SoNo Seaport Seafood is So So Perfect for the Weekend

What to do when you have access to a car on a nice day in NYC:

1) Get the GPS

2) Get in the car

3)Drive to SoNo Seaport Seafood, only 1 hour outside the city, for a delicious seafood lunch on the water.

Sure, there are plenty of great lobster rolls and fish ‘n’ chips in the city, but very few of them have the room to spread out with a beer, some crayons for the kiddies, and a view like this:

20140823_113858 I mean, it’s nothing fancy, but that’s the charm of it. It’s a simple seafood market with an attached tavern that serves the freshest fish possible, in all the ways that you love it; ie, doused in butter and fried whenever possible.  20140823_113903 It’s the ideal place to have lunch with the family, because there is stuff for landlubbers as well as those of us who are more adventurous.  20140823_114838 Seafood bisque

Well, it just about puts clam chowder to shame. Pale pink and studded with tender lobster, tiny shrimp, and buttery pieces of scallop. It’s not as thick as a chowder - it’s a true bisque with a creamy but not super thick texture. There are soft potatoes in there and a slightly spicy backnote of crushed red pepper. However, it isn’t aggressively hot – just well spiced. If you like New England clam chowder, this may be the greatest thing you have ever tasted.  20140823_115232 Hot lobster roll

Until, that is, you try a Connecticut style lobster roll. These things are the best. Though not quite as delectable as the first rate version at Abott’s, this is wonderful. Large pieces of claw and knuckle meat dressed in plenty of clarified butter and served warm inside a toasted, top spit hot dog bun. You can get some of the excellent tartar sauce alongside if you need it, but you won’t need it. This is pure lobster taste. no mayo, no celery, no filler at all to get in the way – just all lobstah, no working for it. The lobster salad roll also looks good, but for the money, this one is where it’s at.
20140823_115245 Fries are generic, but since when are generic fries bad?

SoNo Seaport Seafood is a lovely and delicious weekend afternoon outside of the city. The prices can’t be beat, the service is great, the atmopshere is ideal, and the food…well, I cleaned my plate. Don’t miss the flaky fish and chips, either.

And there is a Ttarget only 7 miles away. So, happy Sunday indeed.

Locali in New Canaan and…a Guilty Pleasure

My sister is starring in Hairspray at Summer Theatre of New Canaan - yes, I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I figure that you might want to see her while she is still in a show where we can all afford tickets. I’m basically sure that Broadway is next.

But while you are in New Canaan, you might want something to eat.

Right in town, I highly recommend Thali or this new place we hit up, Locali. This lovely little restaurant has a breezy patio, friendly servers, and a menu of small and large Italian accented plates. The edamame Milanese, topped with garlicky breadcrumbs and the fried artichokes on punchy anchovy remoulade are both winners. However, if you come here, be sure to get some pizza.

20140720_151951 Hudson gem pizza with beet powder, goat cheese, and figs

Hit of the day, no question. The crust is whisper thin and crispy, with a puffy, airy crust at the edge that has plenty of charred spots. The pizza is covered in tangy goat cheese that is creamy and warm, with spots of sweet, juicy figs. The kicker is the beet powder – it’s so delicate that it has no texture, but it releases a deep, earthy taste that is unmistakably beet-like. This is the most fun twist on beets and goat cheese that I have had in awhile and it’s totally delicious. Sweet, savory, and vegetarian to boot!
20140720_151955 Ratatouille pizza

I mean, dontcha just love summer? That wonderful, tender-crisp crust covered in fresh, sweet tomato sauce (no heavy had with the oregano here, it’s all about the tomatoes), shaved zucchini and summer squash, grilled onions, and other fresh veggies. It’s doubtless made with whatever was fresh at the farmer’s market that morning and there is no way that our pizza is the same as the one that you would get if you ordered it next week  -maybe yours would have corn or zucchini blossoms. This is a garden on a crust. It greatly improved with the addition of some red pepper flakes, but then…what doesn’t?

I would go back to Locali in a heartbeat, and quite probably will.

