© 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.