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. 

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?

Eating Like a Local – That’s Right, Fast Food

So, the last night in Athens…I let my new husband have his fantasy.

And no, it didn’t involve a Grecian house of ill repute – I’m not THAT great a wife!

It involved this:

20140507_201729 Yep, I let him try all the fast food his heart desired while we sat on our balcony and watched the sun set over the Acropolis. It was all from McDonald’s and some place called Everest that seems to specialize in puff pastry. 
20140507_201749 Buttery puff pastry and creamy, mild soft cheese from Naxos. 
20140507_201805 Crispy puff pastry with salty feta, sweet onions, and spinach – a spanikopita pie. 
20140507_201852 Flaky puff pastry with a hot dog inside. 

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Cheesy, fluffy bread topped with thinly sliced jambon de Paris (like prosciutto), bechamel, and more cheese. Golden brown, creamy, crunchy, and addictive. 

20140507_201909 Don’t even ask.  20140507_201937 I ate the whole thing. It was seasoned with oregano, covered in creamy tzatziki, and wrapped in a warm, fluffy pita. I’m only HUMAN, you guys. 
20140507_202409 Where else could you get salad dressing from McDonalds that includes genuine aged balsamic vinegar from Italy?

This isn’t a meal to be proud of. But as we sat munching our guilty pleasures, listening to jazz from the ipod and watching the Parthenon light up for the night, we couldn’t have felt more Athenian if we tried. 

 

Kleftiko at the Plaka

The Plaka is Athens oldest neighborhood. It is centrally located, at the base of the Acropolis, and is a collection of touristy shops and restaurants. It reminds me of Little Italy, but not in the way that New Yorkers think of Little Italy; the way that everyone else thinks of Little Italy. A cute place with fun restaurants and the opportunity to get dressed up in traditional garb and take an old timey photo.

Okay, maybe I made up that last part, but it does have some very cute restaurants. They are super touristy and probably all use the same kitchen that just runs under the length of the neighborhood, but what do I care?

20140507_122834 Adrianos Restaurant couldn’t be cuter or more touristy if it tried. Every menu is printed in about 5 languages, there is everything from souvlaki to hamburgers, and the courtyard is shaded with large umbrellas and lovely greenery. It’s relaxing but looks onto the bustling Plaka, for a bit of dinner theatre as you dine. Word to the wise – learn the Greek word for no (o-hee) for when the women selling roses, pashminas, and other things made in China come around to your table.
20140507_124345 Grilled halloumi and vegetables

Why is the cheese so lovely here? Even at this restaurant where no Greek person would be caught dead, the cheese is mild and bouncy, with a salty crust taht pairs well with the sweet grilled zucchini and eggplant. It’s ideal with the accompanying olive oil and tangy balsamic vinegar. This could be a meal in and of itself.
20140507_124349 Tzatziki

But then you would miss out on this. Yeah, the tzatziki really does just get better and better in this country. This is the only time on the vacation that we cound the portion to be a bit paltry, but what can ya do? It’s thick and rich; loaded with shredded cucumbers and spicy garlic. The dill is quite restrained but there is plenty of cracked pepper. What do you want from me, I just love this stuff.  20140507_130018 Gyros

Avoid at all costs. Dry, rubbery, and tasteless. Though, to be fair, if you order a gyro at a sit down restaurant instead of from a little stand where you can see the meat roasted on a spit, you get what you deserve.  20140507_130022 Kleftiko

This lamb and veggies dish is one of my favorite things I ate during the entire honeymoon. Kleftiko is a dish that was invented by (according at least one story) Greek rebels during an Ottoman invasion. The rebels would cook lamb in a pit far below the earth so that the invading armies couldn’t see  smoke escaping, thus exposing the hiding spot. It’s DELICIOUS. My husband said that it looked like it came out of a garbage can. Then he promptly stole all of it.  20140507_130100 The meat is incredibly tender and pulls cleanly away from the bone. It’s dripping in fatty, rich, lamby juices and the edges are crunchy and caramelized. The carrots are wonderfully sweet all on their own and the potatoes absorb those meaty flavors. It’s savory, filling, and wonderfully hearty. I could eat this until my pants wouldn’t button.

Adrianos isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it was a cheap and tasty lunch. The service was insanely slow – so be aware! However, it’s Greece. And I think that any restaurant in the Plaka would do the same for lunch.

So, Athens had some good food, but not the best.

Luckily, London was right around the corner.

Kuzina – Come for the Meatballs

Okay, so now we are in Athens. One of the cradles of civilization. Birthplace of modern medicine, theatre, architecture, and democracy.

