Kleftiko at the Plaka

The Plaka is Athens oldest neighborhood. It is centrally located, at the base of the Acropolis, and is a collection of touristy shops and restaurants. It reminds me of Little Italy, but not in the way that New Yorkers think of Little Italy; the way that everyone else thinks of Little Italy. A cute place with fun restaurants and the opportunity to get dressed up in traditional garb and take an old timey photo.

Okay, maybe I made up that last part, but it does have some very cute restaurants. They are super touristy and probably all use the same kitchen that just runs under the length of the neighborhood, but what do I care?

20140507_122834Adrianos Restaurant couldn’t be cuter or more touristy if it tried. Every menu is printed in about 5 languages, there is everything from souvlaki to hamburgers, and the courtyard is shaded with large umbrellas and lovely greenery. It’s relaxing but looks onto the bustling Plaka, for a bit of dinner theatre as you dine. Word to the wise – learn the Greek word for no (o-hee) for when the women selling roses, pashminas, and other things made in China come around to your table.
20140507_124345Grilled halloumi and vegetables

Why is the cheese so lovely here? Even at this restaurant where no Greek person would be caught dead, the cheese is mild and bouncy, with a salty crust taht pairs well with the sweet grilled zucchini and eggplant. It’s ideal with the accompanying olive oil and tangy balsamic vinegar. This could be a meal in and of itself.
20140507_124349 Tzatziki

But then you would miss out on this. Yeah, the tzatziki really does just get better and better in this country. This is the only time on the vacation that we cound the portion to be a bit paltry, but what can ya do? It’s thick and rich; loaded with shredded cucumbers and spicy garlic. The dill is quite restrained but there is plenty of cracked pepper. What do you want from me, I just love this stuff. 20140507_130018 Gyros

Avoid at all costs. Dry, rubbery, and tasteless. Though, to be fair, if you order a gyro at a sit down restaurant instead of from a little stand where you can see the meat roasted on a spit, you get what you deserve. 20140507_130022 Kleftiko

This lamb and veggies dish is one of my favorite things I ate during the entire honeymoon. Kleftiko is a dish that was invented by (according at least one story) Greek rebels during an Ottoman invasion. The rebels would cook lamb in a pit far below the earth so that the invading armies couldn’t see  smoke escaping, thus exposing the hiding spot. It’s DELICIOUS. My husband said that it looked like it came out of a garbage can. Then he promptly stole all of it. 20140507_130100The meat is incredibly tender and pulls cleanly away from the bone. It’s dripping in fatty, rich, lamby juices and the edges are crunchy and caramelized. The carrots are wonderfully sweet all on their own and the potatoes absorb those meaty flavors. It’s savory, filling, and wonderfully hearty. I could eat this until my pants wouldn’t button.

Adrianos isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it was a cheap and tasty lunch. The service was insanely slow – so be aware! However, it’s Greece. And I think that any restaurant in the Plaka would do the same for lunch.

So, Athens had some good food, but not the best.

Luckily, London was right around the corner.

Kuzina – Come for the Meatballs

Okay, so now we are in Athens. One of the cradles of civilization. Birthplace of modern medicine, theatre, architecture, and democracy.

I loved Greece. I would go back in an instant, and quite frankly, we have already discussed going back for our 5 year anniversary – definitely Santorini and maybe Crete.

But Athens…Athens is a 2 night stop at most. See the Acropolis, gawk at the Parthenon, maybe go to the museum, and get the hell out of Dodge.

It’s Paris without the shops that have been there since 1722. It’s London without the changing of the guards. It’s New York without the yellow taxicabs.

It’s a big city without the charm.

I am so sorry, Athens was just not for me. I think that if I was a major Greek history buff, it would be heaven – you can’t walk more than a minute without bumping into the ancient Agora, a statue that was built in 60BC, or an artifact that we would LOVE to have here in the USA.

But if, like me, you are kind of a one-site-fits-all gal…Athens ain’t the greatest part of Greece.

Sadly, the same goes for the food.

We stayed at The Grande Bretagne (an unbelievable hotel…more to come) and they recommended a restaurant which was described ans an upscale taverna. Some traditional Greek food, some fresh ingredients with Mediterranean influences, and a whole lot of style. Perfect!

