Category Archives: Greece

Did the Oracle of Delphi predict Argyriou Winery?

Most likely not, especially since I usually do not like Pinot Noir. Not dry enough, a bit raw, too fruit juice for my taste. But I had not yet sipped Argyriou Winery’s 2014 Pinot Noir.

Argyriou Winery’s 2014 Pinot Noir

 

Within the rustic stone and wood elegance of the lounge in the1872 farmhouse, Nikos Argyriou, handed me a glass. I inhale. My head is filled with the bright aromas of a basket of late summer berries – blackberries, blueberries, sour cherries, red currents, and cranberries. I don’t want to take my nose out of the glass as each swirl produced more perfume.

Then a real surprise occurred. Like the legendary volcanic fumes that influenced the Oracles of Delphi, hints of sweet tobacco waft through the berries. The combinations of aromas were extraordinary.

Then I took a sip and was rewarded with the flavors intensified on my palate, dry, but not acidic, and smooth as silk. Rarely does a dessert pop into my head as a food pairing with wine but at that moment I craved a fresh warm cherry pie. Of course full flavored hard cheeses, ripe stoned fruit – fresh apricots for instance – and wood fired roast meats with Argyriou Winery’s 2014 Pinot Noir (aged 10 months in oak) would make an excellent meal especially given the setting.

wine cellar

Argyriou Winery and Wine Tasting Guest house is located within the village of Polydroso. The original 1872 stone farmhouse blends right into this postcard perfect village on the north-western slopes of Mount Parnassus. The main feature of the area is the abundance of water creating a lush ecosystem. Polydroso is within the National Park of Parnassus, which is a protected biosphere.

Nikos Argyriou was born in Polydroso and is the 3rd generation of his family in agriculture and livestock breeding. Nikos is not the only Greek to transform the age-old tradition of making wines for home consumption into an estate winery. The winery today comprises parcels totaling over 290 acres. The ecological position of the region creates mountain air currents essential to prevent deadly diseases to the vines.

A variety of wine related events are held at the guesthouse, which includes six spacious rooms and a wine cellar tasting room. Although the winery is not open to public wine tastings, guests of the Argyriou Winery and Wine Tasting Guesthouse have the opportunity to arrange a variety of wine tastings and pairings with the local cuisine.

A tasting of three more Argyriou Wines did nothing to damper my growing interest in this winery.

Malagousia

Malagousia from the Delphi area grows at 450 meters/1,500 feet elevation on mountain slopes of clay with fine drainage. This ancient white grape, thought to have gone extinct, was rediscovered in the 1970s and is now one of the most popular for wine in the nation.

It has an aromatic bouquet of white wild flowers on a dry summer day with a touch of lemon zest. In the mouth the pleasant undertone of lemon zest continues to scent the light dry grape morphing into herbal notes of lemon grass and lemon thyme. The finish is smooth and slightly astringent. It would pair well with grilled seafood and mild cheeses.

White Oracle Monteio

White Oracle Monteio is 40% chardonnay and 60% assyrtiko. The dry sea grass notes of Santorini Island assyrtiko cuts through the traditional sweetness of chardonnay like a mixed drink and yet created a full bodied white. There was an aroma of sweet butter and unripe figs. In the mouth caramel flavors coated the palate as if pairing the wine with ripe figs, mild cheese and white currents (not a bad pairing). The flavors continued silky smooth down the throat. It would pair well with mild cheeses, pastas with white sauces and seafood.

 

I make no excuses to being partial to red wine. I simply enjoy the full flavor of dry aromatic liquid fruit. Argyriou Winery’s 2014 Pinot Noir had already changed my perception of that grape. So I already did not need to be predisposed to Red Oracle Monteio (2014) – 80% Cabernet, 20% local Mavroudi. Cabernet ranks among my favorite reds, and the deep color and rich ripe fruitiness of Mavroudi are made to pair. Yet like with the Pinot Noir I was not expecting an extraordinary taste experience.

