From sizzled cheese to succulent meat kebabs that rival any you've ever tasted, uber-fresh salads and creative little mezze plates, there are plenty of reasons why Greek food is amongst the most-loved on the planet. Perhaps the LBW YachtLife Greece is your chance to try them all this summer…
Just one part of Greece's formidable arsenal of finger-licking mezze dishes, Dolmadakia is the local name for what you might just called stuffed grape leaves. Back at home, these tasty treats come unjustly crammed into tins in the local delicatessen, but on the isles of the Aegean Sea, the Ionian and in the tavernas of Athens, they are rolled fresh and packed full of dill-infused, parsley-augmented rice. The whole lot is typically served with a fat wedge of lemon and some dill sauce, making it the perfect early-evening snack to accompany a cold one.
The Greeks have been pioneers in everything from geometry to philosophy to politics, but there's arguably no innovation of this Balkan country's that's more awesome than the combo that is the Souvlaki-Gyros. This pitta-enfolded bun of spiced chicken and grilled veggies straight off the charcoals is understandably one of the most celebrated pieces of street food in the nation. They come from holes-in-the-wall all over the place, varying just a little in terms of what sauces are doused over the top – garlic, mayo, hummus – and the amount of tingling chilis packed inside. Enjoy…
Ah, the classic Greek Salad – there's really nothing quite like it. Topped with a chunky lump of local feta cheese and packed with blood-red tomatoes so plump and flavoursome your taste buds won't know what to do, the whole thing is a lesson in the freshness of the Mediterranean. Add to that a medley of chopped onions, regional Kalamata olives from the Peloponnese, the best oregano you'll ever have, and a hefty dousing of Greek oil, and it's easy to see how this healthy staple of the nation enjoys such a reputation.
Settle down in any whitewashed and blue-painted taverna from Athens to Santorini, the Venetian harbours of Crete to the sun-kissed island towns of Ionia, and you're sure to smell the potent aromas of coffee twisting and turning in the summer airs. In fact, sitting with a long-handled briki (a traditional coffee-brewing pot), a small glass, and a backgammon table is surely amongst the most popular pastimes for locals here. Don't expect any lattes or cappuccinos a la Starbucks though – Greek coffee is gritty, strong and served piping hot straight from the stove.
Famed from the US to the UK as the Greek dish of the recipe books, the perfect moussaka awaits LBW travellers on the YachtLife. Yep, those stacks of grilled eggplant and succulent lamb mince, infused with the flavours of mint and oregano, fresh tomato and cinnamon, all hidden under a cushiony top of Bechamel froth, really are at their best here. Settle down to devour one in the traditional taverns of the Athenian Plaka, or wait until you're on one of the islands closer to Turkey, where the dish transforms into a sort of spicy casserole of Mediterranean goodness.
There's one thing that any foodie heading to Greece should know: Expect pies, pies and more pies! Yep, this isn't just the land of ancient ruins and crystalline waters, it's also arguably the pie-making king of Europe. Take the spanakopita, which bursts forth from the ovens with its crispy filo pastry top and salty filling of spinach mixed with feta mixed with local highland herbs. Other variations include pies with lamb ragu and bitter greens, or even sweet cakes with sugared soft cheese in the middle. Mhm - don’t be shocked if you're pied out after a week!
And talking of sweet cakes…the Baklava is arguably the emperor of all sweet cakes. A mouthwatering medley of ground walnuts, almonds and pistachios, this one's created by layering (and layering and layering and layering – yep, there are loads of layers) sheets of filo pastry and dousing each in a top of sugary syrup. The real surprise with the dish has to be the range of little twists and turns that individual chefs add to their own Baklava. There can be infusions of lemon here, a grating of nutmeg there; hidden fruits here, or welcome honey tastes there.
While the Turks and the Croatians and a whole host of other Balkan and Levant peoples vie to be crowned the ones who invented the kebab, the Greeks seem content to just keep on cooking up their tasty meat patties without a care in the world. Nothing like the stodgy mess of a meal you have on the wrong side of a night out back in the hometown, we're talking fresh strips of succulent lamb from the fields of the Peloponnese or the highlands of Crete here, all finished off with oregano and thyme, chili and a side of flatbread with grilled veggies. Ah, god…Mouth. Is. Watering.
Okay, okay, so ouzo ain't no food we hear you shout. Damn right it's not! That's exactly why we love it. Clear as the day, its potent flavour of aniseed isn't to everyone's taste. The Greeks tend to drink the formidable spirit with a water mixer and a whole load of ice rocks, which causes the tipple to go a cloudy colour and mix perfectly with salty aperitifs like fried octopus and sardines fresh from the sea. Of course, not everyone is as sensible as that – we've had our fair share of ouzo-induced hangovers on the deck of the LBW Yacht. Don't worry though, it's nothing a refreshing dip in the Aegean didn't solve!
Forget those all-American grilled-cheese sandwiches or those fancy French baked camembert, because the Greeks have something that will make them both look like child's play to any self-proclaimed cheese fanatic: Saganaki. Take one hefty lump of graviera or haloumi, douse the whole thing in a load of top-class Greek olive oil, and proceed to fry it to brown in a pan. Some variations include breadcrumbs and herby crusts, but we love the no-frills format, which puts cheese on a pedestal larger than that of any ancient statue you'll see in the Parthenon and beyond!
Of course, the Greek kitchen has oodles more dishes that any traveling foodie is bound to love. If you can think of them, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Or, if you've been tempted by the tastes of the Balkan cuisine above, why not book a spot on LBW's bucket-list-busting YachtLife Greece? Saganaki awaits!
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