Archives for May 2014

Alpine Lace Rumba with Kristi Yamaguchi

And now, a post from a member of the Fritos and Foie Gras team!

There are only a few things I enjoy in life more than cheese, hunky dancers, and Kristi Yamaguchi. Since a cotton candy machine and Jon Hamm weren’t available for this event, I have to say that Alpine Lace Swiss Cheese hosts one great party.

photo 2 (2)
Held at Little Owl The Venue on Greenwich Street, this event was a wonderful combination of flavors and fun. The new spokeswoman for Alpine Lace is 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, who stayed the entire evening taking pictures and answering questions with a smile on her face. Love this girl.

photo 1 (2)

The evening started out with some passed appetizers including Spinach stuffed mushrooms and wonton donuts. The true standouts were:

photo 2 (4)

-Lobster and avocado Gazpacho-Very rich, but somehow refreshing bites of lobster in a chilled avocado broth. More sweet than savory.

photo 2 (5)
-Mini Cuban sandwiches-An awesome bite full of salty ham and crunchy bread.

-French onion soup bites-These suckers were devoured too quickly to take a picture of. They looked exactly like mini arancini, but tasted like tiny pockets of sweet onion soup direct from Paris. Mmmmm!

The event consisted of 3 stations: Food, Dance, and Life Ingredients.

The food station was obviously my first stop, and I was not disappointed.

photo 2 (3)

There was Prosciutto, dark chocolate, strawberries, pears, crackers, quince jam, and a dozen other pairings for the Alpine Lace Swiss cheese. Each more delicious than the next.

The cheese itself was satisfying and light, very savory and uniquely matched to all of the options on the buffet. I have only ever used Alpine Lace on turkey sandwiches, but I can see myself using it in other preparations here. It was especially delicious with the quince jam. I plan to put this on my next cheese plate, for sure.  There were also delicious red and white wine options for an added boost of flavor. The red wine was particularly tasty with the dark chocolate and cheese.

photo 3 (2)
The next station was such an incredibly fun addition to the night. With help from two professional dancers, guests were taught a rumba combination and danced the night away to the sounds of Michael Buble. A real treat!

photo 5 (1)

The third and final station was also an interesting one-A board where each person fills in their three ingredients for life. They ranged from family and friends, to music and mustard! Kristi was at this station, encouraging us to take photos with her and tweet them during the event. You bet I did!

All in all this was a terrific event: well organized, delicious, and of course, fun!

disclaimer: This was a sponsored event. The choice to write about it and the opinions given are those of the writer. 

Avra – Beautiful Atmosphre, So-So Food

This trip that I took wasn’t just a normal trip. It wasn’t a once-a-year travel blowout. It was my honeymoon. You only get one of those, if you are lucky, and it can’t be all about running around to ancient relics, looking for weirdly flavored potato chips at roadside gas stations and shopping in the local equivalent of Target. You also have to relax with your new spouse, sleep in late, and take it easy.

I am a more “ants in my pants” kind of traveler, so this was hard for me at first.

But, eventually I settled into it. I enjoyed sleeping until the sun was high in the sky. I loved sitting with a book looking out over the Aegean. I even let up my guard and booked dinner at a romantic restaurant instead of the one that got the highest reviews for eating.

There was my mistake.

20140501_195729

Avra, in Mykonos, is highly recommended for its Mediterranean menu and romantic, vine-covered, trellis-lined outdoor dining area. You definitely need reservations and it does look extremely romantic with its candlelit tables, verdant atmosphere, and mellow soundtrack.

Of course, the kids running around helter-skelter don’t really help the vibe, but we ate very early by Myconian standards, so it’s hard to blame them for that.

20140501_195858 Roquefort and olive dips

The dips are a mixed bag. The tapenade is very mundane – salty and tasty for sure, but if I can get it at home or in the grocery store, I’m not so interested in paying for it on vacation. The Roquefort butter is marvelous – creamy and smooth, with a rich, buttery taste that is sweet at first and then fades to an umami, slightly funky Roquefort aftertaste. It’s soft and spreads easily on the rather mundane bread. This stuff is great.

