Archives for June 2014

Soiree in the Park and Other Bites

So what have I been eating recently? Fine, I’ll tell you:

20140529_194519 I attended Soiree in the Park as press. This event is part of New Taste of the Upper West Side, and the proceeds go towards keeping Theodore Roosevelt Park clean and safe for the neighborhood – it’s hard to feel bad about spending money when it goes towards such a great cause! Though this year’s event was held on a very cold night, there were some great eats, including some of my favorite sweets: 20140529_195928 Oh Sarabeth’s. You don’t just do a good rehearsal dinner, you do a damned good cookie. The rugalech is buttery and flaky, the chocolate is fudgy and moist, and that apricot jam cookie. Um, yeah. That one is great. Very rich shortbread cookies, dipped in glossy chocolate, with a sticky sweet apricot jam filling. This is a rather pricey event,  but if you have the money to spend, you could do worse than chowing down on a barrel-full of these cookies! 20140607_124441 Huevos Rancheros at El Centro

How did I live in Hell’s Kitchen for 7 years and never come here? It’s a really fun Mexican restaurant with great margaritas that would be perfect for a birthday dinner with friends. On this occasion, I had an outdoor brunch with a friend and though the sidewalk seating is tight, it isn’t at all too cramped. I had the huevos rancheros and for the price and the portion – this is great! The eggs are sunny side up with rich yolks and a zingy, onion and tomato influenced enchilada sauce. Cubes of buttery avocado, melty cheese, and sour cream rounded it all off. Refried beans and crispy, freshly fried tostada shells…I mean, what more do you need? Oh, besides one of those limey margaritas, of course. Look, it isn’t Cookshop, but it’s delish in its own right.  20140626_083643 Smoked salmon tartine from Le Pain Quotidien

A chain so good that I hesitate to even call it a chain. Really, this place does fresh and seasonal better than most high end places that claim that they specialize in such food. The smoked salmon is pleasantly salty and firm – not mushy like lesser versions. It’s served with ripe avocado, fresh scallions, and some of the chewiest, sourest peasant bread around. An excellent light but filling breakfast.

Moroccan Turkey Kebabs

I haven’t posted a recipe since 1999, or so it seems.

Well, what can I say? I have been making a lot of old favorites that just haven’t needed repeating. However, I am now firmly back on the recipe development bandwagon and offer to you this – my favorite new recipe. It requires a bit of prep work, but then comes together very quickly. I love Moroccan food because it’s so complex – sweet, spicy, fragrant, crunchy, soft…it really appeals to all the flavors and textures that I crave. However, I rarely make it because just like the flavors are complex, the cooking methods can also be somewhat time-consuming.  This dish takes the best things about Moroccan cooking (the flavors) and the best things about American cooking (45 minute meals) and fuses them together for a dish that is unique enough for company but easy enough to make for yourself on a weeknight.

Moroccan Turey Kebabs

moroccan chicken Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 onion, half diced, half sliced into rings

3/4 cup harissa tomato sauce

3 tbsp. cilantro

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (quinoa flakes or oatmeal also work)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp. Moroccan seasoning

1/4 cup orange juice

olive oil to drizzle
20140623_173945 1. Mix all of the ingredients together except for the sliced portion of the onion. The mixture will be very loose and moist. Preheat the oven to 350F.  20140623_174302 2. Put the sliced onions in a baking dish and form the turkey into large, quenelle shaped patties. Place them on top of the onions – it’s okay if they touch. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil – not a huge amount, just enough to help the onions along since the turkey has no fat.  20140623_182057 3. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the turkey is completely cooked though (it may look a little pink inside even when it’s totally cooked through because of the harissa. You know that it’s cooked by using a meat thermometer or when the meat loses its mushy quality and becomes firm). 20140623_202258 4. Serve with tomato and cucumber salad and Greek yogurt. 20140623_202339 It’s hard to explain just how satisfying this dish is. It’s incredibly fragrant with the cumin, cinnamon, and various spices in that Moroccan spice mixture. Definitely get a spice mix if you don’t make Moroccan food a lot – it lasts a long time and adds an unmistakably North African feel to your food. The cilantro is bright and the orange juice lends a faint, sweet backnote. The texture is wonderfully soft and juicy, thanks to the breadcrumbs and mayo, and the outside becomes crispy and golden brown. Best of all is the harissa tomato paste…that takes this over the top. It’s quite spicy, so go easy on it if it’s your first time using this. It has the heat of cayenne with a low, slow burn like chipotle. Plus there is the added sweetness of the tomatoes…wow, it’s just delicious.

