This blog post is long overdue but it has taken me this long to go through most of my 788 pictures and figure out how to present my trip here. Of course i begin with my favorite topic: FOOD! My first several days were spent on the magical island of Crete. I am pretty sure i could live there on my own little farm with my goat and chickens and olive trees. After milking the goats and preparing the day’s cheese, i could venture into town for my morning shot of Raki with a pastry and Greek lesson with the locals. Then work in the garden before the afternoon heat sent me down to the sea for a dip and a late lunch of stuffed vine leaves and fresh tomatoes. Sigh…a girl can have dreams right?
After Crete we spent 5 days in Santorini which were consumed with breath-taking views, hiking into volcanoes and wine tasting. There was also a great deal of shopping to do. Our trip ended in Athens; a gorgeous city merging the ancient with the modern and nestled around the Acropolis.
Greece is a cornucopia of food bliss and ironically the originator of the cornucopia itself! From my first day in Crete i was in awe of the fresh local produce available for consumption around every corner. Most people have heard about the Mediterranean diet and its amazing health benefits. I had the pleasure of experiencing it first hand.
Everything you hear is true. The olives, capers, tomatoes, peppers, oil, melons and cheese are all bursting with flavor and color. Many of our meals were cooked at home after spending the morning in a local town picking up produce from local farmers in the market squares. Buying our food from the people who produced it, gave me the greatest sense of pleasure and glee.
In my humblest opinion, Crete was the greatest example of local food done well. There is a passion for the land by the people who live there and a strong desire to keep tradition and heritage intact. But i will detail that in another posting.
For now i present my plethora of food images…why did i do this before lunch! i am starving now!
WELCOME TO SARAH’s FOODS OF CRETE!
my first meal after becoming coherent from a long travel day was in the harbor town of Chania on the northwest side of Crete. The town was lovely and this restaurant epitomizes the magic of wandering around on the back streets of town. If you ever make it to Crete check out Steki Taverna…the food was excellent!
this was my first salad. the feta was soft, almost like a salty chevre and the capers were bursting with flavor!
this was my FAVORITE thing ever! a slab of feta was wrapped in light crisp filo fried in olive oil, drizzled with thyme honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. it was served hot and salty. SO GOOD
the following day we ventured into the village of Argyroupoli to sample their avocado products and see this town that is build on the side of a mountain and surrounded by waterfalls. so beautiful and about 20 degrees cooler! I could imagine what it was like there a thousand years ago…less tavernas but same water and trails and smiling faces i hope
Our lovely Taverna owner was plucking fresh trout for lunch. As the meal progressed it became apparent that anyone could take a try with the net but the children had a real knack for it. these fish were fried and served whole with yogurt sauce, capers and lemon.
we dined on the traditional Crete rusk bread (read really dry wheat rolls) covered in fresh mashed tomatoes and fresh feta. we also had rice and herb stuffed zucchini blossoms. SO FRESH!
For dessert we had fresh melon kept cool in a local stream. i wish i had caught a shot of this melon, it was sooooo red and juicy and cold. the tavernas just throw half a cut melon on a plate, stick forks in it and place it in the center of the table…that is what i call good eats!
note the fig tree growing out of the same stream bed. fig trees would grow out of the roof of your car if you let them! they were everywhere.
i opted not to go for the roasted lamb roasting over the open fires about 1 inch from the side of the road. yup i know…big weenie.
on our way home we stopped in the town of Georgioupolis to pick up dinner and cheap beach towels for 2e.
While in the grocery store, I was quite mesmerized with this little contraption! Why oh why do we not have these at every market in town? i have discovered another reason to live on Crete. Just grab a container and select your spigot of choice for local red, local white or local retsina….mmmm retsina. thank you thank you thank you for your Retsina wines. Who cant love wine that is made with the tears of wood nymphs? huh, I wonder what is in the top barrel? i missed that one.
The markets in Iraklion were incredible. we were able to get all of our produce for dinner and breakfast for the next couple of days.
the grapes were so juicy! look at all the bean options!
this woman in her typical black garb was my very favorite. if i had more time…I would have loved to meet her. She brought her own cart to the market. in her cart were fresh eggs, live snails, zucchini blossoms, figs, tomatoes, pears, garlic, oil and wine in recycled water bottles and a variety of herbs. When we came back later in the day, she had packed up and gone home. I hope because she had sold all of her items. I wanted her to take me home and teach me to cook!
that night, i made a ragout of eggplant, tomato, onion and oregano, fresh figs with a local semi hard sheep’s milk cheese and these bitty little pears that packed so much flavor i am still craving them, and a fresh Greek salad with feta…of course!
we dined on the patio of our villa as the cool evening breeze came in over the sea. it was pretty much perfect. we were also working our way through the vast quantities of local Cretan whites.
after an incredible “slow” day in the Amari Valley (which i will blog about extensively) i discovered that the wild vine growing near the pool with the 1 inch spikes was a wild caper plant!! i was so excited that i sat with it for a good long time poking and tasting and sniffing. it really did smell like caper berries!
in crete they eat the buds and the leaves. I have seen pickled caper berries in the states but i didnt see anyone eat one in Crete and after i opened it, i wasnt going to venture either.
they are like tiny ripe watermelon. Can we eat them??
At this point i am taking a giant leap to the north and mycontinued quest for food in Santorini.
I discovered quickly that food is not the main focus of Santorini, it is a place for lovers and sun worshippers and shoppers. Although it was quite gorgeous, i only had 2 meals that stand out and one of them was simply because the view would have made a 4 star Michelin meal pale. So i will begin with what i loved best, the wine!
The grapes on santorini grow close to the ground in small clumps to collect the morning dew from the sea and hold it safe through the hottest parts of the day.
we were lucky enough to tour a local winery called Gavala Vineyards. Gavalas has been producing wines here for 300 years!! lucky for us we were the only people there that day and were given a tasting of 5 delightful wines including a Vinsanto dessert wine that i brought home. I am very much looking forward to the occasion i get to enjoy this!
they still use the old grape stomping vats to produce their wines which pour through the lower right tube into hte basin with a basket to capture the seeds and skins…which of course then become Raki! ohhh Raki…but that is a tale for another time
this was my first great meal in Santorini; Pork Souvlaki with a roasted broccoli and cauliflower salad and lemons…everything had lemons. YUM!
I will leave off this wild food extravaganza with a gorgeous sunset over Thirasia Island and a pair of wineglasses full of local Santorini white. if i squint, i can almost pretend i am still there.