Finally, here is part two of my epic foodie vacation in Greece a few weeks ago! Most of our trip was spent on the island of Santorini, which has consistently delicious seafood cuisine that is almost as impressive as the stunning cliffs and sunset views. A small portion of our trip was spent in Athens, whose cuisine was somewhat less remarkable but equally important to take note of.
I do not hesitate to claim that Greece may be the most beautiful place in the world. For those of you who haven’t been, go now. I mean it. I was kicking myself the whole trip for not having gone before. The islands are especially beautiful; the rocky cliffs topped with picturesque white houses and a deep blue sky, accentuated by the matching blue domes of the churches and the Mediterranean Sea below. It is the most beautiful thing I have seen to-date. Not to mention, the culture and atmosphere of the island is so laid back and friendly it makes for the perfect vacation.
We first flew into Santorini from Rome and arrived about 6 AM, and to our hotel Aqua Luxury Suits in Imerovigli by 6:30. I should mention that I was pretty cranky from not having slept at all the night before, and when we got to our hotel the receptionist told us that our room wouldn’t be ready until 2 PM, which we had forgotten about. Ugh.
So basically, we had about 8 hours to kill before we could even go in our rooms (and I had no makeup on, hadn’t showered, looked like crap, etc.) We had been planning on just chilling by the pool, but we had gotten there so early that the whole island was covered in such a heavy fog that you couldn’t see the water below us, and it was about 60º outside too. Thankfully, since our hotel was so schnazzy, we got FREE room service for breakfast each morning of our stay, so we decided to use it and eat outside on the patio until we could figure out what to do with our lives.
So although we were freezing and damp, we had a wonderful little breakfast outside with the fog all around us. The breakfast was probably my favorite thing about the hotel. They give you a menu and you could get whatever you want for free! We got scrambled eggs, cheese, toast, fruit, Greek yogurt and honey, Greek savory pastries, cappuccinos, ham, croissants, and the most delicious orange juice. It was hand delivered by the bell boys, and you could see them balancing the trays precariously on their shoulders as they maneuvered their way down the steep and winding staircases that lined the cliffs. All the food was good of course, but I was particularly excited for the Greek yogurt because we were, you know, in Greece and all. And it did not disappoint. Both the yogurt and the honey were super thick and rich tasting. Mmmm… I could have that for breakfast every morning.
We ended up renting an ATV to explore the island all morning (so much fun!). We went all around and saw every nook and cranny on the island. We eventually headed back around lunch time to see if our room was ready yet, and before we did we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall gyro place, Two Brothers, to grab a quick gyro. Let me tell you how good this gyro was… the chicken was so juicy and chargrilled, and the tzatziki was literally smothering the whole thing and was so awesome. It was topped with a few salty French fries. It was the exact thing that I wanted at that moment, and it was perfectly paired with a frappe. Frappes are super popular over there and are what the majority of people drink on a hot day, however they’re not like the ones in the US. They are super foamy and have a thick head on top, and are insanely caffeinated and delicious. It was totally the move.
We hung out at the pool for the next couple hours until our room was ready, but surprise!! Even when it was ready, the power went out on the whole island (no biggie, apparently), so we still couldn’t shower or utilize our room (we had a cool cave room/personal indoor pool), so we continued drinking rosé by the pool and enjoying the view.
For dinner that night we decided to go to Oia, which is the most popular town to watch the sunset and has quaint little whitewashed souvenir stores on cobblestone streets, and you can see the whole Caldera (or crescent shape curve of the island where the volcano erupted). There were four cruise ships in town and we heard word that Oia would be crowded that night, so we decided to try our luck at a restaurant with a sunset view. Our hotel recommended Pelekanos, which is a seafood restaurant with a fantastic view. We headed up there in our ATV, which scared the hell out of Matt who was driving, because we were twisting and turning on windy roads 1,000 ft. above rocky shores. Eventually we got there and snagged a couple seats at the bar. The restaurant did have a good view, however it wasn’t the closet restaurant to the cliff so you could see other buildings with people on them in front of us. However, the food was slammin’. We ordered the octopus and pureed fava beans as an appetizer to watch the sun go down, and mmm I’m glad we did. The octopus was succulent and charred to perfection, and the fava beans were like a more flavorful hummus! You could really taste the hints of onion and vinegary capers, and I downright smothered my pita bread with it!
We watched the sun go down and it surely was beautiful. However being in such close quarters with other guests all trying to cram in pictures kind of ruined the moment. But I was a few glasses of wine deep so I didn’t care. I ordered the Santorini Pasta for my main dish, which was penne with a sauce out of tomatoes, capers, olives, and feta (I love this combo, btw). Matt ordered a seafood linguini, which was topped with big prawns and mussels. Both dishes were absolutely fantastic and I was loving the salty bits of capers and feta in mine. By the end of our meal we were both sleepy and pleasantly full.
