Label for Friel's apple cider, Cheltenham, UK (2010)
Sunlight and Santorini
by John Mariani
New York Corner: Donatella
by John Mariani
Man About Town: Hearth
by Christopher Mariani
Notes From the Wine Cellar: A Rose by Other Names
by Mort Hochstein
by John Mariani
Photos by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery
The image of Santorini is built entirely on romantic notions that its beauty is ancient, its history entwined with the Greek gods, and its attraction for very wealthy people who arrive on yachts and stay for two or three days before hauling anchor for the next Greek island. The fact is, while Santorini has an ancient history, its current attractions have more to do with the canny invention of spanking whitewashed, blue-trimmed structures and a pretty main street thronged with souvenir shops selling everything from Greek statuary and dolls to key rings and diamonds. You've seen those cascading hillsides on numerous covers of travel magazines, and there's little to indicate their colors are of recent origin. A 1984 edition of the authoritative, highly archaeological Les Guides Bleus to Greece doesn't even mention the island.
Homer, who wrote about northern Greece, said nothing about shrimp-shaped Santorini in the south, where traces of human settlements date to 4,000 B.C. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have always been part of the island's history and changing landscape, but it was a devastating 1956 quake that ironically led to the expansion of tourism, owing to the need to rebuild so many of the island's villages, and in the process, homes and new hotels (many illegally constructed). This allowed the neighborhoods to be developed with extensions (hypóskapha) into the palisades-like hillsides, looking out over not Homer's "wine dark sea" but the deep blue southern Aegean.
If you sail into Santorini on a calm August morning, the mountaintops of the island glow like copper in the sun; the gods would look small on these heights of creamy pomace strata. Once on the island, called Thira by the Greeks but named by the Romans after Saint Elena, it is best to hire a guide for a morning tour of the major sites, which are in fact few, and it's well worth a visit to one of the 13 wineries now on Santorini, including the well-known Boutari in Megalochori, which makes about 900,000 bottles a year, most of it sold on the island, much of it made from imported grapes. The indigenous grapes are all pre-phylloxera, never affected by the bug that killed off most of Europe's vineyards in the 19th century.
Most of the food and water on the island is also brought in from Greece and Crete, which adds to the cost of just about everything.
Santorini is therefore very expensive, especially during the season, and, unlike in the rest of Greece, you do not bargain with shopkeepers on their quoted price. There are hotels and lodgings, restaurants and nightclubs--Koo and Tithora are still popular--around the island and each year new ones become the hot new thing for the tourist crowd, whose average stay is only two to five days. Otherwise, there's not much to do here. Most activity centers around Fira, the capital, centered by the town square, Plateia Theotokopoulou, intersected by the main shopping street, 25 Martiou (25th March), from which other smaller boutique-crammed streets and alleys weave. Jewelry is one of the big draws here, and I tried to dissuade my wife from lingering too long after I found the price of an orange juice at a local cafe was $12.
You can spend plenty on cocktails--at least ten euros--and restaurants take full advantage of the tourist season, which, despite Greek's current shambles of an economy, does not seem to flag, thanks especially to the cruise ships that dock here daily. I asked my very well-informed tour guide where we might find a really good taverna without paying a fortune, and she looked over her shoulder and said, "Right there: Ouzeri, it's where all we guides eat and it is the best." Tour guides are not always the best barometers in such matters--many get paid by the restaurants or shopkeepers--but I knew, after several hours together, that she would point us directly to what I sought, and it proved to be wonderfully the case.
Ouzeri (left) is a delight, with indoor and outdoor tables, just in back of the charming Cathedral (above). The owner and most of the waiters speak good English, and the menu is a screed of Greek taverna favorites, with particular emphasis on fish. (Note well: After millennia when Greeks tended to overcook their fish on the grill, the contemporary chefs seem to have lightened up so the seafood has more succulence, and less olive oil than it used to.) Our full meal of appetizers, main courses, dessert, wine and water came to 69.50 euros (about $100) for the two of us, and we ate lavishly, beginning with the fresh bitter greens called horta, sweet white eggplant with tomato sauce and feta, favas with capers and chopped onions, and cheese with sesame, sweetened with a cherry sauce. For the main course we choose two different grilled fish, with an white assyrtiko wine, and ended off with sweet Greek coffee.