Best of all, this reheats really well.

Not that there will be any leftovers.

Sushi of Gari’s Unexpectedly Whimsical and Wonderful Omakase

I like to plan my special nights out on the town. I research restaurants, read reviews, and select my meal ahead of time. I pick my outfit, eat nothing but miso soup the day of the dinner, and mentally prepare for an incredible night.

However, sometimes, a truly exceptional meal pops out of nowhere on girls night. When you just wander into a sushi restaurant with your favorite gal pal and end up not talking at all – a rarity on any night – because the food is so mind-blowing.

It might not be Nakazawa, but Sushi Gari is a celebratory, destination worthy meal for those who want a combination of excellent fish and total ingenuity.

20140529_202433 Toro with ginger and yam paste

What a start to a meal. I’m not used to such a fatty fish starting omakase, but then -I haven’t ever had an omakase like this. Buttery, lush toro topped with a zippy, piquant ginger paste. It’s fatty, savory, and tart – already, I was intrigued.  20140529_202705 Salmon with jalapeno and yuzu

I have had this at least a hundred times before, and yet I felt as though I had never tasted this combination before. After the toro, the salmon seems less fatty than usual and its oceanic flavors stand out. The bright, citrusy jalapenos cut through those deep flavors and the slightly warm vinegared sushi rice adds sweetness and a temperature contrast. It might just be the perfect bite.  20140529_202933 Miso marinated cod

Not since the creme brulee has a blowtorch been used to such satisfying effect. The cod is just like miso marinated cod – sweet, salty, and irresistible – but with the added addition of pleasantly charred, crunchy bits from the blowtorch. It isn’t swimming in sauce, it’s just accented by the miso taste. If you like miso cod OR sushi, this dish will make you sit up and take notice.
20140529_203154 White fish with crispy lotus root, arugula, and basil oil

WHOA! Here is where the innovative part of the night really starts. Tradition has no place in the meal from here on out. The whitefish is sliced so thinly that it is translucent – slippery and very mild. It’s topped with crispy, salty lotus root that is like adding a potato chip to a sandwich  -ie, brilliant. The garlicky basil oil is warm and somehow accents the fish’s mild taste instead of covering it.  20140529_203501 Tuna with pureed tofu and chili oil

Once again, the chefs pair incredibly flavorful ingredients with mild ones to a surprisingly complementary effect. The tuna is tender but not too soft. The soft component is the tofu, which is so light and creamy that it tastes like it must be full fat yogurt. The chili oil is applied sparingly is intensely spicy – just a drizzle picks up the sweet flavor of the tofu and the meaty texture of the fish. Yes, yes, yes to this.

20140529_204041 Fried white fish with green tea salt

I mean, what?! This is fish and chips, Japanese style. Fish encased in such a light, puffy batter that it seems as though it might float away on a cloud. It has a fragrant, herbal green tea salt on top that acts as the vinegar of this fish and chips. It sits on the warm, sticky rice and wow…the crispy, flaky texture just works.  20140529_204950 Salmon with tomato, onion, and pepper

Um yeah, this is a showstopper. It’s Gari’s signature piece of sushi and I see why.  I can safely say that I have never before eaten a piece of sushi like this. The salmon is flame torched and then the skin is removed. It is laid hot on the salmon with savory sautéed onions and freshly cracked black pepper. It seems so weird, but I’m telling you..it works. It’s savory, it’s salty, it’s meaty, it’s soft, it’s tart, and it’s just a little bit spicy. This isn’t an overly fishy piece of sushi and I can’t think of ANYONE who wouldn’t love this.