The neighborhood…a little sketchy. I wasn’t scared that I would be mugged or anything, but expect to see a ton of graffiti, panhandlers, and more than a few wasted people as you walk to your destination. That doesn’t bother me, but it is surprising that such a well-known restaurant would be located in this neighborhood.

Kuzina is a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous terrace, an airy indoor space, and lovely outdoor seating on a tree lined street. It reminds me of something that might be in Santa Monica – rustic but cool. The menu looked great, too.

20140506_202352 20140506_202358 Bread and olives

Very nice! The bread has a thick, floury crust and is warm and airy inside. It’s ideal with the almost sweet olive oil and the juicy, mild olives. 20140506_203126 Fattoush salad

On the surafce this sounds great – a light salad with spicy peppers, crispy bacon, and crispy pita in a light, lemony vinaigrette. However, this just didn’t work. The lettuce is in pieces that are far too big and make you feel like you are eating mouthfuls of leaves. The hot peppers aren’t very spicy and the roasted ones are almost slimy. The bacon is flaccid and far too fatty-and I love me some fatty bacon.  The worst part is that the dressing positively DRENCHED the salad – and not in that awesome blue cheese-drenched iceberg wedge way. It’s super acidic and renders everything soggy. The pita crisps were good, but a good crouton does not a great salad make. 20140506_203731Keftedes with sumac, pita, and yogurt sauce

The highpoint not just of the night but of all of the meatballs of the trip. They are everything that meatballs want to be. Juicy, earthy, and soft but not mushy. The sumac is wonderfully bright and  - it perks up the meatballs without making them overtly sour or bitter. The pita is fluffy and chewy, and the yogurt provides a little creamy counterpart. Don’t even get me started on those tomatoes again. This is such a delicious dish that it’s almost wort the price of admission.

20140506_204912 Snapper in bouillabaisse broth

Very good, if not memorable. The fish is well cooked and the bouillabaisse is briny and deep with saffron and garlic. It’s something that I would eat again, but not something that I would actively seek. 20140506_204918 Liver and onions

I mean, I enjoy this stuff. The liver is ideally cooked, with a bit of pink inside and a crusty, browsed exterior. This ain’t yo mama’s chopped liver – it’s overtly organ-y, with a soft texture but a ton of strong, iron-rich taste.The onions are sweet and sour, cutting though the liver’s strong taste. The potatoes are creamy and sop up the winey, mineral rich juices. It’s really quite good. 20140506_205030But, again…I could cook this at home. I enjoyed it but wouldn’t consider this a must get.

After our hit-it-out-of-the-park meals on the islands, this first dinner in Athens was a major disappointment. It was more expensive than most of the food we had eaten on Santorini and Mykonos, and not as delicious. The service was a little spotty, though if the food were better we might not have noticed. This is a place that I might frequent f I lived here, but I can’t say that I wold willingly come back.

And it was our best dinner in Athens. Luckily, lunch the next day was more up our alley.

Terpsi en Oia – Just Like Yiayia Used to Make

We didn’t go to Terpsi by accident.

We wouldn’t have. It’s right on Oia’s main drag and looks, for all the world, like any old tourist trap with french fries and watered down wine.

Luckily, a newfound friend of a friend told me that I should go to Terpsi for delicious homestyle Greek food and fabulous service.

20140505_202751Too bad that she didn’t mention the ugly view.

20140505_201855It’s just like looking at the brick wall that I face in my apartment in the city, you guys.

20140505_202907 Santorini beer

Nowhere near as good as Santorini wine. Not bad, but a little blah. Not worth it.20140505_203228 Shrimp with feta, garlic, tomatoes, and love

Okay, it doesn’t say love on the menu…but it should. This shrimp is unmissable. They come beautifully cleaned and ideally cooked – snappy, sweet, and JUST pink so they aren’t at all rubbery. The sauce is stuff of the heavens. Winey, garlicky, sweet with tomatoes that are crushed into the sauce. The feta works well with the shrimp – it picks up the salinity and makes the sauce lush and thick – who would ever put feta with shrimp!? The Greeks, it seems. This dish is bright and well-rounded – plus, the sauce can be eaten like a soup when the shrimp is done.