*Side note: you always pay for bread in Greece. When they ask if you want some, expect to be charged 5 Euros for it and the accompanying dips. Always order it, anyway…there are usually at least one or 2 dips that are worth the price of admission.* 20140501_200931 Tzatziki

Delicious, if not memorable. Creamy, fragrant with dill and spicy black pepper. It isn’t as garlicky or as thick as some versions, and is finished with some rich olive oil to add another layer of lushness. I ate all of this and would eat it again without reservation, but can’t say that it stood out among the tzatziki I sampled this trip. 20140501_202114 Halloumi wrapped in bacon

The standout of the night. The European style bacon, more flexible than the bacon that we are used to here, wraps well around the pleasantly squeaky, bouncy cheese. It’s grilled so that the bacon is salty and charred and the halloumi softens and becomes pleasantly melty. Some lemon juice brightens the dish and is the ideal, unexpected finishing touch. My husband almost stabbed me with a fork to ge the last piece.

Luckily, I’m too quick for him.
20140501_203245 Mussels

Simple and tasty. Steamed in white wine flavored with plenty of pepper, dill, and woodsy oregano.  Every single mussel was open and sweet – no bad mussels here. They are juicy and very mild, with just a touch of salinity. The only downfall here is the broth – it is merely serviceable.It lets the mussels naturally sweet flavor shine through, but it isn’t craveable. If I’m not lapping up the broth with a spoon at the end of the meal, something is wrong.

20140501_203101 At the end of the day, Avra is fine. If I lived in town, I would come here for the lovely surroundings and the fabulous halloumi appetizer. But on vacation, it just isn’t tasty enough. You can’t rely on romantic atmosphere on a touristy island because – hello! – people travel with kids. And the price is a little high for the food. So this wasn’t a major winner.

But that’s okay…because lunch the next day was insane.

Poolside Lunch at the Mykonos Grand

The thing about Greece is: Nobody eats until very late. You don’t wake up until 9:30, which means that breakfast is at 10 AM at the earliest. After that plentiful meal, you aren’t hungry again until 2 pm and then no one has dinner until around 9 pm, after the sun sets. At that rate, sometimes the small restaurants in town are closed by the time that you are ready for lunch.

In that case, you treat yourself to a decadent poolside lunch at the Mykonos Grand.

Aqua and Sol is the casual poolside restaurant. It’s covered but open air, so you don’t get sunburnt while you chow down. The Mykonos Grand is rather – as its name suggest – grand, but the restaurant is very casual. Feel free to go in a cover up or swimsuit and sandals as you sit back and sip a decidedly non-Greek but delicious Blue Hawaiian.

20140501_145920 Olives and olive oil

Told you that I ate these every single meal. These were excellent – juicy and meaty with a sweet, fruity flavor. Marry someone who doesn’t like lives so you can eat his/her portion. 20140501_152326 Keftedes

These little meat patties aren’t the traditional spherical keftedes, but they are delicious nonetheless. Juicy patties of beef, pork and veal, mixed with fresh oregano and the sharp bite of mint. They are grilled to get a touch of smoke on the outside, contrasting the juicy, soft texture.

20140501_152608 It comes with a sweet, hoisin-like barbeque sauce that is unnecessary and a little out of place – why would you muck up the perfection of this delightful meatball? Do eat the accompanying salad greens though – they are fresh and tender, with tastes that range from sweet to bitter to grassy. Dressed in some rich olive oil and lemon, they are divine.

20140501_152337 Prawn croquettes

Crunchy, piping hot morsels filled with a creamy, potato and shrimp mixture. The shrimp is nearly undetectable – it’s just a light, salty note in the creamy mixture that keeps it from being too heavy

20140501_152455 The croquettes are light and airy; ideal with a dollop of smooth tartar sauce. This is seafood at its best – a myriad of subtle flavors and contrasting textures. It really takes fish and chips to the next level.  20140501_152638 Crab and avocado terrine with lime sorbet

The ideal poolside meal. The shellfish in Greece is extraordinary – this crab was so sweet and plump that it seemed almost like lobster. No tiny cat food shreds here – it’s all pure, sweet, lump crab meat. The avocado is a buttery counterpart and the lime sorbet, while a touch sweet, is refreshing and tart.  20140501_154311 Walnut cake

For Pete’s sake…what kind of stuff is in this? Angel’s kisses? Ambrosia? Whatever it is, it WORKS. This is dense and rich, filled with nutty, buttery flavor. It is reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding in its thick, syrupy texture and intensely sweet taste. Add some of the vanilla ice cream on the side  and you are in business…for a nap.

But that’s okay! Because besides the delicious food, the exquisite scenery, and the good service, the best thing about eating poolside is that your bed is right upstairs.

