Category: Greek food (page 1 of 4)

Lonely Planet profiles NE Aegean plus 4 ‘secret,’ timeless islands

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Lonely Planet magazine

Greece gets front-cover prominence on the cover of the Lonely Planet newsstand issue for May 2018

 

The secret’s out: I had a strong hunch I might find something interesting to read about Greece when I walked into the magazine department at my local bookstore yesterday.  When I turned into the travel section, my premonition instantly proved accurate — standing at eye level on the front shelf was the latest edition of Lonely Planet, its cover graced with a photo of a blue-roofed Greek Orthodox church illustrating its “Secret Greece” feature story. 

In another pleasant delight, I realized I had seen that very same church in person — on Astypalea, during our island hopping holiday in 2009.

Astypalea is one of seven islands featured in Lonely Planet’s May issue and, in another curious coincidence, the article about it recommends staying in the very accommodations where we spent several nights: Fildisi Boutique Hotel

The magazine highlights two other islands we have been to — Hydra and Sifnos — and, in yet another surprising stroke of serendipity, spotlights four more that I had been seriously considering for our upcoming vacation: Lesvos, Chios, Ikaria and Kythera. (We have already made plans to spend our time in and within sight of the Peloponnese, but Lonely Planet suddenly has me wondering if I may have made a mistake.)

 

 

The main focus of the magazine’s Great Escape cover feature is the Northeast Aegean group of Greek islands; specifically, Lesvos, Chios and Ikaria. Stepping ashore on these particular isles “introduces olive farmers and wild honey, hidden villages and untouched beaches, and perhaps the secret to long life,” the feature story introduction says.

Reading the Lesvos profile quickly made me crave Greek cuisine, though I should have expected that given the article’s headline: “Savour the many flavours of Greece on Lesvos, from olive oil to ouzo and orange wine.”

The second feature story invites readers to “discover a centuries-old tradition of mastic cultivation and the fortress-like villages that grew rich from it” in southern Chios.

The third main article introduces Ikaria, one of the world’s unique Blue Zone locations where residents “enjoy longer lives than anyone else in Europe.”

One-page mini profiles for Astypalea, Kythera, Sifnos and Hydra appear in the magazine’s “Secret Greece” feature as examples that, “even in the well-known Greek island groups,” visitors can find “the odd place that’s little changed over the decades.” Each profile includes short thumbnail descriptions for “Why am I going?”, “Where should I stay?”, “What am I eating?”, and “What am I drinking?”

The island articles are all good reads, and just might entice you to consider the Northeast Aegean for a future trip to Greece, especially if you haven’t considered that region of the country before. (They probably will make you feel peckish for Greek food and beverages, too.)

See if you can find a copy of the magazine at your local newsstand before it sells out.

 

Where to dine, drink and shop local in Kyparissia’s Old Town

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Palia Agora in Kyparissia

Street view of Palia Agora, where a selection of scrumptious mezes topped off our enjoyable visit to Kyparissia 

 

Fab food & drink: Take us to a town or village with sensational views and scenery, and we will probably like it. If there are archaeological sites, or historic buildings or places close by, we will certainly like it even more. Picturesque streets and interesting architecture?  Beautiful beaches, majestic mountains or scenic seasides in the vicinity? A relaxed setting and laid-back atmosphere? Those are guaranteed to tick off even more boxes on our “like” list.

But a destination won’t completely win our hearts if we don’t go home with fond memories of restaurants and cafes. (We’re not foodies or wine snobs by any stretch of the imagination, but we do like to eat, we love good coffee, and we enjoy sipping some nice wine as well.) Since Kyparissia has many of the characteristics that make us happy on holiday — plus really good food and drink in particular — we couldn’t help but love our short visit there in May 2017.

What impressed us on the food & drink front were three places we discovered in the charming Ano Poli (Old Town) district of  Kyparissia:  a shop selling a wide range of local food items and other Made in Messenia products, a comfortable cafe-bar; and a delightful estiatorio – mezedopoleio. Conveniently and coincidentally enough, all three establishments were located  just a stone’s throw apart on Eleni Chameri Street, the main road of Ano Poli.