Oh, it can’t? Well we did it. And it was swell. 20140505_204044 Moussaka

No, not moose caca. This Greek shepherd’s pie is one of the most comforting dishes known to humankind. It’s a layer of creamy, bubbly, bechamel atop gently cooked eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes, ending with a layer of spiced, cinnamon-y ground lamb. Moussaka is delicious even when it’s so so, and here it is sublime. It’s creamy and warming. The lamb is juicy, the potatoes are tender, and the eggplant is silky. 20140505_204158I mean, don’t you want to just dive headfirst into that?

It’s even better than it looks. If you like lasagna or shepherd’s pie, you will love Terpsi’s moussaka.

Terpsi is delightful. The food is real Greek home cooking and the views are also real Greek…real awesome! The service is congenial and quite speedy, the food is wonderful, and the views are magnificent. It’s  as if your favorite neighborhood joint was suddenly manned by your very own yiayia and the views of the alley were replaced by the most magnificent views on earth. This is one of my favorite restaurant experiences because it was so casual and homey but with such delicious food and such a dreamy view that it couldn’t help but be romantic.

The honeymoon now moves to the big city: Athens!

I promise, Santorini, I shall return.

Next stop, Athens!

Lunch at Perissa Black Sand Beach

Many people just do the beaches in Mykonos and skip the ones in Santorini.

Say it an’t so!

We headed to Perissa (a beautiful 45 minute drive from Oia) to enjoy one of the island’s famous black sand beaches. The sand is actually volcanic rock and it gets INSANELY hot. Good thing that you can relax on some loungers, order a drink, and just enjoy the sun without burning your feet.

20140505_140315Anemos is a beachside hotel in Perissa with a fabulous bar/restaurant/lounge setup. Basically, you relax on a huge lounger, under an umbrella, and swim in the Aegean, sun yourself, or just relax in the shade, all while ordering food from the excellent open air taverna. Honestly, it’s tough being on honeymoon. When you are tired of splashing in the (FREEZING) sea, come up to your lounger and dry in the soft sunshine as you order ice cold Coca Cola Lights that come in a bucket of chilled ice…
20140505_140956 and lunch that is brought to you in a ginormous hamper. 20140505_141029 Even light meals here start with some rather forgettable bread and some totally unforgettable spicy feta dip. It’s zesty and really packs a spicy little punch – it’s soft and easily dippable or spreadable – I ate this with a fork and you will, too!
20140505_141520 Pita with halloumi and salsa

I don’t know what kind of cotton crap I have been eating for almost 30 years, but it sure as hell ain’t pita. This stuff is almost bread of the angels. It’s soft and chewy, with a wonderful char from the grill and a really wheaty, wholesome taste. The halloumi is crispy and salty with that pleasant rubbery halloumi texture. The chopped tomatoes and onions are as sweet as sugar, and the accompanying dipping sauce is a creamy, smoky sauce that reminds me of chipotle mayo. YES!20140505_141603 Tomato fritters

Santorini is famous for these tomato fritters – ripe tomatoes, peeled, dipped in fluffy batter, and fried. 20140505_141620 Well, this is just a little hand-held pizza pocket. Yep, that’s what it is. Tastes like the world’s yummiest (Sorry, snobs, sometimes yummy really is the best descriptor) marinara sauce –  sweet, light, soft inside its crunchy batter. There is some cooling yogurt alongside, but ignore it. It’s all about that fritter. 20140505_141716Zucchini fritters

Thank you, sweet waitress, for being bossy and making us get these. I promise to never ignore you again. These are the highlight of our beach lunch. YES! The zucchini is sweet and juicy inside the airy whipped ricotta fritters. They are crispy, creamy, and perfect with the yogurt dill dressing. I ate about 3 of these and could have eaten 30.

Anemos at Perissa is a blast! The alcoholic drinks are a little pricey but the food is quite well priced, the atmosphere is both unusual and cool – lying on a beach while you eat fried food and gaze at the Aegean and the black sand must e the ultimate pleasure in life. Come here to veg at least one day of your honeymoon or vacay – then go to the restaurant we ate at for dinner that night!