I didn’t even photograph the fantastically fatty toro or the sweet salmon sashimi. I didn’t even comment on the engaging and delightful sushi chefs who talked and chatted with us at the sushi bar as if we were the only patrons at the restaurant. This is an expensive meal, but it’s a worthy splurge. Special occasion – head here!

Fulton – The Perfect Neighborhood Joint

I had a really great meal at a totally unsuspecting UES spot recently – y’all need to know about it.

20140608_122059 Fulton is a bright, spacious restaurant on the Upper East side that specializes in fresh seafood. It has a laid back vibe that is nice enough for a brunch with friends but casual enough for a brunch with friends who have kids. It hits that sweet spot of upscale but chill. It’s modern and clubby feeling – like a very updated version of a steak and seafood place.  20140608_124253 Fish burger

An underwhelming name for a fabulous dish. The fish burger is made of halibut and cod, and is bound loosely so it is soft and moist, interspersed with fresh dill and lemon zest.  The patty is made of large, meaty pieces of fish so it’s not mushy or homogeneous. It’s just like eating a light, fresh piece of fish but with a side of lemony, creamy hollandaise. And a soft, fluffy potato bun. And let’s be honest…eating things in burger form is just always a good idea. The accompanying salad is light and fresh (although the golden brown French fries are an even more craveworthy side), and the portion is enough to fill you but no enough to require Pepto Bismol.
20140608_124328 Smoked salmon tartine with roe and cucumbers

THIS is the ideal summer meal. A crispy crostini layered with a thin schmear of creme fraiche, thinly sliced and peeled cucumbers, and velvety smoked salmon. High on the lush texture, low on the smoky taste. It’s topped with briny pearls of salmon roe, taut and shiny with salty flavor. This is simple but well done and I would get it again and again.

20140608_124337 Shrimp and grits

The least inspired of the dishes that we tried. The shrimp are sweet and snappy and the grits are well cooked – creamy and comforting. However, they aren’t seasoned the way that I like shrimp and grits. Not enough butter, not enough garlic, not enough…N’alwins.

20140608_122054 Fulton is such a sleeper hit. It’s the PERFECT neighborhood joint. The prices are fair, the service is friendly and competent, the surroundings are comfortable, and the food is really great. I can’t get over that fish burger..it’s just phenomenal. I could totally come here if I was in the hood or looking for a large, family friendly spot where the food really measures up.

David Burke’s Fabrick Brings Flavor and Flair to the Garment District

David Burke has a new baby in town…that he gave up for adoption.

Let me explain:

His new restaurant, Fabrick, is part of the David Burke group. It has his name attached to it. It draws inspiration from him. But he isn’t in the kitchen – not now, not ever.

So…how does the fare fare?

Yes, I love dad jokes. Get used to it.

20140609_185603 20140609_190207 The restaurant, located in the garment district’s hottest new neighbor, the Archer hotel, is all industrial chic with pops of color. It’s casual and airy, perfect for a quick lunch in between shopping or a first date afer work. The high tables even have actual chairs with backs, which I totally appreciate.  20140609_191559 Though the menu descriptions aren’t online yet, go for the blackberry lime rickey. It’s tart and refreshing, mixed with a good kick of vodka and a floater of prosecco. 20140609_192822 Smoked salmon pizza

Yes, it’s done all over the place and has been since 1989, but who cares? This one is excellent and even a little more unique than I was expecting. First of all, the dough is served warm, like a pizza, so the thinly cut pastrami cured salmon melts into the bread. Second, it has pickled ramps for an unexpectedly garlicky pickled element. The horseradish cream picks up the spicy coriander and pepper rub on the salmon and the final sprinkling of sweet pea shoots finishes the pizza nicely. 
20140609_201554 Candied bacon

Boy, is this good! Sure, I make it, but when I make it, it doesn’t come on a cute little clothesline. Nor does it come with house pickled vegetables to add some lightness to the dish and cur through the fat and sugar. That fat and sugar is good though…sticky, crispy, meaty, and oh so sweet. A winner in my book.
20140609_205144 Lobster bolognese

Good, but not revolutionary. The thick pasta is cooked until it’s JUST past al dente, so it’s a little mushier than I enjoy, but still tasty. A chili-infused tomato sauce that is more bright and sweet than truly spicy, topped with a generous portion of buttery lobster claw meat. It’s good…not amazing.

