I’m back from Greece and I return with lots of fond memories of my vacation spent with family and friends. In the coming days, weeks, months you will read of the places I visited, read of my favourite destinations and delight in the food and recipes I’ve brought back from Greece.
While in Greece, I thought to create a post where I list my favourite, most memorable dishes enjoyed during my vacation. These are obviously my opinions and they are based solely on where I visited in Greece this past summer.
The purpose of this “best of” post is to highlight some of the delicious food I enjoyed and to give praise to those who created these dishes. I welcome your comments, add your favourites…as they may help others to choose where to eat when they visit Greece.
Best Lobster pasta – Mentis taverna in Elafonisos. This taverna is last along the string of eateries and cafes as you walk to the right after disembarking from your ferry boat ride to this island. This long time taverna serves fresh fish and seafood and their service and smile make it a joy to eat here. They have a young chef in the kitchen and his version of Astakomakaronada with hints of star anise remain vivid in my memory.
Best Horiatiki (Greek) Salad – Estiatorio Milos Athens. Milos began in Montreal and they now have restaurants in New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Athens. Our waiter mentioned they will soon open in London. The Athens location is in the Hilton and we stopped in for dinner. The service and all the dishes were exceptional but the Horiatiki was tremendous, with the ripe, firm yet sweet tomatoes, perfectly seasoned and served with delicious barrel aged Feta.
Best Greek Breakfast – Acropolis Musuem restaurant. If you want to eat an affordable meal in Athens, go thee to the New Acropolis Museum. Regardless of the dishes you order, they will only contain Greek ingredients. A new movement in Greece is to change the Greek breakfast that is served at hotels, pension rooms, resorts. The best example of the Greek breakfast was at the Acropolis Museum with fresh orange juice, an array of Greek teas, artisan breads & marmalades, Greek honey & cheeses and an array of traditional Greek breakfast menu items. I chose the Kayianas and it was divine!
Best grilled octopus - Kokkinos/Akth taverna, Nea Iraklia, Halkidiki. This fish/seafood taverna is a fave of mine while in Halkidiki. Located in the town of Nea Iraklia, this taverna has also become a fave to even Thessaloniki residents as it’s only 20 minutes away. All the fish and seafood and sides are executed well and consistently. I always order the grilled octopus with the right amount of char, always tender inside and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and dried Greek oregano.
Most memorable meze – Fried Symi Shrimp, Papadakis Restaurant (Argiro Barbarigou), Athens. This past summer I had the pleasure to meet TV food personality, restaurateur, chef Argiro Barbarigou. Her Papadakis restaurant is located in Kolonaki and I was delighted to finally meet this warm, kind person who’s smile is infectious. We were served some meze and the standout of the evening were the small, Symi island style shrimp that were dredged in flour and dried until crisp. Addictive, salty and great with Ouzo (or your favourite aperitif), these small, crispy shrimp are eaten whole!
Best Gyro – E-Ladokola – Nea Kallikratia, Halkidiki. In Greece you can find a Gyro in practically every town and city in Greece. The usual is pork but many now serve chicken Gyro as well. I like the pork Gyro and in the town of Nea Kallikratia near our summer home in Halkidiki – this one’s the best. The Gyro is crisp, never greasy, juicy and never dry and the pita bread is delish, good fries and a squirt of mustard and ketchup – like they do in northern Greece!
Best Soutzoukia/keftedes/biftekia – Ta Bombidia, Thessaloniki. Greek cuisine contains lots of dishes using mince meat and among the most popular are keftedes, kebabs, biftekia, soutzoukakia. In Thessaloniki, located in the south end of the Modiano market is Ta Bombidia. These are little soutzoukakia, housemade and grilled per order and served on parchment paper with onions, tomatoes and bread. Order a cold Greek beer, ask for some mustard and Boukovo and enjoy one of Greece’s everyman’s lunches.
Best Greek wine of the summer - Oenogenesis Rose. I first tried this wine in New York City, where I was guest chef for a Greek Supper club. Oenogenesis wines of Drama (Macedonia) brought the wines and the standout was the rose. I was all smiles last weekend when I attended the Voroina in Thessaloniki and had the pleasure of tasting, once again, this unique copper-tomed rose that is floral, fruity, bright in flavour and a joy to drink.