Ambrosia is…Ambrosia

We had a couple of splurge dinners on this vacation. One of them was in London and one of them was in Santorini.

The one in Santorini is a meal that I don’t think that I will ever forget.

20140504_202657 Ambrosia is one of the best restaurants in Oia. There are only a few tables, and the terrace faces out into the volcano and the sea. In fact, it’s entirely outside except for 6 seats, which guarantees for an uber romantic view, unless the winds are too high to enjoy the weather. That’s very rare, though.

So, obviously, it happened the night that we had reservations.

No matter, as we were able to get one of the seats inside, though others who arrived later for their allotted times had to be tuned away or left out – literally! – in the cold.  The restaurant itself is humble inside, with a jumble of old fashioned paintings and curiosities, a bar, and a few tables. That’s it – nothing that screams “watch out tastebuds, you are in for a treat!”20140504_203127 Ouzo

Because when the proprietor of the restaurant beams and offers you a glass of his favorite ouzo, how can you say “Dude, I have been drinking all day? I’m HUNGOVER?” So, you drink it, and as its licoricy warmth spreads through your body, your headache lessens and you decide that a hair of the dog was just what you needed. So, you decide to loosen up a little more and order a dry white wine from Santorini’s famed Sigalas winery. It’s dry but not too much so, almost like a chenin blanc. It goes well with everything. So a bottle isn’t too much. 20140504_205247 Roasted garlic dip, tomatoes and capers, kalamata olive dip

This is one of those times when all of the dips are equally delicious. The roasted garlic is sweet with an earthy depth and the kalamata olive one is briny and pleasantly fruity. The feta in both is airy and mild. The tomatoes and capers are other worldly – sweet, juicy, salty, and bursting with flavor. I can’t say enough about the capers and tomatoes on this island…they are unreal.
20140504_211106 Ambrosia tartlets with caramelized mushrooms, tomatoes, and brie

Yes, feta, we cheated on you with this brie. And it felt so right. The brie is warm and melty, atop juicy tomatoes and flaky puff pastry. 20140504_211252 Inside are sweet caramelized onions, the ideal counterpart to the rich cheese and a dab of garlicky pesto. It’s a rich starter, but if you split it with someone it’s ideal. 20140504_212526 Blackberry and wild mushroom risotto

Heart-stoppingly outrageous. Unbelievable. Who would put blackberries in risotto? Ambrosia, apparently, and to wonderful effect. This is a must get, and a must recreate. The mushrooms are so savory and meaty, and the blackberries are juicy and tart-sweet, but with that same earthy backnote that connects their taste to that of the mushrooms. The risotto is creamy and soft, but not mushy. It almost melts in the mouth. Don’t forget to drag your fork through the tangy balsamic drizzle on the side - it adds some unexpected acid to the risotto. This is unexpected and fantastic.
20140504_212532 Pan fried sea bass with lemon sauce

Excellent, though not as incredible as the risotto. Fresh, flaky fish with a light, lemony sauce and some sweet baby vegetables. I would eat this again but I wouldn’t order it again because that risotto was such a standout.20140504_220531 Moroccan sweets with pastry cream and nuts

This was also delicious. I wish I could remember more, but I was several glasses of wine deep, remember? It’s nutty, it’s dripping with honey, and it’s filled with vanilla-scented pastry cream. Basically…YES.20140504_221040Even drunk off of wine and risotto, the vin santo is still not my cup of…digestif.

Look, this restaurant is delicious. It’s fairly priced (to say expensive), with excellent, enthusiastic service. We didn’t get that famous view, but we did get some eye-opening risotto, fantastic wine bottled right on the island, and a night to remember.

Next up, beach day!

Kastro – Lunch with a View in Santorini

Everywhere in Santorini is lunch with a view. It just is. You have to try really, really hard to dine somewhere that doesn’t have a view like this. I’m sure if you put your mind to it you an. And I’m sure that this results in some less-than-stellar restaurants that rely on the swell view instead of swell food.

But that isn’t the case at Kastro.