After all, next up is dinner on the party island of Mykonos!

Mykonos Grace – A Little Slice of Heaven

One of the coolest things about the Greek islands is that many hotels offer breakfast in the room rates. That means that you wake up, roll out of bed, take 800 photos of the most beautiful scenery that you have ever seen, and go right to breakfast in your bathing suit and cover up.

I will be doing a full report on all hotels, but first off, let’s start with just the food.

The Mykonos Grace, a small boutique hotel, offers a full breakfast to all of its guests. And I mean full. Look at this menu.

20140501_103202

That’s right. Each guest gets everything on there. Or anything else that they desire. I wanted bacon, not ham. My husband wanted tomatoes, not spinach. Done and done.

20140501_103030

The scenery isn’t the worst either. If the weather isn’t nice, you can sit inside the poolside restaurant, but if it is nice…it’s a little slice of heaven.

20140501_103848 Bread

Don’t miss the bread basket – I am partial to the round, sesame ring. It’s dense and chewy, and I spread it thickly with unsalted, tangy goat butter and some of the sweetest honey anyone will ever have.
20140501_104031 Yogurt parfait

Because to call it Greek yogurt is redundant and to call it custard isn’t exactly appropriate. But it’s as rich as custard, with a smooth texture and an almost indiscernible tangy taste that cuts the sweet honey. Sadly, the fruit and cornflakes are just irrelevant. It’s all about the decadent, vanilla-y custard. It’s so thick that you can stand your spoon upright in it. I could eat this every day and never crave anything else.

Except, maybe, for this:

20140501_105413 Egg white and spinach omelette with Naxos Gruyere, crispy bacon, and Greek bruschetta

Olive oil egg white omelette…incredible. The mild olive oil REALLY infuses the egg with rich, lush flavor and provides a nicely crisp bottom without too much browning – decidedly different from a French omelette, but delicious in its own right. The spinach is fresh and sauteed with just a pinch of salt and a few slivers of garlic – nothing over the top. The bacon is prepared crispy, the way that we Americans like it, and the gruyere, from neighboring Naxos island, is nutty and not too salty. It’s delicious.
20140501_105531 So is the bruschetta.

It’s twice baked bread (called rusk), topped with tomato pulp and some salty mizithra cheese. This is a small plate found all over the islands and it’s a well thought out one – the salt from the cheese makes the tomatoes taste even sweeter than they already are, and the tomato pulp softens the hard bread. It’s fresh, light, and ideal at any time of day.  20140501_110940 Crepes with caramelized apples

So sweet and light. The crepes are whisper thin and the apples are tender, sweet, and bursting with juice. The lacy, crispy edges of the crepe are particularly addictive. I only wish I could eat more of them, but I had already eaten a full breakfast by this time! 20140501_111912 And of course, a homemade spanikopita.

There is WAY more spinach than cheese here – the cheese is mrely as easoning accent. I have been doing it all wrong.

I have missed Greece all of these years. That’s REALLY what I have been doing all wrong. Luckily, those days are in the past – next up, poolside snacks!

The Fish Lunch of My Dreams at Seirines, Rafina

So…

I’m back from my honeymoon.

And while I thought that my first posts back would be all about the wedding…I was wrong. A fool, really.

Because how could I write about anything besides the beautiful, historic, and DELICIOUS country of Greece?

Don’t worry, wedding recaps will take place.

But first, jump a plane, a ferry, and a donkey to Greece with me, won’t you?

The first meal I had in Greece was actually one of my favorites of the entire trip. It was at the port of Rafina where we boarded the (HELLISHLY LONG AND CROWDED) ferry to Mykonos. Rafina is the secondary port of Athens, and mostly used by Greeks while tourists use the larger port of Piraeus. As such, the restaurants here cater to the local clientele – wealthy Athenians island hopping and business men stopping by for lunch from nearby offices.

20140430_144725 Small tavernas line the harbor, but bypass the others and go straight to Seirines.

20140430_161217 The atmosphere is nothing stuffy – a small indoor section and a large, covered outdoor patio area where young families and people in $10,000 watches sit side by side. Everyone in Greece seems to speak impeccable English, but this is the closest that we got to being totally out of our element and relying to pointing at pictures on the menu.

Needless to say, I loved it.

The chef will come and show you the catch of the day, or you can order off the menu. There really isn’t any way to lose.

