Greece is the Word (Rhodes & Santorini)

Prologue: Greece Lightning

In 6th Grade our literature teacher, Mrs. Darman, rewarded us for our hard work studying mythology by having the Sybil visit our class. No, not Sybil as in schitzophrenic Sally Field, but “The Sybil”: the Greek fortune-teller who would see your future, write it down on a piece of paper, tear it up and scatter it around after which men would spend their lives trying to piece their futures together. (I wonder if the papers said: “You’re going to spend your life taping this piece of paper back together.” That’d be funny of the Sybil.) The Sybil came in a blue robe (whoever it was playing the Sybil remains a secret to this day) and all of us in class were dazzled and amazed. She spoke in a gravelly voice. I think she carried a walking stick. The Sybil totally rocked.

Which is why going to Greece, on some unconscious level, is the fulfillment of a dreamy-eyed middle school version of myself. The one who loved mythology and spent hours decorating my Acropolis diorama. (Remember dioramas?) I was psyched for Greece.

Part One: Rhodes

Our first stop was Rhodes and here’s a Greek flag to give a visual indicator to the non-text readers what country we’re in:

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Rhodes is most famous for…anyone? anyone?…it was one of the 7 wonders of the world?….anyone? anyone?…it starts with a C? Here’s a visual stimulant:

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That’s right: The Colossus of Rhodes. It supposedly straddled a body of water that ships passed under and toppled after an earthquake. Rumors abound as to whether the Colossus ever existed at all and our tourguide (named Daphne AND Scarlett (she never told us why she had two names)) did a nice job of explaining both sides of the argument. Here she is holding up a map of the Acropolis at Lindos. That’s because we’re at the Acropolis of Lindos; it was the big morning adventure that comprised the first half of our tour.

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Look, I can lie and do research on the internet and pretend that I retained everything I learned about the Acropolis at Lindos but let’s keep it real here folks. All I remember is that Greeks came here to pray and they had to climb a lot of steps. Throngs of tourists push past you as you make your way up which makes the challenge that much more challenging:

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Once at the top you see lovely columns:

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And a gorgeous view of the sea which, for some reason, I don’t have a picture of. Going back down is even more difficult having to walk over gritty rocky blocky stones that, we later learned, were avoidable if you took the stairs. Here’s mom fighting her way down:

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This tour we were on (the only guided tour we took the whole trip) came with a lunch at a local restaurant and that’s where this post becomes relevant. After all, this is a food blog.

Welcome to Restaurant Gregoris:

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This is located in an area I want to say is called “lothangelos” because it sounded like Los Angeles but remember this was already two weeks ago and I’ve suffered a severe trauma to the head. OUCH! Who just hit me in the head?

Wherever it was, the space was divine. We sat outside overlooking the water. Here’s the tourgroup at the long table we sat at and the water behind us:

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We had no idea what kind of food we’d be served (well we knew it’d be Greek, duh) and we sat down anxious to see what they’d bring out. And boy did they bring out a lot. It started with metal pitchers of wine. They served the wine before they served the water–don’t you love Greece?–and here’s dad pouring mom a glass:

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Now what comes next is one of two Greek salads I ate while visiting Greece and for me this was a hugely instructive part of the trip. Why instructive? Because my entire conception of a Greek salad has always been the Greek salad I get at diners: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives and oily Greek dressing with feta broken in it. Not so in Greece, my friends:

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The remarkable thing about real Greek Greek salad is that there is no lettuce: it’s all “toppings.” I bought a Greek cookbook in Santorini and their ingredients for Greek salad (which I’m actually going to make today, document, and post later) includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, olives, green peppers, vinegar, olive oil, feta cheese and salt/oregano. That’s it–no lettuce–and it tastes terrific. Plus it’s healthy, you health nuts you.

But back to our meal. The food kept a’coming. Here’s mom and dad with tzatziki, that beloved mix of yogurt, garlic, cucumber, olive oil, and vinegar:

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The Barefoot Contessa makes that on the episode where she goes on a diet. It really is a tasty approach to yogurt, one that I should try one day at home. (I remember buying tzatziki at Trader Joe’s once when I lived in L.A. and that’s a tangy tangent that really doesn’t serve our story at all.)

Next up: tuna salad with lemon cut up into it! and octopus salad.

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Again, all of it fresh and terrific. I was falling in love with Greek food. Then these fried things came out:

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I’m not even sure what was in them (surely olives but what else?) yet I loved them anyway. Then came calamari—so much food, dad could barely keep his eyes open:

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Oh! This is a good time to tell you that while we were feasting we made friends right quick with this awesome Italian family from California that had been on the tour with us too. The mom and dad, Luigi and Clara (?) and their two daughters really hit it off with our family and I loved talking to Luigi about cooking, something he’s done a lot more of since he retired. He doesn’t use recipes, he says, and he loves to grille outside. Clara reminded me a bit of Lidia Bastianich, who I love, and we talked Food TV with Clara having a special affinity for that new show on Food Network with Gina DiLorentis. I always dimissed her as a pretty no-nothing who got the job because of her famous father (or grandfather?) the film producer, but Clara’s love of Gina makes me reconsider everything because Clara is as authentic as you can get. They said if I’m ever in LA I should come over and they’d cook for me. Who wants to buy my plane ticket?

