Ah Crete, writing this post is though in rainy Slovenia, but it’s quite similar to meditation. It makes me reminisce all the good things that happened in these two weeks. First let me tell you that I have decided to live here someday. This is a place with distinctive flavours and renewed respect for tradition. It is perfect for my crazy healthy demands and is at the epicentre of Greece’s agro-tourism revolution.
My first stop was in Panormos with Blueroom where we were filming one of the promotional videos for hotels. After several meetings my food detective belly started wanting proper local food. And who do I run into, the one and only Savina Atai who invited me to dinner with her hubby Giorgos. We ate at their family restaurant Porto Parasiris, I need to take a moment of silence here… Why? Because the food was just incredible. This enigmatic and exciting restaurant was the peek of my holiday and it has only just started! Mother of Giorgos is a wizard in the kitchen who only uses their own vegetables, herbs, olive oil and meat. “That is amazing! You use everything from your own garden and cook everything in your homemade olive oil?!” I said to Giorgos stunned. He looks at me strangely and answers “yes of course, how else do you prepare food?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. In Crete, as on many Greek islands, the best and most authentic food is often found in hinterland villages far from major towns and beach resorts teeming with tourists. Food has long been an intrinsic part of Cretan culture, from harvesting the family olive groves and foraging for wild greens to gathering snails after rain. The traditional Cretan diet is one of the healthiest in the world. This diet is the one I’m most found of – a diet high in olive oil, vegetables, grains and legumes and low in meat.
It was a great experience for me to run around with locals who pointed me to obscure tavernas where the tomatoes come from the owner’s garden, the wine, cheese and olive oil are homemade, the eggs are from the chooks out the back, and the meat is from local farmers (or they accidentally hit a rabbit on the road and use it for dinner – true story from Savina). As a seafood lover I was always served only fresh fish full of taste drizzled with juice of their massive lemons.
Cretans have a special attitude towards food, it’s normal for them to hike up the mountains to collect wild herbs and greens, and they believe being close to the food source is fundamental to maintaining the essence of Cretan food. They are proud to be farmers and have the power of being self-sustained. It’s quite amazing seeing the hard work and effort many are putting for the land. Even though the hardest crisis has struck them it’s quite calming seeing their will and motivation towards their culinary traditions and the agrarian way of life.
Don’t get me wrong; this island is full of massive touristic/family resorts filled with the most tasteless food you could find. But if you’re like me and do not wish to seek only sun, sea and sand holidays, than you are in luck. You can easily find mountain retreats and farm stays, village restorations, and activities focusing on local culinary traditions.
My favourite time was taking our rental car and exploring the country. I stopped several times to take a dip in the most crystal clear waters, in midday I usually decided to search for a local taverna and in the afternoon I sat with a few older gents sipping freddo capuccino and watching soccer. There is no nonsense in their food, drinks or even cosmetics. Everything is simple, rustic local cooking at its best. My favourite was lamb; a delicately crumbed green capsicum stuffed with myzithra cheese; and a salad of rocket, rusks, tomatoes, cheese and olives dressed with vinegar and fine Cretan olive oil. For dessert I tried Savinas and Giorgos super food homemade ice cream (from sheep milk) and real deal greek yogurt with honey or simply watermelon with raki. Fresh, simple, organic!
TOP 3 beaches:
TOP 3 restaurants:
2. Prima Plora