Showing posts with label Greek food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek food. Show all posts

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Mediterranean Diet ~ A Taste of Greece

Okay, time to fess up. . .our time in Greece has seemed an almost non-stop Food Festival.

New flavors. New dishes. New settings. Far too many temptations. Our houseguests usually ask at some point during their visits, 'Do you ever eat at home?' as we race them from one eatery to another trying to show all of our favorites in a short span of time.

We do eat at home, but with so many good eats at affordable -- often ridiculously inexpensive -- prices, we've found ourselves eating out often and soaking up the spirit of dining here.

An array of mezes are offered BEFORE the main course at this taverna
That time honored ritual of eating - not the grab-a-bite-and-be-on-our-way kind-- but that which  makes dining an event is still very real in Greece. A 2015 article in The Atlantic magazine examining the rituals of eating could have been written about dining in Greece:

'How food is experienced has everything to do with the decor, 
with the rituals surrounding the meal, with the company, 
and with the experience.'

Dinner out in the village - good food and good friends 

Going out to dinner -- or even out to lunch here -- can span several hours of savoring tastes, soaking in the atmosphere, and engaging in conversation with your dining companions or even folks you know who might be passing by your street side table.

Summer nights in the village the road closes to accommodate taverna diner

The Mediterranean Diet - Greek-style

The Mediterranean Diet
In general the diet consists of fruits and vegetables, 
beans and nuts,
healthy grains,
olive oil
small amounts of meat and dairy
and . . .red wine!

The 'Mediterranean Diet' is one inspired by the eating habits of Greece, Southern Italy and Spain in the 1940's and 1950's. Those fresh, healthy foods that made up the diet then remain a centerpiece of Greek eats today.

If you've traveled in Greece you know that the flavors and menu offerings vary by region. So while the food items may appear to be the same, the regional influences: spices, preparation and cooking make each dining experience different. Take, for example, our trip to the island of Spetses that I told you about last week. It is only 4.5 hours from our home, and basic menu items appear to be 'like home', but the preparation made the flavors delightfully different.

A typical order of fish
Fish, (which most people seem to think we eat all the time) is a key part of a Mediterranean diet. So, true confession: we seldom eat fish in Greece. Its presentation and cost doesn't appeal. It is usually served whole, and grilled looking much like the one in the photo above. It is sold by the kilo (1 kilo is 2.2.pounds) price, so a whole fish could cost 55 to 60 euros. You could eat several full meals without fish for the price of a single fish.

Marinated anchovies, mussels in mustard sauce, Spetses-style fish, dessert

However, we did eat seafood in Spetses: the presentation, the variety, the flavors and prices all appealed. The collage above shows a selection of foods served to us during our stay on this small Saronic island. The white anchovies (no bones) were marinated in lemon sauce and olive oil, the mussels in a mustard sauce make my mouth-water just writing the words, the Spetses-style fish was a white fish smothered in a red sauce, almost a stew of vegetables, and far more interesting than a whole fish on a plate. The complimentary dessert was a baked apple, scoop of ice cream and philo dough bites.

A pitcher of our fresh-pressed olive oil
So aside from not eating fish regularly you would think that living and dining in the Land of the Mediterranean Diet would keep us fit, trim and healthy, wouldn't you?

Not quite! In February we faced the fact that it wasn't the camera angles, it wasn't the clothes shrinking, it wasn't our bathroom scales or the doctor's office blood tests being out-of-whack: we were having a wee bit too much of a Food Festival. Yes, too much of a good thing can be, too much. And we admit we weren't really eating that healthy version of a Mediterranean diet. After all, those yummy oregano-flavored potato chips, just don't fit the diet's intent. . .

The Ancient Greeks nailed it: In all Things Moderation

So we set out to change our eating: we gave up foods made with refined sugar and flour (pastas and breads and baked goods) and cut back on carbs (potatoes, potato chips and crackers) and passed on the desserts, with a fruit plate being an exception. We refreshed our Mediterranean diets by mixing in a bit of the Keto diet and the Glycemic Load diet philosophies.

You might say we are following the advice of Ancient Greeks who sang the praises of moderation.

Mushrooms stuffed with cheese, green salad 

'Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things,' 
              -- Greek poet Hesiod.

Mediterranean salad with Balsamic dressing and Greek cheese

'We should pursue and practice moderation.'
-- Plato, philosopher.