20140609_205228 Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

Fabulous! This would be welcome at a steakhouse, let alone at a non-meat-specialty restaurant. The steak is charred outside and tender within. It has a beefy flavor, with a bit more chew than filet mignon but the hearty, meaty flavor really compensates for that. This is delicious with the garlicky, salty, verdant chimichurri sauce and the sautéed veggies alongside. I will absolutely get this when I return.
20140609_213539 Peach melba doughnuts

Oh Zac Young, how you make my heart melt. You are cute, you are a celerity, and you make DAMNED GREAT doughnuts! These are unbelievable. They come in a tin and then are unearthed like pineapple upside down cake. Then, a bow of creme fraiche is mixed with they syrupy, juicy peach topping so you can tempter the fluffy, bready, yeasty doughnuts with some tangy, fragrant, vanilla scented creme fraiche. This is an adult doughnut – it’s sweet and fruity but the doughnut isles isn’t too sweet – that’s why the peaches and the creme fraiche shine so brightly.

This place is a GREAT addition to the garment district. It’s not quite destination worthy, but in a few more months afer it gets is sea legs, it may bet there. The food is delicious, the prices are upscale but fair, and the service is great. I would come here any time.

Chef Burke, they done ya proud.

Disclaimer: This was a press meal. I was not required to write about my experiences, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.

Delicious Bites in the Big Apple and Beyond

SO…

There are a few more honeymoon recaps (I know, we kept eating and staying at hotels…it would be worth it to get divorced and remarried JUST to get a second honeymoon!), but before I continue on, I wanted to let you know a few delicious dishes around town that can’t get lost in the vacay mix!

20140622_134029 Lunch buffet at Thali

This Indian restaurant in New Canaan (where my sister is currently starring as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray!) is legit. I would never think to visit this pseudo Asian-fusion looking restaurant – it looks way to chi-chi and wine oriented to have really authentic Indian food – but wow, is it fantastic. The buffet is actually better than most order-from-the-menu Indian restaurants, and even more impressive, this covers food from all over the gigantic country of India. Feather light, made to order dosas filled with fenugreek scented mashed potatoes. Saag with creamy paneer, soft and spicy Manchurian cauliflower, and smoky, garlicky daal. The service is friendly and helpful and the food…once again…is dangerously delicious.

Wear spandex pants. image (5) Red Farm’s udon noodles with short ribs

This meal was embarrassingly disappointing, but the noodles were a bright spot. I would actually go back just for them. The noodles themselves are thick and chewy, with a wonderfully wheaty taste that is balanced by a sweet, salty sauce that is neither too cloying nor too bland. It’s like the greatest Cantonese lo mein of your youth, but with way better noodles and some light notes of cilantro and sweet sugar snap peas. Plus that beef…wow. So tender and mild that it almost seems like Wagyu – this really is “melt in your mouth.” Its an ideal match for the noodles because it doesn’t totally overwhelm the noodles’ natural taste. Totally memorable.

cheesy garlic bread Cheesy garlic bread at Bistro le Steak

This neighborhood joint is a reliable, if slightly overpriced eatery that is just fine if you are in the neighborhood and want a quick, reliable, tasty bite. However, if you want to really indulge in a guilty pleasure, order the cheesy garlic bread. This stuff is just awesome drunk food served in a sober setting. Garlicky, buttery, parsley flecked bread, toasted until it is crunchy and warm. Then, it’s served on a mild, Gorgonzola fondue that is salty and just funky enough to please blue cheese lovers. It’s super indulgent and although I could easily eat this entire plate, you might want to share it as an appetizer. 

Then again, you might not. That would make me like you more. 

