Explore the regional culinary scenes of Greece on a guided tour by Collette.
Greece is a pure paradise for foodies any time of year. Outside of the country’s peak tourism months, you’ll enjoy the full range of Greek cuisine, including seasonal dishes available in the fall through spring. As the magnetic pull of the Greek islands relaxes after summer and cooler days arrive, it’s the perfect time to explore a variety of exciting cuisines throughout the mainland.
Athens, Greece’s capital, is in the region of Attica. A culinary epicenter, Athens is the ultimate sampler platter, offering everything from souvlaki to stuffed sea urchins.
A cosmopolitan city, Athens’ most interesting restaurants marry international trends with local ingredients, like pistachios, pears, wild asparagus, thyme, honey, and some of the best Greek oregano.
Want something lighter? Meze, featuring tangy spreads, dolmas, artichokes, cured meats, and cheeses from the region, can be found in many cafes, and street food is everywhere, offering gyros and other handhelds you can grab on the go.
For a feast for the eyes, check out the Athens Central Market, or Varvakios Agora. Occupying a few city blocks, it houses the largest fresh fish market in Europe, a sprawling meat market, plus hundreds of baskets of beans, olives, vegetables, fruit, nuts, cheeses, jams, herbs, spices, and unexpected curiosities. When you combine all the tastes and textures with the aromas and sounds, this may be Greece’s most sensory experience.
As you head north into Greece’s interior, commonly served meals include tender braised Greek meatballs, slow-simmered stews, grilled lamb chops, and sausages with peppers. Especially during cooler seasons, this is where and when you’ll want to try the famous Greek version of lasagna called Pastitsio or the hearty Greek specialty, Moussaka, a casserole made with layers of fried eggplant, potatoes, and a tomatoey beef or lamb mince sauce, topped with a delicious béchamel sauce.
You can also enjoy savory Greek pies, some made with delicate filo and layered with cheeses, spinach or leek, and herbs; others are more rustic and stuffed with braised lamb shank or chicken, spring onions, and greens.
For cheese connoisseurs, the feta in this region is exceptional, whether enjoyed on its own, in salads, stuffed peppers, or breaded with walnuts and honey. And don’t miss the saganaki, a crispy on the outside and delectable on the inside fried cheese served with lemon juice that is pure decadence.
In the area between Thermopylae and Kalambaka, you’ll find small, family-owned taverns with recipes passed down for generations for a truly authentic experience. Take a break and sip some Retsina.
To the west of Athens is the Peloponnese region, where it’s been said you will eat like a god. As Greece’s most fertile region, chefs draw from succulent apricots, cherries, figs, watermelon, strawberries, lemons, eggplants, tomatoes, and artichokes to create vibrant dishes. The sweetest oranges from the famous Argolis groves are also infused into marinades and marmalades. Distinctive handmade pastas are popular, such as gogkes, a shell-shaped pasta, rice-like striftades, and small square-shaped toutoumakia. The region’s most coveted dish may be gourounopoula, a tender roast pork with crispy crackling on the outside.
And seafood fans, look to charming seaside towns like Nafplio, where you’ll find superb restaurants serving tender grilled octopus, stuffed squid, shrimp orzotto, swordfish, lobster, and crab, as well as fresh trout from nearby lakes.
Greece offers many wonderful ways to learn about Greek food, wine, and spirits.
In Olympia, you can visit a farm with over 2,000 olive groves and vineyards, learn all about olive oil production, and sample a variety of sweets, wine, and, of course, olive oils.
In Nafplio, you can tour Karonis, a family-owned ouzo distillery that has been producing Greece’s signature anise-flavored aperitif since 1869. You can see how ouzo is made; try a sample and take some to go.
With all you can learn about regional foods throughout a visit to Greece, you can return home ready to wow your family and friends with an authentic Greek feast!
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