Grill plate with tomatoes, not potatoes
'Moderation, the noblest gift of Heaven'
--Euripides, Greek playwright.

A meze of fava beans topped with roasted tomatoes, capers,garlic and olive oil

We still drink those 'miso kilos' (pitchers) of Greek wine and we still dine out often. We indulge in a bite-sized piece of dark chocolate regularly. We've found that switching potatoes to tomatoes is quite easy and passing up bread isn't a sacrifice. We've substituted cucumber and zucchini slices for crackers and potato chips at home. We've not sworn off any food completely, allowing guilt-free indulgences every so often. We don't consider ourselves 'dieting'.  Yet, we've each lost 12 pounds.

Kali Orexi

Kali Orexi, means literally, 'good appetite' but is often the wish offered to diners as food is served in Greece, meaning 'have a good meal'.  

A meze dinner is our favorite kind of meal

And having a good meal  isn't hard to do in Greece even when you've modified your eating habits! The photo above shows a recent dinner at a restaurant in Stoupa, our neighboring village. From the top left,tomato balls and a yogurt dip, Mani sausage (orange flavored) with horta (greens instead of potatoes), sautéed mushroom, and oven-baked garbanzo beans with a cheese topping.

With a wish that many of you get a chance to taste the real flavors of Greece one day while sitting at a harbor-side taverna or a sleek 5-star restaurant, we'll sign off for this week. We thank you for the time you spent with us today and look forward to being back next week when we will be back to talking travel.

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Monday, July 10, 2017

Life in Greece: “Do You Ever Eat at Home?”

“I am just wondering,” asked my friend Elana, “do you ever eat at home? I mean, do you cook?”

It was a valid question. She'd been at The Stone House on the Hill a couple days and never eaten a bite there.

Stoupa Restaurant has views of the sea and the village
It made me laugh and I answered in the affirmative but she likely didn’t believe me. From the moment she and her husband had arrived we’d traveled in high gear from one location to the next as we tried to have them experience all our favorite eateries.

With even the heartiest of appetites and the best of good intentions, with so many places from which to choose, it just wasn’t going to happen in the few days they were with us. They ended their visit not once eating a meal at The Stone House on the Hill.

PicMonkey Collage
Is it the food or the views that bring us back to this tavern in Kardamyli?
When discussing houseguests with our ex pat friends who live in our slice of The Mani we often ponder the difficulties and dilemmas of how many places can we take our visitors before we all succumb to that heavenly near-coma state brought on by overeating.

With a typical visit lasting three or four nights, we have to squeeze a lot of eating into a short amount of time.

PicMonkey Collage
Moussaka and chips to the left; seafood pastitsio on the right

What, Where and How much?

Actually Elana’s question was one asked by many. Eating – the what, when and where – is one of the biggest curiosities we’ve found that people have about our life in the Greek Peloponnese.

* Do you have a grocery store nearby?
Yes! A large supermarket, several bakeries and the ‘fruit man’ makes regular runs through the villages selling fruits and veggies from his truck.
* Can you get rose wine there?
Yes! White, red and rose – served in pitchers in quarter-, half- and kilo amounts is the most economical at restaurants (never more than 6-euros for the largest) but sometimes we ‘splurge’ and buy a bottle (10 – 20-euro restaurant price) and drink to our heart’s content for far less than in the U.S.
* Are there restaurants near you?
Yes! Definitely!

What is Greek food?

In the United States we came to know Greek food as being a ‘Greek salad’, a gyro (yh-ero, not JI-roe) those pitas wrapped around meat, French fries, tomatoes and onions and slathered with tzatziki sauce. Or the multi-layered traditional Greek dishes, moussaka (layers of aubergine, potato, minced meat (hamburger) and topped with a bechamel) or pastitsio, (layers of pasta and meat or fish dish with bechamel).

Easter's traditional meal - roasted lamb
Little did we know of the wonders of the varieties of Greek dishes: their stifados (slow-cooked, stew-like dishes), their grilled lamb, pork and beef, their beet root creations, oh, . . .how the list could go on. A plate of giant beans is ambrosia when eaten in a Greek taverna. The pastas and pizzas rival those produced by the Italians to the north. The fresh greens, tomatoes used in salads – not to mention that slab of feta (which rivals gold prices if purchased in the US) brings exclamations from all our visitors.