Minor detail: Matt was worried about driving the ATV home on those cliffs in the dark after drinking wine, so he stopped drinking. However his sobriety was all for nothing because we didn’t make it half a mile before we got caught in traffic. Because we were sitting there so long, our ATV overheated and died. Cool. So we had to push it out of the road and I had to borrow a local’s cell phone to call the company. But I guess the local knew how to fix an ATV and was able to get it started for us again. Once we were almost home it would end up dying again, and I had to leave Matt behind on the side of the road to go get help from out hotel. I’m pretty awesome in a crisis situation by the way. Anyways….
Day two in Santorini and we were awoken by our miraculous breakfast again. We had to scarf it down quickly because we were being picked up by the catamaran cruise guys to go to our cruise for the day. Let me just say, if you’re ever in Santorini DO THE CATAMARAN. And not the cheap one… splurge for the nicer ones with 8-10 people and you won’t regret it. Even though the brochure said “finger food”, the cruise guys made us a full lunch consisting of chicken, pasta with tomato sauce, Greek salad, and tzatziki and olive spread. For a few rough-around-the-edges Greek sailors they sure can cook 🙂
We decided to have a nice dinner in Fira that night. Fira is the capitol and is close to our hotel in Imerovigli, so we had a nice walk down the cliffs until we found a restaurant that looked good, called Remvi. The restaurant was situated right on the cliffs of Fira, and during the day you would be able to see the water down below but since it was night you could only see the glittering lights of the buildings on the cliffs around us. We had missed sunset because we both passed out after arriving to our hotel after a whole day of boating and drinking wine, but I would imagine if we had gone at sunset it would have been beautiful as well.
When we arrived at around 9 PM there were only a few other customers there, and our waitress was attentive. We decided to try the mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce and the prawns simmered in a tomato and feta sauce. Both were phenomenal, and led to us asking for another basket of bread so we could soak it in all the yummy juices.
For my entree I felt like it would be best to try the Moussaka, since Moussaka is THE DISH that you’re supposed to have in Greece. In case you don’t know what Moussaka is, it’s layers of eggplant, potato, béchamel, and ground meat flavored with spices and baked in a clay pot usually. I don’t think I had ever had moussaka before so unfortunately I have nothing to compare it to. My moussaka was good, but there was a lot of nutmeg flavor in it. I do know that nutmeg is a key spice for moussaka, but I guess I expected it to be a little more subtle. The flavor was very strong for me and not all quite to my taste. It was tasty, but I think I would have preferred a fish dish of some kind. Matt got the grilled prawns, which were covered in garlic and served with a beet and balsamic sauce and a side of rice pilaf and coleslaw. I didn’t ask for a bite because I knew Matt wanted every bite of those prawns 😦
By the end of the meal I was getting pretty full and I couldn’t finish the rest of the moussaka. At this time though, we got a little surprise from a little cat baby who wanted to come say hi! A little black and white kitten came into the restaurant and started rubbing on my legs and angling for scraps. The waitress came out (who thankfully was a cat lover) and told us that he just arrived a few days ago and has been hanging around. What a cutie! He was so starved looking, and I wanted to ask the waitress if she could feed him anything but she didn’t seem like she was going to. It became pretty clear throughout our stay that there are a lot of homeless cats all over the island, so the waitress probably didn’t want to encourage a swarm of cats visiting the restaurant.
After we paid our bill we got up to leave, and the poor little creature followed us out and was screaming as if his life depended on it! So I told Matt to stay with the baby and I ran like a crazy woman around Fira to try and find some cat food. The only thing I could find was a tin of sardines, and I had just enough money for them. I ran back to them and as soon as I opened up the can the baby practically scarfed them down in one bite. Poor little guy probably never had a full meal. We named him Fabritzio. What a beeb.
Day three in Santorini and our last day on the island had arrived. Both of us were depressed to be leaving the beautiful island in the morning, and we needed to cram in all the stuff that we wanted to do that we had been too drunk to do the day before. So we did a little bit of everything. We started the day with our beautiful breakfast and got on our ATV to explore the wineries of the island before hitting the beaches. We stopped at the most popular winery, Santos Winery which is perched on top of the hill and has some of the most amazing views of the sea. They had wine tasting menus consisting of either 8, 12, or 16 flights of wine, that are meant to be shared between two people. So Matt and I split a 12 flight sampler of the most delicious wines that Santorini has to offer, while sitting outside on a sunny patio enjoying the sun and soaking in the incredible views.
The flights were served with addictive olives, swiss cheese, and tomato sauce. It was probably one of the most enjoyable winery experiences I’ve ever had (no offense to my Virginia wineries of course).