Then, on the way home from the show, you may want to stop somewhere for dinner. Sure, you could get a steamed cheeseburger in Connecticut or maybe try Arthur Avenue in the Bronx…but, why would you, when you could go here:

20140720_195401 Luau salad at The Cheesecake Factory

Why, when I live in one of the greatest eating cities on earth, do I crave the mass produced crap was the only restaurant in town when I was growing up? It’s all generic salt and fat. It’s nothing local or seasonal. I highly doubt that it will ever win a Zagat rating, let alone a Michelin star. However…I just love The Cheesecake Factory. It reminds me of lunches with my aunt, of sliders with my best friend, and of being cool enough to drive myself to the mall. It’s so nostalgic that I can never resist it.

And unlike so many other memories, this one actually lives up to its former self each and every time. 

This salad is sweet and a little sour from the rice wine vinegar in the dressing. It’s thinly sliced chilled chicken, crunchy macadamia nuts, julienned bell peppers, and soft lettuce. And it’s those huge, crispy, fried and bad for you wontons. It’s kitschy, light, and indulgent – “Luau” is a perfectly apt name. I love this salad. All 19,459 calories of it. 
20140720_204724 I mean I didn’t eat this super sweet, brick like cheesecake studded with Oreos and loaded with preservatives. I didn’t eat the peanut butter cup version, either. 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

The Ritz London: A Legend in its Own Time

The last hotel of our stay was one of the most beautiful hotels which I have ever frequented. It was the ever luxurious, ever personalized The Ritz hotel.

Sister to the famous Ritz in Paris, this  hotel has been privately owned since it opened in 1906, and its motto may well be “too much is never enough.”

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From the moment that you emerge from your taxi and a top-hatted doorman rushes to help you with your bags and usher you into the gold and pink lobby, your feet barely touch the floor. You are offered a small tour of the hotel, through its vast floral displays, its cherub-bedecked dining room, and the tea salon that spawned a thousand imitators. Of course, if you decline, you are whisked away to your room, wich is a jewel box.

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Each room is filled with fresh flowers and unique touches – an original drawing here, and antique vase there. The tones are soft and elegant mint and blue. The bed is thick and luxurious, with a soft mattress and a large king size – not so common in Europe.

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Our room came with a vanity table so delicate and beautiful that I felt bad sitting there before my makeup was applied.

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The bathroom is beautifully appointed, with a towel warmer (why don’t we have these stateside?!), a double vanity, and a shower tub combination with a supremely deep tub that is perfect for relaxing after a long day of museums and shopping (more shopping than museums, if I’m being honest).

The toiletries are Asprey…only the best for The Ritz. They are so delicious smelling that I gathered them up each time we entered the room and – lo and behold – each time I came back, they were dutifully replaced. I must have gotten 6 shampoos in 2 days.

Of course, you could always go for one of the shamancier suites:

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Beautiful bedroom…

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Complete with a sitting room…
DSC_1107 and a lovely view of Green Park.  DSC_1105

Objets d’art surround every private and public room in this hotel.

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, if you are a visiting sheik or got rich off of a Youtube video, you may want to check out the Royal Suite. This suite, housed in the recently acquired William Kent house is…rather extraordinary. Though I could say a lot, I might as well just let the pictures speak for themselves.

DSC_1118 The house, with its private, hidden entrance to the rest of The Ritz.
DSC_1121 Entering an incredible suite.  DSC_1126 Oh, you know, the plain ole drawing room, with a table big enough for 12 people.  DSC_1129 The loveliest round bedroom, overlooking Green Park.  DSC_1134 Fabulous dressing area. DSC_1135 Not too shabby, right? DSC_1136 A cool elevator, because who uses stairs to get places? DSC_1139 A mural painted when the home was bought by the Ritz and restored. It’s painted in keeping with the Georgian style of the house… DSC_1142 with one cheeky exception! DSC_1143 More drawing rooms in the Kent house complex… DSC_1145 Including a beautiful drawing room… DSC_1146 with a golden, sculptured ceiling that would rival the Sistine chapel itself.  DSC_1156 The gold, mint, and rose music room, where intimate weddings might be held.