20140504_142416Kastro is located at the old castle fortress, at the very tip of Oia. It has a direct sunset view, and is entirely outside – if you want to come for dinner, prepare to make a reservation and bundle up for the view. However, the views are just as beautiful during the day…

20140504_135217I took that with my cell phone, people. And I am NOT a photographer. I have never seen such stunning views in my life as I did on Santorini.
20140504_140529Bruschetta

I could eat this every day of my life. Salty feta, sweet tomatoes,and juicy olives in a garlicky olive oil dressing. It tops warm, cheesy toast and it is heavenly. The feta is soft and provides a salty hit to those sweet tomatoes and the juiciest, mildest olives I had the whole trip. The bread soaks up all o the wonderful flavors of the topping and the garlicky olive oil, and it manages to be rich and light at the same time – thanks, awesome olive oil! I licked this plate clean.
20140504_140533Salad with goat cheese and berries

Good but not great – it was fine, but after the salad at Floga, my expectations were sky high However, the berries were standouts. They were small and bursting with sweet and tart flavors. This salad is tasty, don’t get me wrong – the cheese is grassy and the lettuce is fresh, but it’s just not a must-get.
20140504_143712Keftedes

MMmmmm. These Greek meatballs are one of my favorite things on any menu. Grilled until they have a thick, crunchy shell and tender meat within.

20140504_144009Though it’s a little dry, it is well spiced with mint, a cooling addition to the earthy lamb. It’s served with grilled vegetables and some very cool homemade fries. Tzatziki accompanies, and it has absolutely replaced ketchup as my fry sauce of choice. It might have to duke it out with garlic aioli.
20140504_143716Chicken souvlaki

The shish-kebab’s tamer sister. This is marinated in plenty of lemon juice and oregano, for a bright, herby flavor and super tender meat. The grilled artichokes are marinated in tons of that rich olive oil for a lovely, light side dish and yeah…I ate all of those fries, too. 
20140504_145606 Walnut cake

How many times can I eat walnut cake? Why as many times as I am offered, thank you ver much. Not quite as tasty as the one at the Mykonos Grand – the nuts are too coarse here and the cake is too dense and not moist enough – but it’s still tasty. I mean, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers.
20140504_150014Vin santo.

They force fed us this the entire trip and I hated it each and every time – like raisins seeped in Robitussin then perfumed with skunk.

Blech.

But that was on the house so I can truthfully say that the meal that we paid for was well worth it. The food is wonderful and the view is incredible. The meal is pricier than it should be, but you pay for the view – and why wouldn’t you. The service is leisurely (hey, it’s Greece!) and friendly, and…did I mention the view?

The bruschetta ain’t bad either.

More delicaies continue for dinner.

Floga – Tomatoes, Vin Santo, and a Flaming Dessert!

Santorini is…an unbelievably mystical, magical place. I am not one for views or sitting back and watching the world go by but, wow…if I lived in Santorini, I could imagine making it my full-time occupation. The vistas are incredible. The sunsets are incomparable. And the food that you eat all the while…nothing less than extraordinary.

20140503_203717

Floga is a casual restaurant in Oia that is ideal for anyone from honeymooners to a rowdy group celebrating a birthday. It’s upmarket but not fancy, and you won’t get in trouble for just ordering an appetizer and a drink for your meal. The restaurant is entirely outside, with clear plastic sheets that come down in case of exceptionally windy nights, like the one when we dined here. However, it can still be pretty chilly, so bring a jacket or drink enough wine to drown out the cold.

We did both.

20140503_204736Refreshing salad with feta, watermelon, and balsamic drizzle in a pastry crust

The best salad of our trip, and keep in mind that we ate salad at every meal including breakfast. This is what salad should taste like – a harmonious union of vegetables and seasonings, with one or 2 unexpected elements. The lettuce is so sweet and tender that it almost melts in the mouth. The watermelon is so sugary that it might have been dipped in honey, and the feta is so full fat and creamy that it almost creates its own dressing. The balsamic drizzle, made with local wine, is syrupy and tart, highlighting the sweet watermelon. And that puff pastry crust puts our taco salad shell bowls to shame. This isn’t at all hard to make – I could make it at home – but the ingredients are so high quality that it would be hard to reproduce it anywhere else in the world.
20140503_210127Spaghetti with Santorini tomato sauce

Just stop it, Santorini. STOP IT. Stop it with your sweet, juicy, earthy tomatoes that taste EXACTLY like the sun on your shoulders on a warm May day. Stop it with your homemade pasta that is tender and JUST this side of too soft. Stop it with your inspired sprinkling of nutty, meaty sesame seeds and your unabashed use of spicy garlic. Stop it with your making me gain 8 lbs in 10 days.

