Greece is no stranger to cuisine. In fact, it was a Greek, Archestratos, who wrote the first cookbook in history, in 320 B.C. Today the Mediterranean diet consistently wins praise for its proven health benefits. Local dishes exude the steadfast character of their origins – fava in Santorini, masticha in Chios, amygdalota in Mykonos and cheese pie with honey in Crete. But no matter where you visit, you’ll encounter the pleasures of freshly baked breads and a bounty of vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and zucchinis. To Greeks, food is a celebration best served as saganaki, grilled lamb, moussaka and grilled octopus – all enhanced with that crisp Greek olive oil.
The diverse terroir of Greece has been producing wines for close to 6,500 years, longer than almost every other place in the world. The flavours and notes of Greek wines are so unique that 72% of its vintages entered into the Decanter World Wine Awards received an award.
Here’s what you can expect to find on the Greek table:
Food of Greece
Mezes – Like Spanish tapas, mezes is a small-plate approach to Greek dining. Items can vary from piquant olives to a pita bread with dips to more complicated dishes such as cold eggplant salad. Mezes should not be confused with the orektika that you might see on a menu, which is the formal name for appetisers that are intended to precede larger meals.
Olive oil – Like in many Mediterranean restaurants, olive oil is a central ingredient in Greek cooking, pressed from the olive trees that have graced the country’s landscape for centuries.
Cheese – Feta, kasseri & halloumi oh my! With a climate and landscape conducive to goats and sheep, a wide array of cheeses are common in the Greek diet.
Filo – Whether in large sheets or bite-sized triangles, various fillings might be wrapped in filo dough, from chicken to spinach and cheese to minced meat. One version of this, spanakopita is a savoury pastry filled with spinach and feta.
Tiganita – These deep-fried vegetables might be served as a side dish.
Dolmadakia – Cousins of the Turkish dolma, these grapes leaves are often stuffed with rice, vegetables or meat.
Fava – This puree of yellow split peas or beans might be flavoured with olive oil, garlic or parsley and served as part of mezes with pita bread.
Greek Salad – The simple salad is made with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese and kalamata olives.
Gyro – A dish made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Although traditionally lamb it can also be pork or chicken.
Tzatziki – Served with warm pita bread, this is a yoghurt with cucumber and garlic puree.
Fasolada – Often called the national food of Greece, this white bean soup is made with tomatoes, carrot and celery.
Moussaka – Eaten warm or cold, this casserole is usually made with ground meat and either eggplant or potatoes.
Wines of Greece:
Agiorghitiko (red) – Also know as St George’s grape, this wine is mostly produced in the Peloponnese region. The soft, fruity red expresses itself in many styles with qualities that are similar to Beaujolais.
Xinomavro (red) – This “sour black” grape ages well and has flavour notes that actually bring tomatoes and olives.
Assyrtiko (white) – This grape is mostly grown on the island of Santorini whose old vines were resistant to the phylloxera virus that wiped out other European vineyards. It has characteristics similar to Riesling.
Savatiano (white) – Known as the “Saturday” grape, this is the major white grape of Attica. It has a distinct floral, fruity aroma and if fermented without cooling, its wine matches well with Mediterranean dishes.
Roditis (rose) – Very popular in the Peloponnese, this elegant and light wine has lovely citrus flavours.
If this post has you salivating at the thought of regional Greek food check out our escorted tours of Greece where you can feast on delicious local delicacies.