Crete: Where Gourmet Adventures and Sustainable Tourism Meet
Imagine a week trekking through the Cretan mountains, stopping in remote villages to cook and feast on local gastronomic delights. Crete is recognized by many as a Mecca for adventurous "foodies", and with a cuisine that is rich in fruit and vegetables, and filled with perfectly spiced dishes always complimented with a glass of wine, it's easy to see why.
One of the wisdoms of Cretan cooking is the use of only freshest of ingredients, particularly fruits and vegetables, minimally spiced to accentuate their natural tastiness rather than cover it up. The intensive use of common local herbs found throughout the island's mountains and home-pressed olive oil only add to the impression that the essence of Crete can be tasted in its food. Relish in the simplicity of a Greek salad made from creamy myzithra cheese (a local feta-like creation) tossed together with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and greens. Sink your teeth into tender roasted lamb accompanied with seasonal vegetables such as artichokes. And save room for the Chortopitakia, small mouth-watering spinach pies.
For this agriculturally based culture, great food is more than a pleasant indulgence – it is a way of existence. The oils, the cheeses, and the herbs for which Crete is famous are commonly hand-pressed, handmade, and hand-picked by families preparing their own tables. By taking part in a culinary adventure, you are not only supporting the local community, you are helping to preserve Cretan culture and its relationship to the Earth. Some of the adventures that await you include:
Visiting local farms and markets – Remote villages and charming farmsteads and orchards offer hungry hikers not only a share of their sumptuous oils and luscious wines, but the chance to see the age-old methods used to produce them. In fact, if wine is your passion, the island, with its centuries-old vineyards, has plenty of local wine festivals to keep you always on the thrill of new discovery. Afterwards, continue to sea-side fish markets to admire an impressive collection of fish, shrimp, and octopi still glistening in the same salt air in which they were caught.
Cooking lessons from local cooks – Nobody knows Cretan food like the locals. In the intimate kitchens of villages and farms, you can learn to cook healthy and delicious recipes that have been passed down through families for centuries. Learn how to make Dakos, the quintessential Cretan appetizer composed of twice-baked barley husks, diced tomatoes, and crumbled myzithra cheese – and often topped with a single olive. As a snack or an accompaniment to a glass of ouzo, it is perfection. Perhaps the greatest benefit to a cooking lesson – you'll gain the know-how to recreate and recapture a bit of the spirit of Crete in your own home, again and again, for yourself or with your friends.
Eating as much as possible – Whether you're a full-blown foodie or just interested in sampling the more appetizing offerings of the cultures you visit, you'll want to get the most out of your experience. For this, the slow pace and natural rhythms of island life can not be beat. To the accompaniment of melodious local music, these feats often last over two hours. From home-baked kalitsounia, a cheese and herb-filled pie owned through the region and prepared by local farmers, to gourmet seafood suppers created by some of the island's best chefs, there will be lots of mouth-watering dishes to enjoy. One tip: take advantage of the island's ease and enjoy every delicious morsel as slowly as possible.
On your Greek adventure travel holidays, Crete is definitely the place to enjoy a great culinary experience.