After a day of beaches, more wineries, and cliff jumping, it was time for our last sad meal in Santorini. We wanted to stay in Imerovigli because our hotel had just upgraded us to the Villa, which means we had our own private pool to watch the sunset and we wanted a relaxing night. After seeing possibly the most beautiful sunset in the world while drinking a glass of wine in my own pool, I wasn’t up for a trek to dinner. We walked a short ways along the cliffs to Skaros, which was a seafood restaurant that got good reviews on Foursquare.
When we walked in our server greeted us and immediately showed us a menu of today’s catches, and told us proudly that Skaros had the freshest fish in all of Santorini. We sat down and immediately ordered a bottle of white wine and began pursuing the appetizers. If you ever go to Greece, a very popular (and extremely guilt-invoking) dish is fried cheese. Literally it’s a block of fried feta (or a similar cheese). We had heard that this was something so we had to try, so we ordered it along with a stuffed eggplant.
Both appetizers were a perfect start to the meal. I must say though, that cheese is saltttyyyyyyy. I’m a salt addict so of course I enjoyed it, but for Matt it was a little overpowering, and he kept squeezing more and more lemon on it to cut the saltiness. The eggplant was drizzled in a balsamic reduction and stuffed with feta cheese. So much cheese! I was in heaven.
Matt and I both had our eyes on the seafood risotto, but I, being the supportive and loving fiancé that I am, let Matt get it because I could tell he wanted it. I was really unsure with what entree I should get, until the waiter practically made me get the whole roasted Dorado fish. Boy, I am sure glad he did because I probably wouldn’t have gotten it without his suggestion. I was interested in the whole fish but I didn’t want to have to work too hard to get at my dinner. But it turned out that I was obsessed with this fish. The waiter was right; it was so fresh and literally fell off the bones so I didn’t even have to work for it. Every bite was pure bliss, and I was laughing at Matt who didn’t enjoy his seafood risotto as much as mine.
The skin of my Dorado was crispy and salty, and the flesh of the fish was moist and perfectly seasoned. Matt’s risotto was good, don’t get me wrong, but it had a strong flavor of dill which neither of us were expecting. The addition of dill was probably very authentically “Greek” however. I like dill in certain dishes but sometimes it can be a little shocking (kind of like nutmeg), so I was much more enthusiastic about my Dorado.
For dessert, we knew we HAD to try the baklava. After speaking with some baklava connoisseurs during our stay, we were informed that baklava will be different in every single Mediterranean country, but you should try them all because they’re all equally good. Deal.
Sure enough, it was freaking fantastic. Light and crispy, yet equally strong and sticky, drizzled with honey and served with fresh ice cream. Neither of us usually order dessert due to the fact that we usually stuff our faces, but we gobbled this one down and were hoping for more. Yum!
This blurb on Athens is going to be significantly shorter than Santorini due to one reason: the only thing I ate there were gyros.
We flew into Athens from Santorini and had about 12 hours to kill before we had to catch our flight to Moscow, from where we would eventually catch our flight home. We didn’t have high expectations for Athens because everyone we talked to said that it would be a waste of time. However, after going I disagree! I actually thought it was an interesting place and I’m glad I saw the Parthenon and the Acropolis, and we got to walk around both touristy and local places alike.
I knew the only thing I wanted there was the perfect gyro, so I was on a mission to find it. In Greece you have to specify if you want your gyro served with a pita, or else you’ll just get meat. Interestingly enough I found that many places don’t serve pitas with their gyros. We started our trek walking through a local part of town where everyone was sitting outside the restaurants drinking Greek coffee or frappes. We tried to do the same but none of these places served any food, and the waitress told us that no where would be open at that time serving food (it was 1 PM….) Also, literally every single person was staring at us as we walked by. So we uncomfortably agreed to go find a place where other Americans were (which will be the only and last time you ever will hear me say that.)
We walked down a street of large designer stores which was packed with tourists and I ordered a gyro from a ridiculously touristy place off the main road. As expected, it was disgusting and I almost threw up on the table. So we continued on our gyro search.
The next place I tried was after we saw the Parthenon, and there was this cheap little place serving gyros with pitas. I tried one and it was… blah. Nothing to write home about.
Come dinner time, after I almost had given up hope, we went back to our hotel and I got on trusty Foursquare. I found the most perfect place, Falafellas, which is a super tiny little place that has no seating, but there’s always a line and people mill about and eat their pitas on benches in the street. It serves street-style falafel or meat pitas, wrapped in paper and topped with eggplant, creamy tsatziki sauce, red sauce, and a spicy seasoning.
This, my friends, is what I had been searching for. I ate this thing in a flash and I finally felt like I had finished what I came here to do. It filled me with happiness that I certainly needed for our 24 hour expedition home.
That basically sums up my food experience in Greece. It certainly gave me a wonderful introduction and I’ve been finding myself craving Greek food, which never had happened before. I think I’ve found a new cuisine to obsess over!
Thanks for reading 🙂