Another day on Crete, another food adventure. Today our goal was to discover the fish menu on the coast. We woke up early, as a van selling goat cheese came down our street with a loud speaker selling his wares. Of course, I had to scramble out to buy some.
Heading on the road, we found a small bakery and, thinking of breakfast, we stopped. The smell of freshly baked bread was heavenly but what struck us as we walked to the counter was the array of stuffed pies. With our limited Greek we were able to have a rudimentary understanding of what each pie was stuffed with but over the course of our stay, we tasted just about each one. The most well-know Greek pie is spanakopita--stuffed with spinach and cheese. Other pies had red peppers, tomatoes and cheese, one was stuffed with tomatoes and olives and another with simply cheese and herbs.
Driving along the coast we were struck by the beauty of the water--clear aquamarine along the sand and deep blue further out. Small rock formations just off the beaches created areas of tide pools and the taller ones a refuge for the birds. The bright sun glinted off the water making everything sparkle.
The western coast of Crete is a series of peninsulas and sweeping bays. The terrain is rugged scrub with bright yellow and purple flowers and dry, rocky red earth. Little Greek Orthodox shrines in the shape of miniature churches are found all along the roads housing candles, offerings and pictures of the deceased. Beautiful monasteries are plentiful and usually colored white with blue accents. We stopped in one monastery that housed a sacred icon of the Madonna with baby Jesus that is thought to have performed many miracles.
We continued driving, poking our noses here and there, until we came across a fisherman's port protected by a small jetty. The small boats had already returned by the time we found it and much to our delight, there was a small restaurant nestled on the dock. We settled into our table and asked for a selection of the fresh options of the day.
The first two plates to arrive carried grilled octopus and grilled calamari. They were tender with a crispy edge and were seasoned simply with olive oil. A large plate of "Cretan Salad" arrived with chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, slivers of raw red onion, olives and a slab of feta cheese topping it with oregano and olive oil sprinkled over. Following the first plates, a whole baked orata arrived filleted but with the bones intact and, again, seasoned only with olive oil. Orata is a white fish that is found in the Mediterranean Sea and is considered one of the best fish in the region. The meat is delicate with a firm texture and mild but flavorful taste. We enjoyed our second course and afterward, without our asking, dessert and tiny glasses of ouzo arrived to the table. Dessert was a thick yogurt topped with amarena cherries in sauce and the ouzo was strong and sipped slowly while winding down and chatting. No one seemed to be in a hurry and we took our time enjoying the last hours of the late afternoon.
If you are interested in learning more about the Mediterranean Diet, be sure to visit our website and consider joining naturopathic oncology specialist and chef Dr. Michelle Qaqundah in the beautiful hills of Tuscany, Italy for a one-week hands-on culinary retreat! You can also follow our FaceBook page to read about more culinary adventures.
Until our next adventure...I wish you all "BUONAPPETITO!"