Most memorable seafood dish – Grilled crab, Iolkos Tsipouradiko, Thessaoniki. Some friends in Thessaloniki urged me to try this taverna in Thessaloniki that served Volos-style mezedes. Located in Polihni area of Thessaloniki, I reccomend you call ahead and ensure they have crab on the menu. These crabs come live from nearby Katerinia and they simply dressed in olive oil, sea salt and grilled then served cracked in half on a platter with a Ladolemono sauce. Sublime!
Best Meat Dish – rotisserie suckling pig at Dionysus, Finikounda, Messinia. In the Peloponnese, the real specialty of the region is their whole roast pig. In the local dialect, they call this Bouzopoula and the most delicious version I had this year was at Taverna Dionysus on the strip in Finikounda Beach. These folks slow roast suckling pigs each evening and the meat is always juicy, the skin is crispy and well seasoned. Thank God I don’t live in Finikounda…I could eat there each day!
Best setting for eating fish and seafood – Ammoudi, Santorini. The first time I visited Santorini was back in 1988 and I stayed in Oia. Below Oia is a small fishing port of Ammoudi and back in ’88 I walked down to enjoyed fresh calamari, retsina, a Greek salad while looking out to sea. I returned to Ammoudi this summer, enjoyed grilled scorpion fish and the view and food was just as memorable as back in 1988.
Best Greek Beer - Donkey, Santorini. While on Santorini, I had the pleasure of eating at some of the island’s best restaurants, drinking some of Santorini’s best wines and enjoyed some breathtaking views. A pleasant surprise was having a taste of Donkey beer, co-owned by Gaia and it is the only beer brewed on the island of Santorini. There’s Yellow Donkey, Red Donkey and my fave…Crazy Donkey, brewed in an IPA style of beer. Small batches are made and you’ll likely have to visit the island for a taste.
Best Greek Offal dish – Tzigerosarmades, Gastrodromio, Litoxoro, Mt.Olympus. I was invited to a grand dinner with a combo of food and wine afficionados in attendance. We dined at Litohoro’s Gastrodromio, at the food of Mt. Olympus with Chef Andreas Gavris serving us a ad hoc menu for us. The stand out dish was his Tzigerosarmades – a Greek classic of diced lamb offal and rice wrapped in caulfat and roasted. The pan sauce that accompanied the dish left me literally licking my plate. I have the recipe and will share soon.
Best Dessert – Chocolate log with Mastiha ice cream, To Kaffenio, Athens (Plaka). When in Greece, one often finds themselves passing through Athens. I finally went for dinner at Plaka’s (Athens) Kaffenion and the standout was the panna cotta with sour cherry spoon sweet and the mastiha ice cream sandwiches in between two slabs of chocolate kormo.
Best Greek snack/starter – Tsaitia, Neraida Taverna, Agios Nikolaos, Laconia. Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque village overlooking Neapoli. One of the local dishes from the area are Tsaitia…fried dough with greens, cheese, herbs and oh so addictive. A great snack, breakfast or starter for a meal.
Best Fried Food – Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters), Massalia, Nea Fokea, Halkidiki. After a day of swimming in various beaches in Kassandra, Halkidiki, we were starving and I remembered that a new resto called Massalia was located at the platea (town square) of Fourka. These guys cook with pananche, offer some modern twists and execute Greek classics perfectly. I love Kolokithokeftedes but Massalia’s were the best of the summer.
Most Original Dish – Fried Calamari in a Tomato Fritter Crust. While in Santorini, I was giddy with anticipation of eating at famed Selene restaurant now located in Pyrgos. One of the appetizers we ordered were fried calamari…very usual. At Selene, they dip the squid in a Santorini tomato fritter coating then fry them…simple hybrid, delicious – genius!
Food trend to watch for - Olive oil from Halkidiki. Earlier this year, early harvest (agourelio) olive oil from Halkdiki earned PDO/appellation status from the EU. I found some olive oil from Halkidiki and used it in some home cooking and I’m a big fan. Halkdiiki produces a lot of olives and olive oil and I think the olive oil will appear on more peoples’ tables.
These were the dishes that really stood out for me and by no means were they the only delicious dishes I enjoyed. I will share more memories, dishes, recipes and stunning photos from Glorious Greece!
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