20140430_150240 Spicy cheese dip(Tyrokaferi)

Hello, land of feta! This is made with soft, creamy feta – it has that briny quality that feta has, but with the texture of whipped cream cheese. It isn’t bitter or crumbly at all. It’s interspersed with some sort of pepper paste from heaven – a little zippy at the start, but then it fades quickly to let the natural flavor of the cheese shine through. It really highlights the cheese with a touch of spice instead of overpowering it and stealing the show. A spritz of lemon somewhere in there lifts the dish and finishes it with the perfect touch of acid.

20140430_150236 Tzatziki

I almost cried. This is the best tzatziki that I had in Greece, and that’s really saying something, since I had it at almost every meal (breakfast included). So thick and rich – what the hell kind of yogurt am I eating at home?! The cucumbers are finely shredded and obviously drained because they are lush and verdant without being soggy or watery. The dill is abundant and the garlic is a revelation – I have NOT been using enough garlic in my tzatziki! The raw garlic provides a savory, spicy note that resonates in the back of the throat long after the bite is gone. However, because the yogurt is so wonderfully rich and fatty, it tempers the garlic’s bite. This is so spicy, creamy, cooling, and refreshing…I ate it with some toasted bread but mostly ate it with a fork, because who wants bread to get in the way of pure, unadulterated garlicky fat?

20140430_150246 Country salad

1. Where do they get the tomatoes in Greece?! They are the sweetest, juiciest, thinnest skinned tomatoes that I have ever enjoyed in my life. They are ripe and firm, tasting of the sun and the earth at once.

2. Peeled cucumbers. In a casual taverna. Because everyone knows that cucumber skin is for the birds.

3. Sweet, THINLY shaved onions. Scallions, be gone.

4. Olives. My ankles swelled to the size of elephant ankles from all of the olives that I ate. Soft ones, hard ones, small ones, juicy ones, green, red, and black ones…they were all the absolute best that I have ever eaten. To say NOTHING of the fruity, thick, golden olive oil served tableside at every meal.

5. The feta. The block of feta of which I couldn’t take a photo because I started to eat it too quickly. This feta that is different from the feta in the dip – it’s light and crumbly, with less of a salty bite. It just goes to show how carefully the food here is made – the feta used for the dip would be far too salty and soft to meld with the crisp and salty vegetables.

20140430_150400 Smoked and cured fish plate

Dontcha just love a place where there is a huge plate full of house-caught fish that has been cured and smoked right in the back of the restaurant? Some of it I loved (the anchovies were garlicky, and oily but not at all fishy), some of it I liked (the soft cured amberjack or skipjack in the back – mild and rich), and some of it I couldn’t stand (sorry fish on the side – crunchy shouldn’t be a term when discussing fish). It was nothing I have ever had before and I would advise any adventurous seafood lover to order it!

20140430_150940 Shrimp, souvlaki style

The best  cooked shrimp I have had in eons. Plump and juicy with a garlicky (they love garlic here) olive oil marinade that makes the sweet shrimp just sing. Grilled on a skewer so they are juicy within and smoky without.

20140430_151035 They are so mild and sweet that they almost don’t seem like shrimp – they are more like scallops. They were doubtless caught that morning and cooked to order. The shrimp in Greece is in general FAR superior to what I have had in the USA – probably there is little to no iodine treatment there. These were the best of the many shrimp that I ate on the trip.

20140430_152923 Creamsicle cake

This is what I call it…who knows what the real name is? Light, vanilla scented cheesecake with a graham cracker bottom and a tart, thick marmalade top. It’s hard not to love this.

And it’s impossible not to love this restaurant. The price is fair – not cheap but it’s a TON of delicious, fresh seafood. The atmosphere is lovely and relaxed and the staff couldn’t be sweeter. We ordered and our food was brought promptly (NOT always the norm in Greece), then after we finished we were left alone for an hour to sit with our coffees and read magazines until it was time to board our ferry. The server was thrilled that we loved the food so much and the chef was in and out of the kitchen, advising diners what to order. I would come back here in a heartbeat if I could.

What an introduction to delicious Greece!

What Was I Thinking…It’s My Honeymoon!

The title says it all…why did I think that I would be posting blog reports on my honeymoon? There may be some sporadically, but don’t expect anything on a regular schedule until May 12. Then, expect a full wedding breakdown, reviews on all of our Greek hotels, and more fabulous (or at least trashy but delish!) recipes!

Till then, yassous!