PicMonkey Collage
Salads we have known, loved and eaten
Sometimes I am not sure if it is the cuisine that makes these places our favorites or if it is the settings or the warmth and charm of the owners. Perhaps it is the lovely combination of all those factors.

PicMonkey Collage
A favorite restaurant of ours is housed in an old olive press in a nearby mountain village

Eating at Home

Truth is we do eat at home. Quite often.

As I said earlier, tree-ripened fruit and just-picked vegetables are in abundance. The ‘fruit man’ makes a regular run through the villages several times a week. Several fishermen sell their catch at the harbor each morning. Just across the street from the harbor there’s a meat market, a bakery is a few steps away. Kalamata, the big city an hour away has a large municipal market operating two days a week and Aeropolis, a bit closer and to our south operates a Saturday market.

For less than 10 euro. . .
And it is fun to try new recipes. Converting ingredient amounts to the Metric systems is a bit like solving a puzzle and challenges the brain. Although sometimes it is nice to just ‘whip up’ a salad for casual deck dining.

The bowl and serving tongs are gifts from friends
Or when the autumn or early spring chill keeps us indoors, it is fun to light a fire in the fireplace and serve up a helping of something slow-cooked during the day.

We don't eat this 'formally' most nights.
So a note to future houseguests: bring loose clothing and an adventuresome appetite as we plan to have you sampling some incredible food served in the most picturesque locations you’ll ever find and at prices so incredibly low that you, too, will ask,

“Do you ever eat at home?”

Thanks for your many comments on last week's post about down-sizing and de-cluttering.  It is nice to know we aren't alone in this tedious task! We are taking a break this week in the declutter and downsizing efforts and are off to visit The Scout’s hometown in Central Washington State.  I’m writing a freelance article about it and we’ve got some researching to do! I'll tell you about what we find in a future post.

Hope to see you back next week and until then safe and healthy travels to you and yours. And - as always - our thanks for being with us~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

inking up this week with:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Greece ~ A Time of Harvest, not Halloween

The olive harvest season officially got its start in this part of the Greek Peloponnese on Oct. 26th, St. Dimitrios name day. At The Stone House on the Hill, harvest took place a few days later on the day commonly known as Halloween back in the States. (I am happy to report the U.S. hasn’t yet exported that holiday to this region; there wasn’t a ghost, goblin, costume or party anywhere to be seen).


Here, the olive and its harvest take top billing this time of year.


I’d been envisioning this harvest since last December when we purchased The Stone House on the Hill with its olive terraces that slope down the hillside on which the house sits.  There are 15 olive trees on the property some estimated to be a 100 years old, plus one we planted after taking ownership.

PicMonkey Collage

My daydreams about the event (thanks to Frances Mayes and Peter Mayle whose tales of  Tuscany and Provence inspire such adventures) had us harvesting under blue skies, surrounded by friends, drinking and eating and making it an event worthy of a book about our lives here in Greece.   Reality quickly set in:


The wind didn’t just blow the weekend of our harvest, it howled. We had to interrupt harvest for an hour to allow a rain squall to drench the trees and ground. No singing like Zorba. No eating like Frances. No drinking like Peter.  It was work. Hard work. (But you know? It was also fun!)


We’d had the good sense to hire our gardener and his wife to assist us since we didn’t have the slightest idea of how to harvest olives. Ares and Donika came with equipment loaned to us by our friend Yiannis who runs the family restaurant at the foot of our hill and who also owns 1,000 olive trees.


We had some of the easier tasks: Joel hauled the cut branches -- from which we had beaten off the olives -- to the burn pile. While Ares ran the automated olive-shaker-offer and cut branches, I helped beat those fallen branches so that the olives were released onto the enormous nets spread below the trees to catch them.  Donika and I would then get on our hands and knees to sort the smaller branches from the olives. We’d all roll the nets and put the olives in the burlap bags.


The grove, like the house, had been neglected for the past few years – trees hadn’t been trimmed, olives not harvested and weeds grew as tall as the grove’s terrace walls. So even the TLC we bestowed in recent months, we didn’t have a bumper crop but that didn’t detract from the fact it was ‘our’ olive crop and we were in Greece harvesting it!


It took a full morning to harvest our small crop. We were ready to quit but to begin preparations for next year’s crop Ares returned in the afternoon for the first round of trimming the trees. They’ll get another cut in February.