Here’s a closer look at each:

♦ Palia Agora

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

Palia Agora’s beautifully decorated bar and dining room 

 

A late lunch at Palia Agora was the highlight of our afternoon in Kyparissia. We took one of the tree-shaded tables in front of the restaurant and ordered wine and a selection of cold and hot mezes (small plates perfect for sharing),  then sat back and relaxed while our meal was prepared. The local wine was delicious, and the food was amazing. In fact, it was one of the best meals of our spring 2017 vacation. Some of the standout dishes included the grilled pleurotus mushrooms, local sausage, pork slices accompanied by potatoes and pieces of oranges, the fava with olives and onions, and cheese balls rolled in chopped pistachios. Equally impressive was the friendly and efficient service. We would go back to Kyparissia just to have another meal here, the food was that good.

Not surprisingly, Palia Agora is ranked as the #1 restaurant in Kyparissia by TripAdvisor, and it recently received the 2018 Gold Award for Quality and Taste from the leading Greek gastronomy website estiatoria.gr

You can read over 200 customer reviews, and see more than 100 photos of the restaurant and its tasty dishes, in the Palia Agora listing on TripAdvisor.   There are dozens of additional photos on the Palia Agora Facebook page.

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

The grilled pleurotus mushrooms (left) were divine.  Also tasty were the cheese balls rolled in chopped pistachios, and served with a salad and  pita. 

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

From the restaurant’s Facebook page, a photo showing the Palia Agora sign, entrance and part of its streetside dining area

 

Palia Agora restaurant in Kyparissia

If you visit Palia Agora for a meal but sit outdoors as we did, make sure to take a peek inside the restaurant to check out the lovely decor and the interesting interior design details, like the light fixture above. 

 

♦ Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar

 

Algorithmos cafe bar

Street view of Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar, which occupies the ground floor of this beautiful building on Eleni Chameri Street

 

Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar in Kyparissia

In addition to its streetside tables and indoor seating area, Algo-rithmos has an open-air balcony out back, where customers can enjoy views of Kyparissia and the sea

 

We stopped at Algo-rithmos for two coffee breaks during our walkabouts through the Old Town and to the Castle of Kyparissia. We sat at one of the tables out front, next to the street, both times, but we could have chosen to sit inside or on the town- and seaview veranda at the rear of the building had we preferred.

Though we only ordered coffees and tea, the cafe has a full bar serving beer, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Snacks and light food dishes are available, too. The shop interior is cozy and comfortable, with an eclectic interior design (there’s a bicycle, musical instruments and several bookshelves mounted on the walls, and a stack of hardcover books suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the room.)

The service was friendly and prompt, and we liked the music that was playing.

You can read more about the cafe-bar in the customer reviews posted on the Algo-rithmos listing on TripAdvisor.

 

Allgorithmos Cafe Bar in Kyparissia

This image, which Algo-rithmos provided for its listing on TripAdvisor, shows part of the cafe-bar interior

 

♦ Messinia Gi

Travelling shopaholics won’t find many stores to browse in Ano Poli, but they will find it worthwhile visiting  Messinia Gi, especially if they like to support regional artisans by “shopping local” for food, fashion accessories and other items to give as gifts or to take home for personal use or souvenirs.

Messinia Gi boasts an extensive selection of food, beverage, fashion and souvenir products made either locally or in the  Messenia region.  Food items on offer include sweets, healthy snacks, honey, packages of handmade pasta, olive oil, olives, herbs and spices, nuts and many more. General merchandise includes jewellery and other women’s fashion accessories, personal care products, and ceramics. (You can view dozens of photos of the shop’s seasonal and regular merchandise in the albums and posts on the Messinia Gi Facebook page, and see additional pictures on the Messinia Gi listing on TripAdvisor.

