cheese pie, acropolis view

pita - with parthenon

No matter where you go in Athens you seem to always have the giant rock of the Acropolis as a focal point in the near distance. It’s a view that never gets old - especially when dining al fresco. Today’s well-earned lunch: tyropita, or cheese pie, wrapped in buttery sheets of crispy phyllo dough.

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picture yourself in a boat on a river

Today I got a unique opportunity to explore a small piece of Thailand’s rural heartland aboard a traditional teak rice barge, the Thanatharee, sailing on the Chao Phraya out of Ayuttaya – the ancient Thai capital an hour and a half north of Bangkok – and into the rich agricultural central plains. Comfortably repurposed it could not be beaten as the perfect place for a long, cool drink and a languorous lunch while watching the world drift gently by. That is, until the weather abruptly – and radically – changed.

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a perfect picnic

Picnicking at the beach house made for the most atmospheric en plein air lunch I’ve had in I don’t know how long. Poached shrimp on a citrus salad with avocado and shaved fennel, and a meaty lobster sandwich with celery, red onions and spicy creole mayonnaise on lightly-grilled brioche made the perfect foil for a splendidly chilled bottle of rose. The postprandial nap was equally sublime, too – just in case you were wondering.

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lunch locally (sourced)

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live blog: leisurely lunch, pt. 2, soup & sarnie

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live blog: leisurely lunch, cod & chips

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i’ll be happy when the lilacs bloom again

It’s a lovely spring morning here in NYC – made better by the discovery of my favorite patch of flora in wild, fragrant bloom. To celebrate, I’m having my first ever giveaway:  a memorable meal (ok, a free lunch avec moi) to the first person who can guess the obscure musical theater reference in today’s headline.

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morning catch: snapper

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when a trio of ceviche just won´t do

comidas a la playa

Yes, yes, yes, there is something incredibly decadent about staying at a great hotel, ringing up room service for a felony-rate breakfast and then carelessly taking it all into bed with the morning paper – crumbs be damned.  However, in Punta Mita this weekend, I discovered something equally indulgent: lunch a la playa.  (Does everyone know about this?) Too lazy to drag myself off the beach to go find food, I scanned the menu tucked under my cache of icy water bottles.  Okay, I thought, let the mountain come to Mohammed, whereupon I ordered lunch and dove into the ocean.  When a waiter showed up with my order twenty minutes later, I immediately had second thoughts.  Wet, hot, dusted with sand, and sweaty in direct sunlight – who wants to eat like this?  Yet before I could open my mouth in protest, a new chaise longue was being prepared under a shaded palapa, a cool cloth was on offer to wipe my hands and face, and suddenly I was reclining like a melodramatic 50’s housewife taking to her bed.  Water was poured, chips were set within easy reach and a bountiful bed tray was perched across my lap.  How very civilized.  How very unexpected. How very – dare I say it? – Four Seasons.

Mahi Mahi Ceviche, in a tomato-citrus broth, with avocado and pico de gallo to start. Followed by the Ketsi Salad – a mix of greens topped with almonds, jicama, grilled chicken, tamarind vinaigrette and my now new-favorite way to eat watermelon and cantaloupe, chili-dusted.  Far from the grueling picnic in the sun I feared, lunch was a refreshing respite that cooled me down.  If only I knew then what I know now I would have gone and ordered that half-bottle of Pinot Grigio, too.

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almost-live blog: the grand finale to a temperant lunch for two

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almost-live blog: part 3

Tomme de Brebis, Barigoule pain perdu, globe artichokes, piquillo peppers and arugula coulis.

Robiola tre latti (made from both cow, goat, and ewe milks), Royal Blenheim aprocots, celery branch and toasted oats.

A most refreshing palate cleanser:  English cucumber sorbet, white verjus gelee, green grape and quinine-juniper foam.

Coconut milk sorbet, vanilla-roasted Maui Gold pineapple, medjool dates and cashew nuts.

“Coffee and doughnuts” was a humbling pre-dessert dessert.  Is there anything better than a warm, sugared beignet?  I think not.

Rhubarb and kumquat vol-au-vent, vanilla chiboust, poppy seed ice cream and 100-year aged balsamic vinegar was accented with delicate edible blossoms from the French Laundry’s garden

Peanut butter Bavarois, crunchy feuilletine, milk chocolate “whip” and Gros Michel banana sorbet

Mignardises:  lavender scented rice paper wafers on the left.  a bowl of candied macadamia nuts on the right.

Mignardises:  truffle heaven!

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almost-live blog: part 2

Sauteed fillet of Atlantic Coast halibut, turnips, English peas, Meyer lemon and garden tarragon.

The soft-poached Americana hen egg, with lobster Salpicon, sunchokes, Savoyard spinach and mousseline Bearnaise was a revelation of taste and textures.  Who knew a simple egg could taste so rich and complex?

New Bedford sea scallop, French Laundry garden spring onions, melted leeks, hazelnuts and black truffle.

Herb-roasted Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms were a crunchy, woody taste sensation served with fennel bulb, San Marzano tomato compote, green garlic, Marcona almonds and sherry mignonette.

I once thought Kobe and Wagyu were indulgent grades of meat.  Then along came this tartare of Kuroge beef from Shiga – accompanied by broccolini, lily bulb, pine nuts and cherry-olive puree – and I learned they are but rank amateurs.  The fat content of the Kuroge is ridiculous.  But then again so, too, is the umami flavor.

English pea agnolotti with confit d’aile de volaille, Nantes carrots, Cipollini onions, Parmesan nuage and sauce Dijonnaise deserves some sort of prize for the most inventive use of a chicken wing.  It’s genius:  the salt, fat and crunch of the confit elevates the delicate spring flavor of the pea and carrot.

Elysian Fields Farm lamb rib-eye, lamb ribettes, pomme Boulangere, Nantes carrots, fava beans, green garlic and sauce Bordelaise.  Check out the color of that meat!  I look at this photo and I am able to conjure the taste of it all over again.

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almost-live blog: part 1

The first (of many) amuse:  a velvety sunchoke puree with just the faintest taste of fresh earth.

Cauliflower “panna cotta” with California sturgeon caviar.  A mother-of-pearl spoon at a place setting elicits an almost Pavlovian response in me.

Shirred egg custard with lamb gelee, potato chip and chive.

Two different butters arrived for the bread (which was warm and golden and gobbled so quickly that it escaped the camera’s glare):   a lightly salted pot on the left and an extravagantly dense quenelle of unsalted from Andante Dairy on the right.  Look at that color and then blame me for expecting to hear it was duck fat.

Three different salts:  sel gris at the top, a Filipino white salt similar to fleur de sel, and pink Jurassic salt, mined from a deposit in Montana that was a seabed back when dinosaurs roamed.

Salad of roasted Belgian endive, sour Michigan cherries, pecans, oxalis, and kola nut gastrique.

Pave d’aubergine confit, with cauliflower, chickpeas, sultanas, harissa, pine nuts, cilantro, and yogurt was perhaps the most perfect expression of a humble eggplant that I’ve ever tasted.

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almost-live blog: lunch at the french laundry – a 3-part mini-opera with grand finale

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