to get out before someone accused you of gold digging or worse, daddy issues.

Shake Shack: AKA “The Forbidden Fruit or Your Best Friend’s Brother”

Sweet buttered beef. This is some good, good stuff. Sure, you avoid it like the plague because in the long run there is no way in HELL that it’s good for you in ANY way, but every once in a while, you give in. You give in to the custard milkshakes, the beef that has obviously been cooked in pure CRACK and the buns that were hand crafted by angels. “He” is unassuming, familiar and comforting. “He’s” always been there and on some level, part of you always wanted to try. Resistance was futile. It’s possibly the best thing that’s ever been put in your mouth. It’s like the 4th of July on any damn day of the year. Delicious, making you feel right at home and always ending in fireworks. You binge. Hard. Eventually, an intervention is necessary. All sides of your life pull you away and eventually, you separate. You achieve distance. Understanding why “he” is not the right choice, but knowing somehow, after a few cocktails and on lazy summer afternoons when you round the corner and run right into “him”, you’ll go in for a quickie. For the sake of your sanity and general wellbeing, you are so damn glad there isn’t location near your office. Those carmel custard shakes really are like playing with fire.

Your Place: AKA “The One”

Like McClaren’s Pub, Central Perk or Tom’s Restaurant, we all have it. Or if we don’t, we’re looking for it. The place where everybody know’s your name. Where the moment you walk in, “he” is waiting and happy and eager to hear about your day and make all your dreams come true. Breakfast is cheap and filling, dinner is always served with a smile and every so often “he” gives you something like caramel covered brie or mushroom risotto, scented with truffles (See also, Cafe Petisco on the LES). It’s everything you need. Refined, but comfortable. Yummy, classy, dangerous, fulfilling. The future father of your children who can throw down like it’s 9 1/2 weeks. Some of us find it early in the city and some of us have to leave to find it elsewhere, but at the end of the day, the journey to get there is damn delectable.

Floga – Tomatoes, Vin Santo, and a Flaming Dessert!

Santorini is…an unbelievably mystical, magical place. I am not one for views or sitting back and watching the world go by but, wow…if I lived in Santorini, I could imagine making it my full-time occupation. The vistas are incredible. The sunsets are incomparable. And the food that you eat all the while…nothing less than extraordinary.

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Floga is a casual restaurant in Oia that is ideal for anyone from honeymooners to a rowdy group celebrating a birthday. It’s upmarket but not fancy, and you won’t get in trouble for just ordering an appetizer and a drink for your meal. The restaurant is entirely outside, with clear plastic sheets that come down in case of exceptionally windy nights, like the one when we dined here. However, it can still be pretty chilly, so bring a jacket or drink enough wine to drown out the cold.

We did both.

20140503_204736 Refreshing salad with feta, watermelon, and balsamic drizzle in a pastry crust

The best salad of our trip, and keep in mind that we ate salad at every meal including breakfast. This is what salad should taste like – a harmonious union of vegetables and seasonings, with one or 2 unexpected elements. The lettuce is so sweet and tender that it almost melts in the mouth. The watermelon is so sugary that it might have been dipped in honey, and the feta is so full fat and creamy that it almost creates its own dressing. The balsamic drizzle, made with local wine, is syrupy and tart, highlighting the sweet watermelon. And that puff pastry crust puts our taco salad shell bowls to shame. This isn’t at all hard to make – I could make it at home – but the ingredients are so high quality that it would be hard to reproduce it anywhere else in the world.
20140503_210127 Spaghetti with Santorini tomato sauce

Just stop it, Santorini. STOP IT. Stop it with your sweet, juicy, earthy tomatoes that taste EXACTLY like the sun on your shoulders on a warm May day. Stop it with your homemade pasta that is tender and JUST this side of too soft. Stop it with your inspired sprinkling of nutty, meaty sesame seeds and your unabashed use of spicy garlic. Stop it with your making me gain 8 lbs in 10 days.

