Posts Tagged ‘Santorini’

We have friends on their honeymoon in Santorini right now, visiting many of the places we’ve suggested, including the Hatzidakis winery. Here are photos from our adventure in 2013…

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why you need to go. Have your hotel call ahead and make an appointment.

Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. Why would you want to hang with them?

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

You can’t find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

But for the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of travel hassles to get there.

 

Cheers!

The cukes are taking over my garden! Time to make soup!

The original cucumber soup recipe comes from Ikies Traditional Houses, a wonderful hotel in the beautiful town of Oia in Santorini, Greece. After a long, hot day of exploring this beautiful island, we settled down to a refreshing bowl of cucumber soup. They were nice enough to share the recipe with us, and a few tweaks later, it’s my definition of perfect.

cuke soup

 

Ingredients:

 

3 English cucumbers or 5 regular cucumbers, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 cup vegetable stock, preferably home-made

4 cups plain full- fat yogurt, preferably Fage Greek yogurt

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

Fleur de Sel and pepper

 

Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers and place in a blender with garlic, stock, 2 cups of the yogurt, mint leaves, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel, and a grating of fresh black pepper.

Turn on blender and mix well. Stop blender and then add remaining 2 cups of yogurt and mix by hand.

Pour cucumber soup in bowls. Garnish with diced cucumber or radish.

 

To make the vegetable stock, boil chopped carrots, celery and onion in a large pot of water for an hour, reducing by half. Strain the veggies before using the stock. You can roast the veggies on a sheet pan in a hot oven for a bit before adding to the water for an even richer flavor.

 

One of the most incredible dishes I’ve had on the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, is lobster with pasta. It’s one of those dishes that takes time to prepare, because the pasta lobster sauce they make is a labor of love…time consuming but so spectacular.

Cooked lobster LTL

I often have friends over for dinner, but when I prepared this dish for them recently, it was the first time they all licked their plates clean!

To try to replicate that lobster sauce we had in Santorini, I started with a kick-ass lobster stock. It’s simple but flavorful:

Stock ingredients:

clean, empty claws, tails and bodies from two 1-1/2 lb. lobsters (use the legs, too)

12 cups water

1/2 onion

3 celery stalks

1 carrot

Place all ingredients in a large pot and set on high heat. Crush lobster shells with potato masher. Cook until it is reduced by half.

Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

Now that you have the stock, you can make the sauce!

Pasta with lobster sauce

Sauce ingredients:

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

pinch of Italian red pepper flakes

teaspoon parsley

extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup lobster stock

1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)

splash of white wine (I use Alice white Chardonnay)

salt and pepper

1/2 lb. cooked pasta

Add some olive oil to a pan and saute the onions until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

Cook pasta and drain even before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating thoroughly. Serve immediately.

For the San Marzano tomato sauce: I take a can of San Marzano tomatoes and place it in a food processor or Vita-Mix and blend until I get sauce. Pour into a pan and reduce over medium heat by half, until sauce has thickened.

Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s a simple yet fantastic dish if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

Graviera cheese

Graviera cheese

I had a slab of Graviera cheese from my most recent trip to Santorini, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty damn amazing…

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

Ingredients:

 

300 g grated Graviera cheese

1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes

1 lb (about 24) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 medium onion, chopped

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, through a press

pinch red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo

salt and pepper

 

Peel and devein the shrimp. Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set aside.

In a large pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree tomatoes and add to the pan. Add red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in the broiler and cook until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

shrimp saganaki

 

 

One of the most incredible dishes I’ve had on the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, is lobster with pasta. It’s one of those dishes that takes time to prepare, because the pasta lobster sauce they make is a labor of love…time consuming and so spectacular.

To try to replicate that lobster sauce we had in Santorini, I started with a kick-ass lobster stock. It’s simple but flavorful:

Stock ingredients:

clean, empty claws, tails and bodies from two 1-1/2 lb. lobsters

12 cups water

1/2 onion

3 celery stalks

1 carrot

Place all ingredients in a large pot and set on high heat. Crush lobster shells with potato masher. Cook until it is reduced by half.

Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

Cooking the stock

Cooking the stock

Now that I have the stock, I can make the sauce!

Sauce ingredients:

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

pinch of Italian red pepper flakes

teaspoon parsley

extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup lobster stock

1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)

splash of white wine (I use Alice white Chardonnay)

salt and pepper

1/2 lb. cooked pasta

Add some olive oil to a pan and saute the onions until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

Cook pasta and drain even before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating thoroughly. Serve immediately.

For the San Marzano tomato sauce: I take a can of San Marzano tomatoes and place it in a food processor or Vita-Mix and blend until I get sauce. Pour into a pan and reduce over medium heat by half, until sauce has thickened.

TAVERNAS OF SANTORINI

Posted: October 17, 2013 in Food, travel, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

There’s a reason why the Greek island of Santorini constantly wins the “most beautiful island” awards in travel magazines. It is stunning. But the awards have also lured cruise ships and all that is wrong with them. To fully appreciate Santorini, and the many wonderful restaurants and tavernas that dot this island, you need to get away from the crowds, and away from Fira in particular, where cruise ships drop off clueless tourists by the thousands.