Red Oracle Monteio (2014)

It had the rich aromas of ripe berries, hints of tobacco, unsweetened chocolate yet subtle aromas as well of cloves, allspice and nutmeg emanating as if used as a rub on slowly roasting meat. My palate was bathed in these flavors as they blended with roses and ripe plumbs. Balanced tannins kept earthy and sweet in check as the wine slid down the throat dissipating its complex silky liquid flavors.

Delphi, Polydroso and the National Park of Parnassus are, like Argyriou Winery and Wine Tasting Guesthouse all year destinations with a major ski center. In the summer the beaches of the Corinthian Gulf are an easy day trip. Wine, agriculture, natural beauty helped create the millenniums old Greek civilization and the same forces draw increasing international attention to the extraordinary abundance of this land.

Corinthian Gulf

When you go: Polydroso is not a day trip from Athens – 6 hour drive. It would be a part of exploring Delphi and the Corinthian Gulf. Here are driving directions from Athens from Google Maps

Disclaimer: the author was a guest of Iniohos Hotel & Restaurant, Delphi and the Argyriou Winery and Wine Tasting Guest house. Travel arrangements were made by the MTCgroup, Athens

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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In the navel of the world, Delphi, Greece

With the view from my room at Iniohos Hotel & Restaurant, Delphi, 700 meters/2,300 feet up Mount Parnassus, overlooking the Pleistos Valley and the Corinthian Gulf it’s no wonder the Oracle of Delphi could glimpse the future!

room at the Iniohos Hotel

Yannis Papathanasiou, second generation owner of Iniohos, is as equally fascinated as I with the interplay of ancient regional culture and history with the development of the region’s food. He decries the weakening of traditional food making techniques and availability of such products as cheese from Crete using an enzyme from fresh figs, and natural yeast made from boiling grapes to syrup creating natural yeast used in their breads.

Corinthian Gulf

Yannis shares a feeling frequently expressed to this well-Greek-traveled journalist that Greek tourism in general has not concentrated enough on developing local tourism that cover these interest – popular culture/”people culture,” the history – not simply ancient – and local foods rarely found outside of the region.

Shortly after lunch, Yannis was off to food markets in Athens – 200 plus mile round trip – to pick up special ingredients from trusted purveyors and special spices from India. He didn’t arrive back until well after midnight. India?

lunch at Iniohos Hotel & Restaurant

A lunch of flaky spiral spanakopita, local grilled smoked sausages, tomato and feta salad all seemed very typical for a traditional Greek restaurant. Yet then an aromatic plate of Indian squash and peppers arrived. The executive chef at Iniohos is from India, and there’s a reason.

Delphi was a magnet for the entire pan-Hellenic world beyond what we now know as Greece. It was always an international city bringing together believers in the Pantheon. Today tourists from China, India and Japan flock to marvel at Delphi – as well as many other ancient Greek sites. After all, at one time all these regions were contemporaries – allies and enemies – always tied by the commerce of the great trade routes.

looking down on the Sanctuary of Athena

Hotel Iniohos sits high on the steep Mount Parnassus hillsides in the heart of Delphi. Delphi’s founding is shrouded in mist dating from the 1400s BC. Yet by the apex of the classical era (600s – 400s BC) and even into Macedonian and Roman empire days Delphi held an unparalleled position – and earned great wealth ­ – within the belief system of the Greek pantheon. Considered the “navel of the world” to ancient Greeks Delphi was more important than the gods’ home of Mount Olympus. Delphi was their Vatican.

Greek city-states kept treasuries at Delphi to pay for services

Pythia, the honorary name given to the Oracle of Delphi, held sessions from the stunningly positioned Temple of Apollo. There is evidence of volcanic fumes that seep up from deep in this tectonic active region that may have induced euphoria, even hallucinations. The Oracle’s pronouncements on the petitions and predictions asked were often cryptic – almost rants – and open to wide interpretations. Yet listened to with baited breath and frequently followed with auspicious outcomes.

