Eating and Other Adventures in Greece

Hey everybody,

Just wanted to drop you a quick line from Gytheio, Greece. We are staying right on the Mediterranean about 20 miles south of Sparta in a beautiful, beachfront resort. Yesterday we drove up to Sparta with the bride and groom for a few errands. At the apex of the main street, Brendan and I sizzled our hands while posing with the statue of Leonidas (the guy from 300). You literally could have fried an egg on his foot. We were tempted to go on and see the ruins in Sparta, but opted out due to the absurd heat and a story one of my companions told me about a giant snake coiled in the rocks there the other day. Instead, I tried to find an American-style bathing suit (you know, the kind that covers your butt) and we sat in one of the many open-air, shaded cafes sipping fresh fruit juice and icy, whipped coffee. We nibbled on delicious cheese-filled fried toasts while listening to stories Nikki’s uncle shared of having arrows shot at him by a tribe in Papua New Guinea who had never seen white skin before. Fortunately he and his eight porters were saved by the guide who spoke their language and gave them gifts of tobacco.

After breakfast, we passed by one more chiseled-ab Spartan statue, buck naked except for his shield and sword – this is art everyone can appreciate. I’m sorry I didn’t snap a picture to share with you… too star-struck in the moment I guess. We drove the winding, narrow road through olive orchards back to Gytheio for a day of playing poolside and topped that off with a swim in the warm Mediterranean Sea at dusk. Under a full moon, six of us headed into town, an oceanfront, cobbled street lined with outdoor cafes and fishing boats, for a traditional late night dinner.

The food is amazing! Last night, however, I had the unfortunate accident of ordering a scary seafood platter. I’m just not a fan of eyeballs, heads and veins still attached to my prawns. Plus there was one dubious piece of smelly silver fish that had somehow slipped onto the plate and was in a rare state. Sardine perhaps? We had lost our Greek-speaking Nikki to an evening dinner with her soon-to-be Mother-in-Law. Without our translator, things weren’t as smooth as our previous eating adventures. Before we even ordered the seafood mishap, we had mistakenly grabbed the menus off an open table and then sat ourselves at another adjacent table. Turns out, there were three restaurants operating under the same awning, all squished together in the same little square. After pointing out our faux pas, the waiter simply turned away and disappeared. We looked around and realized that indeed, every 15 feet the chairs and cloths on the tables changed color and shape – oops! Eventually the waiter did come back and we ordered a feast, first (unsuccessfully) by word of mouth, and then by pointing and nodding our heads. Side note: Communication in Greece made more difficult by the fact that their ‘Yes’ (neh) sounds like our ‘No’. Anyway, the other seafood was fresh and delicious, especially grilled octopus – yum! Everything is drenched in lemon and olive oil and every meal is accompanied by fresh vegetable salads, good bread and cheeses. Brendan’s pasta was so good that we ate it even after he dumped the entire dish in his lap. To his credit, not a noodle fell to the floor. And if your mind’s in the gutter right now, he returned his food to the plate before we finished eating it.

Greece is a food paradise, but the most remarkable thing about the restaurants here is probably the fact that they’re full of little children eating out late with their parents and often falling asleep in the laps of chain-smoking adults. You might be horrified, but actually as I looked on last night the smoke always seemed to curl up and away from the kids, into the twilight.


Edible Communities

Okay, okay. Enough already. I’m back on the taste buddy wagon after being hounded by several friends to start writing again. I didn’t know my food thoughts were that interesting and I got caught up opening a restaurant – geeze. Anyway, thanks for the kick in the pants from Brad, Sarah, Linda and all you other pestering mosquitoes in my ear.

Turns out, I do have something important to say. I recently discovered a great national publication that has satellite magazines all over the U.S. including Santa Barbara, Seattle, Chicago, Manhattan. Edible is a gold mine of short articles on green businesses in your area. If you care about local, healthy foods and supporting small businesses with a mind for sustainability then check out to locate the publication in your area. I just read through Edible San Luis Obispo and discovered a brewery, bakery, and farmstand I had never heard of that were right under my nose.

