By Nehal Tipnis – Quality Assurance, Holachef
Nature has lent me an enormous appetite for food and the culinary world. My first hit was at the age of 12 when I made granny-taught ‘just about perfect’ besan laddoos & she exclaimed at the finesse of them. I knew then, that I’m in love with food.
Having travelled and explored cuisines over the years, a 10 day trip to Greece – my first international destination, remains a very special one for the exceptional food I could explore. Greek food is so much about olives (they extend much beyond the plate too) especially the Kalamata variety – being the king of olives, fresh herbs, wines, delectable juicy fruits, plump tomatoes, and my most favourite Greek honey. Travelling through Athens, Mykonos, Santorini & Crete islands, here is a list of food I tried at these lovely destinations and which made me fall in love with the places all the more.
We had the most amazing Greek salad with freshly made thick, white & creamy slices of feta and drizzled with humongous amounts of olive oil, fresh rosemary & other herbs at Athens. The scent of it all still lingers on my mind! Another delicacy here were the gyros that we ate in the local road-side restaurants. Gyros are typically a roll stuffed with meat (vegetarian version were rarely available), accompanied by fries and house-made sauces. These are best had with local beer made in their wineries (one named Mythos was my favourite).
An island created by a volcano and notched atop a cliff, Santorini overlooks the beautiful and blue Aegean Sea. So every restaurant or hotel is perched on the hill in such a manner that from anywhere you look, you face the never-ending horizon of the sea with it’s cool air blowing over your face at all times. The view is enough to make you forget your hunger, but alas we felt the pangs more than often! Here we had some of the best pasta dishes, made by local top chefs, who used the freshest of herbs right from the plants lined at the restaurant garden- plucking them in front of you and allowing a whiff so you know you are in for a magical treat! The dish is relished with the finest of rose wines (a Greek local speciality), a house salad with plump red cherry tomatoes, feta, olive oil & other local ingredients along with the mesmerising view of Aegean sea, we couldn’t have asked for more!
Although every island in Greece is blessed with unexplored, rustic, un-touched and beautiful beaches, Mykonos is a favorite tourist attraction due to abundant coasts, exciting nightlife, a lively town (town-side as they call it) and lots of fun activities. Seafood was in abundance here, and of the finest taste & quality. Being a vegetarian, my meal choices were limited to pizzas, salads and pastas but certainly not disappointing at all. So, here we dug a lot into pizzas. I had some amazing hand-made, thin crust, yummy & supercilious pizzas at the local restaurants. Most of the places in Greece like to keep their pizzas simple – plenty of fresh tomato puree, olives, fresh herbs, lots of feta or other local cheese and vegetables with an abundant splash of olive oil!
A mix of beauty and bustle, Crete has a pretty port where all ferries ship passengers coming in from other islands. Certain parts of Crete have extremely beautiful beaches with pristine & clear blue-green waters. Having our fill of pizzas and pastas during the day, we also ensured on a king-sized breakfast to pack us with all the energy and power to hop around. Greek breakfast is truly meant for kings. The fare has fresh pickled olives, golden juicy peaches, creamy and super healthy yogurt, oodles of pure golden Greek honey, fresh & juicy sliced tomatoes & cucumbers, creamy olive oil & herb drizzled feta, fresh oranges and nectarines. This is paired with different breads, house-made tea-cake, pancakes with maple syrup and chocolate spread, preserved fruit, dried nuts and much more. This is infact a typical breakfast spread at any of the island restaurants in Greece. Peach-n-yogurt with honey was my personal favourite. And yes, Greek honey is the most awesome honey that I ever had so far. it’s taste, texture & intricate detailed aroma is simply unforgettable.
Here are a few locally made items the foodies can bring back home – wines (made in-house), a variety of cheese, cooking herbs & spices and I would strongly recommend Greek honey. Apart from these, do try olive oil soaps, hand-crafted items from olive wood, stone/pearl jewelry (exclusively found in Santorini), bath salts (they have one of the most aromatic and tantalizing ones) and olive oil cosmetics.
In addition to beautiful memories and experiences, the trip has surely added an all-that’s-Greek compartment to my kitchen shelf!