Temple of Apollo
The theater at Delphi

Delphi was more than just the Oracle and became a commercial religious city of pilgrimage. Temples, sanctuaries, a vast theater with panoramic views of the valley and sacred springs dot the site.

The Thelos at the Sanctuary of Athena (4th century BC) in Delphi is iconic. It was often the first temple many pilgrims saw when entering the vast complex of the Oracle. Considered in its own day a masterpiece of Greek architectural symmetry and polychrome decoration it had 20 outer and 10 inner marble columns. Devotees of Athena still come to pay homage and pray to the goddess.

The Thelos at the Sanctuary of Athena

The ancient site of Delphi – a mere 20-minute walk or short taxi ride from the center of town – is extensive and built on the hills of Mount Parnassus, so walking within the site is essential. There is a modest admission charge to the main complex – the Temple of Apollo – including the excellent Archaeological Museum of Delphi. There is no admission charge to enter the Thelos at the Sanctuary of Athena, which is another easy 20-minute walk down the hill. You do want to see it all so allow yourself at least 3-hours.

treasures at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi

The modern Archaeological Museum of Delphi caps this UNESCO World Heritage Site and is recessed into the mountain constructed of the same honey colored marble as the temples. Much of the art were gifts from around the pan-Hellenic world to the Oracle and priests of the temples, or burial objects for those fortunate enough to be interred in this sacred land. It’s superbly arranged in chronological order from 2,000-year-old bronze figurines to the eerily beautiful statue to Antinoos (2nd century AD). This remembrance to a tragic gay love story is sculpted in marble smooth as wax with rivulets of hair delicate and life-like.

statue of Antinoos (2nd century AD)

On the morning I walked the grounds of the Thelos at the Sanctuary of Athena, a group of women – not a staged event – were dressed in modern versions of ancient robes chanting and meditating to the goddess Athena. It seemed strange at first. Then it all became real; they were giving thanks  at the navel of the world to mother Earth.

When you go: Modern toll-roads and many bus companies connect Athens with Delphi.

Disclaimer: the author was a guest of Iniohos Hotel & Restaurant. Travel arrangements were made by the MTCgroup

Temple of Apollo

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Ermionida and pomegranates intertwined

Pomegranate Festival

It’s appropriate that an ancient fruit should have a close relationship with an ancient town. Both the pomegranate and Ermioni have been part of recorded history for millennium. Situated in the southeast Peloponnese, the Kranidi region of the Peloponnese is an agriculture powerhouse for Greece especially olives & pomegranate.

The annual Pomegranate Festival in Ermioni held the end of October featured delicious juices, liquors, the seeds, pomegranate inspired art and of course the fruit itself. But the whole town was involved especially the restaurants featuring pomegranate inspired dishes. In Greek mythology the pomegranate was known as the “fruit of the dead,” but it seemed very much alive in Ermioni.

Pomegranate products & crafts

Maria’s on the waterfront this weekend offered a tasty bowl of Greek yogurt topped with apples, thyme honey and pomegranate seeds for breakfast.

One of the more fascinating parts of the Festival were the cooking demonstrations by chef’s from the local area. One dish in particular caught everyone’s attention, and was his original. I would call it a “buckwheat risotto.”

Buckwheat Risotto – approximately 4 servings

  • 1 & 1/2 cups buckwheat
  • 2 & ¼ cups water

(Note: that’s the end of measurements for this dish. Simply increase buckwheat and water if you want more than four servings and play with ratios of honey and pomegranate.)

  1. Cook the buckwheat: Add water to the buckwheat, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes; Amount after cooking: 4 cups.
Buckwheat Risotto

Combine:

  • thyme honey (at least ¼ a cup)
  • generous handful of washed, dried and chopped cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • olive oil (at least ½ cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinate

  1. 1 pound slivered pork loin in the honey mixture until buckwheat is cooked.