I loved Greece. I would go back in an instant, and quite frankly, we have already discussed going back for our 5 year anniversary – definitely Santorini and maybe Crete.

But Athens…Athens is a 2 night stop at most. See the Acropolis, gawk at the Parthenon, maybe go to the museum, and get the hell out of Dodge.

It’s Paris without the shops that have been there since 1722. It’s London without the changing of the guards. It’s New York without the yellow taxicabs.

It’s a big city without the charm.

I am so sorry, Athens was just not for me. I think that if I was a major Greek history buff, it would be heaven – you can’t walk more than a minute without bumping into the ancient Agora, a statue that was built in 60BC, or an artifact that we would LOVE to have here in the USA.

But if, like me, you are kind of a one-site-fits-all gal…Athens ain’t the greatest part of Greece.

Sadly, the same goes for the food.

We stayed at The Grande Bretagne (an unbelievable hotel…more to come) and they recommended a restaurant which was described ans an upscale taverna. Some traditional Greek food, some fresh ingredients with Mediterranean influences, and a whole lot of style. Perfect!

The neighborhood…a little sketchy. I wasn’t scared that I would be mugged or anything, but expect to see a ton of graffiti, panhandlers, and more than a few wasted people as you walk to your destination. That doesn’t bother me, but it is surprising that such a well-known restaurant would be located in this neighborhood.

Kuzina is a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous terrace, an airy indoor space, and lovely outdoor seating on a tree lined street. It reminds me of something that might be in Santa Monica – rustic but cool. The menu looked great, too.

20140506_202352 20140506_202358 Bread and olives

Very nice! The bread has a thick, floury crust and is warm and airy inside. It’s ideal with the almost sweet olive oil and the juicy, mild olives.  20140506_203126 Fattoush salad

On the surafce this sounds great – a light salad with spicy peppers, crispy bacon, and crispy pita in a light, lemony vinaigrette. However, this just didn’t work. The lettuce is in pieces that are far too big and make you feel like you are eating mouthfuls of leaves. The hot peppers aren’t very spicy and the roasted ones are almost slimy. The bacon is flaccid and far too fatty-and I love me some fatty bacon.  The worst part is that the dressing positively DRENCHED the salad – and not in that awesome blue cheese-drenched iceberg wedge way. It’s super acidic and renders everything soggy. The pita crisps were good, but a good crouton does not a great salad make.  20140506_203731 Keftedes with sumac, pita, and yogurt sauce

The highpoint not just of the night but of all of the meatballs of the trip. They are everything that meatballs want to be. Juicy, earthy, and soft but not mushy. The sumac is wonderfully bright and  – it perks up the meatballs without making them overtly sour or bitter. The pita is fluffy and chewy, and the yogurt provides a little creamy counterpart. Don’t even get me started on those tomatoes again. This is such a delicious dish that it’s almost wort the price of admission.

20140506_204912 Snapper in bouillabaisse broth

Very good, if not memorable. The fish is well cooked and the bouillabaisse is briny and deep with saffron and garlic. It’s something that I would eat again, but not something that I would actively seek.  20140506_204918 Liver and onions

I mean, I enjoy this stuff. The liver is ideally cooked, with a bit of pink inside and a crusty, browsed exterior. This ain’t yo mama’s chopped liver – it’s overtly organ-y, with a soft texture but a ton of strong, iron-rich taste.The onions are sweet and sour, cutting though the liver’s strong taste. The potatoes are creamy and sop up the winey, mineral rich juices. It’s really quite good.  20140506_205030 But, again…I could cook this at home. I enjoyed it but wouldn’t consider this a must get.

After our hit-it-out-of-the-park meals on the islands, this first dinner in Athens was a major disappointment. It was more expensive than most of the food we had eaten on Santorini and Mykonos, and not as delicious. The service was a little spotty, though if the food were better we might not have noticed. This is a place that I might frequent f I lived here, but I can’t say that I wold willingly come back.

And it was our best dinner in Athens. Luckily, lunch the next day was more up our alley.

Terpsi en Oia – Just Like Yiayia Used to Make

We didn’t go to Terpsi by accident.

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

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

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

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

20140505_202907 Santorini beer

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

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

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

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

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

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

The honeymoon now moves to the big city: Athens!

I promise, Santorini, I shall return.

Next stop, Athens!

Lunch at Perissa Black Sand Beach

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

Say it an’t so!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambrosia is…Ambrosia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up, beach day!