live blog: eating at windmills

What is there to do after church but eat?! Wandering downhill I noticed a few scattered cafe tables outside a windmill overlooking the sea. Thinking it might be the perfect spot to while away the sunset with a snack and a Metaxa – the savory Greek brandy that has quickly become a part of my evening routine – I was surprised to discover a makeshift restaurant behind the crumbling facade. The menu looked inviting, peppered with a handful of distinctive regional dishes, so I ordered a pitcher of wine and settled down for a somewhat breezy early evening dinner: fresh seagreen salad, briny and crisp and unlike anything I have ever tasted; dolmades and zucchini blossoms stuffed with rice; pan-fried lamb meatballs, or keftedes, with a healthy sprinkle of lemon juice; makarounes, the local pasta, served simply with fried onions and a few grates of a hard ewe’s milk cheese, was a minor miracle; and for dessert, loukamades, Greece’s answer to the beignet, drizzled in aromatic wildflower honey. Maybe it was all the sea air, maybe it was the atmosphere, or maybe there was some unexplained emotional connection I was having with eating food so basic and so closely connected to this island, this village even, but I devoured absolutely everything, as if I was consuming a culture and not just a meal. What else does it say that I left the taverna not feeling remotely full?

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live blog: dakos

For Cretans the secret of their storied longevity is simple. They eat anything and everything the island’s mineral-rich soil produces, consuming loads of fruit, vegetables, greens, legumes, herbs, cheese, bread, and washing their Mediterranean meals down with an excellent, earthy local wine. Today in Aghios Nikolaos I discovered dakos, a deceptively simple Cretan salad of tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, olives and rusk. It could be considered a close cousin of panzanella – if only the Italians twice-baked their bread to the texture of biscotti. Drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar, it’s a surprisingly substantial light meal with a satisfying crunch and a clean, fresh taste. The challenge in recreating dakos when I get back home is going to be figuring out how to get my hungry little hands on those rusks.

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