Prepare:

  • 1 pound of sweet onions sliced
Buckwheat Risotto

Heat a large skillet

  • Thinly coat with olive oil and then add the onions and caramelize for 10 minutes.
  • Then add the pork and marinade.
  • Stir-fry for a couple minutes and then add at least one cup of white wine
  • Allow the liquid to reduce by 1/3rd then add one Tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • And add 1/3rd cup pomegranate liqueur
  • Then add ½ to 1/3rd cup cream.
  • Stir for a few minutes more add salt and pepper to taste as well as additional pomegranate juice or liqueur until sauce is creamy to taste.

Serve over buckwheat garnished with a good handful of fresh pomegranate seeds and, if desired a sprinkle of feta can be added.

Buckwheat Risotto

The 2017 Pomegranate Festival coincided with the Greek national patriotic commemoration of Ohi Day celebrated throughout Greece, and the Greek diaspora on 28 October each year. Ohi Day commemorates the rejection by Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas of the ultimatum for surrender made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 October 1940.

Ohi Day is celebrated by honoring the youth of Greece, both in the thousands of young lives sacrificed during the bloody 20th century, but in the respect shown by the generations for each other. School after school band march in precision watched by all while towns honor with certificates those high school graduates granted admission in this ancient nation’s universities. The pomegranate may have been the “fruit of the dead,” but it nourished many. Greece understands that youth is not the future; it’s the present.

young Greek traditional dancers

When you go: Ermionia is easily reached by high speed ferry from Piraeus. Or it’s approximately a 2 hour drive from Athens on excellent roads with some stunning views.

Disclaimer: the author was the guest of the Municipality of Ermonia, special Thanks to Mr. A. Laddas. Advance Rent a Car provided transportation to explore the Peloponnese.  Accommodations by Fun In the Sun Travel and Tourism. Press arrangements were made through the MTCgroup

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Original World Insights

Eating Andros

Batsi, Andros Island, Greece

On Andros Island in the Cyclades Islands, it’s easy to be distracted by vistas at every turn. With my first glimpse of the glittering harbor of Batsi it was obvious I’d enjoy four days exploring the island’s coastline and dramatic interior.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a beautiful afternoon than lunch at Taverna Lagoudera on Batsi harbor. When you can still taste the natural saltiness of the Aegean Sea on the sea bream you know you’re in heaven (aka Greece).

Andros and its sister island Tinos (the subject of my March Hellenic News article) are affluent escapes with more villas than hotel rooms. Within easy access of Athens through the port of Rafina, the comfortable car-ferries of the Fast Ferry group run year round. Restaurants, cafes and coffee shops thrive on this island

…..read more about them at:

The shifting beauty of autumn on Andros Island

 

 

Grilled Vegetable Stack

 

Please read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Original World Insights

Travel Eastern Macedonia and Thrace

Eastern Macedonia and Thrace is a region still home to the mix of ethnicities and religions that have settled on these lush, mountainous lands.

Xanthi

The lush mountainous terrain of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace make driving difficult. It’s not the well-maintained roads; it’s the distractions. I wanted to constantly pull the car over, get out and take yet another photo of scenes that I know the Greats of the ancient world witnessed. Every few miles another sign pointed to a sanctuary of the pantheon, sacred cave or ancient theater.

Kavala
Please read more ….
Travel ancient paths in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
The Kamares, Kavala, Greece

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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1917 Greece: the deadly game for young men

A hundred years! A hundred years are gone
Of Grecian mornings and of Grecian sunsets!
Make them a coffin wide, O carpenter,
And bury them, the hapless dead, in silence!

                                                                                       (Kostas Palamas 1859-1943)

 

By the dawn of the 20th century the three major regional kingdoms bordering what would become the First World War’s Macedonian Front (Greece, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) were players in a grand game of thrones. Britain, France and Germany would dictate the script. The chess pieces in this first round of what would be an ever more deadly 20th century spiral would be a generation of young men.

