For over thirty years I have been escaping to Greece every summer to swim in the translucent, turquoise waters and feel my nerves being slowly ironed out by the relaxed rhythm of daily life. In the beginning when school term finished I would put my daughters in the car and take the ferry to Igouminitsa. We drove around, sleeping in rooms over tavernas, exploring the legendary Peloponnese. We were moved by the feeling of sanctity at Delphi, haunted by Clytaemnestra, Iphigenia and Orestes at Mycenae and inspired by a white and scarlet Melina Mercouri at a performance of Oedipus Rex in Epidaurus.
In later years we flew to discover the islands – Ionian, Cyclades, Sporades and Dodecanese. Crete drew us back at regular intervals as we dreamed of the bull dancers and sought echoes of Homer’s wine-dark sea. On all these many holidays food and wine played a very minor rôle. We never acquired a taste for retsina and the other wines were often barely drinkable. The meze were always a delight, tsasiki, saganaki, keftedes, dolmades and the mouth-watering, addictive greek salad. But when we were taken into the kitchen to choose our main course we were not inspired by the heavy, luke-warm stews. We relied on moussaka and souvlaki to save the day. My first real gastronomic experience occurred in Loutrou, Crete at the Blue House where mother and daughter-in-law vied to produce the most perfect home cooking. Wines started to become something to be sipped slowly with pleasure and the taverna food began to bear some resemblance to the good Greek cooking I used to enjoy in Greek families.
Today I enjoy real gastronomic holidays and for the last few years I have been taking small groups to Greece to explore the food and wine. I am just back from a trip to Rhodes and Symi.
In Rhodes at Stefano on Kiotari Beach near Lindos we had two very good meals and when I asked for my favourite Assyrtiko wine Giorgos introduced us to a blend with Sauvignon Blanc – Kthma Biblia Chora which was very good. It won the Decanter’s Gold prize for 2013. I searched out the wine because I wanted to bring home a couple of bottles and I was directed to Marinos in Rhodes Town where the owner, Theofilos , urged me to add a bottle from Santorini, the original home of Assyrtiko where the volcanic ash and pumice left by the 1650 B.C. eruption is kept moist in the summer by the evening fog from the sea and produces excellent, bone-dry whites. This wine has also won prizes and it can be obtained in the UK, US and Australia but alas, not in Italy. Theofilos urged me to try the only Olive oil he stocks, Lord Byron. I was a little scathing about the apparent marketing ploy and only a little mollified when I learned it was produced in Messalonghi where the famous English poet died of pneumonia while helping in the Greek War of Independence against the Turks. However I am always tempted by new olive oils so I bought a bottle to bring home. It is good and I plan to enjoy my Greek wines with an appropriate Greek meal cooked with Lord Byron (the oil, not the poet) and my long-time favourite Terra Creta.
Next year I am thinking of changing my venue to the Peloponnese, cooking and eating in Finikounda and Mani. Years ago I visited Kalamata and rented a house in Methoni where I was enchanted by the lovely sea at Finikounda. Mani has always woven a spell and it will add an extra dimension to our indulgent week. I also feel it is time to revisit the classical sites so there will be a short extension to visit, eat and drink in Delphi, Mycenae and Epidaurus.
If you are interested let me know whether you prefer June or September.
Details will soon be available on my web site which will have text but the appearance is in the process of being updated.
First, a great two brother taxi service in Rhodes, honest, helpful and perfect English Phone Savas 0030 6945828193
Ergon – Iroon Polytechniou 15 Rhodes Town
Giorgos suggested we gave up our reservation in Rhodes famous fish restaurant to try one of his favourites, and we had an interesting meal with variations on old favourites. Also a few shelves of good food items
In Symi dinner with the charming Stavros at Mythos Restaurant and Tholos on the harbour after the boat yard. Toli in Pedi for a relaxed lunch.