Oia Castle Suites – A Shining Moment of Perfection

There are hotels. There are honeymoons. And then, there are moments where you have to pinch yourself to remember that all of this is real, that it is life, and that it is your life. And that, for one moment in time, it seems like all of your dreams and wishes have crossed paths.

That’s what it’s like staying at the Oia Castle Suites in Santorini.

20140503_191459 When you drive up to the pedestrian town of Oia, cars are not allowed to proceed past the post office. So, your car drops you there and a man (who looks like a mortal but is clearly a G-d with Herculean strength) straps all of your luggage to a small dolly… 20140503_191931(0) and then wheels it down the (seemingly endless) steps to the cliff side hotel, where you check in in our room. As he parts the throngs of people crowded to let you pass, you can’t help but feel like King Ali Ababwa. It’s weird and incredibly cool at the same time.

DSC_0457 We stayed in the Eros suite, and after the exceptional hotel staff (small but mighty, efficient, helpful, and enthusiastic…I can’t stay enough about the incredible people who work here) checked us in on our own shaded balcony, we left to explore the room.
DSC_0432 We stayed in one of Santorini’s famed cave hotels – our hotel, comprised of just a few rooms, is literally located on the side of a cliff. That’s right, we did this deluxe Flinstones style. The hotel is privately owned, and rumor has it that the owner stocks the room with furniture and art from his personal collection. The effect is charming and personalized – you really feel like you are staying in someone’s home. DSC_0431 Cave bed

Literally, the ONLY downside to the hotel. And it’s so minor that I hesitate to call it a downside. Because you are in…well…a cave (with wifi and cable – so surreal!), the sheets are always VERY slightly damp. The bed is nestled into a nook carved out of solid stone and instead of fitted sheets, there are flat sheets folded under the sides of the bed. That means that when you roll over in the night, you will take some sheet with you and will probably wake up on bare mattress. And you will be turning…that mattress is thin. Look, we didn’t sleep the best at this hotel. But we didn’t care, either! We came back in the heat of the afternoon and napped. We lounged on our padded terrace benches. Long story short – the not-great bed is worth it. The hotel is so exceptional that it couldn’t be MORE worth it.
20140505_221032 Yes, that’s an image of Eros himself emerging from the seas on our closet. Yes, that’s a rococo style mirror on the wall.

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Yes, that’s another shower that turns into a steam cabin, this time with changing lights like in a limo that you take to prom. Yes, I love it ALL.

But not as much as I love this:

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Oh yes, that’s another private pool. This time, it’s huge, indoor, and carved into the cave. Also heated. Big enough for 4 people to splash and play “horse.” Deep enough to swim, shallow enough to not sink.

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It’s the most luxurious feeling in the world…slipping into a pool in the middle of the day and – wait for it – turning on the JETS right for a midnight dip before bed. It couldn’t be more beautiful or luxurious.

And speaking of beautiful, check this out:

20140503_194252 There are only a handful of hotels in Oia that have a direct sunset view, and Oia Castle Suites is, unquestionably, the best of that bunch. Oia’s sunset is world-famous, and every day, people line up 2 hours ahead of time at the tip of the island just to see the sun sink into the sea. They have to crowd and bundle up and stretch their aching legs for 20 minutes of glory.

Or, you know, they saunter out onto their balcony whenever they damn well feel like it, pop a bottle of champers, and watch the circus and the sunset from their comfy seats.

I literally hate myself.

But oh damn I loved this feature of the hotel. This is worth the price of admission. You never have to beg for a sunset view at a restaurant, you never have to line up early, and you never have to even put on shoes.

Plus, the sunset really is extraordinary.

20140504_094931 Though the restaurant is clearly way too small to have a restaurant, there is a delicious breakfast served in your room every day. Just order it the night before and the next morning, feast on fresh muesli, farm fresh eggs scrambled with ham, and peeled cucumbers with sweet tomatoes and salty feta cheese. Dip flaky cheese and spinach pastries into dill-scented tzatziki, and for PETE’S SAKE, please eat that yogurt. This yogurt was the best of the entire trip. Insanely dense and creamy, with as slightly tart taste that counteracts the honey soaked, candied grapes that burst with sugar upon your tongue. This breakfast is one of which I could never tire.