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Every person we encountered was incredibly kind and seemed to actually want to be there. From the butler (obviously, each room has a butler) who brought us a welcome tray of hot coffee and biscuits when we checked in to the doorman who shared his favorite place for fish and chips (“not too posh, but it’s where me mates go for a bite after work”), everyone seemed so damned happy to see us. Even if they weren’t…okay! This is what sets the Ritz apart. The service. The ability to be called by name and feel as though you are visiting nobility who has stayed there for eons who happens to be passing through an old friend’s home on your way to the country.

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Plus, if you are on your honeymoon, you might get these delivered to your hotel room…

photo 1 (1) And this set up. Beyond romantic.

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So, while London is a great city, between the afternoon tea, the private club downstairs (private restaurant, cigar bar, and casino only for members of the club or guests at The Ritz…very 007), and the gorgeous rooms, you may have problems leaving your hotel.

The most British, most elegant, most over the top luxurious hotel that I could imagine. This is romantic to the hilt and you can’t help but fall in love with the city, the hotel, and your traveling partner.

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The perfect way to end a dreamy honeymoon.

Disclaimer: I was given a media rate. All of 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 Flinstone’s 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 didnt’ 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 in, shallow enough to not sink in.

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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 heir 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 shoes on.

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. 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. 

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.

Goodbye to Greece

Before I wrap up my honeymoon recaps and move onward towards the wedding recap, here are a few bits and bobs:

20140430_092214 Welsh rarebit on a 3 hour flight

Because other countries rock and our domestic airlines are blah. The mushrooms are watery but the rarebit itself is surprisingly sharp and delicious.  20140430_171213 Frappes

All over Greece – like a super strong, espresso milkshake with pleasantly icy, crunchy bits. Nice! 20140502_151641 Magnum half ice cream sandwich/half ice cream bar

Um…yes. ’nuff said.  20140503_160608 A healthy lunch on the ferry to Santorini

People are obsessed with those mini bake rolls, but hey taste like flavorless bagel chips. Much better are the woodsy oregano flavored potato chips, and much MUCH better are the truly addictive paprika Pringles.  20140505_221026 Baklava and walnut cake

I can never get my fill of walnuts or honey.  20140507_102837 Huge pots of Greek yogurt

Just everywhere, ready to be mixed with homemade preserves.  20140507_132418 Peach liquor

At the coolest bar ever. It tastes like a  bellini but is much, MUCH stronger.

Can we go back tomorrow?

Puttin’ on The Ritz – Afternoon Tea Edition

So, you want to know what my number one favorite thing about Great Britain is?

It isn’t the royalty. It isn’t the respect for tradition. It isn’t the avant garde fashion.

It’s afternoon tea.

And nowhere…NOWHERE…have I had an afternoon tea experience like the one at The Ritz.

First, let’s get the cons out of the way.

1) You need to make reservations many months in advance. Think, as many as 8 months in advance. It books up that quickly

2) You only have 2 hours in which to enjoy your meal.

3) It’s expensive. Anniversary-40th birthday-once a year special treat expensive.

Now, the pros:

It’s the most beautiful, luxurious, over the top dining experience I have ever enjoyed. It makes Tocqueville look minimalist.

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Tea is served in this Palm Court, the original one that so puts the one at The Plaza to shame that it seems embarrassing that they should share a title. It’s all elegance and huge angel statues and live piano music and light and palm trees. Violet Crawley would be extremely at home here.

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It seems incredible that you will use each and every one of these pots and cups and creamers, but oh…you will.

20140508_132511 Not without a glass of champers first. Because what improves tiny tea sandwiches more than a crisp, icy glass of champagne? And don’t worry…it, like everything here, is bottomless.

That’s right…eat and drink until your pants burst open.

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Choose from any number of the exceptional teas on the menu. I recommend the passion fruit, which is one of the few teas that I can drink without totally gagging. It has a full, fruity taste with only a SLIGHT hint of hibiscus in the background. It’s also ostentatiously pink.

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Then it arrives…the glorious tea platter.

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Start with the sandwiches. Sharp cheddar and tangy chutney. Creamy egg salad with just a hint of bitter watercress. Freshly roasted turkey with rich mayonnaise and crunchy salt. Smoked salmon so mild and smooth at it fairly melts into the bread and long, thin slices of cucumber with dilled cream cheese.

