© Courtesy Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch
Last week, I was up in Boston to help host a party with rock-star chef Barbara Lynch and the founders of Fresh beauty, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg. The occasion: To celebrate an article in F& W’s September issue, in which Lynch helped her friends add more flavor to their favorite healthy recipes.
After the party, we headed over to Sportello, one of Barbara's newest restaurants, and the dinner conversation veered to keeping fit. Barbara is on a serious health kick. To keep up her energy (she just finished a new cookbook, Stir, out next month), she’s been obsessively juicing every fruit, vegetable and herb she can get her hands and storing batches in her fridge. Lynch also told me about her new favorite energy bar, Green Vibrance. (Cameron Diaz has been in Boston, filming Wichita with Tom Cruise, and her personal assistant introduced Barbara to the dark-chocolate-covered, vitamin-loaded veggie bar.)
In addition to trail-running with the Sportello staff, Barbara has also taken up boxing. And I don’t mean the cardio-punch classes they offer at fancy fitness centers. Lynch works out at Golden Gloves champion Peter Welch’s super-old-school gym in Southie. After a few drinks, Lev (he actually does the cardio-punch gym classes) and I had agreed to join her in the ring the next day. Lev was a no-show (I think he got scared), but Barbara’s publicist, Sarah Hearn, joined me for an intense hour-long session with a group that looked straight out of Rocky. After throwing uppercuts, jabs and hooks and doing what seemed like endless push-ups, I have a new respect for Barbara Lynch, way beyond her extraordinary skills in the kitchen.
On my way to the buzzing restaurant scene and surrounding wine regions in Melbourne, Australia, I spent two days in Sydney, tasting through tons of local seafood and Asian dishes of all sorts (more on those later). There haven’t been many exciting new openings in Sydney this year—locals blame the city's taste for flashy restaurants, which are tougher to build in down times. But the economy didn’t stop chef Neil Perry from opening the Sydney location of Rockpool Bar & Grill six months ago. The $35 million restaurant, set in a former bank, has a moody Art Deco style, with soaring ceilings, gorgeous green marble columns and racks upon racks of wineglasses that glitter like chandeliers. The wine list is spectacular, thanks to Perry’s friend and business partner, David Doyle, the American owner of Quest software, who supplied part of his 60,000-bottle collection to the restaurant. (Everyone I met in Australia loved to tell me how Doyle chartered flights to have his wine—which includes some of the world’s rarest bottles—flown to Sydney.) Perry’s menu is inspired by American steak houses, with lots of simply grilled meats and well-prepared, easygoing sides, like potatoes cooked in wagyu-beef fat and mac and cheese. Perfect for letting the wine and space shine.
Here, more recommendations from my recent Greece trip.
* We stayed at the Baby Grand Hotel. I'm not sure I would recommend this hotel to everyone; it definitely had a funky vibe. Large stuffed monkeys hang from branches in the lobby, Mini Coopers replace the check-in desks and many rooms are painted with faux graffiti. What is perfect about it is the location, just a 10-minute walk to the Acropolis and many of the hip and trendy areas worth seeking out. Also located right around the hotel are many markets selling dried fruits, nuts, olives, cheese and sausages. A fun place for any food-obsessed traveler to stroll around.
* A friend who lives in Athens recommended a no-frills restaurant called To Stecki Tou Ilia that sells grilled lamb chops by the kilo. Too bad it was closed on Mondays, our one night in town. Since we were in the mood for grilled meat, the concierge recommended a restaurant in the Gazi neighborhood called Butcher Shop. Just a few years ago, Gazi was an old natural-gas plant, but-like Manhattan's Meatpacking District-it's now full of fun restaurants and bars. The Butcher Shop was like a Greek steakhouse, serving simple Greek meat dishes and sides with house wine poured from a tap. Try the grilled, smoked pork rack (thin slices of smoky and fatty pork, similar to Canadian bacon but by no means lean), grilled pork neck and the star, paidakia or grilled lamb chops. Round out the meal with local boiled greens, tomato and mint salad and a dilly cucumber tzatziki. Finish with a shot of mastiqua, brought to the table in a tiny bottle in a tiny ice bucket, compliments of the restaurant.
* If you are in the Athens airport and looking for a meal, albeit a totally trashy one, search for the counter that sells salami sandwiches on doughnut bread. Wash it down with a lemon Fanta. Also, don't be afraid to try Lay's potato chips in mushroom-and-sour-cream, oregano and Heinz Ketchup flavors.
The second stop on my Greece trip was Santorini. More food recommendations:
* Home base in Santorini was Canaves Suites in Oia. Located a quick walk and a steep set of steps away from the hotel is Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna. With a perfect view of the setting sun and grilled fish served right off the boat, what could be better? Try the fried calamari, sweet and tender rings of squid lightly dusted with flour, and the grilled peppers.
* Petros in Oia, a taverna run by three generations, serves simple Greek classics like saganaki, Santorini fava and souvlaki, all cooked by the mom of the family.
* A day trip to Perivolas beach, one of Santorini's black beaches, is superfun. Sit on the beach across from Sea Side Restaurant. Stay for the day and order lunch and drinks anytime, to be delivered right to your lounge chair. Get the delicious and creative Greek salad garnished with a cheese-and-honey phyllo cigar.