Why am I not still here? The location is ideal – views of the sunset and steps away from the best restaurants and shops on the island. The little touches like a bedside espresso machine and speakers inside the pool make it an almost surreal retreat. You are in a cave that is thousands of years old with air conditioning and luxury Korres bath products…like, really? The prices aren’t cheap, but you get what you pay for at this hotel. The staff could not be more helpful or responsive to emails, the breakfast is scrumptious, and the combination of total isolation, ultimate luxury, and access to fabulous restaurants is unbeatable. I can’t recommend this hotel enough for the honeymoon of a lifetime.

It’s Camelot in Greece. It’s fleeting, but the beauty and the memories last forever.

Disclaimer: I was given a media rate at this hotel. My opinions are unbiased and my own. Don’t miss this stop…it was unbelievable. 

Rhone Odyssey – Snow in the Dining Room?!

I get to go to some pretty cool events. I mean, I’m a lucky girl.

But an event where it snows at dinner?

Yeah, this one took the cake.

20140611_170422 I was invited to a dinner – Rhone Oddysey – given in honor of wines from the Rhone Valley and it was a totally enveloping experience.
20140611_170445 We walked into a large, totally dark space with one lit table filled with Rhone Valley wines. White, red, and everything in between.

Then we were led into dinner… 20140611_172051 No, you aren’t seeing red. That’s the way that the dinner space looked…entirely red. We were told that we would be taking a multi-sensory journey through the wines of the Rhone Valley, and as soon as the red light faded away, images of the different countries from where the dish’s inspiration was taken was projected onto the billowing white sheet walls. Oh, and it rained, snowed, and was brilliantly sunny as we learned that Rhone wines really are wines for all seasons. It was part amusement park, part dinner, and totally fun and tasty. Meals were courtesy of Chef Russell Jackson of SubCulture Dining and wine pairings were from Boulud Sud’s Michael Madrigale.

20140611_172426  Scandinavia – Winter

Rye and bulgur crisp with fat, butter, and ash. Malted wheat dirt with pickled carrots and Brussels sprouts

Delicious, even though the cracker was too hard to bite. You kind of had to suck on it to soften the dense, bedrock hard cracker. However, the flavor is wonderful – earthy and nutty, tempered by the fatty, lush lard and the soft, unsalted butter. Add a bite of sour, crispy pickled veggies and this is a dish that I could eat over and over…with some softer bread the next time. 20140611_173128 Poached egg, parsnip, nettle why, farmstead cheese

My favorite dish of the night. Simple and carefully constructed. The egg is poached until the white is firm and the yolk is almost fully boiled through. It’s very rich in the creamy parsnip broth with the salty, sharp parmesan-like cheese curls. It’s fancy poached egg minus the toast, and it couldn’t be more delicious.

20140611_174631 Japan –  Spring

Kombu cured tuna with rice, egg, pickled vegetables, smoked kombu broth, and fermented tofu

The combination of ingredients is just extraordinary. The tuna is subtle in taste and soft in texture. It’s  barely seared, so it has some savory warmth on the outside and is still rare on the inside. The rice is vinegared and warm, covered in a creamy egg foam. The veggies are tart and pickled, and though the broth is an afterthought, the crispy nori cracker is surprisingly savory and round with umami taste.  20140611_180357 Mexico – Summer

Deconstructed mole with poultry roulade, smoked grains and seeds, and chevre tamale

The only true misstep of the night. The roulade is fine, if dry but the rest of it is less than stellar. The tamale is an ice-cold blob of coat cheese and the mole is way too chocolaty – all of the other flavors are totally obstructed. The grains are unmemorable and the pepper raja is kind of slimy. Too bad, because good mole isn’t good…it’s oustanding.  20140611_181304 Just a little summer shower…pretty much the coolest event I have ever attended.  20140611_182058

NYC – Fall

Apple pie, cheese cake, and scdnyc almond black and white cookie

Phenomenal. The black and white cookie was my favorite part – intensely almondy and sweet, with a moist, sticky texture and a nutty, vanilla scented taste.