Please read more of the most difficult to write and heart wrenching  article I’ve ever been assigned…

Macedonian Front 1917: the marble fields of Greece

 

on the Macedonian Front

 

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Athos: the holy mountain of Greece

What may seem an oxymoron, an agnostic recognizing the sacredness of Mt. Athos, is perfectly normal to me. I do not believe in a divine being, but freely accept the holiness of humanity and creation, whatever caused the big bang. I accept holiness because it’s impossible to deny visceral emotions when immersed in surroundings that dwarf ordinary human expression.

There are certainly impressive mountains that tower over 2,033 meter/6,670 foot Mt. Athos, even in Greece. It’s not about size. It’s all about perception.

Great Lavra Monestary, 10th Century

Read more about my experiences on Mount Athos in the Hellenic News of America…

An agnostic on the Holy Mountain Athos

 

sunrise on Mt. Athos

 

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A hundred days of silence

Nothing significant about the number 100 just a human penchant for symmetry.  Although I continued to write for publications for which I had deadlines, since February I took time away from my own website to reorganize a significant facet of life – to be settled or wander. Necessity for the change was partly dictated by the end of a long relationship – isn’t that the truth in literature.

But as a life-long traveler – I was barely 20 years old when I went off on a solo year in Europe – the decision I made did not cause much loss of sleep. Okay, a little. Perhaps it was loosing the relationship that caused more sleepless nights, but that’s more for a romance novel than a travel web site, and besides, it ended amicably.

Old & new in the Principality of Andorra

Being a full-time culinary and cultural travel writer since 2009 after a long and varied career as a chef, educator and historian, relocating – having a permanent address – in any number of suitable American locations appeared an oxymoron.  (I’m doing my best not to bring politics into this.)

on Paros Island, Greece

Except for frequent transportation connections – aka waiting – I freely admit being turned-on by the road. Why have an apartment when I don’t have to clean a hotel room? Why cook for myself when as a culinary writer it’s the cuisine of others that I seek? Why agonize over choosing among Earth’s beautiful locations when passport in hand I can be on a beach, hiking in a mountain or rambling through a vibrant urban space.

French House Party, Carcassonne – a loyal sponsor for 3 trips.

That doesn’t mean I seek the life of a wandering gypsy. I do have commitments to publications, fine public relations firms and tourism boards that work with me and my own interests that have already helped shape life for the foreseeable future.

One month ago, after considerable research and several invitations, I embarked on an ambitious seven month schedule that has already taken me to Mexico, France, the Pyrenees Mountain Principality of Andorra and, after several days in Barcelona, currently a long train ride through the beautiful Spanish countryside for a return visit to the ancient Roman/Visigoth/Moorish/Spanish city of Cordoba – a personal favorite.

Walls of the 9th century Mezquita mosque, Cordoba

By mid-June I’ll make a long-anticipated visit to Morocco. Having extensive life experiences with Spanish and Latino cultures and cuisine, Morocco – the wellspring of Moorish civilization – is essential in understanding the interplay of cultures that has so influenced the Western Mediterranean, Central and South America.

From Morocco I’ll fly east to the Balkans and a third return to beloved Greece. My smart sponsors for two months in Greece – September and October – not only admire my writing on Greek culture and cuisine, but also recognize my keen interest in history. I’ve always taken a holistic view that the life experiences of people in any region help determine its fascination as a travel destination.

Basilica Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

1917 was the turning point for the Balkans and Greece during the First World War. Thessaloniki in particular is honoring this pivotal year that saw Macedonia and Thrace reunited with southern Greece after centuries of separation during Ottoman rule. Besides continuing culinary and cultural explorations in the north and Halkidiki ­­­– including Mount Athos – the Corinthian coast in the south will be a new region that’ll only add to my Greek experience.

