I love Greek food! I had my first taste when I was pretty young. My parents were having a party and their good friend Ann, who is Greek, brought a plate of her homemade baklava. I remember sitting under the buffet table stuffing my face with that delicious desert. I wish Ann was still around today. My Mom said she would get a kick out of me being in Greece.
I also love to cook and my favorite spices are from this area of the world, spices like coriander, cumin, cardamon, cayenne, turmeric, basil, garlic, and cloves. Besides these spices, Greek, Moroccan, and Mediterranean food have a lot in common; grilled meats, fresh seafood, tasty olives and olive oil. This is the type of food we normally make at home. Here in Greece we were able to get souvlaki (grilled meat kebabs) and ground beef, pork, or lamb patties cooked with these spices. Just like when we grill at home!
When we lived in Seattle, we used to frequent two great little Greek restaurants and learned a lot about Greek food. It was there that I had my first bite of meat, a small piece of Howard’s delicious beef souvlaki, after 11 years of being a sudo-vegetarian (“sudo” because I ate sushi). That paved the way to an all out end to my vegetarian days with a heaping plate of maple bacon from the Treasure Island buffet in Las Vegas. I ran around the casinos that day with more energy than a sugar filled toddler at bed time.
Here in Crete we’ve tried all the typical dishes, spanakopita (spinach pie), Greek salad (yes, it’s still Greek salad here, not just salad), grilled squid and octopus, fried sardines, and of course dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). We were also really looking forward to the saganaki here. Saganaki is cheese fried in olive oil and served with lemon juice and bread. Howard and I like to call it “Opah Cheese” because we are used to it being served on a hot skillet with a shot of ouzo poured over the cheese and lit on fire. Everyone in the restaurant will yell “opah” and the flames are put out with a squeeze of lemon juice. Saganaki is not served that way here. You just get the fried cheese, no flames or shouts of “opah”. We found this very disappointing.
One really great thing about Greece is that it’s considered rude to serve someone a drink without any food. When you order a beer in a bar here, you will be given anything from chips or snack mix to a plate full of veggies and cheese to a warm appetizer. Sometimes you also get a complementary desert and after dinner drink. The most common after dinner drink here in Crete is Raki, or tsikoudia. This is an alcoholic beverage, made from grapes that’s anywhere from 80 to 140 proof. Sometimes it’s smooth, other times it’s like holy-hell-what-did-I-just-drink.
Despite all the great food on this island, we are sick of eating out. Our Airbnb doesn’t have a full kitchen, just a fridge, microwave, and oddly a waffle iron. The grocery stores and markets here are much bigger and have a better selection than in Lisbon but we have not been able to find a package of ramen noodles or can of soup anywhere. There’s nothing else I’ve seen that I want to try to cook at home. Luckily there is the Wok Spot. This little street noodle stand is probably our favorite place to eat here. They serve fresh, made to order dishes with either noodles or rice, and a choice of meat, veggies, sauce and extras like cashews or sesame seeds. Fun Fact: According to my smart watch it is 6000 steps from our apartment to Wok Spot and back.
I’m looking forward to Belgrade where we will have a full kitchen. Right away we’re going to stock up on food and start eating at home. I’m looking forward to my Greek food. We leave Hiraklion in two days. Enough time for one more authentic Greek meal, and one more run to Wok Spot!