The Restaurant at The Mark Hotel – Jean Georges Vongerichten’s newest addition to his restaurant empire is surprisingly very reasonable for NY- I decided to try small bites, several. Tuna tartar sitting on a tangy lemon caper dressing was light and fresh- not as fabulous as I expected it might be. NEXT PLEASE! Pureed spring pea soup dramatically poured from a small pitcher into a fluffy cloud of Parmesan foam…now that was over the top. MORE PLEASE! Summer follows spring as did my meal selections: perfectly shaped squares of luscious red and yellow watermelon, floating on a shimmer of fruity olive oil, topped with crumbled goat cheese and freshly ground pepper- summer fruit in a sophisticated grown up salad-PERFECT!
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”
A recent jaunt to the city for lunch with a very dear friend, sitting outside at Rose’s Cafe under overhead heaters, we shivered as rain dripped down the canvas awnings…Rain in May? Our corner table did afford us a ringside seat to greet all the friends who passed by; we held court and ignored the dreary rain, dreaming we were really in Paris! One of my best memories of a rainy lunch is of cuddling under an awning at a café in Paris; thunder reverberating off the classic masonry buildings, lightening illuminating the black sky, it was magnificent! Who was that man who took me to Paris? I will never forget the storm and the divine lunch.
I’m still enjoying my recent hues of RED phase; grief creates odd behavior; when I lost my parents in the recent months, I was inspired to paint the dining room and living room bright RED, with glossy black trim…my African art pops in the new environment. My painter’s impression of the first coat of RED: it’s panoramic, Spanish translation: she’s nuts! The RED movement migrated to one of my ‘outdoor rooms’ oversize comfy teak chairs overlooking the white rose garden- RED cushions, the Plaza Athenee RED afternoon sunspot. California living inspires hours in the garden, hours reading in the hammock, hours dining alfresco. I’m ready for patio dinners, reading the Times in the chaise, morning sunshine…
My recent picnic efforts have been hampered by the unusual rainy and cold weather. I vaguely remember one ‘summer’ picnic served in my bedroom with a colorful outdoor umbrella planted in the center of the room, overlooking another white rose garden, a rained out summer picnic…another El Nino spring?
Yummy homemade strawberry ice cream, grilled Argentine steak with Chimichurri sauce, 40 heads of Romaine lettuce sprouting in my summer garden have already provided several delicious Caesar salads; Amangiri chef served a spicy HOT HOT grilled Caesar salad, it will need to be served in the Gaucho Bodega, if the rain continues.
Evocative memories of meals served in outdoor settings: African bush breakfast – divine warm muffins, nuts, fruit and cheese, Kenyan coffee, listening to hippos bellowing from a pond. An Argentine picnic at a lookout at 12,000 feet, latte and petite sweets at The Ritz in Paris, a cold Coke and a bread snack after meeting the women of Langata prison in Nairobi. Sipping Champagne after hitting the ground hard in a hot air balloon, a well-deserved toast to the captain who avoided the herd of elephants and the small lake! Serving vessels and locations are as important as the food. Amangiri meals are delivered in three-tiered Indian baskets- perfect and dramatic – the opening act for the homemade pastries and granola. Set the stage! A late afternoon Tusker and chips in the bush, sundowner cocktails, speeding across the bay in a Venezia water taxi, English wicker basket with china in tow; mint tea and dates in a Moroccan oasis, white tablecloth dinner in a tree house high above the jungle floor, breakfast with the rising sun at the end of a wooden pier on Lake Victoria, monitor lizards swimming nearby…wherever you are, pause and linger and make each and every meal a moment to treasure.
To tempt you and remind you that spring is here and summer really is around the corner, photos of memorable alfresco meals.