Mt. Athos as seen from Sithonia, Halkidiki, Greece

Prior to my Greek return in September there are the months of July and August which will be filled with culinary and 1917 experiences in the heart of the Balkans including first time visits to Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and the city that sparked the world changing conflagration, the Bosnia-Herzegovina capital of Sarajevo.

raw oysters, quail egg, sea urchin & golden caviar in Puerto Vallarta

By the 1st of December I’ll have made a full circle from where this adventure started returning to Mexico where I already signed a year-long lease on a beautiful apartment in Puerto Vallarta with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean – and weekly maid service (I still don’t have to clean!) It’s fortuitous that just as life was changing, invitations for two culinary press trips to Puerto Vallarta occupied a month of my life last Autumn. Not only did the city’s excellent cuisine and vibrant culture win me over but solidified my acceptance that being on the road is the life meant for me.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

So a year in one city is not like being on the road? Not necessarily since exploring Central and South America has been part of my writing life since 2009 and Puerto Vallarta will become a hub.

After 2018…I don’t yet need to know. That’s the freedom of being on the road. The hundred days of silence are over, and a hundred articles are sure to follow.

sunset over the Bay of Banderas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 

 

 

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The best Greek shrimp recipe ever

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis Halkidiki shrimp
Chef Giorgos Kosmidis Halkidiki shrimp

The three peninsulas of Halkidiki – Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos ­– are the summer playgrounds of Macedonia. Blessed with numerous and secluded beaches, surrounded by the clear blue Aegean sea with pine forested mountains of wild flowers, olive trees and vineyards, it’s no wonder Halkidiki has been favored by Greeks since antiquity. Only a couple hours drive from the nation’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, and within a day’s drive from the Balkans, its many resort hotels especially draw a plethora of Eastern Europeans, Ukrainians and Russians seeking sun, sand, hospitality and Greek cuisine.

The Halkidiki penninsula Athos – Mount Athos
The Halkidiki penninsula Athos – Mount Athos
Ouranoupolis
Ouranoupolis

The Alexandros Palace is located just outside Ouranoupolis, one of many towns built in the 1920s as a result of the traumatic exchange of Greek and Turkish populations that took place after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the merger of Macedonia into Greece. Once the site of an ancient village – its 14th century tower fortress is a landmark – and still the gateway to 7,000 ft. Mt. Athos, today Ouranoupolis is a tourist and fisherman’s town.

pool: Alexandros Palace Hotel
pool: Alexandros Palace Hotel

The Alexandros Palace Hotel, within site of the autonomous and sacred Monastic State of Mt. Athos, is a self-contained 250-room resort village rising from its wide beach up the hill and spreading over 90 acres. Like most of Halkidiki’s resorts an all-inclusive meal plan includes extensive buffets for breakfast and dinner and offers something for everyone from meat lovers to the devoutly vegan. Yet true Greek cuisine shines in Halkidiki hotels a la carte restaurants for those not desiring a buffet.

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis
Chef Giorgos Kosmidis
Fresh fish/seafood at Alexandros Palace
Fresh fish/seafood at Alexandros Palace

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis commands the poolside Taverna at the Alexandros Palace Hotel. Having enjoyed several meals over two separate trips, it has taken this chef journalist a year to convince chef Giorgos to part with his intensely flavored yet simple shrimp creation. The Aegean is a seafood lover’s supermarket and the shrimp may well have been caught that very day off the coast of Ouranoupolis.

