GREEK FOOD- Not to be mistaken for what many of us call “Mediterranean food”. Yes, Greece is technically in the Mediterranean, and every country has their own way of cooking when it comes to Mediterranean food. If you get down to it, every region and every country has their own spin to their cuisine. Greece is not any different.
As I tell people, Greek food in Greece is undeniably different. If you are not a fan of it in the States, more than likely you will become a fan in its country of origin. Call it the terroir of the country, but nothing beats eating Greek food in Greece. I believe that is how it is in any country. The terrain, land, soil, water, weather, etc- it all contributes to the quality of the ingredients.
Please do not ask for loaded Feta Fries or Gyro Fries, while in Greece. Do not expect hummus at your table, or your gyro wrap to be so overloaded that you can only eat it with utensils. Do expect same-day catch fish, and seafood. Please enjoy the creamy tzatziki, a thinner gyro wrap with french fries added, and local Greek olives with your meal. Just savor every bite, and call it “Greek food”.
Fine Dining with Wine Pairing at Aleria Restaurant
Fine dining in any city or country is a recommended way to elevate your taste buds to any region’s cuisine. The dining experience is more than just eating well, it is the art of using all your senses. I have loved fine dining experiences for decades, and was truly impressed with Aleria Restaurant in Athens, Greece. Aleria Restaurant Review
The presentation of the dishes at Aleria were astounding and the use of traditional Greek ingredients with a modern twist was brilliant.
To view my full dining experience, wine selections, courses, and review → Aleria Restaurant in Athens – Table for one
As my friend said to me before I started this blog post, “I was obsessed with the Tzatziki in Greece!” I could not word it any better. It was an obsession.
What makes it different than the tzatziki you find in western restaurants, or you make at home? It is the quality of the ingredients. The goat yoghurt used in Greece, will more than likely be made at a local goat farm. The cucumbers are locally farmed and organic. Then you add the emotions of sitting at a taverna in Greece, and spooning that creamy white tzatziki on to your already delicious Greek food- OBSESSION!
“They put fries in their gyros!”, is what I tell people when I talk about gyros in Greece. If you have tried Primanti Brothers in Pittsburg. then you will understand the idea of putting French fries in your sandwich. Also, the gyros in Greece are not fully packed like in the States, which makes it easier to eat considering it is a street food.
It is still messy and greasy, but the flavors are cleaner than in the states, if that makes sense. The focus is on the flavors of the wrap fillings, and not the amount. Bigger does not always mean better.
Black Coffee with a View
I enjoyed many cups of black coffee with the loveliest of views while in Greece. Whether it was sipping watching the sunrise over the Grecian Sea, or waiting in peace before the city of Athens awoke- it was just me and Mr. Joe.
Having a morning cup of black coffee (Americano) with a gorgeous view is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. I love a good sunrise because it marks the start of a new day of adventure or relaxation. Plus I do enjoy black coffee whether as an espresso, an Americano, French press, and so on. It was always a great way to kick off the new day.
One of the loveliest food experiences is to nosh on same-day catch calamari while sitting at an outdoor restaurant, and staring at the Grecian Sea.
Have you tried same-day catch calamari? If you have then you know it is a game changer. The first time I tried fresh same-day calamari was in Monterey, CA decades ago, and it was truly a magical food moment. The same-day catch calamari offered in Greece has those same magical qualities- tender fresh rings, crispy batter, and lightly seasoned with a squeeze of lemon.
Fresh Fish and Seafood
Eating fresh fish or seafood in Greece is a definitive must do. The best places that I have tried seafood in Greece were the smaller islands, such as Mykonos or Santorini.
Many of the seaside restaurants will serve freshly caught same day seafood- from the sea to the table. This is one of my favorite things to eat in Greece, since I have a passion for fresh seafood.
This was my kind of street food- grilled herbed meat (pork or chicken) on a stick and served with bread. This pork souvlaki was bought when we were walking around Old Town Mykonos. We saw a man selling them from a counter for a couple of euros, and it easily became a favorite of ours.
In the states, you might see souvlaki on the menu as a sit down dish served with rice or a salad. You can find it served that way in Greece, but the most popular way of eating souvlaki is right off the stick.
The first time I tried this aperitif, ouzo, was in Mykonos and our server gave us each a shot with our meal. I should add that I was with my daughter at the time who was 18, which was fine because she was legal to drink in Europe. Personally, I thought it was quite strong, and felt tipsy fast.
My most recent experience of having ouzo was in Athens, and it was a better experience. I think what I am trying to suggest is that ouzo will grow on you, especially if you drink it straight. There are a few light cocktails which are made with ouzo that you might enjoy, especially if you are looking at easing you way into it.
I do love cocktails, and I believe they are as important as dessert during any meal. With that said, I have enjoyed cocktails in many cities and countries, including Greece. I would not say there was anything special about the cocktails I had in Greece, they were all good.
Now Ouzo is a different story. I should of tried a cocktail with Greece’s favorite alcohol, but that will be for next time.
Espresso- The Perfect Shot
One thing that I love about Europe are the shots of espresso. I understand that we do have espresso in the States, and I do have a Euro Moka Pot in my kitchen. It is just that espresso is part of the culture anywhere in Europe.
If you ask for a caffe or coffee more than likely you will be given a shot. If you want American style coffee then ask for an Americano, which is great too. It is basically an espresso with hot water, and it is wonderful to sip on while people watching.