This meal was served with a variety of red and white wines from the Rhone valley. I was impressed with the white wines – in particular, a Costieres de Nimes that was light and crisp without being sour, and a Muscat that was sweet and fragrant without being syrupy or sugary. The red wines ranged from fruity to peppery, vintage to young, and the price points were all very reasonable.

This dinner was incredible in every way and I will absolutely be buying some Rhone wines soon…and looking into getting snow in my dining room.

Disclaimer: This was a media event. I was not compensated nor required to write about it and my opinions are my own and unbiased.

The Mykonos…Grand?

Oh, and now is where we are going to sound ridiculous.

Because this hotel that I am about to show you is beautiful. White and blue and sparkling clean. A Mediterranean paradise.

And yet, it was my least favorite of the trip.

I mean…#firstworldproblems, anyone?

20140501_141825 I mean, with a view like this, it’s no wonder that the Mykonos Grand is heralded as the chicest, most luxurious resort on the island. It’s just a stone’s throw from the quaint beach town of Ornos, and it’s just 10 minutes from Mykonos town by taxi or the resort’s free shuttle, operated every 20 minutes from the early to the late evening. It’s a huge, sprawling resort that is built on 3 levels – prepare to take several elevators to get from your room to the pool or from the beach to the front lobby. The weather is always gorgeous and the most important thing about Mykonos is to relax, so it’s a total pleasure.  20140501_144836 Each room is treated to a bottle of sparkling wine from Italy. It’s similar to Lambrusco – garnet colored with a creamy, almost thick texture and a very fruity flavor. It’s the kind of drink that starts your night off well and ends with a couple of aspirin before bed.

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The shower here turns into a steam cabin, too…why don’t we have more of these in the USA?! What a treat!

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Oh, and don’t forget to eat the baklava on the counter. It might look like prepackaged stuff from the corner store, and maybe it is, but…whoa. Sticky, sweet, flaky, buttery, nutty…can you tell that I like this stuff? The mastic liquor next to it is a little syrupy and pine-y for my tastes, but not bad if you need a little zip before dinner…where of course you will drink even more.

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Please forgive the messy state of the room…I never got a picture of it before it was messed up! As you can see, it is breezy and light, with everything from a telescope to view the stars to several flat screen televisions (one in the adjoining front living room), and…

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A double balcony with insane views.

Don’t stay up there, all day, though!

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You don’t want to miss the glorious pool. Its unheated, as many large pools in Greece are, but if it’s too chili, you can always jump into the hot tub or just sit on the large lounges or cabanas and enjoy the view.

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Be sure to check out the gorgeous bar, too.

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Or head down to the (teeny, tiny) private beach. However, there are better beaches all over Mykonos and if you want to be a beach bum, it might be better to take a short trek to one of them.

And now we come to the…iffy parts of the hotel. The parts of the hotel that are totally fine, but for the price that you pay…aren’t totally fine. If ya get my drift.

20140501_145005 The Jacuzzi built for 2…Olsen twins? I mean, who could fit into this thing? It barely fit me comfortably, and though I’m tall, I’m not a giant or anything. It also doesn’t look over the ocean, as the website shows. Not false advertising, but not entirely clear, either. 
20140502_095632 The breakfast buffet is large, but not the best quality. The dried fruits are exceptional and so is the halvah, but the general feeling is quantity over quality.  20140502_101151 Also, you have to kind of request the champagne…it isn’t offered to you and even though it’s advertised as a “champagne breakfast,” it really isn’t pushed on you like it is at the Mykonos Grace. And this is one time that you want the servers to be pushy! 20140502_101624 Though it doesn’t show it, the restaurant also gets insanely crowded.