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis Halkidiki shrimp – four servings

Ingredients:

clockwise from far left: unpeeled shrimp, strained shrimp stock, Greek oregano, ingredients for stock
clockwise from far left: unpeeled shrimp, strained shrimp stock, Greek oregano, ingredients for stock
  • 1 pound large shrimp (reserve shells for the stock)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano – preferably Greek oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sweet butter
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups chopped parsley
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Preparation:

Clockwise from top left: ingredients for sauce in pot, cooked sauce, sauteed shrimp, prepared Halkidiki shrimp
Clockwise from top left: ingredients for sauce in pot, cooked sauce, sauteed shrimp, prepared Halkidiki shrimp
  1. Remove the shells from the shrimp and reserve the shrimp in the refrigerator while making the stock.
  2. Place the shells in a quart size saucepan and add the bay leaves, nutmeg, oregano and a little salt and white pepper. Add cold water just to the level of the shells. Place the saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to 1/4th of a cup (2 ounces). Strain and discard the shells reserving the reduced shrimp stock.
  3. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and cook the shrimp for one minute turning once.
  4. Add the wine to the shrimp, bring to a simmer and cook for one minute.
  5. With a slotted spoon remove the shrimp from the wine and keep warm.
  6. To the wine add the 1/4th cup shrimp stock, parsley and garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook for two minutes.
  7. Add the heavy cream, cayenne pepper and sweet paprika. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
  8. Add the reserved shrimp and warm for one minute.
  9. Divide among four plates and serve with crusty bread used to absorb the sauce and a dry Greek white wine such as Mt. Athos ΙΕΡΑ ΜΟΝΗ ΑΓΙΟΥ ΠΑΥΛΟΥ (Holy Monastery of St. Paul), Monoxilitiko, a blend of 90% sauvignon blanc with local varieties. It had a nose of honey and sage followed by summer floral notes with a surprisingly dry finish.

While at the Alexandros Palace Hotel, don’t pass up the luxurious Panalee Spa and the new specialty shop ­selling Mt. Athos wines, skin care products and local foods. In the evening, the spacious Theater Bar with its lower level dance floor and stage might as well be the town square of this village resort. Twin brothers Thomas and Janis Aslanidis, the musically talented and genial young heirs to the Alexandros Palace Hotel, might just be tending bar and don’t be surprised either if managers Yiannis Misopapas and Kyriakos Mandouvalos are mingling among the guests. After all this is Greece with hospitality and cuisine as legendary as its mythology.

When you go:

Ouranoupolis is an easy 2 – 3 hour drive (busier on weekends) on modern roads from Thessaloniki International Airport.

Alexandros Palace Hotel, Ouranoupolis, 63075, Halkidiki, Greece. (Athos) Tel + 30 23770 31402 / 31424 Fax: +30 23770 31100

Email: info@alexandroshotel-halkidiki.com 2017 season runs April through mid-October.

Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Alexandros Palace Hotel and the Halkidiki Tourism Organization.

the beach at Alexandros Palace Hotel
the beach at Alexandros Palace Hotel

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Original World Insights

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An easy recipe for Greek Spanakopita

Chef Marc d'Entremont's Greek Spanakopita
Chef Marc d’Entremont’s Greek Spanakopita

I’ve made Spanakopita most of my life. As a chef it’s been part of my repertoire my entire career. It’s flavorful, a classic vegetarian dish and easy once you become familiar using phyllo dough.

In North America phyllo is found in the freezer section of many grocery stores. (Making the same paper thin dough at home requires skill and helpers). Once you’re familiar handling phyllo its versatility is amazing.

I have wrapped anything and everything into attractive phyllo packets especially for hot hor d’oeuvres. They have graced many a buffet and cocktail party. Yet it wasn’t until I started traveling to Greece that I discovered not all phyllo is paper thin and difficult to prepare.

Flora and Nikos Kratzeskaros have operated Tsikali Taverna
Flora and Nikos Kratzeskaros have operated Tsikali Taverna

The village of Vathi on the Cycladic Island of Sifnos is a classic beauty. The winding road descends from the hills and one’s first glimpse is the gleaming white buildings clustered in a crescent on a white sand beach in front of the clear aqua water of the Aegean. Cars are parked at the entrance to the village because there’s nowhere else to drive. The few narrow streets – more stone paths than roads – were made for goats and donkeys.