That afternoon at 5 p.m. we watched our olives become oil. Let me tell you that in life’s magic moments, this ranks right at the top of the scale! That’s our crop I am standing next to, we were the next order up:


And then there they went! Within minutes our first harvest had come to an end. . .or so we thought.


I posted a real time report on FB Saturday evening while we were at Yianni’s restaurant for dinner. But a few hours later we got a call saying they’d sent us off with the wrong oil (mysteries of oil production) so the next morning we returned those two cans and left with our olive oil:  4.5 gallons of oil (shown in the photos below).


A number of you asked after seeing the FB post about what one does with that much oil.  There are options of selling it to the processor or leasing out the grove to others who will manage it, harvest and then provide you a portion of the oil. We didn’t produce enough this year to worry about it.


The proof is in the pudding they say. . .and let me tell you, this oil is nectar of the gods! Wish all of you could sit around our table breaking fresh loaves of bread, cutting chunks of feta cheese and smothering both in big servings of olive oil.

Hope you’ll return for more tales from our adventures in Greece.  We appreciate the time you spend with us and look forward to your comments!  Safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 26, 2015

Greece ~ Trahila, That Treasure at the End of the Road

Often times while discussing . . . okay. . . make that gushing over, our Greek Stone House on the Hill with friends in the United States they ask,

“Well, aside from the house, what is it you like about Greece? Why Greece?”

“Many things,” we say, ticking off our rather grandiose and tourist brochure sounding list: the country’s beauty, the people, the food, the culture, the history. . .it is the same things other travelers or ex pats are likely to say about the country.

The Stone House on the Hill and our neighboring mountain behind us
The one thing we usually don’t try to explain -- because you simply have to be there to understand this -- is the thrill of discovery and the diversity of experiences that seems to be waiting just around the corner. Not earth-shattering discoveries and experiences, mind you, but the kind that lodge in your memory banks and tug at your heartstrings; those experiences that make it difficult to leave and and prompt a yearning for a quick return. 

Such is the case with Trahila, a tiny village near us, quite literally at the end of the road, tucked between that green hill and mountain pictured above.

Just around the corner from our house on the road to Trahila

The narrow ribbon of road that links ‘our’ villages, Agios Nikolaos, and Agios Dimitrios, forks at the base of the hill. Going to your left will take you up the hill, past our house, to another village named Platsa, but taking a right turn will take you along a coastal route that brings the area’s rugged beauty right up to the edge of the road, that leads to Trahila.

Trahila, The Mani, Greek Peloponnese

After a few kilometers of breathtaking scenery the road narrows a bit more and winds through the village before coming to an end just beyond the village proper.

PicMonkey Collage
Trahilo village on a summer afternoon

Our first visit here was in the early spring when window shutters were closed on the stately stone buildings. It was so deserted it felt spooky. By early summer though the place had come to life: the town’s two tavernas were open and seasonal residents were back! The tavernas are the only commercial businesses in town. The village, with a year-round population of a couple of dozen people, doesn’t have a store of any sort.

By the sea, the salt-producing sea in Trahilo

Here the only other commercial enterprise (aside from the few fishing boats) is the gathering and selling of sea salt by some of the local women. This path pictured above leads to tidal pools where the salt crystals form.

Petro's Place or Akrogiali Restaurant in Trahilo - at the end of the road

Our friends and neighbors were raving about Petro’s, one of the two tavernas in Trahila. After our first visit to his eatery, its formal name, Akrogiali, we understood the place’s popularity.  His wife prepares the food in a small kitchen to the side of the restaurant’s indoor seating area; he’s the tour guide proudly raising the lids on various pots and pans to let you see and smell their contents.

The fruit and vegetable vendor roams the streets of the The Mani

We take the tour and then settle in at one of the half dozen tables that overlook the sea. Like many Greek waterfront village restaurants, the road bisects the business. Thankfully there isn’t much traffic aside from a local or two and the roaming fruit vendors. Those roaming vendors make it easy to purchase produce while waiting for your meal to be served.

PicMonkey Collage
Our favorite meal at Petro's in Trahilo

Petro routinely brings a plate of treats to munch while sipping our wine and waiting for the souvlaki we’d order there to finish grilling.  Although we had to take some of it home, we couldn’t resist his offer of dessert (both the pre- and post-entre plates were gratis). Dinner: 10 euros plus tip.