* Take a detour on the way home from the beach and stop for sunset drinks at Franco's Bar, at the top of the town of Pirgos. Located in a 15th-century Venetian castle, it's a bit of a hike to the top (like everything worth seeing in Santorini).
* Franco himself recommended The Dolphins as one of his favorite authentic Santorini restaurants, so we had to try it. You will pass it as you get close to the red beach. Eat fish-and-tomato balls, deeply golden and crispy fritters flavored with tomato, onion and dill.
* 1800 is an upscale restaurant in Oia. I prefer the down-home cooking of the taverna-style restaurant, but for a special occasion, 1800 is a great spot. The building alone, the old mansion of a sea captain built in the 1840s, is worth a peek. The service is wonderful, the food is refined and creative and the wine list is loaded with local choices.
* At the beginning of the pedestrian path in Oia, stop at the first taverna on the right. Order the grilled lamb ribs, which are basically thin-cut lamb rib chops, and any other meaty bone-on parts that are grilled until the fat becomes supercrisp. These pieces are cooked all the way through but are still tender and juicy. A treat if you like to eat with your hands and prefer meat off the bone.
I just returned from an incredible trip to Greece. If you go, here's where you should eat and drink at my first stop, Mykonos:
* We stayed at the Mykonos Grand Hotel, which shares a beach with three tavernas. The one farthest from the hotel has amazing platters of sea urchin. Eat sea urchin, Greek salad and grilled octopus for lunch, washed down with a carafe of house white wine, while looking out over the water.
* Have drinks at Katerina's, a restaurant and bar in Little Venice. It's the ideal spot to watch the sun go down over the sea. Get there early, because there are only six seats on the balcony. After sunset, walk down to Sea Satin restaurant, pick your fresh fish and watch it being grilled before eating it at a seaside table right under the famous Mykonos windmills.
* Rent a scooter or ATV and ride to the peaceful beach at Panormos Bay. Just north of there, you will find a tiny beach called Agios Sostis, which is home to Kiki's, the best place I ate in Mykonos. It has no sign or telephone number and is only open from 1-5 p.m., but it is well worth seeking out. Order anything grilled-octopus, pork chops, feta. Round out the meal with Kiki's homemade salads, like dilly potato or lentil.
This Friday kicks off the second annual New York City Craft Beer Week, a 10-day event that includes incredible beer-pairing dinners hosted by top New York state brewers and star New York City chefs, as well as tastings, seminars and bar crawls. Next month, a new type of beer-appreciation event will take place in Reno, Nevada. On October 23, the city will host the first-ever international canned beer festival. But don’t expect to find PBR or Miller. The event, dubbed Canfest, brings together a growing number of craft breweries, like Reno’s Buckbean Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Company and Oskar Blues, that eschew bottles for eco-friendly (and, some argue, more beer-friendly) aluminum cans. Celebrities from the beer world will serve as judges. The daylong festival will also include beer-and-food pairings and seminars with brewers.
© Jen Murphy
The Fresh Pepper cocktail at Eos in Miami
Last week I jetted to Miami and, in less than 48 hours, had two stellar meals in hotel restaurants launched by star NYC chefs: Scott Conant and Michael Psilakis, both F&W Best New Chefs. I always get nervous when a chef I adore opens an outpost far away: It’s so easy for the quality or service to slide. But these two new Miami restaurants rival their spots in Manhattan.
Conant, who owns Scarpetta in NYC, opened his second Scarpetta in Miami Beach's legendary Fountainbleu hotel, which was fabulously renovated earlier this year. A true glutton, I tried nearly every dish on the menu. Conant’s signature dishes, like his supersimple spaghetti with tomato and basil and his roasted capretto (baby goat), were perfect. The Miami Scarpetta has more seafood options than the NYC one, including a crisp-skinned branzino served on top of saffron-ricotta gnocchi, cauliflower and lobster fricassee. After sampling six pasta dishes (I’m training for the NYC Marathon, which gives me an excuse to eat more pasta), I told myself I’d only taste the branzino, but somehow it vanished completely from my plate.
Check out this blog later today for details about my incredible meal at Psilakis’s Eos.
Summer is usually internship season. But summer is nearly over and fewer than a fifth of recent college graduates have job offers. Now TravelOregon (the state's tourism organization) has launched an internship contest; the seven winners will work alongside a top Oregon rancher, distiller or chef for a week. Applicants have until September 18 to submit a short video and make a case (in 140 words or less) for why they are worthy of the all-expenses-paid internship. A few of the opportunities:
*Work alongside Food & Wine Best New Chef 2007 Gabriel Rucker, at Portland’s awesome Le Pigeon restaurant.
* Explore the art of vineyard-designate winemaking from Lynn Penner- Ash, winemaker at Willamette Valley’s Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.
* Make artisanal cheese with David Gremmels of the excellent Rogue Creamery.
* Turn hops and grains into craft beer with brewmaster Jamie Emmerson of Hood River’s Full Sail Brewery.
* Learn about craft spirits and get a degree in mixology with distiller Jim Bendis of Bendistillery.