Just stop it.  20140503_210134 Pan fried perch with hollandaise

I have no idea what they called this dish, but it was just the most tender, mild, flaky within and crispy without whitefish served with a lemony hollandaise sauce. The thick sauce manages to be bright with lemon and those wonderful Santorini capers. It’s a revelation – who would have thought that such a thick sauce wouldn’t hide the fish but would actually elevate it? The accompanying rice is al dente, studded with roasted zucchini and sweet cherry tomatoes.  20140503_213312 Chocolate souffle 

It comes to the table in a flaming glass, because it ain’t a honeymoon without at least one flambeed dessert, right? This souffle is more of a molten cake than anything else – rich and chocolaty, with a silky tunnel of fudgy batter in the middle. 20140503_214140 The island’s famous vin Santo wine shooter after dinner? Less delicious, more like cough syrup.

Floga was my husband’s favorite dinner of the trip. The atmosphere was romantic but not formal, the view over the caldera was lovely, and the food couldn’t have been improved upon. It was also very fairly priced – a magnificent first meal on a truly amazing island.

The Best Uni Pasta on Earth – Kousaros on Mykonos

Are you ready? I mean, really…are you ready? I am about to let you in on the best dish I had my entire honeymoon.

And it doesn’t involve Fritos OR foie.

Or, any good pictures. After drinking at breakfast and lunch…my camera skills were even shakier than usual. Sorry about that.

But first, let’s set the scene:

20140502_202519 Kousaros is a high end restaurant in Mykonos town – I couldn’t tell you how to get there if you paid me. Just keep wandering around the city looking for windmills, and if you walk in circles enough times to stop for a Greek coffee, get in a snippy fight with your loved one, and see the sun set, then you may FINALLY find Kousaros. It’s a large, airy restaurant with ample outdoor space and a modern, tented dining room that feels like some posh, Lisa Vanderpump approved spot. No one fashionable eats here before 10pm, so we were quite the early birds at 9.
20140502_202802 Taramasalata

A disappointing start to the meal. Very bland, without enough salty fish eggs, fragrant dill, or bright lemon. Totally meh.
20140502_203448 Before you order, your server brings out into the kitchen to see the daily caught fish and shellfish. The fish is sold by the kilogram, so be sure to ask for the price to avoid sticker shock. The food here is very pricey, and if you want to keep costs down, order several starters or opt for a fixed price dish from the menu. However, the fish all looks pristine and delicious – if I had enough time, money, and stomach space, I would eat there forever.
20140502_204719 Kousaros special

The vegetables in this country are just unreal. The olives are so juicy and pleasantly salty. The carrots are sweet and the radishes are peppery. The peppers are vinegary and hot – don’t eat a whole one without having a serious heat tolerance. The tomatoes are otherworldly – peeled this time, my favorite indulgence, and as sweet as ever. And the capers…oh, those capers! Santorini capers are world famous for being soft and juicy, with plenty of salt but no bitter taste. The tender leaves are tossed in a sweet, bright olive oil dressing that make all the fresh vegetables taste like themselves, not like some washed out, salad-y version of themselves.
20140502_205233 Crab salad

Even better than the crab at the hotel earlier that week. SO fresh and clean tasting, with a slight oceanic taste that is refreshing, not at all muddy. It’s like a breath of sea air with the crunch of spicy pink peppercorns and a tangle of arugula on top.  I would recommend this in a heartbeat. In fact, I would actually eat it all if you ordered it with me. It’s worth losing a friendship to finish this.
20140502_205833 Baked feta with spicy peppers and tomatoes

Blah. The only misstep of the night. Boring and mundane – not enough spice from the peppers nor enough sweetness from the tomatoes. Not bad, just not incredible, like he restof the meal. Boring.  20140502_211123 Spaghetti with uni

She ain’t much to look at and not just because I forgot to take a photo until half an hour after we had already dug in. She is just so simple. Dried pasta, uni, olive oil. The best sea urchin dish I have ever had in my life. The best pasta I have ever had in my life. The uni is soft and melts into the oil in a lush, fatty, positively romantic puddle of buttery oil. It’s so mild and savory, without too much salt or any mixed up, ruddy flavor. It’s so rich and so indulgent. I couldn’t possibly love this pasta more. I ended up scooping up the extra uni and spreading it on bread, letting the warm roe sink into the chewy baguette. I ran my finger along the perimeter of te bowl, licking the buttery sauce from my fingers. I slurped up the al dente pasta, unremarkable in its own right but pure gold in that slick, thick sauce. This is extraordinary. Since having it, I have craved it every day.

