When I told you I went to Greece in October what I should have said was I spent nearly two weeks stuffing amazing food in my mouth. It’s true. I ate so that I was almost ready to fast for a week when it was said and done…well almost! My strategy with traveling is to focus on culinary travel; to first plan what I can eat and then go from there. This mission was completely accomplished in Greece. It all started with my three days on the island of Crete where I spent time cooking and eating everything with some really wonderful bloggers.
The first food adventure was when we arrived at our HouseTrip villa. A private chef from the island was preparing a simply amazing spread of traditional Cretan foods with a little twist. A mezze of dips, fresh cheeses, salad, grilled meats (including a delicious lamb sausage- I was so happy to find loads of options and absolutely no pork!), and of course dessert. Suffice to say our welcome to Crete was enthusiastically embraced with very happy stomachs.
The next morning things would continue to meet all my foodie dreams. We went to downtown Chania in the morning to begin our walking food tour of Crete with Viator. You know how much I love food tours! George took us around the city to taste the traditional foods of Crete.
We first stopped at a coffee shop. (where we didn’t actually taste anything, just looked around) It was a little odd and I couldn’t quite figure out why we were there. We then went to a coffee shop where we could taste Greek coffee or a traditional mountain tea along with tasty sweets. The top cookies are amigdalas, an almond cookie that reminded me a little of macaroons. The coffee, nope not for me.
Now meet my little friends. I seriously loved all of the stuffed pastries in Crete. I ate many, many types and there weren’t any I disliked. The top pastries are known as kalitsounia (little lanterns) and can be slightly sweet. They’re made with cheese and I really enjoyed them, especially a little warm. The bottom are made with horta, a wild green that grows in the mountains of Greece. They eat a lot of it and it reminded me a of a mix of arugula (rocket) and spinach. In this bakery they also had rusk, the traditional Crete bread. They’re hard, sometimes made with barley flour or chickpea flour. This bread was twice baked and would last longer than soft baked bread.
From here we also went to a spice shop and a cheese shop where we had a few other samples. Next up was olive oil. Olive oil is huge in Crete. It’s the cornerstone of the traditional diet. Many people have their own olive orchards and if they don’t they have family members who do. Every year they harvest and press their own oil, hardly ever buying oil off the shelves. We tried several different types of oil, on a spoon (that was a little odd), and my favorite a balsamic vinegar with grape syrup. I could have sipped the entire bottle.
Our last stop was a winery for a small tasting, that I sat out. However I did get to try a submarine. No, not the sandwich (or the boat), this is a sweet on the islands. A very thick, sweet candy is put on a spoon and dipped into a cold glass of water. I tried the lavender flavor. You dip and lick the sweet. Honestly sipping the cold, sweet lavender water afterwards was my favorite part.
With that we walked back to our starting point! Overall I learned a bit about the traditional diet of Crete but we really didn’t eat much. I like tasting food but as someone who operates a food tour I know there’s nothing worse than your guests leaving hungry. I would have appreciated sitting down at some point and eating a small meal or something more substantial than snacking items.
Later that night I was doing a cooking class with Sophie of Wonderful Wanderings, Erin of Travel with Bender, and Jennifer of Moi, mes souliers. Maria was our hostess and we were warmly welcomed into her kitchen in an old neighborhood of Chania, near the ocean. Perfect! This was a hands on class, we all took turns and some portions Maria explained but did herself. The four of us had a lot of fun talking, laughing, and tasting.
We made spinach pies, a zucchini, potato, and cheese casserole, and lamb in a lemon sauce with horta. The casserole however, was the star and I know I’ll be making this at home. (You can make it too! Check out this video recipe that’s almost exactly how we made ours.)
It was fun talking to Maria because I discovered a lot of the traditions, cooking ingredients, and techniques mirror life in Morocco. In fact they still have a community bread oven in Chania! I really wanted to visit and see it before I left but ran out of time. Just like in Morocco younger generations are foregoing traditional recipes and life and instead opting for foods that are fast and easy. This is taking its toll on the once revered Cretan farm to table diet – one of the healthiest in the world!
When all of our food was done, we all sat at Maria’s table and ate our meal. It was so good and I am still remembering that night. Just like you would expect a family member to do, Maria packed up our leftovers and sent them home. We ate it all!