Just stop it. 20140503_210134 Pan fried perch with hollandaise

I have no idea what they called this dish, but it was just the most tender, mild, flaky within and crispy without whitefish served with a lemony hollandaise sauce. The thick sauce manages to be bright with lemon and those wonderful Santorini capers. It’s a revelation – who would have thought that such a thick sauce wouldn’t hide the fish but would actually elevate it? The accompanying rice is al dente, studded with roasted zucchini and sweet cherry tomatoes. 20140503_213312 Chocolate souffle 

It comes to the table in a flaming glass, because it ain’t a honeymoon without at least one flambeed dessert, right? This souffle is more of a molten cake than anything else – rich and chocolaty, with a silky tunnel of fudgy batter in the middle.20140503_214140The island’s famous vin Santo wine shooter after dinner? Less delicious, more like cough syrup.

Floga was my husband’s favorite dinner of the trip. The atmosphere was romantic but not formal, the view over the caldera was lovely, and the food couldn’t have been improved upon. It was also very fairly priced – a magnificent first meal on a truly amazing island.

Avra – Beautiful Atmosphre, So-So Food

This trip that I took wasn’t just a normal trip. It wasn’t a once-a-year travel blowout. It was my honeymoon. You only get one of those, if you are lucky, and it can’t be all about running around to ancient relics, looking for weirdly flavored potato chips at roadside gas stations and shopping in the local equivalent of Target. You also have to relax with your new spouse, sleep in late, and take it easy.

I am a more “ants in my pants” kind of traveler, so this was hard for me at first.

But, eventually I settled into it. I enjoyed sleeping until the sun was high in the sky. I loved sitting with a book looking out over the Aegean. I even let up my guard and booked dinner at a romantic restaurant instead of the one that got the highest reviews for eating.

There was my mistake.

20140501_195729

Avra, in Mykonos, is highly recommended for its Mediterranean menu and romantic, vine-covered, trellis-lined outdoor dining area. You definitely need reservations and it does look extremely romantic with its candlelit tables, verdant atmosphere, and mellow soundtrack.

Of course, the kids running around helter-skelter don’t really help the vibe, but we ate very early by Myconian standards, so it’s hard to blame them for that.

20140501_195858 Roquefort and olive dips

The dips are a mixed bag. The tapenade is very mundane – salty and tasty for sure, but if I can get it at home or in the grocery store, I’m not so interested in paying for it on vacation. The Roquefort butter is marvelous – creamy and smooth, with a rich, buttery taste that is sweet at first and then fades to an umami, slightly funky Roquefort aftertaste. It’s soft and spreads easily on the rather mundane bread. This stuff is great.

*Side note: you always pay for bread in Greece. When they ask if you want some, expect to be charged 5 Euros for it and the accompanying dips. Always order it, anyway…there are usually at least one or 2 dips that are worth the price of admission.*20140501_200931Tzatziki

Delicious, if not memorable. Creamy, fragrant with dill and spicy black pepper. It isn’t as garlicky or as thick as some versions, and is finished with some rich olive oil to add another layer of lushness. I ate all of this and would eat it again without reservation, but can’t say that it stood out among the tzatziki I sampled this trip.20140501_202114Halloumi wrapped in bacon

The standout of the night. The European style bacon, more flexible than the bacon that we are used to here, wraps well around the pleasantly squeaky, bouncy cheese. It’s grilled so that the bacon is salty and charred and the halloumi softens and becomes pleasantly melty. Some lemon juice brightens the dish and is the ideal, unexpected finishing touch. My husband almost stabbed me with a fork to ge the last piece.