20140502_213238 Loukoumades

These doughnuts, fried and dipped in honey, are by far my favorite Greek sweet. Baklava, be gone! It’s all about these fluffy, yeasty balls that are rolled in honey and sprinkled with crushed walnuts and cinnamon. The best parts of doughnuts and coffee cake, served warm with a side of melting vanilla ice cream. They come cheaper other places, but not more delicious.

20140502_214058 Don’t say that they never gave you anything – the ouzo is free, sweet, and will absolutely put hair on your chest.  Not my cup of tea, but when in Greece, right?

When in Mykonos, you truly must dine here. Kousaros is the finest meal that I had on the island of Mykonos. It was expensive but not unduly so. The seafood was fresh as could be, the menu is huge and varied, and the service is excellent, to say nothing of the large and lovely cocktail list. That uni pasta is something that I will dream of for the rest of my life. I couldn’t have been sadder to leave Mykonos, but…of course…we had to go onwards to heaven on earth.

I.E. Santorini.

Lounging at the Beach at Kostantis

One of the best things about island life is living outside. Napping on the balcony. Splashing in the pool. Sitting at a restaurant on the beach.

No, not a beachside restaurant…an actual restaurant ON the beach.

Like this one:

kostantis1 The small beach community of Ornos has a beautiful, idyllic stretch of beach that is lined with restaurants and sunbeds. You just pick a comfy couch under a canopy and order lunch, or – if you would rather – choose a sunbed and order a drink and perhaps a massage from the women walking around offering them. All PG here, before you get too excited.

Oh, also – if you come here from the Mykonos Grand, just follow that long, winding road. It’s going to seem like it is NEVER ENDING. But it will end, hopefully with you unscathed by roaring mopeds down the teeny, tiny road.

When you get to Kostantis, immediately sit down, order a glass of some SERIOUSLY strong house wine (it has to be 90 proof!), and order the simplest, freshest food you can.

For example:

kostantis2 Fried appetizer platter

This ain’t your local TGIFRiday’s appeteaser plate. This is the best part of local ingredients fused with the best part of guilty pleasure. There are crisply fried zucchini sticks that are so sweet and light that they are nothing like the thrice battered stuff dipped in marinara sauce. There are oily, slightly spicy green peppers and soft zucchini patties, mixed with feta cheese and studded with dill. And then, there is the cheese. Oh, the cheese. A soft, creamy, buttery cheese that is wrapped in phyllo dough and sesame seeds, fried, and drizzled with local honey. There is nothing better than this sweet and savory treat. Dip any of it in the simple, creamy tzatziki sauce. This would be a perfect light meal for 2. kostantis3 Grilled seafood platter for 2

There is no way that this was cooked before we ordered it – I don’t even think that this fish was caught before we ordered it. It was impeccably fresh. There was tender, almost sweet calamari. There were tiny white fish, filled with bones and the sweetest meat. There was meatier grilled fish, tender and tasty with the accompanying lemony butter sauce. There are tender, almost creamy mussels and more of that luscious Mediterranean shrimp.

octopus

And octopus that looks scary but tastes crispy, almost like super crispy French fries.

After the enormous meal is over and your head is swimming with the sun and wine, you can relax on the beach chairs or have the house car bring you back to your hotel. This meal was fairly priced with friendly, if relaxed (read: slow!) service, a huge menu, and scenery that can’t be beat.

And if you thought that this meal was great, wait till you see dinner!