If you live on the central coast here are the new places I love:
Happy Acres Family Farm – goat cheese
Farmstand 46 – locavore gourmet deli
Central Coast Brewing – beer!!!
Secret Garden Organic Herb Shop
Hush-Harbor – hand-crafted artisan bread
Rubio’s – handmade tortillas


Ice Cream

Salted Caramel, Mojito, Balsamic Strawberry, and Chocolate with Bergamont Infused Olive Oil – these are some of the amazing flavors at Molly Moon’s in Seattle. Their ice cream tastes 100% homemade and is hands down the best I’ve ever had. Fresh, local ingredients are the key. I haven’t made ice cream since high school when I remember helping my sister on the back porch with a coffee-flavored batch. What a shame. I think I’ll make a resolution right now to try some of Molly Moon’s suggested recipes: Pistachio, White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger, or Candied Bacon.

Kick-the-Can Ice Cream is another must-try. All you need are some coffee cans, a roll of duct tape and a few kids to entertain. I’m going to make a chocolate chip cookie dough version using the following recipe for my cookie dough balls:

1 Cup Butter
1½ Cup Maple Sugar
2½ Cup Almond Meal
2½ Cup Organic Oat Flour
½ Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar and then add remaining ingredients. Mix till just blended, scraping the sides of your mixer often. Form into little bite-sized balls and freeze. Add to kick-the-can ice cream.

Miso Butterfish Recipe

Just following up to my blog on Sansei. Here’s the recipe for miso butterfish:

3 cups sake
3 cups mirin (sweet rice wine)
8 ounce saikyo miso (pale miso paste)
8 ounce brown or turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 -7 ounce pieces black cod
1 tablespoon scallions, finely chopped

Boil sake and mirin for 5 minutes and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, miso, and ginger. Whisk till incorporated and simmer low for 1 minute stirring. Cool mixture and add the fish for 24 hours. Sear fish over medium heat until golden brown (about 3 minutes per side). Garnish with scallions. Enjoy!

“Food” for Thought

Here’s a hilarious five-minute diversion: Fancy Fast Food . You have to check out the Le Chicken McConfit. Thanks for the tip, Jennifer.

Speaking of horrible food, my grandfather is in the hospital. Any idea how our hospitals care for the sick? Answer: with canned peaches, flaccid hamburgers, potato salad, macaroni salad, dead, wrinkled peas and mayonnaise-drenched chicken on white bread. Since when was health synonymous with bad, flavorless food assembled from jars, cans and frozen, cardboard packages? I gave Bud one real strawberry today and his eyes almost popped out of his head with the joy and recognition of real food.

Sugar, Do Yourself a Favor

I’ve had it with refined sugar. Sure, it’s unhealthy, but did you ever consider that it’s practically flavorless. Unless you’re three years old and the shock of intense sweetness on your tongue sends you into cosmic bliss, I doubt you can say anything great about the taste of granulated white sugar, powdered sugar or corn syrup. Do yourself a favor and start cooking with honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or turbinado. What’s the big deal anyway? We’ve been making cakes with honey since the dawn of baking.

Here are the basic guidelines of substitution: You can use the same amount turbinado for granulated white sugar and the same amount honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup for corn syrup. But if you’re following a recipe that calls for “regular” sugar just google an alternative recipe online and marry the two. Remember that if you’re substituting wet for dry you’re going to have a more moist result and might want to slightly reduce another liquid in the recipe (less water, milk, etc.). If color is an issue for you, buy some clear agave nectar at your local health food store or whole foods. Maple syrup and honey have a beautiful golden hue and more distinct flavors. Don’t be shy slipping them in to your next cookie or salad dressing. Try using an orange blossom or huckleberry honey when baking with chocolate. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the results.

Three of My Favorite Things, One Location

Naked chardonnay, French onion soup, miso butterfish, Sansei Sushi and D.K. Steakhouse – what do these things have in common? Answer: the bar at 2552 Kalakaua Avenue Honolulu, Hawaii. You can order off both menus and enjoy the best of both worlds. I love sushi (try the 69 roll if you like eel), but I LOVE miso butterfish. The sweet, umami morsels melt in your mouth. You should have seen my mom Dinah’s face when she tried it for the first time the other night. She nearly fell off her bar stool. From the other side of the bar we never miss an opportunity to order D.K.’s French onion soup. It’s probably the best I’ve ever tasted. Their dry-aged steaks are so amazing I’m not surprised. They must have piles of flavorful bones to roast for their stock. Add sweet Maui onions and oo-la-la. The other great thing about this bar is the wine selection and flights. They’ve carried Four Vines Naked Chardonnay for the past couple years – the perfect complement to fresh island fish. Aloha!