The real reason that this hotel gets a few points off is service. It’s kind and they do anything that you ask, but…you have to ask. I know, this is really picky, but the hotel is extremely expensive. It was more expensive than our room at other hotels where there were pools, like…in the room. Where we were met by people who hand carried our luggage and made us grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight. Here, we had to ask for things at least once, sometimes more, and once, someone came into our room while we had the do not disturbing on because he wanted to replace the room service menu without having to return when it would be inconvenient for him. Not the greatest customer service. Pair that with the diminutive Jacuzzi, subpar breakfast buffet, and rather dinky beach, and you have a hotel that is good, but not grand.

If you want a full service resort, this might be the choice for you. If you care less about a magnificent public pool and want service that is way above par, head to the Mykonos Grace. Or the exceptional hotel that we stayed at in Santorini.

The Mykonos Grace – Mykonos’ Loveliest Hotel

We were lucky to stay at some marvelous hotels while we were on our honeymoon.

Oh, which hotels you ask?

Well, let’s go through them, shall we?

We spent one glorious night at the Mykonos Grace Hotel.

We stayed here through a series of strange circumstances – national strike day (oh yes, all of the transportation in the country strikes every May 1…the more you know…), our first choice hotel not being open for the season yet, and a few other miscellaneous situations including a ferry arriving at 11 pm.

The Mykonos Grace is a small boutique hotel located about 15 minutes away from Mykonos town at Agios Stefanos beach – all white Cycladic architecture and sparkling Aegean views and incredible Greek service. After being picked up by a private car with cold water waiting for us, we were ushered to the airy lobby, filled with soft linen couches and narrow bookcases with books for the taking.

20140430_230738 Luckily, what they gave us was a little better than books. Everyone checking in gets this champagne treatment, though we might have only gotten the additional bedside bottle because we were on our honeymoon.

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We were checked in quickly and with efficiency – the staff was friendly but not too chatty, and sensing that we were too tired to handle a tour of the property we were rushed to our room.

Please keep in mind that this isn’t even considered the highest level suite of the hotel. Just a normal, modern, totally done up yet relaxed Greek hotel room.

That blew our minds.

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A huge, comfy king size beds. King size beds are not the norm in this country, and even high-end hotels often only offer queens. This was fluffy and incredibly relaxing.

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Large seating area with 2 couches, a coffee table, and curtains for the plate-glass sliding doors.

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A gargantuan bathroom with dual sinks and…

20140501_001649 The shower of my dreams. It turns into a steam shower so you can sit on that wide marble  stool, look out of the windows at the Aegean sea, and just sweat your troubles away.

Of course this was just the inside of the room.

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There is also the outdoor covered balcony with a huge daybed, a table and chairs and…

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Oh wait, what’s that oer there at the other end of the balcony?

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Oh, it’s our PRIVATE HEATED PLUNGE POOL…that’s right. Something in between a large jacuzzi and a small pool. It’s always the temperature of bathwater and you access it by simply pushing through one of the shower windows and climbing in. The gentle sea breeze, the warm water, and the knowledge that no one can see your bloated body in a bathing suit make this pool the best feature of the room. Plus, you get this view…

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Not terribly shabby, right?
20140501_001720 The room is exceptional, the breakfast was one of my favorites, and the service is above and beyond. From special touches in the room, like a keepsake box and cooling facial towels for apres sun use, to the thoughtful and genuine service, this place is top rate all the way. For example, we arrived so late that the kitchen was closed. We said that we understood and were about to break into the mini bar for some candy when there was a knock at the door. Someone had gotten a sous chef out of bed (many summer employees live at or right near the hotel) to make us a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and salad. And then refused to take either payment or a tip when it was delivered.
20140501_002347 It’s nothing fancy, yet we felt like English royalty. This is just the way that service is provided here. It’s quick, it anticipates your needs, and it makes you feel taken care of but not awkward.  20140501_134854 I can’t recommend the Mykonos Grace enough. It was our favorite hotel in Mykonos and one of my favorite hotels ever. Even without the private pool, the regular pool area is lovely (albeit small), and the rooms are so spacious and breezy that I recommend this spot. Of course, if you have an extra kidney to sell, get that room with the pool.

And don’t be surprised if I come by for a swim.