Dining alfresco – “in the fresh air” – is one of my favorite indulgences.  When offered the choice between two restaurants for dinner, I’ll undoubtedly pick the one with courtyard seating.  And when an insouciantly early summer arrived in California this month, I decided that serving dinner alfresco would be the perfect homage to the gorgeous weather.

Former W editrix and Vogue writer, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, explains alfresco etiquette in her book, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite.  Jessica states that the custom of alfresco began with the Roman Empire, where “average citizens celebrated festivals under giant tents, in imitation of the nomadic kings of the East, who traveled in sprawling tented cities.”  The tradition carried over to the French, who enjoyed fetes champetres in Tuileries by the Seine with exacting formality.   The alfresco craze finally made it to America in the 1920’s, when the New York Times observed that, “every New Yorker, and every stranger in New York who can possibly make it is trying to [dine] on some roof somewhere, somehow.”


                         Photograph courtesy of Domino magazine

I carried on the opulent ritual in my own backyard, pairing a steak and arugula salad with a refreshingly floral Fisher Vineyards rose.  I was surprised by how light and crisp this salad was, given the heavy combination of grilled meat, peppery arugula, and parmigiano reggiano.  Somehow the lemon and Dijon managed to fuse the rich flavors together to produce the most scrumptious summer salad. 

 Though the weather took a turn toward winter today, I will keep this recipe on hand for the next time the sun pops its illustrious head through the rolling San Francisco fog.  xx tt

Recipe – adapted from Barefoot Contessa (serves 2)


·  2 one-inch thick steaks (whatever your pleasure, I used New York Strip)

·  8 ounces baby arugula

·  2 lemons

·  1 avocado

·  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

·  ½ cup olive oil (plus more for brushing the steaks)

·  Chunk of parmigiano reggiano 

·  Kosher salt

·  Ground pepper


·  Prepare barbeque

·  Brush each side of the steaks with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper

·  Set aside for 15 minutes

·  Juice lemons (I use this)

·  Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper

·  When grill is hot, place steaks on and grill 10 minutes per side (medium-rare)

·  Remove to a plate, cover tightly with foil

·  Let steaks rest for 10 minutes, then cut thick slices

·  Cut avocado into cubes

·  Toss arugula, dressing, avocado

·  Plate the salad, and place steak strips on top

·  Shave parmigiano reggiano with a vegetable peeler on top of steak salad

·  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, serve warm!