But back to Greece. Focus, Adam, focus. At this point in the meal half of the table revolted (not our half) saying that they weren’t hungry for the main course, a swordfish they told us was being prepared in the kitchen. Our half of the table, the humanitarian half, felt it was rude and wasteful not to eat the swordfish they were cooking for us so we said we still wanted it. Our tourguide asked “how many people still want swordfish?” and our half of the table all raised our hands. We weren’t hungry but we felt an obligation as good guests. So here’s the swordfish:

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and it tasted fine but it was definitely the lowpoint of the meal. Maybe the table revolters knew something we didn’t know.

Now I get to teach you about Greek coffee. Our tourguide, as we drove around the island, pointed out Greek men sitting outside Greek coffee shops drinking Greek coffee and playing backgammon. She told us Greek coffee is prepared by putting the graunles in the pot of boiling water with sugar and then poured into the cup such that your cup has lots of granules on the bottom. You get to order your coffee “sweet, very sweet, or not sweet.” I ordered mine just sweet and I can’t imagine what very sweet would be because this was quite sweet:

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If I had to choose one word to describe the flavor it would be “grass.” It honestly tasted like wet grass and I have no idea why. But I kind of liked it. It was fun drinking something familiar in an unfamiliar way. By that I mean I stood on my head while I drank it.

So that’s Rhodes. We saw a castle at the end:

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This was another walled city like Dubrovnik but let’s face it, you’re bored now, you’re done with history you want some adventure. A new location. Bring on Santorini!

Part Two: Santorini.

If I am a neurotic person (and, really, I make Woody Allen look low key) I owe a small bit of that to my mother who is, to say the least, a bit neurotic herself. Not neurotic in an unusual way, mind you, but in a way that makes her grip her seat in terror at the slightest bump on an airplane.

The clearest manifestation of the mother-to-child transfer of neuroses concerns roller coasters. I truly believe if I’d had a roller coaster loving mother I’d be a brave rider of the most vicious twisting upside down rides you could fathom. As it stands, when I was young we’d go to Nunley’s on Long Island and their miniature baby roller coaster (it had like 2 tiny hills) filled with terror because my mom refused to ride and when I’d go on she’d scream “are you ok?! do you want me to stop the ride?!” and being the impressionable tyke I was I’d yell back “stop the ride! stop the ride!” Boy, do I need therapy.

Which is all set-up for a fun story involving our tender ride to Santorini. When you’re on a cruiseship you either dock at port or the boat anchors and you arrive via little boats–tenders–that launch from the ship. On the day we went to Santorini we were with mom and dad’s friends from Boca, Greg and Laura, and as we approached the tender the seas sloshed and splashed and the tiny boat bounced up and down as my mom surveyed the situation. There she is in a visor (in front of my dad) asking the ship guys: “Is it really rough? Will I die? Can I stop the ride?”

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Once on board, the boat really did rock back and forth. Once we launched away from the ship we hit some mighty big waves and at one point the boat did this huge tilt towards the water. As you can see, my mom reacted calmly:

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By the time we reached the shore, mom had had her fill of rocky tenders. “Never again!” she announced as men helped her off the boat.

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Only then we were confronted with our next hurdle. To get up the mountain of Santorini, you had to ride a skybucket.

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This, though, proved to be fun. Here’s mom having fun in our skybucket:

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So let me just tell you here that I loved Santorini. To me, it had everything Capri has (and we’ll be in Capri next post) but in a much folksier cuter way. The town is all broken up with stores and side streets and then there are cliffs that over look a magnificent view. We only saw one part of the island and that alone makes me want to go back. (We actually had a reservation at a hotel restaurant on the other side of the island but could not, for the life of us, get a taxi cab. We saw other people waiting for a cab and they’d waited 45 minutes.)

For lunch, Greg spotted a joint overlooking that water that was really perfect. Here we are going in and as you can see the place is called “Archipelagos.”

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Once inside, Greg–a bit of a wine maven–chose a nice bottle of Greek Chardonnay. Here it is, you can read the label:

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This lunch was more controlled than our previous lunch. We each ordered an appetizer (three Greek salads for six of us to share) and then we each had an entree. Check out THIS Greek salad:

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This was even better than the one we had the day before. Why? Because the feta was herb-flecked. I love me some herb-flecked Feta.

Here’s mom and Laura so you get a sense of the view:

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And here’s the view so you get a sense of mom and Laura: (huh?)

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For lunch I had–let me consult my notes: “Lamb wrapped in vine leaves with anthotico cheese and artichokes.”

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It felt necessary to order lamb before we left Greece and I’m glad I did. This dish was top-notch and had really unusual flavor components with the vine-leaves and the cheese.

Dad had seafood pasta (again!) and mom had grilled fish. We all loved our food and felt so sated that either the tender ride back wasn’t rocky or we were so euphoric we couldn’t feel the rough waters. And if my mom’s smiling on a rocky tender, you know Santorini is a place you should visit.

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