The best way to get to most of these places is with a rental car, so make it part of your plan to see a few nearby sights and to stop at these eateries along the way…

METAXY MAS

Trip: Explore the central region of Santorini. Go to the ancient city of Thira, high atop a mountain. A fascinating trip through time. Go to the island’s best winery, Hatzitakis in Pyrgos, and taste some of their wines. The place is not fancy, but the wine is amazing. Santos is certainly a more popular and prettier winery, with breathtaking views of the island, but  their wines are just OK. We go to the beaches of Kamari in the late afternoon, when the throngs of tourists have left for the day. The water’s warm, and the beaches are quiet.

What a fun food adventure! Metaxy Mas is a taverna located in Exo Gonia, behind a church, down a steep cobblestone driveway. From the road, you can barely see the small “Metaxy Mas” sign. But you do see a hand-painted sign with an arrow saying “taverna.” You follow it past the church courtyard, past a kids’ playground, and suddenly, it opens up to a view that overlooks Santorini. The restaurant is small, but they’ve got some kind of deal going on with an office building next door that allows them to places a bunch of tables outdoors on the patio.
Wherever you sit, the food, the hassle and the crowds are worth it.
It was our first try at Cretan food and it was wonderful. Do not miss the pan-fried crusted feta cheese….or the asparagus swimming in a cheese sauce that begs to have the plate licked clean…or a fried cheese that rivals the best Saganaki. The pork chops with orange sauce were tender and not overpowered by the tanginess of the citrus.
The dining begins with a shot of a local spirit called Raki, a kind of grappa, that will get your digestive juices going. And it ends with a warm, citrusy liqueur and a bite of homemade cheesecake that simply rounds out an amazing meal.
Get a reservation. don’t expect to walk in and find a table. It’s that good.

Metaxy Mas wine

 

GIORGAROS TAVERNA

Trip: Visit the incredible ruins at Akrotiri, worth a visit even on the hottest of days, since it’s all indoors. Explore the red beach nearby. Drive to the lighthouse, just to say you’ve been to the very tip of Santorini. And then stop in Faros for a great meal at Giorgaros.

We first stumbled upon Giorgaros Taverna five years ago, while exploring the very end of Santorini, near the lighthouse. The fish was incredibly fresh and the view breathtaking, all run by a hard-working friendly family that took pride in their establishment.
We returned this year, and fortunately, little has changed. Our server, who was a young girl five years ago, has grown up, and once again, she led us to the kitchen, where all the fresh seafood was stored in refrigerated drawers: sea bream, red mullet, lobsters, and several critters we didn’t recognize.
The pan-fried fish was like candy. And our special order of lobster with pasta came with a sauce that was so magnificent, it’s hard to even describe the fantastic flavors that only an intense homemade fish stock can bring. It took extra time to cook, and it was worth every bit of the wait.
Rent a car, get away from the annoying touristy crowds, visit the amazing ruins at Akrotiri, then head toward the lighthouse and eat at Giorgaros. You will not regret it.

Giorgaros

ROKA

Trip: A visit to Santorini is not complete without a visit to Oia, and not just for the sunset when everybody else goes. Oia is the most strikingly beautiful corner of the island, and it’s worth at least a couple of days to explore the shops, the art galleries, to walk down the steps to Amoudi Bay, and to ride a donkey back up, Get your best walking shoes on and be prepared to climb a lot of steps! Whenever we visit Santorini, we always stay at a hotel in Oia…our favorite: Esperas. No reason to stay anywhere else.

To use the cliche, Roka is “where the locals go.” This is not a sunset destination. If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation, and then be told how to get there (it’s a little tricky, but not impossible), you get to eat at one of Oia’s best food restaurants. In our one-week stay, we ate there twice. Sure, the outdoor terrace overlooks the local neighborhood, barking dogs included. But the food more than makes up for the real estate.
You must have the fava: light as a cloud and topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil. Great salads. The Manouri cheese, fried then drizzled with honey and sesame seeds: fantastic. Tomato fritters: a Santorini classic. Marinated anchovies in vinegar and rosemary: the best I’ve had anywhere.
Our server, Dimitri, realized he had a couple of foodies on his hands, so we left our main course one night up to him: the ravioli stuffed with anthotiro cheese and a dried cherry basil sauce was terrific. On our second night, we enjoyed a very rich and comforting lamb hock in a lemon sauce. And don’t miss the panacotta for dessert!
The wine list was not mind-blowing, but there are enough good choices to make your meal enjoyable.

Dimitris

 

DIMITRIS AMOUDI TAVERNA

Trip: While you’re day-tripping in Oia, have lunch in Amoudi. Or better yet…make reservations for the sunset here.