Trahilo, at the end of the Road

The taverna will be open until November 10th, overlapping the start of olive harvest by about a week as is the way with many restaurants in this area where the countryside is carpeted with olive groves.  Families must focus on harvest and oil production so their restaurants close for the season. I've already marked the 2016 reopening date on my calendar (March 20th if you are in the area)~

Map picture

The Bing map above shows our area of Greece with the larger Ag. Nikolaos near the top and Trahila on the bay just above the measurement line.

Thanks for your time today – hope you enjoyed this trip to the end of the road. We've now been at our Greek home for several weeks and will be here for the remainder of the fall. With most of our big projects completed around the house, we are setting out to explore and I will give you a glimpse into the ex pat life we are living - but I have a few more cruise tales that I'll be telling as well. As always our thanks for stopping by! And today if you have a bit of time, hit one of the links below and take a look at the destinations and daily life of some fine bloggers from around the world.

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Where Kalamata is More than an Olive

“The olive? . . . Isn’t that the name of an olive?” we’ve been asked when we start singing the praises of Kalamata.

DSCF2262Correct! It is an olive to be sure.

But it is also the name of the second largest city in Greece’s Peloponnese; a place that won our hearts this summer.
And Kalamata lends its name to this plump, blackish-purple olive sold in deli’s worldwide. The leaves, like the olives are larger than other varieties.  Kalamata olives can’t be picked green. They ripen in late November and must be hand-picked to avoid bruising.

Early morning in Kalamata, Greece

Kalamata, with more than 50,000 residents, is a vibrant city offering festivals and musical events in the summer when tourists flock to its beaches and fill the dozens of hotels along the waterfront. It is a market town with a variety of stores, hospitals and medical centers. Its airport – with an increasing number of flights this year – is a gateway to this area of the Peloponnese.

DSCF0009 It is just a bit more than a three hour drive from the Athens Airport on a modern-freeway with toll booths and rest stops (with gasoline stations and restaurants) at regular intervals along the way. The freeway circumvents Athens so it is an easy-drive even for those on a first-time road trip.

You can't get lost on this road trip: the freeway from Athens ends at Kalamata. From here travels in The Mani are on two-lane roadways.

Sidewalk cafes line the pedestrian-friendly city center
DSCF0216On the Greek “cute-o-meter” the buildings in Kalamata can’t compete with the likes of postcard perfect Santorini and Mykonos.

On the other hand those two islands weren’t leveled by an earthquake as was Kalamata in 1986. Of such a magnitude, it killed 20 people and destroyed 10,000 homes. Evidence of the damage is still visible on buildings in the downtown.

Amazingly its 13th Century Ayii Apostoli (Holy Apostles) church in the heart of the city’s historical district required repair but remained standing. It is said, that in 1821 The Greek War of Independence from Turkey was declared at this church.

Ayii Apostoli Church
The town is built on the site of ancient Pharai - so old a place that it is described by Homer as subject to the kingdom of Agamemnon. There’s a long story surrounding Kalamata, its modern name, but the short version is that its from a miracle working icon of the Virgin Mary known as ‘kalo mata’ (good eye).

Unlike our visit here last spring when the streets were empty and the town seemed dead, the place was simply hopping with beach- and sun-loving tourists this summer:

PicMonkey Collage
Sun-bonnets and hats are displayed for sale throughout the town
While we spent our time in town working on tasks related to the failed home purchase, we still could enjoy the beach and marina before and after trips to the bank, government offices and other such destinations.

Pharae Palace Hotel on Kalamata's waterfront
In fact, we stayed twice this summer at a hotel called Pharae Palace, where for 70-euros a night, we had an ocean-side balcony room and the price included free wi-fi (that worked!) and a lavish buffet breakfast – one of the best we’ve had in Europe served in its rooftop bar and restaurant, The Loft, a place that offered 180-degree views.

PicMonkey Collage
Views from The Loft
History buffs will want to visit its three museums: The Archaeological Museum of Messenia – where displays are divided into provincial regions; a Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata that highlights the town’s bygone days; and a free Military Museum (where all the signage is in Greek).

If You Go:

For more information:

As always we appreciate the time you spend with us! And thank you so much for recommending TravelnWrite to others and sharing links to the blog on Facebook!! Hope your travels continue to be good ones whether actual or armchair.  See you back here again later this week.

Linking with:
Mosaic Monday
Foodie Tuesday


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