/ Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good morning darlings! I'm back from Greece with so much to share. My brilliant plan of bringing my computer to blog as I ate failed miserably. There's no Wi-Fi in paradise. So I suppose I'll just start from the beginning. This first post was written during our first nautical adventure, a ferry ride from Crete to Santorini. Here she is...

" Four days. Twelve meals. One trip to the food store. Yassa tout le monde! It’s day 4 of my vacation in Greece and I’m anything but famished. Perched on the deck of Speed Runner, a ferry from the island of Crete to Santorini, I’ve already had a frappe, thick yogurt and a piece of walnut bread. Where do I even begin to share the tastes of a place that has totally captured my stomach?

We arrived in Athens Sunday morning and immediately boarded a second flight to the southern most island – Crete. Beyond its immediate beauty there are culinary advantages to being on a large island. There is a bountiful variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and livestock available to consumers in Crete (as opposed to smaller islands where your options may be limited.) As we made our way to the old Venetian town of Chania, we passed olive groves, lemon trees and wild goats that climbed the rock along the national highway. In fact, Crete exports its produce to many other islands through out the year. But enough agricultural chatter for now; let me introduce you to our lodging.

The building that is now the Vilemine Hotel was bombed out during WWII. The structure was restored to its original state by the hotel owners and now welcomes visitors to 8 rooms looking over the church plaza. The architecture remains true to the buildings Venetian roots, bringing to mind images of salty merchants who used Chania’s port as a main stop on their trade routes.

My favorite feature of the hotel – proino (Breakfast! My favorite meal, DUH.) Each morning the taverna downstairs set out a table of yogurt, small sandwiches, Greek pastries and some fruit. We’d take our plates down to the square below, where our waitress would visit with café and freshly squeezed orange juice. (You could see the huge whicker basket of oranges waiting in the kitchen. Why don’t more people squeeze?) I’m fascinated by the lack of concern leaving dairy products unrefrigerated, even with the heat. Eggs, yogurt and milk can sit out all daylong without bothering anyone – neither their minds nor their stomachs. Yogurt served just below room temperature is delightful! It has a great mouth feel and doesn’t cause your honey to harden as it might in cold yogurt.

Another breakfast stand-out – koulourakia two ways. Koulourakia is a hard cookie that we often eat at home during family get-togethers. The simple dough is flavored with a bit of orange water. This is the first time, however, that’s have had a darker-spicier version of koulourakia. It’s referred to by the same name, yet gets its rich flavor from cinnamon that’s mixed into the dough. They taste vaguely like hard spicy cookies, or gingersnaps, but the aftertaste is much earthier (perfect for dipping in strong café!) Yaya Ulga makes a sugar-dairy free version for fasting that is similar. I’ll have to ask her to divulge the secrets of making ‘em once we reach Ikaria.

Our first lunch was spent at a taverna on the harbor in Chania. We began the meal with tapanade, fresh bread and horiatiki, or Greek salad.

Greek salad in Greece is different than its American counter part because there’s no lettuce in the salad. Thick cut tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, red onion and olives are topped with a square of feta, and sprinkled with Greek oregano…that’s it! Back in the States the deal is pretty much the same, just plopped ontop of a bed of greens. I must admit I prefer the leaf-free method.

As an appetizer, we also shared kolokithokeftedes, zucchini croquettes. Like many other vegetable fritters, the croquettes are crisp on the outside and give way to a tender center. A hint of mint brightens the fried cakes. Shredded veggies are used in a number of Greek dishes, including stuffed tomatoes, peppers and onions. Veggies stuffed with veggies! It’s a vegan’s dream come true.
(Photos to come.)

Papoutsakia was my lunch of choice. It’s an eggplant dish made with many of the same ingredients as pasticcio. Small eggplants are filled with a meat sauce, covered with béchamel, and then broiled to form a cheesy crust. I image you could do that with almost any vegetable. What isn’t improved with some ground meat and melted cheese?

Faja went for veal cooked in tomato sauces with tiganites patates, French fries! The same cooking method is used with chicken or lamb. Faja used the tomato broth as impromptu ketchup for his fries. Hints of cinnamon and clove were tucked into the meat, as well as the sauce. The added spice made it much more palatable than your standard meat and potatoes.

Perhaps the greatest difference between Greek and American dining is the speed with which you take your meals. (I suppose that’s true when you pit America against any European country.) Meals in Greece last for 2 hours or more, and always end with a small gift from kitchen to your table. Usually this takes the form of a complementary dessert or bottle of booze. During our first lunch, we were surprised with a large plate of watermelon. There may not be any seedless melon here, but the fruit is SO sweet and SO juicy you hardly mind the added work of spitting out the pits. (Aim them at your friends and you’ll have dinner entertainment without leaving your seat!)

There are more photos and more meals to share but I’m running out of battery and there are not outlets in sight. I miss you all and cannot wait to give you another glimpse into our Greek get-away. Enjoy your Wednesday!

Alrighty, this concludes the first thing I wrote to you during my vacation. The rest of the posts will come as soon as we install internet into our new apartment!! Can't wait. Enjoy!

No comments

Post a Comment

Let's chat! And be sure to check back—I make an effort to respond to every comment! xo EEP

© Hey, EEP!. Design:Maira Gall.