(By the way, the three ways to order coffee are sketo, without sugar; metrio, medium sweet, and glyro, very sweet.)
In the afternoon the dry northern August wind called the metelmi blows hard across the choppy waters and over the hillsides of Santorini, which for some is a good reason to take a long nap, especially since, like most Greeks, the Santorinians dine late. Sunsets here are as glorious as any in the Aegean, and if you have sailed to Santorini and then must sail away, you may recall the words of the 5th century B.C. Greek poet Praxilla when he wrote, "Finest of all the things I have left is the sun,/Next to that the brilliant stars and the face of the moon."
NEW YORK CORNER
Donatella Arpaia came into the restaurant business on long coattails: her father is Lello Arpaia, one of the master restaurateurs of NY-style Italian cuisine, on admirable display at Fiorini, on which I heaped high praise a few weeks ago.
After running high-end, highly-regarded restaurants like Dona and Anthos in midtown, and a trattoria also named Dona on the east side, Donatella (below) has now given her whole name to a Neapolitan restaurant that puts much focus on its oven and particularly its pizzas, but you should not stop at that category on the menu.
Executive Chef Jarrett Appell spent three months in Naples training
with master pizzaiolo Enzo
Coccia last summer before opening the restaurant, and the gold-tiled
oven itself, made from volcanic salt, sand and rock from
Vesuvius, was commissioned from Stefano
Ferrara of Italy’s legendary oven-making Ferrara family.
Donatella is open for lunch and dinner every day. Antipasti $8-$13, pizzas $10-$23, pastas and main courses $15-$24.
403 East 12th St. (corner of 1st Ave)
last few months dining around major
cities throughout the United States, it is obvious to me that NYC has a
great deal of culinary
competition. Cities like San Francisco, Dallas, and Chicago are no
when it comes to their restaurant scenes, but NYC still reigns as the
champion owing to its enormous number of excellent restaurants run by
of the country’s best and most influential chefs like masters
Eric Ripert and Daniel
Boulud, along with an abundance of gastronomic innovations fueled by
the city’s most talented, including Michael White, Alfred Portale,
Humm and Marco Canora.
Mariani send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A ROSÉ BY OTHER NAMES
by Mort Hochstein
knew the rosés I tasted would be better
than good. Our hosts from Provence said they represented the best of
and there were no disappointments among that select
But I hardly perceived that I was moving into a price range more
inhabited by Bordeaux and Burgundy. Then I saw the
retail tabs, topping off at $99.99 and bottoming out at $24.
NOW, DON'T HOLD BACK, DAVE!
''I have to go to China.' I told people this in the way I might say, "` need to insulate my crawl space' or, `I've got to get these moles looked at.' That's the way it felt, though. Like a chore. What initially put me off was the food. I'll eat it if the alternative means starving, but I've never looked forward to it, not even when it seemed exotic to me. . . .On our first night in Chengdu, we joined a group of four for dinner . . . `I've taken the liberty of ordering us some tofu, some mushrooms and some duck tongues,' said the western woman sitting across from me. "Do you trust me to keep ordering, or is there anything in particular you might like?" I looked at her thinking, "You whore!" Catherine was English and had lived in China for close to 20 years. I figured the duck tongues were a sort of test, so I made it a point to look unfazed. Excited even. When I was eventually forced to eat one, I found that it actually wasn't so bad. The only disconcerting part was the shape, particularly the base, from which dangled tentacle-like roots. This reminded one that the tongues had not been cut off but, rather, yanked out, possibly with pliers. Of course the duck was probably dead by then, wasn't it? It's not as if they'd jerk out the tongue and then let it go, traumatized and quackless but otherwise whole. It was while eating my second duck tongue that the man at the next table hacked up a loud wad of phlegm and spat it on to the floor. `I think I'm done,' I said."--David Sedaris, The Guardian (July 15).
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Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
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