We discovered Dimitri’s ten years ago, on our first trip, re-visited five years ago, then again this year. It has never disappointed us.
Dimitri is the fisherman. His wife, Joy, a Vancouver native, runs the restaurant 7 days a week for the entire 6 month season. No language issues here. And though we never order our food “American style,” if you have food hang-ups (like you can’t stand the sight of a fish head, ya big wuss), Joy can calm your fears.
The local fava dish is rustic and a classic. Saganaki: the best on the island. A delightful beet salad. Great wilted wild greens called Vlita, a kind of amaranth. The seafood menu totally depends on what they’ve caught, and Joy will escort you into the kitchen where you can see all of the day’s catch on ice to make your selections. Never pass up on the (hardwood charcoal) grilled octopus or the fried black cod if they have it. Red mullet is equally fantastic. Deep-fried shrimp are like candy, but beware: you eat them heads, shells, whiskers and all!
Dimitris also has Hatzitakis wine on their menu, our clear choice for best wine in Santorini. And the all-new local Donkey beers are great, too.
Your table is literally on the water: two more inches and you’d fall into Amoudi Bay. The walk down from Oia along the very long stairway that winds down the side of the cliff: absolutely worth it, despite dodging some donkeys and donkey poop. (But take a taxi back up. Joy will call one for you.)
Make a reservation for sunset! Check out the beautiful, brightly colored fishing boats moored in the bay. Share a bottle of wine…or two.

AlKelly Dimitris

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

KASTRO

Trip: Another place to drink or dine while in Oia…

Located Cliffside in Oia, overlooking Amoudi Bay, this is another excellent location for drinks at sunset (reservations a must!) or a really enjoyable meal. Two dishes really knocked our socks off at Kastro. The first: rolled eggplant, with feta cheese and tomato sauce, using the local eggplant that is so much milder than what we’re used to at home–doesn’t even need to be peeled–with local feta cheese and an intense tomato sauce from Santorini tomatoes grown in volcanic soil.

Kastro eggplant

The second amazing dish was what we labeled “an olive donut:” olives stuffed with cream cheese, then dunked in a batter that was then fried and drizzled with honey. Unbelievably good! We came back to Kastro a second time just for those two dishes.

Olive donuts

The salads at Kastro are fresh, inventive and very large…good to share. And the lamb was the best I had on our visit. (How can you not have lamb when in Greece?)

Cliffside view of Kastro

Cliffside view of Kastro

They call it fava, but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart, the yellow split pea, no doubt due in part to the dry, volcanic Santorini soil it grows in. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.
The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.
Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.
Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.
When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.
Proud of his fava

Proud of his fava

On our recent trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple, rustic version with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon at Dimitris in Amoudi, and a light-as-a-cloud creamy fava topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil at Roka in Oia.
Finding real Santorini fava can be difficult and expensive on line, but it is possible. You can easily find dried yellow split peas in local US supermarkets, but it’s not quite the same.
My personal touch–no surprise here–bacon! I finely chop and then fry a small amount of bacon and sauté it with the chopped onion, then add it (with the bacon fat) to the boiling pot of fava and water in the beginning.

SANTORINI, GREECE

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Food, Santorini, travel, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

santorini1 santorini2 santorini3Back for our third visit on this incredible legendary island. Though many things have changed in the last five years–larger crowds, more humungous tour buses squeezing through very narrow streets, more high-end hotel construction–the essence of the this island, and of the magical town of Oia, where we always stay, (pronounced Ee-yah) has remained intact. The people are as friendly as ever, and more than happy to share their heritage with you.

As I write this, I can hear the jingling of the bells on the donkeys that carry people up the long and steep winding stairway that connects the waterfront town of Amoudi below to the cliffside village of Oia above.

In future posts, I’ll discuss where to go, what to do, where to eat, and what to avoid.

No elevators here. Get your sturdiest walking shoes on and get ready to rock!

 

The original cucumber soup recipe comes from Ikies Traditional Houses, a wonderful hotel in the beautiful town of Oia in Santorini, Greece. After a long, hot day of exploring this beautiful island, we settled down to a refreshing bowl of cucumber soup. They were nice enough to share the recipe with us, and a few tweaks later, it’s my definition of perfect.

cuke soup

 

Ingredients:

 

3 English cucumbers or 5 regular cucumbers, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 cup vegetable stock, preferably home made

4 cups plain full- fat yogurt, preferably Fage Greek yogurt

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

Fleur de Sel and pepper

 

Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers and place in a blender with garlic, stock, 2 cups of the yogurt, mint leaves, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel, and a grating of fresh black pepper.

Turn on blender and mix well. Stop blender and then add remaining 2 cups of yogurt and mix by hand.

Pour cucumber soup in bowls. Garnish with diced cucumber or radish.

 

To make the vegetable stock, boil chopped carrots, celery and onion in a large pot of water for an hour, reducing by half. Strain the veggies before using the stock. You can roast the veggies on a sheet pan in a hot oven for a bit before adding to the water for an even richer flavor.