The Flavors of Greece
As you may know, HausLogic (the parent company of AllSpice) is a family-owned and run company. Working with your family has its risks and rewards. Luckily for us, the rewards far outweigh the challenges. In our meetings, we catch up, not only on what is happening in the company, but how the grandchildren are doing and where our next vacation will be. We love working together and also traveling together. We are all foodies, so travel often centers around meals and seeking out new flavors.
Recently, Max (the designer of the AllSpice rack, and my brother) and I returned from a trip to Greece. During the planning stages of the trip, I wasn't sure what to expect from the food. I'm not a huge fan of Gyros, so I was honestly a bit worried. Would we be eating that famous sliced meat the whole time? Luckily, I had nothing to worry about! The food we ate was some of the best I have ever experienced and I didn't once see a spinning column of meat.
We chose a somewhat off-the-beaten-path route for our trip to avoid crowds and experience a more authentic Greek adventure. Our first night we arrived late in Athens and were pleased to find that our hotel was still serving dinner. As I am want to do, I jumped into the menu and sought out the most unusual things I could find. This was not a normal hotel dinner. The meal started with 'Lola' leaves (a type of lettuce) with fried cheese, continued with a pumpkin soup and ended with chicken souvlaki. Paired with a rose sparkling wine, it was one of the best meals Ive had (granted I was jet lagged and starving).
From there we headed to Meteora and took the opportunity to visit stunning monasteries on the tops of mountains. We were in Greece during a low season (May), so many things were closed. In Kalabaka, there were only a few options for restaurants and we were guided to a relaxed outdoor patio with an extensive menu of classic greek options. We took advantage of the fact that we were with a large group and ordered a huge variety of dishes to try. Several things struck me during this meal. First, grape leaves are much more tender in Greece. Ive always enjoyed stuffed grape leaves, but with the softer leaf, they were far more pleasant to chew. Second, much of the food was grilled on outdoor grills right at the time we ate it. This gave the meat and eggplant so much depth of flavor. Lastly, I was now appreciating the fact that the Greeks know how to do a restaurant experience! Unlike many places in Europe, the Greek restaurants bring water to the table immediately. This is much appreciated in the hot Greek sun. In addition, they always have fresh bread and olive oil on the table. Best of all, outside of the main cities, many of the restaurants offer a free dessert! In our experience, this ranged from a huge bowl of bing cherries to six different traditional Greek desserts to share.
After leaving Meteora, we headed to the Pelion peninsula. This mountainous, costal region is said to be the summer home of the ancient Greek Gods. Here we stayed at a lovely Agro-tourism guesthouse called Amanita. The proprietor and his family gardened, foraged and sourced local food for the included breakfast and the optional evening meal. We were always wowed by the variety of jams and chutneys they made from scratch and the fresh simplicity of each meal. The children along on the trip enjoyed running to the wild strawberry patch and stuffing their mouths. The adults appreciated the home distilled liqueurs. While we were in the Pelion, we visited several fish restaurants. They were all run by families and offered fish caught fresh by a member of the family.
I can honestly say that I was bowled over to learn that I love Greek food. The abundance of fresh salads, the liberal use of fantastic olive oil and the simple celebration of humble vegetables makes Greek cuisine a perfect fit for me. This Wisconsin girl also appreciated the requirement that every meal include at least three types of cheese!