We picked up postcards and several local food items to bring home for friends and ourselves, including jars of delicious figs stuffed with nuts, while our friends walked out with several bags containing what looked to us like enough food to prepare a week’s worth of meals once they returned to Athens.

The pleasant young lady who was minding the store was very helpful in explaining the contents and sources of the various food items we were considering, and in making suggestions for products to try.  

If you’d like to take home some tastes of Messenia, be sure to visit the shop while you’re in or near Kyparissia.

 

Messinia Gi shop in Kyparissia

If you visit the Old Town, you’ll find a vast variety of local products at Messinia Gi. The made-in-Messenia items make great gifts or personal souvenirs.  This photo of the storefront is from the Messinia Gi page on Facebook.

 

Messinia Gi shop in Kyparissia

Local product displays are shown in this photo that Messinia Gi management provided for the shop’s listing on TripAdvisor. Below is another photo of the store interior, also from its TripAdvisor listing.

 

Messinia Gi  shop in Kyparissia

 

KateRina’s traditional Greek cuisine hits the spot

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KateRinas Taverna

KateRinas Taverna

Exterior views of KateRina’s Restaurant in the Romanos area of Messenia, a short drive from Voidokilia beach and the town of Pylos

 

Late lunch: We felt famished after our hike to the Old Castle of Navarino and a long walk during our visit to Voidokilia beach, and all of us agreed that a hearty lunch of traditional Greek cuisine would really hit the spot. KateRina’s Restaurant near Romanos had been recommended by several reliable sources, and was only a 10-minute drive away, so we piled into the car and headed right over.

We arrived shortly before 3 in the afternoon, so the lunch crowd had moved on and the few customers still in the taverna were all close to finishing their meals. Restaurant proprietor Katerina greeted us with a warm welcome and showed us to a table at the edge of the veranda where a light breeze — plus beer, wine and water — helped us cool off after our half day in the hot sun.

 

KateRina's Tavern Restaurant

The main entrance to Katerina’s Restaurant

 

KateRina's Tavern Restaurant

Tables in a cozy corner of the open-air dining veranda

 

Given our ravenous appetites, we weren’t sure how much food to order, but KateRina assured us that our selection of Greek salad, tzatziki, zucchini balls, meat balls and a local pork dish would be probably be just the right amount for four hungry people.  So we sat back to relax and enjoy our beverages while KateRina and her kitchen staff prepared our lunch.

The taverna was celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary in 2017, and once we tasted Katerina’s traditional cuisine we immediately understood why her restaurant has been highly recommended for so long: the food was superb.

The zucchini balls — a house specialty which has long been a customer favourite  — were delicious, as were the pork (served in a yummy tomato sauce) and the tender, juicy meat balls (accompanied by a heaping side of scrumptious fried potatoes)We also loved the large horiatiki , which included two ingredients we’d never seen before in a Greek salad: cooked beets and potatoes. (They added nice flavours and textures to the dish.) Then there was the restaurant’s signature tzatziki, served with a platter of grilled bread. It was simply outstanding. Tzatziki has never been one of my favourite starters, but KateRina’s version was almost to die for. 

 

KateRina's Restaurant

Katerina’s tzatziki was divine (and the portion was huge, though it’s not obvious in my photo)

 

KateRina's Restaurant salad

KateRina’s Greek salad includes chunks of tasty beets and potatoes

 

The service was excellent and Katerina was a delightful hostess. At the end of our meal, she took time to join us for some conversation about her taverna and the local area before returning to the kitchen to prepare for a very busy night — a group from a nearby resort had booked the entire restaurant for dinner.

 

 

If you’re travelling in the southwestern Peloponnese, plan to stop by KateRina’s for a lunch or dinner of fabulous Greek cuisine or delicious fresh fish. It might be wise to make a reservation, though, since the restaurant is quite popular with tourists visiting the nearby town of Pylos or Voidokilia and other close-by beaches. Large groups from the five-star Westin Costa Navarino and Romanos Luxury Collection Resort often bus over to the taverna, as well, so the place can get very busy or even completely booked out.