Luckily, I’m too quick for him.
20140501_203245Mussels

Simple and tasty. Steamed in white wine flavored with plenty of pepper, dill, and woodsy oregano.  Every single mussel was open and sweet - no bad mussels here. They are juicy and very mild, with just a touch of salinity. The only downfall here is the broth – it is merely serviceable.It lets the mussels naturally sweet flavor shine through, but it isn’t craveable. If I’m not lapping up the broth with a spoon at the end of the meal, something is wrong.

20140501_203101At the end of the day, Avra is fine. If I lived in town, I would come here for the lovely surroundings and the fabulous halloumi appetizer. But on vacation, it just isn’t tasty enough. You can’t rely on romantic atmosphere on a touristy island because – hello! – people travel with kids. And the price is a little high for the food. So this wasn’t a major winner.

But that’s okay…because lunch the next day was insane.

The Fish Lunch of My Dreams at Seirines, Rafina

So…

I’m back from my honeymoon.

And while I thought that my first posts back would be all about the wedding…I was wrong. A fool, really.

Because how could I write about anything besides the beautiful, historic, and DELICIOUS country of Greece?

Don’t worry, wedding recaps will take place.

But first, jump a plane, a ferry, and a donkey to Greece with me, won’t you?

The first meal I had in Greece was actually one of my favorites of the entire trip. It was at the port of Rafina where we boarded the (HELLISHLY LONG AND CROWDED) ferry to Mykonos. Rafina is the secondary port of Athens, and mostly used by Greeks while tourists use the larger port of Piraeus. As such, the restaurants here cater to the local clientele – wealthy Athenians island hopping and business men stopping by for lunch from nearby offices.

20140430_144725Small tavernas line the harbor, but bypass the others and go straight to Seirines.

20140430_161217The atmosphere is nothing stuffy – a small indoor section and a large, covered outdoor patio area where young families and people in $10,000 watches sit side by side. Everyone in Greece seems to speak impeccable English, but this is the closest that we got to being totally out of our element and relying to pointing at pictures on the menu.

Needless to say, I loved it.

The chef will come and show you the catch of the day, or you can order off the menu. There really isn’t any way to lose.

20140430_150240Spicy cheese dip(Tyrokaferi)

Hello, land of feta! This is made with soft, creamy feta - it has that briny quality that feta has, but with the texture of whipped cream cheese. It isn’t bitter or crumbly at all. It’s interspersed with some sort of pepper paste from heaven – a little zippy at the start, but then it fades quickly to let the natural flavor of the cheese shine through. It really highlights the cheese with a touch of spice instead of overpowering it and stealing the show. A spritz of lemon somewhere in there lifts the dish and finishes it with the perfect touch of acid.

20140430_150236Tzatziki

I almost cried. This is the best tzatziki that I had in Greece, and that’s really saying something, since I had it at almost every meal (breakfast included). So thick and rich – what the hell kind of yogurt am I eating at home?! The cucumbers are finely shredded and obviously drained because they are lush and verdant without being soggy or watery. The dill is abundant and the garlic is a revelation – I have NOT been using enough garlic in my tzatziki! The raw garlic provides a savory, spicy note that resonates in the back of the throat long after the bite is gone. However, because the yogurt is so wonderfully rich and fatty, it tempers the garlic’s bite. This is so spicy, creamy, cooling, and refreshing…I ate it with some toasted bread but mostly ate it with a fork, because who wants bread to get in the way of pure, unadulterated garlicky fat?

20140430_150246Country salad

1. Where do they get the tomatoes in Greece?! They are the sweetest, juiciest, thinnest skinned tomatoes that I have ever enjoyed in my life. They are ripe and firm, tasting of the sun and the earth at once.

2. Peeled cucumbers. In a casual taverna. Because everyone knows that cucumber skin is for the birds.

3. Sweet, THINLY shaved onions. Scallions, be gone.

4. Olives. My ankles swelled to the size of elephant ankles from all of the olives that I ate. Soft ones, hard ones, small ones, juicy ones, green, red, and black ones…they were all the absolute best that I have ever eaten. To say NOTHING of the fruity, thick, golden olive oil served tableside at every meal.

5. The feta. The block of feta of which I couldn’t take a photo because I started to eat it too quickly. This feta that is different from the feta in the dip – it’s light and crumbly, with less of a salty bite. It just goes to show how carefully the food here is made – the feta used for the dip would be far too salty and soft to meld with the crisp and salty vegetables.