American Style Breakfasts
Alright, so sometimes we want something more than fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast. I love Greek yogurt but if I see eggs, sausage, and toast on a menu, I will definitely be ordering that. There are places that serve American style breakfasts outside of chain hotels, you just have to look for them.
We were in Mykonos and had taken a bus to the beach when we found these hearty meals. My daughter was quite happy with her giant pancake topped with fruit and no syrup, but I think it had… Greek yogurt!
I become all giddy when I think about baklava. So many countries throughout the Balkans, Middle East, and Mediterranean make this delicious sticky sweet dessert. In my travels, I have tried baklava in different countries, and all are a little different from each other. Greece makes delicious baklava and while there, I did eat a good share of Greek baklava.
To be honest, my favorite baklava was not from Greece. It was in Madaba, Jordan and is pictured above- sorry Greece.
🍽 Check out my post- What I ate in JORDAN – A Food Journal
I am not shy about drinking wine, especially regional wine in their respective country. I have found that most foreign wines can get lost in the translation when they leave their homeland. I have tried Greek wines in America, and they were not even close to the wines that I tasted in Greece. Maybe the best stay in Greece? Who knows.
I have indulged in Greek wines during different dining experiences from casual meals, to wine pairing at an upscale restaurant in Athens. All of the wine I tried was wonderful, and I became a fan of Greek wines while I was in Greece. Maybe it is the cohesiveness of all the combined ingredients and the atmosphere? As they say, what grows together, goes togethehr.
Spanakopita- Greek Spinach Pie
Unlike Pastitsio, I have tried variations of Spanakopita in the States. I have tasted this Greek spinach pie from restaurants to homemade at a friend’s place, and they all taste different from each other. Especially from America to Greece, the flavors are different. For some reason in the States, Spanakopita tastes heavier than her Greek sister.
This spanakopita was delicious, and I enjoyed the pastry crust better as it had a nuttier flavor due to the the sesame seeds. Typically it is made with layers of flaky phyllo dough, which is also tasty but I do believe that it comes down to one’s preference.
I enjoyed this slice of spanakopita at Diogenes Cafe-Restaurant in Plaka, Athens.
In the past couple of times that I have visited Greece, I have been offered a very dense cake that was simple and delicious. It was ravani, which is a traditional semolina flour cake. The first time was at a café in Athens named Focaccino, it was a small chunk of ravani set on a napkin and served with my blended coffee drink.
The second time was outside of Delphi, and we were all served ravani with orange zest during lunch. I loved these simple flavorful cakes especially when served with a coffee drink.
Roasted Chicken with Greek Herbs and Potatoes
I truly get excited with this simple meat and potato dish. In my opinion it starts with the quality of the chicken, and you can taste the difference between the ones in America.
It boils down to everything- the environment, what the chickens are fed, organic-not organic, etc. Then you cook that said chicken in fresh Greek herbs, olive oil, and add a side of root vegetables, and it becomes the perfect comfort food.
Fresh Vegetable Soup
I love soup. I love vegetables. This simple housemade vegetable soup outside of Delphi was very welcoming. The puree of local vegetables, Greek herbs, and the natural golden color may be common ground in Greece, but it tasted lovely to this American.
I have always enjoyed fresh produce in any form while traveling. Typically the fruits and vegetables are seasonal and local, and it makes the simplest of dishes taste extraordinary.
When I first read about Pastitsio online, I thought this cannot be Greek food. Come to realize, it absolutely is Greek food. This was just another example of what Americans are exposed to when it comes to Greek “Mediterranean” Food.
I have never seen this at any Greek restaurant in the States, and I think it should be on the menus. This lasagna style dish is wonderful, and full of different flavors- layers of tube pasta, minced meat, tomato sauce, Greek herbs, cinnamon, and a layer of béchamel sauce.
I enjoyed this good looking Pastitsio at Diogenes Cafe-Restaurant in Plaka, Athens
Zucchini Fritters/ Croquettes
After my trip to Delphi, we stopped off at a small restaurant not far from the archeological site. It was quite nice, and served a multi course lunch with delicious Greek favorites. As part of the first course we were served a small slice of spinach pie, and a crispy zucchini croquette.
I loved the croquette because I enjoy anything with zucchini. The spinach pie was nice too, but I enjoyed the one I had in Plaka a lot more.
Unless you do not like olives, there is no way that you will leave Greece without eating them. They are everywhere, even in the oil! I love olives, and trying the different varieties in Greece was a delicious food experience for me.
The pictured green olives were served at our table during lunch outside of Delphi. Most of my table mates took one to try, and it was not their jam. That just meant more for me, and I was not shy in taking more than one.
Keftedakia or Greek meatballs are typically served with a meze platter but in this case, it was served as a meal. We were in Santorini when my daughter ordered this plate, and she really enjoyed it. I took a bite with the rice, and it was very flavorful especially with the thin tomato sauce.
Typically keftedakia is made with minced beef, lamb (or a combination), lemon juice, and Greek herbs. It is beyond delicious.
Greek Mac – McDonald’s in Athens
Not a fan! I rarely eat McDonald’s in the States, but will occasionally make an exception in another country. I have tried different menu items that were pretty good in France, Bosnia, and Ireland but Greece, I was not a fan.
The Greek Mac is their version of a Big Mac, which had two beef patties, lemon sauce, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes wrapped in a pita. I think the processed lemon sauce threw me off. It was just awful.
Taste your way around the world…
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