Contact information and hours of operation are indicated on the KateRina’s Tavern website.  If you want to read what other people have said about the restaurant, check the Katerina’sTavern listing on TripAdvisor, where more than 250 customers have posted reviews.

KateRinas Restaurant

A red marker pinpoints the location of KateRina’s Restaurant on this Google image of the Navarino Bay area of the Peloponnese. The taverna is very close to the Westin Costa Navarino Resort (top left) and is a short drive from the town of Pylos (bottom center).

A castle- and seaview lunch break at Methoni beach

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Methoni Castle and Methoni beach

Our lunch at Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni was served with three lovely views, including the historic Methoni Castle to our right …

 

Methoni Bay

… Methoni Bay and Sapientza Island directly in front, and …

 

Methoni beach

… the golden sands and turquoise waters at the town beach to our left

 

Seaside dining: It was a huge treat to have lunch in the town of Methoni after visiting the area’s leading historic attraction for a few hours (which I described in my recent post,  A Walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle).

What made our lunch break so special wasn’t just our feast on fabulous Greek fare, but the beautiful views we got to enjoy from our seaside seats at Akrogiali Taverna. From our table a mere meter from the water’s edge, we could gaze at Methoni’s golden sand beach, its picturesque bay and small harbour, and the imposing stone walls of the ancient castle. 

That kind of restaurant location and scenic backdrop is simply impossible to find anywhere back home in Toronto. Even though our city boasts an enviably long waterfront on Lake Ontario and a clutch of small islands with extensive parkland just a short ferry ride from downtown, we can’t dine right beside the water anywhere (not even on the Toronto Islands), and there are no centuries-old historic places along the shoreline. (Toronto is a young city by European standards — it was incorporated only in 1834).

The unique experience of open-air dining at a beach or seaside taverna with a scenic view is one of the main reasons why we love travelling to Greece so much, and our visit to Akrogiali was the first such meal of our 2017 spring holiday.  It really hit the spot given that it had been over 11 months since we had last been to a beach taverna.  

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Beach view of the entrance to Akrogiali Taverna

 

After walking around Methoni Castle in the hot sun for more than two hours, and then strolling through part of the town of Methoni, we were looking forward to cooling off in the shade and having a good lunch. We found a couple of options on the Methoni beachfront, but liked the look of Akrogiali the best, so we got a table there.

Our lunch was just as delicious as the scenery: Greek salad, gigantes (giant beans baked in a tomato sauce), kolykythokeftedes (zucchini fritters), piperies me tyri (grilled peppers stuffed with a spicy feta), keftedes (Greek meatballs), a platter of gavros (small grilled fishes) and a big plate of fried potatoes.

With the calming views, light sea breeze and the sound of waves lapping against the sandy beach, it was pure bliss. I would have been happy to spend the rest of the day there, drinking wine and nibbling mezes while watching swimmers and boats in the bay, and looking at the castle.

Below are more photos of our lunchtime view and three of the dishes we enjoyed. If you would like to read what other people have thought of the restaurant, you can find more than 100 reviews under the Akrogiali Taverna listing on TripAdvisor.

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Part of the large open-air dining terrace at Akrogiali

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Tables along the edge of the patio offer unobstructed views of Methoni beach and bay

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Side view of part of Akrogiali’s large, shaded patio

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

The taverna is less than a 5-minute walk from the Methoni Castle entrance

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Toilet humour: a sign on the taverna wall points the way to the restrooms. They were only 30 steps from our table.

 

Akrogiali Taverna's grilled stuffed peppers

The piperies me tyri (grilled peppers stuffed with a spicy feta cheese)

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Kolykythokeftedes (zucchini fritters) and gigantes (giant beans)

 

Methoni Bay

Sailboats in Methoni Bay

 

Methoni Bay

View toward the mouth of the bay and Kouloura islet

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Customers enjoying the view from Akrogiali’s patio

 

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