Don O’Neill, creative director of THEIA Couture, understands the relationship between food and fashion more than most. After all, he left a budding career as a chef to become a fashion designer. We caught up with the Irish-born style aficionado and discover an unequivocal food envy as he recounts his most memorable meal. THEIACouture.com
“My most memorable meal has to be one of many magical evenings spent on the paradisiac “Little Palm Island”—a private resort off little Torch Key, down in the Florida Keys. With just thirty bungalows, a maximum of sixty guests, no televisions and no wi-fi, the Island is a haven. The beach-front restaurant, sheltered under a giant canopy of palm trees, features giant floor-to-ceiling doors that open out onto an outside deck. A dozen or so tables are also set up on the white sandy beach, at the water’s edge. The tables are set with flowing white linens dipping in the sand, stem crystal and silverware gleaming as the sun begins to sink towards the horizon. We arrived at 6.30 pm, both of us dressed in white linen, along with other guests smartly dressed in “resort wear”—some barefoot in the sand. We were escorted to our tables by the gracious staff. Chilled champagne arrived immediately, condensation beading in droplets on the outside of the ice cold flutes, catching the orangey-red hues of the setting sun.
As we clinked our glasses, “Happy Anniversary,” the crystal clear water was gently lapping a few feet from our table, its shimmering surface soon blazing as we soaked in the sensational view of the setting sun. Amuse bouches arrived as we pondered the gourmet five-star menu, Hudson Valley foie gras torchon to start for sure, followed by wonderful fresh seasonal salads, sorbet to refresh the palate.
After the sunset, the beach was romantically lit by dozens of Tiki torches, and on our tables, candles in tall glass hurricane cylinders. I had a main course of Quail and my partner Pascal, Breast of Duck, served with asparagus gratin. Dessert was one of the most memorable soufflés we have ever eaten, perfectly light, hot and fluffy, poked in the center with a silver spoon into which a lemon cream sauce was poured—heaven in a porcelain ramekin. Plates of petite fours and delicate tiny house chocolates arrived with our chamomile teas. A large fire now blazing in the fire pit to the side of the beach; shadows leaping, as some couples chose to go sit by the fire. We lingered at our table, our champagne bucket still ice cold with the last of our bubbles, our toes tracing circles in the soft sand beneath the table, the inky black surface of the ocean reflecting the flames of the Tiki torches, the soft laughter of couples, a guitar quietly playing in the distance, the sky now a giant canopy of twinkling stars. Hand in hand we gazed at them, feeling blessed and so, so in love.”