20140430_150400Smoked and cured fish plate

Dontcha just love a place where there is a huge plate full of house-caught fish that has been cured and smoked right in the back of the restaurant? Some of it I loved (the anchovies were garlicky, and oily but not at all fishy), some of it I liked (the soft cured amberjack or skipjack in the back – mild and rich), and some of it I couldn’t stand (sorry fish on the side – crunchy shouldn’t be a term when discussing fish). It was nothing I have ever had before and I would advise any adventurous seafood lover to order it!

20140430_150940Shrimp, souvlaki style

The best  cooked shrimp I have had in eons. Plump and juicy with a garlicky (they love garlic here) olive oil marinade that makes the sweet shrimp just sing. Grilled on a skewer so they are juicy within and smoky without.

20140430_151035They are so mild and sweet that they almost don’t seem like shrimp – they are more like scallops. They were doubtless caught that morning and cooked to order. The shrimp in Greece is in general FAR superior to what I have had in the USA – probably there is little to no iodine treatment there. These were the best of the many shrimp that I ate on the trip.

20140430_152923Creamsicle cake

This is what I call it…who knows what the real name is? Light, vanilla scented cheesecake with a graham cracker bottom and a tart, thick marmalade top. It’s hard not to love this.

And it’s impossible not to love this restaurant. The price is fair – not cheap but it’s a TON of delicious, fresh seafood. The atmosphere is lovely and relaxed and the staff couldn’t be sweeter. We ordered and our food was brought promptly (NOT always the norm in Greece), then after we finished we were left alone for an hour to sit with our coffees and read magazines until it was time to board our ferry. The server was thrilled that we loved the food so much and the chef was in and out of the kitchen, advising diners what to order. I would come back here in a heartbeat if I could.

What an introduction to delicious Greece!

Baked Figs, Greek Rice, and Mexican Corn: The “So Close” Files

I try to be a good blogger. 

I tell you about my favorite restaurants.

I do giveaways of awesome cheese and chocolate.

I even take one for the team and eat copious amounts of fat and salt(tough job but somebody has to do it).

However, every now and then I really mess up.

Like when I cook truly fabulous dishes, photographing every step of the process…and neglect to take a beauty shot of the final product.

I mean, what’s a blog without a beauty shot?

It’s like Honey Boo Boo without Go-Go Juice. 

There are some dishes that I really wish I had properly photographed.

pix 065Like these  baked figs.

Figs are great right now and they are going to get even better later in the month. If you cut them in a cross pattern not ALL of the way through, but just until they sort of open like a blossom, you can then bake them at 350F for 20 minutes. When they start to leach a sweet, sticky syrup and are very soft to the touch, they are done. Serve them immediately with sweetened, slightly thickened (or totally whipped) cream, and they will be the hit of the night. Sweet, creamy, warm, and cool. I made this at a dinner party, and my guests were shocked at how quickly dessert came together and how delicious it was. Something this seasonal should have been blogged.

pix 044Like this loaded Greek rice.

It’s just plain old converted rice with sauteed onions, garlic, and zucchini mixed with some rice, dill, lemon zest, and feta cheese. However, did you ever wonder what makes the rice at Chipotle so delicious? Here’s a hint: it isn’t the cilantro. It’s oil. So, by adding the cooked rice directly to the veggie sautee pan, the rice gets a slight sheen of oil that totally transforms this dish. It is lush, bright, and so satisfying. Something this satisfying should have been blogged.

pix 011Like this Mexican style corn.

Sure I mostly just followed this recipe, but I used chipotles in adobo instead of dried chipotle powder, fat free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and added cumin and pulverized jalapenos. I slathered in on freshly steamed corn cobs and whoa…it was incredible. Sweet, rich, salty, spicy…it actually lived up to my hopes. Something this tasty should have been blogged. 

Yes, these should all have been blogged. There is no excuse – I was just hungry or tired or there was a Real Housewives reunion on tv and I got distracted.

I promise to do better in the future.

*If anyone is interested in the detailed recipes for these dishes, please leave a comment and I’ll happily post them!*