Fine Dining at 36,000 Feet

Beth and I are simple people. We ride the subway to work. We do our own laundry. We fly coach.

At 6’4″, however, I don’t regularly fit comfortably into airline seats. I’ve had the pleasure of squeezing my long legs into undersized seats on transoceanic flights to Germany (twice), Japan, England, Hawaii (twice), China, Ireland, and numerous long-distance trips criss-crossing the United States.

Etihad Pearl Business Class Seat
The chair that turns into a bed.

I owe the Sheik of Abu Dhabi a huge debt of gratitude. Through his generous funding of NYU Abu Dhabi, staff and their families get to fly business class. Simply put: it’s heaven. You can get an even better sense of how luxurious it is by watching their online interactive tour.

The chair both reclines and lays all the way down to make a bed. It’s not quite as long as me, but it’s way better than sleeping upright with your knees mashed against the seat in front of you. It also comes with the standard in-flight entertainment system with movies, tv shows, music, and games. They were showing AVATAR, but they’d edited out 20-30 minutes of the movie and it would have been in low-definition and there were no 3D glasses in sight. I passed.

What I did not pass on, however, was the food—the all-you-can-eat cuisine.

We were welcomed on board with champagne (Beth settled for fresh orange juice—we considered making improv mimosas). Shortly after take-off (it must have been around midnight), they came through taking dinner orders. Beth was already asleep, but I indulged:

Smoked Chicken Salad
with peppered melon, avocado, coz lettuce, and honeydew vinaigrette.

Main Course:
Wild Mushroom Risotto
with truffle oil, sun-dried tomato, and asparagus.

State Landt Sauvignon Blanc, 2005
(Awatere Valley, New Zealand)
Described as: A complex and intensely aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is sensuous with aromas of passion fruit and gooseberries. On the palate it is full-bodied with a real concentration of flavor and aroma. A passion fruit character is dominant. This is backed by subtle mineral dry hay characters with a creamy almost nutty complexity and a crisp ripe attractive acidity.

Dinner was also served with an organic five-leaf salad and a very interesting loaf of bread. It was baked with three different types of bread (white, wheat, and something else) all in one small loaf. It was served with hummus, an olive tapanad, and some white stuff I could never identify.

When Beth woke up a few hours later, she rang the flight attendant and ordered breakfast from the “anytime” menu.

Mini Croissant and Chocolate Croissant.

Natural Yogurt with honey, papaya, and granola.

Seasonal Fresh Fruit with white chocolate raspberry fondue.

After watching “Up in the Air” with George Clooney together, I decided to order some chocolate ice cream. It came in a small round bowl, but was frozen so solid that I all could do was roll it around in the bowl. If I let it sit on on side for a couple minutes it would melt enough that I could scrape off a bite or two before rotating 180-degrees and repeating the process all over again.

A little later, we started watching the movie/musical “Nine” and decided we should try to eat one more time before we landed because it might be too late for dinner once we got situated at the hotel. Once again, we ordered off the “anytime” menu.

(Beth) BLT Sandwich with beef bacon, lettuce, tomato, croissant, and roasted garlic aioli.

(Vic) Steak Sandwich with roasted cherry tomato and red onion jam.

(Vic) Langmeil Earthworks Shiraz, 2007 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
Described as: A classic Barossa Shiraz, a beautiful ruby-purple almost opaque red with aromas of blackberry, smoky notes and a hint of vanilla and pepper. This is a medium-bodied, easy drinking Shiraz with good acidity and black pepper astringency. The intense berry flavors with the creamy oak spice linger in the warm dry finish.

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