Gyros, souvlaki, tzatziki… Greek food is irresistible and widely known around the world. But Santorini, a small island in the Aegean sea, has a cuisine unlike any other. That doesn’t surprise me – after enduring the worst volcanic explosion in the history of mankind, I’d want to be the one to call the shots as well.
After spending my first few days on Santorini skim-reading menus with a confused expression on my face – what the hell is fava?! vinsanto, anyone? – I took on the noble pursuit of documenting all of the island’s culinary peculiarities. Eating my way through Santorini was nothing short of divine and just looking back at the photos, I am possessed with the wish to go back… Ranging from delicious to orgasmic, here’s the list – now excuse me why I cry over a photo of a bean.
Chloro cheese is like a more delicious, milder version of feta, which is why including it in this article is a little cruel of me. Why, you ask? This fresh cheese is incredibly hard to come by. It’s not produced for commercial consumption, so the batches are small and usually eaten within families. The good news is that I’ve managed to track it down for you – for us! “Psaraki” – one of my favourite restaurants on the island – sells these delightful spring rolls stuffed with sundried tomatoes, mint and, yes, chloro cheese. Just so you know, not ordering them is a crime akin to torturing puppies in my book – they’re that good.
I’ve never eaten anything like this lovely, deep-fried parcel of joy and – until my next visit of Santorini – I likely never will. Domatokeftedes are translated on English menus as “tomato balls”, which made me giggle because I am five years old, but luckily for my taste buds that did not put me off ordering them. These fritters contain consist of pure deliciousness – crumbly feta cheese, fresh herbs and sweet cherry tomatoes grown on the island.
My Czech family have brought me up as a bit of a beer snob so – when it comes to beer – I usually I live by the ancient wisdom of “if it’s not Czech, it’s not on the check”. But if university has taught me one thing, it’s that any beer is good beer, no matter how awful the beer really is. With both lessons in mind I was only marginally terrified when I ordered three glasses of Donkey beer, produced by the Santorini Brewing Company.
Before you freak out, let me assure you that the production of this beer does not involve donkeys in any capacity nor is the beverage intended for their consumption. Yellow Donkey is probably the most normal of the three, reminding me of a nice refreshing pilsner. Red Donkey is surprisingly sweet with hints of fruit and Crazy Donkey is lovely, bitter and crazy good. It’s also pretty strong at around 6% vol., so be careful with that day drinking lest you start doing donkey impressions, which you might later regret. Although, to be fair, that does sound really fun.
Before coming to Santorini I’d never heard of fava beans which made them special enough but ochi, no!, the locals insisted – their fava beans were the most fava bean-y of all the fava beans of the world. Something about tasting sweeter because of the volcanic soil – I couldn’t hear them over the sound of my spoon hitting the plate over and over again. Fava bean mash is absolutely delightful – a hearty porridge covered with butter, chopped onions, capers and a dash of sweet paprika. I normally avoid creamy hot dishes in the summer heat, but I happily made an exception for fava. #hot4fava, anyone?
Fresh fish obviously aren’t unique to Santorini – the ocean alone covers 71 percent of the Earth and despite society’s attempts to destroy all other life on this planet, it’s still filled with gill-bearing aquatic creatures.
Pistachios are grown on all continents aside from Antarctica, but the kind sold on Santorini is smaller, slightly red and very good. So trade those crisps for a packet of salted pistachios – it’s healthier and you’ll be helping the island’s economy, which relies almost exclusively on tourism.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of Greek salad before – a healthy cocktail of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta cheese and olives doused in olive oil. I flew to Santorini excited about a salad out of all things – and I returned yearning for another. Santorini salad combines all of the island’s fresh produce in a surprisingly divine melange of flavours. Capers and cucmbers, tomatoes and local cheese – they all unite in harmony under a hefty sprinkling of oregano. You must try this.
This point is not very different from “fresh fish” but I just wanted an excuse to share another photo of these delightful gifts from the sea. Eat them steamed in white wine, in a risotto, breaded and fried or grilled – just, please, eat them! They’re delicious!
I remember reading about ambrosia – the nectar of the gods, which gives you immortality if you add it to your gin & tonic – and wishing it were real. Well, I am happy to report it exists on the lovely island of Santorini, which is widely believed to be the site of the legendary Atlantis. This sweet dessert wine tastes even better than it sounds, if such a thing is possible.
It’s tastes like aubergine, it smells like aubergine and it is an aubergine – but its white colour confused me so thoroughly that I spent quite some time trying to figure out what the street vendor in Pyrgos was selling. Much like Santorini is “just” an island, this is “just” an aubergine – but what an aubergine it is! Try it grilled with some olive oil and thank me later, because speaking with your mouth full is rude and grandma Berta would not be impressed!
What do you think about these foods from Santorini?