After passing through the 17th century Church of Evangelistria Taxiarches, which creates part of the seawall, you walk a short distance on the beach to a grove of trees shading Tsikali Taverna. Nearly as many tables are directly on the sand as under the roof of the open-air restaurant. Flora and Nikos Kratzeskaros have operated Tsikali Taverna for decades.

Knowing that a chef culinary journalist was visiting that day Flora demonstrated how easy it was to make phyllo dough that isn’t the paper thin variation. Except for many dessert pastries, Greeks don’t use the paper thin sheets familiar to me. For savory dishes they roll fresh dough to the thickness of a thin pizza crust.

Flora Kratzeskaros rolling phyllo & wrapping Spanakopita
Flora Kratzeskaros rolling phyllo & wrapping Spanakopita

I developed this variation on classic Spanakopita decades ago and have used it my entire career. It calls for the frozen dough familiar to most outside of Greece, but you can certainly substitute this New York Times recipe for the dough Flora Kratzeskaros taught me.

Feta & cottage cheeses
Feta & cottage cheeses

I add cottage cheese along with feta because I like the mix. Sometimes I include a couple tablespoons of toasted pine nuts and a grating of fresh nutmeg. All are ingredients traditional to Greece and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine therefore as authentic as any dish can be that has existed for thousands of years and is part of several regional cuisines.

Spanakopita – 6 entrée portions

Ingredients:

  • 1/3rd pound defrosted phyllo dough
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach or 20 ounces of loose frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cups crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 5 eggs

Procedure:

  1. Defrost filo dough still wrapped for 24 hours in the refrigerator. DO NOT unwrap until instructed in step #8.
  2. chopped cooked spinach pressed dry & sauteed onions w/pine nuts
    chopped cooked spinach pressed dry & sauteed onions w/pine nuts

    If using frozen spinach: remove from the bag and place in a colander over a bowl large enough to fit the colander. Thaw the spinach for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Discard the collected spinach water or reserve for other uses. Place the spinach in a large square of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and press out as much liquid as possible.

  3. If using fresh spinach: remove the stems and chop the leaves. Rinse in a colander and place in a large pot. Cover the pot and steam, stirring several times, until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Place the spinach in a large square of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and press out as much liquid as possible.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a sauté pan and add the onions, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté until lightly browned.
  6. In a large mixing bowl combine onion, spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese and eggs.
  7. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small pan.
  8. thawed phyllo arranged in flan pan
    thawed phyllo arranged in flan pan

    Remove the thawed phyllo from its wrapping and unfold onto a kitchen towel or waxed paper. Cover immediately with a slightly damp kitchen towel (phyllo dries and crumbles quickly when exposed to dry air).

  9. Brush the bottom and sides of a deep pie or flan pan (10” X 2”) lightly with butter.
  10. Spanakopita ready for baking
    Spanakopita ready for baking

    Arrange 8 sheets of phyllo overlapping in a circular pattern. The phyllo will larger than the diameter of the pan. (cover the remaining phyllo with the damp towel) Brush the phyllo with half of the remaining melted butter. Spread the spinach mixture into the pan and overlap the phyllo over the spinach one piece at a time. Gently press the phyllo onto the spinach and with a serrated knife score the phyllo into 6 wedges – do not cut through the spinach – this makes it easier to serve without the flakey dough breaking apart after baking. Brush the top with the remaining butter. (Wrap the remaining phyllo dough in waxed paper and then in aluminum foil sealing well. You can place that in a plastic bag. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks for later use.)

  11. Place the dish on a sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the phyllo is light golden brown. Allow the Spanakopita to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

A 9” X 13” cake pan can be used for the Spanakopita and it can be scored into smaller portions to be served as a first course.

Flora Kratzeskaros's Spanakopita with fresh phyllo dough
Flora Kratzeskaros’s Spanakopita with fresh phyllo dough

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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