September 5, 2011

Greece - Part 1: Introducing Mezés & Frappés

As summer is coming to a rapid end in the UK, I decided to take myself back to the lovely spring holiday to Greece in April.  In this series of posts, I will share some of the tastes of Greece and also recommend some great places to visit and eat based on our 10 day trip.

Fresh fruit and bread everywhere from street vendors and fresh coconut juice
To start I am going to do a quick intro of some of the flavours of Greece including Greek mezés (small dishes of food) normally eaten with a glass of ouzo (an 80 proof alcoholic drink, often served with ice) if you are in an ouzeria (a type of Greek tavern).

Some of most popular mezés we tried include:

  • Fava - a puree/dip made from yellow split peas, served with salty food or bread.  It's especially lovely with a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon.
  • Dolmathes - stuffed vine leaves with rice and sometimes meat; also commonly found outside of Greece but tastes much lighter and fresher in Greece 
  • Greek salad - again, so much better in Greece where the feta is light and smooth and the tomatoes are full of flavour
  • Spanakopita - spinach pie (in filo pastry); can be served in small triangles or as a slice of a big pie
  • Saganaki - a saganaki is a small fry pan and cheese or prawn saganaki are commonly served as mezés.  Cheese saganaki is like pan fried halloumi served with lemon - those who know my love of halloumi will appreciate how exciting this was for me.
  • Soutzoukakia - spicy little sausages in tomato sauce

Mezes - the perfect accompaniment for Greece' climate and lifestyle

I was also introduced to carrot dip which I had a couple of times - the dip has strips of fresh carrot in it which gives it a smooth and crunchy taste sensation.  Yum.  Along with the fresh fruit and veg, there is also plenty of fresh seafood in Greece given the coastline and the hundreds of islands that make up Greece.  Grilled or marinated octopus is popular, as are fried calamari.  Sardines and anchovies are also commonly eaten and can be found on many menus as a starter.  And of course there is loads of fresh fish.

Now a quick word on Greek frappé coffee - iced coffees with a sweet but strong coffee flavour, served chilled.  I wasn't expecting Greece to be the land of iced coffees but Dave and I pretty much had one everyday as they were sooo good, especially in warm weather.  Fresh coconut and orange juice is always available also but the iced coffees were so consistently good we couldn't pass them up.  Apart from that, the other well known drink of Greece is Retsina, a white wine with resin added to it.  We weren't game enough and instead stuck to our favourite local beer of Mythos, in between the frappés. 

Outdoor cafe in Parikia - Another refreshing frappe - Outdoor bar in Naoussa

In my next post, I will give a tour of the best eats from Santorini which was the second Cyclades island we visited.  Our first stop was Paros, a relatively large but quiet island.  As it was the Easter weekend when we arrived, a lot of restaurants in Parikia (where we stayed) were closed and whilst we had some nice meals, there was nothing blog-worthy.  I would like to however, mention the bars of Naoussa (on the other side of the island) which are the typical white washed buildings right on the water - very chilled out with great views, perfect for a frappe or a glass of your favourite drink and some mezés.  What a great way to live!

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