Upon my return from Greece, the first question Hubs asked was "how was the food?". I named our favourite Greek restaurant in Ottawa and said that the food in Greece was 10 times better. His mouth remained open for a few seconds.
To say that I like food would be an understatement. I love to eat. I love to talk about food. I enjoy cooking...sometimes. While I'm a foodie, I'm not a picky eater. I make it a point to try everything at least once. At least, I have done that so far. When it comes to food, I don't discriminate. I'll enjoy a gourmet meal with the same passion as street food. If the dish is good, it's good. Nothing else matters. The price tag, the location, the number of Michelin stars. Nothing.
During my stay in Greece, I visited Athens, Heraklion (on the island of Crete), and Vourvoulos and Oia (on the island of Santorini). I spent a full week on Greek soil and never had a bad meal. I can only say this about 2 other places I've been: New Orleans and Lebanon.
Here are the highlights of my culinary journey in Greece along with some recommendations.
A food tour in Athens
I highly recommend the food tour organized by Alternative Athens. It's worth every penny. I like food tours. They are a good way to see the city through the eyes of a local. They also allow you to talk about other topics. In Athens, I lucked out! The guide was an architect. She was able to answer my questions regarding the different architectural styles I spotted in the city. We talked about immigration and the rise of the right. All of that while tasting some of the best dishes I've ever tasted in my life.
As part of the tour, we made a quick stop in a local pastry shop (established in 1949). The sweets tasted as good as they looked. For the first time ever, I taste chocolate baklava. Yum! We talked about the never ending quest of finding out who invented this slice of heavenly goodness.
The tour took us to parts of the city I wouldn't have visited otherwise. Taking us to Yoleni's (a specialty store) where we tasted honey, wine, feta cheese, and chocolate. We learned about mastic at Mastiha Shop. Mastic, the tree and its resin, is unique to Greece. The resin is used to make cookies, soaps, and other beauty products.
And, of course, we tasted street food: breads and souvlaki.
Suggestions in Athens
Restaurants in the Plaka neighbourhood have a good reputation. The area is very touristy, but you'll note that locals hang out there as well. My friend and I dined at Diogenes. (Try the stew. Thank me later.)
For a quick bite near the PanAthenaic Stadium, try Elias Bakery. The people serving me understood English and were very nice.
Atitamos scores a 4.5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor. It's cheap and delicious, and the portions are big.
You can take a girl out of the island...
But you certainly can't the island out of a girl. I felt right at home in Crete and Santorini. There were laurels, bougainvillea and flanbwayan. And the food was to die for.
The best meal I had in Crete was at the Palace and Archeological Site at Knossos. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Stuffed peppers with a side of feta, for me. Pasta, for my travel companion.
There are restaurants and cafés on the various plazas. We had coffee at Enetiko, near the Morosini Lions Fountain (Heraklio), and brunch near Saint Minas Cathedral, right in the square.
Oia is home of the iconic white houses that come to mind when the word Santorini is uttered. Oia is also very touristy and expensive. My advice: stay in another village (I suggest Vourvoulos), rent a car, and visit Oia. Parking is free near the town; you won't have to worry about it. By staying in another village, you'll be saving on accommodations and the cost of your meal. I'm not exaggerating. What we paid for a glace of wine and ice cream in Oia, covered a 3-course meal (wine included) in Vourvoulos. You definitely pay for the view! And what a view that is.
Side note. I'm a red wine drinker, plus I'm not a fan of ice cream. But the heat in Oia turned me into an ice cream fiend. (Bring a hat and sunscreen!)
Each time I think about going back to Greece, I think about this small restaurant in Vourvoulos Square: Aidani. Their seafood taste like the sea. Let me explain. I currently live in Ottawa, in-land. Any seafood I eat spent so much time on the road that it has lost its distinctive smell and taste. Needless to say that I don't eat seafood often here. The stuffed squid I had in Vourvoulos had the saltiness of the sea. It is, by far, one of the best dishes I've ever had. It's too bad that I didn't order it... I had opted for the prawns, which were delicious as well.
I'd also like to mention the 5-euro breakfast (in-room service; no tip expected) our Airbnb host offered.
Do you know of any must-eat places in Greece, or anywhere else in the world? Drop a comment on Facebook!