I DARE you to order fewer than two more plates of these.

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Cakes and sweets

Peanut butter and chocolate macarons, a rich chocolate fudge cake, a rhubarb and cream sophisticated type of snowball, and a Napoleon to END all Napoleons. I mean Naploeon would have traded empress Josephine to taste half of this slice. The pastry is buttery and crisp but not too hard. It retains its texture between the layers of fluffy, airy vanilla custard. Some Napoleons are heavy and sodden with loose, lackluster cream, but this really does it right. The crowning touch is a thick, crackly layer of white icing – a sugary touch to an elegant dish.

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Oh yeah, you could make a meal out of these alone.

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But then, you would miss these. These lovely, buttery, flaky, soft, and creamy scones.

20140508_134601 Oh, you KNOW that I split those babies open and slathered them with fragrant strawberry jam and clotted cream so rich that it might actually BE Prince Harry.

20140508_141149 Don’t forget the sweet, moist marmalade cake or the sticky toffee pudding from the cake trolley. 
20140508_143548 And don’t forget, this stuff is all unlimited.  They keep bringing it until you cry uncle. They keep pouring and refreshing tea with white gloves and lovely British accents. They keep bringing warm scones and pots of clotted cream. And they don’t judge. no they don’t.

Trade in your car if you have to, to go to this tea. It – and the love handles it puts on you – will stay with you forever.

 Disclaimer: This tea was compliments of the Press team. I was not required to write about it, and my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Puttin’ on the Ritz – Breakfast Edition

British breakfast is my second favorite part about England. These people really know how to eat. This is not a fruit salad and protein shake kind of country.

This is a country that eats breakfast, then conquers the world with cult rock music, okay?

And you can’t get a finer breakfast than at The Ritz Hotel.

This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton – don’t get it twisted. This is the sister of The Ritz in Paris, opened by Caesar Ritz himself. It has been around since the early 1900s and DRIPS Parisian opulence and beauty.

20140509_100207 The room is as plush and over the top as you might hope it is. It really is…pardon my corniness…ritzy. You see where there adjective  came from. Everything is covered in velvet and plated in gold.

DSC_1162 There is a rotunda painted with angels circling chandeliers held up with wreathes of roses.
20140509_100213 The butter is stamped with the regal R insignia.

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There are 2 kinds of SALT, for Pete’s sake! Finely ground if you are a ninny, and those large, flaky pyramids for those of us who know how to live.

Don’t wear jeans here, gentlemen. Brush that hair, ladies. You are served by an impeccable wait staff in morning coats who assure you that it is their pleasure to pick the pulp out of your freshly squeezed orange juice by hand so you don’t choke.

They are so convincing that I almost believe them.

The food is, thankfully, just as enjoyable as the atmosphere.

20140509_101028 What, you don’t like duck, quail, and hen eggs at your morning breakfast buffet?
20140509_101228 Oh, don’t worry, every entree comes with the buffet. WITH the buffet. That means that you can load up on genuine Scottish smoked salmon, figs from Jordan, and… 20140510_090726 yogurt so sweet and creamy that it might as well be called melted ice cream. You know, before your main course.  20140510_090900 And what a main course it is. Skip the pancakes and the bony and very fishy kippers, and go straight for the gold – The English Breakfast. Get it with black pudding that is so creamy and minerally-rich that you may stave off iron deficiency for life even if you become a vegan by lunch. The bacon is the fatty stuff that the Brits love, and the Cumberland sausage is fragrant with cloves and black pepper. The egg is poached beautifully, with a runny yolk and firm whites, or get it them scrambled to pale yellow, buttery bliss. Don’t forget that oven roasted tomato, sweet and juicy atop a meaty portobello mushroom.

Um, yeah…these people know breakfast. How to serve it, how to present it, and most of all - how to cook it.

This is an insanely expensive treat and though I couldn’t’ do it every day, it is a gift to myself that I will cherish forever.

Or at least until my heart explodes from eating all of that saturated fat before 10 AM.